Item description for Spirit and the Word (Fortress Classics in Biblical Studies) by Sigmund Mowinckel & K. C. Hanson...
Overview This volume brings together some of Mowinckel's most important and interesting work on the prophets. He begins by introducing the reader to the method of tradition history and how it is related to form criticism and literary criticism. From this groundwork, he goes on to explore how this method is essential for analyzing the prophetic literature in the Hebrew Bible. In order to make it more helpful for students, each essay has been supplemented with additional notes and bibliography to show where the discussion has continued since Mowinckel. A bibliography of Mowinckel's work in English and a bibliography of essays evaluating Mowinckel's contributions are also included. This will provide an excellent supplementary textbook for courses on the prophets.
Publishers Description This volume brings together some of Mowinckel's most important and interesting work on the prophets. He begins by introducing the reader to the method of tradition history and how it is related to form criticism and literary criticism. From this groundwork, he goes on to explore how this method is essential for analyzing the prophetic literature in the Hebrew Bible. In order to make it more helpful for students, each essay has been supplemented with additional notes and bibliography to show where the discussion has continued since Mowinckel. A bibliography of Mowinckel's works in English and a bibliography of essays evaluating Mowinckel's contributions are also included. This will provide an excellent supplementary textbook for courses on the prophets. Key Features: provides an introduction in Old Testament tradition history an editor's foreword highlights the importance of Mowinckel's work includes updated notes and bibliographies includes chapters not previously published in the U.S. indexes of ancient sources and authors
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Studio: Augsburg Fortress Publishers
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.96" Width: 6.04" Height: 0.47" Weight: 0.69 lbs.
Release Date Aug 1, 2002
Publisher Augsburg Fortress Publishers
Series Fortress Classics In Biblical St
ISBN 080063487X ISBN13 9780800634872
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More About Sigmund Mowinckel & K. C. Hanson
Sigmund Mowinckel (1884b"1965), widely regarded as one of the most important biblical scholars of the twentieth century, was professor of Old Testament at the University of Oslo, Norway. Among his other publications in English is The Spirit and the Word: Prophecy and Tradition in Ancient Israel.
Sigmund Mowinckel was born in 1884 and died in 1965.
Sigmund Mowinckel has published or released items in the following series...
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the tradition and the saying Aug 10, 2006
This entry in the Fortress Classics in Biblical Studies series brings to fresh light some classic exemplars of twentieth-century Old Testament criticism, no small contribution in a moment when the discipline's fast-fragmenting methodologies threaten biblical scholars with amnesia.
K.C. Hanson's introduction of Mowinckel manages to be both judicious and concise, clarifying his role as both heir and critic of the older literary criticism and a shaper of tradition criticism, one of the dominant strains of biblical criticism in the twentieth century. Subsequently the book's eleven essays are organized under three rubrics: `Part I: The Relationship of Methods; `Part II: Tradition History and the Study of the Prophets'; and `Part III: The Prophetic Experience'.
The book's opening section (`Part I: The Relationship of Methods') displays Mowinckel's self-conscious efforts to move his guild beyond source criticism and on to a reckoning with his material's essential orality. The first of two essays (`1. Form, Tradition, and Literary Criticism', pp. 3-15) allows Mowinckel to identify a mediating position between literary criticism and its form- and tradition-critical successor. Indeed, he might have preferred the term `complement' to `successor', for he is vehement in his advocacy of a both/and approach to the literature rather than an exclusivity of one method over against another. `Scholarship', the author reminds us, `is not well served by slogans.'
A review of the essays' titles leads one to anticipate a degree of overlap in content and presentation, a promise that the book keeps (`2. Tradition Criticism and Literary Criticism', pp 16-29). Yet this does not detract from its value. Indeed, in our day of methodological self-doubt, it is refreshing to observe a convinced practitioner from several angles as he drafts his apology and profiles his method.
In the book's second essay, Mowinckel looks at examples of literary growth and editing from Kings/Chronicles, Ezra/Nehemiah, and Jeremiah/Baruch, and then asks whether similar growth of a tradition happened as well at the pre-literary stage. In this discussion, a polemical and sometimes defensive edge is detectable in Mowinckel's prose. Clearly an approach that has come to be regarded in biblical criticism as quite conventional was under some attack when Mowinckel wrote these pieces.
A different `period note' rings in Mowinckel's naïve reference to the `laws' that govern oral and literary traditions as well as social and psychological processes. Mowinckel is probing at dynamics and results--fixed and malleable--that Fishbane would helpfully entitle `traditio' and `traditium'.
The second set of collections (`Part II: Tradition History and the Study of the Prophets') contains seven of the book's eleven essays, which elucidate what would come to be considered the cardinal points of form and tradition criticism. The title of chapter three, for example, indicates the method's concern for the brief oracular declarations that stand at the root of the prophetic material (`The Original Units of Tradition', pp. 33-37). He is particularly keen to call out methodological reserve--Engnell's for example--as intellectual laziness. Mowinckel's scholarly vocation to press the logic of his method to its uttermost reaches occasionally betrays him into the besetting sin of form criticism: a fixation upon small units at the cost of denying any large (and usually literary) coherence across collections of such `units'. In my judgment, this price was worth paying for the exegetical gains it produced. But it takes a kind of culpable innocence to cling to it in our more settled time in the way that Mowinckel did in his moment of conquest.
An ironic allusion to `assured results' has become almost canonical among those who criticize biblical criticism, if such redundancy may be permitted. Mowinckel actually uses the term in referring to his persuasion that `the prophets did not act as orators with long speeches with a connected development of ideas according to modern rules of logic ... Long passages in the prophetic books consist of just such detached, inherently complete sayings that take no account of each other, either formally or with regard to more concrete content. The connection that might exist between them is quite general.'
With the exception of the reference to `modern rules of logic', a whole school of Old Testament exegetes would today beg to differ with such assurance. Nevertheless, Mowinckel should be allowed a certain sympathy as he exorcises some of the methodological demons of his own day.
Mowinckel's most straightforward description of form-critical method comes in chapter four (`The Form-Critical Investigation', pp. 38-53). He finds his precedent for brief, prophetic oracles in passages of biblical narrative, where the prophets are depicted as making such pithy declarations. Mowinckel is not shy about assumptions that contemplate the conservative nature of `Near Eastern civilizations' nor of taking lessons for Hebrew prophetism from `the ancient Arabic visionaries'. All this is merely to observe that the growing knowledge of `the Orient' (with apologies to E. Said) that had accumulated among divinity schools and faculties of Oriental Studies in Mowinckel's heyday was treated comparative with a healthy does of self-assurance. He is also sure that `the prophets did not write', a statement that in its time required no apology directed at scholarly proponents of Schriftprophetie.
The logical core of Mowinckel's method is that assumption of a very tight relationship between form and content. If one can identify the form, it is `not difficult to discover what principle has been followed in the formation of tradition'. Eventually the critic's attention must turn to the editorial work that assembled the complexes of independent sayings that we find in the literature, where some of the most interesting fruit has been harvested from tradition criticism, even (particularly?) by scholars who employ assumptions more plastic than those established by Mowinckel.
In chapter five ('Tradition and Writing', pp. 54-59), the author is concerned to demonstrate how oral and written traditions existed side by side in biblical antiquity, with occasional intersections. His parade example is the then oral and preached deuteronomistic tradition of Jeremiah's legacy, one that existed alongside of Baruch's book and eventually came itself to be written down. Indeed, in the end, both Baruch's and the Deuteronomists' memory of Jeremiah's preaching became components of the same book.
In chapter six (`The Growth and Development of Tradition', pp. 60-64), the author achieves an admirably nuanced speculation about how a prophetic tradition grows and develops within a `circle' of `disciples'. The first word in quotes is used extensively in this chapter, the second with caution. In my judgment, Mowinckel's utilization of Deutero- and Tri-Isaiah as his case studies is well done. He has taken care, it would seem, to avoid the surprisingly incendiary word `school'. Isaiah scholars routinely savage any peer who does so on the grounds that `school' implies an established institution for which we have no evidence. Strictly speaking, such critics are right though the ferocity of their insistence on this point sometimes verges on overkill. Mowinckel has captured the essential fact that transmission of a tradition requires people who do the transmitting, and he has confined himself to alluding in the direction of `circles' of `disciples' who might well have been expected to carry out the task.
Chapter seven ('The Transformation of the Separate Prophetic Sayings', 65-70) broaches the question of the psychology of the transmitter/transformer of his 'master's' words. His parade example is the fascinating and convenient case of the 'new Judean actualizations' in the eponymous books of the northern prophets Amos and Hosea. That is, '(w)hat Yahweh first said to Israel he new says to Israel and Judah, or to Judah alone. Mowinckel presents several examples from the book of Isaiah where he understands such a tradent to have reinterpreted gloom into promise. For example, he finds in Isa 29.1-17 a 'reinterpretation of a word of threat into a prophecy according to the scheme of disaster, then deliverance.' The author is more certain than this reviewer that it is 'psychologically (in)conceivable that Isaiah would simultaneously announce the threat ... and the exact opposite.' It seems to me natural that the prophet might do so if his rhetorical objective is to move people from those activities that he understands to provoke Yahweh's anger and towards those that are sure to meet instead with his responsive mercies.
In chapter eight ('The Trend of Tradition Development', pp. 71-80), Mowinckel displays one of the reductionistic doctrines of early Form Criticism's preoccupation with analysis: 'The result reached by the form-critical analysis of the prophetic sayings with regard to the division of the traditional complex into original units shows, among other things, that in the predominant number of cases a saying is either a pure prophecy of disaster or a pure promise ... It is only a small minority of the transmitted, detached sayings that contain both, and then, generally, as in the scheme according to which the collections are arranged: disaster-deliverance. One must then admit in the name of all reason that this presents a problem and that these exceptions demand an explanation.'
The schematic nature of Mowinckel's approach is evident. Exceptions to the 'purity rule' are to be explained by the 'disaster-deliverance' developmental scheme, one whose 'impurity' (this reviewer is supplying the term to match Mowinckel's vocabulary) is entirely a product of developmental trends always subsequent to the prophetic originator. This developmental process towards promise and mixed doom-promise complexes was inherent in the traditioning process, not something explicitly applied to change a text from one profile to another.
Here Mowinckel brings in the most speculative feature of his theory: 'The unmediated transition from prophecy of disaster to prophecy of deliverance was a tradition from an ancient Near Eastern cosmological and eschatological scheme, which had once contained both those elements in an organic combination but which has reached Israel in a disintegrated form.' Thus does his species of Form Criticism leap from the delineation of brief oracular utterances conceived by Israelite prophets to the wider history of religion of the Near East and Israel's place within it.
What would generate the migration of Israel's prophetic legacy of doom towards the complex expression of impending weal? Mowinckel finds the motor of this process in the grief-exaltation transformation inherent in the cultic celebration of an Enthronement Festival: 'There is reason to believe (sic!) that this annually experienced movement from the disaster of chaos to the glorious certainty of deliverance in the Enthronement Festival determined (sic) ancient Israel's view of reality and history: a constantly repeated transformation from disaster to deliverance.
Mowinckel is here refining a fascinating edifice of reconstructed history, whereby worship plays a powerful, leading, and almost programmatic role in the production and assemblage of Israel's sacred literature. It is an attractive thesis, and the intellectual ambience in which it could be proposed with such confidence (''there is reason to believe', being one of Mowinckel's most humble assertions of it) amid a pronounced paucity of evidence.
One of the exegetical payoffs (to which party the benefit entails to be determined) is the author's final assertion in this seminal essay that hope--as the final element of the schema--logically includes the 'Messianic sayings', for these are by definition expressions of good expectation. The burden of proof is thus shifted heavily onto the shoulders of those who would content that such sayings are part of the original material. For Mowinckel, that seems doubtful, since it is difficult to reconcile messianic hope with 'pure' expressions of judgment.
Mowinckel seems to backtrack a bit in his ninth chapter (The Prophets and the Tasks of Tradition History', pp. 77-80), an essay upon which a modest back-reading shows the polemical moment in which he undertook both to develop and to defend his version of Tradition History. He is scathing against those who asserted that one cannot get beyond the editorial presentation to any more original prophetic material--even to ipsissima verba--as though there existed a '"Do Not Enter" sign, a prohibition against the very exercise of tradition history ... Research, however, cannot submit to a "Do Not Enter" sign. But by its very nature, it adopts the same attitude to such orders as our own "illegal" struggle did to the thousands of "prohibitions".' Mowinckel the Feisty!
Further: '(T)here is no reason for research to respect the prohibitions. Behind the tradition, after all, loom the powerful figures of the prophets, who have created that very tradition. And in a number of cases their words speak to us so clearly that we cannot miss them. We are not going to allow anyone to deprive us of the right to attempt to let them speak as clearly as possible.' Indeed, Mowinckel the Writer of Manifestos.
Two chapters comprise a final section ('Part III: The prophetic experience'), touching upon the role of the divine Spirit, the divine Word, and the cult (chapter ten, 'The Spirit and the Word in the prophets, pp. 83-99; chapter eleven, 'The prophets and the temple cult', pp. 100-121.
In the first of these two assays into the prophetic experience, Mowinckel observes that the pre-exilic prophets did not speak of a possession by the divine Spirit, yet their speaking is infused with the awareness that they speak the devar Yhwh. The older nabi'ism (think of the books of Samuel-Kings) does know an ecstatic spirit-possession, but it rarely ascribes a consequent divine word to the experience.
Indeed the 'older reforming prophets' speak polemically against such spirit-possession, scorning it as a fools' frenzy. Ezekiel's and Deutero-Isaiah's return to the notion in domesticated form is the exception that proves the point. Far from ecstatic utterance, the classical prophets trade in the coin of 'spiritual clarity and reasoned judgement.'
Moving from Spirit (and its explicit absence in the self-description of the literary prophets) to Yahweh's Word, we find that this phenomenon has entirely appropriated the place of Spirit. It is the divine word that comes, empowers, orients, and compels. '(A)ctual visions and auditions appear to have been comparatively rare.' They 'know Yhwh'--an assertion tied up with his relationship to moral norms--and so find themselves credentialed to speak out his word. This shifting--for Mowinckel--of the moral commandments to preeminence is doubtless at the root of his understanding of the emergence of ethical prophetism.
A substantial final entry into this valuable collection explores still further the social institution(s) that shaped, elaborated, and transmitted the prophetic legacy (chapter eleven, 'The Prophets and the Temple Cult', pp. 100-121). Quite justifiably, Mowinckel wants to undermine the sharp distinction, even antagonism, between prophet and cult that was and is so often presupposed. His reasoning begins with the Psalter's (divine) pronouncements of forgiveness. If the cult contained this response, a prophetic judgment of the ill must have preceded such spoken absolution.
The author is at pains to bring together the sacrificial and the sacramental, that is to say the human and the prophetic or even the priestly and the prophetic. Samuel serves as a model for this combined function, which only to jaundiced eyes appears to be a joining together of what must remain sundered. And before Samuel, the priest-prophet-legator Moses, even if the Deuteronomists changed both into nevi'im.
This is not exactly what it might seem on the surface, for Mowinckel drives forward a complex argument based upon then current assumptions about the evolution of Israel's religion. Much as P in the regnant critical scheme absorbed different free-floating classes of practitioners into what it calls 'the Levites', so did he cult prophets become absorbed and so domesticated as temple cantors: 'Thus the institution of cultic prophecy gradually died out. It was slowly and almost imperceptibly replaced by a precentor singing certain, long-fixed prophetic psalms. The entire music of the temple became more or les the work of a very pallid divine inspiration indeed (1 Chron 25:1-3), within which the choral presentation of oracle (!) psalms was no thing out of the ordinary.'
It is important that today's biblical scholars read and absorb works like this, that present the dense and often fervent arguments of 19th- and 20th-century continental biblical critics. This is so in the first instance because Gunkel and Mowinckel are part of our corporate DNA and ought to be know for family reasons.
But there is more. Mowinckel and his generation were pushing forward the implications of their research with fearless abandon. I employ those last two words advisedly. The polemics that surface from time to time against the grain of Mowinckel's scholarly prose indicate the fact that he was fighting a battle against a different way of reading the same Bible, one that he considered stultifying in its effects. In our current scholarly moment, much biblical interpretation has given up on what Mowinckel would have considered history, whether out of a sometimes-bland option for a flat, literary reading or for reason of the nuanced re-appreciation of the historical and the historic that is asserted by 'canonical criticism'.
Finally, an analogy from physics and astronomy might suffice. Today's aspiring astronomer does not leap from color photos of Mars to quantum physics and a Copernican solar system. There are the minor details of Newtonian physics and the observations that lead eventually to a revolution we now Copernican as though its surname was obvious even before the moment of conception.
Biblical scholars need also to internalize the worthy and sometimes outlandish processes by which we came to know the things we believe we pretty well know today and some that we will change our minds on tomorrow. The material with which we deal is too important for superficiality and generational myopia.
Mowinckel might have said something similar if one had asked.