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The Composition of the Historical Books. From Joshua to 2 Kings (Second part)

Otto Eissfeldt

Until the end of the 1960s, Martin Noth’s theory – that of a single author for Dtr – remained basically unchanged, finding mainly confirmations and some minor correction. Among the supporters we find Ivan Engnell (1906-1964).  Otto Eissfeldt (1887-1973) argued that the complexity of the texts contained in the so-called Former Prophets – i.e. the Historical books – required more than a single author. 

Noth had a very pessimistic view of Israel’s history during the monarchical era. This view is contradicted by texts which had a more positive view of the monarchic era (see 2 Sam 7). For these reasons, Frank Moore Cross (1921-2012) claimed that the Dtr had two editions. The first editor worked before the babilonian exile, at the time of King Josiah, while the second one updated the  josianic work with texts alluding to exile. Cross believed that the first Dtr edition was written to support the Cultic Reform of Josiah (2 Kings 22-23). Cross theory was widely shared in British and American universities.

Rudolph Smend

Rudolf Smend (1851-1913) argued instead that the Dtr had three editions. As Noth he argued that the editors lived during the exilic era (587-538 BC). Smend maintained that there was a first edition of the deuteronomic history (abbreviated with DtrH). After that he discovered another editorial layer, characterized by prophetic language and called DtrP. This layer contained the prophetic texts – the stories of Eliah, Elisha, Samuel, Natan, etc. The purpose of this editor is to show how YHWH’s word is timely accomplished. The attitude of this editor was critical on the monarchy. The final editor of the Dtr work underlined the observance of the Mosaic Law (see Gdc 1:1-2:5; 2:20-21:23). For this reason it was called DtrN (from the greek word Nomos that means Law). The latter editor’s attitude was negative on the monarchy. The editor attempted to rehabilitate the founders of the Jewish dynasty: David and Solomon (see 1 Sam 8:6-22)

Subsequently, John Van Seters (1935 -) expressed doubts about the fragmentation of Dtr history. He didn’t agree with Noth who had argued that the Dtr carefully collected and edited older traditions with different ideological and theological trends. Van Seters, instead, argues that Dtr is a single author who made a very free use of the material he had available. For this reason it is impossible to recover the original texts that Dtr collected. The theological divergences between one tradition and another are to be explained by later additions to the Dtr work. One of these additions is  the so-called story of David’s succession, where King David is presented as a murderer (see 2 Samuel 12). Apart from the additions, van Seters agrees with Noth who maintained the unity of Dtr work.

Erhard Blum

Today scholars agree that a Dtr editing is present in the Tetrateuch (from Genesis to Numbers) and even in some prophetic books. According to Martin Rose, the Jahwist – dated at the X century BC – would be the product of a second or third generation’s deuteronomist. For others – like Erhard Blum – the Pentateuch would be the compromise between Dtr and priestly (P) tendencies. So non-priestly texts would not be attributed to the traditional sources (J or E), because they would come from a Dtr environment.

The problem of the extension of the Dtr editing in the Pentateuch is in relation with the criteria for defining a Dtr text. The only possible way tio define such a texts is to combine stylistic and ideological criteria. If you follow these criteria, only a few texts of the Pentateuch appear similar to the Dtr style (eg Genesis 24; Es 23:23-33). Is it possible to speak of a Dtr editing extending from Genesis to Kings as K. Schmid claims? It is clear that regarding the origins of Israel there is a clear difference between Genesis and Exodus. In Genesis is present a genealogical pattern, while in Exodus, there is an exodic scheme.

Th Dtr editing is instead well present in the prophet, especially in Jeremiah, Hosea, Amos and Micah. The book of Ezekiel is also affected by the priestly influence.

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Simone Venturini

Writer and Researcher at Vatican Secret Archives, Professor of Bible at Pontifical University of the Holy Cross od Rome

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