Sunday, September 18, 2011

Brief Introduction to the Book of Ezra-Nehemiah (with Bibliography)

Ezra begins his record in 538 BC just after the conquest of Babylon by Cyrus king of Persia (cf. Ezra 1:1) and describes some of the events leading to his own work in Jerusalem some eighty years later (458 BC) where Nehemiah takes up his primary work some twenty more years later (430-424 BC; cf. Ezra 7:7-8; Neh.13:6).  Ezra may have returned to Susa sometime after his initial visit in 458 BC.  Nehemiah arrived in 458 BC as governor of Judah and stayed for approximately twelve years during which time Ezra seems to have returned to Jerusalem.  Nehemiah returned again in 430 BC for further reforms.  It appears that the temple had been initially begun under the governor of Judah Sheshbazzar prior to Ezra’s arrival, but began again following the prophetic ministries of Haggai and Zechariah in about 520BC.  The completion and rededication of the temple occurred about 515 BC (Ezra 6:16-18). 

The nature of Ezra-Nehemiah shows essentially that they are compilations of edicts, lists, letters and the “memoirs” of Ezra and Nehemiah respectively.  The Hebrew text treats the two books of the English Bible as a single work (cf. Babylonian Talmud: Baba Bathra 15a; Jos.Con.Ap.3:8; Melito of Sardis according to Eusebius’ Ecc.Hist.IV.26 ; Jerome Prologue to the Galatians).  They were likely completed sometime ca. 400-300 BC though the earlier, rather than the later date, seems preferable (Williamson xxxvi).  It is likely the books were not originally written as a unity in part because of the repetition of lists (Ezra 2; Neh.7:6-70).  They were, however, early on joined together as a single volume and so should be regarded as such.
Archer, Gleason.  A Survey of Old Testament Introduction.  Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1994. pp.395-401.  Arnold, Bill T., and H. G. M. Williamson, eds. Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005.  Birch, Bruce C., Walter Brueggemann, Terence Fretheim, and David L. Peterson.  A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament.  Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1999. pp. 424-428.  Breneman, Mervin.  Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther.  The New American Commentary: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture, Vol. 10.  Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 1993.  Brueggemann, Walter.  An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination.  Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003. pp. 363-374.  Childs, Brevard S.  “Ezra and Nehemiah,” An Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture.     Philadelphia, PA: Augsburg Fortress Press, 1979.  pp. 624-638.  Fensham, F. Charles.  The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah.  The New International Commentary on the Old Testament.  Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1982.  Harrison, Ronald K.  “The Book of Ezra-Nehemiah,” Introduction to the Old Testament.  Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1969. pp. 1135-1151.  Kaiser, Jr., Walter C.  Toward an Old Testament Theology.  Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1991.  pp.258-261.  Kidner, Derek.  Ezra and Nehemiah.  Vol. 12, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries.  Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009.  VanGemeren, Willem A., Gen.Ed.  New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis.  5 Volumes. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1997.  Waltke, Bruce K.  An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical and Thematic Approach.  Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007. pp.771-802.  Williamson, H. G. M.  Ezra, Nehemiah.  Vol. 16, Word Biblical Commentary.  Nelson Reference & Electronic, 1985.  Young, Edward J.  “Ezra-Nehemiah,” An Introduction to the Old Testament.  London: The Tyndale Press, 1956.  pp. 369-379.

List of Abbreviations
1 Macc      = First Maccabees
1 Esd         = First Esdras
2 Macc      = Second Maccabees
AD             = Anno Domini (the Year of our Lord)
Aram.        = Aramaic
BC             = Before Christ
ca.              = approximately
cf.              = cross reference
Ecc.Hist.   = Eusebius’ Church History
Heb.           = Hebrew
Ant.           = Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews
Con.Ap.     = Josephus’ Against Apion
KJV           = King James Version of the Bible
LXX          = Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible
NASB       = New American Standard Bible (1995)
NET          = New English Translation
NIDOTTE = New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis
NIV           = New International Version (1984)                                          
NRS          = New Revised Standard Version (1989)
NT             = New Testament
OT             = Old Testament
RSV           = Revised Standard Version

The books of the Bible are as follows: Gen. Exo. Lev. Num. Deut. Josh. Jud. 1-2 Sam. 1-2 Kings 1-2 Chron. Ezra Neh. Esther Job Ps. Prov. Ecc. Song Isa. Jer. Lam. Eze. Dan. Hos. Joel Amos Oba. Jonah Mic. Nah. Hab. Zeph. Hag. Zech. Mal. Mt. Mk. Lk. Jn. Acts Rom. 1-2 Cor. Gal. Eph. Phil. Col. 1-2 Thess. 1-2 Tim. Tit. Phile. Heb. James 1-2 Pet. 1-3 Jn. Jude Rev.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Composition of the Deuteronomistic History

There are three primary schools of thought on the Deuteronomistic History. The first to postulate the DH was Martin Noth, who went against the grain of previous scholars of the Old Testament, and argued that rather than the books of Joshuah-2 Kings being the work of various authors and/or redactors that there was actually only a single author/redactor whom he called the Deuteronomistic Historian (Dtr) and whose work he labelled the Deuteronomistic History (DH). Instead of seeing many strands of tradition and compositions, Noth recognized a unification of these works which in his estimation represented five different “histories” of Israel with singular authorial intent. This singular tradent compiled numerous sources (including citing some by name) and composed his work as the theological history of Israel from the end of Moses' life to the end of the monarchy. According to Noth, it was written shortly after the release of Jehoiachin from imprisonment at the hands of the Babylonians and was intended to help Israel reflect upon the reason for their exile and God's just judgment.

Following the work of Noth, several scholars (von Rad and Wolff) noted what they believed to be redactional activity accomplished after the proposed date of the Dtr of Noth's theory. There were also issues with the largely negative assessment of Noth concerning the authorial intent of his Dtr.

This in turn led to two further schools of thought: the so-called “Harvard school” and the “Göttingen school.” The former was led by the work of Frank Moore Cross who postulated a double redaction of the DH. Essentially Cross held to Noth's theory of the more negative view of the Dtr, but added a second view for this author/editor: “grace” (DOT:HB 223). He also believed there was a later author/editor whom he labelled Dtr2 in contradistinction to Dtr1. The work of Dtr1 was (according to this school) composed sometime around the reign of Josiah and he held to hope for redemption because of the Josainic reforms. While Dtr1 held to the double message of judgment/grace (with the emphasis on the latter as the hope of Israel); Dtr2 was believed to have written during the exile and appended (and inserted into the DH of Dtr1) passages which indicated the inevitability of exile despite the earlier Josianic reforms. This was an attempt to explain the notions of judgment, hope and finally judgment.

A German scholar, R. Smend Jr., founded the “Göttingen school” of thought on the DH distinct from the “Harvard school” of Cross. Smend and his “school” postulated that Noth's Dtr was an exilic initial and primary compiler whom he called DtrG (or DtrH). This work was added to by a later redactor (whome he called DtrN) who had a particular nomistic intent to his writing and thus emphasized the law and problems of foreign presence and influence in Israel. One of Smend's students felt that Smend's theories did not sufficiently deal with all of the material of the DH and so he added a further (and later) redactor whom he labelled DtrP as the prophetic Deuteronomist. This final redactor made much of the reign of Manasseh according to Dietrich. However, it remains questionable (even among those of the “Göttingen school”) whether there really is any distinction to be made between DtrH and DtrP.

Richter, Sandra L. “Deuteronomistic History,” Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books (Eds. Bill T. Arnold and H. G. M. Williamson. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005): 219-230.