Major Book Reviews -- History and Prophecy: The Development of Late Judean Literary Traditions (the Anchor Bible Reference Library) by Brian Peckham

By Blenkinsopp, Joseph | Interpretation, January 1995 | Go to article overview

Major Book Reviews -- History and Prophecy: The Development of Late Judean Literary Traditions (the Anchor Bible Reference Library) by Brian Peckham


Blenkinsopp, Joseph, Interpretation


History and Prophecy: The Development of Late Judean Literary Traditions, by Brian Peckham. The Anchor Bible Reference Library. Doubleday, New York, 1993. 880 pp. $35.00 ISBN 0-385-42348-9.

IN THIS LATEST and bulkiest addition to the Anchor Bible Reference Library, Peckham sets out to trace the development of the literary tradition of ancient Israel with respect to the interconnected genres of historiography and prophecy and to the exclusion of the didactic and sapiential literature. His method is to set out in sequence the cumulative stages in that development, and he does so with great confidence, which may or may or not be shared by the reader, in his ability to assign dates, detect editorial accretions, and establish connections. As a third-generation disciple of the school of W. F. Albright (who, astonishingly, has only one entry in a 35-page bibliography and is absent from the index), he posits a Yahwistic prose epic, based on poetic originals, as the foundation of both the literary tradition and the faith of Israel. Set out in six episodes, each meticulously divided into incidents, the epic begins with the Garden of Eden and ends with Balaam in Numbers 22-24. The author of the epic, writing around 700 B.C, drew not only on the well-known Mesopotamian sources but also on Homer and (following John Van Seters) the Hesiodic Catalogue of Women.

Within a couple of decades, during Manasseh's reign, a Judean author composed a sequel to the epic beginning with Moses and ending with the deliverance of Jerusalem in 701 and the death of Sennacherib (II Kings 19:37). The polemical intent of the author was to prove that the covenant really worked, and by doing so to refute Isaiah, who rejected the understanding of covenant presented in the basic epic. After the fall of Jerusalem a new and expanded edition of the sequel was published, reflecting the failure of the Josian reform and substituting law for covenant as the central religious reality. The additions and editorial changes introduced in this version are precisely determined and set out in numerous diagrams. They also reach into places hitherto unsuspected by most scholars, including the Garden of Eden and the Cain and Abel narratives and the distinction between clean and unclean in the story of the Flood.

Though clearly a further stage in the development of Judean historiography, Chronicles receives scant attention, six pages out of a total of 880. The only surprise here is the statement, advanced without argument, that the author of Chronicles added large sections of Leviticus, including the so-called Holiness Code, to the Pentateuch.

One of the main points in the book, indicated in the title, is the interweaving of historiography and prophecy. In recent and not so recent scholarship one of the chief problems in this area is the failure of the deuteronomistic historian even to mention the prophets to whom books are attributed. Leaving aside Jonah ben Amittai (II Kings 14:25), the only exception is Isaiah, but a very different Isaiah from the prophet of the condemnatory oracles in Isaiah 1-39. …

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