woensdag 6 februari 2013

Review of: Carol Meyers, Exodus (NCBC), Cambridge Press, 2005; in: Interpretation

Carol Meyers, Exodus (NCBC), Cambridge Press, 2005

Review in: Interpretation 2007 61: 332
Review door: Ronald Hendel
Gevonden op: http://int.sagepub.com/content/61/3/332.2.full.pdf+html

by Carol Meyers
New Cambridge Bible Commentary, Cambridge University, Cambridge, 2005. 309 pp $21,99. ISBN 0-521-00291-5

THIS HAS BEEN A GOOD season for the book of Exodus. A major two-volume commentary by William Propp was published in the Anchor Bible series, and the New Cambridge Bible Commentary has come out with a much shorter but quite wonderful volume by Carol Meyers. The Cambridge series is designed for non-specialists and uses the NRSV translation. It eschews philological, text-critical, and source-critical issues, and seeks to elucidate the translated text in an "accessible, jargon-free" manner. Meyers, a distinguished biblical scholar and archaeologist at Duke University, successfully accomplishes this mandate for Exodus, while injecting her own interests and expertise into the mix. The result is a commentary that ought to appeal to non-scholars and scholars alike.

Meyers approaches the book as a storehouse of cultural memories. That is, she abandons the attempt to reconstruct or "prove" the history behind the stories—or equally elusive, to "disprove" it—and regards the stories themselves as a mixture of the remembered past, folklore, and literary artistry. The remembered past in cultural memory is, of course, always a distortion of the past, enlivened with ideals and colorings that are pertinent to the present. The popular memory of the major events of American history is a case in point, but every culture shares this tendency to revision the past in a way that speaks to the present. The story of the exodus, which is clearly linked to ceremonial recitations in the Passover ritual (see Exod 12-13), is a marvelous and central example of cultural memory in the HB. As Meyers says, "[collective memories create identity; their truth represents actuality rather than the factuality of the past" (p. 11).

The comments on each section combine this perspective with literary, anthropological, archaeological, and historical discussions, all given in a lively and engaging manner. Meyers is also a scholar of gender issues, and gives ample attention to such figures as the heroic midwives (Exod 1), Miriam, and other named and unnamed women and their activities. She approaches gender issues as a cultural interpreter —not as a culture warrior—which is both refreshing and consistently illuminating. Another truly helpful aspect of the commentary is a generous sprinkling of background discussions (called "A Closer Look"), which allow Meyers to give a fuller treatment of a variety of issues involving Israelite religion and culture, from "Midwives and Wet-Nurses" to "Temples and Temple Service" and "Holiness." These closer looks are themselves worth the price of admission, since many of them are informed by Meyer's own research and are filled with fresh insights.

In short, this is a gem of a commentary on a key biblical book. It belongs on the shelf of all who want to understand Exodus better.


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