Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

CTH 133 and the Hittite Provenance of Deuteronomy 13

Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

CTH 133 and the Hittite Provenance of Deuteronomy 13

Article excerpt

For over forty years the dominant view in scholarship has been that Deuteronomy 13 is a composition of the seventh century B.C.E. Remarkable similarities of language and norms exist between the apostasy laws of Deuteronomy 13 and the disloyalty provisions set out in section 10 of the Vassal Treaty of Esarhaddon of 672 B.C.E.1 The claim has proven especially attractive in light of the wealth of historical data in our possession for that period that would seem to support the claim. Assyrian cultic practices were present in the temple (2 Kgs 23:11); the kingdom of Judah was subjugated by Sennacherib in the time of Hezekiah (2 Kgs 18:13-18); and the name of Manasseh, king of Judah, appears on the list of Levantine kings subjugated by Esarhaddon. Assyrian domination, it is suggested, engendered a gradual socioreligious acculturation in which Judean scribes assimilated and modified the structures of Assyrian ideology within the framework of their own tradition.2 In patterning the laws of apostasy in Deuteronomy after the Neo-Assyrian sedition stipulations, the scribes of Judea were engaging in polemics and essentially turning an Assyrian form against their oppressors, asserting the imperialism of Yhwh over the imperialism of the Assyrian king.3

So compelling are the parallels of phraseology, so clearly defined is the historical setting, that Richard D. Nelson speaks for the consensus when he writes in his Deuteronomy commentary, "[Deuteronomy 13] breathes the atmosphere of Assyrian treaty documents, paralleling the requirements for loyalty found in them. . . . The similarities between this chapter and VTE are so close that a deliberate imitation of Assyrian forms is nearly certain."4

In turn, the claim of a Neo-Assyrian provenance for Deuteronomy 13 has played a major role in scholarship beyond that limited to this chapter. Because the claim enjoys the support of epigraphic evidence, many expositors have taken the connection as one sign that much of Deuteronomy as a whole was composed in the seventh century B.C.E.5 Indeed, one is hard-pressed to think of another cognate text from the first millennium whose language and norms are so close to those of a single passage of biblical law.

In this study I propose that a more compelling backdrop for the apostasy laws of Deuteronomy 13 can be located in the Late Bronze Hittite vassal treaty tradition. I will begin by drawing attention to the sedition stipulations of the Hittite treaties that closely match the apostasy laws of Deuteronomy 13-which, surprisingly, have been largely ignored by scholarship until now. My aim will be to demonstrate that in case after case we may see that the Hittite parallels are closer in content and in form to the laws of Deuteronomy 13 than are the parallels from the Neo- Assyrian tradition. Moreover, I will attempt to demonstrate that Deuteronomy 13 describes a relationship between Yhwh the sovereign and Israel the vassal that more closely resembles the relationship of a Hittite king and his vassal than that of a Neo-Assyrian king and his.

The scholarship on this chapter has identified many phrases from the Neo-Assyrian treaty tradition that resonate with the language of Deuteronomy 13. In the second part of the study, I will show that few of these parallels are distinctively Neo-Assyrian, and that nearly all have precedents in Late Bronze Hittite treaty materials. In the final section, I will consider the implications of the evidence assessed for the question of the dating of Deuteronomy 13.

Before proceeding to a review of the evidence, a methodological note is in order. As I seek to discern whether Deuteronomy 13 more closely resembles the Hittite literature or the Neo-Assyrian literature, I take the following to be axiomatic: the very fact that two bodies of material share a common element is insufficient to warrant claims of a hereditary connection between them or that they are the product of a shared milieu and a common period. …

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