King Josiah and Deuteronomy

03 Feb
from Google Images

from Google Images

In the JEDP hypothesis, which Chris embraces as his new truth for the Biblical record (HERE), claims that in the reign of Judah’s King Josiah a lost book of the Torah, Deuteronomy, was conveniently discovered by the priest, Hilkiah during renovations of the Temple. Since Josiah was a strict Yahawist, the discovery of Deuteronomy seems too suspicious, and, therefore, must be a forgery. So conclude at least some (Chris says the majority) of Biblical scholars such as Richard Elliot Freedman. In Deuteronomy “a strict and permanent covenant is made with Yahweh as well as a complete rejection of other gods is established.”

The biblical text states that the priest Hilkiah found a “Book of the Law” in the temple during the early stages of Josiah’s temple renovation. For much of the 19th and 20th centuries it was agreed among scholars that this was an early version of the Book of Deuteronomy, but recent biblical scholarship sees it as largely legendary narrative about one of the earliest stages of creation of Deuteronomistic work. According to the Bible Hilkiah gave the scroll to his secretary Shaphan who took it to king Josiah. Historical-critical biblical scholarship generally accepts that this scroll — an early predecessor of the Torah — was written by the priests driven by ideological interest to centralize power under Josiah in the Temple in Jerusalem, and that the core narrative from Joshua to 2 Kings up to Josiah’s reign comprises a “Deuteronomistic History” (DtrH) written during Josiah’s reign. On the other hand, recent European theologians posit that most of the Torah and Deuteronomistic History was composed and its form finalized during the Persian period, several centuries later. (Wikipedia, see HERE; emphasis mine).

The Documentary Hypothesis scholars theorize the book of Deuteronomy was “written by the priests driven by ideological interest to centralize power under Josiah in the Temple in Jerusalem,” yet, the book of Deuteronomy doesn’t mention a Temple. Rather it speaks of a mobile Tabernacle that could be taken anywhere, so how does Deuteronomy help Josiah centralize power under him in the Temple at Jerusalem?

The Documentary Hypothesis has a big problem in trying to show that finding the book of Deuteronomy in the 7th century BC during the reign of King Josiah of Judah was a forgery by the priests for political purposes. The problem is that Deuteronomy, as a literary work, best suits the category of the Hittite suzerain-vassal treaty text, which consisted usually of 6 parts. They are:

  1. Preamble…………………………….. Deuteronomy 1:1-5 (or 6 with God as speaker)
  2. Historical Prologue ………………….Deuteronomy 1:6 to 3:9
  3. Stipulations……………………………Deuteronomy 4-26 (basic—4-11; detailed—12-26)
  4. Document Clause…………………… Deuteronomy 31:24-26 (preserving the text) & 10-13; public reading
  5. Witnesses……………………………..Deuteronomy 31:19, 26, 28
  6. Curses and Blessings………………. Deuteronomy 28 (blessings 1-15 & curses 16-68)

In the Hittite treaties numbers 1, 3 and 6 always appear; number 2 appears in 22 out of 24 extant treaty records (the other two were fragmented but could have contained #2); number 5 appears in 20 out of the 24 treaties, but number 4, the document clause, is rare.[1] The problem for JEDP theorists is that this Hittite treaty arrangement was a system in use beginning cir. 1400 BC but fell out of use no later than 1200 BC. Therefore, how can scholars who embrace the Documentary Hypothesis justify a presumed editor forging Deuteronomy in the 7th century BC whose literary form had passed away some 500 to 700 years prior?


[1] Israelite Religions: An archaeological and Biblical Survey by Richard S. Hess; Baker, 2007; pages 55-57. [see HERE]

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Posted by on February 3, 2015 in atheism, naturalism


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