Tag Archives: Book of the Twelve

A Discussion about the Unity of the Twelve


A couple days ago I mentioned a book that I had just discovered entitled Two Sides of a Coin: Juxtaposing Views on Interpreting the Book of the Twelve / the Twelve Prophetic Books. Though I haven’t had a chance to get my hands on it yet, I have found some helpful reviews (The Journal of Hebrew Scriptures and Review of Biblical Literature).

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Hosea: A Commentary based on Hosea in Codex Vaticanus

Just saw this posted by Brill:

Hosea cover


Rather than studying the LXX of Hosea mainly as a text-critical resource for the Hebrew or as a help for interpreting the Hebrew, this commentary, as part of the Septuagint Commentary Series, primarily examines the Greek text of Hosea as an artifact in its own right to seek to determine how it would have been understood by early Greek readers who were unfamiliar with the Hebrew. This commentary is based on the uncorrected text of Vaticanus, and it contains a copy of that text with notes discussing readings that differ from modern editions of the LXX along with a literal translation ofthat text. This commentary also has an introduction to the Minor Prophets in the Septuagint. It is relevant for anyone studying the LXX or the book of Hosea.

You can find it here. Also, see the forthcoming volume on Amos.


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Perspectives on the Formation of the Book of the Twelve


Those familiar with the study of the Twelve have seen the central role of reconstructing the formation of the corpus in critical scholarship. The question of how these books came together has received a fair amount of attention in both monographs and scholarly journals, but further dialogue, of course, has always welcomed.

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).

As Moss notes, the book assumes the reader’s familiarity with the current discussion of the formation of the Twelve. For those seeking an introduction to the subject, I recommend Reading and Hearing the Book of the Twelve, eds. James D. Nogalski and Marvin A. Sweeney. Though this work was published nearly thirteen years ago, much of the material discussed continues to serve as the foundation for the contemporary discussion.

(HT: Brian Renshaw)

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The Problem of Time in Joel

For being such a short work, the book of Joel contains a host of problematic issues that have troubled its interpreters. One of the most significant is the historical/literary relationship between the first two chapters. The question is, is the locust plague of chapter one a literal infestation of locust portending the invasion of chapter two? Or, does the imagery portray the devastation left in the wake of an enemy army throughout both chapters? Indeed, answers do not come easy.

The latest issue of the Journal of Biblical Literature contains an article by Ronald L. Troxel that addresses the question once again. I have not yet had an opportunity to read the article, but the abstract does sound intriguing:

Scholarship on the book of Joel has long been vexed by the wayyiqtol verb forms in 2:18-19a. Ibn Ezra suggested that they are analogous to the prophetic perfect, expressing certainty about the outcome, while Adalbert Merx suggested that they should be read as simple wāw + jussive, and Julius Bewer argued that the imperative forms in 2:15-16 should be read as simple qatal forms, enabling vv. 15-17 to be read as a report of the people’s response to the exhortation of vv. 12-14. More recent studies of Joel 2 have found it difficult to explain the interchange of qatal and yiqtolverbs in vv. 2-11. Some have explained these as signaling the intrusion of redactional materials, while others have sought to accommodate them under a tense or aspectual understanding of the verbal system. Still others have despaired of finding a solution and have adopted readings of the verbs based solely on the context. Both of these problems are, however, amenable to rather straightforward solutions. On the one hand, the wayyiqtol verbs of 2:18-19a come into focus once we recognize the narrative structure of the book. The wayyiqtol verbs are embedded in speech by the narrator, whose voice was last heard in 1:4. On the other hand, the qatal and yiqtol verbs in 2:3-11 follow typical morphosyntactic and morphosemantic patterns, once we take into account their discourse settings, particularly the pragmatics of their clauses.

For those with access to JBL, you can find the article here.

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A Review of James Nogalski’s Commentary on the Book of the Twelve


Beth Stovell of St. Thomas University has written a review of the first volume of James D. Nogalski’s recent commentary on the Book of the Twelve (Hosea-Jonah). While it is certainly not plausible to provide a full critique of such a massive work (488+ pages), Stovell makes some helpful introductory comments. You can read the review here.

At the last annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, I attended a panel discussion reviewing Nogalski’s commentary. While some of the panelists raised sound critiques regarding both content and methodology, others proved to be not so helpful. Indeed, one panelist spent the lion’s share of his review chanting for more Wellhausen and less application in Nogalski’s approach. Text-critical issues aside, such a response obviously misses the target audience of the publishers. And though I diverge from Nogalski on  many significant issues, his approach provides many rich insights, especially on the front of intertextual links between the books of the Twelve.

For those unfamiliar, Nogalski has set himself apart for his research on the Twelve. Although many, including myself, reject some of his conclusions, I cannot say that I have not benefited greatly from some of his insights. And though the question of the unity of the twelve is one of perpetual debate, Nogalski remains at the forefront of the conversation. Those interested in the Book of the Twelve will find this work provocative, for good or ill.

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Have You Missed the Point of the Book of Jonah?


As has been noted by many,  the book of Jonah stands out among the other writings in the Book of the Twelve. The narrative flow of the book, as well as the historical questions, if any, addressed, have staged interpretive difficulties in the study of the Twelve as a whole. Yet, commentators have traditionally shared broad thematic consensus on the overarching message of the book, highlighting the character of Yahweh as gracious and compassionate.

But one finds a challenge to the traditional interpretation of Jonah in the latest volume of the Journal for the Study of the Old Testament (“Meaning More than They Say: The Conflict between YHWH and Jonah.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament [December 2012 37], 237-257). Rob Barrett, professor of theology at Georg-August University of Göttingen, argues that the focus of the book does not lie in the narrative aspect of the composition, but rather in  the speeches present in the book. Through an analysis of the speeches, Barrett exposes, what he terms, a conflict between Yahweh and the prophet. In each instance, as Barrett states, the direct speeches recorded betray a deeper meaning than intended by the speaker, resulting in the central focus of the book resting not on the Gentile sailors or the people of Nineveh, but on the relationship between Yahweh and Jonah.

While many have looked to chapter four as explanation for Jonah’s flight in disobedience from Yahweh, Barrett claims that this is an inadequate conclusion. The function of the concluding chapter is not to elucidate Jonah’s motivation for fleeing from the call to Nineveh, but rather to evince Yahweh’s commitment to his mercy on Jonah, as representative of Israel. Rather than Jonah’s conflict with Nineveh taking a central role, the conflict “only provides the stage upon which the drama between YHWH and Jonah plays out” (246). Instead of being about Yahweh’s compassion on the nations, the book of Jonah is said to be about Yahweh’s compassion on Israel.

While there is much that could be said about this article, it must suffice to make only cursory comments. Barrett is indeed to be commended for a fresh approach to the study of the book of Jonah. The speeches in the book have largely been subordinated the other aspects, in many cases to their own neglect. Yet, the focus on the direct discourse present yields some fruitful exegetical considerations, particularly in grasping the literary structure of the book.

Another feature of the article that is worthy of note is Barrett’s presentation of Jonah as a representative of Israel. On a popular level, it has been common to identity wayward individuals, running from “the will of God,” with Jonah, without properly understanding his role in the plot of the book. But as part of the Hebrew Bible, the book of Jonah contained a message that was originally given to the people of Israel, and as such, functioned to instruct, rebuke, and shape God’s people first under the old covenant. Viewing Jonah as representative of Israel opens new vistas of understanding for interpreters.

Yet with these features noted, there is one primary objection I have with Barrett’s thesis. In concluding that the locus of authorial intent is in Yahweh’s conflict with Jonah, Barrett downplays, if not almost entirely, the role of Gentiles in the composition. Regarding this Barrett states:

“When the conflicts with the Ninevites (and sailors) are granted priority, the interpretation of the book leads inexorably toward the radical idea that YHWH enters into meaningful relationship with non-Israelite peoples, which results in an overwhelmingly weighty theological burden for such a difficult and brief book” (241).

Yet the trajectory of the Hebrew Bible is directed towards this very burden (Gen 12:3; Isa 2:2-4; Zech 14:16). When read in the larger canonical context, Gentile inclusion does not appear an unexpected feature, especially in the commentary of the latter prophets. And this need not, as Barrett asserts, lead to some form of replacement theology (the church instead of national Israel), but can be seen in the historical-redemptive plan of God to create one man in Christ (Eph 2:11-22).

Barrett’s article certainly provides some deep reflection on the text of Jonah, and for that I am thankful. But the primary thrust of his conclusion may indicate that you may have be reading Jonah just fine all along.


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Steven Runge, Discourse Analysis, and The Book of the Twelve

I hope many of you are familiar with the work of Steven Runge, who is known for his efforts in the study of discourse analysis in both the Old and New Testaments. Among his publications are books such as Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament: A Practical Introduction for Teaching and Exegesis and the Lexham Discourse Hebrew Bible Bundle (6 vols.) available in Logos, aiding readers of the ancient texts to better understand how meaning can be discerned from a discourse-pragmatic level.

In addition to the publications listed above, Runge presented a paper in 2007 at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature entitled “Joel 2:28-32a in Acts 2:17-21: The Discourse and Text-Critical Implications of Variation from the LXX.” Though this paper did not exhaustively seek  to evaluate the manuscript evidence for Peter’s use of Joel, it did attempt to show the practical benefit of discourse considerations of the text. This remains a helpful resource for one example of the NT’s use of the OT, but from a different angle than is frequently employed.

Over at Runge’s blog, he has posted some comments on various aspects of discourse analysis, most recently part one of a series on a meaningful distinction between ἀλλά and εἰ μή (“rather” and “except” respectively). Runge states that the function of ἀλλά in a sentence is to offer a corrective to the preceding statement. As he notes, its usage implies that there is something wrong with what precedes the conjunction that is in need of correction. This need not indicate that the speaker himself is in error in his knowledge and speech, but rather, he may use the conjunction for a desired rhetorical effect.

The conjunction ἀλλά makes ten appearances by my count in the LXX of the Twelve. For the majority of its appearance, Runge’s distinction holds true, with the possible exception of Micah 6:8 and Malachi 2:16. Regardless, this can be on helpful distinction to aid a close reading of the text.

I encourage you to follow his posts here.

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Some Resources on the Book of the Twelve

Dr. Aaron Schart of the the University of Duisburg-Essen put together an electronic bibliography on resources related to the study of the Book of the Twelve. Though the site appears not to have been updated since 2008, the list remains a valuable resource. The bibliography contains both monographs and articles on the text of the Twelve, interpretation, issues, ect. I have linked to it here.

One recent publication that is particularly noteworthy is The Thematic Unity of the Book of the Twelve by Jason T. LeCureux, a revision of his doctoral dissertation done under Gordon McConville and Pekka Pitkänen at the University of Gloucestershire. I just received this monograph and will make some comments in upcoming posts. Though not a cheap book, it looks promising as a helpful addition to the discussion of the unity of the Twelve. You can get it here.


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