To What Extent is Joshua-Kings ‘Deuteronomistic’?
Posted by NT Wrong on October 7, 2008
Deuteronomy has a prevalent, consistent and distinctive mode of expression and a set of theological ideas which, while not entirely different from the other books of the Torah, make it stick out from Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers.
What is more, many of these distinctive expressions and theological ideas crop up with greater or lesser regularity in the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. This prompted Andreas Masius, in the 16th Century, to proclaim that they must surely be the work of a single post-exilic author, probably Ezra, who afflatum non solum hunc Josuae, verum etiam Judicum, Regum. A version of this idea was later taken up with great gusto by Martin Noth, in his Überlieferungsgeschichtliche Studien (1943).
In an appendix to Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic School (1972), Moshe Weinfeld identified the following deuteronomic concerns also shared by Joshua-Kings:
- - affirmation of Yahweh alone
- cult centralization
- divine election of Israel, including the exodus from Egypt and covenant
- conquest and possession of the land
- law observance and covenant loyalty
- retribution by both blessing and curse
In his appendix, Weinfeld listed only those examples of ‘deuteronomistic’ phrases (that is, deuteronomic-like phrases appearing in Joshua-Kings) for which there was a similarity in both theological content and stylistic form. Weinfeld also identified a few expressions on topics such as prophecy and Davidic election that recur throughout the books of Joshua-Kings (and books such as Jeremiah), but which are not shared with Deuteronomy. So I’m going to ignore those instances below, along with any examples in Weinfeld’s appendix where only Joshua-Kings and Jeremiah have shared phrases. Also, it pays to note, that when these folk say ‘Deuteronomy’, what they really mean is some putative primitive core of Deuteronomy, such as Noth’s Deut 4.44–30.20.
So, the question is: what happens when you take Weinfeld’s appendix, and summarise the deuteronomistic content on a book-by-book basis? Is there an amazing consistency which proves the existence of a unified literary plan developed by a single author?
No, there isn’t. Have a look …
If the Deuteronomist was the single author of Joshua-Kings, he must have been a little schizophrenic! While there are large chunks of Kings which employ the language and theology of Deuteronomy, and bits of Joshua and Judges 2, there’s not much going on in the remainder of Judges and the books of Samuel. The major similarities appear in small clusters (Josh 1-2, 22-23, Judg 2-3, 1 Sam 8 and 12, 1 Kgs 2-3, 8-9, 11, 14, 16, 2 Kings 14-17, 21-23), with some very large sections lacking any deuteronomistic features at all, or even appearing to be anti-deuteronomistic (Judges). Moreover, when you look at the particular concerns of each book, they vary significantly from book to book.
Merely on the results of Weinfeld’s own analysis, things are clearly more complicated than the ‘Deuteronomist’ hypothesis allows…