I finished Brian Peckham’s History and Prophecy. I have two quotes from my reading for today:
“The epic was the first to create a past and a future. From myth, legend, folklore, hearsay, and opinion its writer wove the family history of Israel on its blessed journey to individuation and separation from the nations” (page 818).
“The Deuteronomistic Historian, in the first part of the sixth century, in an age of great libraries and literary revival, bereft of kings and patrons, citizen of a world expanding in commerce and colonization, abandoned local pride and regional interests to write a history of the universe where God was king” (page 817).
John Van Seters would reverse this. For him, the Deuteronomistic Historian was the one who created a past and a future that gave Israel an identity, as well as sought to separate Israel from the nations. But the Yahwist then came and offered a more universalist message—about God as king of the universe. Personally, though, I don’t recall Peckham portraying the Deuteronomistic Historian as universalist in his orientation. But, unlike Van Seters, Peckham does extend the Deuteronomistic History back to the time of creation. Whereas Van Seters argues that J is the author of Genesis 2-3—and that J is communicating the message that all peoples are responsible to God for their actions, whereas the Deuteronomist focused on Israel—Peckham maintains that the Deuteronomist was the one who gave Genesis 3 an ethical orientation, for the Deuteronomist emphasized law and punishment for sin.
I do not know what Peckham believes gave rise to a desire to compose a history for Israel, but Peckham does appear to date the biblical writings after the fall of Northern Israel in 722 B.C.E. That may have inspired the author of the epic to encourage his people to seek refuge in the covenant. It opened Isaiah’s eyes to the possibility that Judah could fall on account of sin. And other writers wrestled with the issue of destruction—whether they wrote before or after the fall of Judah in 587 B.C.E.