Author Topic: Josiah's "Book of the Law"  (Read 444 times)

Offline Kreuzritter

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Josiah's "Book of the Law"
« on: February 04, 2020, 02:58:10 PM »
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The Hebrew Bible states that the priest Hilkiah found a "Book of the Law" in the temple during the early stages of Josiah's temple renovation.Hilkiah then gave the scroll to his secretary Shaphan, who took it to King Josiah. According to the Bible, King Josiah then changed his form of leadership entirely, entering into a new form of covenant with the Lord. He wiped out all of the pagan cults that had formed within his land. He, along with his people, then entered into this new covenant with the Lord to keep the commandments of the Lord.

This story is suspicious. Scholars have long recognised that. Hilkiah happens to come across some hitherto unknown scroll in the temple and it's just accepted as holy writ.

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3 In the eighteenth year of his reign, King Josiah sent the secretary, Shaphan son of Azaliah, the son of Meshullam, to the temple of the Lord. He said: 4 “Go up to Hilkiah the high priest and have him get ready the money that has been brought into the temple of the Lord, which the doorkeepers have collected from the people. 5 Have them entrust it to the men appointed to supervise the work on the temple. And have these men pay the workers who repair the temple of the Lord— 6 the carpenters, the builders and the masons. Also have them purchase timber and dressed stone to repair the temple. 7 But they need not account for the money entrusted to them, because they are honest in their dealings.”

8 Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord.” He gave it to Shaphan, who read it. 9 Then Shaphan the secretary went to the king and reported to him: “Your officials have paid out the money that was in the temple of the Lord and have entrusted it to the workers and supervisors at the temple.” 10 Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king.

11 When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes. 12 He gave these orders to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Akbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s attendant: 13 “Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because those who have gone before us have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.”

I'm not going to entertain here the popular academic theory regarding this story, but giving it the benefit of the doubt presents its own problems:

1. If this book is not one of the law books of the Pentateuch, then
1.1 Why was it taken to have such authority that it led Josiah to tear his robes and institute sweeping and violent reforms?
1.2. Why was the discovery of this book needed to come to a realisation they had been disobeying God? What of Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy? Where these unknown to them?

2. If this book is one of the law books of the Pentateuch, then
2.1 What does that say about the continuity of canon? If this book had fallen into obscurity and been lost, then that destroys the continuity of tradition, that these texts were handed down in an unbroken line and kept as sacred from the time of Moses.
2.2. And again, what of the other books? If this book was, say, Deuteronomy, why didn't Josiah know of the laws in the other books against idolatry etc.?
« Last Edit: February 04, 2020, 03:01:20 PM by Kreuzritter »
 

Offline Daniel

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Re: Josiah's "Book of the Law"
« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2020, 10:42:15 AM »
What's so "suspicious" about it? It just sounds to me like the Jewish people had fallen so deeply into idolatry that they lost all familiarity with the scriptures. Then when the book was found, it was the occasion of the king's conversion.

While I'm not all that familiar with this particular passage, I'm not seeing why the "book" can't just be one of the five books of Moses rather than something non-canonical. And from my interpretation, I don't think the passage necessarily implies that it was ever altogether "lost". (Maybe there was a small group of Jews who had remained faithful or something...) But even if there was a real and total break in the oral tradition, I don't see how this is a problem. The fact is, the tradition was preserved in writing sufficiently enough such that the oral tradition could later be revitalized. (And when Jesus was to come He would restore it entirely, and guarantee that no total break would ever happen again.)
 

Offline Kreuzritter

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Re: Josiah's "Book of the Law"
« Reply #2 on: February 05, 2020, 11:19:41 AM »
What's so "suspicious" about it? It just sounds to me like the Jewish people had fallen so deeply into idolatry that they lost all familiarity with the scriptures. Then when the book was found, it was the occasion of the king's conversion.

Yes, that is the story itself, if we just take it for granted. But if you don't see something awfully convenient in a theretofore unknown book being "discovered" and used by a ruler to justify sweeping religious reforms, I don't know what to say. Imagine what iconoclastic and whitewashing Protestants, cleansing the land of Roman paganism and Mary worship, would have done if they could have fabricated a story about a long-lost book of the Bible.

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While I'm not all that familiar with this particular passage, I'm not seeing why the "book" can't just be one of the five books of Moses rather than something non-canonical.

I didn't say it can't. Popular academic opinion is that it is either Deuteronomy or a prototype, or that the story is a later fabrication of post-exilic Deuteronomists to lend authenticity to their position.

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And from my interpretation, I don't think the passage necessarily implies that it was ever altogether "lost". (Maybe there was a small group of Jews who had remained faithful or something...)

The passage does imply that at least it had fallen into total obscurity. Hilkiah was supposed to have been the High Priest. If the High Priest himself had no prior knowledge of either this book or similar laws, then where was it kept? Only in the eighteenth year of Josiah's reign does he discover this book and immediately has it read to the king, causing him to act at once. In fact, it doesn't imply just the obscurity of this book but of much of the Torah.

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But even if there was a real and total break in the oral tradition, I don't see how this is a problem. The fact is, the tradition was preserved in writing sufficiently enough such that the oral tradition could later be revitalized.

It's a problem precisely because a break in the continuity of tradition takes away the basis for the Hebrews to have known the origin and authenticity of the text. The whole argument is that these were passed down and revered from time immemorial, but if this is, say, Deuteronomy, then that claim goes out the window. If the story is true, one particular king happened to see things that way and reformed the entire religion around this. It's clear even from the Bible that many Hebrews disagreed with Josiah's reforms and even blamed them for the destruction of the Temple and the Babylonian exile.
 

Offline St.Justin

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Re: Josiah's "Book of the Law"
« Reply #3 on: February 05, 2020, 11:42:35 AM »
Ancient Aliens interference????