Rediscovering the Traditions of Israel

Rediscovering the Traditions of Israel

by Douglas a. Knight


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Rediscovering the Traditions of Israel by Douglas a. Knight

In the latest edition of this classic work, Knight presents a thorough history and analysis of the exegetical method known in Hebrew Bible studies as tradition history or traditio-historical criticism, the capstone of the historical-critical methods. Beginning in the seventeenth-nineteenth centuries with early notions that some form of oral tradition may have preceded the writing of biblical literature, scholars from the start of the twentieth century forward became increasingly intrigued with the idea that the creative period for much of the material lay in the long and intricate process of tradition growth rather than in the actual writing stage. The unfolding of scholarship in this field took distinctive forms in various contexts, especially in Scandinavian research, which is here assessed in light of many untranslated studies. This third edition, largely reproducing the original publication from 1973, is augmented by an epilogue arguing that several methods and issues developed in the period since the 1970s have now problematized past traditio-historical work in unavoidable yet also stimulating ways.

Paperback edition is available from the Society of Biblical Literature (

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781589831629
Publisher: Society of Biblical Literature
Publication date: 10/28/2006
Edition description: 3RD
Pages: 380
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.85(d)

About the Author

Douglas A. Knight, Ph.D. in Old Testament (1973), Georg-August-Universität, is Professor of Hebrew Bible and Director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Culture at Vanderbilt University. The author and editor of numerous books and articles, he currently serves as general editor of the Westminster John Knox series “Library of Ancient Israel.”

Table of Contents

Preface     xi
Abbreviations     xv
Prolegomena     1
Traditio et Traditum     5
Aspects of Traditio     5
Aspects of Traditum     9
What Is "Tradition History"?     17
Previous Understandings     17
Definition of Tradition and of Tradition History     21
Methodology     24
Yield     25
Scope and Method of the Present Study     27
The Rise of the Traditio-Historical Research of the Old Testament (Excluding Scandinavian Contributions)
Richard Simon and the Awakening to the Problem of Old Testament Tradition     33
Background     33
Simon's Critical Research     37
Understanding of Tradition     40
Influence on Later Researchers     42
The Era of Source Criticism: General Neglect of the Precompositional Stage     45
The Beginnings of Source Criticism     45
Johann Gottfried Herder: Impulses from Romanticism     47
Johann Christoph Nachtigal: Recognition of Precompositional Developments     49
Julius Wellhausen: The Documentary Hypothesis and Tradition     51
August Klostermann: The Crystallization Hypothesis and Public Recital     55
Hermann Gunkel andthe Recognition of the Importance of Ancient Traditions     57
The Influence of Albert Eichhorn     57
New Directions     58
Schopfung und Chaos: Impulses from Religionsgeschichte     60
Commentary on Genesis: Impulses from Gattungsgeschichte     62
From Hugo Gressmann to Albrecht Alt: Securing and Extending the Foundation     67
Hugo Gressmann and Tradition Criticism     67
Early Understandings of Oral Tradition     69
Albrecht Alt's Fundamental Contributions     73
Gerhard von Rad and Martin Noth: The Fathers of Traditio-Historical Research     77
Gerhard von Rad     77
The Form-Critical Problem of the Hexateuch     78
Point of Departure     78
The Traditio-Historical Independence of the Sinai Tradition from the Exodus-Conquest Complex     81
The Fusion of the Tradition Complexes by the Jahwist     83
Commentary on Genesis     87
Comparison with Gunkel's Commentary on Genesis     88
Hermeneutical Priority of the Jahwist's Composition     89
Tradition History in the Service of Old Testament Theology     91
Assessment of Israel's Sagas     92
Theology of the Old Testament     94
The Subject Matter: Israel's Testimonies to Jahweh's Involvement in History     95
Theological Reception of the Traditio-Historical and Form-Critical Methods     96
Tradition and History     98
Tradition History and Heilsgeschichte     102
A Traditio-Historical Relationship between Old Testament and New Testament?     105
The Importance of von Rad's Use of Tradition History     108
Martin Noth     109
History of the Pentateuchal Traditions     109
Task and Point of Departure     110
Isolating the Five Pentateuchal Themes and the Additional Elements of Tradition     113
The Merging of the Themes and the Individual Traditions     116
Traditio-Historical Study of the Deuteronomist's and of the Chronicler's Compositions     120
The Deuteronomistic History     120
The Chronicler's History     124
History of Israel     126
Summary     130
Subsequent Examples of Traditio-Historical Studies     135
Hartmut Gese on Ezekiel 40-48     135
Wolfgang Richter on Judges 3-9     139
Odil Hannes Steck's History of a Notion     142
Critical Reaction to Traditio-Historical Research     147
The Dependency of Traditio-Historical Analysis on Other Investigative Procedures      148
The Issue of External Evidence     148
Traditio-Historical Criteria and the Question of Historicity     151
The Question of Traditio-Historical Overkill     154
Overextension of the Method     154
Implausibility of the Results     157
The Need for a Basic Trust in the Traditional Outline of History     159
The Necessity of Avoiding Modern Cultural Presuppositions     160
Summary     161
The Scandinavian Debate on Traditio-Historical Problems
Preliminary Remarks     165
The Beginnings     169
Sigmund Mowinckel's Early Work on Prophetic Tradition     169
Johannes Pedersen: Initial Opposition to Literary Criticism     171
Ivar Hylander and Basic Problems of Method     174
The Traditio-Critical Task     174
Literary Criticism and Tradition History     175
Henrik Samuel Nyberg: The Thesis of a Predominant Oral Tradition     177
The Nature of Transmission in Israel     178
Tradition History of Numbers 16-17     180
Contributions to the Debate     181
Harris Birkeland: Establishing the Thesis and Demonstrating Its Consequences     182
Johannes Lindblom's Research: Evidence of the Force of These Ideas      185
The Prophetic Literature     186
Tradition History of the Book of Job     188
Sigmund Mowinckel's Further Studies     190
The Indispensable Work of Literary Criticism     190
The Rise of the Prophetic Literature     191
Oral Tradition as the Foundation     192
The Prophetic Word as Authoritative     193
Interpretation and Actualization among the Disciples     194
Creation of the Written Literature     195
Summary     195
Ivan Engnell: The Center of the Debate     197
Engnell's Traditio-Historical Introduction to the Old Testament     198
The Importance Given Tradition History     199
Oral Tradition and Its Significance for Text Criticism     200
The Literary Forms     202
Tradition History as an Alternative to Literary Criticism     203
Tradition History of the Pentateuch     205
Prophecy and Tradition: Mowinckel versus Engnell     208
Mowinckel     208
The Need for Both Traditio-Historical and Literary-Critical Research     208
The Critical Stratification of the Tradition     209
Source Analysis of Oral Tradition     210
General Principles of Israelite Tradition      211
Engnell     212
Limiting the Range of Oral Tradition     213
Ipsissima Verba and Tradition     214
The Analytical Task     214
General Principles of Tradition History     215
The Result of the Debate     216
Engnell's Subsequent Work     217
Oral Tradition     217
"Primary" versus "Secondary" Elements     218
The Traditio-Historical Method     219
The Primacy of Traditio-Historical Research     219
The "Uppsala Circle"     221
Alfred Haldar: Prophetic Circles and Transmission     223
Associations of Cult Prophets     224
Prophetic Tradition and Transmission     225
Geo Widengren's Refutation of the Thesis of a Predominant Oral Tradition     228
The Importance of Writing in the Ancient Near East     229
Supportive Evidence     231
Mesopotamia     232
Arabic Cultures     232
The Old Testament     234
Conclusions     236
Helmer Ringgren     238
Oral Transmission as Explanation for Certain Variant Readings     238
The Place of Tradition History in Old Testament Research     240
Costa W. Ahlstrom      241
Tradition History of Psalm 89     241
The "Oral/Written" Debate     243
R. A. Carlson on Second Samuel     245
Traditio-Historical Method and Scope     245
A Pre-Deuteronomic Davidic Epic     248
Compositional Analysis of Second Samuel     250
Evaluation of His Traditio-Historical Analysis     252
The Influence of And Response to the Uppsala Circle     255
Aage Bentzen     255
Hypothesis of Hexateuchal Stratification     257
Israel and Ancient Near Eastern Motifs     258
The Book of Daniel     258
Summary     259
Arvid S. Kapelrud     260
The Origin of the Ezra-Narrative     260
Pentateuch Miscellanea     262
Origin and Development of the Book of Joel     263
Eduard Nielsen     264
The Thesis of a Predominant Oral Tradition     265
Tradition History of the Decalogue     268
Form-Critical Reconstruction of the Original Decalogue     269
Traditio-Historical Analysis     272
Magne Saebo on Deutero-Zechariah     275
Analytical Orientation and Procedure     276
Text Criticism Understood Traditio-Historically      277
Form Criticism Understood Traditio-Historically     281
Preliminary Conclusions about Composition and Background     284
Summary     286
Critique     287
Oral Composition and Transmission     289
The Question of Reliability     290
Comparative Evidence     291
The Critical Analysis of "Oral Literature"     291
The Stage of Literary Fixation     292
The Scandinavian Contributions     293
The Importance of Religio-Historical Studies     294
On the Divine-Kingship Ideology     294
Constitutive Elements of the Traditum     296
General Contributions and the Present State of the Research     297
Epilogue: Does Tradition History Have a Future?     301
Historiography     303
Social History     307
Ideological Criticism     309
The Tradents: Who and Who Not?     311
Modern Exegetes     315
Conclusion     317
Bibliography     319
Index of Authors     349
Index of Subjects     355

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Rediscovering the Traditions of Israel 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
TedMorgan More than 1 year ago
This is a scholarly work, a summary of literature on a central and vital part of biblical studies. Perhaps, surprisingly, it is largely accessible. It is understandable because Professor Knight knows his material so well that he almost invites you to explore it with him. If you took an introductory course to the Old Testament during the sixties, Professor Knight brings you up-to-date on traditions history as he reframes what you studied. I am a layperson and not at all qualified to judge this book, but, as a layperson, I do testify that I am glad to have it in my library.