The Deuteronomistic History Hypothesis: A Reassessment.
THE DEUTERONOMISTIC HISTORY HYPOTHESIS: A REASSESSMENT. By Mark A. O'Brien. Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 92. Pp. xui + 319. Freiburg: Universitatsverlag; Gattingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1989. Cloth.
A revised form of a 1987 doctoral thesis directed by Anthony F. Campbell, this treatment sets out from the assumption that Campbell's reconstructed "Prophetic Record" (Of Prophets and Kings: A Late Ninth Century Document (1 Samuel 1--2 Kings 10) [CBQMS 17; Washington: Catholic Biblical Association, 1986]) indeed underlies the Deuteronomistic History (DtrH). Campbell's hypothesis has received a relatively warm reception among reviewers, and the appearance of O'Brien's monograph may represent the beginnings of a new school in this area.
Campbell's "Prophetic Record" is in fact a variation on a thesis concerning an edition of Kings under Hezekiah. In post-war literature, this idea was first defended with any vigor by Helga Weippert, who has consolidated her initial treatment in a series of specific studies "Die 'deuteronomistischen' Beurteilungen der Konige von Israel and Juda and das Problem der Redaktion der Kdnigsbucher," Biblica 53  pp. 301-339; "Die Atiologie des Nordreiches and seines Konigshauses (I Reg 11,29-40)," ZA W 95 , pp. 344-75; "Ahab el campeador? Redaktionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen zu 1 Kun 22," Biblica 69 , pp. 457479; and more generally, "Das deuteronomistische Geschichtswerk: sein Ziel and Ende in der neueren Forschung," ThRu N.F. 50  pp. 21349). A number of other scholars have subscribed, though varying on particulars, to this idea of an edition of Kings or DtrH ending at the account of Hezekiah's reign: I. W. Provan, (Hezekiah and the Books of Kings [BZAW 172; Berlin: de Gruyter, 1988]) and J. B. Peckham (The Composition of the Deuteronomistic History [HSM (1) (Hierarchical Storage Management) The automatic movement of files from hard disk to slower, less-expensive storage media. The typical hierarchy is from magnetic disk to optical disc to tape. 35; Atlanta: Scholars, 1985]), for very different reasons, hypothesize hy·poth·e·size
v. hy·poth·e·sized, hy·poth·e·siz·ing, hy·poth·e·siz·es
To assert as a hypothesis.
To form a hypothesis. an edition ending with Hezekiah (for Provan, written under Josiah) followed by a single exilic update. Closer to Weippert is A. Lemaire ("Vers 1'histoire de la redaction des livres des Rois," ZA W 98  pp. 221-236) where Hezekian, Josianic, and exilic editions are posited; but Lemaire also defends the idea of pre-Hezekian editions, and thus represents a sort of compromise between Weippert and Campbell.
O'Brien's reconstruction, like Campbell's, represents something of a compromise itself--on the one hand, DtrH has early sources (like the "Prophetic Record"); on the other, DtrH was first written as a Deuteronomistic History under Josiah, not Hezekiah, and underwent exilic re-editing (like the [Dtr.sup.1] and [Dtr.sup.2] of F. M. Cross and his school). The task O'Brien sets himself is commensurately one of isolating the text of the "Prophetic Record" where relevant, identifying the work of the Deuteronomistic Historian, and identifying the layers of subsequent editing. Of the latter, he posits three: an early exilic update covering the last four kings of Judah; a redaction focusing on prophecy and fulfillment (the DtrP of the Smend school); and, a "nomistic" redaction (Smend's DtrN, which is more or less congruent con·gru·ent
1. Corresponding; congruous.
a. Coinciding exactly when superimposed: congruent triangles.
b. with [Dtr.sup.2] of the Cross school). Thus, O'Brien reconciles the source-oriented approach of Weippert and to some extent Cross with the redaction-oriented approach of Noth, Smend, and Cross.
The sources of DtrH which O'Brien identifies are (1) the "Prophetic Record"; (2) a treatment of Israelite kings from Jehu's successors to the fall of Samaria; and (3) a Judahite record probably stretching from Rehoboam to Hezekiah. In earlier sections of the history, specifically Joshua and Judges, O'Brien occasionally finds other sources--Noth's ninth-century compiler for Joshua 2-11, for example. But the main emphasis in these sections--and all the detailed argumentation--falls as usual in such studies on the isolation not of sources, but of "redactions."
Needless to say, amid such a welter of conceivable sources and editors, historians and ideologues (the terms are not mutually exclusive Adj. 1. mutually exclusive - unable to be both true at the same time
incompatible - not compatible; "incompatible personalities"; "incompatible colors" ), it is inevitable that some assignments of this or that piece of text (and we are talking about phrases, for the most part) may seem arbitrary. In fact, scholars have been engaged in articulating views of DtrH's composition since the eighteenth-century and have yet to reach anything remotely approaching agreement on particulars. This is not to invalidate in·val·i·date
tr.v. in·val·i·dat·ed, in·val·i·dat·ing, in·val·i·dates
To make invalid; nullify.
in·val the enterprise, though classicists, perhaps rightly, have long since given up attempting to find the particular words contributed by this or that scribe scribe (skrīb), Jewish scholar and teacher (called in Hebrew, Soferim) of law as based upon the Old Testament and accumulated traditions. The work of the scribes laid the basis for the Oral Law, as distinct from the Written Law of the Torah. to transmitted texts. The "redactional history" of a biblical document is always a vision, a piece of art, rather than a scientific analysis.
That said, there is a positive and a negative side to O'Brien's effort, and each deserves note. On the positive side, O'Brien's overt aim is to allow an overall picture of the themes of the Deuteronomistic History as a whole to program his reading. His treatment covers the entirety of DtrH from Deuteronomy to 2 Kings. Yet this very merit implies, necessarily, that the argument is abridged, often unsatisfying, and that decisions concerning authorship are based on criteria that will not command consensus. Far from being able to present a redactional history of DtrH in 319 pages, we should surely by now be at the stage at which a complete philological phi·lol·o·gy
1. Literary study or classical scholarship.
2. See historical linguistics.
[Middle English philologie, from Latin philologia, love of learning , literary, archaeological, historical, and psychological analysis requires something on the order of ten volumes or more to address the issues under discussion here.
More important, the techniques of redaction analysis have not been sophisticated--and this is not the only volume illustrating the point--after two centuries of effort. O'Brien never addresses the question of why the "nomistic" redactor intervenes where he does, as opposed to all the places in which he does not intervene; why the "prophetic" redactor intervenes where he does, as opposed to all the places where he does not intervene; why the Deuteronomistic Historian makes his points (and what points he is making) where he does and nowhere else. O'Brien is very much in the mainstream of redactional analysis of DtrH: no one--with the exception of Smend himself, following Noth--asks whether sporadic "additions" in more or less random locations do not invalidate any theory of systematic "redaction," nomistic or otherwise. But it should by now be clear that redaction-criticism continues only by the indulgence and collusion of practitioners in the field. Lacking all comprehensive philology phi·lol·o·gy
1. Literary study or classical scholarship.
2. See historical linguistics.
[Middle English philologie, from Latin philologia, love of learning , all agreement in matters of literary intent, Biblicists continue to "stratify strat·i·fy
v. strat·i·fied, strat·i·fy·ing, strat·i·fies
1. To form, arrange, or deposit in layers.
2. " layers without shared standards of evidence and without any obvious hope of achieving them.
Winning a view of the history of our literature is clearly important to winning a history of the culture. But the nature of "redaction-criticism" has been conducive to reliance on archaeological and other extrinsic EVIDENCE, EXTRINSIC. External evidence, or that which is not contained in the body of an agreement, contract, and the like.
2. It is a general rule that extrinsic evidence cannot be admitted to contradict, explain, vary or change the terms of a contract or of a data for those whose interest in ancient Israel and environs is truly historical. Back in the nineteenth century, it was a commonplace for scholars to write the history of Israel, and of Israelite religion, on the basis of source--and redaction-analyses of biblical texts. Today, not one real historian in ten would dream of undertaking a similar method.
Put simply, the whole enterprise of biblical redaction-criticism, as healthy as it is in the journals, is entirely moot from the historical perspective. O'Brien participates in the enterprise, responsibly. But it will take a major breakthrough, in attitude and in method, before the gap between literary history and real history can be closed.
Baruch Halpern Baruch Halpern is Chairman of Jewish Studies at Pennsylvania State University. He has been a leader of the archaeological digs at Tel Megiddo since 1992.
Major publications include:
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