Item description for The Deuteronomic School: History, Social Setting, and Literature (Studies in Biblical Literature) by F. Jr. Raymond Person...
After a brief review of the current state of research on the Deuteronomistic History (DtrH), Person proposes four perspectives to move the argument forward and to gain new insights: the use of text-critical controls for redactional arguments; the contribution of the study of oral tradition to understand the composition and transmission of biblical texts in ancient Israel; arguments for the postexilic setting of the Deuteronomic school; and the use of comparative material (Udjahorresnet and Qumran) to understand scribal guilds, such as the Deuteronomic school, in ancient Israel. The results of these new perspectives challenge the most widely accepted understandings of the redaction history of DtrH and suggest that the Deuteronomic school was a scribal guild whose redactional activity spanned a long period of time from possibly as early as the pre-exilic period to the Persian period shortly before Ezra. Person's reconstruction of the social setting of the Deuteronomic school includes their return from Babylon to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel in order to support the rebuilding of the temple with their scribal skills. This reconstruction leads to new interpretations of Deuteronomic literature (DtrH and Jeremiah).
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Studio: Society of Biblical Literature
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.98" Width: 6.36" Height: 0.46" Weight: 0.6 lbs.
Release Date Aug 1, 2002
Publisher Society of Biblical Literature
ISBN 1589830245 ISBN13 9781589830240
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A plausible reconstruction Sep 5, 2005
Largely a rebuttal to claims of 'pan-deuteronomism', Person writes at a time when many assumptions about things deuteronom(ist)ic that have seemed settled since Noth are openly questioned in the perhaps unpromising search for a new consensus. An introduction (pp. 1-16) brings the reader up to date on the proliferating meanings assigned terminology of which the definition once appeared to have been agreed, as well as on the tendency to multiply redactional layers in the Deuteronomistic literature beyond the two (Harvard School) and three (Gttingen School) that until recently seemed a sufficient menu from which to choose. Against the perceived expansionistic tendencies of deuteronomistic influence and redactions, some scholars have leveled accusations of 'pan-Deuteronism'. In the face of this, Person defends a relatively broad definition of Deuteronomic (his preferred term) influence and literatures, as well as proposing 'a way out of the confusion' by means of a four-angled approach that considers (a) text-critical controls on redaction criticism, (b) post-exilic Deuteronomic redaction, (c) evidence from ANE scribal schools, and (4) the Deuteronomic school's social location in an oral culture.
A first chapter ('Redaction Criticism and Deuteronomic Literature', pp. 17-29) admits the redaction criticism has reached the limits of its ability to subdivide redactional layers by means of linguistic arguments, since 'all Deuteronomic redactors use Deuteronomic language'. However he is not prepared to question the validity of such distinctions, since to do so would lead to abandonment of criticism altogether. M. Weinfeld's Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic Schools is accepted as a base-line statement on Deuteronomism based upon linguistic criteria, beyond which it is perhaps not wise to press further. The way out of this apparent impasse is to suppose post-exilic Deuteronomic redactional activity and to pursue this based upon text-critical criteria.
'The Deuteronomistic School in the Persian Period' (Chapter 2, pp. 31-63) fills out Person's point regarding Deuteronomistic editorial work in the post-exilic period, critiquing those who limit this to the Exile. For person, that scholarly assumption totters on the slender base that results from defining a terminus ante quem based solely upon the last-mentioned events in the work. The balance of the chapter surveys text-critical research since Qumran that indicate continued redactional work (post-LXX and on the MT) that bears the fingerprints of the Deuteronomists (a 'school', for Person, thus plural). Person complements his text-critical conclusions by questioning received wisdom about the exclusive relevance of DtrH's themes for an exilic audience, finding them just as pertinent in the post-exile. A final section offers an historical reconstruction of a Deuteronomistic school's return to the land under Persian sponsorship with sufficient infrastructure in place to support its semi-official duties.
Person's argument for the idea that biblical scribes were more than copyists will be strengthened if he can demonstrate that such was the cases across the ANE, and this is precisely what he argues in 'Scribal Schools in the Ancient Near East' (Chapter 3, pp. 65-81). Although Person shares the developing consensus that formal schools were not widespread in pre-exilic Israel, he does believe there is ample evidence for the formal training of scribes. In the exilic and post-exilic periods, the Persian empire made use of professional scribes. Person considers that the biblical portrayal of Ezra fits this institution. He believes that the Deuteronomic School returned to Yehud with Zerubbabel and finds precedent in Qumran scribal practices for a role that included not only copying but what we could today consider composition and redaction.
In his fourth chapter ('The Deuteronomic School in its Oral World', pp. 83-101), Person relies heavily upon the work of S. Niditch in an attempt to move the discussion away from individual authorship (a modern rather than ancient concept that is at home in oral cultures). Even text criticism goes awry when it understands the `word' in a literary rather than an oral matrix. In the latter case it can mean something quite different than what we products of a literary culture and training assume. Thus, many textual 'variants' should not be understood as that, but rather as alternative oral expressions of the same referent. The scribe is then akin to an oral performer as he carries out his function. Within the context of an interplay between oral and literary aspects of culture, Person would have us understand the Deuteronomic school as a 'collective unity'.
Having sketched out his theoretical assumptions, Person now turns to seating the Deuteronomic School in a particular social and historical context (Ch. 5, 'Deuteronomic Literature during the Time of Zerubbabel', pp. 103-122). His task in this chapter is to analyze selected passages with a view to how these would have been understood in his conjectured accompaniment of Zerubbabel by the School in the return to Yehud. Person envisages a kind of nomistic conditionality that would have been relevant to the task of reestablishing Jewish life in the land after the disaster-deserved according to Deuteronomistic theology-of exile. His task is carried out in similar fashion with regard to the later post-exilic period (Ch. 6, 'Deuteronomic Literature after the time of Zerubbabel, pp. 123-135). The Deuteronomists initially supported Zerubbabel's mission and lent conditional support to the Davidide leaders and temple complex under Persian sponsorship. However, they became disillusioned-an import and repeated word in Person's argument-and eventually their hopes for redemption migrated to the metahistorical sphere.
Person's final full chapter (Ch. 7, 'The Deuteronomic School and Other Postexilic Literature', pp. 137-145) cites evidence from other scholars of Deuteronom(ist)ic influence upon the redaction of the post-exilic prophets Haggai and Zechariah. Having the extended the active life of the Deuteronomic scribal school into the post-exilic period, it is convenient for Person to explain this influence in terms of full-blown Deuteronomic redaction of these two prophets' material. Indeed, Haggai and Zechariah were probably in league with the Deuteronomic School. Person then explains Ezra-Nehemiah-Chronicles as the work of a second scribal school that returned to Yehud with Ezra and was in some measure discordant with the Deuteronomists. The arrival of this new party, with Persian sponsorship, occasioned the demise of the Deuteronomic school.
Person concludes this important work with a helpful summary of his argument. The author has produced a plausible reconstruction of the social setting of the Deuteronomic School and so potentially illuminated the literature it produced. The book is marred by an unusual number of misspellings, particular in the case of authors' names and publishing houses.