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Hebrew Studies 31 (1990) 262 Reviews numerous other works in Semitics and biblical studies, is fIrst rate, but in The Organizational Pattern and the Penal Code of the Qumran Sect he is not at his best Shaye J. D. Cohen Jewish Theological Seminary 0/America New York, NY 10027 ECCLESIASTES. By R. N. Whybray. The New Century Bible Commentary . pp. xxiii + 179. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989. Paper. This small volume is R. N. Wbybray's contribution to the current explosion of work on Qoheleth/Ecclesiastes. (Whybray uses "E" for the book and "Q" for both the author and, except in the royal fIction beginning in 1:12, the speaker.) The book begins with a solid bibliography and a thirtyone page introduction that deals with critical matters and ends with author and general indices. The rest is the commentary proper which follows the sequence of the text and is based on the RSV. Although he is sensitive to literary indications, Whybrais preoccupation is historical-critical: what did Q really say and really mean? His confIdence in his own ability to detennine authorial intent may put off those who live more fully in the post-critical age. Yet it is important not to demean Wbybray's literary skill: his interpretation is thoroughly contextual , making sense of passages in their literary context, accepting the whole book as the literary context, and giving attention to structural markers. (Attention is not trust: Whybray rejects attempts to detennine units on purely fonnal grounds-po 46.) One must also appreciate his awareness of rabbinic references and parallels. Wbybray dates E in the Ptolemaic period on the basis of political situation , economic development, the use of money as a means of exchange, language, social situation, and external references to the book (especially in Ben Sira). He sticks closely to this dating and its implications throughout the commentary. For example. he usually assumes that reference to a king must be to the Ptolemaic emperor. (An exception is 8:2. where he acknowledges the possibility that ,"0might be used broadly for local governors; since he mentions the possibility here. one wonders why he does not allow Hebrew Studies 31 (1990) 263 Reviews for it in other difficult passages as well.) The major conclusion he draws from this dating is economic: the entrepreneurial attitude, materialism, and self-absorption which he finds pervasive in the book. Q's world as constructed by Whybray is so congruent with the 1980s in the West that one suspects him to be reading our world into the text. Still, he is careful to support his claims. Whybray rmds virtually the whole book (from 1:4 to 12:7) to be authentic ; the apparent contradictions are resolved by labeling the more difficult verses wisdom sayings which Q cites in order to refute. He believes that there are two epilogues in 12:9-14. The breadth of critical discussion is impressive in a work of this size. Still, Whybray is willing to leave some questions open. In difficult passages he presents the major options and, when possible, indicates which he believes to be correct or most likely. He can also admit uncertainty. Whybray neglects some of the more imaginative interpretations of the book (although, except for very recent publications, most are listed in the bibliography). He is not always consistent. For example, while he claims that Q "virtually never reveals his own feelings" (p. 28), Whybray speaks of Q's "positive view" (p. 36), "personal account of his emotional reaction" (p. 60), "preoccupations" (p. 60), "emotional intensity" (p. 81), and "mood" (p. 139). Even in specific passages in which he notes that Q's original aphorisms can scarcely be distinguished from quotations (7:1-14 [po 112]; 10:1-11:6 [p.1S0n, in the following exposition of individual verses Whybray does not hesitate to do just that. Although translation options are mentioned, the only English translations to which Whybray refers are RSV and NEB. The limited indexing is unfortunate; the book would be more useful if it included indices of biblical texts (Whybray does a great deal of crossreferencing ), rabbinic texts, and Hebrew words. A spot-check of the general index revealed it to be accurate but...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-1681
Print ISSN
0146-4094
Pages
pp. 262-264
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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