The Book Of Nahum: The Question Of Authorship Within The Canonical Process -- By: Duane L. Christensen

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 31:1 (Mar 1988)
Article: The Book Of Nahum: The Question Of Authorship Within The Canonical Process
Author: Duane L. Christensen

The Book Of Nahum:
The Question Of Authorship Within The Canonical Process

Duane L. Christensen*

Concerning the prophet Nahum only one historical datum is known—namely, that he is from the village of Elkosh (Nah 1:1). But the location of Elkosh itself is not known. From the time of Jerome some have located it in Galilee, but in modern times the tendency has been to place it in Judah.1 According to one legend the tomb of Nahum is to be found in the village of Al-Qush, not far from Nineveh where the tomb of the prophet Jonah is located according to yet another tradition.2 In short, though we can date his activity with some assurance on the basis of both his reference to the fall of Thebes (3:8) and the very subject of his book, we know virtually nothing about the prophet Nahum himself from an historical point of view. He is not mentioned by name within the OT apart from the opening verse of his book.

A reading of James Boice’s new commentary reminded me once again of the simple fact that the book of Nahum has generated intense interest in matters of history, particularly among conservative scholars.3 Boice reminds us that “these judgments, recorded so vividly in the pages of the Word of God, are not given to us to titillate our minds by comparing them with their eventual fulfillment in history.”4 But having said this he then goes on to give his attention primarily to that very historical backdrop in order to discuss the actions of what he calls “The Avenging God” of Nahum. In spite of his remarks the God of this book, and of the OT as a whole, is not a God of vengeance—at least not in the manner in which this term is normally understood. In a series of studies that spans at least twenty-five years George

*Duane Christensen is professor of Old Testament languages and literature at American Baptist Seminary of the West in Berkeley, California.

Mendenhall has shown convincingly that the Hebrew root nqm is mistranslated when it is rendered “to avenge, to take vengeance.”5 The term is more properly translated by words that designate punitive vindication in a judicial sense, both within the Hebrew Bible and in various extra-Biblical sources recovered from the ancient Near East. There is nothing in the term to be construed as “malicious retaliation for inflicted wrongs.” It is this very misconcepti...

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