- “Consider the Years of Many Generations”:Contemporary Issues in Deuteronomy Between Rhetoric and Law
This expansive volume is an apt development in Lundbom’s career, as it complements his longstanding interest in rhetorics, and follows his threevolume commentary on Jeremiah for the Anchor Bible series. The connections between Jeremiah’s prophecy and the redaction of his book to the Deuteronomistic school, and the setting of Deuteronomy as an extended oration delivered by Moses in the Transjordan, are two branches that connect the commentary to the author’s previous projects as an obvious continuum, evident in the erudition and the scope of his commentary.
Lundbom’s attentiveness to structure, literary stylization, and rhetoric is manifest in the inclusio with which he chose to envelope his commentary: the volume opens with a quote from James Michener’s novel The Source (p. xvii) and concludes with a quote from a speech by Martin Luther King, Jr., just prior to his death (p. 949). The choice of quotes marks Lundbom’s literary abilities and interests, especially in presenting Deuteronomy as a living and relevant theology for our times. When he writes in his commentary on 4:19 that “the ancients (like many moderns) were much drawn to the heavenly bodies” (p. 243), it is clear that the parenthetical comment is not added solely for the sake of precision, but because it underscores the relevance of Deuteronomy to the present.
The commentary begins with a masterful introduction of almost a hundred pages. It offers a succinct summary of previous research, and fairly discloses the methodology and approach of its author. For example, Lundbom recognizes his debt to S. R. Driver, who “sanely appropriate[d] a century and more of German scholarship on the Pentateuch” (p. xix). By marking Driver’s commentary as the point “where everyone has to begin,” Lundbom indicates a turn for the twenty-first century, one that is no longer engaged with early modern German scholarship, and relies on their successors as the point of departure. Twentieth-century German scholars are still represented, especially von Rad and Lohfink, and Braulik less so. A greater influence on Lundbom, after Driver, are the works of the Jewish scholars Weinfeld and Tigay (p. xx). Even Rashi is cited more than any modern German scholar, reflecting Lundbom’s [End Page 393] assessment that “no German language commentary ranks with those of Driver, Weinfeld, and Tigay” (p. xx).
The introduction covers issues of textual criticism, comparisons to the ancient Near East, an introduction to rhetoric, the law code, relations between Deuteronomy and other biblical books, the question of its dating and authorship, its supposed northern authorship, major theological ideas, structure, and its relation to the New Testament. The richness of the introduction effectively captures the mystery of Deuteronomy: on the one hand, it is a rather cohesive work “which did not have to be disentangled from other source documents” (p. 6), and furthermore its text seems to be fairly preserved throughout the ages, “only occasionally requiring correction from the ancient versions” with “none of the problems found in Samuel, Hosea, Jeremiah,” and so forth (p. 2). On the other hand, the consistency of a book that shows few signs of redaction—at least in its first edition, chapters 1–28 (discussed on pp. 73–92)—seems at odds with the richness of traditions and schools that reverberate throughout its rhetoric and theology. These include the prophets that preceded or lived through the Josian Reform: Amos, Hosea, Micah, Isaiah, and Jeremiah (pp. 28–43, the latter understandably discussed at greater length); the traces of the Wisdom school (pp. 44–59); and the evidence of Deuteronomy’s affinity to priestly circles (pp. 18–20). It is hard to reconcile the harsh words that prophets such as Amos and Hosea target at priests with the presence of priestly circles, but Deuteronomy brings these distant relatives closer.
It achieves this through its innovative theology, which Lundbom describes in the introduction, noting major themes such as God’s name, uniqueness, holiness, righteousness, and more (pp. 59–73). The omission of...