Prophets, Prophecy, And Prophetic Texts in Second Temple Judaism edited by Michael H. Floyd, Robert D. Haak (Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies: T. & T. Clark Publishers) This volume grew out of the program of the "Prophetic Texts and Their Ancient Contexts" (PTAC) group at the 2003 annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in Atlanta. Yairah Amit, Matthias Henze, Armin Lange, Christoph Levin, Martti Nissinen, and I presented essays on that occasion that became the core of the collection. Pancratius Beentjes, George Brooke, Naomi Cohen, Lester Grabbe, John Kessler, John Levison, and Joachim Schaper were invited to contribute essays, so that the stated theme of prophets, prophecy, and prophetic texts in Second Temple Judaism would be more comprehensively covered. We were kindly given permission to reprint Louis Feldman's article, which helpfully lays out the evidence regarding prophecy in Josephus's works. This book is one of several that have been generated by the ongoing work of the PTAC group.
Not too long ago many scholars would have regarded the phrase "Second Temple prophecy" as nearly a contradiction in terms. According to the formerly conventional view, prophecy flourished and reached its "classical" expression in the monarchial period, and then declined in post-exilic times. Only decadent vestiges remained, and even these eventually petered out. To be sure, "the prophetic heritage," in the form of a canonical collection of prophetic books, had a continuing impact, which from time to time led to a reemergence of "the prophetic spirit." But by the time Second Temple Judaism took definitive shape, prophecy itself was supposedly over and done with.
This view took as its starting point several ancient statements that seem to reflect the demise of prophecy, but it was also based on biblical scholarship's confident assumption that it could recover from the prophetic books firsthand information about pre-exilic prophets, and on the description of the prophetic role that emerged when this was attempted. Although most of the prophetic books were admittedly products of the postmonarchial age, they supposedly contained a deposit of the ipsissima verba of the prophets for whom they were named. The original words of the pre-exilic prophets could be laid bare by stripping away the later additions. From this literary reconstruction there usually emerged the voice of a socially independent figure, in some way divinely inspired, who in Yahweh's name spoke out against the political and religious establishment of his time. When this became the normative portrait of a "classical" prophet—"a forth-teller, not a fore-teller"—post-exilic prophets did not compare very favorably. By virtue of their zeal for cult and law rather than ethical critique of society, as well as their penchant for (dead) writing rather than (live) speech, they showed prophecy to be in decadent decline.
This approach is now recognized to be problematic on several levels. On an ideological level, it prejudicially assumes the cultural and theological inferiority of post-exilic Judaism.' On a more practical level, it has not reached any consensus regarding the ipsissima verba of particular prophets. Even when reconstructive analysis has affirmed the probability that a particular book was produced by redactional additions to an original deposit of prophetic speeches, it has not enabled scholars to delineate with certainty either the extent of the original deposit or the stages of redaction. Scholars have had to confront the brute fact that what we have before us are mostly postmonarchial prophetic texts, and that they collectively express how Second Temple Judaism viewed prophecy. Our knowledge of pre-exilic prophecy is thus limited to what these postmonarchial texts tell us, and they will let us know only how groups within formative Judaism viewed what they considered to be the antecedents of prophecy, given how prophecy had come to be practiced in their own time. In other words, the canonical collection of prophetic books initially tells us more about how Second Temple prophecy imagined its own ancestry than how pre-exilic prophecy was actually practiced.
This realization has led some scholars to doubt what we can know about pre-exilic prophecy, but extreme agnosticism is premature. From the fact that prophetic books were largely shaped by the conditions and concerns of post-monarchial times, it does not necessarily follow that the books concerning earlier prophets contain no accurate information about them in relation to their times. However, this fact does mean that scholarly investigation has to do an about-face. We used to begin with a reconstruction of pre-exilic "classical" prophecy, based on a dubious quest for the original words of pre-exilic prophets, and then proceed to characterize post-exilic prophecy on the basis of developmental theories about how such phenomena evolve. It is increasingly evident that this process must be reversed. Now we must begin with what our corpus of prophetic books shows us about the practice of prophecy in post-exilic times, and then work back to whatever extent the evidence allows. This entails analyzing each book as a whole, as it exists in its present form, so as to discover in the process whether there are also any indications that the book as such, or any distinct parts of it, once existed in an earlier form. If there are, we will then have some basis on which to determine what a particular prophetic book tells us about prophecy in earlier times, or even about the prophet for whom the book is named.' When we approach the history of biblical prophecy this way, we may be able to say something substantive about pre-exilic prophecy. In any case, however, our view of pre-exilic prophecy will always be skewed by the postmonarchial lens through which we inevitably must view it. We can only know about those aspects of pre-exilic prophecy that were later considered germane to what prophecy became in the post-exilic period.
The very fact that we discuss "prophecy" as an entity is symptomatic of this state of affairs. Introductions typically note that there are several different Hebrew terms for what we now call a prophet— etc.—without considering how this came about. Such terms actually refer to types of divination that were once distinct from one another. In the texts as we have them, however, their differences have been largely effaced in an attempt to understand them collectively, using as a comprehensive concept. This is evident in the narrator's aside in 1 Sam 9:9, that "the one who is now called a was formerly called a Mr." It is also evident in the grouping of documents that still betray this terminological diversity into a canonical collection called. Our postmonarchial texts allow us to see that there once were diverse types of divination in pre-exilic times, but because these texts tend to understand them all under the theologically normative rubric of what constitutes a true, we have little basis on which to determine what the differences were. Thus we no longer know what is really going on when Amos tells Amaziah, who has just called him a rim, that he is or was "neither a nor the son of a " (Amos 7:12-14). And because the LXX used the Greek word to translate this Hebrew term, we now call this theme "prophecy." So, if we want to look back into the pre-exilic period from the postmonarchial perspective of our texts, we cannot avoid anachronistically projecting the synthetic category of "prophecy"—which is largely a postmonarchial construct—back into pre-exilic times.
One of the main problems is the disparate nature of the evidence. With regard to the later half of the Persian period and the earlier half of the Hellenistic period, there is relatively little relevant information. The central years of the Second Temple period are pretty much a "dark age," in the sense that there are few data that throw much light on major developments of that time.6 With regard to the beginning and end of the Second Temple period, there are more sources, but of very diverse sorts. From the early Persian period, including the transition from Babylonian to Persian control, we have books about prophets who were active then (e.g. Haggai and Zechariah) as well as narratives that give a skimpy but more or less contemporary description of prophetic activity during that time (e.g. Ezra and Nehemiah). In addition, from around this time there are various documents about prophets who were active or began to be active in pre-exilic times, including a number of prophetic books (e.g. Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah, Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, etc.) and two national histories that treat prophecy programmatically as part of their agenda (i.e. Deuteronomistic History [DtrH] and Chronicler's History). From later Hellenistic and Roman times we again have historical narratives (i.e. 1 and 2 Maccabees), as well as the Dead Sea Scrolls and the works of such prominent Jewish thinkers as Josephus and Philo—not to mention the earliest pre-70 C.E. strata of Christian and rabbinic literature. When the kind of documentation that is available from the beginning of the Second Temple period is compared with the kind of documentation that is available from its end, the intervening "dark age" appears to obscure at least two significant shifts. First, prophetic books ceased and apocalypses began to be written—which raises the vexed question of whether and how prophecy is related to apocalyptic.' Second, the later sources increasingly include not only documents soon recognized as canonical scriptures, but also other documents variously concerned with the interpretation of canonical scriptures.
The articles in this volume are not directly concerned with historical problems endemic to the study of pre-exilic prophecy. On the contrary, they are all concerned with various facets of prophecy just before and during the Second Temple period. However, recent reformulation of approaches to pre-exilic prophecy provides a context in which one can better see the general significance of the essays collected here. In various ways, they indicate a shift of focus in the study of biblical prophecy. If we are to understand prophecy historically, we can no longer focus initially on a historical reconstruction of pre-exilic ("classical") prophecy, and then proceed to deal with Second Temple prophecy as an afterthought. We must instead begin with a comprehensive view of Second Temple prophecy as the basis from which we can work back to whatever we may reasonably conclude about its pre-exilic antecedents. These essays illustrate various aspects and complexities of this goal, and thereby take a step in that direction.I have attempted to sketch a broad outline of prophets, prophecy, and prophetic texts in Second Temple Judaism, viewing various facets of prophetic activity from the various angles taken by the contributors to this volume. As we have seen, the delineation of prophecy's contours leads in different directions all over the social map of formative Judaism and its Judean matrix. Such "thick description" may seem impractically messy in comparison with the much neater developmental categories of earlier scholarship, which made "classical prophecy" the measure of what was essential and relegated all other dimensions of prophecy to the status of subsidiary, decadent, or epiphenomenal variations on this theme. When one considers the striking variety of practices that fall under the rubric of prophecy in the Second Temple period, it may be difficult to see just what they all have in common. No wonder many Jews of this time felt the need to privilege some forms of prophetic activity, so that different groups came to view some kinds of prophecy as more authentic and trustworthy than others. Scholarship cannot pretend to be purely objective, but we should be careful not to project any one group's view onto Second Temple Judaism as a whole, as if it defined reality for everyone. The approach taken here has at least tried to avoid this pitfall. The intent has been to draft an outline that invites others to color in the details between the lines, or to consider redrawing the lines themselves. There is also an agenda of points for further discussion.
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