[K:NWTS 23/1 (May 2008) 59-61]

Book Review

Adele Berlin, The Dynamics of Biblical Parallelism. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2008. 200 pp. Paper. ISBN: 978-0-8028-0397-9. $21.00.

The cover of this book advertises “revised and expanded”. The “Foreword” by David Noel Freedman advertises a “new edition” (xi). From this, we are led to believe that we have a newly revised and expanded edition of a 1985 book first published by Indiana University Press. Or so we are led to believe by the publisher and Prof. Freedman. That is, until we read the “Preface to the Revised and Expanded Edition” (xii) by Ms. Berlin (dated August 2006). She states: “It did not seem to me wise to rewrite any part of the book since that invariably leads to some unraveling of the original presentation, so I have simply corrected small errors. I have also added a new and very short introduction . . .” That “very short introduction” is a mere five pages (xv-xix) followed by a bibliography on parallelism since 1985 (xix-xxii).

Hence, the only thing new, revised or expanded by this work, apart from the paltry and unimpressive pages xv-xxii, is the author’s one-page “Preface” and Freedman’s dutiful “Foreword”. So much for the whole truth in advertising. Reader! if you own the 1985 edition of this book, do not waste your hard-earned ducats on this reprint. Libraries! even if you have shelf space ad infinitum (which virtually none of you have!), do not use shrinking acquisition budget funds to add this book next to the 1985 edition with a new date Cutter. Use your valuable shelving space for an authentically new book (or a truly and completely “revised and expanded” version of an older title). And finally, tout le monde! Caveat emptor!!!

Now, as if the publisher’s (and author’s) deception were not enough, J. P. Fokkelman puts his name to a blurb on the back cover in which he coos: “We are lucky now to have Berlin’s lucid language back in this revised edition.” One is curious as to how much Fokkelman was paid to write those disingenuous words. In fact, how could a man whose monumental work on Hebrew poetry (Major Poems of the Hebrew Bible, 4 vols. [1998-2004]; The Psalms in Form [2002]; Reading Biblical Poetry [2001])—work so penetrating and significant that it makes Berlin look like an amateur (as the omission of Fokkelman’s books from her “bibliographies” indicates [a 1977 “review” is listed on p. 162])—how could such a man read this manuscript and think that this paperback is a ‘revision and expansion’ (let alone a “revised edition”) of 20+ year-old scholarship as judged by the present status quaestionis?

Surely Fokkelman, Freedman, Michael Fox (another back-cover blurb) and Berlin herself are playing a shell game called royalties and ‘we belong to the professional in-crowd’ (you scratch my scholarly back and I’ll scratch yours—even for research 20 years old!). To which the publisher says, “The check’s in the mail.”

Well, this reviewer says again caveat emptor. I will not deny that a new generation of students may benefit from Berlin (Fokkelman is, in my opinion, better), but they should not do so by being hoodwinked via the unsubstantiated misrepresentations in the promotion of this book. Let’s have truth in advertising. Call it a reprint with a few corrections, with a new introduction by the author and an updated bibliography on parallelism since 1985. For, in truth, that is what this book is, and nothing more.

—James T. Dennison, Jr.