The Former Prophets: A Brief Introduction

A remarkable discovery with eternal repercussions

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Sometime later, editors incorporated the history, along with other works, into the larger complex comprising Genesis through 2 Kings ("The Primary History"). The most likely period to place this editorial activity is in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah.

A Note on Terminology

This history is variously referred to by scholars as the "Deuteronomistic History" and the "Deuteronomic History," with the former being the current favorite. It is the opinion of the present author that, while the adjective "Deuteronomistic" ("having the character of the Deuteronomist") is an appropriate description of the author(s) of this history, it is not fitting for the history itself, since the comparison is not between the history and the author of the Deuteronomic Code, but between the history and the code itself. The designation "Deuteronomic History" therefore should be preferred (DH for short, in either case).

The Discovery of DH

Credit for the discovery of the Deuteronomic History goes to a German scholar, Martin Noth, who published his findings in his book, Überlieferungsgeschichtliche Studien in 1943. Noth noted that a similar language and ideology pervaded the books Deuteronomy through 2 Kings and demonstrated that a single individual was responsible for writing and compiling the entire history. His basic thesis is still held by almost all biblical scholars today, although there have been numerous refinements to his model.

One of these refinements is the theory that there were two editions of the history, one in the reign of Josiah, and one in the exile. This theory is associated with American scholar Frank Moore Cross and his students and has gained wide acceptance, especially in the United States.

Identifying the Author(s)

Several efforts have been made to identify the author or authors of the Deuteronomic History. Some have posited the existence of a Deuteronomic school, that is, a community of Deuteronomic traditionalists, who may be responsible for both editions of the history, as well as Deuteronomistic editing of other biblical books. Others have argued that a single person could have been responsible for all of the Deuteronomistic compositions in the Bible, since the work seems to have been done within a 60-year period.

While there is no way to establish for a certainty the identity of the person or persons responsible, a convincing case has been made by Richard Elliott Friedman that the Deuteronomistic Historian is none other than the scribe of the prophet Jeremiah, Baruch ben-Neriyah. This conclusion is based upon the fact that significant parts of the book of Jeremiah are written in the Deuteronomic style, some passages even duplicating word-for-word what we seen in the Deuteronomic History, and the book of Jeremiah points to Baruch as its writer (and therefore probably author of the narrative sections).

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David Miano

David Miano is a recent Ph.D. in History at the University of California, San Diego. He specializes in the ancient world and in biblical studies, and works as a lecturer at UC San Diego.