[b-hebrew] logograms--an ode to Hebrew

Heard, Christopher Christopher.Heard at pepperdine.edu
Fri Dec 24 10:39:13 EST 2004

On 12/24/04 4:14 AM, "Peter Kirk" <peterkirk at qaya.org> wrote:
> Jim, what you seem to have missed is that some books, although not
> Genesis of course, are written in the first person, e.g. Nehemiah and
> the bulk of Deuteronomy (not of course the last chapter), or have other
> internal authorship claims, e.g. those in Jeremiah already mentioned. In
> fact a large part of all the prophetic books (except for Jonah) consists
> of material explicitly attributed to the prophet, although there is no
> indication of who collected and redacted the material. You don't have to
> accept these authorship claims if you don't want to, but you shouldn't
> ignore them.

Peter (et al.), at most such claims are claims to authorship of substantial
source material for the canonical books. To cite but three examples:

(1) Jeremiah 36 describes Jeremiah dictating to Baruch a scroll recording
Jeremiah's preaching from the days of Josiah until the fourth year of
Jehoiakim. This could constitute a claim to Jeremianic authorship of
something like a "first edition" of the book of Jeremiah (probably best to
think in terms of a "rolling corpus," but this might be what "gets the ball
rolling") with Jeremiah as its author and Baruch as his amanuensis. However,
this claim of Jeremianic authorship for that early scroll, and its expanded
replacement at the end of the chapter, does not constitute a claim of
Jeremianic authorship for the entire canonical book of Jeremiah, nor even
for chapter 36 itself, where the story of the scroll is told.

(2) Like the book of Jeremiah, the book of Isaiah includes first-person
prophetic narratives reasonably considered Isaianic in authorship, but by
the same token includes third-person narratives more naturally assigned to a
different author (perhaps a follower/student/disciple or admirer of some
kind). Thus, "In the year that King Uzziah died, _I_ saw the LORD ..." (Isa
6), but "In the days of Ahaz ... the LORD said _to Isaiah_ ..." (Isa 7:1,
3), but "Then the LORD said to me, take a tablet ..." (Isa 8:1), and so
forth. To claim that Isaiah 6 and 8 were written by Isaiah, or at least
heavily based on some sort of Isaiah memoir, is reasonable, but the claim
does not so reasonably transfer to Isaiah 7, or to the entire canonical

(3) The Torah narrates some writing activity on Moses' part, for example,
"carving" the Ten Words into stone (I'm talking about the _second_
decalogue, of course, see Exod 34:28), or a brief oracle against Amalek
(Exod 17:14). But the claim that Moses wrote (down) the (second) decalogue
or the Amalek oracle does not immediately transfer into a claim that Moses
wrote down the stories about him writing the decalogue or the Amalek oracle.

My point is simply that attributions of writing activity within a biblical
book to its "title character" or major character often constitute claims to
that person's authorship of _some_ of the books contents or sources, but
_not_ to authorship (or redaction or whatever you want to call it) of the
biblical book itself.


R. Christopher Heard
Assistant Professor of Religion
Armstrong Fellow in Religion
Pepperdine University

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