The Former Prophets: A Theological History

ImageAs I’ve been lecturing this winter semester (Providence University College) for my course “The Former Prophets” (i.e., Joshua, Judges, 1-2 Samuel, and 1-2 Kings) we’ve had some wonderful discussions about what it means for this portion of Scripture to offer a “history” of Israel.

Part of the reason for the course not being called “The History Books” (besides that term being used to refer to other books as well: Ruth, Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah, Esther) is that the point of these books is not simply to offer a “history” of Israel, but a theological “history” of God’s dealings with Israel, and thus a theological explanation for where Israel finds themselves at the conclusion of this literary unit (in Babylon, no Davidic heir on the throne, with Jerusalem, the land, and the temple destroyed). The focus on these books as belonging to (what the Hebrew canon calls) “The Prophets” (נְבִיאִים nevi’im) is to emphasize their theological intent. This distinction gives emphasis to the presence and work of God. A distinction I find far more satisfactory than simply a discussion of these books as “history” (or even as contemporary scholarship refers to them following the work of Martin Noth: “Deuteronomistic History“). None of this is to deny the historical claims of the text (when such claims are actually present), but simply to recognize the work of the LORD throughout.

I was just wondering if others have found such a distinction helpful themselves in studying these books?

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “The Former Prophets: A Theological History

    • And, in fact, ANE “history” always was theological. There really was no sense in writing a “history” that did not entail in some fashion or another the life of the god/s. A world without deity was inconceivable. Ancient Israel was certainly no different. And so, for example, I asked my class why Israel lost their attack on Ai initially, was it due to poor strategy (not enough men and just an outright assault) or was it due (according to the text) to disobedience (the sin of Achan) and therefore the LORD was against them?

      • we still do it today. the Pilgrims interpreted the Natives being wiped out as “it pleased God to send the pox upon the natives.” if we get sick we think we sinned or are getting punished – war is determined to be “just” if it is fighting “evil”, I personally think our difficulites over the last year are God having us in a wilderness situation, and so on. kind of say really, but it may b

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s