Knowing when and why Israel’s earliest national history (the so-called Deuteronomistic History) was compiled is essential for rightly interpreting that history as well as for tracing the development of Israelite religion and culture. Yet the field of biblical studies has never been more divided over these issues. Some argue that the production of Israel's history belongs to the late preexilic period (sixth–seventh centuries BCE), when the monarchy still existed and those responsible had access to authentic and, in some cases, fairly ancient sources. Others argue that Israel’s history belongs to the late postexilic period (fifth–fourth centuries BCE), when those responsible for its compilation had little or no access to actual sources and much of what they wrote was invented in order to justify political structures and territorial claims in Persian-period Yehud or even Hellenistic-period Syria-Palestine. The present study addresses these important questions by analyzing the phrase “until this day,” which, like similar formulae used by Greek and Roman historians (most famously, Herodotus), was the biblical historian’s way of highlighting archaeological artifacts and religio-political structures that existed during the time of his writing. The outcome of this analysis is not only the identification of when and where the biblical historian carried out this enterprise but also what interests--both political and religious--governed his recounting of Israel’s past.
Jeffrey C. Geoghegan is Assistant Professor in the Department of Theology at Boston College. His publications include, among others, Over and Under Biblical Lands: Eerdmans’ Bible Atlas (with Michael Homan) and The Nine Commandments: Uncovering the Hidden Pattern of Crime and Punishment in the Hebrew Bible (with David Noel Freedman and Michael Homan; Doubleday, 2000).
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