The Unity of the Deuteronomistic History

What is your evaluation of Martin Noth's theory of the Deuteronomist and the unity of the so-called Deuteronomistic History?

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Martin Noth's theory about the Deuteronomistic History is just that — it's a theory, which means that it is not absolutely certain, and people will disagree with it, as they have, and they'll modify it, as they have ever since the time he first enunciated it. But, in effect, most evangelicals are right to say that this part of the Bible, that we call often "the Deuteronomistic History," is in fact a unity, but the nature of that unity is very difficult to put your finger on or identify specifically. So, evangelicals had different views of what the unity of Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings actually is. It's clear that all of these books depend heavily on the language of the book of Deuteronomy. That's a unifying factor. They draw from it. In fact, they actually quote it from time to time. It's also clear that the theological emphases of the book of Deuteronomy are also evident in those books as well. And so, I often think of the Deuteronomic or the Deuteronomistic History as more or less sort of like a denomination in Israel, sort of like a part of the body there in Israel, where they had a way of speaking, a way of looking at things, a way of talking about things that were definitely oriented toward the book of Deuteronomy. Now, in Martin Noth's view, the book of Deuteronomy itself was actually completed long after the time of Moses — in the exile, as a matter of fact. But the reality is that, as evangelicals, we should not believe that. We should believe that Deuteronomy is the Mosaic basis of this prophetic history that we call the Deuteronomistic History. We call it "prophetic" because it does apply the criteria of the book of Deuteronomy to the historical events that it reports in Joshua and Judges and Samuel and Kings. Now, it applies those theological evaluations in different ways, to be sure, but each of those books relies heavily on Deuteronomy, and in that sense, they have a great deal of unity.

Answer by Dr. Richard L. Pratt, Jr.

Dr. Richard L. Pratt, Jr. is Co-Founder and President of Third Millennium Ministries who served as Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary and has authored numerous books.