The Art of Biblical Criticism

Emanuel Tov Releases the Third Edition of Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible

Read the full original review by James A. Sanders as it appeared in Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 2012

Emanuel Tov

Emanuel Tov released a third edition of his Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible. Reviewer James A. Sanders considers it an important and authoritative Biblical criticism tool for the expert and neophyte alike.

Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible

By Emanuel Tov

Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2011
481 pp., 32 plates, $90

The 1992 edition of Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible by Emanuel Tov served as the first authoritative Biblical criticism handbook following the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the middle of the 20th century. Twenty years later, Emanuel Tov has released a third edition of the text, expanding its scope to include the latest discussions while presenting more accessible guides to Biblical criticism for non-specialist scholars.

In the May/June 2012 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Biblical scholar James A. Sanders reviews what he considers “an essentially new book and mandatory to any serious student of the Hebrew Bible text.” Emanuel Tov provides a “brief didactic guide” for neophytes of textual criticism, and includes “evaluations of numerous publications about the scrolls and their impact on textual criticism” for seasoned scholars of Biblical criticism.

Sanders contextualizes the achievement of creating three stand-out editions on Biblical criticism. “Emanuel Tov, professor of the Bible at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, was general editor of the prime publications of most of the Dead Sea Scrolls from 1991 until all 40 volumes were published, nearly all of the them within a decade of Tov’s succession.”

The review is highly complimentary, even at times when Sanders disagrees with the theses put forward by Emanuel Tov. The scholars hold different opinions on the formation of the canon of the Hebrew Bible or the hermeneutics guiding international Biblical criticism scholars. Sanders suggests that “Tov leaves the impression that the aim of the text critic is to approximate the ‘original’ text that lies behind the various textual and versional witnesses now available, instead of attempting to locate the point in time in Early Judaism at which each discrete bloc of text ceased literary development in the hands of its redacts and became a group or community text…”

Despite certain scholarly disagreements, James Sanders is highly complimentary of the expanded essential volume on Biblical criticism. He calls Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible “the necessary handbook for the understanding and practice of the art and science of textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible today.”

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