Studies in Hebrew Language, Intertextuality, and Theology. Texts and Studies in Religion 98

By Mark F. Rooker
Lewiston, N.Y. : Edwin Mellen (2003). xiii + 264 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. William Barrick
17.1 (Spring 2006) : 126-128

Mark Rooker is professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C. His previous books include Biblical Hebrew in Transition: The Language of the Book of Ezekiel (JSOT Sup 90, Sheffield, 1990) and Leviticus (New American Commentary, Broadman & Holman, 2000—see review in TMSJ 12/1 [Spring 2001]:123-24). Studies in Hebrew Language, Intertextuality, and Theology is a collection of twelve essays by Rooker. Four essays deal with diachronic linguistics, one (the only essay not previously published) with textual criticism, two with intertextuality, two with the interpretation of Gen 1:1-3, and three on the theology of the Flood, the Law, and the Conquest.

Diachronic linguistics is one of Rooker’s fortes and the subject of his first book on the language of Ezekiel. Therefore, the reader will not be surprised that the first three essays deal with the same topic. “The Diachronic Study of Biblical Hebrew” (3-18) introduces the topic by sketching the history of linguistics and its application to biblical Hebrew. “Ezekiel and the Typology of Biblical Hebrew” (19- 44) examines Robert Polzin’s characteristics of Late Biblical Hebrew (LBH). Rooker demonstrates that most of the characteristics in Polzin’s list are legitimate, though a few are questionable (25) due to misinterpretation of the data (27), failure to normalize text sampling length (28), and deficiencies in the use of ratios (29). Rooker concludes that Ezekiel is a better model for the transition state of Hebrew between Early Biblical Hebrew and LBH than the Priestly (P) document claimed by documentarians (44). “Diachronic Analysis and the Features of Late Biblical Hebrew” (45-57) presents four representative elements of LBH drawn from orthography, morphology, and syntax. Rooker then utilizes these evidences of LBH to argue against the exilic or post-exilic dating of Isaiah 40–66 in one of the volume’s most significant essays (“Dating Isaiah 40–66: What Does the Linguistic Evidence Say?” 59-73).

Making its first appearance in a publication, “Old Testament Textual Criticism” (75-97) offers a conservative approach that every student of the OT should read. Rooker defines textual criticism (75), explains its need (76-77), describes its witnesses (78-85), provides a concise history of the text (86-90), and evaluates local text theory vs. linear development (90-92). After discussing the practice of textual criticism (93-96), he concludes that the Masoretic Text is “the best witness to the original text” (96).

“The Use of the Old Testament in the Book of Ezekiel” (101-11) and “The Use of the Old Testament in the Book of Hosea” (113-33) deal with intertextuality. For Ezekiel’s citations and allusions to prior biblical materials, Rooker examines connections to Leviticus 26 in Ezekiel 4–5, Zephaniah 3:1-4 in Ezekiel 22, and portions of Numbers 18 in Ezekiel 44. He concludes that Ezekiel’s exegetical methods (promise-fulfillment, use of OT passages as a mode or vehicle of expression, and typological exegesis) are basically the same as those employed by NT writers (110-11). Rooker discusses Hosea’s references to the creation, Abraham, and Jacob narratives in Genesis, as well as the exodus narratives in Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy (114-22). He also handles references to Joshua, Judges, and the book of Kings (122-24). As one would expect, Hosea’s use of Deuteronomy eclipses his references to the Decalogue and other legal texts from Exodus and Leviticus (124-30). Like other Hebrew prophets, Hosea drew heavily from Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 (130-31). Such usage of prior texts demonstrates an accepted canon even in the eighth century B.C. (133).

Two essays focus on Gen 1:1-3 (“Genesis 1:1-3: Creation or Recreation? Part 1,” 137-49 and “Part 2,” 151 -71). In these studies Rooker carefully analyzes the gap theory (a.k.a. restitution theory), the initial chaos theory, and the precreation chaos theory. In “Part 1” he correctly rejects the gap theory on grammatical grounds (138-40) and adopts a modified initial chaos theory after careful exegetical analysis (140-49). “Part 2” presents an effective detailed response to Bruce Waltke’s precreation chaos stance (Creation and Chaos [Portland, Ore.: Western Conservative Baptist Seminary, 1974]).

“The Genesis Flood” (173-202) defends the universality of Noah’s Flood (178-79). While Rooker presents the basic arguments pro and con for the two most popular views regarding “the sons of God” and “the daughters of men,” it is disappointing that he does not indicate his own preference (179-81). Most of the essay is given over to a careful consideration of the structure of the Flood narrative (183-94). It concludes with brief discussions of six timeless theological truths drawn from the Flood narrative (196-202).

The next essay, “The Law and the Christian” (203-19), is an excerpt from Rooker’s Leviticus commentary (see TMSJ 12/1 [Spring 2001]:123-24). The final essay, “The Conquest of Canaan” (221-27) appeared in the New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis (Zondervan, 1997; see the review in TMSJ 9/1 [Spring 1998]:120-23). Although he holds to the early date for the exodus, Rooker provides very little in the way of argumentation in this essay, since its emphasis is theological.

Rooker’s essays could be gathered from the various publications in which eleven of the twelve first appeared, but there is a distinct advantage to having them within one cover. The expense of this volume and its limited printing make it prohibitive, if not unavailable, for most students and many teachers. It is already listed as “unavailable” on Libraries should take pains to obtain it for their collections, so that their patrons might be edified by Rooker’s careful scholarship and sound interpretative stance. Unfortunately, such scholars are all too infrequently published. Seminarians and pastors alike should read Rooker as an encouragement to sound evangelical scholarship and as an antidote to liberal trends that dominate much of OT studies today. This is the type of book that well-known evangelical presses ought to be publishing in their academic lines at more accessible prices. This professor, for one, would make it required reading in an OT introduction course.