M. R. Stead, The Intertextuality of Zechariah 1–8

Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 12 (2012) - Review

Stead, Michael R., The Intertextuality of Zechariah 1–8 (LHBOTS, 506; London: T&T Clark, 2009). Pp. xiii + 312. Hardcover. GBP£70.00. ISBN 978-0-56729-172-1.

Michael R. Stead's primary objective in The Intertextuality of Zechariah 1–8 is to argue that intertextual references to antecedent biblical literature in Zech 1–8 largely determine its meaning. As a foundation for his methodology, he argues that Zechariah “is written with reference to the works of the classical prophets” and that “Zech 1–8 engages in an intertextual dialogue with a wide variety of biblical traditions” (p. 2). He describes his thesis in the following way: “I will argue that Zech 1–8 takes up formerly disparate streams of tradition—especially various streams of the prophetic tradition—and creatively combines these traditions in applying them to a post-exilic context” (pp. 2–3).

In his introductory chapter, Stead argues that the phrase “the former prophets” (Zech 1:4) alerts the reader to the possibility of intertextual references (p. 2). After outlining the trajectory of Zechariah scholarship, he asks three open questions that guide the remainder of the study: 1) “To which parts of the prophetic tradition does Zech 1–8 allude?” 2) “How are the messages of the ‘former prophets’ applied to the early post-exilic context?” 3) “What is the rhetorical effect and theological significance of the re-use of texts in Zech 1–8?” (p. 11).

In chapter 2, Stead presents his methodology as an inductive approach to “contextual intertextuality” (p. 18). He understands Zech 1–8 within the historical context of 520–518 b.c.e. and in the intertextual context of “the former prophets.” His method is both synchronic (intertextuality) and diachronic (inner-biblical exegesis) (p. 19). He succinctly defines intertextual terminology (citation, allusion, etc.) and acknowledges their ambiguity by arguing that the divisions between the terms are not concrete. They belong on a spectrum because “they blend into one another” (p. 22).

Next (Chapter 3), Stead dates Zech 1–8 and its intertexts. He argues that much of the material from the classical prophets was in circulation before Zechariah's composition (p. 42). For Stead, Zech 1–8 was composed in a “Zecharian milieu,” meaning that “the substance of the book was written in the period of the prophet Zechariah…reflecting the theological outlook of the era” (p. 43). When it comes to direction of dependence, Stead suggests that Zech 1–8 is always the borrowing text.

Stead begins his detailed intertextual analysis of Zech 1–2 in chapter 4. He argues that Zech 1–2 helps to answer three questions: 1) “What is Yahweh about to do?” 2) “When will this happen?” 3) “Who will benefit from this?” (p. 74). Furthermore, he identifies two literary features that characterize the use of biblical material by the author of Zechariah: sustained metaphor and composite allusion. He identifies intertextual links to Ezek 2:4; 10–11; 37:26–27; Isa 52:8; Joel 2:13–14, and Jer 24:5–7 in Zech 1:1–6 alone. The construction of this passage with multiple disparate intertexts is “programmatic for the chapters which follow” (p. 86). For example, Zech 1:7–17 is a “composite allusion” to Ps 80, Lam 2, Isa 40–55, and Jer 29 (pp. 92–93). The numerous intertextual connections serve to clarify the message of Zech 1–2: “Yahweh's return to dwell in Jerusalem is inextricably connected with the restoration of the temple in Jerusalem” (p. 132).

In chapter 5, Stead deals with the intertextuality of Zech 3–4; 6:9–15. He argues that these texts are mutually interpretive and that identifying their intertexts is essential to their coherence. He recognizes a number of intertextual references in 6:9–15, including allusions to 2 Sam 7 and Jer 22–23; 33 (p. 138). Stead uses these intertexts to suggest that Zerubbabel is portrayed as a “messianic” figure because he is undertaking the important role of temple building and is in the Davidic line (p. 143). For Stead, the “Branch” is not a future eschatological figure, but Zerubbabel. The integrating themes of these passages are the restoration of the priesthood, the temple, and the Davidic line (p. 183).

In his analysis of Zech 5:1–6:8 (ch. 6), Stead suggests that identifying intertexts limits the possible interpretations of a passage (p. 217). For example, he identifies the winged creature of Zech 5:5–11 as “anti-cherubs” because they mimic the actions of the cherubs in Ezek 1 (pp. 197–8). The intertextual connection with Ezekiel limits the number of possible identities for these creatures. Through the use of antecedent biblical material, Zech 5:1–6:8 explains “what is necessarily going to happen as a consequence of Yahweh's return” (p. 215).

In his analysis of Zech 7–8 (ch. 7), Stead argues that these chapters are “crucial for understanding the message of Zech 1–8 as a whole because they provide the link between the ‘cultic’ focus on temple rebuilding and the ‘ethical’ parts of the message” (p. 219). He suggests that Zech 7–8 is a digest of chapters 1–6 and that these intratextual connections bind Zech 1–8 as a unified literary unit (p. 230). Zechariah 7–8 also provides the context for the return of Yahweh and the rebuilding of the temple: the covenant relationship. Thematic allusions to Deut 28–39 and Jer 30–31 point toward covenant unfaithfulness as the reason for exile and warns the people of their ethical obligation (p. 244). Stead concludes his discussion with a summary of his results and concluding remarks (ch. 8).

There are some limitations to Stead's approach. First, his coupling of the literary (intertextual) context of Zech 1–8 with the historical (ca. 520 b.c.e.) is unnecessary. The historical context often confirms his intertextual readings, but does not independently contribute to the results of his investigation. Also, his discussion on the date of Zech 1–8 and its intertexts suffers from circular logic: Zechariah is most likely the borrowing text, therefore the texts it alludes to must be earlier. I do not necessarily disagree with his results, but his evidence is less than conclusive.

Despite this volume's limitations, it is particularly strong on a number of fronts. First, Stead does an exemplary job describing its compositional features that relate to intertextuality. He identifies grammatical solecisms as an intentional technique that alerts the reader to intertexts (p. 77) and he observes that the author of Zechariah often inverts the order of events from his source texts (p. 138). Additionally, he successfully demonstrates that sustained allusion and composite metaphor are common features of reuse in Zech 1–8. Second, despite the broad nature of the topic, Stead is very precise in his use of terminology. His succinct definitions of terms like citation, quotation, and allusion are helpful, and his visual presentation of this data was much appreciated. His many organized charts of texts and the copious data he has gathered allow the reader to follow his technical argument more easily. Finally, this work is a major contribution to the field because his unique synchronic and diachronic approach to intertextuality allows him to resolve many of the perplexing coherence issues that trouble commentators. For example, his identification of the “Branch” in Zech 6 with Zerubbabel is convincing and does not require a redactional theory.

Overall, Stead has produced a valuable contribution to the field of Zechariah studies. His bountiful data, precise methodology, and convincing findings make this volume a mandatory read for anyone working with Zechariah. This book is also instructive for those working with the reuse of scripture generally, and it is a valuable tool for discussions regarding compositional techniques in later biblical material and Second Temple literature. For those working in these fields, I strongly recommend this volume.

Garrick V. Allen, University of St. Andrews