1. I started Rolf Rendtorff’s The Old Testament: An Introduction this morning. On page 8, Rendtorff states regarding the Genesis narratives about the patriarchs:
We get the impression from the narratives that they do not have an exact historical idea of the period of the patriarchs, but that they want to stress that the patriarchs were not sedentary by depicting their nomadic life-style.
Rendtorff says this because, according to him, the Genesis narrative does not describe the inhabitants of the Promised Land in the time of the patriarchs. It’s like they are merely background for the protagonists. For Rendtorff, this indicates that the authors didn’t have much knowledge about the historical setting they purported to represent. A professor of mine once said that the Genesis narratives place the patriarchs in some sort of bubble.
This reminds me of a post I wrote a while back on John Van Seters’ Abraham in History and Tradition: Abraham’s Slaves?, Mechanical Christianity. According to Van Seters, the Genesis narratives offer a skewed picture of the patriarchs as nomads, without really understanding nomadic life.
2. The following passage on pages 592-593 of The Place Is Too Small for Us stood out to me:
…if the texts published under the prophets’ names contain very few real “prophetic words,” if the reconstruction of “oral tradition” from literary texts is not really reliable, if the picture of a “prophet” in Deuteronomistic texts differs fairly substantially from that in Chronistic texts, if “prophet” really is an ex post factum [['after the fact']] title, if the distinction between “true” and “false” prophets was only possible ex eventu [['after the event']] and if the designation of the “classical prophets” as “true prophets” is to be ascribed to Deuteronomistic editors and not to prophetic consciousness as such, what then was a prophet? Did the “prophets” occupy any office in society? How are the “prophetic words” regarding social, economic, and political issues to be evaluated? What was the real role of these figures in the shaping of Israelite religion? In what sense are they to be regarded as “unique”? And can we really speak of “prophetic circles” and of a prophet’s “disciples” if the locus classicus [['classic passage']] for these assumptions is not “genuine”? Why would the Deuteronomists, whose theology so extensively “called in” corroborating prophetic words, keep silent about prophets like Amos, Hosea, and Micah?
What I get out of this passage is that we’re heavily dependant on the Deuteronomists for our understanding of prophecy. But what if the Deuteronomists aren’t presenting us with an accurate picture? What can we conclude about the prophets then?
I think that the Deuteronomists were fairly accurate, since prophetic books in the Bible have many of the same themes that the Deuteronomists harp upon: Israel needs to get its act together, or God will punish her for her sins. Some may say that the Deuteronomists redacted the prophetical books. But, in my opinion, such a theme (sin, punishment, restoration) is the essence of the books. If you’re going to say that the Deuteronomists contributed that idea, then you might as well say that they wrote the prophetic books! And they most likely didn’t, because the books have different ideologies, showing that they came from a variety of hands.
3. I’m reading (or whatever you want to call it) an article in French, Charles Perrot’s “The Reading of the Bible in the Hellenistic Diaspora” (my translation). So far, he has argued on the basis of Philo and Second Temple writings that Scripture was read in proseuches, houses of prayer in the diaspora, designed to serve as a mini-temple for Jews away from what Isaiah 56 calls God’s house of prayer, the Jerusalem temple.