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An Examination of Herodotus and Deuteronomistic Historians

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     An Examination of Herodotus and Deuteronomistic Historians

According to Morris and Powell, history may be defined as “the rational, orderly investigation into human events.” This definition ties in with the approach of Herodotus and Deuteronomistic Historians. They used speeches, cited sources and even included supernatural elements to help tell their story. Although Herodotus has more support from the scholarly community, his approach is comparable to that of Deuteronomistic historians.

Firstly, the application of reason to a narrative can hugely impact the credibility of a historical writer, therefore, Herodotus and Deuteronomistic Historians both cited sources to substantiate their claims. Although, Herodotus falls under the sensationalists category of ancient historians because he tends to exaggerate details of important occurrences, he was cautious enough to cite that some of his claims were from outside sources. For instance, when he described the Ethiopians, he used information gathered from spies like “now these Ethiopians to whom Cambyses was sending are said to be the tallest and the most beautiful of all men; and besides other customs which they are reported to have different from other men,” (Hdt.3.20). Also, the description of the Sun Table was borrowed from the spies that Cambyses sent to gather information on, Ethiopia, the “edge of the world”. This method protected Herodotus’ reputation of being a trustworthy writer. Similarly, Deuteronomistic Historians used citations to prove that their claims have some factual basis. For example, in 2 Kings, “The other events of Zechariah’s reign are written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel” (15:11) the author cited to lend some legitimacy to their report. The citing of this historical record is often overlooked by scholars who would rather believe that the bible is merely a book of mythical stories and not an actual legitimate historical record of the past.

Secondly, in contrast to their ability to cite sources, both Herodotus and Deuteronomistic Historians share instances where they report on some events that are of an illogical nature. Although, Herodotus made very few mentions gods throughout his book, he did however place an emphasis on oracles and dreams. Herodotus, wrote about Astyages who had a daughter, “whom he dreamed that she urinated so much that she filled his city and flooded all of Asia”  (1.108). This made Astyages fearful that his grandchild would overthrow him. Although it helped Herodotus to develop and interesting storyline, its irrational to think that dreams could predict the fate of a

dynasty. This supernatural element is also seen where Alyattes “sent to Delphi to inquire of the oracle, either at someone's urging or by his own wish to question the god about his sickness.(Hdt.1.19). Despite it being unbelievable, it gives a glimpse into how the supernatural world was conceived in the past. In the biblical texts, the mention of “The Lord” was frequent when explaining phenomenal events, “they did not worship the Lord; so he sent lions among them and they killed some of the people” (2 Kings 17:25). They believed that disobedience to their God was the cause of the demise. The application of a supernatural explanation to human events was common to both Deuteronomistic writers and Herodotus.

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