'Better that You Should Not Vow than that You Vow and Not Fulfill': Qoheleth's Use of Textual Allusion and the Transformation of Deuteronomy's Law of Vows

In Reading Ecclesiastes Intertextually. Edited by Katharine Dell and Will Kynes. Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies 587. London: T&T Clark, 2014. Pages 28–41.

14 Pages Posted: 1 Sep 2015

Date Written: 2014

Abstract

The historical-critical method that characterizes academic biblical studies remains often separate from approaches that stress the history of interpretation, which are employed most frequently in the area of Second Temple or Dead Sea Scrolls research. This paper examines a test-case where the two methods mutually reinforce one another. The law of vows in Deuteronomy 23:22-24 is difficult both in its syntax and in its legal content. The difficulty is resolved once it is recognized that the law contains a previously unrecognized interpolation that disrupts the original coherence of the law. However, once that interpolation was added and became accepted as part of the textual tradition, it created a “ripple effect” whereby Second Temple readers were forced to resolve the disruption in order to make sense of the text’s content and syntax. The divergent reformulations of the law by Qoheleth 5:4–7, on the one hand, and 11QTemple 53:11–14, on the other, suggest that each of these independent witnesses sensed the textual disruption and sought to compensate for it. The fact that each did so in a different way, while seeming to respond to the same textual “trigger,” appears to confirm the hypothesis of the interpolation. In that way, the history of interpretation offers a window into the composition history of Deuteronomy’s law of vows.

Keywords: law of vows; intertextuality; inner-biblical exegesis; linguistic updating; protasis; conditional clauses; interpolation; Deut 23:22–24; Qoh 5:4–7; Eccl 5:4-7; 11QTemple 53:11–14; Temple Scroll; Numbers 30, Sipre Deuteronomy; Sifre; Matthew 5:33-37

Suggested Citation

Levinson, Bernard M., 'Better that You Should Not Vow than that You Vow and Not Fulfill': Qoheleth's Use of Textual Allusion and the Transformation of Deuteronomy's Law of Vows (2014). In Reading Ecclesiastes Intertextually. Edited by Katharine Dell and Will Kynes. Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies 587. London: T&T Clark, 2014. Pages 28–41., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2652717

Bernard M. Levinson (Contact Author)

University of Minnesota ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://levinson.umn.edu/

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