Monday, May 14, 2018

Review of Milstein, Tracking the Master Scribe

MARGINALIA REVIEW OF BOOKS: Authorship and Ownership: Whose Bible Is It Anyway? Michael Hundley Reviews Sara Milstein’s Tracking the Master Scribe (OUP, 2016). Excerpt:
Milstein’s Mesopotamian analysis is immensely helpful for both Assyriology and Biblical Studies. Since Assyriology generally eschews diachronic analysis, her study helps us to better understand textual (re)production in ancient Mesopotamia as well as gives the reader a fresh reading of the different versions of the stories. It also offers important comparative data from the world in which the Hebrew Bible was written. Her work is especially helpful in demonstrating that the Bible is not unique in its inclusion of inconsistencies (an assumption that many have come to largely because of a general lack of diachronic studies of other ancient Near Eastern texts). Rather, inconsistencies are part and parcel of the production of texts in the ancient Near East, including in Mesopotamia and the Hebrew Bible. Studying the introduction and conclusion as loci of editorial activity likewise indicates that the tendency to preserve tensions may go well beyond the desire to preserve different voices. One could even argue that, at least in some cases, the different voices are not meant to be highlighted; rather, they are allowed to remain because they have been suitably reframed by a new narrative framework. Leaving behind portions of the old also allows the master scribe to borrow the authority of the original while reframing or even subverting its message.

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