This volume of learned essays stems from the work of a research colloquium held at the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen in June 2012. The contributors include senior scholars from Germany, Great Britain and the United States, as well as younger scholars and doctoral candidates in these countries. The purpose of the colloquium, and now this collection of essays, is to address the somewhat neglected subject of how late prophetic and apocalyptic literature shows a development of monotheistic religion in ancient Israel.
The book includes an introduction by the editors which states the purpose of the volume and gives a summary of the essays. The first five articles focus on specific texts: Ulrich Berges and Bernd Obermayer explore divine violence in Isaiah; Bernd Schipper examines Isaiah 19:1–25 in light of prophetic texts from Ptolemaic Egypt; Mark Gignilliat treats the picture of God in Jonah, Micah and Nahum; Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer probes YHWH's relationship to other divine beings in Zechariah 1–6; and Nathan MacDonald addresses One-ness theology in late prophetic texts. The final five essays explore themes which appear across many texts: Reinhard Achenbach examines universalism and early expressions of international law (Völkerrecht) in Persian Period prophetic texts; Jakob Wöhrle considers the gods of the nations in late prophecy; John Collins investigates the nature and reason for eschatological violence in late texts; Stefan Beyerle discusses monotheism in relation to angels and dualistic expressions in apocalyptic; and Jennie Grillo looks at idolatry in Daniel in light of Tertullian's De idololatria.
These essays provide a trove of knowledge and scholarly inquiry which will be particularly helpful for those interested in literary and theological dimensions of the Book of the Twelve and the portrait of God in the late prophetic and apocalyptic literature. For instance, Gignilliat's treatment of the picture of God in Jonah, Micah and Nahum gives a helpful discussion of how these three books, placed together in the Twelve, draw in different ways from Exodus 34:6–7, thus creating a tension between divine mercy and judgement. Wöhrle raises interesting questions about the development of attitudes towards the gods of the nations in strands of prophetic material in the Persian and Hellenistic Periods (e.g. Isa 40–55; Mic 4:1–4; Zech 5:5–11; Mal 2:10–16). In his excellent article, Schipper gives a literary and canonical reading of the passage which concludes Isaiah's oracles against foreign nations (Isa 19:1–15), and he explores possible origins of the passage's universalistic themes in light of Hellenistic Egyptian texts.
This volume is a parade example of what the published results of a scholarly colloquium should be: insightful, probing and accessible to an audience beyond the colloquium itself. All articles originally written in German have been translated except Achenbach's, and his should be accessible to English scholars.
It would have been helpful if the editors had given in the introduction a working understanding of monotheism in the Hebrew Bible for the sake of readers who are not Hebrew Bible specialists. As Collins (p. 202) and Beyerle (pp. 219–20) insightfully acknowledge, ‘monotheism’, as commonly conceived is a philosophical construct which does not appear in the Hebrew Bible. Rather, what appears is a sense that Israel's God is supreme, or has assumed the power and qualities of other gods, or perhaps that the Israelites incorporated the gods of the nations into the identity of YHWH. With this nuanced understanding of monotheism these essays provide a marvellous resource for exploring how late prophetic texts and apocalyptic material present God's universal reign and a vision of world order which includes the nations coming to YHWH for instruction (see especially the essay by Achenbach, pp. 125–75).