“Expanding Ezekiel” by Timothy P. Mackie

Timothy P. Mackie. Expanding Ezekiel: The Hermeneutics of Scribal Addition in the Ancient Text Witnesses of the Book of Ezekiel. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, pp. 339, 100 €.

In this high-level study and analysis of the scribal additions in the book of Ezekiel, Timothy P. Mackie (Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Western Seminary, Portland Oregon) explores the variety of textual additions. Through his methodology and large grouping of what he considers to be scribal additions, Mackie contributes the broader discussion regarding early Jewish textual transmission practices.

Inspired by J. H. Tigay’s The Evolution of the Gilgamesh Epic, his methodology for identifying textual expansions in the MT, as compared to the OG tradition, draws on quantitative differences. While he assumes that both texts have a common ancestor, he does provide both traditions, the OG and MT, with indepdendent literary integrity. Following, he engages in a highly nuanced terminological discussion in order to establish his framework for organizing what he sees as scribal textual expansion: explication, elaboration, and coordination. Within each category, which outline the purpose of the expansion, Mackie provides multiple results, results shaped by study of the expansions. Each result he break down further into four categories for the source of the scribal expansion: new, in-text, inner-text, and inter-text.

Chapter III-IV explore a variety of the expanded texts within each category, result, and source. Unfortunately, due to the large number of scribal expansions (a complete list of scribal expansions is available in the appendix), he is only able to directly engage with a select few expansions.

Specifically relevant to Ezekiel, Mackie posits that late scribal expansions in the book “express a preservative orientation not just for the text in general but for its particular wording” (207). Thus, Mackie provides an important, small window into the diversity of Second Temple period textual transmission practices. This is especially evident in that his analysis highlights how intimately familiar scribes were with other biblical traditions during the period of transmission. He also briefly compares the textual transmission of the Gilgamesh Epic to Ezekiel and the Synoptic Gospels to Ezekiel, two things which I shall comment upon below. Ultimately, he place his stake within broader discourse by emphasizing that his analyses of the scribal expansions show “the complex relationship between the transmission of scriptural texts and the interpretive traditions surrounding them” (218).

While I have no doubts Mackie’s work is somewhat significant, his conclusion that he contributes “in a substantial way to our understanding of Jewish scribal practice in this period” (218) is quite overstated. His research does provide greater understandings of scribal practices and techniques; however, speaking metaphorically, all he does is sharpen an already existing sword. He provides important supporting data and conclusions that strengthen our understandings, though not necessarily substantially.

I do applaud Mackie, though, for his methodology and the more nuanced interpretations within the text of Ezekiel. Regarding the methodology, the clear categorical distinctions and coverage of so many types of scribal additions illustrate how strong his methodology is. Yet with a strong methodology, a more thorough investigation of Ezekiel would have been beneficial. The majority of scribal additions are merely added into the large appendix. Direct analysis of these additions with his methodology may have yielded more authoritative and significant conclusions. On the select additions which Mackie does analyze, each one contributes in a very nuanced way to our understandings of scribal additions. Perhaps a future study will engage more thoroughly with the material.

On a more negative note, I shall comment on a conclusion by Mackie. In comparing the transmission history of the Gilgamesh Epic to Ezekiel, Mackie notes that “the scribe whose work we have observed int his study leaned more towards the preservative mode”, while “the scribes active during the final stages of the Gilgamesh Epic’s development more often played the role of literary contributors, and on a much larger scale, reshaping and reformulating the base text as much as preserving it” (211). His comparative conclusion could be significant; unfortunately, the conclusion lacks depth and evidence to be justified, for it wasn’t anywhere near the focus of his study. Additionally, there is an unacknowledged danger in comparing the late expansions in Ezekiel to a text like the Gilgamesh Epic: if Ezekiel’s expansions emerged following period which adhered to Greek scribal epistemology, then he applies a Greek scribal epistemology to ancient Near Eastern texts. As Marc van de Mieroop (2016) has wonderfully explored, Babylonians did, in fact, have a unique epistemology. Therefore, Mackie must provide justification in order to compare textual transmission from two distinct philosophical frameworks.

He is on point, though, when he reads Ezekiel’s textual growth (MT and OG) as a historical parallel to the textual growth of the Synoptic Gospels. Because late textual additions in Ezekiel occurred in a similar context as the Gospels, his idea of reading these two as parallels (Ezekiel and Synoptic Gospels) is justified. Further study upon this topic may very well reveal substantial information about the nature of Jewish exegetical and scribal practices.

In conclusion, Timothy P. Mackie’s in-depth analysis of late Jewish scribal techniques provides a small puzzle piece in the grand scheme of how we understand the topic. While a few of his conclusions are too strongly stated or don’t stand up to scrutiny, his methodology and insights that Ezekiel parallels the Synoptic Gospels is valuable. There is a lack of substantive conclusions, which may have been due to a limit of page within the book. For those specifically engaged in closer readings of Ezekiel from a highly technical perspective, I do recommend this work. Even then, Mackie fails to offer insight into the vast majority of what he calls scribal additions. That said, I hope that he makes scribal additions to his book and writes in further detail about the nature of scribal additions in Ezekiel.

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