The School Tradition of the Old Testament: The Bampton Lectures for 1994

By E. W. Heaton | Go to book overview

V Prophets and Teachers

1 Prophets

The learned men of Israel's school tradition cared a great deal about books but very little about authors. That is why they preserved the oracles of the great independent prophets, but had no scruple about splicing them with a miscellany of material from other sources. As a result, so far from having direct access to what the prophets actually taught, we are confronted by four untidy anthologies labelled 'Isaiah', 'Jeremiah', 'Ezekiel', and 'the Book of the Twelve' (so-called) 'minor prophets'. These were compiled by editors in Jerusalem at various stages during the centuries following the return from the Babylonian Exile. It is highly probable that these men had very little idea of what the prophets had been saying to their own times (certainly far less than we have now) and that they went to the trouble of preserving and editing their oracles because they were regarded as old and sacred. 1 The only further clue to their purpose is to be found in the threefold pattern they imposed on their diverse material. In each collection, we have, first, a block of oracles on the judgement of Israel, 2 followed by a block of oracles on the judgement of the nations, 3 and, finally, a block of oracles on the salvation of Israel. 4 It would be a mistake to conclude that these editors were trying to stir up their contemporaries to expect the imminent Coming of the Kingdom and the End of the World (academics, on the whole, don't engage in that

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