Volume 22 - Issue 3
The Old Testament Historical Books in Modern ScholarshipBy J. Gordon McConville
In a previous issue of Themelios, modern trends in pentateuchal studies were explained.1 It was found that critical scholarship has moved away from the older, documentary kind of theory to models that focus on how the text has come into its present form. The situation with the historical books that come after the Pentateuch in our OT (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings) has never been quite the same as with the Pentateuch. Although some scholars formerly tried to find the classic pentateuchal documents continuing in these books, this never became the consensus view. Rather, study of these books somewhat anticipated modern trends in pentateuchal scholarship by adopting a model whereby sources were combined into a unified historical work by a single thinker. That hypothetical writer has become known as the Deuteronomist (Dtr), and his history the Deuteronomistic History (DtH), as it was thought to have been prefaced by the book of Deuteronomy (Dt.). The scholar responsible for this view was Martin Noth, writing in 1943.2
As with pentateuchal studies, there have been many developments since Noth wrote. The aim of this article is to explain and evaluate the most recent thinking about the composition of these books.
The essential question
The books of DtH purport to tell of a succession of periods in Israel’s history, from the occupation of the land in the sub-Mosaic time, through the period of the judges, the united monarchy of David and Solomon, and the separate kingdoms of Israel and Judah, until these in turn fell to the Mesopotamian powers of Assyria and Babylon. The narrative perspective is plainly the exile. The question, therefore, is how an exilic writer (or writers) may have used materials and records already in existence in order to bring his account into the shape that we know. Was he in reality an ‘author’ (and thus historian and theologian), or was he rather someone who collected and ordered materials that were already formed, and carried an interpretation of events with them?
The classic theory
Noth thought that a single exilic author (Dtr) had used sources in order to write a history of Israel. Dtr, finding a law-book already before him (that is, the putative original Dt.), provided it with a historical introduction (Dt. 1:1–3:29) which also served as the introduction to the whole history. In this way the history was made to conform to the canons of the deuteronomic law. The deuteronomic ballast of the history could be found principally in the speeches of important characters at important junctures, which emphasized the covenantal commitment of Israel to Yahweh (e.g. Jos. 23). The point of the history was thus interpreted as an explanation of the fall of the two kingdoms of Israel, in terms of their failure to keep this commitment. The discovery of the Book of the Law by King Josiah (2 Ki. 22:8) and the ensuing reform of religion (2 Ki. 23) could not turn the tide, because Judah relapsed quickly into apostasy.
The ‘Josianic redaction’ (or double redaction) theory
This concept of a single author of the history was powerfully challenged by those, like F.M. Cross, who thought that there were not one but two editions of the history, the first having been produced in the reign of King Josiah (628–609 bc), a generation or so before the exile. The first problem that Cross and others identified was the status of the dynastic promise to David (2 Sa. 7). If Dtr simply wanted to draw a line under the failed experiment of the Davidic covenant, why had he left in his account the story of God’s promise to David, with its unconditional-looking assurance that his son’s kingdom would be established ‘for ever’ (2 Sa. 7:13)? Admittedly this very promise receives a new qualification at the point at which David, on his deathbed, charges Solomon his son with his royal responsibilities (1 Ki. 2:4). And Noth’s view was that the portrayal of the ideal king, in David, would become the measure by which his successors could be shown to have failed. But even this can hardly explain the strong emphasis laid on the royal promises, and indeed the ‘messianic’ idea which seems to lie at the heart of the books of Samuel.
According to Cross, the first author (Dtr1) wrote in the time of Josiah, and brought the history up to the narrative of that king’s reform (2 Ki. 23:25). Josiah is thus depicted as a wholly successful king, after the manner of David, and the story celebrates the fulfilment of the ancient promise to that king.3 This Deuteronomist is thus strongly pro-monarchical, in the sense that he attributes to the Davidic king an exceptionally strong influence and responsibility in the sphere of worship.4 This means that Cross’s Dtr1 is quite a different proposition from Noth’s Dtr; he celebrates, while the latter bewails. Noth’s Dtr finds his counterpart, in Cross’s concept, in the second writer, Dtr2. Writing in the exile, Dtr2 brought the history up to date, by adding 2 Kings 23:26–25:30, and making other light revisions to the body of the work. A crucial passage for Cross was 2 Kings 23:26–27, which seemed to be wholly incompatible with the high praise for Josiah. The sudden turn from optimism to pessimism, from a narrative of reform and restoration to a decision to punish Judah in any case because of sins committed by Josiah’s predecessor, Manasseh, seemed to be explicable only on the basis of a separate redaction written at a later time.5
The advantage of Cross’s work is that it accommodates the positive material on the monarchy rather better than Noth’s theory could do. Against it is the sudden change of direction that has to be assumed when Dtr2 revises Dtr1. Cross is arguably no more successful than Noth was in dealing with the full range and nuancing of the narrative. Could such a light revision as he envisages really turn a story of resounding triumph into one of total defeat and judgment?
The theory of a Josianic redaction has been elaborated, however, well beyond Cross’s seminal work. R.D. Nelson tried to show a difference in redactional methods between Dtr1 and Dtr2, for example, in the formulas used for summing up the kings’ reigns before and after 2 Kings 23:25.6 More recently, G.N. Knoppers, in a treatment of the books of Kings from Solomon to Josiah, has argued that Dtr (that is, in his terminology, the Josianic Dtr1) has incorporated a range of pre-exilic traditions concerning kingship, some of them critical of it as an institution. This allows a more nuanced reading of the bulk of Kings than Cross’s. Solomon, for example, can be criticized for his sins, as part of an orchestrated demonstration of the sequence of sin, judgment and renewed promise.7 The idea that Solomon offers a contrast to Josiah, in order to promote the latter as the great, unparalleled Davidic king, has been taken up by others, too.’8 But Knoppers’s main argument is that, while Dtr1 acknowledges the past failures of the kings, he still offers the ideal of a strong reforming king, who controls and promotes the worship of Yahweh alone, as the best hope for Judah’s future.9 In this way the Josianic dating and rationale of DtH is maintained, but there has been some allowance for the contribution of other, and older, perspectives. (Knoppers stresses, for example, that DtH is a story of both kingdoms, a point which emphasizes the importance of received traditions.)
S.L. McKenzie also maintained that DtH is a Josianic work, but took a slightly different tack, managing to follow both Noth and Cross. He thinks that Noth was essentially right in identifying a single author of the history, but wrong only in dating it. For him, the work comes from the time of Josiah, for similar reasons to those offered by Cross. He differs from Cross only in thinking that there was no systematic Dtr2 revision, but rather a number of unrelated additions to the basic work, including the story of Judah after Josiah.10Knoppers, incidentally, offered no separate account of Dtr2. These two authors, furthermore, focused on Kings, and extrapolated from there to the whole history.
A triple redaction
In a quite different way of thinking traced to R. Smend,11 DtH is thought to have come into being in the exilic age in three stages, a basic form of the history (DtrG) having been augmented by two redactions, one concerned with the law (hence DtrN, for ‘nomistic’), the other characterized by an interest in prophecy (hence DtrP). This form of the theory differs from that of Cross by reason of its strong focus on the exilic period. The idea that the text might give evidence of Israel’s actual pre-exilic religious history is virtually absent here. The ‘prophetic’ redactional layer, for example, is not linked closely to a pre-exilic prophetic tradition, but belongs to a somewhat intellectualized inner-exilic debate, in which there are different adaptations of the idea of prophecy.12 This seems on the face of it implausible. And there is a serious problem with the assumption that an exilic writer created the unconditional Davidic promise, when the exile itself had made such a concept problematical.13
The modern debate may be said to revolve around the following themes: definition of the extent of the literature; the relation of the text to actual tradition; the literary relationship between the component parts and the whole; the diversity of ideas, for example the attitude to kingship and worship; and the theological orientation of the work. These are interconnected. A theory about where the work begins, for example, is likely to be closely associated with an understanding of what it means. Serious contributions, therefore, have to address all or most of these questions. We will illustrate the state of research by considering three important, and quite different, lines of development.
A single Deuteronomistic author: J. Van Seters
Like Noth, Van Seters sees Dtr as a creative historian who has used sources in order to produce a connected history of Israel. However, Noth is criticized here for failing to go far enough in recognizing Dtr’s creativity. In Judges, for example, there is no evidence for Noth’s ‘Sammler’ (that is, a pre-Deuteronomic collector of stories from old Israel).14 In these stories, it is impossible to distinguish any older material from Dtr’s own expression. Noth had thought that older sources could indeed be discerned by means of literary criticism. In the book of Judges the distinction between pre-Deuteronomistic ‘story’ and Deuteronomistic ‘framework’ became widely accepted in commentaries and monographs on Judges.15 Van Seters, however, denies that such distinctions can be made. In his view the ‘framework’ has been so thoroughly integrated into the story that it is difficult to extract a previous literary stratum.16 The stories, indeed, were never intended as a self-contained collection, but only had meaning as part of a larger narrative, including Eli and Samuel, which formed the historian’s prologue to his history of the monarchy.17
Other elements that might be considered signs of material older than Dtr are not so, according to Van Seters. In particular, there is nothing here that has intruded from pentateuchal sources. (It should be remembered that Van Seters, unlike most other scholars, dates J after Dtr.) Where there are links with pentateuchal stories this is because the material in DtH is secondary. Thus the Rahab story, for example (Jos. 2), has been contrived by the Yahwist (J) in order to promote a universalistic outlook on Israel’s religion. It is therefore secondary in DtH, that is, added to Dtr’s history at a later stage. Van Seters claims: ‘… If Pentateuchal sources are to be found in Joshua, whether J or P, they are all secondary additions made directly onto the original Dtr work’.18
The main difficulty with Van Seters’s view is in his insistence that DtH has priority over all the pentateuchal traditions. The problem is acute with Deuteronomy itself, where the opening historical retrospect (Dt. 1–3) seems to presuppose that the story has been told more fully elsewhere. And this sort of factor may explain why his views do not command a broad following. Yet Van Seters’s insistence on the literary unity of DtH is interesting, and chimes in to some extent with the literary studies of the historical books, which we shall turn to below. For him, the total history clearly overrides the idea of ‘books’, or ‘blocks’ (such as the Ark Narrative), that might have their own existence within it. And as for Judges: ‘The history of the books of Kings is the intellectual prerequisite for the history of the judges.’19 He thus maintains consistently his contention that Dtr freely and creatively used such sources as he had to produce a complex and coherent narrative. It follows, of course, that Dtr’s work—for all Van Seters’s insistence that he is a ‘historian’—affords very little access to Israel’s pre-exilic history.
Sources and Deuteronomistic redactions: H. Weippert and A.F. Campbell
Many scholars, however, are far from ready to give up the well-established idea that older sources underlie DtH, now to be found in narratives concerning the Ark, for example, or in the so-called Succession Narrative (2 Sa. 9–20; 1 Ki. 1–2).20 The old idea of the presence of early northern material in DtH has been taken up again recently by A. Rofé, who criticized Noth for simply failing to take account of it.21 The interest in a variety of northern sanctuaries in Joshua 24–1 Samuel 12, and in northern prophetic stories, has posed a problem for theories that focus on Josiah and the exile.22 P.K. McCarter, in his commentary on Samuel, argued for a northern, anti-royalist, pre-Dtr prophetic history of the monarchy, standing close to Hosea.23And A.F. Campbell thought he could discern a continuous ninth-century ‘Prophetic Record’ contained in 1 Samuel 1–2 Kings 10, promoting a view of the prophet as the one who, by his prerogative of anointing kings, played a decisive role in directing the life of Israel.24
In support of this position, linguistic arguments have been brought to bear. The Dtr theory rests partly on the idea of an identifiable Dtr style. Campbell argues that the idea of a ‘typical’ Dtr style (with its repetitions, its rhetorical sound, and its recognizable vocabulary) may not be an infallible guide to authorship.25 These features, indeed, may have been shared by many writers; there is the possibility of imitation; and in any case the danger of circular argument is not far away.
Common to the above theories is a concept of pre-Dtr material that has come to Dtr already in a certain shape, that is, with some measure of editing and interpretation.26 The idea of pre-Dtr authors is handled, with some similarities and differences, by Campbell and H. Weippert. Campbell, as we have noticed, postulates a Prophetic Record (PR) which he thinks can be reconstructed on the basis of a study of 1 Samuel 1–2 Kings 10. The argument is based on identifying texts that have certain regular features and characteristic formulae. These include the stories of the anointing of Saul, David and Jehu, and the designation/rejection stories concerning Jeroboam. Ahab and Jehu, together with texts that link these into a connected narrative. The existence of the PR depends on being able to show that its author(s) has reworked previously existing texts. Thus in 1 Samuel 9, for example, Samuel as the prophet empowered to anoint Saul according to the purpose of Yahweh has superseded the ‘man of God’, or ‘seer’, in 9:6–9, whose role is much less developed.27
H. Weippert has written a number of articles that attempt to account for relatively early and late material. Initially, she postulated not two but three redactions, in the periods of Hezekiah, Josiah and the exile respectively.28 The idea of a Hezekiah redaction proved influential, and Weippert’s work was one of the stimuli to another important contribution, that of Iain Provan. Provan argued for a Hezekian redaction on the basis of formulae regarding (a) David and (b) the ‘high places’, which he thought varied after the account of Hezekiah’s reign.29 Hezekiah, therefore, was the culmination of the earliest form of DtH, being seen as onewho lived up to the Davidic promise. On the face of it, the view that the story of Hezekiah and the fall of Samaria is a first climax, or conclusion, of the book is quite attractive.30 The statement ‘after him, there were no kings like him’ (2 Ki. 18:5) may suggest an edition that does not yet know Josiah. The case is not overwhelming, however. The ‘incomparability’ clause probably has something conventional about it.31 And the structure of the books of Kings still seems to point to Josiah, not Hezekiah, as the high point. (Provan recognizes this in a later work, in which he takes a narrative approach to the books of Kings, and sees the accounts of Hezekiah and Josiah as a kind of double climax.)32
Weippert nevertheless contributed to the debate in other important ways. In a recent article, she builds on von Rad’s insight that DtH bases its narrative structure on the concept of history as promise-fulfilment. This she understands in a profound way. It cannot be limited simply to forms that are strictly ‘promise’, but may be found in a range of speech-types.33 The promise-fulfilment schema can structure individual narratives. The crossing of the Jordan, for example (Jos. 3), is an event that is directed throughout by the Lord; it is a self-contained fulfilment story. The schema also connects narratives across larger reaches of text. The stories of Gideon, Jephthah and Samson, for example, are linked in a pattern of promise-fulfilment.34 In this way quite disparate material is bound together.
Like Campbell, Weippert analyses individual texts to find the limits of early stories and where they have been developed. Ahijah’s prophecy to King Jeroboam (1 Ki. 14) illustrates what she means. At the simplest narrative level. Ahijah foretells the death of Jeroboam’s son, which then follows (vv. 3, 17–18). The composition, however, broadens the significance of Ahijah’s words to take in all Jeroboam’s male offspring (vv. 7, 10–11). And a final redaction finds a further fulfilment in the exile of the people of the northern kingdom to Assyria (vv. 15–16).35 This succession of interpretations, in which each builds on the last, explains the title of her essay (the ‘history’ has arisen out of ‘histories’).
The procedure just described is a somewhat traditional redactional approach. However, in another article Weippert advocated a compromise between redaction criticism and the rather different idea that pre-Dtr material might have existed in already formed ‘blocks’ (exemplified by Campbell). This mixed concept of pre-Dtr material would then account for both unity and diversity in DtH (i.e. ‘redactions’ would produce the effect of a unified perspective, while ‘blocks’ would account for the individuality of the various parts).36
Compromise views have also been taken up, in different ways, by A.D.H. Mayes, N. Lohfink and most recently by M. O’Brien (a student of Campbell’s). Mayes allows for pre-Dtr material in the history books, but then distinguishes three separate Dtr editorial hands: a Dtr historian (Dtr1), a second Dtr (Dtr2) characterized by a concern for law and covenant (resembling Smend’s DtrN, therefore), and a third Dtr, who shows an interest in Levites.37 Lohfink adopts a combination of the positions of Cross and Smend, involving more than one Josianic redaction and several post-exilic redactions. The ‘block’ that he postulates, on the grounds of phraseological usage in the topic of land possession, stretches from Deuteronomy 1 to Joshua 22, and is called DtrL. His solution errs on the side of the redactional, however, the block comprising Deuteronomy and Joshua having the character of a redactional layer rather than a true deposit of early tradition.38 O’Brien attempts a systematic combination of the Cross and Smend hypotheses.39
The individual books as separate blocks: C. Westermann
C. Westermann, in a recently published work, has undertaken a more radical critique than any mentioned so far of Noth’s notion of Dtr as a single creative author, and moves in the direction of the separate editing of the various books. He sees two basic problems with Noth’s theory: (i) it is not a connected history, rather a concatenation of episodes, and (ii) it possesses no narrative of origins.40 This is in obvious contrast to Van Seters also. One of Westermann’s central contentions is that there was a pre-Deuteronomistic narrative stretching from Exodus to Kings. (The issue of the beginning of the narrative is thus a central factor in Westermann’s challenge to Noth.) This narrative shows, he believes, that the true beginning of the story of Israel was the exodus, and that this appears from various kinds of references to the event in all the historical books. The theory of Dtr as a historian is thus dealt a fatal blow because it is inexplicable how Dtr could betray a belief in the body of his work that the exodus was the true beginning of the story, yet fail to narrate it in his history.
Within the basic narrative, the individual books had their own literary histories.41 They contain diverse forms, some originally oral, that arose from diverse situations going back to the pre-monarchic time.42 The book of Judges again provides the best illustration of the distinction between old forms and later interpretation. The stories of Israel’s ‘saviours’ are close to ‘family’ stories, and therefore belong to the time of Israel’s transition from a tribal to a political society.43
Westermann has not actually abolished Dtr. He has simply argued that he is not a ‘historian’. Rather, Dtr is responsible only for a ‘Deuteschicht’, that is, a redaction that provides an interpretative theological framework. He is adamant, for example, that the books of Samuel cannot originate from the exilic period, but must reflect a time of national greatness. Nevertheless, he accepts that it contains interpreting texts which suit the later time well.
The difference between Weippert’s and Westermann’s accounts may be seen as a matter of degree, in that both think that earlier material can be separated from later by critical means. Nevertheless, Westermann adds important factors to the discussion. The observation about the importance of the exodus in the historical books has probably been underestimated in the discussion of how DtH relates to the Pentateuch.44The presence of this ‘pentateuchal’ theme is a problem for Van Seters’s view that J post-dates D. Westermann also scores against Van Seters when he points to the differences in form and substance between the books of DtH. His theory offers a different way of understanding the unity and diversity in DtH. His concept is like Weippert’s in that it proposes an accommodation between blocks and redaction (though he does not use these terms); it is unlike hers in that the blocks correspond to books.
Mention may be made in this connection of Gillian Keys’s critique of the theory of the Succession Narrative. Keys offers a reading of the books of Samuel as such, finding that they are rounded off in a satisfying way by the so-called ‘Appendix’ (2 Sa. 21–24). and that 1 Kings 1–2, classically considered the end of the Succession Narrative, is different in character from 2 Samuel, and should be seen rather as the introduction to Kings (though its author clearly knows Samuel). Her most important conclusion is that 1 and 2 Samuel were incorporated into DtH ‘as a block’.45
The idea that books themselves might constitute self-standing ‘blocks’ of material suggests a final development, to which we will now turn.
Literary readings of DtH
Literary readings, that is, those that want to read the books of the OT as complete works of literature, regardless of any hypothetical previous history of the text, are now numerous and influential. While they are regarded by some more traditional scholars as at best a parallel study to the historical-critical approach, they seem to me to have important implications for the study of DtH, because they say something about natural entities within the larger narrative.
Barry Webb’s study of Judges offers a good example.46 Webb focuses on the literary interrelationships of the parts of the text, showing a coherent thematic development within it. The theme is expressed in terms of Israel’s gradual descent into anarchy, sharpened by an ironic portrayal of its failure to perceive the source of its true strength. This analysis finds an echo in an article by C. Exum, which also shows how the well-known pattern there (the cycle of apostasy, judgment, repentance, restoration) breaks down as the narrative progresses, and that this breakdown is not an effect of careless redaction, but artfully matches form to content: the breakdown of the form itself articulates the message of dissolution.47
There are consequences in both these studies (though they are made explicit only by Webb) for literary-critical questions. In particular they blur the well-tried distinction between story and framework, showing that these are integrated in the narrative’s exposition of its theme. Webb also suggests that books, within DtH, may have been separately edited,48 and implies that his type of study can in principle lead to revisions of theories about composition: ‘One of the implications of my work is that it may be time to re-open the question of how the Deuteronomic History as we have it came into existence.’49 This is perhaps clearest in his treatment of the final part of the book, Judges 17–21, which is often thought to be a separate strand within it. Here, though he calls it a ‘Coda’, it finds a place in the development of the theme of Judges, and constitutes the end of this particular story. In the search for ‘blocks’, therefore, Webb’s work suggests that the story of the judges closes at the end of the book called Judges, and not, as others have thought, with the narratives of Saul and Samuel (at 1 Sa. 12).
Unity and diversity in DtH
If the books are indeed separate and individual in character, is there a need to retain an idea of the unity of the ‘DtH’? There are a number of concrete features which make it hard to dispense with such a concept altogether.
(i) The beginnings of books often indicate some form of resumption of a story that has already begun (Dt. 1:1, cf. Nu. 36:13; Jos. 1:1–2, cf. Dt. 34; Jdg. 1:1; 1 Ki. 1:1; the last two cases presuppose the preceding narrative rather generally).
(ii) Themes are often specifically advanced from book to book. For example, the dynastic promise to David, first made in 2 Samuel 7, is developed in 1 Kings 2:2–4, where it is conveyed by David to Solomon, with a new emphasis on the need for the king to be faithful to the commandments of God. The theme of the place of worship too may be traced, from Deuteronomy 12:5 (‘seek the place the Lord your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name and make his habitation there’), through a first central sanctuary at Shiloh (Jos. 18:1, cf. 9:27), to a settled location at Jerusalem (1 Ki. 8:27–30 2 Ki. 21:4). Within this theme, the stages of the story of the Ark may be pursued: its crossing the Jordan (Jos. 3–4); a fleeting glimpse in Judges (Jdg. 20:27); its adventures in the Philistine wars, and its procession at last into Jerusalem (1 Sa.; 2 Sa. 4–6); and its destruction (presumably) in the Babylonian dêbâcle (2 Ki. 25).
(iii) Finally, there are simple continuities of plot, character and motif (as we have observed already concerning the story of David and the beginning of Kings).
However, these continuities of story-line or theme do not necessarily prove unity of authorship. Nor do similarities of style in themselves, though these played an important role in developing the Deuteronomistic theory. The point has been well made by Campbell, as we saw, and by Lohfink.50
These caveats become more important when laid alongside the arguments for actual diversity in the narratives. Elements in the narratives are hard to account for in the terms of ‘exilic’ theories. The promise to David is one such (2 Sa. 7), as is, more broadly, the struggle over kingship (1 Sa. 8–12). Even the double-redaction view (which recognized substantial pre-exilic material) had difficulty with the northern prophetic stories; and the attempt to place these after the main Deuteronomistic work (McKenzie) is not convincing. This seems to force us to think of a more complicated state of affairs than is envisaged by the classic theory, or even its main variation, the double redaction. The compromise between ‘blocks’ and redaction, advocated in different ways by Campbell and Weippert, is compelling.
How may a compromise between blocks and redaction be conceived, however? It seems as if the material of the narrative existed at various stages in blocks, and that these were united into a coherent narrative by a transmission process that is lost to us. These blocks may have developed independently, and finally been redacted together by the exilic period, but in a way that preserves their individuality. This seems to be the only satisfactory explanation of the fact that modern literary treatments (such as those of Webb and Exum) are able to focus on the individual books, and find coherence of expression and theme within them.
I have suggested that the various books themselves may have constituted separately transmitted blocks. Some modern literary study (not least the recovery of the ‘Appendices’ of Judges and Samuel for the books in which they stand51) tends in this direction. This is not to say that the books must have achieved their present form all at once. It is likely, rather, that they constitute distinctive units of tradition, which have grown into their present shape in the context of their own particular history. They may also, however, have been adjusted in relation to each other, as part of a process of transmission. How this ‘horizontal’ adjustment related to the ‘vertical’ development is probably impossible to trace in detail. I agree with Provan, however, when he says: ‘I am persuaded … that the books of the Old Testament generally grew gradually into their present form in dialogue with each other, each shaping the developing tradition and being shaped by it.’52Indeed, such a view might imply a kind of proto-canonical tendency, as has been recently advocated for the beginnings of the formation of the Book of the Twelve.53 It would also explain why the individual historical books are found to have their own concerns, which cannot successfully be reduced to those of the exile.
A further implication of this approach to the historical books is the breaking down of the rigid division between these and the Pentateuch. The connections between Pentateuch and historical books have been highlighted at a number of points in our study. This has important consequences for interpretation. It leads to the recognition that the book of Exodus exercised an important influence on the historical books (Westermann and Friedman). The theme of priesthood also takes on fresh importance when Exodus is seen as an impetus to the history books alongside Deuteronomy.54 The identification of strong links between the Pentateuch and the historical books is a gain, therefore, and should affect their theological assessment as well as the theory of their composition.
This means that, while there is a certain kind of unity, there is also great variety in the historical books. The various parts ‘stage’ various themes. The theme of ‘messiah’ is to the fore in Samuel, for example, and ‘presence’ in both Joshua and Samuel.55 The most unfortunate consequence of casting the historical books in a Deuteronomistic/Josianic mould is the tendency to flatten them as narrative and theology. In particular, a theological typing of the material has resulted from imposing on it a certain understanding of Deuteronomy. This is exemplified by Weinfeld’s belief that Deuteronomy is ‘secularizing’ and ‘demythologizing’.56 In the history books, this tendency appears in the undue prominence given to 1 Kings 8:27–30, misinterpreted as a programme for a theology of transcendence and desacralization. The privileged position given to Kings generally in the discussion also has the effect of de-emphasizing important themes and characteristics in the other books—especially those of ‘presence’ and ‘messiah’.
1 G.J. Wenham, ‘Pentateuchal studies today’, Themelios 22.1 (1996): pp. 3–13.
2 M. Noth, The Deuteronomistic History (ET Sheffield: JSOT, 1981).
3 F.M. Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1973), pp. 274–89.
4 See G.N. Knoppers, Two Nations under God: the Deuteronomistic History of Solomon and the Dual Monarchies (HSM 52: Atlanta: Scholars Press, vol. 2, 1993), pp. 248–51. Knoppers advocates the double redaction theory, though without a special treatment of the nature and extent of Dtr2, see vol. 1, p. 51.
5 Cross, Canaanite Myth, p. 286.
6 R.D. Nelson. The Double Redaction of the Deuteronomistic History (JSOTS 18: Sheffield: JSOT, 1981).
7 Knoppers, Two Nations 1. pp. 138–9.
8 M.A. Sweeney, ‘The critique of Solomon in the Josianic edition of the Deuteronomistic History’, JBL 114 (1995): pp. 607–22, esp. p. 612.
9 Knoppers, Two Nations II, pp. 253–4.
10 S.L. McKenzie, The Trouble With Kings: the Composition of the Book of Kings in the Deuteronomistic History (VTSup 42; Leiden: Brill, 1991).
11 R. Smend. ‘Das Gesetz und die Völker’, in H.W. Wolff (ed.), Probleme Biblischer Theologie (Munich: Kaiser. 1971). pp. 494–509.
12 W. Dietrich, Prophetie und Geschichte (FRLANT 108; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1972), p. 42.
13 See Knoppers, Two Nations I, pp. 38–42, for a critique of the Smend school.
14 J. Van Seters, In Search of History (New Haven, Conn., and London: Yale University Press, 1983), pp. 329–31.
15 The tendency may be illustrated by A.D.H. Mayes. The Story of Israel between Settlement and Exile: A Redactional Study of the Deuteronomistic History (London: SCM. 1983); his view of the composition of Judges is summarized on pp. 72–80. See also R. Boling, Judges (Anchor Bible; New York: Doubleday. 1975), pp. 29–38.
16 Van Seters, In Search of History, pp. 343–4.
17 Ibid., p. 346.
18 Ibid., In Search of History, pp. 323–5.
19 Ibid., pp. 350, 346.
20 L. Rost, Die Überlieferung von der Thronnachfolge Davids (1926): and see R.P. Gordon, 1 and 2 Samuel(JSOT Guides; Sheffield: JSOT, 1984), pp. 30–9, 81–94.
21 A. Rofé, ‘Ephraimite and Deuteronomistic History’, in D. Garrone and S. Moscati (eds), Storia e Tradizioni di Israele (Brescia: Paideia, 1991), pp. 221–35, here pp. 222–3.
22 See S.L. McKenzie’s criticism of Cross on this point: The Trouble with Kings, p. 7.
23 P.K. McCarter, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel (Anchor Bible; New York: Doubleday, 1980, 1984); see 1, pp. 18–23.
24 A.F. Campbell, Of Prophets and Kings: a Ninth Century Document (1 Samuel 1–2 Kings 10) (CBQMS: Washington DC. 1986).
25 Ibid., p. 5.
26 A.D.H. Mayes, for example, has made an assumption of this sort for much of Judges and Samuel: The Story of Israel; cf. R.D. Nelson, ‘The role of the priesthood in the Deuteronomistic History’, VTS 43 (1991): pp. 132–47, e.g. on 1 Sa. 2:27–36, which already had a Tendenz when Dtr received it (p. 136).
27 Campbell, Of Prophets and Kings, p. 19.
28 H. Weippert, ‘Die “deuteronomistischen” Beurteilungen der Kōnige von Israel und Juda und das Problem der Redaktion der Königsbücher’, Biblica 53 (1972): pp. 301–39.
29 I. Provan, Hezekiah and the Books of Kings: a Contribution to the Debate about the Composition of the Deuteronomistic History (VTSup; Leiden: Brill, 1991).
30 So W. Schniedewind, ‘The problem with Kings: Recent Study of the Deuteronomistic History’, Religious Studies Review 22 (1996): pp. 22–7, here p. 26. He mentions others who have found a Hezekian redaction (22).
31 G.N. Knoppers thinks the incomparability formulae stem from an exilic Deuteronomist: ‘There was none like him’. CBQ 54 (1992): pp. 411–31.
32 Provan, 1 and 2 Kings (New International Biblical Commentary; Carlisle: Paternoster, 1995).
33 H. Weippert, ‘Geschichten und Geschichte: Verheissung und Erfüllung im Deuteronomistischen Geschichtswerk’, VTS 43 (1991): pp. 116–31. On this point she directly opposes E. Würthwein, ‘Prophetisches Wort und Geschichte in den Königsbüchern. Zu einer These Gerhard von Rads’. in M. Oeming and A. Graupner (eds), Altes Testament und christliche Verkündigung (FS A.H.J. Gunneweg; Stuttgart, 1987), pp. 399–411.
34 Weippert, ‘Geschichten und Geschichte’. pp. 118, 123.
35 Ibid., p. 129.
36 Idem, ‘Das deuteronomistische Geschichtswerk: sein Ziel und End in der neueren Forschung’, TRu 50 (1985): pp. 213–49. This sort of compromise, as she notes, is also proposed by A.D.H. Mayes and N. Lohfink. The single author model she dismisses rather peremptorily, as failing to account for diversity.
37 Mayes, The Story of Israel, p. 58. He diverges from Smend on particulars, however (p. 60).
38 N. Lohfink, ‘Kerygmata des Deuteronomistischen Geschichtswerks’, in J. Jeremias and L. Perlitt (eds). Die Botschaft und die Boten (FS H.W. Wolff; Neukirchen: Neukirchener Verlag, 1981), pp. 87–100.
39 M.A. O’Brien, The Deuteronomistic History Hypothesis Reassessed (OBO 92; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1989).
40 C. Westermann, Die Geschichtsbücher des Alten Testaments: gab es ein deuteronomistisches Geschichtswerk? (Theologische Bücherei 87 AT; Gütersloh: Chr. Kaiser, 1994), pp. 10–11.
41 Westermann is not the first to propose a theory like this. His most important predecessor in this respect was G. Fohrer, Introduction to the Old Testament (London: SPCK, 1970: original German edition 1965). Fohrer differs from Westermann, however, in holding substantially to the hypothesis of a Hexateuch. In his view Judges-Kings came into being independently, though ultimately they were deuteronomistically edited (pp. 192–5).
42 Westermann, Geschichtsbücher, pp. 33–6.
43 Ibid., pp. 53–4.
44 R.E. Friedman is an exception. His particular theory of DtH makes the exodus a key focus: Friedman, ‘From Egypt to Egypt’, in B. Halpern and J. Levenson (eds), Traditions in Transformation (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1981), pp. 167–92.
45 G. Keys, The Wages of Sin (JSOTS; Sheffield Academic Press, 1996), pp. 80–96, 203. She thus agrees with Noth that Dtr played only a small part in the composition of Samuel, beyond a certain shaping of the tradition 46 (pp. 95–6).
46 B. Webb, The Book of the Judges (Sheffield: JSOT. 1987).
47 Cheryl Exum, ‘The centre cannot hold: thematic and textual instabilities in Judges’, CBQ 52 (1990): pp. 410–31, here pp. 412–13.
48 Webb, Judges, pp. 210–11.
49 Ibid., p. 211.
50 See n. 25: and cf. Lohfink, ‘Kerygmata’, p. 89.
51 See above on Webb and Keys.
52 Provan, 1 and 2 Kings, p. 4.
53 J. Jeremias, ‘Die Anfänge des Dodekapropheton: Hosea und Amos’, VTS 61 (1995): pp. 87–106.
54 B. Peckham, The Composition of the Deuteronomistic History (HSM 35; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1985). Peckham’s Dtr2 strongly resembles Noth’s single Dtr. Dtr1, in his view, wrote a short history from Moses to Hezekiah, while Dtr2 was comprehensive, systematic and theologically more articulate. For the point on priesthood, see p. 65.
55 H.D. Preuss, ‘ “… ich will mit dir sein” ’, ZAW 80 (1968): pp. 139–73. Preuss notes the concentration of ‘being with’ language in narrative generally, but especially (within DtH) in Joshua and Samuel (p. 140). In the latter it is closely associated with the king.
56 M. Weinfeld, Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic School (Oxford: Clarendon, 1972), pp. 190–209.
J. Gordon McConville
Gordon McConville is Senior Lecturer in Old Testament at the Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Higher Education.