The Authors of the Deuteronomistic History

The Authors of the Deuteronomistic History: Locating a Tradition in Ancient Israel

Brian Neil Peterson
Copyright Date: 2014
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    The Authors of the Deuteronomistic History
    Book Description:

    Peterson engages one of the most enduring controversies in current critical scholarship on the Hebrew Bible, the identities and provenances of the authors of the various “editions” of the Deuteronomistic History. Critically reviewing the presuppositions of scholars reaching back to Martin Noth, and using careful analysis of motif and characterization at each redactional level in each book of the Deuteronomistic History, Peterson asks where we might locate a figure with both motive and opportunity to draw up a proto-narrative including elements of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and the first part of 1 Kings. Posing his questions in the form of a “Whodunit?” Peterson identifies a particular candidate in the time of David who had both knowledge and a theological and political agenda, qualified to write the first edition. He then extends the method to identify the particular circle who became the custodians of the Deuteronomistic narrative and supplies successive redactions, informed by the original formative vision, down to the time of Jeremiah. Careful argumentation yields surprising results at each stage.

    eISBN: 978-1-4514-8746-6
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    “Whodunit?” Everyone loves a good mystery novel or movie that highlights some persistent detective trying to get to the bottom of a prevailing conundrum. Of course, this is no less true of those seeking to solve the mystery of authorship of certain unascribed or questioned ancient texts. In the vein of “Whodunit?” inquiries, one can also find conspiracy theories galore. One need only to look at the controversies over the writings of Shakespeare—did he, or did he not, write many of his great works? A quick “online” search will reveal any number of alternate candidates such as Sir Francis...

  5. Part I. The Deuteronomistic History:: An Introduction to Issues of Authorship, Date, and Influences
    • 1 The Deuteronomistic History since Martin Noth
      (pp. 7-36)

      In this opening chapter, I want to briefly address three topics: (1) the methodological approach that I will be adopting to analyze texts; (2) the state of DtrH studies since Martin Noth; and (3) an overview of my proposed authors of the DtrH. This opening chapter is not intended to be a thoroughgoing discussion of the history of scholarship; that has been handled by other scholars elsewhere. While I will offer notes where needed for further reading, my main goal is to situate the reader in the world of the discussions as they exist today.

      Throughout this book I will...

    • 2 The Deuteronomist(s) according to Martin Noth: An Assessment
      (pp. 37-60)

      In this chapter I will consider the impact that several of Noth’s suppositions, found in his seminal workThe Deuteronomistic History, have had not only on this present work but also on DtrH scholarship in general. Scholars are quick to assert that one cannot begin a discussion of the DtrH without considering, and engaging with, Noth’s work on these books.¹ Rarely will an OT introduction or survey begin a discussion on the Former Prophets, Historical Books, or the DtrH (such designations depending on one’s perspective) without addressing Noth’s theory.² While the scope and limitations of this present work will not...

    • 3 Deuteronomy as the Linchpin to the Deuteronomistic History
      (pp. 61-74)

      To be sure, according to many DtrH scholars, no one book holds as much importance to the scholarly discussion on the DtrH as does the book of Deuteronomy. The very name “Deuteronomistic History” was birthed from Martin Noth’s belief that Deuteronomy was fundamental in the theological shaping of the final form of the DtrH. Noth severed the book of Deuteronomy from the Pentateuch and renamed the truncated introduction to the Hebrew canon the “Tetrateuch” (i.e., Genesis through Numbers).² Noth then propounded that Dtr took a “proto” form of the book of Deuteronomy and attached it as an introductory tome to...

    • 4 Grammatical Constructions Showing Later Editing in the Deuteronomistic History
      (pp. 75-118)

      Those who seriously study the DtrH must take into account the presence of key phrases that point to periods of later editing of this material. Of particular note are two phrases that serve as editorial comments on the earlier days in the Transjordan or attempt to situate the reader in past events by noting their relevance to a later time period. The first of these notations is the phrase “across/beyond the Jordan” ( בעבר הירדן —beʿēḇer hayyardēn); the second is “unto this day” ( עד היום הזה —ʿaḏ hayyô̂m hazzeh). I will handle thesein seriatim. However, I must stress...

  6. Part II. An Analysis of the Texts
    • 5 The Editing of the Book of Deuteronomy
      (pp. 121-132)

      In the second half of this book, I will examine each book of the DtrH in order to determine how, if at all, the priestly authors from Anathoth may have influenced their content and shaping. While the bulk of my discussion in this second half is reserved for the books of Joshua to Kings, it is still important to assess what, if any, influence the priests from Anathoth may have had on the book of Deuteronomy. Nevertheless, I begin this analysis with the disclaimer that I accept the existence of earlier source material that may have comprised “proto” forms of...

    • 6 The Editing of the Book of Joshua
      (pp. 133-164)

      Brian Peckham’s assertions indeed provide a summation of how the book of Joshua interconnects with the DtrH. Yet, the book of Joshuabeginsthe block of material in the Hebrew Bible known as theneḇîʾîm(the “Prophets”). Jewish tradition assigns this book’s authorship to Joshua—a position held by many within more conservative circles. Conversely, mainline scholarship has assigned it to Dtr. In keeping with the conclusions in my previous chapter, I believe that large portions of the material in the book that bears his name originated with Joshua or someone close to him.² The accounts of the conquest, especially...

    • 7 The Book of Judges: An Apology for Kingship
      (pp. 165-198)

      These comments by Barry Webb highlight the problem within DtrH studies when one attempts to isolate authors of the DtrH. The alltoo-often rejection of a prehistory for individual books within the DtrH has hampered more holistic studies of a given book. Fortunately, some are beginning to consider the possibility of an earlier existence of books or blocks of the DtrH that may have served different rhetorical functions.² In this vein, scholars such as J. Gordon McConville and Claus Westermann are pushing the discussion in the right direction. Westermann’s conclusion that the books of the DtrH may have had a separate...

    • 8 1 Samuel: History vs. Polemic
      (pp. 199-238)

      While Noth identifies the extensive collections of the Saul and David traditions incorporated by Dtr into his DtrH, he does not offer a good answer to the basic question: If Dtr is so anti-monarchical, why is he so pro-Davidic—after all, David is a king! This only makes sense if Dtr, that is, the author of the books of Samuel, is a friend of David, or if he supports the Davidic kingship in general. In this case, it is just as valid to say that Dtr is not “anti-monarchic” per se but, rather, is attempting to promote a certaintype...

    • 9 2 Samuel: The Apology Continues—David’s Fall from Grace
      (pp. 239-260)

      P. Kyle McCarter’s summation of David’s rise to the throne is indeed what we have seen thus far in the narrative of 1 Samuel. All along his narrative journey, the author presents YHWH as directing the path of David toward the throne of a united Israel (1 Sam. 18:12, 14, 28; 2 Sam. 5:3). However, David remains to be cleared of two lingering charges: Is he responsible for the deaths of Abner and Ishbosheth? The opening chapters of 2 Samuel answer this very question.

      McCarter opts to end his apologia at 2 Sam. 5:10; however, the notice of David’s accession...

    • 10 1 and 2 Kings: The Anathothian Tradition
      (pp. 261-296)

      J. Gordon McConville’s assessment speaks volumes in light of the current state of DtrH studies, especially for the book of Kings. While McConville is speaking about the influence of Deuteronomic theology on Kings, his conclusion obtains for a number of other issues related to the DtrH. Invariably, scholars seek to flatten out the other books of the DtrH by forcing them into the proposed rhetorical mold of the book of Kings—a problematic stance in light of our discussion in chapters 7–9 above.² Scholars also tend to zero in on the diverse formulae in Kings as a means of...

  7. Conclusion
    (pp. 297-302)

    Baruch Halpern’s assessment is indeed the reality that we have sought to reveal throughout our foregoing discussion. I have argued that the authors of this long-running history are to be located in Anathoth, beginning with the priest Abiathar, and continuing with his sons and the priestly lineage, and ending with Jeremiah. Theories that exclude, a priori, the possibility that large portions of the DtrH may derive from antiquity serve only to hamstring open debate. As we have shown, from the earliest periods of the monarchy authors began recording Israel’s history. This history, influenced by both northern and southern priests and...

  8. Appendix: Character Parallels between Saul, Ishbosheth, and the Judges
    (pp. 303-308)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 309-342)
  10. Index of Subjects and Authors
    (pp. 343-354)
  11. Index of Scripture References
    (pp. 355-395)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 396-396)