I have good reason to be more than usually grateful to have been invited (quite out of the blue) to be the Bampton Lecturer for 1994. After my retirement two years ago relieved me of pressing duties, my former colleagues generously recalled that I was due to give the Bamptons in 1980, when a change of Deaneries from Durham to Christ Church suddenly demanded all my attention and forced me, with great reluctance, to withdraw. It is very pleasing, after fourteen years, to be given this second chance.
The period during which I have been mulling over the theme of these lectures goes back even further. I discover, somewhat to my surprise, that the school tradition of the Old Testament emerges, inchoately at first and quite explicitly later, in almost everything I have written. My first (and very modest) academic articles nearly fifty years ago were about Egypt and the Story of Joseph. The commentary on Daniel, which was published in 1956, placed special emphasis on its origin in a learned circle of teachers, and in The Old Testament Prophets (1958, 1977) I argued that the great independent figures of the eighth and seventh centuries were educated laymen. The Hebrew Kingdoms (1968) provided a further opportunity of developing the theme that 'men of learning made an immense, if anonymous, contribution to the presentation and growth of Israel's distinctive heritage'. Solomon's New Men (1974), as this somewhat trendy title was intended to suggest, explored the emergence of Israel as a bureaucratic state 'like all the nations' (and, in particular, Egypt), with school-trained officials to run it. I have given this outline to indicate that the present study has a certain claim to independence; it is, at least, the result of following a scent detected long ago and not of allowing fashions in scholarship to lead me by the nose.