Continuity And Discontinuity In Amos’ Use Of Tradition -- By: Gary V. Smith

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 34:1 (Mar 1991)
Article: Continuity And Discontinuity In Amos’ Use Of Tradition
Author: Gary V. Smith

Continuity And Discontinuity In Amos’ Use Of Tradition

Gary V. Smith*

Prophetic oracles frequently maintain continuity with the past by2 making references to God’s mighty deeds or by alluding to ancient Israelite literary traditions.1 Obvious examples include Isaiah’s mention of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Isa 1:9; cf. Genesis 19), an elder’s quotation of a verse from Mic 3:12 to save Jeremiah (see Jer 26:17–18), Daniel’s reflection on the seventy years of exile prophesied by Jeremiah (Dan 9:1–2; cf. Jer 25:11–12), and Malachi’s remembrance of God’s guidelines concerning presenting sacrifices that were lame or sick (Mal 1:8; cf. Lev 22:17–22).2 Such references to events or ideas in earlier texts demonstrate that there was a certain level of continuity between earlier and later Israelite beliefs. These traditional teachings naturally resisted change because they contained sacred and authoritative instructions from God that formed the basis of the Israelite worldview. This conservative tendency was aided by stipulations in the divine law that forbid making additions or changes in covenant obligations (see Deut 4:2).

In spite of the strong religious and cultural pressure to resist change, none of the prophets could deny the discontinuity between the nation’s early historical, social and religious context in the patriarchal and Mosaic period and its later setting during the era of the great prophets and the exile. These changing circumstances caused a considerable amount of social and religious pressure to adjust or alter the earlier religious traditions that they had received, so that they would be applicable to the nation’s new setting.3 Urbanization, the monarchy, the exile, the destruction of the temple, contact with foreigners, and the nation’s sinful rebellion

* Gary Smith is professor of Old Testament at Bethel Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.

against God caused the people to make major adjustments in their thinking about reality.4 This led to new behavior patterns and some negative attitudes toward their sacred tra...

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