Juha Pakkala has a fine article in the latest ZAW outlining his ten reasons why Urdeuteronomium – the earliest edition of the book of Deuteronomy – dates later than Josiah and the Judean Kingdom, that is after 586 BCE. In fact, his reasons point to a period no earlier than the 300s BCE.
It’s a splendid thing having exactly ten reasons: everyone likes such a fine round number. Do have a read of the article, if you are interested in his more detailed reasoning. But here is a quick run-down of the Pakkala’s ten reasons for dating the earliest edition of Deuteronomy after 586 BCE:
1. The monarch plays no role in the Urdeuteronomium, which would be “exceptional” for any lawcode expected to be enforced (as apparently narrated in 2 Kings 22-23).
2. Connected with (1), the laws do not imply “any state infrastructure and organization”, but instead “are written as if the author were implying a stateless religious community.”
3. There are no references to Judah in Urdeuteronomium, and in fact the status of Judah is challenged by the reference to “Israel”, by which is meant “a religious community rather than… the inhabitants of a state”.
4. There is no reference to the Temple in any core law of the Urdeuteronomium, even though many of the laws are concerned with the centralization of the sacrificial cult – suggesting that the context was one in which “there was no temple” and the author “was not sure if there ever would be one”.
5. Connected with (4), there is no reference to Jerusalem, the reference to “this place” in Deut 12 suggesting a context “when the future of Jerusalem as a center of the cult would have been uncertain” leading the author “to use a more vague formulation and leave many options open.”
6. Connected with (4) and (5), the “place” of Deut 12 is vaguely connected with “one of your tribes”, such vagueness being unlikely “if the setting was the kingdom of Judah during monarchic times.” Furthermore, the reference to 12 tribes, as pointed out by many scholars, likely reflects a later development.
7. The implementation of the law is set in a time in the future, using the imperfect (Deut 12.14) and referring to “the place that Yahweh will choose”. But this future timeframe, within the Urdeuteronomium (which does not yet have the Mosaic context of the final form of Deuteronomy), does not suit the kingdom of Josiah . Furthermore, the very setting of this temple foundation myth – in the middle of the desert, rather than at the temple – reflects a non-monarchic setting.
8. The shem (name) theology in Deut 12.21, the core idea of which is that Yahweh’s name rather than physical presence or cult image (ark) dwells in the temple, “points to a situation where the temple had ceased to be the actual dwelling place of Yahweh, his cult image or his Presence”.
9. The external evidence indicates that there was no cult centralization at Jerusalem at least before 400 BCE. The Elephantine papyri shows that the Egyptian Jewish community was unaware of cult centralization and that their requests of the governors of Jerusalem and Samaria to build a temple at Elephantine (ca 407 BCE) and to sacrifice on the altar were asked without any such awareness, and were approved without the issue being raised. “This suggests that even as late as the late fifth century BCE the political elite in Jerusalem and Samaria was not influenced, restricted or even aware of a prohibition to sacrifice outside Jerusalem (or Mt. Gerizim),” contrary to Deut 12. Furthermore, the so-called Passover Letter (ca 419 BCE) provides instructions for celebrating Passover at Elephantine that appear to contradict Deut 16.
10. The laws of Urdeuteronomium are not realistic, but idealistic laws that were unlikely ever to have been followed. The laws suit the ideals of a community “visioning a new society should the state be reestablished.” In particular, the idea that the people had to attend Jerusalem for sacrifice (Deut 12.13-14) and offer a whole tenth of the agricultural products and livestock (14.22-26) are “completely unrealistic”.
Juha Pakkala, ‘The Date of the Oldest Edition of Deuteronomy.’ Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 121.3 (Sep 2009): 388–401.