Reviews of

Perspectives on the Formation of the Book of the Twelve

In De Gruyter, Jakob WöHRLE, James D. NOGALSKI, Matthew V. Moss, Minor Prophets, Rainer ALBERTZ on April 12, 2013 at 4:02 pm


2013.04.04 | Rainer Albertz, James D. Nogalski, and Jakob Wöhrle, Eds. Perspectives on the Formation of the Book of the Twelve: Methodological Foundations – Redactional Processes – Historical Insights. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2012. ISBN 9783110283341.

Review by Matthew V. Moss, Durham University.

Many thanks to De Gruyter for kindly providing us with a review copy.

The perceived unity of the twelve Minor Prophets as one, complete Book of the Twelve (henceforth BT) has received increased attention by Old Testament scholars over the last twenty years. Scholars from different methodologies have weighed in on the discussion, but the most prolific response has come from redaction criticism. Perspectives on the Formation of the Book of the Twelve is the latest compilation of essays intended to further the discussion of potential theories for how these twelve documents were stitched together into a unified book.

With few exceptions, the twenty-four essays that make up Perspectives adopt redaction criticism’s presuppositions and assume the reader’s familiarity with that methodology. As such, the intended readership of Perspectives is, in this author’s estimation, other established scholars interested in the formation and textual history of the BT as well as postgraduate students who already possess some familiarity with both redaction criticism and the previous debates on the unity of the BT.[1] The essays of this volume would not be the most effective summary for a student simply looking for a general grasp of the debate. Nor would this volume be the best starting point for a student looking to enter into this field of study. That said, Perspectives is an invaluable resource, a necessary anthology for those who follow closely the ongoing discussion of the unity and formation of the BT.

Despite the host of German scholars contributing to this volume, all the essays are published in English. This proves to be a helpful contribution of the volume to the field of BT studies. Considering that some of these scholars have few if any other writings in English, the postgraduate student is given an introduction to numerous scholars whose German works, cited in extensive bibliographies at the end of each essay, will prove quite helpful in his own research process. Through these English essays—exposure to the authors, their methodologies, and tendencies—students will be able to narrow their focus on which of the cited German works should take priority in their research.

The essays are divided into four categories, the first three of which correspond closely to the sub-title of the book. The first three essays fall under the heading of “Methodological Issues.” Generally speaking, the essays of this section focus on underlying methodological issues regarding synchronic and diachronic readings of the BT. They call for the best possible handling of redaction critical methods and try to demonstrate ways it can be done well.

The second category is “Editorial Issues,” whose fourteen essays offer explanations for editorial passages and unique intertextual features found both in individual books of the BT as well as larger sequential units (i.e. Nahum-Habakkuk-Zephaniah). The diverse views held by scholars within redaction criticism and the potential for heated scholarly debate become readily apparent when reading and comparing the essays of this section. Often and expectedly conclusions of one essay preclude the conclusions of another. This section of essays in particular demonstrates why the study of the unity and formation of BT has flourished and no doubt will continue to do so!

The third category of “Historical Issues” contains four essays all of which quite interestingly explore various historical circumstances and how they affect our understanding of the BT and its possible formation. The final category, not alluded to in the sub-title of the book, is “Issues Concerning the Canon.” The title is somewhat misleading, however. As is readily apparent from the titles of the three essays alone, a more appropriate title might be “Textual Issues.” Though still concerned with the canonical formation and the sequence of the books of the BT, the essays that make up this section are primarily centered on textual criticism and insights it lends to redaction critical theories of the BT’s formation.

With this broad overview of the four sub-divisions in place, let us examine a few of the essays that are representative of what can be found in each of these categories. From the first section, “Methodological Issues,” I will take up Marvin Sweeney’s essay, “Synchronic and Diachronic Concerns in Reading the Book of the Twelve Prophets (21-33).” By discussing both synchronic and diachronic approaches, Sweeney tries to bridge the gap between two differing, but not necessarily exclusive methods of reading the BT (21). He begins his essay with a synchronic handling of the final form of the entire text of the BT. His primary concern at this stage is to understand the overall message and framework of the BT in its final form before ever attempting to isolate discontinuities or propose redactional layers that provide the scholar with evidence of redactional processes.

Once one understands the overall framework, then the scholar can proceed methodologically to the diachronic task of reconstructing the BT’s growth and development into the forms we know. As Sweeney explains it, “Analysis of the Book of the Twelve must begin with the synchronic task of assessing the final forms of the versional texts in question, e.g., the Septuagint, Masoretic, and other relevant forms, to address the diachronic question of their respective socio-religious, socio-political, and historical settings. Only then may work turn to the diachronic process of reconstructing the literary growth that led to those textual forms (23).” From this point and moving forward Sweeney is concerned with the different sequence of the first six of the twelve prophets as found in the Septuagint over and against that found in the Masoretic Text. Obviously, having Joel read in light of Micah provides a very different synchronic reading than one where Micah is read in light of Joel. Thus, different theological and socio-political circumstances are diachronically examined to explain the different sequences and their literary effects.

In Sweeney’s case, he argues that the Septuagint sequence reflects a slightly earlier tradition than the Masoretic. He locates the Masoretic ordering in relation to Ezra and Nehemiah’s attempts “to restore Jerusalem as the holy center of post-exilic Judah (25).” In contrast to this, Sweeney sees the Septuagint’s sequential reading as calling for an ordering in the early Persian Period because of its focus on northern Israel’s fall and “the potential for the restoration of Davidic rule over all Israel once again (29).” Sweeney offers an interesting contrast of the sequential readings of the Septuagint’s and Masoretic Text’s respective orders for the BT, but ultimately, such a proposed reading is still conjectural even if it seems plausible.

From the largest category, “Editorial Issues,” I will briefly summarize Rainer Kessler’s essay, “The Unity of Malachi and Its relation to the Book of the Twelve (223-236).” Kessler emphasizes Malachi’s literary uniqueness in the BT, a claim much to the contrary of common BT scholarly opinions. In this essay Kessler provides a host of references from Malachi that demonstrate the author’s awareness of actual Torah and prophetic texts. One such example is the Jacob and Esau/Edom reference in Malachi 1:4-5. Contrary to common claims of Malachi’s reliance upon other BT writings (Wöhrle and Nogalski), Kessler claims that the allusions of Malachi form a stronger bond with Jeremiah and Ezekiel than any of the books of the BT (230). This connection to prophetic and Torah texts leads Kessler to date Malachi in the late Persian period, giving the writer more time for the material to become available, learned, and known widely enough to reference. That Kessler takes Malachi as a complete and independent book is an example of how the essays of the “Editorial Issues” section provide the reader with vastly different points of view and intriguing arguments and counter arguments.

From the section on “Historical Issues,” I will briefly explore Jason Radine’s essay, “Deuteronomistic Redaction of the Book of the Four and the Origins of Israel’s Wrongs (287-302).” In this essay Radine contrasts the ideologies and criticisms of the Northern Kingdom of Israel as found in the Deuteronomistic History (DtrH) of 1-2 Kings and that of Hosea-Amos-Micah. In 1-2 Kings the expressed reason for the fall of Israel was the religious practices of Jeroboam ben-Nebat in which the people continued to walk until the Assyrian Conquest (1 Kings 14:16, 2 Kings 17:21-23). As this is the explicit and obvious cause for Israel’s defeat in the DtrH, one would expect to find a trace of it in the passages often noted as Deuteronomistic redaction of the prophets. In the specific case of Hosea, Amos, and Micah (who treat the fall of Israel) Radine notes that it is not to be found.

Throughout the essay Radine provides good insights into specific features of the DtrH ascription of guilt and where similar elements are found in Hosea-Amos-Micah (such as the role cultic practices play in each of the respective treatments of the fall of Israel). While calling for more archaeological evidence to illuminate the historical facts of Jeroboam’s reign and deeds, Radine takes the DtrH ascription of guilt to Jeroboam as not well attested by archaeology. In the end the latter books make no mention of Jeroboam I or Israel’s secession from Davidic kingship as a cause for their fall. Radine does not take this as a cause to abandon the theory of Deuteronomistic redaction in the BT. Thus, his conclusion is twofold. First, whatever Deteronomistic redaction took place, it did not adopt the DtrH indictment and may even stand in opposition to it. Second, the silence over Jeroboam I found in Hosea-Amos-Micah better reflects the current archaeological evidence about this king’s reign.

Essays contained in this anthology:

1. Jakob Wöhrle, “So Many Cross-References! Methodological Reflections on the Problem of Intertextual Relationships and their Significance for Redaction Critical Analysis”

2. Marvin A. Sweeney, “Synchronic and Diachronic Concerns in Reading the Book of the Twelve Prophets”

3. Ruth Scoralick, “The Case of Edom in the Book of the Twelve: Methodological Reflections on Synchronic and Diachronic Analysis”

4. Roman Vielhauer, “Hosea in the Book of the Twelve”

5. Jörg Jeremias, “The Function of the book of Joel for Reading the Twelve”

6. James D. Nogalski, “Not Just another Nation: Obadiah’s Placement in the Book of the Twelve”

7. Aaron Schart, “The Jonah-Narrative within the Book of the Twelve”

8. Burkard M. Zapff, “The Book of Micah – the Theological Centre of the Book of the Twelve?”

9. Walter Dietrich, “Three Minor Prophets and the Major Empires: Synchronic and Diachronic Perspectives on Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah”

10. Matin Leuenberger, “Time and Situational Reference in the Book of Haggai: On Religious- and Theological-Historical Contextualizations of Redactional Processes”

11. Martin Hallaschka, “From Cores to Corpus: Considering the Formation of Haggai and Zechariah 1–8”

12. Byron G. Curtis, “The Mas’ot Triptych and the Date of Zechariah 9–14: Issues in the Latter Formation of the Book of the Twelve”

13. Paul L. Redditt, “Redaction Connectors in Zechariah 9–14”

14. Rainer Kessler, “The Unity of Malachi and Its Relation to the Book of the Twelve”

15. Roy E. Garton, “Rattling the Bones of the Twelve: Wilderness Reflections in the Formation of the Book of the Twelve”

16. Mark E. Biddle, “Dominion Comes to Jerusalem: An Examination of Developments in the Kingship and Zion Traditions as Reflected in the Book of the Twelve with Particular Attention to Micah 4–5”

17. Judith Gärtner, “Jerusalem – City of God for Israel and for the Nations in Zeph 3:8, 9-10, 11-13”

18. Jason Radine, “Deuteronomistic Redaction of the Book of the Four and the Origins of Israel’s Wrongs”

19. Rainer Albertz, “The History of Judah and Samaria in the Late Persian and Hellenistic Periods as a Possible Background of the Later Editions of the Book of the Twelve”

20. Anselm C. Hagedorn, “Diaspora or no Diaspora? Some Remarks on the Role of Egypt and Babylon in the Book of the Twelve”

21. Mark Leuchter, “The Book of the Twelve and ‘The Great Assembly” in History and Tradition”

22. Jennifer Dines, “Verbal and Thematic Links between the Books of the Twelve in Greek and their Relevance to the Differing Manuscript Sequences”

23. Russell Fuller, “The Sequence of Malachi 3:22-24 in the Greek and Hebrew Textual Traditions: Implications for the Redactional History of the Minor Prophets”

24. Hanne von Weissenberg, “‘Aligned’ or ‘Non-aligned’? The Textual Status of the Qumran Cave 4 Manuscripts of the Minor Prophets”

[1]               For two prior anthologies whose articles are often cited in this volume, see James Nogalski and Marvin A. Sweeney (eds.), Reading and Hearing the Book of the Twelve, (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2000); and Paul L. Redditt and Aaron Schart, Thematic Threads in the Book of the Twelve (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2003).

Matthew V. Moss
Durham University
m.v.moss [ at ]

  1. […] My attention was recently drawn to a forthcoming book entitled Perspectives on the Formation of the Book of the Twelve, eds. Rainer Albertz, James D. Nogalski, and Jakob Wöhrle. This book includes contributions from various scholars, utilizing various methodologies, to further explore the development of the Book of the Twelve in its final form. A good review of the book has written by Matthew V. Moss (read it here). […]

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