A Prophet Like Moses: Prophecy, Law, and Israelite Religion.

Author:Erisman, Angela Roskop
Position:Book review
 
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A Prophet Like Moses: Prophecy, Law, and Israelite Religion. By JEFFREY STACKERT. Oxford; OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2014. Pp. viii + 243. $74.

Jeffrey Stackert's A Prophet Like Moses: Prophecy, Law, and Israelite Religion takes on Wellhausen's classic question of the relationship between prophecy and law in Israelite religion, a question whose answer is embodied in the character of Moses. Wellhausen asked the right question, but his characterization of Moses fit his understanding of the development of Israelite religion and the relationship between the two sections of the canon. Stackert makes essentially the same argument Wellhausen did--that law replaces prophecy--but based instead on an analysis of the literary sources and with much more subtlety and nuance: Legal religion is not the characteristic of a late P but something that exists in tension with prophecy through three of the four sources.

Wellhausen's dichotomy between law and prophets on the canonical level is blurred by pentateuchal texts that present Moses as a prophet. Scholars have often downplayed these, but Stackert makes a firm case for the prophetic element of Moses's character by showing that his portrayal in all four sources involves elements of prophecy typical throughout the ancient Near East. The Pentateuch is unique in two ways: it is a narrative construction of the past (not a typical prophetic genre), and it presents Moses as a prophetic mediator of law.

J depicts Moses as a prophet who is legitimated through the performance of signs and receives fully comprehensible divine messages but does not see God (e.g., Exodus 24 and the J portions of Exodus 4, 8-9, and 33). But J has no interest in law; about this, Wellhausen was right. But his inability to separate J and E meant he could not fully appreciate what E had to say about prophecy, and it is with E that he began to get it wrong.

Older advocates of the documentary hypothesis tended to view E as supportive of prophetic religion, but Stackert makes a case for the opposite: E is skeptical of prophecy because its trustworthiness is difficult to establish, and because it produces new messages that are "fundamentally innovative and uncontrollable" (p. 124). E uses prophecy only to legitimate the Covenant Collection as divine law by having it mediated by a prophet. Moses is legitimated as a "singular prophetic figure" (p. 77) in the E portions of Exodus 3-4, 19-24: the unmediated speech of the Decalogue legitimates the...

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