Review of I. Lilly, Two Books of Ezekiel

Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 13 (2013) - Review

Lilly, Ingrid E., Two Books of Ezekiel: Papyrus 967 and the Masoretic Text as Variant Literary Editions (VTSup, 150; Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2012). Pp. xx + 372. Hardcover. $196.00. ISBN 978-9-00420-674-8.

Ingrid Lilly's first monograph, Two Books of Ezekiel: Papyrus 967 and the Masoretic Text as Variant Literary Editions, is a revised version of her doctoral dissertation, completed at Emory University under the supervision of Brent Strawn. Two Books of Ezekiel offers a novel approach to many of the ongoing questions related to Greek papyrus codex 967 (p967), an uncial which predates Origen's Hexapla and Codex Vaticanus (B) by nearly a century and is the earliest substantial witness to Ezekiel in any language. Even aside from its historical appeal, p967 famously preserves a unique transposition of Ezek 37 and Ezek 38–39, as well as minuses of significant length. In contrast to the usual attempts to detect scribal error in individual pericopae in p967, Lilly works towards an explanation of all of p967's features through the introduction of a “manuscript approach,” discussed below.

In the opening chapter, Lilly clearly demonstrates the need for “a deeper understanding of the literary history of Ezekiel through the lens of p967's text” (p. 25), as well as a method that can end the domination of textual-literary methodological sequencing. Although Lilly notes that sequencing is possible, she argues that it should ultimately by guided by the scholar's primary questions and depends heavily upon what is meant by “literary criticism.” The tendency to give methodological precedence to textual criticism, Lilly claims, has resulted in sharp criticisms of literary methods by text critics, despite the necessity of literary criticism in the analysis of variant literary editions. It should be noted that Lilly does not seek to nuance the term “variant literary edition” (hereafter, VLE) but follows Eugene Ulrich in defining it as “a textual witness that contains variant passages, chapters, or book-level features that affect both meaning and literary character” (p. 3). Rather, she addresses the extent to which this term can be applied to p967, asking whether this status applies to individual parts or to the book as a whole. This is achieved through what Lilly terms a “manuscript approach,” which investigates p967 as a mechanically-transmitted witness to an earlier text; a VLE of Ezekiel; and a text of Ezekiel which can shed light upon the socio-historical circumstances under which it was produced, as well as the larger editorial history of the book.

After addressing the contributions and limitations of the seminal works of Johan Lust (1981, 2003) and Ashley Crane (2008), Lilly provides an admirably detailed presentation of previous scholarship on p967's text, focusing on the critical publications and trends in research (ch. 2). The author discerns three phases in the study of p967, beginning with a high esteem for the text, as characterised by a focus on those instances where p967 demonstrates a close affinity to other Greek witnesses, particularly B, although it was noted from the outset that the number of singular readings in p967 warrants an appreciation of its independent character. In contrast, the second phase is marked by attempts to distance p967 from the Old Greek (OG). Most notably, Joseph Ziegler chose to read with B in his Göttingen Septuaginta Ezechiel even when it stood alone, despite acknowledging p967's special value. The third phase marks a period of time in which no new ground was covered. Lilly sets the 1977 edition of Göttingen Ezechiel with its supplement by Detlef Fraenkel in this phase, describing it as an unevaluative update: in spite of Fraenkel's recognition of p967 as a chief witness, no new p967 readings occur in the critical apparatus.

Chapter 3 offers a brief but vital description of the procedures underpinning her later textual and literary work, namely outlining a coherence approach that limits and organises variants according to “intertextual centres” and then by Tendenzen. Her use of intertextual centres is indebted to Lust's coherence approach and discerns four sections of the text in which she finds a concentration of the themes and forms that characterise variants across the book: Ezek 12–13; Ezek 32:17–32; Ezek 37; and Ezek 38–39. Lilly then groups meaningful variants into Tendenzen related to each intertextual centre, defining Tendenz as “a theme, stichwort, or form present in the intertextual center that characterizes variants elsewhere across Ezekiel” (p. 65). On the basis that it is trends rather than individual details that are most likely to signal authorial activity, Lilly's main data set comprises only those meaningful variants that could be proven to relate to one of four groups of Tendenzen: prophecy Tendenzen (87 variants); “fate of the slain” Tendenzen (99 variants); Tendenzen related to Ezekiel 36:23c–38 (21 variants); and variants related to Ezek 38–39, which Lilly terms “Gog-Magog” Tendenzen (49 variants). There is naturally some overlap between these categories, but Lilly's interweaving of quantitative analysis of variants into a qualitative framework of intertextual centres is eloquent and—intentionally or otherwise—provides both the text critic and literary critic a point of entry.

Lilly then offers a text-critical analysis of p967 in light of the OG and its Hebrew Vorlage, guiding the reader through an admirably thorough review of p967's unique variants in an attempt to discover whether they stem from inner-Greek development or OG readings not taken up in the dominant flow of the tradition (ch. 4). Using the aforementioned Tendenzen, this section establishes that (a) p967's meaningful variants cannot be readily explained through an appeal to mechanical error; (b) p967 and B seem to be closely connected, but differences between the two are more often the result of a variant in the underlying Hebrew text than Greek innovation, with p967 frequently reflecting a variant Hebrew Vorlage; and (c) the MT frequently represents a more developed text than the OG. In sum, Lilly discovers that p967's literary edition “is more often than not faithful to a Hebrew Vorlage, lacking textual errors, and rarely reflects Greek innovation” (p. 130). Needless to say, this conclusion, even if ultimately overturned, will set the tone of p967 scholarship for decades to come. Moreover, the author's comfortable dexterity in guiding the reader's eye from the most minute of textual details to the larger tapestry of her thesis (and back again!) is commendable, and results in a chapter which is not only incredibly informative, but also genuinely enjoyable.

Lilly's study reaches its crescendo in ch. 5, in which she presents specific sets of variants between MT and p967 in order to ascertain which features and types of features differentiate the two. This chapter investigates the strength and congruity of the set of variants in each Tendenz and sees Lilly conclude that Ezek 36:23c–38 provides an introduction to Ezek 37 in MT, drawing on Ezek 11 and 20 to form a lens through which to view the MT edition of restoration. The guiding question of this chapter, then, is not whether p967 and MT are VLEs, but rather in what sense they can be understood as such, and what the extent and nature of their distinguishing variants are. Lilly is refreshingly honest in her appraisal of sets of variants that simply do not form a coherent pattern, or those which that a pattern but do not advance an exegetically-coherent reading. She demonstrates that we can say with some certainty that p967 evidences an interest in spatial distinctions, especially as they pertain to purity; the treatment of foreign nations; and temporal matters, which is arguably the Tendenz in her study with the strongest results. Her investigation of Tendenzen related to Ezek 36:23c–38 will also be of particular interest to many Ezekiel scholars, not only because it investigates the status of the most substantial variant between MT and p967, but also because “until now, no study has thoroughly examined the exegetical significance of the variant to the two editions” (p. 195).

Even aside from its relevance to the rest of the study, Lilly's section of codicological analysis (ch. 6) of p967 demonstrates that manuscripts are physical testimonies to community interpretation rather than just a means to an Urtext in a way in which the field would be wise to follow. Lilly integrates this with the previous work by showing that codicology can help us understand the reading communities that held the literary interests that eventually shaped textual development, and carefully evaluates the codex in six ways, following Robert Kraft: (1) manuscript identification, which includes historical circumstances, contents, and its discovery; (2) the overall form and format; (3) the style of writing within blocks of text; (4) the use of internal spacing; (5) explicit in-line markings; (6) and marginal markings. Whilst this monograph is not readily accessible to the layperson, Lilly's employment of a variety of diagrams and photographs as well as careful explanations in this section mean that the reader need not be an expert in order to follow the author's argument that p967 bears witness to the interpretive interests of its reading community in a number of ways. With a few caveats, Lilly characterises the codex as Christian, though remains unsure as to whether the marks reflect idiosyncratic reading or study practices, or an authoritative reading in a worship context.

In the final chapter, Lilly summarises the ways in which textual-critical and literary-critical methods can and should work in tandem to address those questions raised by the presence and nature of VLEs. She notes that this study highlights the need for further work on the relationship between B and p967 and the linguistic non-homogeneity found within the Greek witnesses, but her conclusion is a confident one: p967 represents a strong witness to an alternate literary tradition and lies impressively close to its Hebrew parent text, which probably reflects an early edition of a variant Hebrew text. Lilly presses that the term “variant literary edition” requires an engagement beyond the borders of text criticism, but recognises that her claim “requires immediate specification and nuance since the two texts share tremendous amounts of material” (p. 306).

The immeasurable contribution of this book to the study of p967 at large is clear from the outset, as Lilly herself notes: “Despite the significant divergences presented by the new witness, no comprehensive full-length study of p967 has yet appeared” (p. 2). As such, Two Books of Ezekiel is invaluable for anyone working with, or interested in, p967's edition of Ezekiel and certainly useful for anyone dealing with the other texts in this codex. However, its utility goes beyond p967 specifically, as Lilly's integration of several related lines of inquiry—notably textual, literary, and codicological criticisms—validates versatility in an age of over-specialism. Although the close working relationship between textual criticism and literary criticism and the desirability of their integration (to a point) has been widely recognised, Lilly's “manuscript approach” allows for clear discourse between these methods, as well as taking seriously the notion that a text is always also a manuscript.

Although Lilly frequently demonstrates striking methodological agility in the main body of her work, there are multiple sections that would greatly benefit from further interaction with the terminology in use. For example, despite great advances in the recent study of the apocalyptic genre, Lilly simply spends a footnote adopting John Collins' definition from the 1970s SBL Apocalypse Group as it stands (p. 158, n. 63). Similarly, her willingness to adopt the results of form criticism in her study of the various formulae that fall into her Tendenzen is largely bibliographically unfounded, and Ulrich's VLE definition remains without nuance or critique by Lilly. A similar phenomenon occurs with her use of “intertextuality,” which she describes as “the interdependent ways in which texts (and textual variants) relate meaningfully to each other” (p. 131), though Lilly is at least clear here that she uses the term in a loose and non-traditional way better suited to the particulars of her work. Together, these demonstrate a propensity to assume that commonly-known definitions are the useful, or even the correct, definitions. This may reflect the practical restraints of the original dissertation form, but nonetheless requires attention. However, this detracts more from her methodological outlines than her actual findings, and is in any case unlikely to trip up a seasoned textual or literary critic.

Despite an initial reluctance to refrain from reading p967 as a cornucopia of textual and material errors, I find Lilly's thesis remarkably convincing. Her rigorous textual, literary and codicological work combine well to make a threefold attack from which it is difficult for the sceptic to escape. Although the aforementioned lack of engagement with terminology necessary for her subsidiary arguments and surprisingly high number of typographical errors occasionally make Two Books of Ezekiel a frustrating read, I highly recommend it to anyone from the interested student to the infatuated professional.

Penelope Barter, University of St Andrews