Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Journal of Ministry and Theology
Volume: JMAT 07:1 (Spring 2003)
Article: Reviews
Author: Anonymous


“What Remains of the Hebrew Bible? Its Text and Language in a Postmodern Age.” David J. A. Clines. Studia Theologica 54 (2001):76-95.

This article by the prolific author and well-known editor of the JSOT Supplements series, David J. A. Clines, is profoundly disturbing. Clines’s argument is that the text of the Old Testament is uncertain and unknowable. Clines states without qualification that differences between the psalms preserved in 2 Samuel 22 and Psalm 18 reflect textual corruption (78). Clines compares the texts of these two psalms as preserved in the Massoretic Text, the versions, and 4QSama from Qumran and concludes that there are 177 variants in the 382 words of the psalm in 2 Samuel 22 (78). With adjustments for the fact that poetry might naturally contain more variants than prose and other similar factors, Clines extrapolates his study to the whole Old Testament text and suggests that one word out of every four in the Hebrew Bible is in doubt (81). Since additional manuscript discoveries may provide additional variants, we cannot be certain whether any given word is original or not. In Clines’s words: “For most practical purposes, it is as if every single word in the Hebrew Bible was a known variant, and as if we possessed an entirely uncertain text” (81). Clines then argues that that the old distinction between an attested reading and a conjectural emendation is invalid: “Now, in a postmodern mode, we are bound to ask whether this distinction between ‘attested’ and ‘conjectural’ emendations… does not lay itself open to deconstruction” (85). Since the whole text is in doubt, a conjectural emendation should be regarded as just as valid as an attested variant—perhaps more valid, he implies, because at least the emendation is suggested thoughtfully and deliberately, and is not the result of an unwitting textual mistake (85).

The second part of Clines’s article concerns the addition of new words to the Hebrew vocabulary. From research for the fifth volume of the Dictionary of Classical Hebrew, he argues that some 725 new words have been suggested for the words beginning with Mem and Nun while the standard lexicon by Brown, Driver, and Briggs contains 1469 words in this section of the vocabulary (87). Admitting that “Not all the proposals, even those I have selected above, are self-evidently superior to traditional meanings” (88), he concludes that the meaning of approximately one word in twenty in the Old Testament is in

doubt (91). At the conclusion of his article, Clines says, “What I have to suggest today ...

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