Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 9 (2009) - Review
The volume emerged out of the Fifth Durham-Tübingen Research Symposium that was held in Durham University, from 18-23 September, 2004. The theme of the Symposium was “Memory and Remembrance in Early Judaism and Early Christianity.”
The volume includes the following essays: (1) Loren T. Stuckenbruck, Stephen C. Barton, and Benjamin G. Wold, “Introduction” (1–7), (2) Joachim Schaper, “The Living Word Engraved in Stone: The Interrelationship of the Oral and the Written and the Culture of Memory in the Books of Deuteronomy and Joshua” (9–23), (3) Erhard Blum, “Historiography or Poetry? The Peculiarities of the Hebrew Prose Tradition” (25–45), (4) Benjamin G. Wold, “Memory in the Dead Sea Scrolls: Exodus, Creation and Cosmos” (47–74), Loren T. Stuckenbruck, “The Teacher of Righteousness Remembered: From Fragmentary Sources to Collective Memory in the Dead Sea Scrolls” (75–94), (5) Hermann Lichtenberger, “History-writing and History-telling in First and Second Maccabees” (95–110), (6) William Horbury, “The Remembrance of God in the Psalms of Solomon” (111–28), (7) John M. G. Barclay, “Memory Politics: Josephus on Jews in the Memory of the Greeks” (129–41), (8) Doron Mendels, “Societies of Memory in the Graeco-Roman World” (143–62), (9) Anthony Le Donne, “Theological Memory Distortion in the Jesus Tradition” (163–77), (10) James D. G. Dunn, “Social Memory and the Oral Jesus Tradition” (179–94), (11) Martin Hengel, “Der Lukasprolog und seine Augenzeugen: Die Apostel, Petrus und die Frauen” (195–242), (12) Ulrike Mittmann-Richert, “Erinnerung und Heilserkenntnis im Lukasevangelium” (243–76), (13) Anna Maria Schwemer, “Erinnerung und Legende: Die Berufung des Paulus und ihre Darstellung in der Apostelgeschichte” (277–98), (14) Hans-Joachim Eckstein, “Das Johannesevangelium als Erinnerung an die Zukunft der Vergangenheit” (299–319), (15) Stephen C. Barton, “Memory and Remembrance in Paul” (321–39), and (16) Markus Bockmuehl, “New Testament Wirkungsgeschichte and the Early Christian Appeal to Living Memory” (341–68). Let me say, first of all, that the editors are to be congratulated and thanked for this volume and the contribution it makes.
Readers of this journal will be particularly interested in chapters (2) and (3), which contain the only essays that deal directly with the Hebrew Bible. However, readers of this journal will find that many of the other essays are relevant to their work. Since it is impossible to discuss every single chapter within the scope of a book review, I will focus initially on the first two chapters and then point at some others so as to illustrate how helpful this volume can be for HB scholars.
As per its title (“The Living Word Engraved in Stone: The Interrelationship of the Oral and the Written and the Culture of Memory in the Books of Deuteronomy and Joshua”), Schaper’s essay discusses explicit references to writing in Deuteronomy and Joshua. Among others, Schaper maintains that the written Torah becomes the “real new leader of the people of Israel,” that “the central authority is … provided by the written Torah itself, by the Torah demarcated by Deut. 4:44 and 31:9” and that “[a]s far as Deuteronomy and Joshua are concerned, the written record is at the heart of the religious life and thus at the heart of the whole Israelite existence” (p. 15). Like Sonnet, Schaper argues that Josh 8:32, which “makes explicit the implication of Deut 17:18,” implies that there was “a standard copy, an editio princeps,” of that Torah (p. 13). Schaper analyzes the contrast between Moses’ grave, which is unknown, to Moses’ Torah, which is known through writing; the reasons for writing on stone; and discusses memorization and recitation as “tied to the master copy of the text” and their impact in the “interiorisation” of the text. He concludes by noting (with a nod to Derrida’s “all graphemes are of a testamentary essence”) that “writing transcends death insofar and inasmuch as it constitutes the practice of memory and ensures the divine presence” (p. 21).
This essay fulfills the promise communicated by its title and presents a helpful discussion of references to writing acts in Deuteronomy and Joshua and of the text-centered ideology and related (imagined) community reflected in these two books. It is clearly a thoughtful and thought provoking essay. One issue that remains for further exploration and development is a detailed study of the memory of Moses and of “the (ancient) Torah” within a society that likely knew more books than Deuteronomy and Joshua.
E. Blum’s essay is, leaving aside minor changes, a translation into English of his “Historiographie oder Dichtung? Zur Eigenart alttestamentlicher Prosaüberlieferung,” E. Blum, W. Johnstone and C. Markschies (eds.), Das Alte Testament – ein Geschichtsbuch? Beiträge des Symposiums “Das Alte Testament” und die Kultur der Moderne” anlässlich des 100. Geburtstags Gerhard von Rads (1901-1971), Heidelberg, 18-21. Oktober 2001 (Altes Testament und Moderne, 10; Münster: Lit Verlag, 2005), pp. 65-86. Blum tries to delineate the ancient Israelite concept of historiography by (a) contrasting it to the “Ionic” concept of historiography and (b) delineating boundaries between ancient Israelite historiography and poetry. In terms of (a), the emphasis is on the difference between the concept of authorship that characterized the “Ionic” historiography and the concept of an anonymous narrator who identifies with the tradition in Israelite historiography. According to Blum, this implies a strong divergence on ideas about how “truth” can be achieved and proven—and on “truth” itself. This difference, Blum argues, makes comparative approaches that stress analogies between the two essentially problematic. B’s approach to (b) is grounded on his understanding of the (text-pragmatic) category of fictionality, which he considers a “constitutive, perhaps even decisive, parameter” for poetry in the sense of (good) literature. According to him, “a ‘fictional’ text is by convention relieved of having to make any reference to reality—regardless of whether its propositions (in a non-fictional reading) are fictitious or not… [t]he distinguishing feature of fictional, as opposed to non-fictional texts, respectively, is therefore its supposed claim to refer or not to an extra-textual reality” (p. 36). Given the starting points, it is not surprising that Blum argues that a “Bible as literature” approach is also problematic. Blum concludes with considerations about how these features of the Israelite historiographic tradition influenced the way in which divergent or rival traditions are managed (and transmitted). He also comments on the later canonical process, which perhaps under the influence of the canon of Hellenistic culture and its ways for arguing truth claims, develops a notion of inspired writers/prophetic authorization to support the truth claims of ancient Israelite historiography.
This is a very helpful contribution to the ongoing debate about ancient Israelite historiography. Few would debate that there is a substantial difference between the concept of authorship and the nature of truth claims in “Ionic” and “Israelite” historiography. The relative weight of this difference will probably continue to be debated, in light of the existence of other analogies (see not only the work of Van Seters, Knoppers and many others in contemporary research, but also Momigliano). Some scholars in the area of history and theory, among others, would likely stress that historiographical works are narratives and involve always an element of “fiction.” They would question the use of the term “fictionality” and what they may see as a too well-delineated boundary line separating literature from history. The issue of (claimed) referentiality, however, is central and perhaps Blum's argument would have been strengthened—or at least would have raised less questions among some scholarly circles—had he chosen the language of referentiality rather than of “fictionality.” Of course, the question of (claimed) referentiality brings along the question of who is making the claim. Is it the text itself, the text as read by some group, a combination of the latter, the world of knowledge and discourse of the group, or a number of other more or less related alternatives? Can a work be historiographical for some group and not for another, or even the same group if approached from a different mode of reading?
Blum’s essay leads to these questions and to a number of other interesting issues. For instance, readers of his essay may wish to explore further the difference (or degree of difference) between a later, Hellenistically influenced canonical process and an earlier process within which some sort of repertoire of (authoritative) texts began to develop, at least sometime before the end of the Persian period, but without necessarily claiming inspired writers/prophetic authorization. Some of these readers may also wish explore the question of whether the distinction between the two is not too overemphasized, and whether at least traces or the “seed” of claims for inspired writers cannot be discerned earlier than the Hellenistic period. In sum, as one expects from Blum, his essay is not only well-argued and researched, but insightful and thought-provoking.
Several other chapters will be of particular interest to readers of this journal as well. To illustrate, Wold discusses the contrasting ways in which Exodus and Creation are construed and remembered in the DSS. Wold emphasizes how Exodus is remembered in terms of Exile and becomes a “focal point of memory in the Bible, Second Temple and Rabbinic Literature” (p. 74). The memory of Creation and Cosmos and its concealed aspects “belongs to apocalyptic thought in early Judaism and is not adopted by mainstream Jewish traditions after the second temple is destroyed” (p. 74). Wold continuously shows how memories are shaped by the present of those remembering.
Still in the general area of Qumran and late Second Temple memories but from a different perspective, Stuckenbruck’s analysis of references to the Teacher of Righteousness in the DSS leads to the central point that “the documents which referred to the Teacher were essentially presentist… [e]vents in the Teacher’s life were remembered because they were closely bound up with the community’s self-understanding and activity… [m]emory and application … are not two distinct steps taken up in sequence, but rather two sides of the same coin… [t]he perspective brought by and attributed to the Teacher … shaped their self-understanding more than anything else” (pp. 93–94). Stuckenbruck concludes the essay with a call for scholarship that devotes attention to the question of “[t]o what extent can we learn about … the authors of the pesharim (and other documents) by studying what they have to say about the community’s formative past” (p. 94). Stuckenbruck’s chapter is an illustrative example of the scholarship he is calling for.
Without diminishing the importance of other essays in the volume, I would like to conclude this review with a reference to the essays by John Barclay and Doron Mendels. The former, which deals with Josephus, will be of particular interest for those dealing with questions of hybridity and ancient historiography. The latter is related to and in some ways a continuation of the author’s Memory in Jewish, Pagan and Christian societies of the Graeco-Roman World (LSTS, 45; London/New York: T. & T. Clark International, 2004), in itself an important work for the exploration of the heuristic potential of “Memory Studies” for the reconstruction of the discourse of ancient societies.
In sum, this is a very helpful volume. My only regret is that there were only two chapters devoted to the Hebrew Bible (cf. the number of chapters devoted to the NT and related matters). I would have liked to see also a chapter devoted to the more methodological issues associated with “Memory Studies” approaches in relation to Hebrew Bible texts and the societies in which they were shaped, or to other ancient Near Eastern texts and societies. Of course, I am just displaying my own biases.