“Prophetic Literature: From Oracles to Books” by Ronald L. Troxel

TroxelRonald L. Troxel. Prophetic Literature: From Oracles to Books. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012, 288 pp., $39.95  (paperback).

Ronald L. Troxel (Professor of Hebrew at the University of Wisconsin-Madison) provides a succinct, clear, and praiseworthy introduction to prophetic literature. As is clear through the title of the books, he utilizes a diachronic and synchronic approach to interpreting prophetic literature in the Hebrew Bible. His presentation illustrates how scribes modified, combined, and synchronized various oracles overtime in order to fit their own social and religious context(s).

His concluding paragraph to the end of his focus on the minor prophets, prior to moving forward to the major prophets, provides the fullest view into the heart and soul of his work:

…prophet books are not primarily oracle repositories. They are literary works composed by many contributing scribes. Even though each book is ascribed to a particular prophet, they are prominently literary improvisations on oracles and stories that mean to convey an outworking of the LORD’s word to and will with Israel. These books give us every reason to infer that scribes who transmitted and shaped them considered their contributions on the same level as the oracles that inspired the earliest developments of each book (170).

Flowing through every discussion is this very focus, a focus which elucidates the value of prophetic literature historically and the composition history. And as an introductory work, it is especially valuable because he is not sidetracked by extremely nuanced academic disagreement. He focuses on the broader structure of each prophet and how the composition reflects scribal changes and developments. Although the discussion can, at moments, become quite dense, focus and effort on the part of the reader may easily break through the denseness of the book.

The only critique I truly have of Prophetic Literature is the lack of outlines. Considering Troxel is covering the composition history and structure of the prophetic books, it would have been extremely helpful to provide some sort of outline for each book, outlining the composition history and structure of the book. This would have made the conclusions and discussion of each chapter more clear.

Aside from that minor critique, I highly recommend Prophetic Literature to any person seeking an introductory, yet somewhat advanced, book to the composition history of prophetic literature.



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