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Van Seters’ Saga of King David

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The Saga of King David by John Van Seters is an engrossing yet scholarly book, written with an originality that has challenged the field of bible for more than forty years. Expanding and revising a series of articles and the less detailed analysis of his sweeping opus In Search of History, Van Seters puts the final nails in the coffin of the Solomonic dating of the books of Samuel and the Succession Narrative. He offers his own original hypothesis, namely that the Succession Narrative was composed in the late Persian period as a satirical response to the Deuteronomistic Historian’s account of David’s reign. He submits that the Sitz im Leben of the account is the mercenary dominated martial culture of the late fifth and early fourth century Near East. As is typical to much of Van Seters’ work, he mostly disregards language as a means of dating the Court History. In the absence of linguistic criteria in the bulk of the material under discussion which would indicate a Persian date of composition, many scholars will look in askance at Van Seters’ very late dating of I and II Samuel. This problem and others identified in this review should, however, should not deter scholarship from deeply engaging with Van Seters’ ideas.

Affiliations: 1: Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, American Jewish Studies Los Angeles, CA 90077, Email: tyoreh@ajula.edu

10.1163/156921210X500549
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The Saga of King David by John Van Seters is an engrossing yet scholarly book, written with an originality that has challenged the field of bible for more than forty years. Expanding and revising a series of articles and the less detailed analysis of his sweeping opus In Search of History, Van Seters puts the final nails in the coffin of the Solomonic dating of the books of Samuel and the Succession Narrative. He offers his own original hypothesis, namely that the Succession Narrative was composed in the late Persian period as a satirical response to the Deuteronomistic Historian’s account of David’s reign. He submits that the Sitz im Leben of the account is the mercenary dominated martial culture of the late fifth and early fourth century Near East. As is typical to much of Van Seters’ work, he mostly disregards language as a means of dating the Court History. In the absence of linguistic criteria in the bulk of the material under discussion which would indicate a Persian date of composition, many scholars will look in askance at Van Seters’ very late dating of I and II Samuel. This problem and others identified in this review should, however, should not deter scholarship from deeply engaging with Van Seters’ ideas.

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2010-06-01
2016-12-09

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