As I was working on another assignment for the class I was quite surprised to see the number of times uncertainty was declared concerning the authors of the Old Testament.  I must say, as one often in the New Testament more than the Old, I found I was relatively ignorant to number of questionable authors in the book.

As I researched I was wondering what percentage of questions concerning authorship was just a result of scholarly rebellion against tradition.  At first, I thought that could be an answer to at least some authorship issues, and it still may.  But what I want to consider for this post was the number of legitimate authorship issues.  As discussed in posts and lessons, these include Moses’ influence on the Pentateuch, Jeremiah’s relation to Baruch, and others many other example.

What I have concluded is that authorship issues can be more than just who wrote the book, it can also encompass background info about the author.

As I was reading the lesson on the Milieu I was thinking about how studying it could change our interpretations of texts.  I am not sure if such a topic as follows falls within the normal definition of authorship issues, but it made me think.

Take for example the prophet Obadiah.  Our book says “We know nothing about the author except his name [and] there is some uncertainty about the spelling of his name” (562).  We do not know anything about Obadiah, and we cannot even spell his name, yet he is in our scriptures speaking on behalf of God.

Now, if the milieu is legitimately important, as I believe it is, than are we not at a disadvantage in interpreting Obadiah’s words from the moment we open his book.  We know very little about him.   All we can do is  discern from his general lifetime information about the current political, economic, religious situation.  Yet, all of those factors create a huge stumbling block for accurate interpretation if not factored correctly.

What I am concluding is even if our author is known, authorship issues could still be present.



3 Responses

  1. Since beginning this class I have moved a bit to try to understand more of the setting and history and so on. It is important. The fact that we know little or nothing of Obadiah does make it somewhat difficult to get a handle on precise meanings but as I have mentioned before either in this class or at another (can’t remember) are we really that much different than the people that Obadiah wrote too? Really? Didn’t they struggle with family issues, income, poverty, abortion, homosexuality, drunkeness, greed, murder, divorce, envy and on and on just as we do? I realize their culture was somewhat different but I think we make it much too different because I think people have struggled with the same issues that we do since man and woman were forced out of the Garden.

    I believe God is introducing his culture in scriptures that he wants us to move toward to bring us back to the culture of the Garden. I believe the New Testament is his last word before he returns and that is how we are to live until that day of final restoration. We hear of God’s progressive revelation and I think the Old Testament progressed until the final word came when Jesus walked the earth and the inspired writers wrote the New Testament.

    Therefore I think we struggle too hard to understand their time when it is in front of us right now. the major difference we have today is that our modern technology just allows us to plunge deeper into sin at a faster rate.

    • Bill,
      you make a good point about the fact that all cultures face similar issues, obviously stemming from sinfulness. I guess what my thinking was that just b/c we have an authors name, does not automatically remove all authorship issues from the text. Rather, the issues just shift to the context of the writer. In some ways we need an ancient facebook to help collect information about the authors.

  2. I have to admit that I was also surprised at the “number of times uncertainty was declared concerning the authors of the Old Testament” in the OT Introduction textbook. I have grown up in church my entire life and read through the Old Testament books several times. For the most part I just assumed that certain people authored Biblical books because that was what I had always been taught. I was truly shocked to see how many scholars doubt the traditional authorship of many Old Testament books.

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