Friday, August 29, 2008

Who Wrote the Bible - Part III - The Tormented Historian

Having laid the mystery of J and E to rest F. moves on to outlining the next time period significant for the Bible, 722-587 BC. After the fall of Israel Judah shifted significantly in its political and religious outlook. Politically they functioned from a considerable position of weakness in the world, religiously they were now an integrated people without real tribal boundaries as refugees from the north would have fled south.

King Hezekiah ruled Israel from about 715 to 687. In that time Hezekiah introduced political and religious reforms rebelling against Assyria and centralizing worship to the Temple in Jerusalem. After a number of ‘bad’ kings Josiah became king at the age of 8 (2 Kgs 22) and ruled from 640 to 609. Josiah also carried out religious reforms re-centralizing Temple worship. It is also during Josiah’s reign that we read about the high priest Hilkiah having found a “book of the law.” After Josiah’s reign Israel quickly goes downhill with a few ‘bad’ kings before being exiled by Babylon in 587.
F. states that the book found by Hilkiah was Deuteronomy (D). One of the main arguments for this that both Deuteronomy and Josiah are concerned with the centralizing worship. This is in contrast to the worship of Saul, Samuel and David who worshiped at various sites. F. also recognizes the literary relationship between Deuteronomy and Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings (the Deuteronomistic History; DH). In addition covenant becomes a central theme particularly as it leads up to the Davidic covenant which promises the line of David the throne eternally. The question then is why the writer would so emphasize the covenant knowing that the throne of David does not endure. F. suggests that there were two versions of DH. It is claimed that the first version was written to culminate in King Josiah. Inordinate space is given to describe Josiah’s reign, Josiah is referred to by name in prophecy against Jeroboam in 1 Kgs 13 (and it is Josiah who explicitly destroys the alter in Beth-El which Jeroboam established). The author of DH evaluates all the kings and includes some criticism even for the good ones (David and Hezekiah) but in reference to Josiah these words are spoken, “Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the LORD as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses. . . . nor did any like him arise after him” (interesting side note the NIV does not include that final line, even though it is clearly attested in the MT not even as a textual variant) This leads F. to further compare how Moses is compared to Josiah in DH. The phrase “nor did any like him arise” is used only in reference to Moses (Deut 34:10) and Josiah. Josiah is the only one known to have fulfilled Moses command to love God with all your heart, soul, and strength. The Book of Torah is mentioned only in Deuteronomy and Joshua and then in reference to Josiah. Both figures grind idols “thin as dust.” F. includes other similarities between the two sources. Josiah was meant to be the end and culmination of history. But after Josiah the two main themes of DH disappear, the Davidic covenant and centralized worship.
In attempting to discern the author of these books F. looks to levitical priest but discards the Temple priest because they are Aaronids and distinguish themselves from other Levites and D does not make such distinction. D also never refers to an ark, cherubs, or other Temple instruments. F. points again to the priests at Shiloh as the possible authors of Deuteronomy. F. is more specific saying that the law code of Deuteronomy was likely written by these priests. It was the author of DH that took this law code (that Josiah found) and added the narrative of Moses’ final days around it, as well as the later history.
F. goes on to connect the prophet Jeremiah to the writing of DH. Jeremiah is linked to Josiah’s reign. Jeremiah has close connection to son’s of the priest and scribes who bring Josiah the book of the law. Jeremiah is the only prophet connected in his writings to Shiloh (which he calls the place where God’s name will dwell; Jer 7:12). Jeremiah is also a priest from Anathoth where Abiathar was originally banished by Solomon. Jeremiah is also the son of Hilkiah, though F. is quick to point out that this may not be the same Hilkiah that found the scroll. More pressing is that fact that it has been observed that the language of Jeremiah and Deuteronomy are similar. Jeremiah then wrote the history of the people until the culmination of Josiah. But what of the remaining kings that ruled until exile? F. likens the case to writing a history of John F. Kennedy before he was assassinated. F. maintains that allusions to exile and idolatry were then added throughout DH. Jeremiah also rewrote the consequences of Manasseh, Josiah’s grandfather. Manasseh’s rule was so bad that it irrevocably caused the destruction of Judah beyond what Josiah’s reforms could accomplish (2 Kgs 23:26). F. then says that Jeremiah re-worked the covenant to show that the Mosaic covenant with the people was first and so the eternal unconditional throne of David would be irrelevant if there were no people to rule. This reworking was done by Jeremiah in exile. F. ends his chapter on D by characterizing Jeremiah as a man tortured by truth unable to leave either accounts alone. The hope of Josiah remains but the judgment of idolatry cannot be avoided.

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