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Unfolding the Deuteronomistic History:…

Unfolding the Deuteronomistic History: Origins, Upgrades, Present Text (2000)

by Antony F. Campbell

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Scholars of the Hebrew Bible generally agree that there is a corpus of books which all bring a particular theological viewpoint to Jewish history. The theology is largely expounded in the book of Deuteronomy, and the remaining books of the "Deuteronomistic History" (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings) detail how following or turning away from these religious requirements has affected the success or failure of the Israelites.

The broad picture is easy, but the details are complicated indeed. The Deuteronomistic History was not written all at once; rather, the "Deuteronomist" (or Deuteronomists; there were probably several of them) worked over established materials. And even these established materials might have undergone several layers of combination and reworking. This is particularly evident in the Book of Judges, where the oldest strata seem to be individual folktales of various heroes (the Judges). These were combined. Then, most likely, they were "bookended" with various other tales of the period. Then the Deuteronomist put his spin on things. So, in this case, we have at least four stages of composition.

This book attempts, typographically, to show how all this works, using Roman type, italic type, and sidebars to show various stages in the history.

It's a brilliant idea. There are three problems. One is that the typographic system is confusing. This is probably inevitable, although it seems to me that more could have been done to make things clear. (E.g. even a sidebar saying what is what would have helped.)

The second, much more severe, problem is that not all the various layers are in fact disentangled. In 1 Samuel, for instance, there seem to be many, many sources (Ark Source, Prophetic Source, Saul Source, David Source). These are all treated as "early sources" by Campbell and O'Brien -- and hence not distinguished very explicitly even though this is the most interesting of the distinctions in the book. Yes, it's nice to know where the Deuteronomist expressed his prejudices, but it would be much more helpful to figure out whether a particular passage is intended to be pro- or anti-Saul!

Finally, there is the fact that not everyone will agree with the source assignments that Campbell and O'Brien make. This, again, is probably inevitable. But their assignments struck me as rather radical and ill-supported. To be sure, that is based on the English text (New Revised Standard Version) rather than a detailed look at the Hebrew....

None of this should detract from the cleverness of the idea. I would consider this a useful book, and have not hesitated to consult it. But when assigning sources to Samuel in my own work, I did not trust it very far. The sad fact is that, rather than being a final reference, for me at least it is merely a starting point that must always be checked. ( )
  waltzmn | Oct 25, 2013 |
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Unfolding the Deuteronomist History makes visually accessible to the interested reader the information, insights, and thinking of critical scholarship in Deuteronomy through Second Kings.
The Book of Deuteronomy


The book of Deuteronomy, as it is now, purports to be a speech or speeches of Moses delivered to the people of Israel in the plains of Moab, on the desert fringe to the east of the Jordan, just prior to Israel's crossing into Canaan.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0800628780, Paperback)

The Deuteronomistic History is the label used by scholars for the Old Testament books of Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings, as identified by Martin Noth. Campbell and O’Brien provide the biblical text with detailed notations on how this work came together, was modified, and was passed down to us in its present form, accounting for the shifts in Israel’s and Judah’s histories, their storytelling practices, and their ideological interests.

Identifying and explaining what accounts for these literary and social processes makes this volume a major step forward for the study of this major block of biblical texts.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:59 -0400)

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