Properties of Biblical Historiography and Historical Thought

in Vetus Testamentum
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Biblical historiography arose at the eve of the monarchial period and ceased with the demise of the Jewish statehood. Two major trends are extant: a quasi-secular one and a kerygmatic. Various attempts at periodization appear in the historical books. Periodization also features in the prophetic writings. This historical consciousness is not present in etiologies, but at times this lack was rectified. Anachronism is present, but historical sense tried to curb it, introducing distinctions between past and present. An opposed category of historical thought is catachronism i.e., an attempt at describing the past as different from the present. This is done mainly by borrowing features from an alien milieu, e.g. the נשיא. Sometimes catachronism resorts to sheer inventions, such as the שוטר. When sources were available, biblical authors indiscriminately accepted them: legends along historical accounts. At times authors recast sources in order to express with them their own ideas.

Properties of Biblical Historiography and Historical Thought

in Vetus Testamentum




Cf. I.L. Seeligmann“Menschliches Heldentum und göttliche Hilfe—Die doppelte Kausalität im alttestamentliche Geschichtsdenken”ThZ (Basel) 19 (1963) pp. 385-411 at pp. 401-403 = idem Gesammelte Studien zur Hebräischen Bibel (Tübingen 2004) pp. 150-153. Seeligmann’s conjecture has been vindicated by the reading of 4Q51 at 1 Sam 11. Here a late scribe not satisfied by the attribution of the victory to the Lord at vs. 13 introduced His name at vs. 9 too; cf. F.M. Cross et al. (eds.) Qumran Cave 4.XII: 1-2 Samuel (djd xvii; Oxford 2005) p. 67.


Here and below I quote N. Wyatt“Some Observations on the Idea of History among the West Semitic Peoples”UF 11 (1979) pp. 825-832 at p. 831.


Cf. A. Ofer“Judea”The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy LandVol. 3 (Jerusalem 1993) p. 816.

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