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Time and Place in Deuteronomy (Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series, Vol. 179 | JSOTS)

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The book is a literary and theological study of the themes of time and place, which aims to set the so-called “centralization–law” of Deuteronomy 12–26 in the broad context of the book. The authors show that time and place are pervasive themes of Deuteronomy, a crucial part of its articulation of its understanding of history, religion and ethics. The heart of the thesis is that the foundational encounter between God and Israel at Horeb is paradigmatic for all subsequent encounters. For this reason, no one time or place can have final or absolute significance. The thesis thus calls into question the received view that the altar-law of Deuteronomy 12–26 is a “centralization–law” associated with Josiah's reform. The refusal to identify the “place” is no mere device against anachronism, but a consistent element in Deuteronomy's theology of history.

The connection between Deuteronomy and Josiah's reform has long been an important tenet of Old Testament criticism. The debate about the interpretation of Deuteronomy, however, has never been finally settled. The present study looks in a new way at the so-called “centralization–law” of Deuteronomy which has been the most important factor in the traditional critical view of the book. It sets the law in the context of a broadly based study of the theology of the book, and comes to conclusions which call the connection with Josiah's reform into question. A broadly based study of the themes of time and place in Deuteronomy, calling into question accepted ideas about the purpose and setting of the book.

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Top Highlights

“The ‘journey’ is a pregnant metaphor for life with Yahweh.” (Page 32)

“Sixty-two times ‘today’ is used to focus on the decision facing Israel at Moab, and to heighten the urgency of making the right response.61 In addition to this there are five examples in the historical retrospect which may well be a deliberate introduction to the ‘catchword’ (1:39; 2:18, 22, 25, 30), seven possible allusions in material dealing with Horeb 1:10; 4:10, 15; 5:24; 9:10; 10:4; 18:16), six associated with future life in Canaan (6:24; 26:3; 27:2; 31:17, 18) and two associated with the death of Moses which may echo the ideas of the earlier parts of the book (31:2; 32:48).” (Pages 42–43)

“It seems then that Moses is calling Israel to an act of corporate, imaginative remembrance as the insights of the past are brought to bear on the decisions of the present and future.58 In doing so he binds the events of ‘that day’ (v. 10) to the unfolding events of Israel’s ‘today’ at Moab. This draws attention to one of the most prominent temporal features of the book in Deuteronomy—the emphasis on ‘today’.” (Page 42)

“The significance of both Horeb and Moab in Deuteronomy lies not in the places themselves, not even as places of revelation or theophany to be marked, but as reminders that, in contrast to the gods of the Canaanites, God is transcendent, and must be heard in every place and in every situation.” (Pages 64–65)

“The themes of time and place are consistently used in sharpening the call to Israel to go forward as God’s people. This thematic unity is one aspect of the unity in chs. 1–11 which is becoming increasingly apparent.” (Pages 52–53)

This unintriguing title might lead someone to think that this book will be of interest to experts only. That is by no means true. Behind the somewhat anonymous heading, a very fascinating study is to be found. In several areas it gives necessary correctives to much contemporary understanding of Deuteronomy.

Carsten Vang, Themelios Volume 22 - Issue 2

  • Title: Time and Place in Deuteronomy (Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series, Vol. 179 | JSOTS)
  • Authors: J. Gary Millar, J. Gordon McConville
  • Series: Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series
  • Volume: 179
  • Publisher: Sheffield Academic Press
  • Print Publication Date: 1994
  • Logos Release Date: 2010
  • Pages: 155
  • Era: era:Contemporary
  • Language: English
  • Resources: 1
  • Format: Digital › Logos Research Edition
  • Subject: Bible. O.T. Deuteronomy › Criticism, interpretation, etc
  • ISBNs: 9781850754947, 1850754942
  • Resource Type: Monograph
  • Metadata Last Updated: 2023-01-20T22:42:53Z

James Gordon McConville is Professor of Old Testament Theology at University of Gloucestershire.

J. G. Millar is Assistant Minister, Hamilton Road Presbyterian Church, Bangor, Northern Ireland.


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    Digital list price: $44.95
    Save $10.96 (24%)