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

The multiplication of dtr editors has made many scholars skeptical about the very existence of deuteronomic history. The problem is essentially the concept of “historiography” and the coherence of the dtr work.

The “dtr” history can not be termed in any way, since it still belongs to the mythical genus and its end, among other things, is certainly not to provide a historical presentation of Israel’s history. This is a problem that concerns almost the entire Jewish Bible, whose stories are anonymous, i.e. they don’t mention their authors. According to some authors, dtr history could be termed “narrative history”, that is, a presentation of the material in chronological order and in sequential order. However, the fundamental question remains whether this story – certainly not historiography – has ever existed as it is theorized by the authors.

According to Westermann, the books that make up the dtr story do not show the same style or the same ideology. Each book has its own characteristics and, for example, the Book of Judges has a cyclical view of history, contrary to the books of the Kings. In Samuel the dtr intervention is very rare. Each book would thus derive from a certain historical and social context. According to the author, the dtr editors reliably transmitted oral traditions from eyewitnesses. However, recent studies on so-called “oral tradition” show how transcribing contents necessarily involves transforming not only form but content as well.


Graeme Auld

Regarding the consistency and unity of dtr history, opinions diverge. According to Ernst Würthwein (1909-1996) and A.G. Auld, the oldest nucleus is the books of the Kings, to which the books of Judges, Samuel and finally Joshua were added. The insertion of Deuteronomy and of the Tetrateuch (i.e. from Genesis to Numbers) came even later. According to E. A. Knauf, only the books of Samuel and King can be qualified as dtr history. Moreover, Deuteronomy would not be the classic opening of Dtr history, whose ideology makes the history of Israel begin with the Exodus. Why then, as Römer asks, does the first three chapters of Deuteronomy summarize that story? Perhaps they introduce the dtr story? Knauf also argues that the dtr history – in its present extension – has never been attested in “historical” Psalms, as is the case of the Pentateuch (Psalms 74, 95). However, Psalm 136 would seem to be a summary of Tetrateuch, suggesting that Deuteronomy is bound to the following books. In addition, 2 Kings 17:7-23 seems to be a summary of dtr history.

Many clues suggest a unified historical work, united by several issues absent from Tetrateuch. For example, the Hebrew expression elohim acherim (i.e. other gods), or the theme of worship of YHWH goes through all the books, from Dt to King. Babylonian exile is another leading issue of the dtr history. There is no direct and clear allusion to exile in the Tetrateuch, while there are allusions  in Dt 28,63-64, and the announcement of deportation goes through all the dtr history. So there is no reason to doubt that the books from Deuteronomy to Second Kings form a unified dtr story – not history – but in a very different way from what Noth meant.

Simone Venturini


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