vrijdag 25 januari 2013

Review of: Moshe Greenberg, Ezekiel 21-37: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AB 22A), Doubleday, 1997

Moshe Greenberg, Ezekiel 21-37: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AB 22A), Doubleday, 1997.

Review in: The Journal of Religion
Gevonden op: http://www.academicroom.com/bookreview/ezekiel-21-37-new-translation-introduction-and-commentary

MOSHE GREENBERG, Ezekzel 21-37: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Anchor Bible, Vol. 22A. New York: Doubleday, 1997. 366 pp. $39.95 (cloth).

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With the publication of volume 22A of the Anchor Bible, scholars now have a second installment (at least) of Moshe Greenberg's highly valued interpretation of the 48-chapter Book of Ezekiel. Greenberg's new volume picks up the text of the Ezekiel where the first volume, published back in 1983, left off-toward the end of the book's first major section, that is, with the doom prophecies. Readers should keep a copy of that first Ezekiel volume handy, since Greenberg from time to time refers to it for arguments and evidence about issues that reappear in this volume.

Several prior decisions about the task of biblical translation and commentary give Greenberg's approach some very distinctive features. Foremost among these is the commitment to treating Ezekiel's texts "holistically." Rather than working with hypothetical, reconstructed units within Ezekiel, Greenberg translates and interprets the received, Masoretic text of the book, revealing it in its own integrity and structural design. Taking a sympathetic approach, Greenberg, over the years, has developed a close familiarity with Ezekiel's patterns of thought and presentation. This keen feeling for the stylistic habits of Ezekiel's prophetic collection enables the commentator to demonstrate how what may appear initially as disparate elements actually fit together as integral parts of unified compositions.

Greenberg's approach greatly illuminates these compositions, in their present form, and it brings out much to appreciate in Ezekiel's art and creativity. Despite the gains of the holistic approach, Greenberg realizes that it has its limits and does not push it to unreasonable lengths. Ezek. 23:35, for example, is taken as something of a footnote, rather than as an integral part of its context. Or again, Greenberg recognizes that verses 30 and 31 of Ezekiel 34 are not both integral to their context but seem to be alternative closures (doublets) at the end of their oracle. Greenberg even finds some verses of Ezekiel (e.g., verses 15b and 18 [Masoretic text] of Ezekiel 21) to be "unintelligible lines," and he leaves them out of account in his intermetation.

Greenberg's holistic approach does not cause him to neglect text criticism. Major alternative readings are given in footnotes to his translation and in his "Comment" sections. Although his translation is always based on the Masoretic text, there are significant places where Greenberg actually prefers a reading in one of the versions, or even a conjectural emendation, over the translation that he himself has provided (e.g., Ezek. 22:25, 25:8, 27:19, 35:14, 37:23).

Greenberg presents his holistic approach as compatible with diachronic research into the formation of Ezekiel's book. To be sure, he does adopt a "literaryhistorical version of Occam's razor: not to multiply authorial or editorial hands unnecessarily" (p. 599). Nevertheless, though uninterested in fragmenting Ezekiel into primary and secondary elements, Greenberg is curious about the prophetic and compositional processes behind the book. Thus, as he moves through the texts, he takes note of passages that shed particular historical light on these processes. One of his most interesting finds is that Ezek. 23:36-49 was preserved as sacred but never underwent the process of editorializing that produced the bulk of the book. As such, this text provides a "unique glimpse into the earliest form of Ezekiel's oracles, before the process of polishing at the hands of their editor (the prophet himself?) gave them their remarkable uniformity" (p. 490).

Greenberg approaches texts beginning with a form-critical demarcation of their structure; but his method immediately places form criticism in service of a sophisticated literary analysis since in Ezekiel he is dealing with complex written compositions rather than with the oral units of speech typical of earlier Israelite prophecy. A formula (such as the utterance formula) that old-line critics would definitively take as marking an oracle's conclusion is typically interpreted by Greenberg as performing a new literary function in Ezekiel, such as marking a transition in theme (e.g., at Ezek. 34:15). Complicated changes in person or the double use of recognition-formula closures (e.g., at Ezek. 28:20-26) are not attributed to accretions or padding but are deemed allowable parts of Ezekelian style.

Greenberg often elucidates the content and themes of Ezekiel’s prophecies through reference to both biblical and extrabiblical sources and parallels. The way that he has tracked down so many of these references attests to the full ripeness of his commentary. The task was major since a hallmark of Ezekiel is his imaginative and masterful use of traditions, myths, and Near Eastern cultural realia. And as a Jerusalemite priest with "access (before his deportation) to the . . . information stores of temple and palace" (p. 569), Ezekiel had the background to present in his prophecies a range of references and allusions of seemingly encyclopedic proportions.

Distinctive in Greenberg's work is his sympathetic use of premodern Jewish commentary. Whereas most modern critics use traditional interpretation as a foil, Greenberg finds it often illuminating of the text's literary sense and structure or of its intrabiblical resonances. To cite two examples, Joseph Kara's work (eleventh century) is used to help unpack the image of God's reconstituting the dry bones at Ezek. 37:6. Kara is used again to show how the prophet has formulated Ezek. 21:6-12 specifically in terms of the Holiness Source of the Pentateuch.

Greenberg finds the medieval Jewish commentators helpful even when their interpretations move beyond the plain sense of Ezekiel. For example, it is fasciating how he uses the traditional interpreters to help him assess the evidential value of the Septuagint and other versions. In several cases (Ezek. 24:10, 30:9, 36:21, 37:17), the premodern commentators understand the Masoretic text with which they worked in ways very similar to the understandings displayed in the texts of other versions, such as the Septuagint or the Peshitta. This suggests to Greenberg that in these cases the versions probably do not witness to texts differing fundamentally from the Masoretic one, but that their understandings evolved out of the Masoretic text as it stands, just as the understandings of the premoderns did.

The fruit of years of study and reflection, Greenberg's work on Ezekiel is to be highly recommended. His view of the book as the product of a single authorial mind will not persuade all. I, for example, am convinced on sociological grounds that both the prophet and the Book of Ezekiel find their place amidst an ongoing group of traditionists. But this aside, Greenberg's unique elucidation of Ezekiel's synchronic form and his positive, "post-critical" use of traditional Hebrew interpretation (still largely inaccessible to many) are alone enough to commend the volume.

Virginia Theological Seminary.

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