The issue of the Canon...

The OT model of judging revelation: The "OT in the OT" phenomena--where did the OT authors 'see' God's words

[Updated Mar 8, 1999 (only the tables, not the discussion)]

In this section I want to examine the phenomena of inner-biblical usage in the OT. In other words, to what extent did later authors of the OT cite, allude to, develop themes of earlier writers?

The issue here specifically is what literature--accessible to the later writers in the OT was considered to be morally authoritative? What issues could later writers draw the attention of their audiences to, as being the word of the Lord?

A study of the phenomena of the OT in the OT will give us important clues as to how authority was seen in the literature of the time.

There are a couple different aspects of this examination:

  1. What are the kinds of 'citation' we find in the OT?
  2. What do the patterns of usage suggest?
  3. Do historical references "count" as implying authoritative 'status'?
  4. What are the implications of tight 'verbal parallels'?
  5. What are the implications of allusions?
  6. What are the implications of the prophetic call to obey the Law?
  7. How significant are actual citations/quotes?
  8. What about the OTHER sources mentioned in the OT?

I have compiled a partial list  of inner-OT references (500 or so  in count), in which one author/editor of the OT cited/alluded to/knew of the work/words of another. [However, some of these are no doubt simple knowledge of history or popular sayings, in which history was embedded.]

I have posted this in 4 different sorted lists, each of which is around 200k+  (although these are NOT very rigorous in wording/consistency--sorry):

  1. Sorted by Source of the reference
  2. Sorted by Subject of the reference (e.g. "Exodus")
  3. Sorted by the Passage that references the source
  4. Sorted by "Type" of Reference, (sub-sort, "Citing Location")
  5. Sorted by "Type" of Reference, (sub-sort, "Source")
 [For those of your with Excel/Office97, I have also uploaded the spreadsheet (102k) for you use--but note that I update this sheet periodically.]

And, four summary tables from this material:

  1. Historical Book's use of Historical Books/Data
  2. Psalm's References to Historical Events
  3. Prophets' use of Historical Books/Data
  4. Prophets' use of earlier prophetic material


1. What are the kinds of 'citation' we find in the OT?


From the tables above, we can identify several different types of 'citation':

1. Citations that appear to be direct quotes of earlier works: This looks like a citation of Genesis 50.25: And Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath and said, "God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place." Or This looks like a citation of Obadiah 17: But on Mount Zion will be deliverance; it will be holy, and the house of Jacob will possess its inheritance. Or This looks like a citation/reference to Micah 3.12: Therefore because of you, Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets. and This looks like a direct memory recall from Numbers 21.28-29: "Fire went out from Heshbon, a blaze from the city of Sihon. It consumed Ar of Moab, the citizens of Arnon's heights. Woe to you, O Moab! You are destroyed, O people of Chemosh! He has given up his sons as fugitives and his daughters as captives to Sihon king of the Amorites.

Which ITSELF is a quote from an unnamed 'poet collection' as verse 27 indicates: That is why the poets say: "Come to Heshbon and let it be rebuilt; let Sihon's city be restored.

2. Citations that are fulfillment formula, indicating knowledge of prior prophecy:
Which is a fulfillment citation from I Kings 11.29f: About that time Jeroboam was going out of Jerusalem, and Ahijah the prophet of Shiloh met him on the way, wearing a new cloak. The two of them were alone out in the country, and Ahijah took hold of the new cloak he was wearing and tore it into twelve pieces. Then he said to Jeroboam, "Take ten pieces for yourself, for this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: `See, I am going to tear the kingdom out of Solomon's hand and give you ten tribes. But for the sake of my servant David and the city of Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, he will have one tribe.


Which is a reference to I Kings 13.1-2: By the word of the LORD a man of God came from Judah to Bethel, as Jeroboam was standing by the altar to make an offering. 2 He cried out against the altar by the word of the LORD: "O altar, altar! This is what the LORD says: `A son named Josiah will be born to the house of David. On you he will sacrifice the priests of the high places who now make offerings here, and human bones will be burned on you.'"


3. Citations that are references to DETAILED history, indicating some core of literary works, or substantial and very faithful(!) oral tradition:

A simple glance at the tables above show the vast amount of detailed information that is somehow 'remembered' over the course of several centuries! Consider the level of some of the detail:
  4. Citations that are specific in their reference to a principle of covenant law:        


5. Citations that are specific in their reference to a principle of covenant law, but without indicating a source:         6. Citations that are specific in their reference to a principle of covenant law, and WITH indicating a source:          


7. Shared themes (especially among the prophets):     8. Actual shared words and specific phrases:

There is a staggering amount of this, and too many to cite the verses here (refer to the lists above). It will suffice to simply list some of the phrases/verbal forms here:

      1. "blessed feet with good news"
      2. "build city with bloodshed"
      3. "Dry up the sea"
      4. "Earth full of knowledge of YHWH"
      5. "everlasting covenant" (flood images)
      6. "exhaust themselves for nothing" etc.
      7. "eyes of the lord range"
      8. "floodgates of the heavens"
      9. "Holy one of Israel"
      10. "Lebanon..Bashan…Carmel"
      11. "Lord roars f/Zion; thunders f/Jerus. "
      12. "Mighty One of Israel"
      13. "mountains drip new wine"
      14. "remnant"
      15. "Rock of Israel"
      16. "saw that it was good"
      17. "Sing to the LORD a new song"
      18. "stripped and naked"
      19. "swords and plowshares"
      20. "Who knows? Maybe God will relent…"
      21. "Woe, Day Is near"
      22. a word-play on 'supplant' and 'Jacob;
      23. Abraham the 'friend of God'
      24. Brother kills brother in field (Cain/Abel)
      25. creation images
      26. Denial of being 'professional' prophet
      27. echoes of Ideal Davidic king
      28. Exodus image: "out in haste"
      29. geophysical images
      30. God's character-creed
      31. God's desire to relent from judgment
      32. Israel as a Vine
      33. Jacob as 'supplanter' (word-play)
      34. Man as 'dust'
      35. No more invasion
      36. Oracles against Edom
      37. reversal of creation
      38. reversal: "paid double"
      39. seeking the Lord
  Indeed, the thematic and linguistic links between the prophets are quite substantial. Consider the comments of just three scholars on the prophets:

First, Patterson (EBC, "Joel") in discussing the prophet Joel:

"An intensive investigation of Joel shows over four dozen instances of linguistic formulas and special lexical emphases that Joel has in common with the other eighth-century prophets. Likewise a comparison of Joel's use of theological terminology with that of these prophets reveals numerous places in every section of his prophecy where his viewpoint is in harmony with the prevailing message and outlook of that era."

 Then, Hobart Freeman (An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophets, Moody:1968, p.233), in discussing Zephaniah:

"However, like other prophets he shows affinity with his predecessors, sometimes employing their language, not out of poverty of idea indicating a 'decline' in prophecy during this period; the fundamental doctrines of judgement and salvation common to all prophets are brought to focus in Zephaniah. The doctrines of purifying judgement upon Israel and retributive judgement upon the nations of the world seen in Obadiah, Joel, Isaiah, Micah and Nahum become the central theme in Zephaniah. He uses isolated expressions and striking words from his predecessors and applies them to his own purpose under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit."

Indeed, the verbal links between Nahum and Isaiah, for example, as so considerable that the possibility of actual literary dependence is accepted by many! So, Armerding (EBC, "Nahum", p454):

"In view of the precision, uniqueness, and frequency of these correspondences, it seems evident, then, that Nahum's relationship to Isaiah 51-52 extends beyond participation in a common stock of prophetic imagery and motif to one of specific literary interdependence."

And again (p.456):

"These interrelationships indicate that in Nahum we have an outstanding example of OT prophetic interpretation and application within the OT itself."

(The implications of this will be discussed below, when I can...)


 2. What do the patterns of usage suggest?

  To Be Continued (hopefully)...
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