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Levinson review

Levinson review

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Published by Jim West
review of levinson
review of levinson

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Published by: Jim West on Oct 04, 2013
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11/20/2013

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 Bernard M. Levinson,
 A More Perfect Torah: At the Intersection of Philology and Hermeneutics in Deuteronomy and the Temple Scroll 
(Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns),2013.
Bernard Levinson
s new volume which inaugurates a new series titled
Critical Studies in theHebrew Bible
is a decidedly appropriate one. It is technically difficult (requiring of readersa considerable depth of knowledge) and intellectually challenging.It is comprised of two major parts- actually two separate essays:
Part One- RevelationRegained: The Hermeneutics of and in the Temple Scroll 
which was written not onlybe Levinson but also by Molly Zahn and it was first published several years previouslyelsewhere. And
Part Two- Reception History as a Window into Composition History:Deuteronomy
’  
s Law of Vows
.Both essays are meticulously and carefully written in the highest critical spirit and with thelatest cutting edge methodology. The volume also contains an Afterword in whichLevinson interacts with more recent scholarship on
The Hermeneutics of and in theTemple Scroll 
 
especially with the work of Simone Paganini. Indeed, the Afterword shouldactually, in my view, be read as soon as readers complete Part One. It clarifies much andalso updates that segment of the volume.It (the work at hand) concludes with a number of appendices (3 of them to be precise), abibliography, and indices of authors, Scripture, ancient sources, and subjects, and it isbespeckled throughout with numerous figures and tables.It is, let me be clear, a demanding book to read. Those who lack Hebrew will simply be lostas the technical nature of the topics discussed absolutely requires a decent familiarity withthat ancient language. But it rewards those who are interested and determined.Levinson writes of it
 
Part One is entitled
Revelation Regained: The Hermeneutics of andin the Temple Scroll.
Co-written with Molly M. Zahn just over a decadeago, it
examines the frequent replacement of conditional and inthe Temple Scroll and argues that a new conceptual model is necessary toexplain the phenomenon accurately (p. xi).Levinson accomplishes his goal with a clarity and specificity that is
in sum
nearlyunassailable. Part Two is written solely, again, by Levinson and
closely examines the syntax and content of the law of vows in Deut 23:22-24 (p. xii).Here too Levinson states his case clearly, carefully, and brilliantly. Why do these studiesmatter? I think that our author is right when he opines
the history of the reception and interpretation of the Bible in the SecondTemple period offers a window into the compositional history of the biblicaltext. Analysis of the exegetical reworking of the Bible in the Dead Sea Scrollsand in rabbinic literature can provide a valuable critical tool for a more acuteunderstanding of the process of composition of the biblical text (p. xiii).And thenBy beginning with the Temple Scroll and then working back to the moredetailed study of the biblical text (in part 2), I sought to implement the book
slarger intellectual project: to show the relevance of reception history forunderstanding composition history (p. xiii).Mission accomplished.But take note and be careful, Levinson
s argument is so persuasive and his critical skills sosharpened by use that readers may find themselves bewitched into accepting withoutargument or question the conclusions he proffers. Every writer deserves a sympathetichearing (unless they are beset by and ensconced in the wretched dilettantism so widespreadthese days on the internet); but every scholar also deserves a critical distance no matter howbrilliant. Only by maintaining that
but what if 
…’
stance will readers honestly engage inand interact with other scholars.That said, it is so very tempting to surrender and suggest that Levinson has uttered the finalword on the subject. The book is just that good.

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