Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The most negative book review in our area?

I always thought that it would take a lot to unseat Peterson's review of Shedinger as the most negative book review known in our area ("Reading this book fills one with dismay and despair. It is shocking that a work which does not rise to the level of a master's thesis should be approved as a doctoral dissertation; how it found its way into print is unfathomable" etc.).  After reading Paul Foster's review of Bartosz Adamczewski, Q or Not Q? The So-Called Triple, Double and Single Traditions in the Synoptic Gospels (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2010), I am beginning to wonder whether this one now wins the prize and betters Peterson.

It appears in Expository Times 122/4 (2010): 177-80 (only available to those with subscriptions or with institutional inscriptions).  A couple of quotations will give an idea of the flavour:
Unfortunately, while initial hopes may have been high for the project this book seeks to undertake, the outcome is not only disappointing, it is quite frankly bizarre, idiosyncratic, self-indulgent, unconvincing, lacking in academic judgment, implausible at every turn, methodologically flawed throughout, and poorly written. It demonstrates no critical awareness of the handling of sources, resorts to ad hominem presentations of the positions of various scholars, and cobbles together the most implausible array of historical interpretations. This unsurprisingly results in what may be the most worthless attempt to find a fresh solution to the synoptic problem in recent years. What is truly disheartening about this amateurish and unscholarly book is that because it is the only monograph-length defense of Matthean posteriority, it may be viewed as the major presentation of that theory.
The whole review continues in much the same vein.  Of particular note is the conclusion:
Reading this work one does not know whether to roll around with laughter, or to weep with genuine pain. For this reviewer it is the second of those responses that was more prevalent throughout this book. How could a supposedly academic book, published by Peter Lang, a reputable scholarly publishing house, ever see the light of day? There has been a serious deficiency in quality control. This book shows no connection with, or appreciation of any form of mainstream scholarship on the synoptic problem. Opposing views are misrepresented and never sympathetically handled, even though they have far more cogency than the ideas expressed here. The approach is devoid of rigorous analysis of texts, but characterized by unfounded assertions and claims that the most implausible readings are self-evident. Adamczewski has the distinction of producing a book that makes Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code look like carefully researched and highly rigorous historiography.
I wish that Paul would stop beating around the bush and tell us what he really thinks.

16 comments:

Jason B. Hood said...

Wow. That is high comedy. Of course, Paul is certainly qualified to make such an assessment!

He was the external for my viva, I certainly got my money's worth and we had some fantastic engagement. But I'm suddenly getting chills tonight thinking about what might have been, and above all I'm very grateful I escaped comparison with Dan Brown!

Rev. James M. Leonard said...

My nomination would be a 2003 tome written by a renown French scholar, M.-E. Boismard on the Coptic manuscript of Matthew's Gospel, Codex Schoyen (Cahiers de la Revue Biblique), which was "discovered" in 1999.

Boismard took the retroversion of the Coptic text produced by H.-M. Schenke and attempted to produce a textual apparatus for it, as well as a theory of redaction for it. Unfortunately, Schenke's retroversion is nothing but a strict translation of the Coptic text into Greek, without accounting for any of the idiosyncracies and characteristics of the Coptic language. It would be like someone taking the NLT and translating it formally into Greek, and then Boismard finding textual variants to match it.

Worse than that, for our illustration, we'd have to assume that Boismard couldn't read English, for it is altogether that he was writing this tome about a Coptic manuscript without knowing a shred of Coptic.

Moreover, he concluded that Codex Schoyen has a text similar to the Armenian and Georgian translations, but he reached this conclusion by using a Latin translation of those two versions!

Finally, although he scoured the entire New Testament tradition looking for corresponding "variants," he was entirely unaware of Coptic Matthew Codex Scheide, which was written in the same Middle Egyptian dialect, and dates within a hundred years of Codex Schoyen. Indeed, he thought that the siglum "mae" in NA27 referred to Codex Schoyen in Matthew, even though NA27 was written a half dozen years before Codex Schoyen was discovered.

Fortunately, no one else seems to have read Boismard's book on Schoyen.

James F. McGrath said...

Is this the book on Matthew drawing on Luke that came up in earlier conversations on Q? If so, I share the dismay that not only will we apparently have to wait longer for a proper exploration of that scenario, but whoever writes the next one will have more of an uphill climb to overcome the impression given by this one. :(

James F. McGrath said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark Goodacre said...

I've read the book too and actually turned down the chance to review it. I don't recall if we discussed it earlier. I think we may have mentioned Rob Macewen's DTS doctoral dissertation, though.

Mark Goodacre said...

Yes, I imagine that reading that after having Paul as an examiner can only be an encouragement, Jason!

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks, Rev. James; interesting stuff. Makes me want to look it out.

Erlend said...

I think this one is up there:

http://www.bookreviews.org/pdf/6566_7109.pdf

JCEdwardsStAndrews said...

One man’s trash is another’s treasure. Chris Keith won a Templeton Award for Theological Promise for his book The Pericope Adulterae, the Gospel of John and the Literacy of Jesus. However, J. K. Elliott’s review in JTS 61: 293-96 makes you wonder how the thing ever got published.

Ken Olson said...

Now I want to read Adamczewski.

clk said...

Well, as the aforementioned recipient of both the Templeton Award and the scathing review by Elliott in JTS, I feel like I should add that Paul Foster himself wrote a positive review of my book on the Pericope Adulterae (http://ext.sagepub.com/content/121/6/309.full.pdf+html). So, like Jason, I feel lucky. As to that Elliott review, I have no idea what happened. At least Foster's review here deals with the book itself. Not only did Elliott seriously misrepresent me, attributing to me some claims that are the precise opposite of what I claim in the book, he chastises me for the cover of the book and my dedications, where I dedicated the book to my cancer-survivor mother and newborn son. I really have no idea how one is supposed to respond to that, especially as a junior scholar being reviewed by a senior figure.

Average said...

Blogging about it would be one idea...

Joseph Kelly said...

Adamczewski's most recent book, Retelling the Law: Genesis, Exodus-Numbers, and Samuel-Kings as Sequential Hypertextual Reworkings of Deuteronomy, isn't any better. Nor can I explain why an NT scholar is writing a book on Pentateuchal and Deuteronomistic source criticism.

kolhaadam said...

A new contender for the title of "Most Negative Book Review in Biblical Studies"

http://www.bookreviews.org/bookdetail.asp?TitleId=8763

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks, kolhaadam. Yes, definitely a contender.

marquetteia said...

Sounds like someone doesn't like what an intertextual version of assessment does to cherished assumptions. "Q or not Q" is not only good reading (in spite of its alleged 'mishandling of sources')but could turn out to be the lynchpin in the argument advanced by Parvus in Vridar via Doherty. Perhaps the reviewer became aware of how disconcerting THAT would be!