Peckham on Jonah, Third Isaiah, and Style

I have three items for my write-up today of Brian Peckham’s History and Prophecy.

1.  Peckham argues that the Book of Jonah is a parody that is mocking the prophets.  Peckham states on page 690 that “The original work was written in response to the fatalism of the Deuteronomistic History and the book of Jeremiah, in which the fall of Jerusalem was a necessary consequence either of sin or of the rejection of the prophets.”  According to Peckham, the Deuteronomistic History is fatalistic in that it depicts the reform of Josiah as ineffective in preventing the coming catastrophe, for the sin of Manasseh was so great that it needed to be punished.  Regarding the Book of Jeremiah, the book presents Jeremiah refusing to intercede for the people of Judah.  The Book of Jonah mocks these ideas, for it features the repentance of the Ninevites preventing the destruction of their city, and Jonah the prophet being rebuked by God because of his reluctance to help the city to repent and avoid destruction.  Moreover, Jonah the prophet brings trouble to people on the ship to Tarshish, which is another put-down of prophets.

There may be something to Peckham’s argument, but, on page 702, Peckham states that the Deuteronomistic History portrays the prophets as preachers of repentance, urging people to prevent their doom.  So which is it?  Was the Deuteronomist fatalistic, or did he believe that repentance could overturn a coming catastrophe?  Maybe both.

2.  Peckham presents Third Isaiah as anti-establishment.  Unlike Second Isaiah, he did not desire the restoration of the Davidic monarchy—and, according to Peckham, Isaiah 8:16-23’s condemnation of necromancy is actually Third Isaiah’s condemnation of Second Isaiah for envisioning the restoration of the defunct Davidic dynasty (page 739)!  As far as Third Isaiah is concerned, Israel should not rely on that corpse!  Third Isaiah envisions the habitation in Zion of a purified worshiping community, a remnant, and he downplays parts of Isaiah that magnify Hezekiah, replacing him or Immanuel with the remnant in God’s plan.  For example, Peckham states on page 718 that “The issue is defined at the start by identifying the Davidic shoot from the stump of Jesse with the holy remnant (6:13; cf. 4:2-3; 10:33-11:10) and by including among the children of Isaiah one who is called ‘A Remnant Shall Return,’ a rival of the child Immanuel (7:3; 10:20-23).”

Peckham also appears to depict Third Isaiah as xenophobic, for he says that Third Isaiah substitutes Second Isaiah’s vision of nations flocking to Jerusalem to worship with “unwanted foreigners who fill the city” (page 718).  I wonder how Peckham would address Isaiah 56, which welcomes foreigners into Israel’s worship, for Peckham does identify that chapter as part of Third Isaiah.  Peckham also says that Third Isaiah believed God would not forgive the worship of idols but would reject the nation, which contrasts with Second Isaiah’s encouragement of Israel.  Under this model, Third Isaiah probably held that God would reject the nation, yet would rebuild it on a purified remnant.

3.  On page 736, Peckham refers to parts of the Book of Jeremiah that were “composed in imitation of [Jeremiah’s] dramatic style”.  In this book, I have not seen Peckham differentiate sources on the basis of style, but rather on the basis of ideas.  After all, can style be a reliable in helping one to differentiate sources, when styles can be imitated?

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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