Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Who Wrote the Bible - Part I - The World that Produced the Bible - 1200-722

In terms of interpretive approach to the Bible I believe largely in a literary ‘canonical’ approach. However, in terms of understanding the formation of the Bible (or the Old Testament in particular) I find Richard Elliott Friedman’s account fascinating and in many of the general claims convincing. I thought it would be helpful for my own clarity to work through in detail the claims he makes in Who Wrote the Bible. Whether you accept the Documentary Hypothesis or not this account opens the vistas of the historical context in which the Bible existed.
F. begins with the rise of the Davidic and Solomonic monarchies. Key in this description is the movement from the worship and sacrifice in Shiloh (what will later be in the northern kingdom) to Jerusalem (which will be in the south). David establishes a priest in either location (2 Sam 8:17). The two priests also represent the lines of Moses (Abiathar; I think the Moses reference to priests in Shiloh comes from Jdg 18:30) and Aaron (Zadok; 1 Chr 24:3). The division between Aaron’s and Moses’s ancestor becomes important later (though the biblical references to this is unclear and I can’t remember is basis right now; I am sure I will return to it). Abiathar, however, casts his lot in with Adonijah as Solomon’s successor and then when Solomon takes power he dismisses him as priest and sends him away (to the north; 1 Kgs 2:26). When Rehoboam succeeds Solomon the ten tribes to the north rebel and Jeroboam becomes king of Israel and significant for F. Jeroboam does not re-instate Abiathar’s line as priests (1 Kgs 12; 2 Chr 13:8-9). From this action it appears that the Levites of Shiloh had the choice of moving south to Judah or of scraping out a living in the north. It is in this period from the divided kingdom to Israel’s exile that F. believes two of the texts of the Old Testament were written J and E.

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