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The Compilation of the Tanakh (or "Old" Testament)

Most information taken from Early Jewish Writings and Wikipedia.

"Tanakh" or TaNaK is simply the abbreviation of Torah (Law), Nevi'im (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings).

While tradition asserts that Moses was the author of the Torah (or Pentateuch), modern scholarship sees at least four different authors: JEDP. "J" stands for "Jahwist" or "Yahwist", the author from the southern kingdom of Judah who prefers to write the Four Letters YHWH. "E" stands for "Elohist" and is from the northern kingdom of Israel. This author prefers the more generic Canaanite term for god "El" or "Elohim". "D" stands for "Deuteronomist"; a reformist from king Josiah's (or Josiah himself) court. "P" stands for "Priestly", a writer who focuses on authentic priestly duties and lineage; sacrifices to YHWH or El could only be done by a priest from the tribe of Aaron, Moses' brother. Thus any priestly duties occurring before the covenant on Sinai -- like the enigmatic Melkitsedek (or Melchizedek) in Genesis 14 -- would not have been written by P. There are actually arguments that Genesis 14 wasn't written by any of the four streams due to the strange name. Melkitsedek can be liberally translated as "my righteous king"; Melkitsedek is both a king and a priest. This doesn't happen in the history of Israel and Judah until Maccabean times (c. 150 BCE).

In P, only priests in the lineage of Aaron are people with access/communication to God. There are no angelic visitations, dreams, talking animals, or anything else like that. All the other sources include God communicating with people via these means. E and D both repeatedly refer to prophets and prophesy. Neither P nor J ever does (P uses the word once - metaphorically - to refer to Aaron himself). P never mentions judges - only allowing Aaronid priests to mediate. P also does not classify non-Aaronid Levites as priests, and only allows the Aaronids to have access to the Urim and Tummim. P only allows atonement for sins via sacrifices brought to Aaronid priests. In short, in P sources, the Aaronid priests and only the Aaronid priests have access to God. In D, on the other hand, all Levites are considered priests.

In P, as mentioned, the only contact with God is through priests. God never appears in person. He is never referred to as merciful or kind - indeed, the words "mercy", "kindness", "grace" and "repentance" are never used in P. The God described in P is implacable and all stories about him refer only to his wrath and justice; never to positive character traits. All the stories with positive (and more human) character traits of God are in J and E. In J, on the other hand, God makes frequent personal appearances. He walks in the garden in Eden, personally makes Adam and Eve's clothes, personally closes the door of the Ark, and so on. In E as well, God wrestles with Jacob and appears personally to Moses. In P, on the other hand, God never makes a personal appearance.

J and P both refer to Mount Sinai repeatedly. E and D refer to it as Mount Horeb. There are no exceptions to this.

J and E range from 700-622 BCE, D to 622 BCE, P from 587-539 BCE, and the joining up done sometime around 450 BCE (although there is a good argument to suggest that tinkering with the text continued well into Hellenistic times). It is important to remember that nothing in the Torah (well... there are some poems like the Song of Miriam) is as old as Homer. These four authors also did not come from a vacuum, their theology was formed from pre-existing Canaanite theology and pantheon. Along with El (Elyon, or "El Most High") and YHWH, the Canaanite pantheon included YHWH's wife Asarah (or Asherah), Baal, Chemosh, Shalim, Shachar ("shachar" means "dawn", and appears in Isaiah 14:12 ["dawn"]; the taunt song in Isaiah 14 is an old Canaanite song), and many others.

Basically, J and E were written independently, telling the same stories with slightly different emphases. At some point these were edited together into a single JE document. Some time after the writing of the first documents, a P document was written - telling the same stories but with a very different theological basis. Some time later still, a D document was written telling the more recent history of Judah and Israel, and claiming that they were once a unified kingdom, which fits with the period after the Assyrian conquest of Israel c. 720 BCE and the archaeological emergence of Judah due to Israelite refugees fleeing south. The tensions between the two nations before Assyrian conquest was apparent in such places as Isaiah 7:10-16. At some point after this, all four documents were edited together into a single document that became the Torah we know.

This might seem contrary to what's taught in Sunday School, but just like most religions, there's a separation between the religion practiced by the common people and the religion practiced by the priests. Analogous to modern times, there's a huge gulf between the Christianity learned and taught by seminaries and Biblical scholars ("scholarly" Christianity) and the common person's Christianity ("popular" Christianity). The same sociological context was extant in ancient Israel and Judah. Popular Judaism of ancient I&J was more polytheistic, acknowledging YHWH and his wife Asarah whereas the priestly Judaism of ancient I&J leaned more towards henotheism or monolatry. Of course, the priests controlled the texts since they were the ones writing them and eventually Priestly Judaism won out. Hence all of the Asarah bashing by D and P; archaeology shows a lot of veneration of Asarah by the common people.

If we look at all the J texts, they are consistent in that people started to call God YHWH right from the beginning (Gen 4:1 and Gen 4:26). The P and E texts, however, are both consistent in that people only started to call God YHWH when he revealed his name to Moses (Ex 6:2-3). Additionally, whilst the J author does call God Elohim, he only ever does this whilst narrating events - he never has a character refer to God as Elohim.

The letters from Elephantine show that both the Judean and Samaritan (capitol of the northern kingdom of Israel) temples coexisted. The Elephantine letters also strongly suggest that the holiday of passover was started during or after the Babylonian exile.

Philistine pottery found in Israel dates to around 1194 - 1114 BCE, showing early Philistine presence to that time. A reading of Judges doesn't know anything about the arrival of the Philistines on the Levantine coast. In fact, in Genesis the Philistines are already in the Levant at the time of Abraham and Isaac. The arrival of the Philistines was such a serious event in the area that soon after that time the Egyptians had lost control of the coastal area and later the uplands as well.

The Bible knows nothing about the arrival of the Philistines, yet if a culture was there at the time they couldn't miss such a presence. I'd have to conclude that there was no maintained tradition that reached back as far as the arrival of the Philistines, for if there had been, you'd expect the bang to be recorded. Instead, you have the local population (without sign of a recent arrival of its own) becoming aware of the Philistines as its awareness spread beyond its little world around Jerusalem and then the wider uplands area. This suggests that this group of people as a cultural entity doesn't go back as far as the arrival of the Philistines. This seems to match the linguistic evidence that the Phoenicians were the earliest separation from the Canaanite group of languages and Hebrew was a later, more conservative split.

Genesis - Exodus - Leviticus - Numbers - Deuteronomy

Joshua, Judges, Samuel / Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi

Ketuvim Chronicles, Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ruth, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Esther, Daniel, Ezra / Nehemiah

Miscellaney Council of Jamnia - Pharisees - Sadducees - Samaritans - Dead Sea Scrolls

Torah (תרה) / Law


Genesis etymologically derives from the Greek word for "beginning". Genesis makes reference to the city of Dan (Gen 14:14) and uses the phrase “unto this day” (Gen 22:14). These sections could not have been authored by Moses. Genesis also mentions the Chaldeans and several Edomite kings, none of which existed anytime near Moses’ lifetime. The Edomite king list from Genesis 36, in fact, lists known historical figures who lived well after Moses’ lifetime. Genesis was not written by Moses or anyone who lived close to his lifetime.

A mostly scholarly, and highly entertaining, commentary on Genesis.


Exodus is also Greek in etymology. "Ex" meaning "out" and "odos" meaning "road". The Egyptians were actually administering Israel at the time of the Exodus. Keeping the Hebrews in shackles in Luxor would have made little sense when they already had them in bureaucratic shackles in the Levant. The message of Exodus is summarized in two passages: the commission of Moses (6:2-9) and the preface to the covenant ceremony at Sinai (19:1-6). The three basic components of the message include (1) the judgment of the oppressor nation Egypt, (2) the deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt by the 'mighty arm' of Yahweh, and (3) the establishment of Israel as God's special possession among all peoples.

Exodus, J and E are prominent in chaps. 1-24 and 32-34. The materials in chaps. 25-31 and 35-40 are normally assigned to P. For example, in Exodus 34:1 it says "Now YHWH said to Moses, "Cut out for yourself two stone tablets like the former ones, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets which you shattered."

If you actually sit down and write out the commandments in Exodus 20 and Exodus 34 (the first and second sets), the first couple commandments match, but then are no longer congruent. In essence, God said the words would be the same, and they are not. Explanation:

Exodus 19-24 and 32-34: The Giving of the Covenant

In the present narration, Exodus 19-24 describes a first presentation of the convenant, and Exodus 31-34 tells how it was given again after Moeses broke the original tablets in anger at the people's apostasy with the golden calf. But behind this arrangement, there were originally two separate accounts of the same Sinai event, one from the E source (now in chapters 20-24) and one from the J source (now in chapters 33-34). To fit both accounts in, the editors have made two stages of one act. Chapter 19 combines the introductions to both versions. We can divide the two accounts to show the differences in outlook between the J and E sources:

Chapters 19, 33-34, "J"

24:1-2, 9-11 Moses joined by elders--all eat a sacrificial meal
34:10-26 God gives the covenant laws, many of them rituals
34:27-28 God gives the ten commandments (again)

Chapters 19, 20-24, "E"

29:21-23 Moses alone without the priests is to go to the mountain
20:1-17 God gives the ten commandments
20:18-23:33The covenant law code sums up the major demands of justice
24:3-8 People all accept Moses' law and are anointed by blood

The basic thread to which the rest has been attached is the J account. The original form of this old story remains generally visible despite its reworking by subsequent editors. It presents the departure from Egypt as a continuation of the theme of the double promise made by Yahweh to the patriarchs. Israel is to become a great nation living in a productive land. The first part of this promise, the growth into a great nation, seems already very near fulfillment at the beginning of the Exodus story. The Israelites have become a strong and numerous people, a sign of the power of the blessing that accompanied the promise (Gen. 12:2-3). But the captivity in Egypt is a hindrance to th realization of the second part of the promise, the occupation of the land, and the king of Egypt, in his determination to reduce the numbers of the Israelites, poses a direct threat to the first part. Thus in the J narrative it is to safeguard his promise to the patriarchs that Yahweh commissions Moses to lead the people to freedom. Knowing that this can be achieved only by force (3:19-20), YHWH strikes Egypt with repeated plagues until Pharaoh agrees to let the people go. In the end, the king who tried to thwart the blessing of Israel asks Israel for a blessing for himself (12:32). Note that for J the goal of the Exodus is clearly the promised land (3:8, 17). Sinai is only a stop—albeit the most important stop—along the way. J's version of the proclamation of the covenant, which is preserved in chap. 34, links the covenant very closely to the conquest of the land (cf. 34:11). The covenant stipulations are largely concerned with agricultural festivals; thus the mandated mode of worship is also linked to the land (34:18-26).

We have no external evidence at all about the Exodus and must rely almost exclusively on the Bible for our information. Although the basic outlines of the Biblical story seem believable, it is difficult to separate historical fact and legendary embellishment. In particular, the question of whether all the tribes participated in the event is a much debated point. It may be that the story of the exodus functioned in Israel much as the story of the first Thanksgiving functions in modern America. Although Americans tend to speak of the Puritans as forefathers, it is obvious that they are such only in a quasi-mythological way, for the ancestors of most Americans came to the New World long after the Puritans arrived. In the same way, Israelites may have taken this event experienced by a few of the tribes and made it a central myth for all. The complete lack of any trace of over 1 million people roaming around the desert isn't the sole problem (think about how much trash there was at Woodstock; and that was only a weekend). The problem is that there's no evidence of mass dislocations of any native Canaanite peoples around the time period that the books of Exodus - Joshua describe. There should have been a huge influx of non-native Canaanite pottery if the events in the conquests describe happened; this is how we can tell when a population is invaded.

If the Jews were native to Egypt for 400 years, then we would expect to see some sort of Egyptian-like pottery - dishes, pans, firepits, etc. - overrunning the landscape when they invaded. There's simply no evidence of that. There's no evidence of millions of people wandering the desert for 40 years, and there's no evidence that these millions of people displaced large amounts of Canaanites in one generation.

The actual evidence indicates that the Hebrews were native to Canaan all along and simply grew to become a distinct culture. The "escape from Egypt" story makes sense because they were seen as a far away antagonist due to Egypt's history of conquest in the area (hence things like the Mernetaph stele), and it makes sense of the pharaoh in the story not having a name. If Moses wrote that story, then he wouldn't have forgotten the name of the pharaoh that he lived under and spoke to face-to-face.

Passover is exceptionally poorly represented outside the Torah, once only in the prophets, a few times in Ezra, references in 2 Kgs for Josiah (23:22 & 23) and a more expanded account in 2 Chr (including stuff on Hezekiah celebrating it, not supported by 2 Kgs), not even once in the psalms.

The reference regarding ships going back to Egypt (Deut 28:68a says, "The lord will bring you back in ships to Egypt, by a route that I promised you would never see again", when did Jews ever go to Egypt "in ships"? These ships were for commercial purposes, plying trade between the Levantine coast and Alexandria. History records the movement of Jews from Judea to Egypt in the Zenon Papyri. Zeno of Caunus was an agent for the high Egyptian official Apollonius under Ptolemy II and Ptolemy III. His letters describe amongst other things the movement of slaves, Jewish slaves, to Egypt along the trade route circa 260 BCE. (Slavery is a very ancient institution, but the commercialization of it was predominantly a Greek development.)

Although there was always movement between the Levant and Egypt via the land route, movement of people by ship regards Ptolemaic times.) is a pointer to a late dating because it appears to be a reference to no earlier than the Ptolemaic times. The Joseph story might be a Greek novella, which puts it into the late Greek era. The torah is quite out of touch with the history that can be gleaned of the earlier times, eg it seems to think that the Philistines were always in the Levant; the "city" of Pithom (Exodus 1) was constructed under Necho II circa 600 BCE - the archaeological evidence shows no pottery remains from any time from Necho II back 1000 years


Leviticus is the book of the Levites or "Leviticon"; the book of the priestly instruction. Thus the entirety of the book is the result of P. Leviticus is basically a manual or handbook on holiness designed to instruct the covenant community in holy worship and holy living so that they might enjoy the presence and blessing of God (cf. Lev. 26:1-13). The laws and instructions were to transform the former Hebrew slaves into 'a kingdom of priests and a holy nation' (cf. Exod. 19:6). In its present form, Leviticus is post-exilic, the work of the Priestly school during the period of cultic reorganization after the Exile's termination. Chapter 26 bears evidence of post-exilic authorship, for it alludes to the captivity of the people and the desolation of the land. (26:27ff). The Holiness Code, which had taken on some additions during the Exile, was once more re-edited and became the nucleus of Lv. To it were added the sacrificial code (chs. 1-7), the ordination rite (chs. 8-10), and the legal purity code (chs. 11-16). Chapter 27, dealing with the commutation of vows, comes from a still later edition. The purpose of Lv was to supply directives on all aspects of religious observance for the post-exilic community, especially as they related to the Temple liturgy.

The book of Leviticus itself now contains twelve major sections with each section marked off by a summarizing statement. These major summary statements appear in 7:37-38; 10:20; 11:46-47; 12:7b-8; 14:54-57; 15:32-33; 16:34b; 21:24; 23:44; 24:23b; 26:46; and 27:34. (Some sections also have minor internal summaries; see 13:59; 14:32). This division into twelve sections no doubt reflects the use of twelve as a symbolic number both indicating completeness and pointing to the twelve tribes of Israel. Before this material was edited into its final form, some of the twelve sections may have existed as separate and independent collections. For example, chaps. 1-7 or a shorter version of this material could have constituted a document serving as a small handbook on sacrifice.


Numbers is a compilation of several sources embodying material from different stages of Israel's history. It is even misleading and anachronistic to call Numbers a 'book' as we understand the term today; we should rather speak of a very complex assemblage of historical, legal, and liturgical traditions spanning a period of approximately 1000 years. Analysis of Numbers reveals that the J, E, and P traditions predominate, the last impressing on Numbers its own peculiar spirit and character. The J and E traditions in Numbers cannot be separated easily; they were probably drawn together, or conflated, shortly after the destruction of Samaria in 721. Both traditions were subject to the editorial control of P, and it is generally agreed that the P tradition has given Nm its final form.

The first census list in Numbers 1 introduces the first half of the book, which includes chaps. 1-25. The first half of Numbers recounts the eventual death of the old generation of God's people out of Egypt as they march in the wilderness toward the promised land. The death of this old generation who had experienced the Exodus and Sinai events is precipitated by the people's continued rebellion against God, coming to a climax in the spy story in chaps. 13-14.

The second census list in Numbers 26 introduces the second half of the book, which includes chaps. 26-36. This second half of the book recounts the emergence of a new generation of God's people as they prepare to enter the promised land. The theme of this part of Numbers is not rebellion and death, but new life and hope. This overarching structure of the death of the old generation and the birth of a new generation of hope provides the interpretive framework for the other varied contents of the book of Numbers.

Genesis through Numbers, as we have been saying, is basically a Priestly creation. The narratives, especially the older ones, were mostly assembled by P rather than originally written by him. Most of the legislation, however, was written by P—or, rather, rewritten, for much of it is inherited from ancient times. P's accomplishment was to set the complex, almost codified legislation into the framework of a reconstruction of Hebrew history. Without the history, the legislation would hang in mid-air. The question, 'What shall a man do?' would not have been merged with the question, 'What shall a man think?'


Deuteronomy is literally Greek for "Second Laws" (deutero nomoi). The text describes events subsequent to Moses’ death, so he cannot have written it entirely himself. Others have insisted Joshua finished the text, but this theory has problems as well. For instance, in Deut 34:1 Moses is said to be shown the “land of Gilead, unto Dan.” Neither the city nor region of Dan had been established at that time period. It wasn’t until Jdg 18:29 (well after Joshua’s death) that the city of Laish was given the name Dan and the tribe acquired a land of inheritance. Deut 34:1 cannot have been written prior to the time of the judges. Assertions that Moses wrote the end of Deuteronomy through revelation ignore those textual considerations and rely on a fallacious line of reasoning that holds that anything unexplainable can simply be dismissed with an appeal to revelation. Such reasoning begs the question and refuses to actually deal with evidence.

"Core Deuteronomy" (chapters 5-28) is virtually universally recognized among bible scholars to be of late Iron II provenance. It is conventionally dated to c. 630 BCE and is believed to be the scroll that Josiah's high priest, Hilkiah, "found" in the Temple (see 2 Kings 22). This identification is based on the remarkable similarity between many regulations described in the Book of Deuteronomy and the description of Josiah's reforms in 2 Kings 23 (cult centralization in particular). Thus, by the time Deuteronomy 28 was written, the Northern Kingdom had already been conquered and many of its inhabitants resettled.

Jdg 18:12 appeals to a significant phrase used throughout the Hebrew Bible: “unto this day.” Deuteronomy uses the phrase numerous times to reference an event whose influence was felt “unto this day” (e. g., Deut 2:22; 3:24; 34:6). The idea in every instance is that the effects of the event persisted for a significantly large amount of time. It makes no sense at all for the author of Deuteronomy to use such a phrase in reference to events which occurred in his own lifetime, and the phrase is never used that way elsewhere. Deut 34:10 makes that conclusion even more untenable: “There never again arose a prophet in Israel like Moses.” Such a statement cannot have come from a time period at all close to Moses’ life (and there was no land of Israel then). The author of these verses is writing from a much later time period, after numerous prophets had come and gone.

Nevi'im / Prophets

Joshua (יהושע y'hwshua "YHWH is salvation":: Greek Ιησους / Jesus )

Even though Joshua is grouped with the "Prophets", this book is still in the maelstrom of JEDP authorship, mostly influenced by D. Apart from the untenable Talmudic attribution, Joshua is anonymous. The person of Joshua is only the protagonist of the book. For Hellenistic Jews, the main protagonist of this book would be Jesus, since Joshua (Yeshua or Yehoshua) was rendered as Iesou when the Torah/Pentateuch was translated into Greek c. 280 BCE. According to most scholars, the Deuteronomistic History was produced by several historians either around the time of Josiah's reform in Judah in the late seventh century BCE or during the Exile, after 587 BCE. Nonetheless, those Canaanites who eventually would become Israelites/Judahites were native to Canaan all along, as there is no archaeological evidence for an invasion at the scale presented in Joshua. Thus Joshua would continue the polemics of Judahite reformists, and is not accurate history.


The book may be divided into three parts: a double introduction, which deals with Israel's failure to conquer Canaan completely, first from a military and then from a religious perspective (1:1-3:6); the main body of the book, consisting largely of the adventures of the individual judges (3:7-16:31); and a double conclusion (chaps. 17-21), which sets the stage for the transition to monarchy by painting a picture of moral decline and political dissolution in a time when 'there was no king in Israel and every man did as he pleased' (21:25). The stories of the judges are thus framed by an introduction that looks back to the book of Joshua and a conclusion that looks forward to the books of Samuel and Kings.

Some epic stories of the settlement period had been preserved orally only in the northern traditions, while others were retained only in the southern kingdom; still others were remembered, but modified differently, in both traditions. All were combined sometime after the fall of the northern kingdom (721 BCE) in a first edition of Jgs that even then bore a Deuteronomistic interpretation in the presence of 10:6-16. Later, another edition of this material wished to make this interpretation even more explicit and rigid in terms of a repeated cycle of sin, oppression, repentance, and deliverance. The introduction in 2:11-3:6 was then added and the individual sagas were framed more precisely within this theology. Possibly at this same time, the D-interpreted (2:1-5) narrative of the conquest (1:1-2:5) was placed in preface to Jgs, an insertion necessitating the repetition of Jos 24:28-31 in Jgs 2:6-9. This redactor may also have deliberately omitted Jgs 9 and 16 as unedifying and irrelevant for his purpose. This complex of 1:1-16:31 (without chs. 9 and 16?) contained only six judges (Othniel, Ehud, Barak, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson). A later redactor added six more, whose existence was recalled by the tradition but whose exploits had been long forgotten (Shamgar, Tola, Jair, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon). The additions served to constitute a 'Book of twelve Judges,' which was, presumably, this author's purpose. It was also this same redactor who replaced Jgs 9 and 16 in the framework.

Samuel / Kings (שמואל "name of god" or "god has heard" :: Greek Σαμουηλ / Samouel)

1 & 2 Samuel are actually 1 & 2 Kings, whereas 1 & 2 Kings should be 3 & 4 Kings. The viewpoints in Samuel-Kings clash and contradict each other. The antimonarchy chapters seem oblivious of the theme recurrent in Judges that a king was an urgent necessity. David and Solomon are both idealized and also severely criticized. The great Solomon is interpreted as the culprit responsible for the division of the monarchy. The editors seem to find it here recurrently necessary to explain why it was that the privilege of building the Temple (in Jerusalem) was withheld from David and given to Solomon. As noted above, prior to the Exile there were many temples, with the Jerusalem Temple becoming a focal point of worship in the archaeological record sometime right before the fall of Israel. The Northern Kingdom had their own Temple in Samaria. The abundance of the material on David, with long sections reproduced from ancient sources without Deuteronomic comments, tends to obscure the true character of Samuel-Kings. If, however, one were to skip from the account (the first of two) of David's anointing, in I Samuel 16, to I Samuel 31, the death of Saul; from there to II Samuel 5, David's election as king by the tribes, and the summary of his reign, to the account of his death in II Samuel 2, then the restored perspective will bear out that Samuel-Kings is an interpretation of kingship and not a history of it.

It is not possible to date with precision the origin of 1 & 2 Samuel. In part, these books undoubtedly contain very old materials, some dating from what would be around the first years of the monarchy in Israel. However Goliath has the correct accoutrements of a hoplite soldier, a form of warfare which developed in the 7th century BCE. Then again, this might be evidence that the Philistines were originally some form of ancient Greeks. The Narrative of Succession (2 Sm 9-20) is an example of such possible early documentation. It was probably fixed in written form soon after the events that it narrates took place. The entire work was probably given its definitive shape—allowance made for some later additions and retouching—shortly before, or during, the Exile. This final restyling was accomplished under D influence, reflected especially in I Sm 2:27-36 and 2 Sm 7. Most commonly accepted of the ideas about sources is the view that chaps. 9-20 ttogether with 1 Kings 1-2 was originally a separate document. This 'story of King David' is often referred to as the 'court history' or 'succession narrative,' since some have seen the struggle between David's son to succeed him on the throne as its primary theme. A case has been made for including most of chaps. 2-4 (the war between David and Saul's son Ishbosheth) with this material and possibly part of chaps. 6 (David and Michael) and 7 (the promise of a Davidic dynasty). But where this postulated document originally began is uncertain.

The David of Samuel, unlike the David of Chronicles, is hardly a man who spends most of his time worrying about cultic affairs. He is a vigorous general, a virile and sometimes lustful hero, and a keen politician. At the same time, the David of Samuel is a fervently pious man who does more than simply manipulate religion for the benefit of the state. His dancing before the ark in an 'uncovered' state is just one example of his enthusiasm for YHWH and his cult.

Biblical scholars have accepted that these two books form part of a continuous history of Israel, compiled no earlier than the late 7th century BCE, but incorporating earlier works and fragments. Samuel's account of David "seems to have undergone two separate acts of editorial slanting. The original writers show a strong bias against Saul, and in favour of David and Solomon. Many years later, the Deuteronomists edited the material in a manner that conveyed their religious message, inserting reports and anecdotes that strengthened their monotheistic doctrine. Some of the materials in Samuel I and II, notably the lists of officers, officials, and districts are believed to be very early, possibly even dating to the time of David or Solomon. These documents were probably in the hands of the Deuteronomists when they started to compile the material three centuries later." Within these, there are sometimes what appear to be very minor redactions. For example, 1 Samuel 1:20 explains that Samuel is so called because his mother had asked Yahweh for him; however Samuel means name of God, while Saul means asked; this has suggested to many biblical critics that the narrative originally concerned Saul at this point, a later editor substituting Samuel's name.

Israel Finkelstein and Ze'ev Herzog of Tel Aviv University do not believe the archeological record supports the view that Israel at that time was a major state, but rather was a small tribal kingdom, although both Finkelstein and Silberman do accept that David and Solomon were real kings of Judah (not Israel) about the 10th century BCE. They claim that surveys of surface finds aimed at tracing settlement patterns and population changes have shown that between the 16th and 8th centuries BCE, a period which includes the biblical kingdoms of David and Solomon, the entire population of the hill country of Judah was no more than about 5,000 persons, most of them wandering pastoralists, with the entire urbanised area consisting of about twenty small villages. The united monarchy of David and Solomon, which is described by the Bible as a regional power, was at most a small tribal kingdom. No other major powers in the area seem to be aware of either a unified kingdom or the southern lands of Judah until right before the Assyrian conquest of the northern kingdom of Israel c. 700 BCE.

Isaiah (ישעיהו y'shuay'hu "YHWH is salvation" :: Greek: Ισαιας / Isaias)

The current book of Isaiah has at least two different authors. The original Isaiah constitutes chapters 1 - 39. What is called "Deutero-Isaiah" (second Isaiah) makes up chapters 40 - 66. The themes of destruction, exile and suffering are presumed in Deutero-Isaiah; there is familiarity with the history of the 6th century, above all with Cyrus [link] as the anointed one/christ/messiah, and firsthand experience of Babylonian religion; and a prophet speaks both out of and into the situation of his contemporaries. There are the themes of comfort and salvation, a new salvation under a new covenant; God is presented as creator and maker, and his action in history as redeemer and savior is rooted in his action as creator. Chaps. 40-66 there is constant repetition and doubling of words; there is familiarity with the style of the psalms of descriptive praise with their heaping up of present participles; Jerusalem, Israel (the suffering servant of Isa. 52-53), and objects are personified. Deutero-Isaiah might have been written by a student of the original pre-exile Isaiah. In the time of Isaiah, Babylon was seen as a friendly nation; it was Assyria that was the threat (chapter 39).

There are arguments for a Trito-Isaiah (third Isaiah) which comprises chapters 55 - 66. Throughout the greater part of Trito-Isaiah we continually find ourselves in the community of the restoration: there is mention of the temple and of rebuilding it, of sacrifices, of the observance of the sabbath and the regulations of the Torah, and this observance is considered to be an essential qualification for membership of the community. None of these arguments appears even once in Deutero-Isaiah, and since the setting of Deutero-Isaiah is Babylon, it is difficult to see how that would be possible. Trito-Isaiah was written probably 20 years after Deutero-Isaiah. In 60:13 the temple has been built and it is only necessary to adorn it, implying a post-exile Persian era setting.

Jeremiah (ירמיהו y'rmy'hu "YHWH exalts" :: Greek: Ιερεμιας / Ieremias)

We possess more biographical data on Jeremiah than on any other prophet. Included are a number of personal laments or 'confessions' which allow us a view of the inner life of a prophet as do no other prophetic materials in the Old Testament. According to the superscription to the book, his career began in the thirteenth year of Josiah's reign (627 B.C.) and extended through the destruction of Jerusalem (587 B.C.), a total of forty years. Born into a priestly family of the village of Anathoth, just two miles northeast of Jerusalem, he was at home within the city itself and was imprisoned there during the Babylonian siege. Similar to Isaiah, he had intermittent and predominantly unhappy encounters with the reigning monarchs. A devoted follower and secretary named Baruch recorded his prophecies and, most probably, wrote his memoirs. Following a long, turbulent, and faithful career, the prophet was at last taken against his will into Egypt by a group of Judeans fleeing Nebuchadnezzar's reprisals for the assassination of Gedeliah.

Jeremiah expands on the theme, common also to Amos, Isaiah, and Habakkuk, that YHWH controls history. The historian would say, very simply, that the Babylonians conquered Judah and transported the leading citizens to Babylonia. The prophet, however, expresses this differently: because of Israel's sins, YHWH caused the Babylonians to invade in order to punish Judah. Through the Babylonians, YHWH sent Judah into exile. Jeremiah's contribution to the theme was the idea that YHWH did not bring about these events merely to punish, but to effect moral regeneration. The Babylonian incident was not doom, nor, as Jeremiah interpreted matters, would YHWH fix doom as the climax of history. Rather, YHWH was accompanying the means for moral regeneration with a new relationship, that is, with a new covenant (ch 31). Jeremiah, then, continued the tradition of interpreting the events of history as the revelation of YHWH's will and plan. Prior to the Babylonian conquest, he said that YHWH's doom was inevitable. But once the events had happened, Jeremiah said that this was not doom, but YHWH's plan to refine and purify the Judeans.

Ezekiel (יחזקאל ytzqel "God will strengthen" :: Greek Εζεκιηλ / Ezekiel)

In Jewish tradition the interpretation of Ezekiel has been particularly difficult because some of the legal material contained in chaps. 40-48 contradicts the laws of the Torah. This might suggest that Ezekiel was written before the Torah/Pentateuch was fully compiled in its more recognizable form. The Babylonian Talmud reports that this fact caused some rabbis to advocate withdrawing the book from circulation, a fate that was avoided only through the extraordinary efforts of Hananiah son of Hezekiah, who successfully reconciled the contradictions (b. Sabb. 13b; b. Hag. 13a; b. Menah 45a). Equally troublesome to the rabbis was the vision of God's glory described in Ezekiel 1, a passage that they feared might lead to dangerous mystical speculations or even destroy the interpreter who probed too deeply into its mysteries. According to the Talmud, Hananiah son of Hezekiah was again able to persuade his colleagues not to withdraw Ezekiel, although Jerome [link to NT] reports that some rabbis prohibited the reading of the beginning and end of the book by anyone under the age of thirty (b. Hag. 13a).

The book consists of forty-eight chapters. Chapters 40-48, at the end of the book, are a description of a vision of what the restored Temple in Jerusalem was to look like. [[We can set aside this section for later consideration, as well as Chapters 25-32, which consist of denunciations of foreign nations. The remainder,]] Chapters 1-24, presents a series of visions and predictions, which announce that the ruin of Jerusalem is going to take place, as it did in 586. Chapters 33-9 deal with the future restoration of Israel. One can say, then, that the total book consists of the prophetic call and commission, predictions of the destruction, denunciations of foreign nations, visions of restoration, and, finally, a plan for religious restoration.

One particularly striking characteristic of Ezekiel is that the book appears to be in relatively good order—so good, that down to the end of the last century it was presented as a model, apart from a text which in many places is far from easy. It is in fact remarkably simple to make a division: (a) oracles against Judah and Jerusalem in chs. 1-24; (b) oracles against the nations in chs. 25-32; and finally (c) oracles of salvation in chs. 33-48. The last section is subdivided into two parts: the preparation in chs. 33-39 and its programmatic realization in the restoration of the temple and the cult in chs. 40-48.

Once again, then, we would seem to have the tripartite scheme which we have also found in other prophetic books, but which we have seen to be almost certainly the work of the redactors. So even in the apparently perfect Ezekiel we have signs of a redaction, and there are in fact many more indications: too often the chronology, which we have seen to be so exact, appears valid essentially for the verses which immediately follow the chronological note, but stops there (and it is worth noting that at this time, from the first tentative indications in Jeremiah, the prophetic oracles begin to be dated, a system left aside by Deutero-Isaiah and then taken up on a large scale by Haggai and Proto-Zechariah); there are a good many contradictions and repetitions, passages edited in the first and the third person, and so on. This has suggested at least two redactions.

Others have wanted to make a distinction between passages in poetry and passages in prose, a criterion which, as we have seen, is also followed in the case of Jeremiah, but has been shown to be too simplistic. On the basis of the apocalyptic elements present in the work, yet others have come to view the work as having been written by an anonymous prophet who lived towards the third century BCE and who will have projected his work back to the time of the exile in order to make it comply with the criteria established in the first century CE for the place of a book in the canon, namely that it should have been composed at a time earlier than that of Ezra and Nehemiah.

In reality these attempts are simply the product of a swing of the pendulum in opposite directions: whereas Ezekiel was first cited as an example of systematic redaction (or what was thought to be systematic redaction), at a later stage the truth seemed to be precisely the opposite, and Ezekiel therefore had to become an artificial work at a stroke, possibly put together with scissors and paste, with a fictitious order and fictitious chronology. Today, however, as with the other prophets, the tendency is to examine each passage in Ezekiel on its merits, deciding on the authenticity, the inauthenticity or the dubious character of each one of them in turn. Thus it is possible to find some interpolations in 27.2-9a, 25-37; in ch. 38 and in chs. 40-48, and in some further cases. We have seen that this situtation also exists for the most part among the prophets who preceded him. It is not possible to establish who has been at work. We do not hear of any disciples whom Ezekiel may have had, but since he regularly received the elders of Judah, a school or at least a circle could (that is, of course, only a possibility) have arisen which transmitted his words and meditated on them. In any case, the inauthentic material is difficult to recognize in Ezekiel because we have fewer external points of reference with him than with others.

Hos[h]ea (הושע hwshua "salvation" :: Greek: Ωσηε / [H]Oseas)

The superscription (1.1) presents him as a contemporary of Isaiah, but this note does not seem to correspond to reality. In 1.4 his ministry begins under the last king of Jehu's dynasty, that is, at the latest under Zechariah, son of the Jeroboam II who was mentioned in the previous chapter; but 7.7; 8.4; 10.3, 15 show that he will have been a witness of the disorders which followed Zechariah's assassination. In 5.13; 7.11ff.; 8.8f.; 10.5ff.; 12.2 it seems that he knows of the tribute sent to Tiglath-pileser III of Assyria which followed that action. 5.8-6.6 seem to allude to the so-called 'Syro-Ephraimite war'. On another occasion there are mentions of relations with Egypt (7.11; 9.6; 12.2), probably at the time of his namesake (King Hoshea of Israel; although the names are different in English conventional usage, they are the same in Hebrew). However, there is no hint of activity after the fall of the northern kingdom (722-20), so that the period of his ministry is put between the middle of the century and about 725. If Hosea, then, was a contemporary of Isaiah, he was an earlier contemporary, while the names of the later kings will have been added (we do not know why) by the author of the superscription.

Joel ( ywel "jah is god" :: Greek: Ιωηλ / Ioel)

The book of Joel, though it contains some superb Hebrew poetry, raises a number of critical issues which are not easily solved. In the first place, the work is undated and gives few clues as to the time of origin. Some have taken the mention of the Greeks in 3:6 as a sign of post-exilic origin, but this reasoning is specious to say the least. Not only were the Greeks known of for centuries before the rise of Alexander the Great, but 2:30-3:8 is in prose and may constitute a later addition to the text anyway. Traditionally, Joel has been dated to the eighth century before the common era, perhaps because of its position among the minor prophets, but few arguments can be offered for this dating. More critical scholars have variously assigned it dates during and after the exilic period. The basic reason for so dating it is that it contains an eschatological vision somewhat similar to those found in Ezekiel and other exilic and post-exilic prophets.

Most would still allow for a complex history of the book's composition starting before or during the exile, but interpreters are increasingly content to posit a post-exilic date for the final form of the book without delineating clear-cut stages of development. Even the evidence for dating is entirely circumstantial: there is no sign of a king, and the leadership is in the hands of elders; Israel is scattered among the nations (3:2); the Temple, with its priesthood and ritual, are at the center of the community's life (1:9, 13; 2:14); the community is apparently small (2:16); Phoenicians and Greeks, not Assyrians and Babylonians, are active in slave trading (3:6).


Like most of the other books of prophecy, Amos was compiled and edited by followers who remembered and eventually recorded his words for posterity. Much of the poetry can be attributed to Amos himself, but most scholars question the attribution of 9:11-15 to him. This passage, which strikes about the only note of hope in the whole book, speaks of the rebuilding of Israel and the days of peace and prosperity which will follow the disaster. Apparently, though Amos saw only doom ahead, the editors felt compelled to add this word of promise to mitigate somewhat the sense of awful terror which Amos evokes and to express not only YHWH's judgments but his unqualified promises as well.

The book of Amos consists of three major sections: an introductory superscription (1:1) and 'motto' (1:2); the main body of the book (1:3-9:6); and a concluding postscript (9:7-15). The first and third sections presuppose Jerusalem as the central focus of divine activity: Uzziah, king of Judah, is listed ahead of Jeroboam, king of Israel (1:1). Yahweh roars from Jerusalem, his dwelling place (1:2). At the end of the book, the concern for the 'falling booth of David' (9:11) centers upon the Jerusalemite royal dynasty; the reestablishment of the Jerusalemite political authority is the center of attention.


The book thus has integrity with respect to both form and content, but the close similarity between parts of it and parts of another anti-Edomite prophecy suggests that the author may have drawn on previously existing oracular materials (cf. vv. 1-5; Jer. 49:7, 9, 14-16). There is no consensus among modern interpreters, however, regarding any earlier stages, and since nothing biographical is known about the prophet for whom the book is named, there is no telling whether any certain parts of it or the whole should be attributed to him. In any case, the book in its final form is not so much a collection of prophecies, each occasioned by a particular event, as it is a critical reflection on the type of hitsorical process represented by a whole period of Israelite-Edomite relations. The book's retrospective viewpoint presupposes both the Edomites' participation in the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem in the sixth century BCE. (Ps. 137:7) and a subsequent attack on Edom by former allies, which cannot be as precisely dated. Such considerations would put the final composition sometime in the postexilic period, probably in the sixth or fifth century BCE.

Like many of the prophets, Obadiah predicts that Judah will eventually conquer and that Edom will be destroyed. In Obadiah, however, there seems to be no eschatological hope. His vision of the future is limited to a restoration of the old Davidic Empire and to the defeat of its perennial enemies. Certainly the last verse which is translated 'Saviors shall go up to Mount Zion to rule Mount Esau; and the kingdom shall be YHWH's,' ought not to be taken in an eschatological sense. The word for "saviors" used here is 'Messiahs,' i.e., anointed ones—the kings.


The book of Jonah is unique among the books of the prophets, for it is not a collection of oracles at all. Rather it is a well-wrought, comic novella which, through its broad humor, makes a very decisive prophetic point. It was written with tongue-in-cheek and must be read accordingly if its message is to be properly assessed.

The actual composition of the book is not datable except within the broadest boundaries (ca. 750-250 BCE.) simply because there are no certain indications in it of date. The considerations most seriously cited as relevant to the issue of dating are four: (1) the supposed Aramaisms in the language, such as 'on whose account?' in 1:7 and 1:12; (2) the possible dependence of certain motifs or theological considerations on the book of Jeremiah; (3) the close verbal connections with Joel 2; (4) the supposedly erroneous identification of Nineveh as the actual royal capital of Assyria in Jonah's time - i.e. the phrase "king of Nineveh" is as nonsensical as saying "the king of Pittsburgh".

The exact reference to Jonah in 1:1 roots the book in history (2 Kings 14:25), but literary features (e.g., irony, satire, hyperbole, repetition, humor, and the ending) indicate a nonhistoriographic purpose. The book is best seen as an interpretive development of these roots in the form of a short story pervasively didactic and carefully structured. Jonah himself becomes a type representing certain pious Israelites who hold a problematic theological perspective; Nineveh (cf. Nah. 3:1) is probably cipher for the Persians (cf. Jth. 1:1). The book is a unity, as most recent scholars recognize, though the author uses many earlier motifs and traditions (cf. Gen. 18; 1 Kings 19; Jer. 18, 36; Joel 2, an a possible unknown Psalm inserted at 2:2-9). The book is prophetic in that it speaks a word of judgment and grace to a specific audience, evoking amendment of thought and life.

The name Jonah in Hebrew means “dove,” which denotes various meanings, such as “chaste,” “fragile,” “fickle,” “asinine,” and the like. In Jonah 1:1, Jonah is described as the son of Amittai, which adds to the satirical element, literally meaning, “dove, my truthful son.” The irony is that Jonah’s prophetic behavior shows otherwise. This name of Jonah signals the comparable depiction and role of the dove in the flood narrative. In Gen 8:8–12, Noah sent out the dove three times from the ark; the dove returned to the ark the first time, brought a freshly plucked olive leaf the second time, and did not return the third time. The role of the dove indicates its ability to find the location and fidelity to fulfill the task. With regard to similarity, just as the dove was sent as a messenger, Jonah assumes the role of messenger to Nineveh. Just as the dove was dispatched with the anticipated sign of hope to those in the ark, Jonah was thrown out from the ship yet helped calm the storm and convert the sailors.


The superscription suggests the time of the ministry of Micah as being during the reigns of Jotham (742-735 BCE), Ahaz (735-715 B.C.) and Hezekiah (715-687 BCE). These figures allow a maximum period of fifty-five years for Micah's ministry, but it is not likely that he was active as a prophet during all of that time. The references to Samaria (1:1, 6), to idols (1:7, 5:12-13. Eng. 5:13-14) and to Omri and Ahab (6:16) have led some to argue that Micah's ministry began during the fall of Samaria in 722 BCE. Other scholars have denied these references to Micah, arguing that they are the work of a later redactor. Lescow even assigns the references to Samaria to the conflict which brought about the Samaritan schism in the fourth century BCE The evidence, however, is not strong enough to deny that Micah preached before the fall of Samaria. Perhaps the earliest identifiable historical reference in the book of Micah is in 1:10-16. This pericope probably describes the march of Sennacherib from Lachish to Jerusalem in 701 BCE. If this section is the work of Micah we have evidence that he prophesied at least to the end of the eighth century BCE. Jer 26:18 tells us that Micah predicted the fall of Jerusalem (3:12) during the reign of Hezekiah (715-687 BCE).

The book of Micah seems to have grown in two or perhaps three stages. The first stage involved the work done by the prophet Micah remembered by a group of disciples and some of Judah's leaders (cf. Jer. 26:18-19). The second phase appears to have involved people concerned with preserving collections of prophetic announcements, particularly those of Isaiah and Micah (a close affinity exists between these two books). The first and second phase of the book's development may overlap.

In 1.2-7 we have a threat against the kingdom of Israel, later adapted to Judah by means of an addition (v. 5b). We might therefore think of a text which was originally earlier than 722-21, and was then adapted to a different situation since Israel no longer existed. In 1.8-16 we have a lament on Judah, probably on the occasion of the Assyrian invasion under Sennacherib in 701. Chapters 2-3, which give reasons for the judgment, are more difficult to date: 2.1-5 are directed against avaricious landowners; 2.6-11 against the prophet's enemies; 2.12f., however, speak of the assembling of the scattered exiles of Israel and are therefore an exception in this context, which is entirely one of judgment; 3.1-4 are against unjust judges; 3.5-8 against false prophets. In 3.9-12 the priests and prophets are the object of Micah's invective, and for the first time the threat of the destruction of the Jerusalem temple is made. As we have seen, this last passage is doubtful: Jer. 26.18 dates it in the time of Hezekiah. Anyone who accepts its authenticity will note that the passage must have made a great impression if it could be quoted a century later in a court as a reason for acquittal in such an important case.


The book of Nahum ('YHWH consoles') is undated, but it clearly comes from about 612 BCE, for it speaks of the fall of Nineveh which took place at that time. Nahum is said to come from Elkosh, but that town has never been certainly located. Some identify it with Capernaum (which means 'the village of Nahum' - kfar nahum; Hebrew transliterations into Greek sometimes switch the 'p' and 'f' sound. Josephus writes his name as "iosepos"), while others place it variously in the territory of Simeon, in Galilee at el-Kauzeh, or even in Assyria itself. Since Nahum itself gives some indications that the author lived in Judah (1:15), a southern location is probably most likely

One may divide the book into three almost equal parts. Chap. 1 is about the nature of God. Because YHWH is a jealous God he will judge the enemies of his people and he will give refuge to those who trust in him because he is good (v 7). Chap. 2 is a vivid description of the battle for Nineveh along with a taunt song against Nineveh. Chap. 3 is an oracle on the fate of Nineveh. A more detailed outline of the book will show that 1:9-2:2 contains alternating judgment oracles against Assyria and salvation oracles for Judah based on the contrast in the psalm between the enemy and those who seek YHWH's protection. The psalm is not a typical hymn of praise because it lacks the imperatives which are usual in the call to thanksgiving in Israel. The thematic relation of the judgment oracle against Assyria to the psalm is marked in 1:8-9 by the idea of 'making an end'. The salvation oracle promises deliverance for Judah in that day. Then the King of Assyria is told of his ultimate annihilation. The oracles of judgment and salvation are expansions of the themes introduced in the hymn fragment. In vivid contrapuntal manner the oracles introduce the reader, filled with the knowledge of a zealous God, to the descriptive passages about Nineveh and Thebes, the final destruction of the Assyrian king, and the joy of those who must no longer endure his tyranny.


Most modern scholars agree that reference to the rise of the Chaldeans (Hab. 1:6) and the general descriptions of distress in the land of Judah (chaps. 1-2) indicate that Habakkuk spoke during the reign of King Jehoiakim (609-598 BCE) or perhaps during the brief reign of his son Jehoiachin (597 BCE). Judah became a vassal state of the Chaldean or Neo-Babylonian Empire following Nebuchadnezzar's defeat of the Egyptian army of Carchemish and Hamath in 605 BCE. Jehoiakim was a loyal subject of Babylon for three years, imposing heavy taxation on the population of Judah and repressing dissent to meet the demands of the Babylonian monarch. After Jehoiakim revolted in 602 BCE, Nebuchadnezzar sent bands of raiders to harass Judah until he could mount a full-scale invasion of the land. Jehoiakim probably died during the Babylonian seige of Jerusalem in 598 BCE Following the capitulation of the city, Nebuchadnezzar deported the new king, Jehoiachin, and leading members of Judean society to Babylon. Many scholars believe that Habakkuk, a contemporary of Jeremiah, was a prophet active at the Temple of Jerusalem during these years.

Chapter 3 contains a psalm of Habakkuk which many authorities ascribe to a later hand. In it is to be found a theophanous picture of YHWH which calls to mind both ancient mythological cosmogonies and the victory of Joshua (YHWH's salvation) in the conquest of Canaan. Habakkuk calls upon God to renew his work and, in his wrath, to remember mercy (3:2). The prophet expresses his great fear before the calamity to come (3:16), but he also rejoices in YHWH who is his strength in this time of disaster (3:17-19). Although this last chapter may well have been added later (it is not to be found in the Commentary on Habakkuk of the Dead Sea Scrolls), it still expresses quite well the same message which is found in Chapters 1 and 2. Possibly, it signifies that Habakkuk was an official prophet of the temple who wrote psalms for the cult.


Most scholars prefer a date before Josiah's reform in 621 BCE for Zephaniah's ministry because Zephaniah denounced syncretistic practices, Baal worship, and child sacrifice which were prevalent during Manasseh's reign (1:4-9, 11-12; 3:1-4). By denouncing such practices Zephaniah could have been a contributing influence in bringing about reform. The reference to Nineveh (2:13-15) which fell in 612 BCE is another marker.The syncretistic worship reflected in 1:4-5 also points to a pre-reform date as does the references to Moab, Ammon and the Philistine cities. In light of our present information it is probably best to see Assyria as the enemy and assign a date of c. 627 BCE to the book of Zephaniah.


The first prophet of post-exilic Israel, Haggai, was truly a 'minor Prophet,' with a meagerness of words and crabbed style. His four oracles are dated very clearly between August-September and November-December, 520 BCE, the second year of the reign of Darius I Hystaspis (521-486). Darius had seized the throne amidst confusion, intrigue, and revolt. His predecessor, Cambyses, had committed suicide when, returning from an Egyptian campaign, he learned that an upstart named Gaumata had declared himself king. Darius, of the royal family, fought for two years, not only to remove Gaumata but also to suppress uprisings across the sprawling empire. The Jews may have been maltreated by their Persian masters at this time of panic and fear. The prophecy echoes this rumble of world events (2:6-7,21-22).


Zechariah's preaching relates to the new situation which has been created following the victory of Darius and the collapse of the messianic dreams of Judah. Its aim is to demonstrate that the unexpected turn of events did not in the least compromise the realization of the divine plans. Despite everything, the end-time was near and the kingdom was at hand. So the work on the rebuilding of the temple continued, through all kinds of difficulties, until one day the Persian governor (satrap) of Syria came to Jerusalem for an inspection. He believed, probably on the basis of tendentious information similar to that which had been received by the Persian authorities some years before, that the messianic hopes of Israel and the rebuilding of the temple posed a danger to the solidarity of the empire (Ezra 5). There are some scholars who have thought that hopes to this effect will have been cherished at least among some groups and that 6.9-15 refers to them; moreover, the prophet will have protested against such tendencies in 4.6-10.

In any case, the inhabitants of Jerusalem succeeded in demonstrating their innocence, producing as one of their arguments the fact that it had been Cyrus himself who had authorized the rebuilding of the temple. A full authority to proceed was followed by an edict in which Darius I confirmed the validity of the decree of Cyrus, also ordaining that sacrifices were to be offered in the temple for himself and his house (Ezra 5.3-6.18). This is probably the origin of the practice attested in late Judaism before the destruction of the temple of offering a periodic sacrifice for the emperor. To be on the safe side, the Davidic descendant Zerubbabel was removed from the governorship: he disappears from the scene in mysterious circumstances and the last visions of Zechariah no longer mention him.


Though undated, the book of Malachi can be placed with confidence in the first half of the fifth century BCE. The high hopes connected with the era of the restored Temple reflected in the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah clearly have been shattered. The book describes a priesthood that has degenerated into practices violating the laws regulating ritual sacrifice and that is lax in its responsibility of guiding and teaching the people. And the effects of degeneration and laxity are apparent throughout the land: people are reneging on their tithes; intermarriage is calling into question the identity of the Jewish community; and the day laborers, widows, orphans, and sojourners are suffering oppression. Nehemiah, whose activity in Judah began in 445 BCE, focused his reform efforts on ending intermarriage (Neh. 10:28-30), restoring the practices of honest tithing (10:32, 38-39) and of proper ritual (10:33-37), and ending exploitation of the poor (5:1-13). It is plausible to see Malachi as active shortly before the debut of Nehemiah. Thus, the book may be placed in the reign of Xerxes I (486-464 B.C.), when the Persians were experiencing their first stinging defeats by Greek armies. At this time, Judah was a vassal state of the Persians, living under a non-Davidic governor appointed by the Persians (Mal. 1:8), and may have been searching the international conflicts of the time for signs of divine intervention. Malachi, like Ezra and Nehemiah, also criticizes the taking of foreign wives (2:11), though this may refer to the providing of a foreign goddess as a consort for YHWH (cf. the Elephantine papyri).

Ketuvim / Writings



Psalm comes from the Greek word psalmos, which is derived from the Greek verb psallo which means to pluck a stringed instrument. The Psalms are songs to be sung, usually to a stringed instrument. Dating of the Psalms is a tremendous difficulty. Study of the Psalter has undergone significant changes during the 20th century, not the least of which is an altogether different approach to the question of the date and occasion of individual psalms. In years past interest centered on efforts to determine the specific occasion for which each psalm was composed, and the prevailing tendency was toward late dating. Most, if not all, psalms were assigned to the post-Exilic period, and it was not uncommon to date some as late as the Maccabean era (mid 2nd to mid 1st centuries BCE).

For example, for Psalm 110, "[p]ossible evidence favoring a postexilic view is 1 Maccabees 14:41, which describes Simon's appointment to the office of 'governor and high priest forever.' The Testament of Moses 6:1-2 refers to the Hasmoneans as powerful kings and priests of the Most High, and the Testament of Levi 8:2 refers to the Hasmonean kings as putting on priestly garments"[ref]. The Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) community, who bitterly opposed the Hasmoneans, never quote from Psalm 110 in their writings, even though Melchizedek was an important figure in their writings. Which might imply that Psalm 110 is Hasmonean polemic against the DSS community.

The present trend is toward earlier dating of the Psalms, however, allowing for a considerable number of pre-Exilic psalms, but with a reluctance to fix precise dates. Many Psalms contain explicit mentions of Israelite pre-Judahite polytheism, such as Psalm 82:

82:1 God standeth in the congregation of God; He judgeth among the gods.
82:2 How long will ye judge unjustly, And respect the persons of the wicked? Selah
82:3 Judge the poor and fatherless: Do justice to the afflicted and destitute.
82:4 Rescue the poor and needy: Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.
82:5 They know not, neither do they understand; They walk to and fro in darkness: All the foundations of the earth are shaken.
82:6 I said, Ye are gods, And all of you sons of the Most High.
82:7 Nevertheless ye shall die like men, And fall like one of the princes.
82:8 Arise, O God, judge the earth; For thou shalt inherit all the nations.

If we look at the Hebrew, a direct translation of verse 1 would be "'Elohim' stands in the council of 'El' and judges the 'Elohim'". Here, the first "Elohim" is fairly clearly supposed to be "God", and the second is fairly clearly supposed to be "gods". So a better translation would be "God stands in the council of El and judges the gods". This is clearly polytheistic. Particularly if we look at verse 6 too.

It now appears that there are few, if any, psalms for which the specific historical occasion is beyond doubt. While the content of the Psalms might be pre-Exile, their superscriptions (as in "of David, a psalm") very well might be post-Exile.[ref]


If we cannot say where Job originated, it is equally difficult to say when. Ezekiel referred to Job as an important person alongside Noah and Daniel (Ezek. 14:14-20; though this more than likely is a different Daniel [dalet-nun-alef-lamed: Danel] than the author of the Ketuvim book [dalet-nun-yod-alef-lamed: Daniel]). Moreover, tradition put him in the patriarchal period and made the book one of the oldest in the Bible. Modern scholars are skeptical of this claim to antiquity, but dates proposed range from the tenth to the third century B.C. The book itself is completely silent about its time, with no allusions to historical events or topical subjects (some take 12:17-19 as a depiction of the Exile). If we could be certain of the history of the Hebrew language or of the relations between one text and another, we could more confidently assign a date. Some affinities of Job 3 with Jer. 20:7-18, for example, do not allow certainty of which passage came first. Stylistic similarities between Job and Isaiah 40-55 have also been alleged. Those connections suggest a time either before the early sixth century B.C. (if Job is prior) or in the late sixth or early fifth century B.C. (if Job is later). Job 7:17-18 is almost surely a parody of Psalm 8, but no one can be sure when Psalm 8 was written. Job 3:4 is a parodistic allusion to Gen. 1:3, a creation account usually dated after the Exile in the sixth century B.C. Such evidence suggests but does not prove that Job was composed and completed after the Babylonian exile.



Song of Songs

Ecclesiastes Ecclesiastes gets its name from the Greek word for church/assembly: ecclesia. This book was commonly read in churches. The terminus ante quem is fixed by the discovery of Hebr fragments found at Qumran, which indicate that a copy of the book was in circulation about 150 BCE. Although the presence of Aramaisms is an inconclusive argument, the Persian words ('park,' 2:15; 'sentence,' 8:11) suggest the terminus post quem at about 500 BCE. Most authors prefer the 3rd or 4th cent. The language is late and similar to mishnaic Hebrew.

The first-person pronoun punctuates the book of Ecclesiastes, leaving the impression that a single author is responsible for its content. However, the book concludes with a section that refers to the author in the third person (12:9-14). These comments resemble an epitaph (12:9-11) and a polemical corrective (12:12-14). Furthermore, since 1:12 seems to be the author's introduction to the book, 1:1 may be viewed as a secondary superscription based on 1:12. In addition, a thematic statement, which may derive from Qohelet, forms an envelope around the book (1:2; 12:8). In any event, there is sufficient evidence to question the literary integrity of Ecclesiastes. This suspicion is heightened by the presence of contradictions, particularly with regard to the ultimate fate of the wicked. Does Qohelet think God will judge them or not? Because the book answers this question both positively and negatively, critics usually attribute these opposing views to different authors.




Daniel was more than likely written during the later stages of the Maccabean revolt of 167 - 164 BCE, but the character(s) were placed in an earlier stage of history to make it seem as though the events of the Maccabean revolt were foretold during the exile. This is a classic literary trope; of commenting about contemporary events via a past scenario. The "abomination causing desolation" is the erection of an idol of Zeus in the temple (Dan 9:27, 11:31) that the Seleucid king Antiochus IV set up in 167 BCE. It should be noted that "abomination" in Hebrew can also mean "idol".

Daniel's predictions about how the rebellion would end failed, however. After Alexander the Great conquered a large portion of the "known world", his empire was split after he died. The southern part of his empire was ruled by his general Ptolemy and his progeny, and the northern part was ruled by his general Seleucus and his progeny. This is ostensibly described well by Dan in chapter 11. Dan predicts that Antiochus (the "king of the north" i.e. a Seleucid) would be killed by a Ptolemaic king (the "king of the south") and that his kingdom would end immediately. Dan also predicts that after Antiochus sets up the statue of Zeus and stops the sacrificial system (Dan 12:11-12) -- which Antiochus did in 167 BCE -- that there will be 1,335 days until the world ends, which is approximately three years.

Antiochus actually died from illness, and the revolt lasted until 164 BCE when the Maccabees drove out the Greek forces/idols from Judea (as well as their Hellenized Jewish supporters who rejected circumcision) and [re]dedicated (hanukkah in Hebrew) the temple. Antiochus' Seleucid Empire also did not end immediately, but lasted until the Roman era, nearly 100 years later. The Greek writer Celsus, writing in the mid to late 2nd century is one of the first writers to notice a discrepancy with the age of the character Daniel throughout the book. The line of kings of Persia is well known: Cyrus, Cambyses, Darius I Hystaspes, Xerxes. If the Darius mentioned in Daniel was Darius I from the last quarter of the sixth century, how old would Daniel be? His lifetime would span from prior to the exile to almost the Hellenistic era.

Daniel uses Greek words and references a Greek musical instrument which didn't exist until the 2nd century BCE (Dan 3:5 contains "psaltery", which is Greek). it contains Aramaic dialect which dates well after the exilic period. It contains an anachronistic use of the word "Chaldean" to refer to astrologers. That word was only an ethnic indicator during the era of the exile and only came to be used for astrologers much later. Daniel contains post-exilic eschatological ideas about such things as a resurrection and judgement of the dead. Daniel also references the book of Jeremiah as a "sacred book" (i.e. as scripture) but Jeremiah would have been his contemprary. Daniel is the only book in the canonical Tanakh that belongs to the genre of "apocalypse", which, along with the idea of resurrection of the dead, is a result of Greek influence. These ideas simply did not exist in Jewish writing either before or during the Exile or early Persian era (c. 500 BCE).

The Christians around the time period of the writing of Mark considered the Daniellic phrase "one like a son of man" to be messainic. But, the phrase "one like of a son of man" in Daniel 7 refers to a restored Israel. This serves to form an ironic contrast-- the four kingdoms are "like wild beasts," (like a lion v4, like a bear v5, like a leopard v6, like an indescribable beast v7) whereas the restored Israel is like a son of a man (i.e. a human being), the same phrase that Ezekiel uses to describe himself. The four beasts of chapter 7 is the same progression in the statue of Dan 2, which has the Greek empire dividing into two legs, the Seleucids and the Ptolemies. The feet made of iron and clay indicate the varying power that the two empires were able to wield. Chapter 11 we find a series of conflicts between the kings of the north and the kings of the south immediately after the time of Alexander, the warrior king of 11:3 and the diadochi in 11:4. The king of the north is Seleucid and the king of the south is Ptolemy and chapter 11 describes the Syrian Wars.

The anointed one who gets cut off (9:25) seems to refer to Cyrus the Great, who was considered the anointed one in Isaiah 45:1 and in history was assassinated, while the second anointed one is Alexander the Great (9:26). The definite article in Daniel 9:26 reads: "And after the threescore and two weeks. . . ." By treating the sixty-two weeks as a distinct period, this verse, in the original Hebrew, shows that the sixty-two weeks mentioned in verse 25 are correctly separated from the seven weeks. Hence, two anointed ones are spoken of in this chapter, one of whom comes after seven weeks (Cyrus), and the other after a further period of sixty-two weeks (Alexander). 4 Ezra chapters 11-12 has the Son of Man as the Messiah, as does 2 Baruch 35-40, and were probably why, along with a later date than Daniel which was placed among the "Ketuvim" or Writings for being composed after the time period that prophecy had ended, these books were ultimately rejected from the Tanakh.

Darius the Mede is a fictional character produced by the author, loosely based on Darius I of Persia, but here depicted as ruling over a distinctly Median (rather than Persian) empire. The author depicted the Medes as ruling Babylon because several prophecies in Jeremiah and Isaiah predicted that Babylon would fall to them. These prophecies failed, and Babylon fell to the Persians instead. The author of Daniel dealt with this by simply falsifying history-- which he could get away with because he was writing long after the fact, in a culture where knowledge of the past was hazy. Note that in the book, the reign of Cyrus is clearly distinguished from that of Darius the Mede. Daniel's Darius is not a governor, he's a king. Daniel writes that Nebuchadnezzar had a son named Belshazzar, that this Belshazzar was the last king of Babylon during the Jewish captivity, that Babylon under Belshazzar fell to Darius, and that Darius was a Mede. Every single one of those points is wrong. There were four kings of Babylon after Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel thinks there was only one, and the one he names never existed. Nebuchadnezzar did not have a son named Belshazzar and no one by that name was ever king of Babylon. The guy who was king when Babylon fell was named Nabonidus and he was not related to Nebuchadnezzar. Interestingly, Naboninus had a son named Belshazzar but that son was never king and he died before his father did.

The author's invented chronology is clear enough when you get to the visions of the four beasts. These represent Babylon/Lion, Media/Bear, Persia/Leopard, and Greece/Elephant. Greece is the final kingdom, after which God will intervene, restore Israel (again, who is not a beast but "a son of man"; a human) to power, and resurrect the dead. It could be said that Daniel's son of man prediction (minus the resurrection of the dead) came true, as subsequent to this turmoil the Hasmonean kingdom ruled by Jewish priest-kings was established (c. 150 BCE - 49 BCE).

Ezra / Nehemiah

In printed Bibles, the Book of Ezra precedes the Book of Nehemiah—two separate books. But in ancient Jewish tradition, it is one book—Ezra/Nehemiah. Both books—or both sections of the book—are quite short, 10 chapters in Ezra and 13 in Nehemiah. A couple of other peculiarities: In the Hebrew Scriptures, Ezra and Nehemiah, although historical books, are in the third section of the Bible, the Writings (Ketuvim), instead of in the section with the historical books (such as Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings). In this respect Ezra/Nehemiah is like another double historical book, Chronicles, which is also in the third section of the Hebrew Bible.

There is another peculiarity: Chronologically, the history that Ezra/Nehemiah recounts comes after the history in Chronicles; yet in the Hebrew Bible, Ezra/Nehemiah comes before Chronicles. These peculiarities are not present in the Christian Old Testament. There the historical books are grouped together and Ezra/Nehemiah follows, rather than precedes, Chronicles.

A critical reading of these two books will show that Ezra/Nehemiah consists of three sources: (1) a historical introduction to the period, consisting of Ezra 1–6; (2) the so-called Ezra Source, consisting of Ezra 7–10 and Nehemiah 8–10; and (3) the so-called Nehemiah Memoir, consisting of Nehemiah 1–7, 11–13. The fact that parts of the Ezra Source appear in both books tends to confirm our treatment of the two books (Ezra and Nehemiah) as one.

The historical introduction (Ezra 1–6) is the work of the fellow whom scholars call the redactor. He (very unlikely to be she) is the editor who put the two sources together, occasionally making an editorial comment [2] or inserting information from scattered earlier lists and documents [3], but most importantly adding the introduction as background for what follows.

The historical introduction recounts Cyrus’s proclamation allowing the Jews to return from the Exile and rebuild their destroyed Temple, all in fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy (Ezra 1:1–3; cf. Jeremiah 25:11–12, 29:10). Cyrus even returns the Temple vessels that the Babylonian monarch Nebuchadnezzar had taken to Babylon and placed in the temple of a pagan god (Ezra 1:7; cf. Daniel 5:1ff.). Altogether, 42,360 people returned, not counting singers (!) or servants (the Jews had apparently done quite well in Babylon; they not only had servants, but also beasts of burden, described in some detail, which could be conscripted for communal projects [Ezra 2:66–67]).ref

Lost Books

  • The Book of Jasher (whose title fully translated means the Book of the Upright or the Book of the Just) is mentioned in Joshua 10:13 and 2 Samuel 1:18. From the context in the Book of Samuel it is implied that it was a collection of poetry. Several books have claimed to be this lost text, but are widely discounted as pseudepigrapha.
  • The Book of the Wars of the Lord[1]
Referenced at Numbers 21:14.
  • A "Book of Songs" is referenced at 1 Kings 8:12-13 (Septuagint).
  • The Chronicles of the Kings of Israel and Chronicles of the Kings of Judah are mentioned in the Books of Kings (1 Kings 14:19, 14:29). They are said to tell of events during the reigns of Kings Jeroboam of Israel and Rehoboam of Judah, respectively. The Chronicles of the Kings of Israel is again mentioned in 1 Kings 16:20 regarding King Zimri, and many other times throughout 1 and 2 Kings.
  • "The Book of Shemaiah the prophet, and of Iddo the Seer" (also called Story of the Prophet Iddo or The Annuals of the Prophet Iddo) is mentioned in the book of 2nd Chronicles. (II Chr 9:29, 12:15, 13:22). Iddo was a seer who lived during the reigns of Solomon, Rehoboam, and Abijah. His deeds were recorded in this book, which has been completely lost to history, excepting its title. However, it is interesting to note that Zechariah was the son of Iddo (Ezra 5:1, Zechariah 1:1)
  • The Manner of the Kingdom[2]
Referenced at 1Samuel 10:25.
Referenced at 1Kings 11:41.
Referenced at 1Chronicles 27:24.
Referenced at 1Chronicles 29:29.
Referenced at 1Chronicles 29:29, and also 2Chronicles 9:29.
Referenced at 1Chronicles 29:29.
Referenced at 2Chronicles 9:29.
Referenced in 2Chronicles 16:11, 2Chronicles 27:7 and 2Chronicles 32:32. Might be the same as 1 & 2 Kings.
Referenced at 2Chronicles 20:34.
Referenced at 2Chronicles 24:27.
Referenced at 2Chronicles 26:22.
Referenced at 2Chronicles 32:32.
Referenced at 2Chronicles 33:18.
Referenced at 2Chronicles 33:19.
Referenced at 2Chronicles 35:25.
Referenced at Esther 2:23, Esther 6:1, Esther 10:2, and Nehemiah 12:23.


Council of Jamnia

The council of Jews that convened in Jamnia, Israel (Joshua 15:11 as Yavne'el in Hebrew) c. 90 CE to decide on which books should be included in the official Jewish bible. According to the Babylonian Talmud, Gittin:56b, the Biryonim (revolutionaries) or Kannaim (Zealots) destroyed decades worth of food and firewood in besieged Jerusalem to force the Jews to fight the Romans out of desperation in the First Jewish-Roman war of 66-72 CE. This event directly led to the escape of Yochanan (or "John") ben Zakkai out of Jerusalem, who met Vespasian which led to the foundation of the Academy of Jamnia, where he received permission from the Romans to found a school of Halakha (Jewish law). His school became a major source for the later Mishna, which records the Tannaim, and a wellspring of Rabbinic Judaism.

The outcome of this council was the discontinuation of using the Septuagint or LXX in worship and focus on the Hebrew, and also a possible declaration/prayer against the heretics - minim such as the Notsrim [Christians] and Evionim [Ebionites/"the poor" cf Gal 2:10] (B'rakhot 28b-29a).

The destruction of the Jewish National State and the burning of the Temple in 70 CE necessitated tremendous changes of a structural nature. Many old regulations had to be abolished. The High Court at Jamnia also took upon itself the power to suspend certain Biblical laws which were either obsolete or incapable of being fulfilled due to changed conditions. Of the many prohibitions abrogated by the rabbis none benefited Judaism more than setting aside the age-old tradition against putting the Oral Law into written form. Despite the fact that for centuries it was regarded as a serious transgression of [Pharisee] Judaism to commit any part of the Oral Law into writing, the demands of the new age were entirely too compelling to be denied. The time had now come when the memory of the sages (even as it was trained in those days) could no longer hold the vast accumulation by oral transmission. Since the destruction of the Temple, the growth of the Oral Law, and the extension of its principles, mushroomed into a huge bulk. Individual teachers, jurists, and disciples resorted to jotting down various aspects of the Oral Law as aids to memory. From such beginnings as these arose the vast literature of the Talmud.


The name "Pharisee" comes from the Hebrew פרושימ (p'rushim) from פרוש (p'rush), meaning "separated ones" / "separated". "P[a]rus[h]im" was transliterated into Greek as farisaiee. As I wrote above, the 'f' and 'p' sounds are sometimes intermixed when transliterating between Greek and Hebrew (hence the English 'ph' for an 'f' sound in Greek loanwords). After the Sadducees/Hasmoneans gained their political power, a group of more liberal and less legalistic Jews "separated" from the mainstream. These would eventually become the Pharisees. The Pharisees were more popular with the common Jew due to their more liberal interpretation of the Torah as opposed to the Sadducees, who were the ruling class of Jews until the destruction of the 2nd Temple in 70 CE. At one point, the Hasmonean priest/king Alexander Jannaeus, allied with the Sadducees, crucified over 800 Pharisees and slit the throats of their wives/children right in front of their eyes while dying on their crosses for taking part in a rebellion against him.


The Sadducees or Tsadokim (i.e. the righteous) were a priestly group, Levites, associated with the leadership of the Temple in Jerusalem. Sadducees represented the aristocratic group of the Hasmonean High Priests, who replaced the previous High Priestly lineage. The earlier Priestly lineage had been blamed for allowing the Syrian Emperor Antiochus IV Epiphanes to desecrate the Temple of Jerusalem with idolatrous sacrifices and to martyr monotheistic Jews. The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah celebrates the ousting of the Syrian forces, the rededication of the Temple, and the installment of the new Hasmonean priestly line. The Hasmoneans ruled as "priest-kings", claiming the titles of high priest and king simultaneously, and like other aristocracies across the Hellenistic world became increasingly influenced by Hellenistic syncretism and Greek philosophies: presumably Stoicism, and apparently Epicureanism in the Talmudic tradition criticizing the anti-Torah philosophy of the "Apikorsus" (i.e., Epicurus) refers to the Hasmonean clan qua Sadducees. Like Epicureans, Sadducees rejected the existence of an afterlife, thus denied the Pharisaic doctrine of the Resurrection of the Dead.

The Sadducees rejected the Oral Torah (Talmud), which the Pharisees claimed to be a continuously passed down oral tradition which Moses received on Mount Sinai as a companion and elucidation of the Written Torah (Five Book of Moses). Instead they insisted on strict literal interpretation of the Five books of Moses, the Written Torah.

Sadducees followed the Hebrew Bible literally. They rejected the Pharisees' notion of an Oral Torah even before it was written (the written Oral Torah, the Talmud consisting of the Mishnah and Gemara which were completed by many Pharisee rabbis by 500 CE) by which the Pentateuch could be explained hermeneutically.

An example of this differing approach is the interpretation of the law of retribution:

And a man, when he maims his fellow, as he has done, so shall be done to him. A fracture for a fracture, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth—as he gives a wound in a man, so shall be given in him. (Leviticus 24:19-20)

Most Pharisees understood this to mean that the value of an eye was to be sought by the perpetrator rather than actually removing his eye too. In the Sadducees' view the law was to be taken literally.

While there is evidence of a Sadducee sect from the times of Ezra, it emerged as major force only after the Hasmonean rebellion. Being associated closely with the Temple in Jerusalem, after the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE the Sadducees vanish from history as a group. There is, however, some evidence that Sadducees survived as a minority group within Judaism up until early medieval times, which may have been the origins of Karaite Judaism.

The run-ins and clashes that Jesus has with the Pharisees are seen as an anachronism due to the Pharisees being the more liberal form of 2nd temple Judaism as opposed to the highly legalistic Sadducees. More than likely the conflicts that Christians had with the Pharisees after 70 were retrojected into the time and mouth of Jesus in the gospel narratives.


According to James D Purvis, The Samaritan Pentateuch and the Origin of the Samaritan Sect (1968), the Pentateuch was brought back by the returning Judean exiles, who were installed by the Persians to replace the local Babylonian appointed elite classes in the "new" Persian province of Yehud (Judah).

This Pentateuch was accepted more or less by the Israelite "people of the land" (those who had not been exiled but remained to tend to the land as royal tenants) both in Judah and in Samaria, but more especially by those in Judea as the exiles ruled that province directly, but did not rule the province of Samaria (Samaria was the capitol of the remains of the old kingdom of Israel. The Northern Kingdom was actually about to invade the Southern Kingdom in Isaiah 7, v14 is the Sign of Emmanuel where by the time the child in v14 grows to puberty [Isaiah 7:15], the Northern Kingdom [Isaiah 7:16, one of the two kingdoms in that verse] will be defeated).

Tensions arose between the political objectives of the Judean elites and the Samaritan elites, who did not seem to see eye to eye. The Judean elites thought they were much better representatives of the old Israelite tradition, and the Samaritan elites thought the same of their traditions. They survived in a kind of symbiotic tension through the Persian and Hellenistic periods, each maintaining competing temples, until the Judean rebellion against the Syrian king Antiochus IV Epiphanes ignited super nationalism among the Judaites. The Hasmonean prince John Hyrcanus attacked Samaria and destroyed their temple on mount Gerizim c. 115 BCE, and from that point on, Samaritan Israelites severed their relationship with Judaic sponsored religion and redacted their edition of the Pentateuch.

The Samaritan Messiah would be one who would re-establish the northern kingdom of Israel, and would be considered a son of Joseph/Ephraim. If the Jesus of Christianity were originally a Nasarene instead of a Nazarene, this would make him a Samaritan.

Dead Sea Scrolls / Qumran Community

The Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) are popularly referred to as the Essenes, but this has come to be doubted by some in the scholarly community. The DSS community's scrolls contain some of the earliest extant books of the Hebrew bible. The modern Hebrew bible is based on the Masoretic text (c. 200 CE). The DSS scrolls, however, date to around the beginning of the Hasmonean era (c. 150 BCE) to the Roman era (the first century CE). In quite a few instances, the DSS scrolls reflect the earlier polytheism of the Israelites that was later corrected in the Masoretc; even agreeing with the LXX when the LXX disagrees with the Masoretic.

The DSS community came about after the events recorded somewhat in Daniel. The outlawing of Judaism by Antiochus IV and the ousting of the previous high preisthood in favor of the Hasmonean priest-kings after the previous high priest had allowed Antiochus to desecrate the temple. While this was a victory for the Maccabees, the DSS community favored the previous high priest kicked out by the Maccabees, and their writings reflect their sectarian views. Thus for the Qumran community, they longed for two messiahs - one that would be a Kingly Messiah to re-estaish the authentic kingdom of David, and one that would be a Priestly Messiah who would re-establish the authentic pre-Maccabean priesthood. The Hasmoneans, however, made their own bid for authentic priestly succession with the introduction Sadducees. "Sadducee" is etymologically derived from Zadokim (or Tsadokim) implying that they followed the teachings of the high priest Tsadok who, according to tradition, anointed king Solomon.

Some of the DSS scrolls include The Temple Scroll; The Scroll of the 24 Priestly Watches; The Scroll of the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice; The Scroll of Priestly Blessings; The Scroll of Melchitsedek (describes the Archangel named Melkitsedek who functions as High Priest in heaven); The Testament of Levi; The Zadokite Document (also known as the Damascus Covenant).

All of these scrolls have to do with priestly issues. Then there's also the War Scroll (portraying the struggle between the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness) and the commentaries (pesher) on biblical prophetic books which are rewritten and reinterpreted in a way that all consoling prophecies refer to the Sons of Light and all rebuking prophecies relate to the Sons of Darkness. The Sons of Light are lead by the Priest of Righteousness (Cohen Tsedek [or Zadok]) and the Angel of Light while the Sons of Darkness are lead by the Evil Priest (Cohen Resha) and by the Angel of Darkness

The Messainic Scrolls include:

4Q175 (or 4QTest), also known as The Testimonia, is one of the Dead Sea Scrolls and was found in Cave 4 at Qumran in the West Bank. Only one sheet long, 4Q175 is a collection of scriptural quotations seemingly connected to a messianic figure. The manuscript was written in Hasmonean script of the early first century BCE and was edited by John Marco Allegro.

The Testimonia is a short document containing five Biblical quotations arranged in four sections concerning God's activities at the end-time. Only the last section is followed by an interpretation. The first three sections refer to future blessings which will come from three figures, a prophet similar to Moses, a messianic figure and a priestly teacher.

The first section consists of two texts from Deuteronomy and refers to the prophet-figure who is like Moses (Deuteronomy 5:28-29; 18:18-19). The second section is an extract from a prophecy of Balaam about the Messiah-figure, who is similar to David (Numbers 24:15-17). This prophecy predicts "A star shall come out of Jacob and a sceptre shall arise out of Israel; he shall crush the temples of Moab and destroy all the children of Sheth."[Simon Bar-Kokhba, the Jewish Messiah of 132 CE literally means "Simon son of the star"] The third section is a blessing of the Levites, and of the Priest-Messiah who will be a teacher like Levi (Deuteronomy 33:8-11). The last section begins with a verse from Joshua (6:26), which is then expounded by means of a quotation from the Psalms of Joshua (see 4Q379). These verses show that the Qumran community was interested in the messianic prophecies found in the Tanakh.

4Q252 Column V, formerly known as Patriarchal Blessing, covers Joseph's blessing of Judah. It contains a quotation from Jeremiah 33:17. The author links this blessing to Messianic expectation and the "covenant of royalty" given to David. The commentary serves dually as anti Hasmonaean polemic and affirmation of the Qumran community's self understanding as spiritual descendants of David.

The Rule of the Blessing (1QSb) is a very fragmentary text once thought to be part of the Dead Sea Scrolls book known as the Community Rule. It is added as one of two appendices (including the equally eschatological Rule of the Congregation) following the book of the Community Rule, on one of the first seven scrolls discovered at the Qumran site. The Rule of the Blessing includes three benedictions for use during the eschaton: one for the general assembly of the eschatological Tribe of Israel, which describes a sort of “living water” bringing them into a new covenant with God, one concerning the Sons of Zadok, priests chosen by God who will act “like angels” and lead Israel after the War. The third prayer is that for the messianic meal, to bless the “Prince,” or Davidic messiah, who has come to deliver Israel. These blessings are meant to praise the sect who inhabited Qumran and its leaders, for the ultimate perfection had dawned, and they had been its harbingers. Similar prayers are found elsewhere in the scrolls, and some believe that this particular manuscript many be a collection of prayers for general, daily use.

1QSa (The Rule of the Congregation) The scroll [says] that in the “last days” there will be a great war with the Gentiles, and the whole of Israel will join with the Yahad (an eschatological community) to fight. The Rule of the Congregation then outlines in several sections the rules for governing the eschatological sect, stages of life for members of the sect and the duties expected of them at each age, those disqualified from service, duties for members of the Tribe of Levi, acts of the council of the community, a description of a man (or men) described as “the Messiah of Aaron and of David” entering, and the eschatological banquet that will follow to celebrate his arrival. The Rule of the Congregation concerns itself largely with the operations of the sect during these “end-times,” and the functions and purity prerequisites demanded of the sect during the messianic assembly (banquet).

The War of the Messaiah is a series of Dead Sea scroll fragments describing the conclusion of a battle led by the Leader of the Congregation. The fragments that make up this document include 4Q285, also known as The Pierced/Piercing Messiah Text, and 11Q14 with which it was found to coincide. It is possible that it also represents the conclusion of the War Scroll.

This six-line fragment, commonly referred to as the "Pierced Messiah" text, is written in a Herodian script of the first half of the 1st Century and refers to a Messiah from the Branch of David, to a judgement, and to a killing. Hebrew is comprised primarily of consonants; vowels must be supplied by the reader. The appropriate vowels depend on the context. Thus, the text (line 4) may be translated as "and the Prince of the Congregation, the Branch of David, will kill him," or alternately read as "and they killed the Prince." Because of the second reading, the text was dubbed the "Pierced Messiah." The traditional transcription and translation support the "killing Messiah" interpretation, alluding to a triumphant Messiah (Isaiah 11:4).