Formation of the Text

{This lecture comes from a very old course called "Biblical Backgrounds". It has been left in note form}

1) Discussion of the parts of the Bible

- OT:NT - two basic parts of the bible, what about the apocryphas and pseudipigraphas?

- books of the bibles

- torah - the first five, prophets - the prophetic works and writings - all the rest in the OT

- historical, prophecy, wisdom, apocalyptic, epistles, gospels, psalms

- pentateuch and deuteronomic history

- Pauline, Hebrew, Pastoral, Johannine

- as to period - pre exile, exilic, post exilic etc.

result following the major works:

Pentateuch or Torah consists of Genesis to Deuteronomy. Historical but classed as law by the Jews.

Deuteronomic History consists of Deuteronomy to 2Kings. Historical but classed as prophets by the Jews.

Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah Historical but classed as prophets by the Jews.

Esther  Historical but classed as prophets by the Jews.

Job Wisdom Literature

Psalms Psalms ie hymns, spiritual songs

Proverbs Wisdom Literature

Ecclesiastes Wisdom Literature

Song of Solomon Psalms ie hymns, spiritual songs

Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel Major prophets - the three

Daniel Apocalyptic

Hosea - Malachi The 12 or the minor prophets.

Matthew, Mark, Luke Synoptic Gospels

Luke-Acts Two parts of the three part work.

John, 1John, 2John, 3John Revelations - Johannine corpus

Romans - Thessalonians, Philemon Pauline Epistles

Timothy, Titus Pastoral Epistles

Hebrews, James, Peter, Jude Hebraic Epistles

Peter Petrine corpus

Revelations Apocalyptic


2) introduction of the concept of redactor

- It must be remembered that these figures are significantly rubbery - no one knows these are guesses.

- story begins around 1500BC

- at this time very little literacy - stories handed down by word of mouth. This is the time of the Patriarchs

- This oral tradition continued until around the time of David.

- David's court and strong hold on the territory allowed culture to flourish.

- The King's court implied a clerical staff and thus literacy.

- David c.1000 - 961. This was the beginning of the bible stories being written down. Specifically the J traditions

- after the division of the kingdom the E traditions begin to be collected. Other writing by the prophets are continually being written and embellished.

- After the fall of Israel the northern traditions were brought south and mixed in with the southern traditions.(JE)

- The law book probably created at this point - small portion of Deuteronomy.

- The law book was important in that it formed the basis of the revival under Josiah 640-609 BC 2K22:8ff

- Under Josiah, just before Josiah, during Exile the law book was expanded into deuteronomy and the rest of the DH written. Note process of writing Deut History (DH) was contentious issue when I was at college.

- During exile the priestly traditions were probably written

- After the temple rebuilt we have Ezra, Nehemiah and the prophetic books of Haggai and Zechariah written. Esther also written around this time.

- Proverbs and Job??? just after exile

- Psalms came together as the hymn book of the second temple

- c 300 Ecclesiastes written

- Daniel written during maccabees c150BC

- Problems

- Daniel is written well beyond the time of Daniel ie the writer lied about who he was

- The New Testament calls the pentateuch the books of Moses - common name? content Moses? Plain wrong?

- accuracy of verbal traditions

- conflicting verbal traditions

- Proverbs supposedly largely Solomon etc

- what is important and true is that all the material has had a long history of rewriting and redaction.

- The text up until fairly late was not static because it was taken and reused again and again to meet the new situations God's people found themselves in.

- Should be seen more in terms of preachers sermon notes...

New Testament time of writing:

- 1 and 2 Thessalonians 51 A.D

- Philipians, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Romans - 57AD

- Colossians, Ephesians, Philemon, Timothy, Titus 63AD

- Paul supposedly martyred in 64AD

- James and 1Peter around 60AD

- Hebrews and Mark around 68AD

- Matthew, Luke-Acts, Jude, II Peter, John, 1-3John, Revelation c70AD to 96AD.

- This table is very conservative. The Pastoral epistles especially often considered very late even 200AD. The dates tend to be later rather than so close.

3) introduction of the different types of material

major types of material are:

1) prophetic

2) apocalyptic

3) historical

4) legal

5) wisdom

6) epistolic

7) others like psalms

1) Prophetic:

- The gift of prophecy or ministry of prophet has been with us since very early.

- It could be argued that Moses was a prophet but that would be to lose the unique significance of his role and the essential elements of the prophetic.

- Balaam son of Beor was a prophet, though of a different religion

- The seventy elders appointed to assist Moses also "prophesied"

- Abraham is described as a prophet

- "seers" are recorded in the ministry of Samuel. It must be noted that 1Sam 1 implies the prophetic was well established just not happening.

- perhaps the judges carried out this role???

- The seers were very different in character to our image of the writing prophets.

- They gathered together into schools of prophets - "the sons of the prophets".

- generally gathered around one significant figure? Samuel, Elijah, Elisha.

- Involved in ecstatic behaviour much as the pentecostals are/were accused of. cf 1Sam 19:20-25

- an older translation uses the term "raved" instead of "prophesied"

- Their ministry tended to be very event based. The ecstatic behaviour for example. Elijah on Carmel 1K 18. The miracles of Elisha 2K2ff.

- Their words are not written down.

- The writing prophets were very different.

- They shared the role of calling Israel back to God.

- Their actions had less of the miraculous about them.

- they used oratory - preaching drawing from the traditions of the people, and sign to call the people back to God.

- signs included - walking naked - Is 20, Laying seige to bricks and cooking food over dung Ez 4

- They were not so much involved in foretelling the future as forth telling from God. A common way of speaking was "thus sayeth the Lord..."

- Their main message was repent and return to God.

- New testament prophets swing back closer to the seers and sit approximately between the two.

2) Apocalyptic.

- If you ask someone about prophecy about today they generally turn to Revelations. This is apocalyptic not prophecy.

- Apocalyptic grew up in the exile. It draws on elements of the religious atmosphere the Jews found themselves in in exile

- Prophecy relied on sign and word, apocalyptic relies on vision and event.

- it is significant that the prophetic book written in the exile Ezekiel has definite aspects of apocalyptic. Consider the first few chapters in comparison to Revelations.

- Daniel is the other canonical apocalyptic old testament book.

- There are smaller apocalyptic passages in the Gospels and of course the revelation of St John.

- the specific aspects of apocalyptic are beyond the scope of this course

- for a good introduction see Lion p651

- It is important to get the feel for the difference.

3) Historical:

- The historical books recount the history and traditions of Israel and the early church.

- Despite the label history they should not be considered to be historical.

- the aim of the writer is not so much to tell events but to tell about God and God's relationship with his people.

- The Torah or pentateuch had a long history of redaction from the time of David to after exile.

- The DH - deuteronomy to end of kings, began around the time of Josiah and was finished either before, during or after exile depending on your redactionary theory.

- the aim of the writer was to demonstrate what was necessary to keep/return to the land. Keep retain Gods favour

- Chronicles were post exilic and have a slightly different emphasis

- The Gospel writers were determined to demonstrate in the life and teaching of Jesus the method of life and theology for their own churches.

- Because the aim is theological rather than historical, historical detail is not necessarily accurate.

4) Legal:

- if you have a legal mind check out leviticus and the relevant portions of Exodus and Numbers.

- the legal material is about being holy

- They followed a holy God so they were to be holy.

- This soon became a snare in itself - the legalities more important than the main thrust. Pharisaism

- Even beyond the new testament, legal work continued in the formation of the Mishna and later the Talmud. cf the camel driver quote...

Ketuboth 5:6

If a man vowed to have no intercourse with his wife, the School of Shammai say: [She may consent] for two weeks. And the School of Hillel say: For one week [only]. Disciples [of the Sages] may continue absent for thirty days against the will [of their wives] while they occupy themselves in the study of the Law; and labourers for one week. The duty of marriage enjoined in the Law is: every day for them that are unoccupied; twice a week for labourers; once a week for ass-drivers; once every thirty days for camel-drivers; and once every six months for sailors. So R. Eliezer.

Based on Ex 21:10 - If he takes for himself another woman, he may not reduce her food, her clothing, or her conjugal rights.

5) Wisdom

- very interested in wisdom.

- proverbs, ecclesiastes etc

6) Epistolic

- writings from a church leader to a church or group of churches

- usually for a specific reason - Corinthians because of the reports of sin

7) Psalms

- psalms form the hymn book of the second temple

4) life settings

- important term Sitz im Leben - or just Sitz

- german for life setting ie where this stuff was written and what was happening etc

- remember most of this stuff was written within and to situations.

- the final redaction of the pentateuch was written after exile.

- the writer, so the liberals believe, was writing to give hope and direction to the returned exiles, a framework for life

- The deuteronomic history was an argument for a return to the orthodox cult.

- The prophetic books each had their own Sitz generally in some manner Israel was threatened and was being called back to God.

- the life setting of the psalms was of course the worship life of Israel

- wisdom liturature grew up in the kings court - ie it was a public service pastime.

5) source model of the synoptics

- for a discussion of this see Lion p531

- Mark is thought to have been written first. Possibly by John-Mark of Acts

- He worked from written sources that are not extant - note the very common redactional link "and immediately" Mk 1:29

- Matthew and Luke then took the gospel of Mark and built on it

- Both had another source that Mark didn't or didn't use now designated Q.

- Quelle is german for source hence Q

- this was a collection of sayings of Jesus - short sentences/words (logia)

- Matthew then adds some other material that is only in his gospel.

- this is generally called Special M. For example his account of the birth of Jesus is unique

- Luke also has his own material generally called Special L. Again the birth narratives are unique to Luke.

6) source model of the pentateuch

- the source model of the pentateuch is more complex

- four redactors each designated by a letter - J E D P

- J known as the Yahwist (J is the german first letter - hence the germanized form Jehovah)

- this was the first layer written/gathered around the time of David/Solomon 1000-950BC.

- Note he would have been building on oral traditions that had been passed down.

- Called the Yahwist because uses YHWH as the name for God

- E known as the Elohist - known because he called God Elohim

- Source is around 750BC in the northern kingdom

- Makes strong emphasis on the importance of Prophets

- brought together with J and added to in 700BC ie when the refugees from Assyrians came to Jerusalem.

- composite work called JE or Jehovist. Note not just an addition of the two, some extra redaction added

- D - deuteronomic tradition. Mainly found in the book of deuteronomy

- deuteronomy was initially written as the first book of the DH. It has its own complex history of redaction

- begun in the northern kingdom and completed in Jerusalem???

- P - priestly tradition. written during Exile 587-538BC

- written to maintain the traditions of the cult and to supply hope of return.

- also to give Jews a sense of identity.

- P would have left the pentateuch in largely the form we have it today.

7) source model of Isaiah

- You can roughly split Isaiah into two parts

- Ch 1-39 - Isaiah 1 or Isaiah of Jerusalem

- Ch 40 - 66 Isaiah 2 or Deutero-Isaiah

- Note some make a further break Ch 55-66 Isaiah 3 or Trito Isaiah

- Isaiah of Jerusalem was pre-exilic - His role was to call the people back to God so they would avoid the judgement of God

- Deutero-Isaiah was exilic. His role was to assure the people that they would return and prepare them for the return.

- trito-Isaiah was post-exilic

8) source model of the deuteronomic history

- Initially the Law book - written/found by Josiah

- Later embellished during Josiah's reign/or in Exile

- then added to the other historical books through to 2Kings

9) where does faith come in?


This essay was developed as a lecture and so the references are not as good as they should be. As far as I am aware the material of the course was based on the following books:

"The New Bible Dictionary" (InterVarsity Press 1962)

"The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible" (Abingdon Press 1962)

"The Lion Handbook of the Bible" (Lion Publishing 1973)

"The Story of Jericho" 2nd Ed. by J. Garstang and J.B.E. Garstang (Marshall Morgan and Scott 1948)

"How to Read the New Testament" by Etienne Charpentier (SCM Press 1981)

"A Way into the Old Testament" by C.R. Biggs and A.L.G Catlin (Uniting Church Press 1983)

"The New Testament Environment" by Eduard Lohse (SCM Press 1976)

"How to Read the Old Testament" by Etienne Charpentier (SCM Press 1981)

"The Background of the Gospels" by W. Fairweather (T & T Clark 1911)