Biblical Archaeology Review 36:2, March/April 2010

Strata: How Many?

How many sources are cited in the so-called “Deuteronomistic History” found in the Bible?

Answer: 4

Many Biblical scholars believe a cohesive narrative history composed by a single author or school of authors, known as the Deuteronomistic History, runs through the books of Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings. This history, likely begun during the religious reforms of King Josiah (639–609 B.C.) and finalized in the years following the Babylonian Exile, follows the story of Israel from its entry into the Promised Land under Joshua to its forced exile in Babylon at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar in 587 B.C.

Scholars continue to debate the religious and political biases that may have colored this first “history” of ancient Israel. It is generally agreed, however, that many of the basic elements of the Deuteronomistic History were taken from actual documents preserved in the royal and priestly archives of Israel and Judah. Unfortunately, none of these documents has survived, but the writers and editors of the history provide the names of at least four archival sources they consulted.

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