The dating of the book of zephaniah
Of these, one of the most significant is the possibility that the prophet came from a privileged Jerusalemite background, "given his knowledge of the city (-13), its temple rites (1:7-8), and its hierarchy (1:8-16, 3:3-4), plus his concern (-13) and compassion for its citizenry (3:7, 14, 17)." In spite of these textual clues, it should be noted that some (or even most) of the book's content could have simply been appended to (or amalgamated with) an earlier prophetic text.This thorny hermeneutical question is summarized by Berlin as follows: [Zephaniah]'s appearance in the superscription may be interpreted in several ways: 1) that he actually said the very words that are preserved, 2) that he prophesied the general contents of the book but a later editor rephrased his words, or 3) that he is a fictive author, a speaking voice, or what literary critics call an implied author. [After considering these options,] it seems better to take the middle ground: to acknowledge the activity (or at least the tradition of such activity) of a monarchic prophet named Zephaniah, who, in the book ascribed to him by a post-monarchic author or editor, became, in a literary sense, the implied or fictive author.If the superscription of the book of Zephaniah is a reliable indicator of the time that the bulk of the text was composed, then Zephaniah was a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah, who lived during the reign of King Josiah (640-609 ).
Expanding slightly on the first issue, this attribution of African roots to prophet has proved somewhat contentious, with some scholars accepting the fact without comment Similarly, the allusion to a "Hezekiah" in the prophet's lineage is equally perplexing, as it is not clear whether this refers to the king or not.
Mason summarizes this unresolvable debacle, stating that "commentators offer the mutually cancelling views that either Hezekiah was so well known he did not need to be called 'king', or that if it were really the Hezekiah he would have been called king!
" The royal connection is further problematized by the prophet's harsh indictment of the moral failing of the monarchy and the royal city, though it could conversely be argued that a noble lineage could have given him the authority to make such pronouncements without fear of reprisals.
Other than the phantasmagorical details in the book's superscription, all other clues into the prophet's character come from the text itself.
If these hypotheses are correct, then Zephaniah was the first nabi to be active after the prophecies of Isaiah and the violent reign of Manasseh.
It should be noted that other scholars, such as Pettibone-Smith and Lacheman, have presented evidence pointing to a post-monarchic date (as late as 200 If the text (or at least an early version thereof) can reasonably be assigned to the monarchic period, it would have been written to address certain problematic behaviors among the author’s contemporary Jerusalemites.Specifically, the author of the book of Zephaniah attempts to effect these behavioural changes through the threat of future calamities for “those who have turned back from following the Lord, / who have not sought the Lord or inquired of him” (1:6).The Book of Zephaniah has been most influential in the Christian and Jewish apocalyptic traditions, where its visceral depiction of the "Day of the Lord" has often been reinterpreted in an eschatological light.As with many of the Biblical prophets, little is known of Zephaniah, the author of the ninth text in the Hebrew Bible's minor prophetic corpus.In fact, the only extant information on his character is provided by the book's superscription, which attributes the text's authorship to “Zephaniah son of Cushi son of Gedaliah son of Amariah son of Hezekiah, in the days of King Josiah son of Amon of Judah” (1:1, NRSV).This superscription is somewhat unusual, as it is lengthier than most and contains two notable features: first, the name Cushi, which is ascribed Zephaniah’s father, could mean ‘Ethiopian’; and, second, the last listed member of the prophet's lineage is Hezekiah, which could refer to an influential Israelite king.