Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Karel van der Toorn's "Scribal Culture and the Making of the Hebrew Bible," Part 3

The last two chapters of Scribal Culture, like the rest of the book, contain some familiar material on the formation of the OT canon. So again, we’ll focus on some points of difference.

Van der Toorn discusses how revelation emerged as a model in the ANE and hypothesizes that it was putting words in writing that gave them their authority as revelation. My study on the interaction of orality and writing leads me to doubt that this is the case. Rather, orality and writing would be more likely to continue to work in tandem, with orality serving as a corrective buffer to the written tradition. Van der Toorn’s vision of written materials supplanting the oral tradition [232] simply doesn’t jibe with what we know; in essence, he is repeating the same error Werner Kelber made with respect to the New Testament (which error, Kelber later repudiated).

I also have some dispute with his assertion that Jeremiah 8:8-9 refers to Deuteronomy:

How can you say, “We are wise, for we have the law of the LORD,” when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely?

Van der Toorn holds to the view that Jeremiah is here referring to the “found” copy of Deuteronomy in the Temple. I’d like to look at more detailed arguments respecting this at a later date, but I do find it curious that scholars like van der Toorn who are so ready to invent a collection of unknown documents for the sake of the JEDP theory, suddenly become much more narrow in their perceptions and cannot conceive of Jeremiah here referring to some other document – like a corrupted version of the law – that is no longer with us.

That’s all in terms of dispute; beyond this van den Toorn offers some interesting hypotheses concerning the origins of the OT canon is either an official Temple library collection, or in the curriculum of OT scribes. Either one of those theories would be quite sensible.

In the final analysis, Scribal Culture would be a fairly good book to check out from a library; most Tekton readers will find too much of it repetitive to warrant a purchase.

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