Review of R. G. Kratz, Prophetenstudien: Kleine Schriften II

Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 12 (2012) - Review

Kratz, Reinhard G., Prophetenstudien: Kleine Schriften II (FAT, 74; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011). Pp. x + 420. Hardback. €99.00; ISBN 978-3-16-150713-7.

Reinhard G. Kratz, Professor of Old Testament Studies at the University of Göttingen, is one of the most renowned experts on the prophetic literature of the Old Testament. His earlier works have especially considered the redactional development of the prophetic books from the early oracles to the final form of the books as well as the theological discourses detectable behind this redactional development. This volume presents 16 essays on Old Testament prophecy, ten previously published and six written for this new volume.

The book is divided in three parts. The first part, “Altorientalische und biblische Prophetie,” focuses upon the phenomenon of prophecy and the emergence of prophetic writing in general. The second part comprises several articles about the book of Isaiah. The articles of the third section treat the books of Hosea and Amos. Each part of the book begins with a more general introduction to the following set of articles, and, notably, each part ends with an article on the reception of prophecy and the individual prophetic writings in the Qumran community.

The first part of the anthology starts with the introductory essay, “Probleme der Prophetenforschung” (3–17). Kratz describes the paradigm shift that has taken place in contemporary Old Testament research, for which the main field of interest is not—and can no longer be—the historical prophet but the prophetic book. Based upon this development, Kratz identifies some open issues for further research such as the relationship between prophet and book, the relationship between ancient Near Eastern and biblical prophecy, the emergence of judgment prophecy, the circles responsible for the prophetic literature, and the extra-biblical reception of prophecy.

In the next three articles, “‘Siehe ich lege meine Worte in deinen Mund’: Die Propheten des Alten Testaments” (18–31), “Die Redaktion der Prophetenbücher” (32–48), and “Das Neue in der Prophetie des Alten Testaments” (49–70), Kratz presents his view of the development from the early oracles of the prophets themselves to the prophetic books. He argues that the prophets of Israel and Judah, like the prophets of the surrounding nations, offered oral salvation oracles as well as oral oracles responding to desolate situations of the society or to an impending disaster. They did not, however, pronounce judgment oracles presenting Yhwh as the source of such disasters. Kratz argues that judgment prophecy in the form appearing in the prophetic books of the Old Testament is the—written, rather than oral—product of a later time that presupposes the downfall of the northern kingdom and then of the southern kingdom. These judgment oracles are the result of later theological reflection that attempts to understand Yhwh's involvement in these events.

His article “Der Zorn Kamoschs und das Nein Jhwhs: Vorstellungen vom Zorn Gottes in Moab und Israel” (71–98) further elaborates this thesis. He shows how the Mesha inscription reflects on a previous period of decline and depicts this distress as the result of the wrath of the deity Chemosh. This portrayal serves as a contrast to highlight the period of blessing that follows. Kratz similarly understands Old Testament judgment prophecy as the ex eventu reinterpretation of past disasters. Portraying disaster as the result of divine wrath then makes space for the creation of a new basis for the divine-human relationship because the deity can then also be accorded responsibility for the subsequent deliverance and blessing.

The last article of the first section, “Der Pescher Nahum und seine biblische Vorlage” (99–145), traces the reception of Old Testament prophecy in the writings of Qumran by way of the Nahum Pesher (4QpNah). Kratz argues that the extra-biblical interpretation of the book of Nahum in the Nahum Pesher demonstrates continuity with the inner-biblical interpretation of this book in the late stages of its own redactional development. These late stages of the book of Nahum broadened the purview of the earlier layers, which focus upon the city of Nineveh, to address all humanity (cf. especially Nah 1:2–8). Similarly, the Nahum Pesher furthers this redactional development by taking Nineveh to refer to internal opponents rather than to a foreign power.

The subsequent two parts of the anthology present articles addressing individual issues from Isaiah, Hosea, and Amos. These articles elaborate the general assumptions given in the first part of the book.

The second part of the volume, dealing with the book of Isaiah, begins with “Jesaja im Corpus propheticum” (149–59), in which Kratz presents his model for the book's formation. According to Kratz, the oldest part of this book can be detected in Isa 7:7–9 or 8:1–4. Thus, in his view the historical prophet Isaiah should be understood as a prophet of salvation. After the downfall of the Northern kingdom, the original message of the prophet was reworked and reinterpreted into a message of judgment. “Israel im Jesajabuch” (160–176) traces the development in the usage of the term “Israel” in the different redactional levels of Isaiah, showing how its meaning changes from political to theological. The next article, “Jesaja 28–31 als Fortschreibung” (177–197), argues that Isa 28–31 is not, as often supposed, a second collection of oracles by the historical prophet Isaiah in his later years, but a much later reinterpretation (Fortschreibung) of the message given in Isa 5–10. The next two articles, “Der Anfang des zweiten Jesaja in Jes 40,1f und seine literarischen Horizonte” (198–215) and “Der Anfang des zweiten Jesaja in Jes 40,1f und das Jeremiabuch” (216–232), address the opening section of the book of Deutero-Isaiah. Kratz argues that this section takes up both the closing section of the Joseph story in Gen 50, in which Joseph comforts his brothers, and Jer 50–51, which announces the downfall of Babylon, in order to develop its message of impending salvation. The article “Tritojesaja” (232–242), a revised version of an article written for the Theologische Realenzyklopädie, describes the formation and intention of Trito-Isaiah. In the last article of the second part, “Jesaja in den Schriften vom Toten Meer” (243–271), Kratz describes the reception of the book of Isaiah in the Qumran community, again concluding that this reception of the earlier text displays similarity to the late redactional development of the book.

The third and final part of the anthology addresses the books of Hosea and Amos. “Hosea und Amos im Zwölfprophetenbuch” (275-286) provides an overview of the redactional development of the Book of the Twelve as a whole. The next article, “Erkenntnis Gottes im Hoseabuch” (287–309), considers the usage of the term “knowledge” in the different redactional levels of the book, ranging from a political to a theological and to a specifically scribal meaning. “Die Worte des Amos von Tekoa” (310–343) presents his view on the earliest oracles of the book of Amos, which provide some insights about the historical prophet. According to Kratz, the earliest oracles comprise Am 1:1a(bβ); 3:1aα, 3–6(, 8), 12, 15; 4:1aαb, 2(–3); 5:1aα, 2, 3, 7, 10–12*, 16–17*, 18a, 20; 6:1–7*, 13–14*. Thus, the historical Amos was not a prophet of judgment like the prophet found in the later versions of the book, but an observer of his times who describes more than he prophecies. The subsequent article, “Die Kultpolemik der Propheten im Alten Testament” (344–358), deals with the redactional setting and the development of oracles against the cult. Kratz argues that all these oracles are the product of later redactional development of the prophetic books. The last article, “Hosea und Amos in den Schriften vom Toten Meer” (359-379), again analyzes the reception of the prophetic books in the Qumran scrolls and comes to the conclusion that the extra-biblical interpretation continues innerbiblical developments.

Kratz' Prophetenstudien is without doubt an important and valuable book. It is remarkable, if not astonishing, how Kratz succeeds in arranging his articles, which were written at different times and for different purposes, into a coherent whole.

Also impressive are the comprehensible insights into Kratz' understanding of prophecy and the prophetic literature of the Old Testament. His approach is convincing in that it recognizes the gap between the historical prophets and the prophetic books without giving up the search for the historical prophets. He does not simply identify the prophetic books with the prophets themselves like earlier scholarship. However, he also avoids understanding the prophetic books as a mere literary phenomenon without any connection to historical prophets, as parts of contemporary research do.

Further scholarship will need to show to what degree Kratz' concrete analyses will endure. For the moment, the author of this review remains unconvinced by Kratz' view of judgment prophecy as a purely literary phenomenon offering ex eventu reinterpretations of earlier historical events. For example, even Kratz considers the announcement of the day of Yhwh in Amos 5:18–20* to be part of the primary layer of this book. Yet could it be that this points to the fact that prophecy in the prophetic books of the Old Testament was from the beginning—at least in part—judgment prophecy?

Thus, Kratz' anthology leaves room for further discussion and research. Without question, all further research will profit from this insightful book.

Jakob Wöhrle, University of Münster