Historical Books of the Old Testament

Historical Books of the Old Testament

In this course we look at the Hebrews’ arrival in the Promised Land and continue right up to the end of their existence as an independent nation when disaster overwhelmed them.


Course code: THEN20

Professor: Dr. Hervé Tremblay


This journey of discovery is inspired by the German scholar, Martin Noth, who in 1943 ce advanced the theory that a number of Old Testament books originally made up one larger work. The books in question were Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings. There is certainly a continuity of theme and style to be found in these writings. The biblical author clearly gathered together some pre-existing traditions, placed them skillfully within his own constructed framework, and added bridging material to give the appearance of a unified text. The older material was used to convey a particular understanding of Israel’s history.

In contemporary terms, the overarching agenda of a biblical author is called a 'meta-narrative'. This term is used to describe the framework within which much of modern history is told. Recognition of such meta-narratives is one positive feature of the post-modern age in which we live today. In recognising the over-arching concerns of the Deuteronomist historian, we must be aware of our tendency to impose or substitute other meta-narratives onto the text, meta-narratives such as ‘salvation history’, ‘covenant theology’, ‘messianic progression’ or others.

Deuteronomy has been looked at briefly as a whole. In its depiction of the Hebrews’ journey through the wilderness, it set the scene and supplied the basic theological vision which animated and shaped the presentation of the rest of the material. It seems clear that the first three chapters of Deuteronomy have been added specifically to make it an introduction to this period of history taken as a whole. It is in these first three chapters that the crucial issue of the people’s fidelity to Yahweh is raised – crucial because it is the condition of their continued possession of the promised land.