Studies in Hebrew and Ugaritic Psalms.STUDIES IN HEBREW AND UGARITIC PSALMS. By Yitzhak Avishur. Pp. 388. Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1994. Cloth, $35.00.
This volume, translated primarily by L. Moskovitch, is an updated version of a 1989 Hebrew work. In the first part ("Hebrew Psalms with Affinities to Ugaritic Literature," pp. 39-249), Avishur analyzes Psalm 29 and Habakkuk 3 at great length, with attention to Ps 74:13-17; 77:14-21; 89:6-15; and 92:9-10. In the second part ("Ugaritic Psalms and Prayers," pp. 253-329), he analyzes three Ugaritic texts: KTU KTU Karadeniz Teknik Universitesi (Black Sea Technical University; Turkey)
KTU Kaunas Technology University
KTU Key Telephone Unit
KTU Korean Teachers Union (Republic of Korea) 1.65, 1.108, and 1.119. One quarter of the book--nearly 100 pages--is devoted to verse-by-verse "explanatory comments" for Psalm 29 (pp. 76-105) and Habakkuk 3 (pp. 142-202), in which "the structure, style, and vocabulary of each verse are analyzed." The Hebrew edition has been modified at points: for those familiar with the first edition, significant new material appears on pages 15-17, 19-20, 26-30, 33, 35-36, 207, 209-211, and 230-234 along with scattered footnotes (e.g., on pp. 59, 82, 114, and especially 229).
The editing of the second edition has pitfalls for readers. The renumbering of notes can leave misleading unrevised Adj. 1. unrevised - not improved or brought up to date; "the book is still unrevised"
unaltered, unchanged - remaining in an original state; "persisting unaltered through time" cross-references (e.g., p. 129 n. 30 should direct the reader to n. 27). A colon hauntingly remains to testify that something is missing in the middle of page 120: the data that conveniently appeared on the same page in the first edition and that accompanied this colon are now relocated 80 pages further on (pp. 203-205) with no hint to the reader until later. Similar helpful data in the Hebrew edition is elsewhere entirely omitted from the second edition, complicating the reader's task (e.g., p. 221 citations comparing Exod 15:6, 11 and Ps 77:17, where readers will wonder where the "expanded colon" is). When "numerous parallels" (p. 222) between two biblical passages are stressed, only the Hebrew edition points them out to the reader; the reader of the English edition will be perplexed as to what the parallels are; "flew" and "fly" are misleadingly not among them, translating as they do [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII ASCII or American Standard Code for Information Interchange, a set of codes used to represent letters, numbers, a few symbols, and control characters. Originally designed for teletype operations, it has found wide application in computers. .], and [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] respectively. The reader may also be perplexed to hear both that Ginsberg is "the first scholar to draw attention to the affinities between Hebrew psalmody psalm·o·dy
n. pl. psalm·o·dies
1. The act or practice of singing psalms in divine worship.
2. The composition or arranging of psalms for singing.
3. A collection of psalms. and Ugaritic literature" (p. 14) and that "even before Ginsberg, Gaster gaster /gas·ter/ (gas´ter) [Gr.] stomach.
[Gr.] see stomach. had observed that various biblical psalms ... bear affinities to Canaanite psalm literature" (p. 15). So who observed these affinities first? The discussion about Ginsberg did not appear in the Hebrew edition, and when inserted in the English edition, appropriate editorial revisions were not made.
The latter point is a significant problem. Some bibliography that should have been in the first edition occasionally surfaces in the second edition (e.g., Gray, Gunkel, and Mowinckel on p. 31; Lambert on p. 48; Loretz  on p. 53). But the second edition does not control the secondary sources. The discussion of Psalm 19, for example, is inadequate: only seven scholars are mentioned in a section devoted to a survey of opinions on one of the more frequently addressed psalms. Avishur does not mention here a scholar as prominent as Mitchell Dahood, with his endorsement of the first part of Psalm 19 as an adaptation of an ancient Canaanite hymn to the sun (Psalms 1, 1965, p. 121). The author should direct the reader to the works that provide the best bibliography, as he does in the new note 1 (p. 111), not as in the unhelpful new note 19 (p. 122), especially since he takes others to task for a reputed inattention in·at·ten·tion
Lack of attention, notice, or regard.
Noun 1. inattention - lack of attention
basic cognitive process - cognitive processes involved in obtaining and storing knowledge to bibliography (p. 45).
The transition from Hebrew to English is not entirely smooth. The English word "prove" or "proof" is mistakenly used to translate a number of different Hebrew terms that are more subtly nuanced and that do not all mean "prove" (e.g., pp. 32, 46, 49, 53, 55, 75, and 84) and make it sound as if he is claiming more for his method than it can provide. The section title on page 33 reads "A New Approach" where the Hebrew had "An Alternate Approach" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] ). The latter is preferable, since the author affirms in this section that, "Our approach continues, in its general foundations, that of Cassuto and Loewenstamm, who ... assumed that biblical literature is the continuation of Canaanite literature, whose first stages are represented by the Ugaritic texts" (p. 34). In making the transition from Hebrew to English with transliterated Hebrew, no provision for a transliteration schema corresponds to the chaos of an inconsistent, or lack of, distinction between full vowels and hataph; shewa, seghol, and Sere; or short and long vowels (e.g., on p. 134 mehar, mehar, and mehar all appear, but the correct form mehar never does). Appropriate Akkadian vowel distinctions in the first edition unfortunately disappear in the second (e.g., p. 80), while unheard of Akkadian markings in the Hebrew edition persist in the English (bunnii and sisu, p. 132).
The argumentation generally needs more rigor rigor /rig·or/ (rig´er) [L.] chill; rigidity.
rigor mor´tis the stiffening of a dead body accompanying depletion of adenosine triphosphate in the muscle fibers. . The reader is left to decide inductively what metrical met·ri·cal
1. Of, relating to, or composed in poetic meter: metrical verse; five metrical units in a line.
2. Of or relating to measurement. schema the author follows for Hebrew (it seems to be based on accentual ac·cen·tu·al
1. Of or relating to accent.
2. Based on stress accents: accentual rhythm; accentual verse. units); frequent assertions about Hebrew and Canaanite meter (e.g., pp. 51-52, 90, 99-100, and 213) overlook the lack of agreement on the scanning of meter. His appreciation of chiasms is not easily shared when he claims against his own evidence that Ps 77:14-21 is structured as a chiasm chiasm /chi·asm/ (ki´azm) a decussation or X-shaped crossing.
optic chiasm the structure in the forebrain formed by the decussation of the fibers of the optic nerve from each half of each (ABCDEF/FE'A'D'B'C'): "The chiasmus chi·as·mus
n. pl. chi·as·mi
A rhetorical inversion of the second of two parallel structures, as in "Each throat/Was parched, and glazed each eye" Samuel Taylor Coleridge. is admittedly flawed, due to changes in the order of the various elements, but such variations are well attested elsewhere" (p. 227;. the terms ro's par'ot, goyim, 'ammo [sic] are correctly arranged in the Hebrew edition but incorrectly in the English [p. 139], giving a graphic misimpression mis·im·pres·sion
A faulty or mistaken impression. that a chiasm is present). Similar vague references to evidence elsewhere more than once undermine the argumentation: an essential part of his argument at one point--that the phenomenon of replacing a common word with a rare word is "common" and "attested by dozens of examples" (p. 136)--is left undeveloped even though this book would have been the ideal place to have presented his case (in the Hebrew edition he indicated his intent to publish this evidence elsewhere, but five years later, in neither the English edition nor elsewhere, has he yet provided the argumentation). Another unsupported generalization used to buttress his argument is "the principle (confirmed by numerous examples in the Bible) that verse expansion is always late" (p. 84; "always" prudently did not appear in the Hebrew edition); none of the reputed numerous examples are provided for the reader to ponder, and indeed he subverts his principle later in observing "that Deut. 33:2 is earlier than Hab. 3:3, and that the latter is an abbreviated version of the former.... It seems reasonable to assume that the author of Hab. 3 abbreviated the description in Deut. 33" (p. 135; cf. pp. 141 and 241).
The mutual relationship of hymns, between and within cultures, is at the core of his discussion. And although Avishur speaks frequently of "quotation" of hymns and "borrowing," he does not guide the reader in the method by which one determines when either occurs. Why does an embedded hymn imply that it is a quoted hymn? Could not poets create new hymns as they wrote? An unspoken assumption is that certain types of hymns stopped being composed even though they could be reused; unaddressed is why a writer could not continue to pen new variations on the old themes. The extensive deductions from a limited amount of data are finally more optimistic than warranted. "Even though only a few [according to the author at least two, perhaps three] Ugaritic psalms and prayers are extant, it is still possible to characterize the themes, patterns, and style of the Ugaritic psalms and prayers in general terms" (p. 35). To put the limitations in perspective, one could generalize very little about the "themes, patterns, and style" of Hebrew psalms and prayers from a random sampling of only two or three psalms from the Hebrew Bible.
Samuel A. Meier
The Ohio State University Ohio State University, main campus at Columbus; land-grant and state supported; coeducational; chartered 1870, opened 1873 as Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College, renamed 1878. There are also campuses at Lima, Mansfield, Marion, and Newark.
Columbus, OH 43210