Classics and Religious Studies


Date of this Version

January 1993


Published in Journal of Biblical Literature 112:1 (1993), pp. 139-140. Copyright © 1993 the Society for Biblical Literature Used by permission.


The Redaction of the Books of Esther: On Reading Composite Texts, by Michael V. Fox. SBLMS 40. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1991. Pp. x + 195. $29.95118.95 (18.95112.95 member).

Michael Fox's excellent monograph is an exemplary redaction critical study of several witnesses to the book of Esther. The goal of the study, according to the author, is "to advance our understanding of the redactional process in general by studying the development of two particular representatives of the Esther tradition, the AT (Alpha text) and the MT (p. 6). Both of these texts, Fox argues, are redactions of previous works: the AT is a redaction of the proto-AT, while the MT is a redaction of proto- Esther. Redaction is defined by Fox, as "The reworking of what an author wrote" (p. 1). Fox discusses his method in his introduction, outlining the structure of the book and the purpose of each chapter. The book is divided into five chapters, of which chapters 1 and 2 contain the bulk of Fox's research. Chapter 1 "examines the redaction that produced the present form of the AT, seeking to determine its scope, attitudes, and purposes" (p. 6). Chapter 2 investigates the redaction of MT Esther. The results of the studies in chapters 1 and 2 are stated in chapter 3, while chapters 4 and 5 contain more general comments on redaction criticism, including an attempt to provide a model for future redactional studies. Fox ends the introduction with a helpful diagram of his reconstruction of the history of the Esther texts (p. 9).

This book is a very well done, clear presentation of the information and conclusions Fox sets out to convey. The first two chapters, which contain a great deal of technical information (supplemented by several helpful appendices, including the Greek text of the AT), will be of particular interest to Esther specialists (Fox's discussion proceeds in dialogue with the work of D.J.A. Clines, The Esther Scroll (JSOTSup 30; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1984). In particular, Fox does an excellent job of laying out the evidence for his conclusions about the relationship of the proto-AT, the AT, and the LXX. Although it seems to me that the dialogue about the relation of these texts to each other and to the MT will continue, Fox has moved that dialogue much farther along. In addition, the book as a whole provides an excellent model for any who are interested in redaction criticism of the Hebrew Bible in general.

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