Table of Contents of Latest Issue
Index of All Issues
Index of Book Reviews
Instructions for Contributors
Subscribe to
Australian Biblical Review


ISSN 0045-0308

BOOK REVIEW  Published in Volume 67, 2019

KEVIN MATTISON, Rewriting and Revision as Amendment in the Laws of Deuteronomy (FAT 2/100; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2018). Pp xi +208. Paperback. €74.00.

This book originated as a doctoral dissertation under Prof. Jeremy Hutton at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It is a response to two competing explanations of the differences between the Deuteronomic Code or D in Deuteronomy 1226) and the Covenant Code or CC in Exodus 20–23. One is the ‘replacement’ theory which argues that perceived contradictions and tensions between the two codes indicate D was meant to replace CC. The other is the ‘supplementation’ theory which argues that the differences point rather to presupposition, reference and complementation, and not replacement. Kevin Mattison’s solution is to propose that the differences are the result of a process of “amendment.” This term refers to “alterations and additions made to a source text,” such that D “was designed to alter and add to CC” (15). Hence it did not discard CC but in a real sense incorporated it. Thus, the D editors changed aspects of the legislation in CC in order to have D’s laws promote their agenda, but their way of doing this shows that they also sought to maintain CC as a point of reference. According to Mattison one can also find evidence of this process of amendment within D’s laws themselves.

The study deals with three sets of D’s laws, namely those on cultic place, sacrifice and slaughter (12:1–28; cf. Exod 20:24–26), those on tithes and firstling regulations (14:22–29; 15:19–23; 26:12–15; cf. Exod 22:28–29) and those on the cities of refuge and asylum (19:1–13; cf. Exod 21:12–14). A presupposition of the study is the widely held one that CC preceded D and, in Mattison’s view, D’s authors did not intend their work to be read alongside CC. But of course, it is only by doing so and comparing them that scholars can assemble the kind of textual evidence that prompts explanatory theories such as the three outlined.

According to Mattison, the centralisation laws in 12:1–28 provide “a key to understanding D’s compositional logic, goals and history” (29). He identifies four stages of composition in this legislation, with the oldest in vv. 13–19, which legislates for a centralised cult against the “distributed cult” of Exod 20:24–26. This was followed by 12:21–28 which restricted the secular slaughter of 12:15–18 to locations too remote for routine sacrifice. According to Mattison, 12:2–7 and 22–28 contain evidence within them of subsequent amendments during these stages of development of the legislation on centralised worship; thus, the elimination of Canaanite cults in 12:2–3 “provides a foil to justify and motivate D’s demand of centralization” (71). For its part 12:8–12 is a final and more organised formulation than the earlier ones and introduces a new feature, what he calls “the periodization of Israelite cultic history” (77), its key features being the “delay” of centralisation until the conditions of rest and safety of the people in the land are realised. He accepts the general hypothesis that these conditions point to the time of Solomon. Thus, 12:8–12 provides evidence of amendment within the legislation of Deuteronomy 12, as well as evidence of further amendment of the earliest formulation in Exod 20:24–26. What is interesting about this section of the book is that Mattison’s analysis of the stages of amendment in 12:1–28 is more or less in agreement with the findings of much previous analysis of the composition of this chapter, analysis that is based, not so much on comparison with CC, but on analysis of the centralisation formulas in the chapter itself.

However, I would question his view that 12:812 is about a delay in the implementation of centralisation because “Moses characterizes Israel’s present state as one of anarchy” (76). Given that Moses aligns himself (cf. “our”) with those doing what is right in their own eyes in v. 8, it seems unlikely in the context that this is to be read as a censure. Furthermore, given that amendment is not replacement, then 12:8–12 should be read as an amendment of Exod 20:24 which requires the people to worship “in every place where I cause my name to be remembered.” In other words, the initiative about the place or places of worship lies with YHWH and so Deut 12:8–12 is not about a delay but about reminding Israel that it is only when certain conditions are fulfilled in the land that YHWH will choose one definitive place for the name to be remembered. My comment is a query about an aspect of his thesis not the thesis as such. Readers will make their own judgements. The limitations of the review format preclude discussion of the other legislation in D that Mattison examines. Overall this is a study that provides a thoroughly researched and carefully argued analysis of a topical issue in Deuteronomic studies and one that I warmly recommend.

Review by
University of Divinity, Melbourne