Thursday, 17 November 2011

Two book reviews

Two Bibliographic Short Reviews: 
Milton Eng,  The Days of our Years: A Lexical Semantic Study of the Life Cycle in Biblical Israel (LHBOTS, 464; New York/London: T & T Clark International, 2011. 
This is a lexical study of primarily male terms for the young, mature and elderly. Female terms are subordinated within an androcentric book structure. The first chapter deals with lexicography and semantics (“the meaning of words”). This study focuses on the range of potential meanings for particular terms such as boy, child, young man, man and old man, set within the context of other semantically related terms. Terms are considered only when the context is age-related. Chapter 2 briefly sets the life cycle (including life expectancy) in the context of the ancient near east, and less understandably Greece. Chapter 3 studies terms for the young, by which is meant pre-maturity, focusing particularly on na‘ar, yeled and taph. Chapter 4 concentrates on terms for mature men, with semantic studies of ‘ish, ‘adam and geber. Chapter 5, on the aged, covers zaqen and a range of related terms and phrases. His general conclusions support to use of modern linguistics in textual study, and in particular semantic profiles and semantic domains, calling for these to be included in the methodologies of new lexicons. There is much of interest in the detail of this book; but this reviewer would have liked to see a better gender balance, and less of the superficial comparisons with other unconnected socio-historical contexts and periods, from the stone age to the Industrial Revolution.

Matthew A.Thomas,  These are the Generations: Identity, Covenant, and the ‘Toledot’ Formula (LHBOTS, 551; London/New York: T&T Clark, 2011),.
This study examines the use of Toledot (“these are the generations of…”) in Genesis, Num. 3:1, the generations of Aaron and Moses, and Ruth 4:18, the line of David.Although recognizing the diachronic emphasis on sources in earlier studies, Thomas focuses on the possible intentions of the author of the final text. The toledot formula is viewed as a series of headings to focus the story of national origins. The inclusion of Ishmael and Esau is explained as their inclusion in the covenant, and the theme of reconciliation of brothers (Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob, Joseph and his brothers). In Gen. 2.4, the generations of heaven and earth is humanity, created from or ‘begat’ by the earth/dust (see p.73). Thereafter there are four further main headings, covering Adam, Noah, Shem and Jacob, characterised by the formula without waw. Subsequent subheadings begin with waw (e.g. of Terah, Ishmael, Isaac and Esau) forming a chiastic sequence. I am unconvinced by his addition of Isaac and Levi to make seven ‘narrowings’ of descent. Theses do not always make good books, and there is a substantial amount of repetition, loose writing, and redundancy. Thomas roots the study in form criticism, assuming antiquity, whereas his explanations relate more to redactional structuring. He works within a theological paradigm, affirming the unity of Torah teaching. The inclusion as family of Ishmael (Arabian tribes) and Esau (Edomite tribes) might be construed as a response to exclusivist tendencies under Nehemiah and Ezra, giving the structure a late date.

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