Tracking the Master Scribe: Revision through Introduction in Biblical and Mesopotamian Literature.

Author:Person, Raymond
Position:Book review
 
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Tracking the Master Scribe: Revision through Introduction in Biblical and Mesopotamian Literature. By SARA J. MILSTEIN. Oxford: OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2016. Pp. xviii + 241. $99.

Milstein's monograph is a welcome addition to the variety of recent works that are pursuing a critical reevaluation of the criteria often used in source criticism and redaction criticism through the lens of empirical evidence or what she prefers to refer to as "hard evidence." Her first two chapters are introductory. Chapter 1 includes her statement of method within the context of the secondary literature. Chapter 2 concerns what she calls "revision through introduction," including a summary of previous discussions of the Sumerian King List, the Epic of Etana, the Community Rule of Qumran, and the Book of Esther, and a list of conclusions concerning revision through introduction as a redactional technique (pp. 73-74). The next four chapters include her discussion of two Assyriological texts and two biblical texts. Chapters 3-4 concern revision through introduction in Adapa and the Gilgamesh Epic, respectively. Chapters 5-6 concern Judges 6-9 and what she considers to be a source, an "old Saul complex" (Judges 19-21, 1 Samuel 1, and 1 Samuel 11), respectively. Chapter 7 contains her conclusions.

Milstein reaches some excellent conclusions that should be carefully considered by all scholars interested in the literary study of ancient texts; however, a tension remains in her own work in which it seems that she does not follow the full implications of some of her insightful conclusions. Below I will begin with a summary of these conclusions and then discuss how I think that some of her own methodological assumptions and their application to the biblical texts analyzed in chapters 5-6 are inconsistent with the full implications of her conclusions.

One of the most commonly used criteria for discerning sources and redactional layers in ancient texts is "inconsistencies," whether the "inconsistencies" are "literary," "historical," "linguistic," or some combination of these. The following quote from Milstein's conclusion is an excellent statement of the difficulty of assuming that what we moderns identify as an "inconsistency" may not have been considered as such (or at least to the same degree) by the ancients.

Allow me to return to that pesky word "inconsistencies." In fact, it is not that the master scribes were simply "more comfortable" with inconsistencies, as I tend...

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