Review in: JBLGevonden op: http://www.academicroom.com/bookreview/leviticus-1-16-new-translation-introduction-and-commentary
Leviticus 1-16: A New Translation With Introduction and Commentary, by Jacob Milgrom (AB 3), New York/London: Doubleday, 1991. Pp. xix + 1163. $42.
In this first of two volumes on Leviticus in AB, Jacob Milgrom has brought together the results of his extensive research on the Priestly traditions. While Milgrom's published views on the Priestly traditions have not changed substantially, his basic arguments are extended and developed richly in the commentary. The exegetical skill, the breadth of knowledge, the command of the material, and the clarity of thought exhibited by Milgrom clearly mark this as an immediate standard in the study and interpretation of Leviticus 1-16.
The volume follows the typical AB format with an Introduction (pp. 1-67), an extensive and complete Bibliography (pp. 69-128), fresh translations of the texts followed by extensive and detailed notes, and a series of comments covering a wide range of topics. The exegetical work is organized around three major sections: Leviticus 1-7: "The Sacrificial System" (pp. 129-489); Leviticus 8-10: "The Inauguration of the Cult" (pp. 491-640); Leviticus ll-16: "The Impurity System" (pp. 641-1084). The volume concludes with a series of indices (Subjects, Terms, Authors, and Sources).
Milgrom states that his methodology is "synchronic"; it studies each literary unit as a whole (p. 2). Indeed, the commentary is filled with valuable stylistic and literary insights. At the same time, however, the actual exegetical analysis of the texts is strongly historical and comparative. Texts are interpreted in conversation with a wide range of ANE texts, rabbinic texts, Qumran texts, and medieval Jewish interpreters. Milgrom often draws on these texts to support or confirm his arguments. In this regard, the commentary makes an unparalleled contribution to the history of interpretation of cultic terms, rites, and ideas.
Drawing on and extending the work of A. Hurvitz, Milgrom argues for a pre-exilic date for the whole of P. He discusses a number of terms and institutions found in P that are either missing altogether or understood very differently in post-exilic documents (pp. 3-13). Tracing the probable origin of P's sacrificial procedures to the cult at Shiloh (p. 34), Milgrom believes that the basic P texts (PI) and supplements (PZ)were composed no later than ca. 750 BCE (p. 28). These texts were then redacted at the end of the eighth century by H. Finding several H passages in Leviticus 1-16 (3:16b-17;
6:12-18aa; 7:22-29a; 7:38b[?];9:17b; ll:43-45; 12:8; 14:34-53[?], 54-57[?]; 15:31; 16:2bp, 29-34a), Milgrom argues that H was the final redactor of P (p. 63). With the possible exception of a few redactional touches, both P and H "were composed by the priests of Israel, in the land of Israel, during the days of the First Temple" (p. 13). In addition, Milgrom argues that Deut 14:4-21 is an abridgment of Leviticus ??? and concludes that the writer of Deut 14:4-21 "had the entire MT of Lev ??? [including H material in w. 43-45] before him" (p. 704).
Drawing on and extending the work of I. Knohl, Milgrom begins to catalogue and evaluate the stylistic, terminological, and theological differences between P and H. For example, H has a tendency to blur certain terminological-ideological distinctions that are rigidly maintained in P (pp. 35-38), reflects a more artful and intricate use of chiastic structure (pp. 39-42), contains an absolute prohibition against common slaughter (pp. 28-29, 214-16), emphasizes the holiness of Israel (pp. 48-49), includes the gzr in many of its laws (p. 1065), and for the first time prescribes an annual date for the celebration of the Day of Purgation (initially in P, he argues, it was an emergency procedure for purifying the sanctuary, pp. 1061-1062). Milgrom promises more extensive treatment of H in the forthcoming volume.
The primary contribution of the volume is Milgrom's exegetical analysis and interpretation of the texts of Leviticus and the Priestly ritual system. His analysis of stylistic and structural features of texts is illuminating and convincing. His exegetical conclusions are stated clearly and his reasoning is supported with a wide range of information and data. His attention to detail is exemplary. He develops with precision and consistency the ritual meaning of the various types of sacrifices, the function of the larger ritual processes described or prescribed in P, and the nature of the Priestly cult reflected in these texts.
At the same time, Milgrom uses his analysis of the individual texts as a basis for discussing and clarifying the structure of the Priestly ritual system. More fully than before, Milgrom brings to light the larger theological and conceptual categories which are operative in the Priestly traditions. For example, he demonstrates that the sacrificial texts (Leviticus 1-7) and the impurity texts (Leviticus U-15) are significantly related through the dynamic interaction of the conceptual categories of life and death which are then reflected in the cultic categories of holiness and impurity. Thus, while he recognizes development within these texts, he also brings to light certain overarching issues and concerns which run throughout the Priestly traditions. In addition, he demonstrates various ways in which Priestly theology is significantly related to other parts of the Hebrew Scriptures (e.g., "The Priestly Doctrine of Repentance:' pp. 373-78 and "The Prophets and the Cu1t:'pp. 482-85) and the importance of the Priestly materials for theology. The synthetic work is undertaken primarily in the comments following the textual notes which are, in this volume, arranged according to specific topics (I count some seventy-four distinct entries). These comments will be the most useful for many readers who will find the textual and exegetical notes difficult to follow.
As is the case with any volume of this size and forthrightness, there are specific points of interpretation which will find disagreement. It is clear, however, that future discussions of Leviticus and the Priestly traditions will have to begin with Milgrom's work. His views on the chronological development of P and H and D will have to be given careful and critical consideration. It is hoped that in the second volume Milgrom will clarify his understanding of the development of the whole of Leviticus and the relationship of this process to the development of the Pentateuch. In addition, it would be helpful if Milgrom clarified his understanding of the nature of ritual. For example, what constitutes a ritual or ritual activity? Are rituals to be understood in terms of their performance and enactment or primarily in terms of the ideas to which they point? While these issues are not central to Milgrom's enterprise, future discussions of Priestly ritual will need to address them more fully.
Unfortunately, the usefulness of the volume is limited by the absence of chapter and verse divisions at the top of the pages. The pages devoted to chapters 1-10 (pp. 133-640) do not even have the indication of chapter divisions! This is particularly problematic and irritating because of the large amount of very important and helpful cross-referencing done in the volume. This flaw in production will certainly be an obstacle to the extensive use of a commentary that is deserving of a wide audience. At the same time, it is clear that the massive amount of information contained in the notes, the technical nature of the analysis, and the highly nuanced nature of many of the arguments will prove daunting to those outside of the academy. It is this reviewer's hope that Professor Milgrom will in the not too distant future put his views on the Priestly traditions into a more popular and readable volume so that a wider audience will have access to his very important and stimulating work.
Frank H. Gorman, Jr.
Bethany College, Bethany, WV 26032