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The Pentateuch: A Long History of Study and Research (Fifth part)

Deuteronomy (D) and Deuteronomist. In the nineteenth century, scholars discussed a lot about the origin of the Pentateuch. Wellhausen, for example, maintained that there were originally two parts (Dt 1-4:44; 12-26; 27; 4:45-11:39; 28-30) which were then merged together in the final redaction of the Pentateuch. Regarding the dating of the source, many argue that it is to be related to the discovery of the “roll of the Temple” in the time of King Josiah (2 Kings 22-23) in 622 BC

Studies on Deuteronomy had great impulse thanks to Martin Noth studies on the so-called “Deuteronomistic work”. He argued that a single author, lived at the time of exile, wrote his work in Mizpah, or at Bethel, then in Judea and not to Babylon. It is the story of YHWH’s faithfulness to his promises and Israel’s infidelity to the Law of Moses. It extends from Deuteronomy, a sort of “theological introduction” including the Book of Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings. In this way Deuteronomy was no more part of the Pentateuch. The Pentateuch would include only the first four books from Genesis to Numbers, the so called “Tetrateuch”. To justify this distinction, Noth holds that there are no texts inspired by the theology of Deuteronomy in the first four books of the Pentateuch.

This is the first of the weaknesses of the theory of Noth. In fact, in the Pentateuch the theology of Deuteronomy (sin-punishment-lose-renewal of the covenant) is also present elsewhere in the Pentateuch; for example, in the episode of the golden calf (Exodus 32-34).

It is difficult to think that the Deuteronomist (i.e. Dtr) is the work of a single author. The Dtr appears to be an “official history” written by those who gave shape to the identity of the inhabitants of the Persian province of Jehud, reconstructing the memory of the past. This way of thinking was shared by scholars who, after Martin Noth, divided the Dtr work in two or three successive editions. Therefore the Dtr could not be the work of a single author lived in a single epoch.

The theory of two Dtr editions was affirmed by Frank Moore Cross, who postulated a first Dtr redaction at the time of the cultic reform of King Josiah (2 Kings 22-23) and another one in the exilic period.

The theory instead of three Dtr editions postulates that the Dtr was composed entirely in the exilic period (Alfred Jepsen), from 580 at the end of the sixth century. B.C.

Rudolf Smend rephrased the latter theory, identifying primarily an “old layer” (the DtrG) ranging from Dt 1:1 to 2 King Dt 25:30 composed around 550 B.C. ; then was added the “prophetic” layer  (DtrP) and finally the “monistic” layer (DtrN) who extended the deuteromist language to the rest of Tetrateuch that would finally been reunited Dtr work.

These principal theories were followed by other ones no less important. However these theories have made the issue of Dtr very complex. The problem is that we need to find a historical anchor to the alleged “Deuteronomist movement” from which concretely derived the final redaction of the Pentateuch and the historical books (To be continued)

Simone Venturini

Scrittore

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