Raymond F. Person. The Kings-Isaiah and Kings-Jeremiah Recensions. Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, no. 252. Berlin/NewYork: de Gruyter, 1997. ISBN: 3-11-015457-9. Pp. viii + 127. DM 98.00; sFr 89.00; US $65.35.

1. In the two self-contained parts of his study, Person offers a new effort at reconstructing the Urtext of the two major synoptic texts from the book of Kings, with the aim of providing a critique of current redaction-critical study of the Deuteronomistic History (DH). To this end, he compares the significant textual recensions involved, which in the case of 2 Kgs 18:13-20:19 are the Hebrew and Greek texts of Kings, the Hebrew and Greek texts of the Isaiah parallel, and the corresponding portions of the Isaiah scroll from Qumran. In the case of 2 Kgs 24:18-25:30, besides the Kings texts he covers the Hebrew and Greek editions of Jer 52. In both parts of his book Person follows the same procedure. First, the witnesses are displayed in parallel columns, with the Greek translations retroverted into Hebrew, followed by notes on the retroversions. Second, the textual and literary relationships among the witnesses are determined. Third, an annotated reconstruction of the putative Urtext of all the recensions extant is undertaken. In the fourth step, Person states his view of the text-critical implications for the redactional history of the text under discussion. The results of both parts resemble each other closely and are summarized in the final conclusions of the book. Person believes that in either text studied, inter-versional comparison can pinpoint additions in Kings that are both late and Deuteronomistic in character. From this it follows that "there were at least two redactional stages behind MT-Kings, one that produced the Urtexts and one that produced MT-Kings" (p. 114). For Person, this observation delivers a deadly blow to all recent theories on the development of the DH, since "they all fail methodologically because they ignore text critical evidence and are unable to distinguish between redactional layers that are evident from the text critical controls" (p. 115).

2. When perusing Person's book, the reader is immediately struck by the astounding number of misprints in Hebrew and Greek texts. What is more, many will find his retroversion hampered by serious blunders and will often doubt his logic. In his reconstruction of the Vorlage of Greek Isa 37:9, the word <heb>yc)</heb> (representing <grc>e)ch=lqen</grc>) is missing (p. 21). In 2 Kgs 18:14, <grc>pro\s basile/a A)ssuri/on</grc> (misspelt for <grc>A)ssuri/wn</grc>), "to the king of Assur," is rendered by <heb>)l mmlkwt )#wr</heb>, "to the kingdoms of Assur" (p. 38), which according to Person indicates that the Septuagint Vorlage deviated from the Masoretic reading <heb>)l mlk )#wr</heb>. In Isa 36:22, he retroverts <grc>o( grammateu\s th=s duna/mews</grc> as <heb>hspr hcb)</heb> (p. 40). Similarly, Greek Isa 38:8 <grc>tou= oi)kou=</grc> (misspelt for <grc>oi)/kou</grc>) <grc>tou= patro/s sou</grc> is said to represent <heb>hbyt )byk</heb>. When writing a monograph on OT text criticism, at least the rules governing the Hebrew construct state should be familiar. Instead of <heb>b(br</heb> on p. 83 we read <heb>b(kr</heb> in the Hebrew. This may be excusable, since the confusion of <heb>b</heb> and <heb>k</heb> was frequent with the ancient scribes, too. When Greek Jer 52:14 <grc>h( meta\ tou= a)rxima/geirou</grc> is retroverted as <heb>)#r </heb>(<heb>)t</heb>)<heb> rb +bxym</heb> (p. 85), one wonders why the particle <heb>)t</heb> is placed in brackets. Greek Jer 52:17 <grc>kai\ a)ph/negkan</grc> is traced to a non-existing Hebrew verb <heb>yb)</heb>, which in the given case allegedly brought forth the form <heb>wywby)w</heb> (p. 92). As it seems, what Person had in mind was the hifil of the verb <heb>bw)</heb> that would have given the form <heb>wyby)w</heb>*. The Vorlage for Greek Jer 52:21 <grc>ku/klw|</grc> is given as <heb>sbwb</heb> rather than <heb>sbyb</heb> (p. 87). Greek Jer 52:22 <grc>kai\ pe/nte ph/xewn to\ mh=kos u(peroxh\ tou= gei=sous</grc> (misspelt for <grc>gei/sous</grc>) <grc>tou= e(nos</grc> (misspelt for <grc>e(no/s</grc>) is derived from <heb>wqwmt r)# hktrt h)xt xm# )mwt</heb> (p. 94). One would have appreciated an explanation as to how this retroversion is supposed to relate to the Greek wording. How is the insertion of <heb>r)#</heb> justified? Greek <grc>mh=kos</grc> usually corresponds to <heb>)orek</heb>. <grc>Iwakim</grc> in the Greek translations of 2 Kgs 25:27 par Jer 52:31 is traced back to <heb>yhwyqym</heb> (p. 90), as if at some stage the tradents of the Hebrew text assumed that Jehoiakim rather than Jehoiachin had been deported to Babylon. Person seems unaware that the Greek translators routinely rendered both <heb>yhwyqym</heb> and <heb>yhwyk</heb>(<heb>y</heb>)<heb>n</heb> by <grc>Iwakim</grc> (see Greek 2 Kgs 24:6), unlike the spelling <heb>yknyhw</heb> (or similar) that was represented by <grc>Iexonias</grc>. Person's reconstruction of the presumed Urtext of 2 Kgs 25:9-10 <heb>w)t kl byt #rp )#r rb +bxym</heb> ... (p. 101) is incoherent and ungrammatical. Unfortunately, this is only a sample of what this book offers on virtually every page.

3. Moreover, the proof supplied for his theory that a late Dtr redaction in Kings can be identified by text-critical means is unconvincing. Kings does contain examples of late intrusions dressed in Dtr language, like 1 Kgs 6:11-14, but certainly not among Person's material. For instance, his assumption that 2 Kgs 18:14-16, lacking in the Isaiah parallel, was absent in the Urtext as well (pp. 54ff.), is without doubt erroneous. To the contrary, when the Hezekiah chapters were transferred from Kings to Isaiah these verses were left out because they put Hezekiah's reputation in jeopardy. And the Masoretic plus in 2 Kgs 20:6 <heb>lm(ny wlm(n dwd (bdy</heb>, pace Person (p. 77), is not the hallmark of a Dtr redaction but a humble conflation with 19:34. Likewise, the non-representation of 2 Kgs 18:25b in Isaiah does not preserve a more ancient reading but is clearly due to ideological qualms. And finally, Person's opinion that 2 Kgs 24:19-20 (p. 103, misquoted as 25:19-20) must be a "lengthy addition," given its absence from Greek Jer 52, is certainly wrong, since the Dtr evaluation of Zedekiah as spelt out in v. 19 is a fundamental constituent of the Dtr framework in Kings. Apparently the passage was left out by the scribe who replicated the ending of Kgs in Jer, even though the reasons for this measure are far from clear. When previous scholars disregarded these variants, it was not because they lacked critical acumen but because they correctly recognized their secondary character.

4. This reviewer fully agrees with Person that redaction-critical research in the books of Kings must carefully consider the deviations of the ancient versions. The importance of the Septuagint is paramount, and the Old Latin too includes numerous readings that deserve our attention. Among others, scholars like Julio Trebolle Barrera (1980, 1984, 1989), Steve McKenzie (1985, 1991), and Gary Knoppers (1993) have done pioneering work in this field. Basic matters of correct retroversion apart, however, sound assessment of the significant data demands a cautious approach, since these ancient witnesses definitely do contain valuable readings, but more often than not their readings which vary from the preserved Hebrew text are secondary. Therefore, identifying cases which allow us to reach back behind MT requires patient sifting of the material. In Kings, the situation is different from the book of Jeremiah, where normally the Septuagint represents a more ancient state of textual development. To this reviewer, the real value of the ancient versions in Kings does not consist in taking us back behind some late Dtr redaction but in preserving inobtrusive traces of the redactional history of these books that have been smoothed over in the Masoretic edition. Uncovering them still appears a task worth the while.

© TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, 1998.


Knoppers, Gary N. 1993. Two Nations Under God: The Deuteronomistic History of Solomon and the Dual Monarchies. Harvard Semitic Monographs, no. 52. Atlanta: Scholars Press.

McKenzie, Steven L. 1985. The Chronicler's Use of the Deuteronomistic History. Harvard Semitic Monographs, no. 33. Atlanta: Scholars Press.

McKenzie, Steven L. 1991. The Trouble with Kings: The Composition of the Book of Kings in the Deuteronomistic History. Supplements to Vetus Testamentum, no. 42. Leiden/New York: Brill.

Trebolle Barrera, Julio C. 1980. Salomón y Jeroboan: historia de la recensión y redacción de I Reyes 2-12, 14. Bibliotheca Salmanticensis, Dissertationes, no. 3. Salamanca: Universidad Pontificia.

Trebolle Barrera, Julio C. 1984. Jehú y Joás: texto y composición literaria de 2 Reyes 9-11. Institución San Jerónimo, no. 17. Valencia : Institución San Jerónimo.

Trebolle Barrera, Julio C. 1989. Centena in libros Samuelis et Regum : variantes textuales y composición literaria en los libros de Samuel y Reyes. Textos y estudios Cardenal Cisneros, no. 47. Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Instituto de Filología, Departamento de Filología Bíblica y de Oriente Antiguo.

Hermann-Josef Stipp
Universität Tübingen
Katholisch-Theologische Fakultät
Abteilung für Altes Testament