We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more
Select Bible Use this Lookup to open a specific Bible and passage. Start here to select a Bible.
Make selected Bible the default for Lookup tool.
Book: Ch.V. Select book from A-Z list, enter chapter and verse number, and click "Go."
:
OR
  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Look It Up Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Next Result

The Oxford Handbook of Biblical Studies Provides a comprehensive survey of Biblical scholarship in a variety of disciplines.

The Biblical Tradition

The biblical tradition was not born with Israel and Judah; but without it the two kingdoms would have disappeared like their neighbours. With the end of their political existence, they would have disappeared along with their scribal culture and fallen into oblivion, until the accident of archaeology brought one or the other to light. So it is rather astonishing that Israel and Judah have survived to this day in their memory in the biblical tradition. The transformation of the scribal culture of Israel and Judah into the biblical tradition is like a transformation into another kind, and grounds the Jewish tradition in the Old Testament. The phenomenon can barely be explained historically. By means of the differences between the epigraphic and the literary remains of the ancient scribal culture, one can none the less identify the stages by which the moves to the growth of the Old Testament were made.

2.1. From Prophets of Salvation to Prophets of Disaster

The main difference in relation to the scribal culture consists of the picture of God in the Old Testament. It bears the marks of a religion of revelation, and comes from theological reflection: YHWH has chosen Israel to be his people, and requires from Israel a conscious decision for or against him. This means that the relationship is not self-evident, but was specially established and is connected with conditions. Out of the natural symbiosis of YHWH and his worshippers in Israel and Judah, which are indicated by the remains of the ancient scribal culture, there has come in the Old Testament an exclusive relationship with God grounded upon faith and confession. As far as we can see, this picture of God has its roots in the prophetic tradition.

The transformation can be seen in the theological interpretation of the prophetic oracles. This interpretation brought about a change in the picture of God, in that it declared YHWH, the national God of Israel and Judah, to be the enemy of the two monarchies, and turned the previous court or cult prophets into prophets of disaster, who were committed not to God and to the king, but solely and only to YHWH.

Thus the oracles of salvation of the prophet of Judah, Isaiah (Isa. 7: 4, 7–9; 8: 1–4; 17: 1–3), were reformulated as oracles of disaster in a literary context, first in the so-called memorandum of Isaiah (Isa. 6–8). Just as destruction is prophesied for Judah's enemy, the kingdom of Israel (and Aram), so now the destruction of Judah is itself prophesied, a destruction that has been provoked by the people's lack of faith in God and decreed by YHWH himself. Both the nations, Israel and Judah, will suffer the judgement with which YHWH has threatened his own people (Isa. 6; 7: 9b; 8: 5–8). The memorandum in chapters 6–8 was the starting-point for the book of Isaiah: for the ring-formed composition of ‘the vision’ or, more precisely, the words concerning Judah and Jerusalem (Isa. 1: 1; 2: 1) in Isa. 1–12, as well as for the so-called Assyrian cycle, Isaiah 28–32, which centres on the fate of Zion, and for the oracle against the nations of Isaiah 13–23, and the scenario of the judgement of the world in Isaiah 24–7 and 33–5.

In the same way the words of Hosea in Hosea 4–9 and of Amos in Amos 3–6 were collected together and given their theological meaning. From the announcement of coming disaster for Israel come declarations of the divine judgement. Out of the complaints come charges and grounds for the judgement, out of the bemoaned shortcomings and the denounced bad behaviour, come sins against God. And in all this, the political barriers between the monarchies of Israel and Judah are removed. Israel stands for the whole of the people of God, which implicitly or explicitly also includes Judah. The destruction of both kingdoms means that YHWH has decreed the end of the people Israel. In both books, Hosea and Amos, the tradition thinks intensively about this end. The theological reflection has left its mark above all in the framework parts that were added later, in the stories of marriage and the historical-theological reflections in Hosea 1–3 and 9–14, as well as the oracles against the nations and cycles of visions in Amos 1–2 and 7–9 (cf. also Amos 4: 6 ff.).

The consequences for the picture of God are obvious. YHWH is no longer the national god of the two monarchies, only locally different from the YHWH in Samaria and the YHWH of Jerusalem. He is seen much more as the one God of the one people of God, who reveals his true nature and will in judgement. It is the end of Israel that makes clear the past and future of the relationship with God: what in the theological meaning of the prophets has led to the break is the standard by which the people of God have been guided in the past, and by which they must be guided in the future. The restoration of the broken relationship with God presupposes the repentance of the people.

The cause of this theological new interpretation of the prophetic oracle is not difficult to discern from the prophecy of disaster. It is the destruction of Samaria and the kingdom of Israel in 722 BCE which also threatened Judah at least in 701, and caused the guardians of the tradition to think of the relationship between YHWH and Israel beyond the limits of merely political concerns. The same situation repeated itself about a hundred years later in connection with the fall of Jerusalem in 597 to 587 BCE. The laments of prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 4: 7, 11, 13, 19–21; 6: 1, 22–23) were, according to the example of the older tradition, retrospectively rewritten as predictions of the divine judgement upon (Israel and) Judah (Jer. 4–6; cf. especially 4: 5–6 with 6: 1, 22). Also, here, a core tradition, the poems concerning the ‘foe from the north’ in Jeremiah 4–6 constituted the point of departure for the literary development of the book: for the addition of further sayings material, the symbolic actions, and the prose speeches, the stories of the suffering and the personal confessions of the prophet, and not least the extensive oracles against the nations which in the Greek version of the book stand in the middle, as also with Isaiah, but which come at the end of the Hebrew version.

In general the prophetic tradition inserts authentic oracles with a theological new interpretation of them in the sense of prophecies of judgement. In spite of the political reverses, those who passed on the tradition held fast to YHWH as the God of Israel and gave up for it the people and the God of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. In place of the rival national gods came the God of ‘both houses of Israel’ (Isa. 8: 14) and in place of the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah came Israel the people of God. In all books a process of interpretation and actualization followed the understanding of the destruction of Israel and Judah as God's punishment. The extensive rewritings paint the judgement in various colours and present ever new grounds for the turning away of YHWH from his people. With time oracles against the nations and oracles of salvation for Israel were added which in many books won the upper hand (Isa. 40–66; Hag. 1–2; Zech. 1–8). They take up the old, pre-exilic tradition of the prophecy of salvation or recent oracles of that old nature (e.g. Hag. 1: 1, 4, 8 and 1: 15b/2: 1, 3, 9a) but thoroughly presuppose the destruction of both kingdoms and the literary tradition of the prophecy of judgement.

In this fashion the books of the three great prophets and that of the twelve Minor Prophets gradually came into being. They cannot be ascribed definitely to a particular epoch, because they grew over the course of centuries, until the rewriting within the books (apart from small details) came to an end at the beginning of the second century BCE. Only the beginning of the tradition can be identified according to its content. It was the end of the kingdom of Israel under Assyria at the end of the eighth century BCE that was the trigger for the prophetic tradition in the books of Isaiah, Hosea, and Amos. The end of the kingdom of Judah under Babylon set a second wave in motion, which began with the tradition in the book of Jeremiah and there, as also in the book of Ezekiel, continued a kind of midrash concerning the prophetic tradition. The next turning-point was the building of the Second Temple in Jerusalem (520–515 BCE), which was the impulse for the tradition in the books of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Between these times Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah are situated, prophetical books which reflect the end of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah and await the end of the world. For the main part they come from the Persian-Hellenistic time, in which the other books were also considerably edited and received their extant forms.

2.2. From Secular Nation to the People of God

The idea of the people of YHWH is connected with the picture of God of the prophetic tradition. The prophetic tradition sees the mixed population, which was kept together in the kingdoms of Israel and Judah by means of the monarchy, united as standing under the judgement of God. Thus there emerged the higher unity of ‘Israel’, the people of God, an ideal entity which crosses the political boundaries and represents a theological claim. This claim was never realized in historical reality, but rather in the biblical literature. On the basis of the prophetic message about the end of the relationship with God was reconstructed the beginning of this relationship, the foundation story of the people of God, in order to gain a positive perspective for the future. For this purpose various single traditions were collected from diverse areas of the population in Israel and Judah, and these were formed into narrative cycles and historical narratives, which related the history of God with his people, the saving history of Israel. In this way the myths were born of the original unity of the two monarchies and of pre-monarchic Israel.

The development began in the pre-exilic period, between the end of Samaria in 722 and the fall of Jerusalem in 597/587 BCE. From this time come three literary works, each of which in its way offers a legend of the origin of Israel and at the same time indicates the relation to Judah: they are the legend about the beginning of the kingship and the kingdom of David in 1 Samuel–1 Kings 2, the Yahwistic primal history and history of the Patriarchs in Genesis 2–35, and the story of the Exodus in Exodus 2–Joshua 12.

1 Samuel–1 Kings 2 refers back to the beginnings of the kingship. This composition has been put together from old sources, which for their part have behind them a long period of growth: a tradition from the house of Saul in 1 Samuel 1–14 and that of the succession to the throne of David in 2 Samuel 11–1 Kings 2. By means of the hinge verse 1 Samuel 14: 52 and the linking narrative in 1 Samuel 16–2 Samuel 5: 8–10 David and Saul are brought together for the first time, and the house of David, the southern kingdom, Judah, is declared to be the legitimate heir of the house of Saul, the northern kingdom, Israel. In this way Israel and Judah become a unity under the roof of the dynasty of David both on the political plain and also as a people. The Yahwistic primal history and history of the Patriarchs in Genesis 2–35 refer back to the beginnings of the people. They have been put together from various originally separate traditions of a sub-national and family milieu. They are woven together by means of genealogy and geography, and they are given a national identity and united with the national God of Israel and Judah, YHWH, in order to establish the unity of Israel and Judah. A preliminary step to this is provided by the old composition Genesis 26–35, which comes from a joining of the south Palestinian Isaac/Esau tradition in Genesis 26–7 with the north Palestinian Jacob/Laban tradition in Genesis 29: 16–32: 2. This was the example for the redaction which made Jacob into the eponymous ancestor of Israel (Gen. 32: 28 f.) and the father of Judah (Gen. 29: 35), and which in the form of family history described the genesis of the Syrian-Palestinian small nations. The turning- and crucial point of this redaction is the hinge passage Gen. 12: 1–3, which sets up a narrative arch from the primal history to the story of Jacob, and formulates the main perspective which sees the people Jacob/Israel that comes from Abraham in relation to Judah and the other neighbouring countries after 720 BCE.

Similarly, the story of the exodus in Exodus 2–Joshua 12 refers back to the origins of the people. However, in opposition to the two above-mentioned cases, it represents an exclusively Israelite standpoint. The nucleus of the composition are the Israelite and Benjaminite narratives about war (Exod. 14; Josh. 6 and 8) which honour God as the God of war, as does also the Song of Miriam in Exod. 15: 20 f. Through the insertion of the call of Moses in Exodus 2–4 and the bridging traditions about a wandering through the wilderness, there arose the story of the exodus of Israel from Egypt and the occupation of the land under Moses, Miriam, and (by means of the literary connection of Num. 25: 1a/Deut. 34: 5–6*/Josh. 2: 1 ff.; 3: 1 ff.) Joshua. The redactional plan is determined by the view that what has become Israel, the people of YHWH which is stateless and homeless, has come into the land from outside and is thus something very special. The Israelites of the exodus story do not feel themselves ‘related’ to Judah and the other neighbouring peoples, as opposed to what comes in the primal history and the patriarchal stories in Genesis, but they stress their independence. The Exodus creed was first applied after 587 to the brother nation which had now become stateless.

All three literary works, which react to the demise of the Israelite monarchy, remain situated within the parameters of the pre-exilic scribal culture in Israel and Judah. What distinguishes them from it is not so much their content as the situation that the conditions of life and the ideas that they portray have lost their institutional framework and therefore their validity. What was previously taken for granted now requires a particular grounding and legitimation in a historical context. And what grounds and legitimates does not simply relate to one of the two monarchies, but binds Israel and Judah together into a unity without political existence. The unifying bond is no longer the monarchy but the idea of the one God which absolutizes the practice of monolatry within the former national cult and which ascribes transcendent aspects to the former national God.

As in the case of the books of the prophets, these three narrative works were permanently revised and enlarged in the course of the seventh century, and above all after the fall of Jerusalem in 597/587 BCE. The most far-reaching alterations that affected them were the successive incorporations of the legal collections in the area of the Pentateuch (the Book of the Covenant in Exod. 20–3, Deuteronomy, the Ten Commandments, and the holiness laws) and the redactions that were inspired by them in the books of Joshua to Kings, which together formed the diverse legends of the origin of the kingship (Samuel to Kings) and the people of Israel (Genesis, Exodus to Joshua) into one single large narrative story (see below section 3).

This great historical narrative story served in its turn as the basis for further accounts of the history of the people of Israel as well as of the kingdoms in Israel and Judah. These date from the Persian and Hellenistic periods. The origin of the people, so far as it is recounted in Genesis to Joshua, is the content of the so-called Priestly Writing. In a strict form, structured through programmatic divine speeches (Gen. 1, 17, etc.), genealogies (Gen. 5, etc.) and itineraries (Gen. 12: 4b–5; 13: 6, 11b–12; 19: 29, etc.), it recounts the primal history, the patriarchal history and the story of the exodus, originally from the creation of the world (Gen. 1) to the founding of a sanctuary at Sinai (Exod. 24: 15b–18; 25–40) which is the prototype and ideal of the Second Temple at Jerusalem. The ‘law’ of Genesis–Kings is here replaced by the ‘covenant’: the covenant with Noah, who guaranteed the survival of the world population (Gen. 9), and the covenant with Abraham and Sarah which guaranteed YHWH's being for Israel (Gen. 17; Exod. 6: 7) and which is experienced and ritually mediated in the sanctuary (Exod. 25: 8; 29: 45 f.; 40: 34). Only later was the law (in Lev. and Num.) integrated, as also in the opposite way the law in Exodus–Kings was designated ‘covenant’ (Exod. 24; 34; Deut. 28: 69, etc.). These and other instances of harmonization stem from the fact that the Priestly Writing, which was conceived originally as an independent composition, was incorporated into the non-priestly account of the origin of Israel.

What remained independent was the new account of the history of the kingdom in the books of Chronicles, which recapitulates the history from Adam to Saul in genealogies (1 Chr. 1–9) and afterwards takes excerpts from the books of Samuel and Kings, which it then interprets. In the basic account the material is composed as the history of the kingdom of (Davidic) Judah, and is formed into the cult legend of the Jerusalem sanctuary by means of various insertions and particular traditions in a priestly sense. The work finds its continuation in the history of Judah and the Second Temple under Persian rule in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, which, together with 1 and 2 Chronicles constitute the so-called Chronicler's History.

With these two literary works, the Priestly Writing and the Chronicler's History, we meet in the Old Testament with the phenomenon of the ‘rewritten Bible’ that is widespread outside the Hebrew Bible, in the Apocrypha and the Pseudepigrapha.

2.3. From Secular Law to Divine Law

With the picture of God in the prophetic tradition, not only has the role of Israel altered but so has the will of YHWH. The decision to end the relationship with God because Israel has become guilty in relation to its God implies a will of YHWH, the fulfilment of which makes the difference between the life and death of the people of God. In the prophetic tradition it is made clear above all what YHWH does not desire. The social and cultic criticism of the prophets mentions conditions, including misdemeanours, which have happened at all times but which became the basis for the divine judgement of sin against God. In the call to repentance the will of God can be discerned: do good and not evil (Amos 5: 14 f.); devotion and the knowledge of God are preferable to sacrifices and burnt offerings (Hos. 6: 6; cf. Mic. 6: 8). But the will of God is found in no book. In order to fulfil God's will in the future, and thereby to avoid judgement, there is required the positive execution and fixing of that which is good in the eyes of YHWH, and in which devotion and knowledge of God can be concretely expressed. This gap was filled with the law, whose codification as the divine revelation of God's will goes back to YHWH himself and the mediation of Moses, and which thus in a theologically qualified sense has become divine law. It is not the secular law that has been theologized and become divine law, but rather the prophets who are the origin of the divine law and the theologizing of secular law.

The origins of the theologizing of the secular law probably occurred in the seventh century BCE following on from the prophetic and narrative tradition, in the editing of the old collection of legal sentences (Mishpatim) in Exod. 21: 1–22: 19 and its inclusion in the story of the exodus in Exodus 2–Joshua 12. The editing added social and cultic laws to it, following the social and cultic criticism of the prophets, and put the whole into a new framework. At its head stands the law of the altar (Exod. 20: 24–6) and at the end the cultic calendar (Ex. 23: 14–17). A particular hallmark of this edition is its stylization as a speech of YHWH and the use of the second person singular by which the nation and every member of it is addressed. As for the content, it contains nothing new. What is new is the paraenetic style which expresses the legally regulated solidarity with one's neighbour and the usual cultic obligations to YHWH as divine law. Its inclusion in the story of the exodus contributes to a new understanding of this story in the following way: the revealed divine law which Israel receives on the divine mountain in the wilderness of Sinai, an intermediate station on the way from Egypt to the promised land, stamps the original legend of Israel's origin with the stamp of the divine law. The law book, which is called the Book of the Covenant on the basis of Exod. 24: 4–8, thus to some extent becomes the foundation document of the chosen people of God.

The next step on the way to the development of divine law took place in Deuteronomy, a rewriting of the Book of the Covenant (Exod. 20–3), which stylistically and in its content follows the redaction in the second person singular. The original version in Deuteronomy 12–26 is completely dominated by the idea of the centralization of the cult and wishes to know nothing about the proliferation of cultic places sanctioned by the stories of the Patriarchs in Genesis and by the law of the altar in the Book of the Covenant in Exod. 20: 24 and was usual in the pre-exilic period both in Israel and in Judah. The central place of Judah, the royal seat and the temple in Jerusalem, which was lost in 587 BCE, was replaced by the ‘place which YHWH will choose’, in order to warn people about the threatened destruction of what held the people together. The framework in Deut. 6: 4–6 (‘Hear, O Israel’) and 26: 16 adds to the oneness of the cultic place in Judah the oneness of YHWH as well as the oneness of the people of God, consisting of Israel and Judah, by the address ‘Israel’. As with the Book of the Covenant, so also Deuteronomy is taken up into the story of the exodus. This latter makes possible its historicization, which can still be heard in the election formula for the ‘place which YHWH will choose’ and introduces Moses as a spokesman. Deuteronomy finds its literary place between the arrival in Shittim (Num. 25: 1a), where Moses begins to speak (Deut. 5: 1aα1 + 6: 4–6; 12: 13 ff. to 26: 1 ff., 16) and the death of Moses, which is followed by the exit from Shittim under the leadership of Joshua (Deut. 34: 1a, 5f; Josh. 2: 1 ff.; 3: 1 ff.). Moses makes the people familiar with the law in the land of Moab immediately before the crossing of the Jordan and the occupation of the land, the law that YHWH has revealed on the holy mountain, and adds the alterations that were considered to be necessary.

The Decalogue led to further alterations in the late Babylonian or early Persian period. Following the example of ‘Hear, O Israel’ in Deut. 6: 4–5 as the prologue to the collection of laws in Deuteronomy 12–16, it was added in Exodus 20 as the prologue to the Book of the Covenant, and then later added in Deuteronomy 5. In the same way that the Book of the Covenant is codified into being the will of God, the formulation of the Decalogue draws upon prophetic sources (cf. Hos. 4: 2) as well as a legal source: namely, the theologically edited Book of the Covenant itself. From now on it was not simply the unity of the cult (Deut. 12: 13 ff.) or just the oneness of YHWH (Deut. 6: 4), but the First Commandment and the exclusiveness of YHWH which was the chief commandment of the Old Testament law. It was then just a small step to the monotheistic confession that developed in the post-exilic period and received explicit expression in Isaiah 40–55. Belief in the one and only God not only forbade the worship of ‘other gods’ but denied their existence.

The development of the Book of the Covenant via Deuteronomy to the Decalogue is presupposed again in the account of the law giving in the Priestly Writing. Just as Deuteronomy is a rewriting of the Book of the Covenant, so is the so-called Holiness Law in Leviticus 17–26 a rewriting of Deuteronomy under the sign of the First Commandment and the priestly idea of holiness. The Holiness Law and other laws were probably added to what was already an independent Priestly Writing. In the process a leading idea was not only the category of holiness but the idea of propitiation. The whole sacrificial cult, from which the rituals and the prescriptions come, was interpreted as a propitiatory cult in the context of the Priestly Writing. With the incorporation of the Priestly Writing in the non-priestly narrative, the giving of the law was enlarged in Leviticus and Numbers and also stretched over the older laws—Decalogue, Book of the Covenant, and covenant renewal at Sinai in Exodus 20–4; 32–4, as well as Deuteronomy in the land of Moab. It was revised and expanded in many ways in a mixture of Deuteronomistic and Priestly language. In this way there came into being the over-large Sinai pericope in Exodus 19–Numbers 10 which, according to the historical fiction, was recapitulated in Deuteronomy and which drew after it the law giving in the wilderness (Num. 15, 18, 19) as well as the plains of Moab (Num. 26–36). With the separation of the Pentateuch as the Torah of Moses or the Torah of YHWH—that is, the part of the canon later known as the Torah—the process of the theologizing of the law in the Old Testament came to an end.

This process affected not only the Pentateuch but also the other narrative books in Joshua–Kings. On the basis of the original form of Deuteronomy and its main commandment, the command for centralizing the cult, there was composed a first version of the so-called Deuteronomistic History in 1 Samuel 1–2 Kings 25. It was put together from the older narrative about the beginnings of the kingship in 1 Samuel 1–1 Kings 2 and the synchronistic chronicle of the kings of Israel in Judah in 1–2 Kings which the first Deuteronomist had taken from the annals of the kings of Israel and Judah and had commented upon in the sense of Deuteronomy. Against the background of the original unity of the kingship under David, the divided kingship which existed until 720 BCE is taken as an infringement of the command to centralize the cult. The division of the kingdom and of the unity of the cult is described as the ‘sin of Jeroboam’. The ‘sin of Jeroboam’ leads Israel first of all to its downfall by making it guilty per se, followed by the downfall of Judah caused by its ‘high places’.

After the introduction of the Decalogue into the law (Exod. 20, also Deut. 5), the First Commandment became the yardstick by which the people of God, ‘Israel’, consisting of Israel and Judah, was to be measured. This had far-reaching literary and theological-historical consequences. Under the sign of the First Commandment, the foundation legend of the people of Israel, (the story of the exodus in Exod. 2–Josh. 12) was bound into one continuous narrative sequence with the history of the kingship, the basic narrative of the Deuteronomic History in 1 Samuel 1–2 Kings 25. The book of Judges served as the connecting narrative, a collection of old heroic stories whose oldest redaction can also be called Deuteronomistic, but which presupposes the First Commandment and is thus younger than the original Deuteronomy and the first Deuteronomistic redaction in the books of Samuel and Kings. Out of the once independent literary work in (Genesis) Exodus–Joshua and 1 Samuel–2 Kings came the overall story of the history of Israel. From now on and following the incorporation of the Priestly laws and the priestly laws in Genesis–Numbers, there took place the secondary later, or post-Deuteronomistic, redactional activity in the area of Genesis–Kings over a long period, in many ways influenced by Priestly redactions. It continued until the overall narrative was divided into individual books and into the parts of the canon called the Torah (Genesis–Deuteronomy) and the Former Prophets (Joshua–Kings).

2.4. From Divine Kingship to the Kingdom of God

Although hymns and prayers, as much as the oracles of prophets and the old legal sentences, belong to the earliest body of the literature of Israel and Judah, the biblical tradition adopted them at a comparatively late period. The decisive moves in the origin of the Old Testament were taken, as we have seen, after the end of the kingdom of Israel, first of all in the prophetic traditions and, later, in the narrative and legal traditions. The appropriation of the hymns and prayers into the biblical tradition first occurred, as far as one can see, after the end of the kingdom of Judah and the destruction of the Jerusalem temple. This appropriation can be observed above all in those psalms in which an ancient core has remained. The examples are not very numerous; neither is criticism in this area very well advanced. Of the hymns, it is the group of YHWH royal psalms (29, 47, 93–5) that have been well researched. After that, Psalms 29 and 93 can be taken as fairly intact representatives, which praise YHWH as king and mighty victor over chaos. In addition, both hymns have undergone a few significant additions. The additions bring the people of God (Ps. 29: 10–11) and the law (Ps. 93: 5) into play, and add to the myth of the kingship of God the character of a personal (Ps. 92: 2) or national confession (Ps. 29: 11).

One can presume the existence of the old myth also behind the remaining examples of the YHWH royal psalms as well as some others, the closely related hymn of the theology of Zion which underwent much stronger revision. The revisions go in various directions: they declared the former weather-god, the lord of the whole earth and the king of the gods, to be the creator and sustainer of the world (Ps. 104), the saviour of Israel, and the judge of all nations (Pss. 48, 96, 98); they include the history of Israel and Judah (Pss. 47, 95, 99) or they allow only a selection of people in Israel to participate in the salvific actions of the royal God (Ps. 97; cf. Pss. 24: 3–6; 104: 35); the representative of the heavenly king upon earth, the earthly (Davidic) king, is stylized to be the messiah or the example of pious believers (Pss. 2; 18; 21: 8; 72). The revisions live from citations or allusions to the other biblical literature and can be classified under the key words of universalization, nationalization, individualization, and the eschatologizing of the basic myth of the kingship of God.

The same tendencies have been disclosed by the form and tradition history of the laments and the psalms of thanksgiving. The old scheme of thanksgiving in Psalm 118 (vv. 5, 14, [15–16], 17–19, 21, 28) in verses 1–4 and 29 as well as 22–7 was collectivized, and in verses. 6–13 individualized, and in verses 15a and 20 connected with a group of the righteous. The rescue of the psalmist from the threat of death and action of enemies had become an example that is only told in the public offerings of thanks (vv. 17, 19), but affects the assembled temple community itself. The ritual of lament and thanksgiving, as it was originally practised at the temple, is transcended in two ways: the individual psalmist and his fate stand on the one hand for the history of suffering of the people of God, Israel itself, and on the other hand for every just and pious believer in Israel.

Both tendencies have left their trace not only in the editing of older material but also in the creation of new genres and new types of psalm. The collectivization of lament and thanksgiving found expression in the new genre of the lament of the people. The national catastrophe of 587 BCE becomes the occasion for lament and request (Pss. 44, 74, 137; cf. Lam. 1 f.). God's presence and help are no more sought in the (destroyed) temple but in the recalling of the history of God with his people Israel (Ps. 74: 2–3). The historical remembering results in reflection on the guilt of the people at its destruction (Pss. 78, 79, 106) but is also a warning and something that brings new hope (Pss. 77, 81); sometimes it has realized itself in the pure praise to God in the historical psalms (Pss. 68, 105, 114, 135–6). In these psalms the history of salvation has come in the place of the old myth of the kingship of God or has united with it.

The other tendency, the individualization or making interior (spiritualization) of the lament and thanksgiving of the individual moves the personal relationship to God into the foreground. Here the mythological pictures and images of the old hymns and prayers become theological metaphors for the existence of the pious individual. For the upright, the godless both within and outside Israel are the enemies. His distress is opposition, while his deliverance is the certainty of faith. Several marks of the genres of the lament and thanksgiving psalms gain a particular meaning and come to expression in new compositions. In the dispute with the enemies, the godless, forensic language becomes more frequent. The pious believer protests his innocence and pleads for a just sentence (Ps. 26). On the other hand, there is greater awareness of having sinned against God. The psalmist confesses his sins, is prepared to repent, and prays for the forgiveness of his sins (Ps. 51). Both protesting the innocence and confessing the sins are grounded in deep trust in God that is expressed in the song of confidence, an exaggeration of the respective elements, the acknowledgement of confidence, within the psalms of lament (cf. Pss. 13: 6; 23). The relationship to God is formed in this text in immediate fashion; in other psalms it is mediated through the Torah (Pss. 1, 119).

Collectivization (nationalization) and individualization are based upon the universalization of the myth of the kingdom of God, which is met not only in the hymns but also in the individual prayers (cf. Pss. 22, 103). The universalization has come to be expressed in revision of older material, as well as in new compositions. There exist Psalms that are not just single texts, but which were created for the literary context of the Psalter, which is characterized over wider areas by the universalization of the idea of God. According to the Torah, which is referred to right at the beginning of Psalm 1, the Psalter is divided into five books by concluding doxologies (Pss. 41: 14; 72: 18; 89: 53; 106: 48), and the fourth and fifth books are structured through doxological formulae as well as Toda and Hallelujah psalms. In this structure is mirrored the long history of development of the Psalter. Individual psalms and their revision led to small collections and then, by means of various steps, to the extant Psalter. One of these stages was the addition of the collection of YHWH royal psalms 93–9, to the basic collection of Psalms 2–89. In the redactional conclusion to this collection, in Psalm 100, is expressed the theocratic concept which rules the composition of the Psalter from there on through diverse caesurae and conclusions in Pss. 103–6/7; 117/18; 135/6 to the end. The kingship of God over all gods, all peoples, Israel, and the righteous finds its culmination in the kingdom of God in which all creatures are cared for and the pious are heard and protected (Ps. 145, also Pss. 146–50).

2.5. From Wise to Pious

Like the hymns and prayers, the proverbs of the wise and wisdom instruction stories found their way into the biblical tradition comparatively late. One speaks here also, as in the case of law, of a continuous theologizing of Wisdom, a term which is also applicable to many areas of tradition: prophets, narratives, law, sacrificial rituals, cult lyrics, as well as wisdom. The process of theologizing can be seen in the comparison of the writings that are taken into the Old Testament: Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes. It can also be observed in the proverbs, and indeed not only in the relation of the old collections from chapter 10 to the younger instruction sentences in Proverbs 1–9, but in the transmission of the sayings themselves. As with the Psalter, criticism is not very well developed in its attempt to distinguish the older proverbial material from the younger theological commentary.

The knowledge and ideals of old wisdom are brought together in the proverbial collections in Prov. 10: 1–22: 16; 22: 17–24: 22 and 24: 23–32; 25–9. Like the old collection of laws, the Mishpatim in Exodus 21–2, such proverbial collections originated in the pre-exilic period for educational purposes in the wisdom schools of the scribes. The passage into the biblical tradition begins with theological glossing of these collections of proverbs. In the process, at least three tendencies become clear. The first is the connection of Wisdom with the fear of God. Prov. 24: 21 teaches that the fear of God, next to the fear of the king, is a wisdom virtue among many. This view of old Wisdom is the starting-point for later additions, which declare that the fear of God and trust in God are the basis of the older wisdom rules of life (cf. Prov. 15: 33 with 18: 12, 2: 4 with 21: 21), which substitute other standards with religious maxims (cf. Prov. 14: 26 f. with 13: 14; 23: 17 f. with 24: 13 f.) and in this way make belief in God the basic principle of wisdom (cf. also 10: 27; 16: 20; 20: 22; 21: 30 f.; 28: 5, 25; 29: 25 f.).

A second tendency can be seen in the introduction of the contrast between the righteous and the godless. The starting-point is the many oppositions which are expressed in the proverbs of old Wisdom, particularly the contrast between rich and poor. Out of the social conflict there comes, in the later proverbs, a religious opposition, which relativizes in a theological way the ideal of old wisdom (cf. Prov. 10: 16 with 10: 15; 11: 18 f. with 11: 16 f.). At the end the ‘poor’ is the righteous person (cf. Ps. 37), and the rich person is the evil-doer (cf. Ps. 49). But this religious antagonism is connected also to other themes, such as the broader field of correct speech and silence (cf. Prov. 10: 11 with 10: 10; 10: 20 with 10: 19; 15: 28 with 15: 23) or the central connection of deed and consequence, which is expounded as an appropriately just reward (cf. 11: 23 with 13: 12; 11: 30 f.; 12: 7 with 11: 29).

Finally, comes the third tendency, the problematizing of the human capacity for knowledge. In the old Wisdom the possibility of knowledge in spite of unpleasant surprises (Prov. 14: 12) is assumed as self-evident (cf. Prov. 20: 5). In a series of proverbs a gap appears between the ways and plans of God in visible phenomena and the human capacity for knowledge (Prov. 16: 19; 19: 21; 20: 24). The proverbs seem to say more or less the same thing according to the motto: humankind thinks, God directs. On closer inspection, it is possible to see particular variations which prepared the way for the scepticism of later Wisdom. At the end there is just the divine leading, which humankind is not in a position to understand.

The three tendencies in the theological editing of Proverbs reveal problems which were broadly dealt with in the younger Wisdom writings from the Persian or Hellenistic periods. Thus the didactic speeches in Proverbs 1–9 set out from the fear of God as the beginning and basis of Wisdom (Prov. 1: 7; 2: 1 ff.). With the personalization of Wisdom in Proverbs 8, they make the first attempt to solve the problem of mediation (cf. also Job 28; Sir. 4). Creation as such and the visible phenomena within it are no longer adequate. It is not possible to speak of a self-revelation of the creation.

The keeping of the fear of God and the affliction of the just through the experience of personal suffering are reminiscent of various theological (and literary) levels and their expression in the story of Job in Job 1–2 and 42 as well as the dialogue of the book of Job. In the legend of Job the idea of the fear of God is presented by God himself in a pact with Satan in the context of a difficult test. In the dialogues the theological ideas of the scribal schools begin to become shaky. They are relativized through the appearance of God and his answers to Job's complaints in the divine speeches of Job 38–41. Both Job, the righteous sufferer, and also his friends, the comforters and representatives of pure wisdom teaching, are put in their place.

In Ecclesiastes, finally, everything follows in the path of doubt: the fear of God, just retribution, and the possibility of knowledge. Qohelet's attempt to unite the biblical picture of God with the Hellenistic belief in fate takes him to the limits of Jewish piety and theology. As the result of his spiritual attempts to justify what happens under the sun, he commends the principle of carpe diem (Eccles. 9: 7 ff.), not because there is no God but because he removes himself from human understanding. Against this serene, not unpious but critical position of Qohelet, there is not only a loud protest in the book itself (Eccles. 12: 9–14). The book of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) can be read as an anti-Qohelet book which failed to gain access to the Hebrew biblical canon only because the prologue of the Greek translation names the name of the author, and because he did not live between the time of Moses and Artaxerxes, but clearly lived and worked later. Here the ideals of older Wisdom come to life again shored up by a Jewish piety which has developed from the biblical tradition: Wisdom and Torah become united (Sir. 24) and are for Sirach revealed both in the creation and in scripture.

The latest book of the Hebrew canon, the book of Daniel, is not so straightforward. It has come from the old didactic wisdom stories of Daniel 1–6, which demonstrate in an exemplary way how Jewish wisdom and steadfast piety are preserved in the Diaspora. At the same time this concept did not entirely withstand the developing Hellenization and the threat to Judaism through the attacks of the Seleucid rulers, particularly during the religious crisis under Antiochus IV in the middle of the second century BCE. The visions in Daniel 7–12, which were added successively, transfer the solution of the problem to the end-times, in which what is promised in the scripture and which has long since been decided in heaven will be realized upon earth. Instead of being satisfied with resignation and the principle of carpe diem, or referring to the current teachings of the schools and scripture, the pious in the book of Daniel have a long path of suffering before them, and reach their goal only in the resurrection at the general judgement (Dan. 12: 1–3).

  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Look It Up Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Next Result
Oxford University Press

© 2020. All Rights Reserved. Cookie Policy | Privacy Policy | Legal Notice