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Australian Biblical Review


ISSN 0045-0308

BOOK REVIEW  Published in Volume 54, 2006

ANDREW G. SHEAD, The Open Book and the Sealed Book: Jeremiah 32 in Its Hebrew and Greek Recensions. JSOTSup 347. (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 2002). Pp. 320. $US130.00.

Andrew Shead’s monograph is a revision of his 1998 Cambridge doctoral dissertation, completed under the supervision of Robert Gordon. It is a sophisticated and detailed text-critical study, the aim of which is to examine the relationship between the Hebrew and Greek recensions of the book of Jeremiah. Shead uses Jeremiah 32 as a test case.

After an introductory chapter, Shead examines the discourse structure in Jeremiah, using the work of Christof Hardmeier. The next four chapters contain his detailed analysis of Jer 32:1–15 (Shead’s chapter three), vv. 16–25 (chapter four), vv. 26–35 (chapter five), and vv. 36–44 (chapter six). Chapter seven has a discussion of the issues raised in the study, together with his conclusions.

In regard to the MT, Shead refutes an often-made charge that the text of Jeremiah 32 lacks coherence. His discourse analysis shows that the chapter consists of two major sections, a narrative (vv. 1b–25) and subsequent discourse (vv. 26–44), held together by these direct speech markers: “The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord” (Wortsgeschensformel), “The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah [to me]” (Wortereignisformel), and “Thus says the Lord” (Botenformel). While the Hebrew and Greek forms of the chapter are different, “a judgment that one reading is ‘better’ than the other lies in the eye of the beholder” (p. 243). The variants in the MT are due to the translator’s attempt to tighten the chapter’s structure, clearing up ambiguities (p. 246). The MT’s pluses should not be regarded as simply expansions of a shorter original text, but as the result of the LXXV’s extensive haplography.

In regard to the Greek text and critics’ use of it to correct the MT, Shead poses the question, “How does one decide what the Greek text is?” (p.16). Throughout his work he enters into debate with Ziegler and his critical edition of the Jeremiah text. Shead acknowledges the significance of Ziegler’s work, but is critical of the latter’s over-dependence on the assumption that, as a translator, G is always exact and/or consistent.

Both the MT and LXXV, as revisions of a parent text, show clear similarities in how they have been revised. They are, however, not just different texts, but different recensions. The rearrangement of chapters 46–51 cannot be explained on purely textual grounds. Both recensions expand a common text base, but there is no indication on text-critical grounds for assigning priority to either, so that “it is unhelpful to call LXXV older, and M later” (p. 260). Furthermore, arguments for a late date for the MT need to be questioned because the similarities between the two recensions suggest that they “did not originate in widely separated times or circumstances” (ibid.). In dealing with variant readings in the MT and LXX the critic should not accept one as superior to the other. In the case of vv. 11–14, where there are a number of variants whose significance has been much discussed, Shead maintains, “the tensions in these verses are equally reflected in M and G, and go back to the parent text” (ibid.).

Shead’s work is an important contribution to our understanding of the Jeremiah tradition. At the micro-level, his careful text-critical work on Jeremiah 32 is an important resource for the interpretation of this chapter. At the macro-level his work makes clear that both the Hebrew and Greek recensions of Jeremiah must be considered as books in their own right with their own integrity. Without this recognition, the text-critical task of reconstructing the earlier stages of the recensions lacks a proper foundation.

Review by
John Hill
190 Vincent Street
North Perth WA 6006, Australia