Prophets

I finished Lee Levine’s Judaism and Hellenism and Antiquity this morning.  Levine’s final paragraph said that the Jews of antiquity adapted to their Hellenistic surroundings, even as they tried to maintain particularism.  Many people believe that Judaism survived on account of its particularism—its commitment to remaining distinct from the nations of the world.  But Levine says that a culture needs to adapt to new circumstances in order to survive. 

I went to the public library after work to read G.A. Kennedy’s New History of Classical Rhetoric, since I won’t be able to go there on Sunday, which is the Fourth of July.  (Incidentally, that means that, this coming Sunday, I won’t be blogging about masses in downtown Cincinnati, but rather about my good old, trusty Latin mass near my apartment complex.)  Unfortunately, the librarian could not find it.  So I’ll try again in a couple of weeks. 

Instead, I read some essays in The Place Is Too Small for Us: The Israelite Prophets in Recent Scholarship.  I plan to read more essays in this book.  They’re not assigned, but they give me a run-down of how modern scholars see the prophets.

On page 275, somebody states:

For a number of recent writers the prophets of the pre-exilic period were more in the way of religious poets who were retrospectively recognized as prophets when the term began to be used of others who stood in the same succession.  It is claimed that the distribution of the prophet terminology in the prophetic books suggests the redactional origin of the title where it describes the classical prophets…

I don’t have a problem with the prophets being poets.  Elisha had his prophecy played on a harp in II Kings 3.  In Ezekiel 33:32, God tells Ezekiel that, in the eyes of the Israelites, Ezekiel is merely a musician who plays and sings beautiful music.  The prophets may have been poets and musicians.  But could they have been prophets as well?

A professor of mine said that many scholars today date the prophets quite late, and hold that the “historical setting” that the prophetic books ascribe to themselves is artificial, as if the “prophecies” were historical fiction, or something to that effect.  After all, in the Second Temple Period, there emerged pseudepigraphic writings that claimed to be from an ancient time, when, actually, they were speaking to their own time.  So why couldn’t this be the case with the prophets?  (Personally, my answer to that is “because not all of the prophecies were fulfilled, so why would someone retroject false prophecies into the mouths of prophets?”)  Unfortunately, I didn’t get to take this professor’s class on prophets, so I’m not sure about the nuts-and-bolts of what he believes.

But the quote on page 275 overlaps with that view, in some sense.  As I read the book, there seems to be an emphasis on redaction: that prophecies were developed and redacted over time, so we cannot say that one prophet spoke all of the things attributed to him.  One essay I read claimed that the Deuteronomist made additions to Jeremiah (though, of course, Richard Elliott Friedman would say that the Deuteronomist was Jeremiah!).

But, when I took a class with Stephen Geller at Jewish Theological Seminary, he acted as if Jeremiah wrote and delivered some of the prophecies attributed to him.  He also contributes an essay to this book, in which he argues that the prophets were poets (yet prophets as well).

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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