Deuteronomy-Kings as Emerging Authoritative Books: A Conversation. Edited by DIANA V. EDELMAN. Ancient Near East Monographs, vol. 6. Atlanta: SOCIETY OF BIBLICAL LITERATURE, 2014. Pp. xi + 289. $33.95 (paper).
Diana Edelman has asked each of her contributors to concentrate on one of the five books of the Deuteronomic history, Deuteronomy--Kings, and to consider if that book was (or was not) authoritative in the late Persian or early Hellenistic period when it is generally agreed that they all did in fact exist, and if so why.
Philip Davies discusses the authority of Deuteronomy, asking first what its implied goals and its vision of Israel tell us about the circumstances in which it was written. Deuteronomy envisions the relationship between Israel and its deity as a covenant which encompasses all aspects of social and private life. It has an "ethnicizing agenda" (p. 28), demanding strict boundaries between Israel and other nations, with its constitutive event being the exodus from Egypt. Since "Israel" consists of all twelve tribes, the composition of Deuteronomy was possible only after the destruction of Judah by Babylon. Only under the Babylonians did the Judeans develop a "cult of the god of Israel." It was only then that the term "Israel" could have taken on a religious rather than the political identity that it had earlier. This allowed Deuteronomy to be shared by both the northern and the southern kingdoms. Davies rejects the possibility that the book was written under the Judean monarchy, since that theory cannot account for the book being accepted in Samaria. The book attempts to standardize a set of cultural norms that define a new ethnic--non-political--Israel. Davies agrees that Deuteronomy's origins must lie in Levitical circles, but suggests that it was promulgated by a cohort of Levites working throughout both Yehud and Samaria (p. 46).
Christoph Levin, in contrast, accepts the traditional hypothesis of core Deuteronomy's (i.e., Deut. 12-26) having been written by scribes in the reign of Josiah and that it is a product of Judean royal politics (p. 49). It is hard for me to imagine, however, that the restrictions on the king (Deuteronomy 17) would be a product of royal circles. In Levin's view, Deuteronomy would have been authoritative right from the beginning because of its royal origin. Beginning and ending chapters were added in the Persian period to establish the people as God's vassal in place of the absent Davidic king.