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ISSN 0045-0308

BOOK REVIEW  Published in Volume 50, 2002

Anthony F. Campbell and Mark A. O’Brien, Unfolding the Deuteronomistic History. (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2000). Pp. Vi+505.

Both Anthony F. Campbell and Mark A. O’Brien have devoted a lot of scholarly competence, astuteness, initiative and integrity to analysing and understanding first the Sources of the Pentateuch, and now the Deuteronomic History (DH). They have researched and published original contributions on proposed theories about DH and these are incorporated in the present volume.

Campbell and O’Brien have modified Martin Noth’s original DH by separating optimistic from pessimistic passages in regard to royalty, as F. M. Cross did, with Josiah’s life and death being the crucial divide. Optimism precedes his death, pessimism after it: His sons didn’t follow suit — they harmed the nation’s interests and inspired no hopes for anything better to come nationally. The main DH is now, therefore, to be dated before Josiah’s death, “the (Josianic) Dtr’. The pessimistic parts are later additions, but, still DH — not priestly but deuteronomic.

Most of the components of DH are easily identified, using the criteria provided: The Conquest Narrative (in Joshua); the Deliverance Collection (in Judges); the Ark Narrative; the Prophetic Record (PR, 1 Samuel 1–2 Kings 10 — which could as readily be ‘Prophetic-royal Record’ because in each case a prophet anoints a king or has some authority over him, the record coming from prophetic sources); the Hezekian King List (HKL); Records of Northern and Southern Kings (from the four Patterns of Judgment Formulas, helpfully set out at the end); and the Revisions of DH (with either a national focus or a royal focus).

The several components, covering some six-hundred-and-fifty years, enshrine, as might be expected, a rich variety of as many religious and theological viewpoints — not least about “what it means to be chosen people, a people loved and a law to be kept, the interplay of divine empowerment and human responsibility” (p. 3).

A map indicating all the important places mentioned in the DH, however, would be helpful. Locations tend to be just vague words. So too, for easy reference, chapter and verse numbers covered on the page could usefully be added at the top of each page of text to expedite finding passages.

This work is a substantial volume with copious clear notes, an over-all introduction to the whole scope of the work and adequate introductions to, and analyses of, each book from Deuteronomy to 2 Kings, plus a Bibliography of Works Cited, the several Judgment Formulas analysed, and an Index of Biblical References.

Various printing devices are used to indicate the source of each verse and passage throughout as well as their literary origins and rough dating — bold, Roman, Italic, with serifs or sans serif, with single or double sidelines or none and indentations. While a bit complex at first, in the end, they are essential — unless colour were to be used, as in the early Polychrome series.

No attempt has been made to get behind the text to any original oral traditions that might have preceded the written text. The present text is what the authors worked on. They try to make sense of the text as we have it, using what used to be called ‘internal evidence’, for signs, signals and clues regarding the components of the current text.

Both are able Hebrew scholars. They are discriminating. Their judgments and detailed arguments on every relevant point command respect. They have extensively researched their subject; and with clear insight have noted the consonant and differing views of many other scholars in the field. Their work is pioneering and done so thoroughly. It should stand for quite some time and would have to be a starting-point for any future contributions. Their impartiality is obvious. For example, where there are not enough clues in the internal evidence to assign any verse or paragraph with confidence to a particular source they readily admit it. Their alertness to clues/signals leaves nothing to be desired. They simply want to understand the text as it is and make sense of it for others. They have succeeded. To me, their book is an invaluable adjunct to reading all the Biblical Hebrew literature from Deuteronomy to 2 Kings in one (large) volume.

Review by
H. Arthur Stamp
6 Garden Street
Ringwood, Victoria 3134