Saint Thomas Bible notes Week 3_1

Saint Thomas Bible notes Week 3_1 - 1THE HISTORICAL BOOKS A...

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Unformatted text preview: 1THE HISTORICAL BOOKS A. Topic: Introduction to the Historical Books Objective: Overview of the content of each of the books, as well as the historical setting that prompted their production and their theology. 1. DH: Deuteronomistic History; Deuteronomists; Deuteronomic (Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings.) - From the eve of the entrance into the Promised Land until the Babylonian Exile. - Together with the Torah it forms a "Salvation History" from Creation to the Exile. - Shaped by the theological perspective of Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy is a "narrative bridge" between the Torah and the Prophets; it brings closure to the Torah (Israel's early history) and also sets the stage for the upcoming story. 2. In the Hebrew Bible (the Tanak) called, "Former Prophets" (Nevi'im); from Joshua to 2 Kings 3. Basic outline (Deuteronomy may have originally served as a preface to the history): Joshua: the beginning of the conquest of Canaan under the leadership of Joshua Judges: the process of settling the land and defending it against various enemies [Ruth: a historical novel about the Moabite ancestress of king David is placed here in Christian bibles, while it is placed in the Ketuvim section in Jewish bibles as part of the Megillot (scrolls).] 1 & 2 Samuel: the rise of the monarchy (Saul, David) and the kingdom of Israel. The personality of Samuel bridges the period of the Judges with the period of Israel's nationhood. 1 & 2 Kings: the division of Israel into two kingdoms after Solomon's death, and the decline leading to the Assyrian conquest of the North and the destruction of Judah by the Babylonians and subsequent exile/captivity - last event mentioned: the release of Judah's king Jehoiachim from prison (561 BCE) 4. Unified by a common theological perspective. - DH is not a historical account as understood today but a history interpreted from a theological viewpoint and imbued with a theological message. - DH is understood as "prophetic" in the Hebrew Bible (prophecy: the interpretation of divine actions and will within human history). 5. Each book has its own: - literary unit - historical interest - composition style - theological insight (Thus: Deuteronomistic "School" as well as author) 6. Multiple themes (thus complex history of composition: many sources and block of tradition; references in DH are made to other written sources now non-extant): a. Martin Noth (1943): DH's purpose/completion was to explain the Exile (judgment on apostasy); prior (to validate the reforms of Josiah? Joshua & Josiah as heroes) b. Gerhard Von Rad (1962): DH's purpose was also to provide assurance of divine grace and hope (release of Davidic king Jehoiachim) c. H. W. Wolff (1982): DH is a call to repentance that would lead to restoration 7. Two basic editions to DH: a. Deuteronomistic editor (Dtr1); Josiah's reign (640-609 BCE) (1 author? Jeremiah, Baruch?): - the effects of the sins of Jeroboam (authorized Baal worship in the North) - Yahweh's commitment to the Davidic kingdom (South) b. Dtr2 (550 BCE): - update till 561 BCE - a call to live faithfully in the future 8. DH & CH as `ideological literature' in the sense that they "tell about the spirit of their times as well as the events of national history" (Barry Bandstra). "No external references to events in the DH exists until relatively late. No text references or artifactual remains have been found that can confirm the accuracy or even the happenedness of biblical history from Joshua all the way until the time of Omri, the Israelite king of the ninth century BCE. This does not mean that the biblical story is necessarily inaccurate or that its players did not exist. Reasonable historians are quick to point out that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Still, it is fair to say the climate in modern biblical studies lends itself to historical skepticism given the arguably ideological nature of the texts and the ambiguous witness of external evidence." (Bandstra, 208) 9. Israelite religion developed within the context of Canaanite religion (El- storm, Baal - agriculture, Asherah- fertility). Often popular religiosity consisted of a syncretist blend of Yahwism and Baalism, highly offensive to many Israelites and to the prophets. Eventually Canaanite religion would be rejected or demytholigized and recontextualized within Yahwism. __________________________ B. Topic: The books of Deuteronomistic History (DH) Objective: Outline the main elements and message of each book. 1. Joshua: - Ancient Canaan as a strategic land-bridge - Israelites (descendants of Jacob) entered to create a homeland for themselves - Merneptah stele (1224-1211 BCE)- first external mention of "Israel" - Joshua: multiple sources (sagas, etiological tales, lists of conquered kings & tribal territories); simple linear outline, but literary and historical complexity; Joshua is idealized and so is the conquest campaign in order to give hope to Exiles of the future reclaiming of the land; a "theology of promise" with warnings - outline: a. Ch. 1-12: victorious military confrontations with Canaanites b. Ch. 13-21: distribution of territories among the twelve tribes (amphictyony? Religious conferderacy); (Harris, p. 171) c. Ch. 22-24: Joshua's farewell and covenantal rededication of Israelites - story line: a. Joshua becomes Moses' successor b. Joshua sends spies into Jericho, the Canaanite Rahab assists them c. Israelites cross the Jordan and at Gilgal all the men are circumcised d. Victorious attack on Jericho e. Achan stole property during the battle, leading to defeat at Ai; later conquest f. Gibeonites became allies g. Joshua divided the land and assigned cities of refuge h. Levites were given towns throughout the land i. At Shechem Joshua gives a final address to the people and they renew the covenant - features: monuments, Yahweh as commander of armies, holy war, priestly concerns (ark of the covenant, number 7: Sabbath), etiologies (Gibeath-haaraloth: "Hill of Foreskins, 5:3, at Gilgal) & Ai ("Ruin" and story explains why it is called as such, 8:29) - archaeology: Jericho and Ai (discrepancies); Hazor (more sophisticated Canaanite setllement replaced by a less sophisticated one - Israelites under Joshua - after its destruction in the latter 13th cent BCE) - three possible models of Israelite settlement (from Bandstra, p. 231): a. migration: peaceful and slow settlement of semi-nomads with a few skirmishes, each group with traditions eventually synthesizing them (combine, unify, harmonize). b. military conquest: core group led by Joshua; evidence of destruction and social transition exists, but not in Jericho or Ai c. internal revolt: some outside incursion, but mostly internal political and social upheaval; disenfranchised people (farmers, herdsmen) banded together and wrestled control from the oppressing upper class; Joshua and a small group of Hebrews were the catalyst for the insurrection - Shiloh as religious center (meaning for Exiles: God was not bound to Jerusalem); 22-24 - Joshua's farewell: the fulfillment of promise & warning (D) - centrality of the Covenant: loyalty to God and each other (Israel's binding glue; its strength D); "Decide today whom you will serve...As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD" 24:15) - bones of Joseph laid to rest at Shechem (closure of sequence from Genesis to Joshua, and of occupation of the land); fulfillment of promises ("Not a single promise that the LORD made to the house of Israel was broken; every one was fulfilled" 21:45) TRIBAL DIVISION OF ISRAEL 1200 1000 BCE 2. Judges: - time of internal and external turmoil; faith in Yahweh as the unifying principle - shoftim as saviors, deliverers, defenders, standing up for the oppressed and delivering the afflicted; God's judgment on Israel's enemies - 1200-1020 BCE; twelve judges (Ehud, Deborah, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson); major and minor judges - they settled disputes (thus the use of the term judges) - Philistines (Sea Peoples; migration fleeing the Agean) - Philistines (West), Israelites (East) and Canaanites (various local groups) competing for supremacy - Joshua's death mentioned 3x (Joshua & Judges); buried in the North (D) - D perspective & pattern (sin-punishment-cry for help-deliverance): a. Israel is unfaithful b. an enemy oppresses Israel c. Israel cries out for help d. Yahweh sends a judge to deliver Israel - Ehud (left-handed, word-play with tribe of Benjamin "son of the right hand") - lessons for the reader - theology: sin brings punishment, trust in God brings deliverance, God is patient and willing to forgive the repentant, lack of repentance makes punishment necessary; too "neat" and simplistic - challenged and complemented by books such as Job - "In those days Israel had no king; everyone did what he thought best" (17:6, 18:1, 19:1, 21:25) MAP OF THE UNITED KINGDOM, THAT DAVID WILL FORGE 3. 1 & 2 Samuel: - 1 & 2 Sm (originally one) - 1 & 2 Sm and 1 & 2Kgs in Septuagint: Kingdoms I, II, III and IV - figure of Samuel bridges Judges and the kingdom - division: a. Samuel (1 Sm 1-12) b. Saul (1 Sm 13-31) c. David (2 Sm) - a look back at triumphs and failures; a look forward as instructions to new leaders that might arise (D) - Samuel's farewell speech: 1 Sm 12:14-15 (D's theology in speeches) - Hannah's song (2:1-8; Mary's "magnificat" Lk 1:46-55): theme of "reversal of fortune" (the proud will be humbled and the humble exalted: from beginning to the end of the books) - Hannah (humble) - Peninnah (arrogant) - Samuel (humble) - Eli's sons Hophni & Phineas (presumptuous) [also story of transition from Abiathar priesthood stationed at Shiloh to the Zadok priesthood dynasty that supported the Davidic royal line] - David (youngest; weakest) - Goliath (strongest) - Philistine threat - transition from confederacy (covenant federation) of tribes with Yahweh as king to a united kingdom under an earthly ruler; originally theocratic idealism; incorporated prophetic critique of the establishment of the monarchy - two traditions/sources - one favoring (A) and the other opposing kingship (B), intertwined in an alternating way (a necessary evil); nuanced and realistic evaluation - anointing (masha), anointed one (mashiach) - Saul, David, and God's spirit - Israel's concept of kingship (earthly subordinate to the divine, not absolute) - the call and career of Samuel (Samuel cycle); judge, priest, prophet (interprets divine will) - downfall of Saul (Saul cycle) and the rise & kingship of David (David cycle) - David, politically astute/savvy: - mourned Saul so as not to alienate Saul's supporters - killed those who showed loyalty to him by slaying his opponent to the north - made a covenant with the northern tribes and became king of both N. & S. (Harris, p. 195) - moved capital from Hebron to Jebus (Jerusalem: "City of David") - rid the Philistines from the territory - brought the ark (symbol of the tribal federation) to Jerusalem - Davidic Covenant (2 Sm 7:16); would evolve into royal messianism (a theme incorporated, but transformed, in the NT Lk 1:32-33, 69; 2:11); Nathan - royal court prophet - Biographical sketch of David: - anointed king by Samuel - played the harp for Saul, also his armor-bearer - killed Goliath the Philistine - befriended Jonathan, Saul's son - married Saul's daughter, Michal - pursued by Saul, took refuge in Philistia - married Abigail who helped him - mourned death of Saul and Jonathan - victorious over opponents - anointed king over Judah - anointed king over Israel - captured Jebus (Jerusalem) and made it the national capital - brought the ark to Jerusalem and made the city the religious capital - wished to build a Temple to Yahweh in Jerusalem - promised an everlasting dynasty - committed adultery with Bathsheba - strife in his household: Amnon, Tamar, Absalom - fled Jerusalem after Absalom's coup d'etat; son dies in battle - built an altar on Araunah's threshing floor (future site of the Temple) - his son Solomon succeeded him after his death - lesson: "the need for absolute dependence on God, along with obedience to the Torah that would hold in check a kings's impulse to exalt himself above the law" (Bandstra) [Tell Dan - "House of David" inscription: mlk ysr-l...byt dwd; Davidic dynasty; King of Aram of Damascus over a king a Israel - ca. 850 BCE] THE "CITY OF DAVID" IN THE 900'S BC. Source: Biblical Archaeology Review: sue=3d6&ArticleID=3d5&UserID=3d0& J.D. Bartell David and Solomon's Jerusalem, still known as the City of David, is the oldest part of the city. It extends south from Jerusalem's walled Old City. In the accompanying article, author Jane Cahill argues that archaeological remains bear evidence that Jerusalem was a major city in the tenth century B.C.E., the age of David and Solomon. The drawing is an artist's rendition of the City of David in Solomon's time. In that period Middle Bronze Age fortifications and towers were still in use. The drawing also shows a later, eighth-century, wall. EXCAVATIONS OF AT THE CITY OF DAVID Source: 3d30&Issue=3d6&ArticleID=3d5&UserID=3d0& City of David Society The burnt room house, so-named because one room was severely burned during the Babylonian destruction of 586 B.C.E. Other areas of the house bear evidence of the nature of tenth-century B.C.E. Jerusalem. Both this house and others adjacent to it were built when parts of the Stepped-Stone Structure were removed to make room for a new residential quarter. Beneath the floor were several strata, including one, Stratum 14, that dates to the early years of the United Monarchy--strong evidence, author Cahill maintains, that Jerusalem was a flourishing city soon after the reign of King David. EXCAVATIONS IN THE CITY OF DAVID (MT. OPHEL), JERUSALEM, TODAY Below courtesy of the Biblical Archaeology Society archives Volume=3d20&Issue=3d2&ArticleID=3d1&UserID=3d0& : Zev Radovan "House of David" and "King of Israel," two phrases in this inscription, thrilled the world of Biblical archaeology last July. The former represents the first reference to David in a First Temple-period inscription; and the latter may be the oldest known extra-Biblical reference to Israel in a Semitic script. Uncovered at Tel Dan, in northern Galilee, the foot-high basalt fragment was probably part of a stela, or inscribed standing stone, erected by a foreign conqueror of Dan. The clearly engraved inscription appears to have been executed by someone using an iron. In the translation, the material in brackets represents suggested reconstructions. Fortunately, the phrases "House of David" (the dynastic name of the kingdom of Judah) and "king of Israel" (often used without a specific name in the Books of Kings) need no reconstruction. The inscription seems to commemorate the victory of an Aramean king over the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. One of the Aramean king's military commanders probably erected the stela, for it speaks of "my king" (line 6). In view of the date and the location in Galilee, among other factors, the stela may describe events in the war of Ben Hadad I against King Baasha of Israel in 885 B.C.E. (1 Kings 15:16 22; 2 Chronicles 16:16). In any case, it shows that Israel and Judah were important kingdoms in the ninth century B.C.E. When the Israelites reconquered Dan, they apparently destroyed the stela and used its pieces in the wall. 4. 1 & 2 Kings: - originally one; list of kings N. & S. until the Exile - D: faithfulness to Yahweh and loyalty to Jerusalem - motif of `reversal of primogeniture' (found in Genesis, for example) to justify Solomon's reign? Solomon was Bathsheba's son, Adonijah was David's older son - focus: the kings' effectiveness as a religious leader and model citizen; kings judged as to whether they "did right" or "did wrong" in the eyes of Yahweh; faithfulness or idolatry - prejudiced against the North that had divided from the South and was on religiously unfaithful - three main divisions: a. the kingdom of Solomon b. civil conflict that led to division and subsequent parallel histories of Israel and Judah c. history of Judah down to the Babylon exile - story line (Bandstra): a. David dies (Court History of David - Succession History) Solomon (supported by David, Bathsheba, Zadok, Benaiah) eliminates rivals (Adonijah, Joab, Abiathar) and becomes king after David's death (1 Kgs. 1-2) b. Solomon recognized for his wisdom; built the Temple in Jerusalem (religious capital) (3-8) c. Solomon lost popularity and divine support due to his excesses (too much public debt, too many wives, mistreatment of northerners) (9-11) d. Solomon dies, Rehoboam, his son, threatens the North with harshness; North creates its own nation under Jeroboam (Israel, with Shechem as capital; Dan and Bethel the religious centers with golden calves - condemned by D) (1214) e. Israel's monarchy less stable until Omri (moved capital to Samaria); afterwards, Omri's son Ahab promoted Baal practices and was challenged by the prophet Elijah and others (15-16); (Harris, p. 202 Moabite Stone) f. Prophet Elisha followed Elijah in opposition to Omri's dynasty (2 Kgs 1-8) g. Jehu eliminated the `house of Omri' and established his own dynasty; Israel and Judah coexisted (9-16) h. Assyria conquered and destroyed Israel and attacked Judah (17), but Hezekiah's Judah survived (18-20) i. Evil king Manasseh (21) was followed by good king Josiah who reformed religion in Judah (22-23) j. Judah was conquered by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, who destroyed Jerusalem and deported many Judeans (24-25) - David's farewell, reminiscent of Yahweh's charge to Joshua (D) - Solomon renowned for his wisdom (discernment, practical, "scientific"); (like Adam who categorized animals, he categorized flora & fauna - Y's Adam-Eve story written during Solomon's reign); but decisions over the tribal territories and taxation backfires - Temple: symbol of the world over which Yahweh rules (Harris, p. 193): a. outer courtyard basin (waters of chaos) b. outer room (hekal) with pictures of plants and animals, with the lights of heaven (menorah), depicting the physical world c. inner sanctum (devir) cube covered with gold & ark of the covenant, depicting heaven where God dwells enthroned - Palace, more opulent than the Temple - Solomon's downfall: 1,000 wives (political international arrangements), but allowed them to worship their gods and compromised loyalty to Yahweh (D interprets this as the seeds of disintegration); theological rationale for the division - parallel histories of Israel & Judah (patterned) (Bandstra): Judah: a. date the king took the throne relative to the reign of the king of Israel b. the age at which he came to the throne c. the name of the mother of the king (the queen mother) d. a value judgment of the king relative to David, who was the standard of comparison Israel: a. the date the king took the throne relative to the reign of the king of Judah b. the location of the capital city of Israel c. the length of the reign d. a negative evaluation of the king (applying to all kings except Shallum, who only reigned one month) - Elijah cycle (group of stories); oral sources: - Elijah as Yahweh's champion vs. Ahab and Jezebel - pits Yahweh against Baal in Baal's own turf - Baal ("Rider on the Clouds") controlled agricultural fertility with rain - Elijah declares a drought - widow and son in Zarephath: Yahweh's life-giving power in the territory of Baal - the true God of storms and the world vs. the prophets of Baal (contest) - unexpected theophany at Horeb - Micaiah (prophet): access to the throne room of Yahweh, where he receives true knowledge and historical insight straight from Yahweh, and sees the divine council at work. False prophets only claim to speak for Yahweh. - Elijah's transportation into heaven at Mt. Nebo (like Moses): in messianism, Elijah's return prior to the messiah's appearing - Elisha, successor (as Joshua was to Moses) - Elisha cycle occupied with miracles (10) in 2 Kgs 3-10; miracle worker & prophetic figure - Jehu (Shalmaneser III obilisk; Harris, p. 201, 203) - Ahaz (Judah) & Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria vs. Israel and Syrians; Damascus - Isaiah of Jerusalem (Immanuel prophecies Is. 7-11) - Shalmanezer V's siege of Samaria, Israel (721); deportation and repopulation of the North (Samaritans) - Judah alone remained - King Hezekiah of Judah eliminates Baal shrines - Sennacherib's failed siege of Jerusalem (701BCE), attributed to divine intervention (also domestic problems) & due to Hezekiah's prayer (Isaiah delivered a favorable oracle from YHWH); Assyrian royall annals provide independent witness of the event but paints Hezekiah in Jerusalem "like a bird in a cage. - Manasseh, son of Hezekiah (687-642) - wicked king, rebuilt Baal shrines, brutal (exile will ultimately be blamed on him) - Josiah's reform (2 Kgs 21-23) - second after David in goodness - re-established appropriate worship at the Temple - Hilkiah (high priest) discovered the "book of the Torah"; Josiah was distraught at its warnings. Huldah the prophetess affirmed its validity and comforted Josiah and the court - tore down Baal shrines and shrines to other gods - centralized worship in Jerusalem - Passover celebrated in Jerusalem again - Deuteronomy's historical context - killed in battle against Pharaoh Neco's armies in 605 BCE - Fall of Jerusalem: [Jeremiah] - king Jehoiachim and nobles carted off to Babylon - king Zedekiah (598-587 BCE) rebelled and Jerusalem and its Temple were destroyed - Judea: an impoverished Babylonian province - exiles began a new life in Babylon - DH concludes as Jehoiachin is freed from prison (560 BCE); cautious optimism. Babylonian records conquer with his imprisonment - Judah's community still survives and hope for a messianic recovery SOLOMON'S TEMPLE IN JERUSALEM Courtesy of: old%20testament/overview%20VI.htm REIGNS OF THE KINGS DURING THE DIVIDED KINGDOM ISRAEL (NORTHERN KINGDOM) KING Jeroboam I Nadab Baasha CO-REGENCY REIGN 931/30-910/09 910/09-909/08 909/08-886/85 JUDAH (SOUTHERN KINGDOM) KING Reoboam Abijah Asa CO-REGENCY REIGN 931/30-913 913-911/10 911/10-870/69 Elah Zimri Tibni Omri Ahab Ahaziah Jehoram Jehu Jehoahaz Jehoash Jeroboam II Zechariah Shallum Menahem Pekahiah Pekah Hoshea 752-740/39 752 793/92-782/81 885/84-880 886/85-885/84 885/84 885/84-880 880-874/73 874/73-853 853-852 852-841 841-814/13 814/13-798 798-782/81 782/81-753 753-752 752-742/41 742/41-740/39 740/39-732/31 732/31-723/22 Hezekiah Manasseh Amon Josiah Jehoahaz Jehoiakim Jeconiah Zedekiah 729-695 695-641 640-639 638-608 607 607-597 597 597-586 Ahaz 735-732/31 732/31-716/15 Jotham 750-740/39 740/39-732/31 Jehoshaphat Joram Ahaziah Athaliah Joash Amaziah Uzziah 792/91-767 872/71-870/69 853-848 870/69-848 848-841 841 841-835 835-796 796-767 767-740/39 These final dates assume that the Bible is correct in some disputed texts involving the duration of the reign of Hezekiah and differ from Thiele who takes an opposing view. However, they also are in agreement with the secular dates recorded by the Gentile kings. The one year uncertainty in the start of each reign stems from the fact that the reign of Jeroboam I began when he rebelled against king Reoboam following the death of Solomon. However, the season of the year for that rebellion is unknown, so the season of the year when Jeroboam I began to reign is also unknown, thereby causing a one year uncertainty in the calendar. ________________________ C: The Books of Chronistic History (CH) Objective: Outline the main elements and message of each book. 1. Authorship Date Audience Theme DH Northern Levites 550 BCE Exilic community Reasons for God's judgment CH Postexilic Levites 400-250 BCE Restoration community Jerusalem temple, worship, Levites 2. Postexilic world: - Second Temple Period: a. Persian (539-330 BCE); Cyrus, Artaxerxes, Darius, Xerxes b. Greek (330-164 BCE); Alexander, Hellenism; Ptolemies, Seleucids c. Independence (164-63 BCE); Antiochus Epiphanes, Maccabees, Hasmoneans d. Roman (63 BCE-135 CE); Pompey, Augustus, Herod, prefects, Titus - Cyrus the Great - Persian Empire (539 BCE) - Diaspora - main centers: - Babylon: 600's C.E. Babylonian Jews compile The Talmud: "a vast compendium of oral tradition that eventually became the supreme guidebook of rabbinical Judaism" (Harris, 295) - Egypt: 200's B.C.E. Jews gradually produce Greek translations of the Bible that eventually become known as the Septuagint (Christian Old Testament) - harsh life for returnees (remnant) in Palestine (land, towns, city, locals) - Persian support: (Base on: Reading the Old Testament by Barry L. Bandstra) 1. 538 B.C.E. Shesbazzar led a return after Cyrus, king of Persia (550-530), gave permission. Temple rebuilding was begun, but due to economic hardship and local opposition ("Samaritans"?) it was not finished at that time. 2. 522 B.C.E. Zerubbabel and Joshua, the high priest, led a second group of Jews back to Palestine during the reign of Darius I (522-486). They succeeded in completing a temple in Jerusalem in 515. Book of Zerubbabel: Ezra 1-6 (515 B.C.E.) 3. 458 B.C.E. Ezra led a group of Jews back to Palestine during the reign of Artaxerxes I (465-424) and reestablished adherence to Mosaic standards of law and religion. Ezra Memoirs: Ezra 7-10, Neh 8-9 (458 B.C.E.) 4. 445 B.C.E. Nehemiah organized the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem and returned religious and civil authority to the Levites. Nehemiah Memoirs: Neh 1-7, 10-13 (445 B.C.E. Ezra-Nehemiah completed (400 B.C.E.?) The Cyrus Cylinder, housed in the British Museum. The cuneiform text declares a series of reforms (as was typical with new kings) and the release of captives and restoration of their cities and temples. Although the Jews are not specifically mentioned, they would have been included among the captives to be released. 3. 1 & 2 Chronicles: - the "Chronicler" - 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah (CH), but probably different authors - history: from Adam to post-exilic Persian Period (400's BCE) - critical formative time - transformation and development of Judaism - concern not simply with the past but the present and future; continuity, discontinuity, progression - idealistic history of Israel (Samuel & Kings re-written from a more optimistic and religious vantage point); weaknesses and scandals of kings omitted (even Manasseh repents!) - stress is placed on: a. the validity of Judah's cultic institutions ("the ritual and religious practices at a temple or other place of worship" - RG Oxford Bible) b. continuity with the past c. legitimacy of the Davidic dynasty; David as king-priest d. the Temple of Jerusalem & focus on the role of priesthood rather than monarchy e. Israel as a religious entity among nations - Conclusion of Hebrew Scriptures: Cyrus calling on Jews to "go up" to the holy city Jerusalem 4. Ezra-Nehemiah (a short essay): I. The Significance of Ezra-Nehemiah The post-exilic period of Israel's history, also known as the Persian Period, saw one of the most decisive moments in the development of Judaism, and yet little survives from this era compared to other chapters in Israel's dramatic story. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah, which are companion works from this era ("two parts of a single work"1), yield more literature than historical detail, but they are crucial for understanding the socio-cultural, political, and religious forces that shaped Judaism as we know it, and paved the way for the Palestinian world of the first century C.E. 2 Joseph Blenkinsopp comments that anyone wishing to adequately study that world and the formation of Judaism need to understand that the "issues debated and the battles being fought then must be traced back to the formative period of the two centuries of Persian rule; issues focusing on conflicting legal interpretations, the confessional status of certain beliefs and practices, relation to the outside world, proselytism, acceptance and non-acceptance of the political status quo, tension between assimilationist and anti-assimilationist tendencies, etc."3 He continues by saying that "With all of its problems, some insoluble, Ezra-Nehemiah is the indispensable source for our knowledge of that period which links the world of Israel with that of emerging Judaism."4 Most importantly is the purpose of the book, which Richard Nelson sees as a "claim to legitimacy" for a people who are experiencing profound distress, as well as a call that rouses them to "faith, action, and worship."5 It was for these reasons that my interest in this period led me to study it to some degree. Blenkinsopp classifies Ezra-Nehemiah within the "second great historical corpus of the Hebrew Bible."6 The first stems from Genesis to 2 Kings ("from Creation to catastrophe of the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple followed by exile"), the second "takes in the constitution of a new community around a rebuilt sanctuary."7 This new community in turn reinterpreted the events of the past recorded in Genesis and Exodus that concluded with 2 Kings "with reference to the possibilities and constraints of the new situation confronting the people," and with the sanctuary (as in the Priestly tradition) symbolic of the "creation of the world as a temple for the worship of God." 8 Richard Nelson identifies three `sub-plots' of "national achievement that provides Ezra-Nehemiah with its basic structure: "[1] rebuilding the temple, [2] reforming the community, and reconstructing the city wall...culminating in [3] the shared climax of a renewal of the covenant."9 Ezra-Nehemiah, Blenkinsopp points out, does not have the sophistication of the contemporary Greek philosophical progress, something he attributes to the fact that in contrast to the stable economy of Greece that had allowed for a "class of lay thinkers," Judah, where Ezra-Nehemiah originated, was marked instead at the time by significant economic distress. 10 Yet, together with Chronicles, which Blenkinsopp holds has a "structural unity" with Ezra-Nehemiah, this work "allows us to see what the story is really all about. It is giving the people back their history, a usable past which will enable them to see that their lives have meaning even in an imperfect world, even in the absence of political autonomy."11 The books, particularly the first six chapters of Ezra, represent the restoration story as a new exodus and settlement. 12 The books also represent the "furthest limit of the [biblical] story [of the time], the gathering up of the past and reshaping it in such a way as to allow for a future. Those who did the reshaping...were concerned not so much to produce a polished and finished work (which Ezra-Nehemiah certainly is not) as to sustain the life and energy of the community to which they belonged."13 Placed within this crucial historical backdrop the student of these works can readily appreciate their value not only for the original readers of the works but also for the community of faith as it continued to face challenges to its identity and meaning during troubled and uncertain times. II. Features of Ezra-Nehemiah Crucial for dating the stories in the twin-works is the question of when Ezra arrived in Jerusalem, a date that most scholars hold to be 458 B.C.E., although a few will contend for a date of around 398. 14 According to Williamson the work was composed in two separate stages, placing most of the composition of Ezra-Nehemiah c. 400 B.C.E. and Ezra 1-6 c. 300 B.C.E.15 However, Blenkinsopp disputes this hypothesis, alluding to the "close linguistic, stylistic, thematic, and structural affinity between Chronicles and Ezra 1-6." 16 Authorship is also a disputed area for scholars, though Williamson strongly beliefs in the autobiographical sections of Ezra-Nehemiah composed by the protagonists themselves (these are abbreviated NM for `Nehemiah memoir' and EM for `Ezra memoir').17 Nelson places the composition at around 400 B.C.E. Blenkinsopp, on the other hand, though not refuting such a claim entirely, places more credibility on the Chronicler as the chief author of a triple composition: Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah. 18 F. Charles Fensham agrees with the proposal that the first-person narratives are to be attributed to Nehemiah and Ezra themselves while the third-person narratives should be attributed to the Chronicler, admitting that the authorship of these books and the "relationship between these two figures [Ezra and Nehemiah] remains one of the most difficult problems of OT research."19 Another noticeable trait of the work is its use of multiple sources. Sources include royal and official decrees, inventories, lists of names, genealogies, letters, and other documents joined together by a narrative framework, and that both Hebrew and Aramaic (the language of the Persian Empire) are employed.20 Though probably active at slightly different years in Jerusalem (Ezra arrives in 458, the 7 th year of the reign of Artaxerxes, and Nehemiah is appointed governor of Judah by Artaxerxes in 445 B.C.E.), the author (or authors and editors) places Ezra and Nehemiah as contemporaries. The author does this in part by interjecting Ezra's public reading the Law toward the end of Nehemiah's rebuilding of the wall which occurred thirteen years later. In all probability the two events in Ezra's career would have taken place within months of each other and not over a dozen years apart, but Ezra's reading of the Law interjected at this point highlights the events as climactic.21 Fensham, however, maintains that Ezra returned to Judah, after having departed for Susa, to support Nehemiah's reforms, thus accounting for the lapse in between.22 This view is rejected by most scholars. Much remains unclear about both the authors and the dates of composition, as well as the chronology of events, this triple set of problems produce a veritable web of complexities. Richard Nelson comments that "Not surprisingly, scholars have found it difficult to reconstruct a coherent picture of the restoration period."23 Ezra and Nehemiah are not neatly arranged works but rather display substantial inter-textual association and editing, which is one of the reasons why they were until the time of Origen considered one work. Its very composition is thus complex; often chapters from one `book' fit better, in the chronological scheme of the story, within the other `book.' Nelson points out that it is obvious to scholars that EzraNehemiah's author or authors were more intent on the theological import of the arrangement than on historical/ chronological accuracy.24 He sites four examples of overt manipulation of historical details in order to benefit its theological message: (1) Sheshbazzar, the one who began the re-construction of the temple, is replaced by Zerubbabel, a descendent of David, in the hope of Davidic restoration, (2) half a century of history is passed over by the author who is concerned mostly with events that have theological significance, (3) a letter from Artexerxes that involves the building of the wall of Jerusalem is changed to appear as a earlier letter from King Darius about the construction of the temple, and (4) Ezra and Nehemiah's careers are placed as simultaneous events when in fact Ezra' mission would have been concluded "over a decade before Nehemiah appeared on the scene."25 Nelson concludes that "the author's coordination of Ezra and Nehemiah may have been bad history, but it made for coherent theological literature."26 Blenkinsopp believes that the evidence that supports one author (the "Chronicler") for Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah is greater than the one that does not. He points out that they are brought into relationship with each other by the concluding verses of 2 Chronicles 36:22-23, which are "practically identical with the opening verses of Ezra."27 There are also significant thematic and structural features in the Ezra-Nehemiah that support the claim for a single author.28 Nelson identifies several structuring devices: (1) "the personal character of the presentation" (Blenkinsopp notes that the narrative characteristic of the work in its interplay between first and third-person narrative is a feature identified in some of the Psalms, in Near Eastern royal inscriptions, as well as Egyptian autobiographical texts29), (2) the use of linking phrases such as "after this," (3) "brief summary statements that hold together the narrative units," (4) "the technique of contrasting dialogue," and (5) "regular references to dates."30 Significantly, there is a strong polemical aspect to the work. Blenkinsopp proposes that the "conflation into narrative of a single event [of what would have been historically separate ones: the missions of the scribe Ezra and of the public official Nehemiah], in which both are active as contemporaries was inspired by a desire to give the priest and scribe [Ezra], whose mission was not an unqualified success, his full due over against the layman [Nehemiah] whose political achievements were a matter of record." 31 Blenkinsopp also notes that at different periods, and for different reasons within the history of Judaism, one or another figure was chosen as the founding father and model of Judaism. The book of Sirach prefers Nehemiah as the "real founder of the commonwealth and the ideal of political-religious leadership" as it did for the Hasmonean dynasty.32 The Chronicler as the chief redactor, however, and 2 Esdras, "written toward the end of the first century C.E. [the post-temple period where the Law took on a far more essential aspect for the survival of Judaism and Pharisaic rabbinism], transforms Ezra into a prophet and apocalyptic seer after the manner of Moses."33 Robert North also describes the polemical character of Ezra-Nehemiah, pointing out what has been suggested, that the Chronicler prefers the figure of Ezra over that of Nehemiah and that a "post-Chronicler redactor raises Nehemiah to a prominence alongside David and Ezra."34 More importantly, perhaps, are the people whom the books describe and to whom they were addressed. These post-exilic communities faced the formidable task of rebuilding not simply their temple, walls, towns, but rebuilding their lives, morale, and faith as a community of divine election. The obstacles were present throughout the entire process, whether external opposition or internal disillusionment. They experienced both a sense of continuity and discontinuity with the past, and they had to forge an uncertain future for themselves. Although they had regained their land, they were under foreign Persian rule and under almost unbearable taxation. Nelson aptly summarizes the profoundly hopeful and encouraging message of the work: "To this harassed community living on the edge, Ezra-Nehemiah declares a word of legitimacy and divine election. You are the true Israel. Your temple worship is in direct continuity with everything Moses and David mandated. Do not despair over your powerless and enslaved political situation. Remember that the Persian kings have been used as instruments of God's plans for our community. Do not be discouraged over the hostility of neighboring peoples or the ritually polluted state of so much that is around you. Instead, rededicate yourself to adherence to the law of Moses in all areas of life ritual, personal, and social. Confess your transgressions and commit yourselves to God's law. Carry on the task of rebuilding the community, confident that you can count on God's help."35 He also notes the rhetorical features that support these "powerful claims and challenges," including: "the use of authoritative official documents, impressive lists, and vivid eyewitness narratives," as well as genealogies that connect them directly to their past.36 Most impressive are the number of instances where "strong imperatives are addressed to the readers to comfort them and rouse them to faith, action, and worship."37 Conclusions: The audience of the final redaction of Ezra-Nehemiah is the people living primarily in Judah during the turn of the fifth to fourth century B.C.E. These are a people still under the dominion of Persian rule, and who still felt themselves "slaves" (Neh 9:36). Perhaps they are beginning to forget the victories of the past one hundred years and are beginning to feel disheartened. Ezra-Nehemiah reminds these people that "the favoring hand of God" still "rested upon" them (an oft-repeated phrase), and thus that they are still the elect of God, still the bearers of the covenant and of the divine promises. The triple themes of the book give the audience of the books a blueprint for ongoing reformation and development, and thus set an agenda for the future. Finally, through the heroic examples in the books the people can rest assured that during perilous times God's help will continue to be granted so that they can overcome the obstacles ahead and fulfill their vocation and destiny as God's people. Today the message of restoration, reformation, and renewal is being heard again in Bible studies, university classrooms, liberation and feminist theologies, ecclesial documents and actions, theological literature, and by the countless women, men, and young people involved in the proclamation of the gospel message to the people of our times, a people "on the edge," called to choose between a pseudo-progress that dehumanizes and authentic progress which is the humanization of culture, society, and the world. EzraNehemiah speaks a timely message that needs to be heard and responded to as the people of Nehemiah 8 did. The Post-exilic world in Israel saw the emergence of a `metamorphasized' Judaism. Its transformation was due to the experience of dispersion (Diaspora). Without the centralized Jerusalem Templesystem and its connection to the monarchy of Judah, dispersed Jews began to place emphasis on aspects of the faith that could be observed in any place they lived, and that could assure its endurance. The keeping of the Sabbath and holy feasts and circumcision were all concrete means of preserving their identity as a minority group. The Law was also at the heart of this new reality. Although there is discussion as to what "the Law" represents in Ezra-Nehemiah, it can be accepted that the Torah is vital to this.89 Its very constitution (final formation; redaction) took place around the Exilic period. Although its roots lie in the Yahwist (Southern traditions, 900's B.C.) and Elohist (Northern traditions, 800's), together with their fusion in the 700's, the Torah as a defining corpus would become institutionalized only after the Exile. The Deuteronomists (600's to early 500's) had collected and developed a history of Israel (DH: Deuteronomy, Joshua, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings), from the conquest of Canaan to the Exile, with the book of Deuteronomy as its introduction. During, and just following the Exile (500's), the Priestly authors wrote Leviticus as well as additions to Genesis, Exodus and Numbers. Presumably the Priestly school or some other redactors connected to them gave the Torah its definitive form sometime in the 400's B.C. When Ezra arrives in Judah, it is the Torah that he places emphasis on. King Zerubbabel, who was hoped would restore the Davidic kingdom, had focused on national unity with the rebuilding of Temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem as its central symbol. The reformer Jewish governor from Persia, Nehemiah, had focused on the national boundaries necessary to sustain the identity of the people. His rebuilding of Jerusalem's walls, the social boundaries brought about by institutionalizing of the Sabbath, and his restrictions on inter-marriage all serve the national identity and its protection against its dissolution. Ezra the Jewish Babylonian priestly-scribe (connected in some way perhaps to the Priestly school that promulgated the Torah) focused instead on the broader spiritual (intellectual, moral, relational, religious) and everyday life of the people. The Torah would thus become the foundation for a way of thinking and living, the way of Judah, Juda-ism. The Torah would become the everyday and long-term sustenance of this way as an abiding relationship with Yahweh as Yahweh's distinct people. The promulgation of the Law by Ezra in essence signaled a new approach, not based solely on territory (Holy Land) or monarchy, but on the maintenance of relationship based on a common foundational national story taught in the form of a theological narrative, and on the religious, moral, and social-cultural implications of that epic story. 5. Deutero-canonicals within "Historical Books" (summaries from Stephen Harris, Understanding the Bible, p. 239): Tobit: a short story about faithful Jews in the Diaspora (Jews living in communities dispersed in lands outside of Palestine) Judith: a historical romance that highlights the dangers threatening Diaspora Jews 1 Maccabees: an historical account of the Jewish revolt against the oppression of the Syrian king Antiochus IV (Epiphanes) 2 Maccabees: a vivid elaboration of the persecutions and tortures that Antiochus IV inflicted on Jewish martyrs Additions to Esther JERUSALEM TODAY FROM THE MOUNT OF OLIVES ...
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