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«w 9011 Divinity November 2009 w w Principal Examiner Report for Teachers.X tr e m DIVINITY eP ap er s.c om Paper 9011/01 Prophets of the Old ...»

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Cambridge International Advanced Level


9011 Divinity November 2009



Principal Examiner Report for Teachers











Paper 9011/01

Prophets of the Old Testament

General Comments

Without doubt this year’s scripts were of a general standard not previously attained. They were a credit to

Centres, teachers and candidates. In particular, there was a much greater depth of analytical comment, with

many candidates writing articulately about editorial activity, the job of redactors, the presuppositions of the Deuteronomists, and so on. Although some candidates left too little time for the gobbet question, most answered four questions in equal detail, writing at great length and displaying wide knowledge. Centres should note that there is no need for candidates to write out the verses for each gobbet before commenting.

This merely wastes valuable time.

Comments on Individual Questions Question 1 Weaker responses treated this as a question on false prophecy, simplistically equating false prophecy with cultic prophecy, and making a string of uncomplimentary assumptions about cultic prophets, e.g. that they were all Baal prophets, prophesied only for gain, were toad-eaters of the king, their word never came to pass, and so on.

Stronger candidates pointed out that much of the evidence about prophecy and cult is ambiguous, not least because many of the prophets also exercised priestly functions or had priestly connections. With Amos, it seems that Amos is anti-cult, since he appears to deny that he is a nabi; yet if so, what was he doing in the shrine at Bethel? There is a theory, for example, that he had been a temple herdsman. Isaiah clearly was in a cultic context when experiencing his call vision, and Samuel had a major cultic function, and so on. It is quite acceptable for candidates not to be specific in their answers to questions such as this, and to point out that there is much we do not know about the connection between the prophets and the cult.

Question 2

This was a very popular question, and produced some superb answers. Quite a few argued that Moses was not, in fact, a prophet, but was a ‘construct’ figure – an anachronism invented by later editors who expanded his function for reasons that became important at a later time. In favour of the view that Moses was a clever politician, some of the ideas offered were: that Moses was given a political role because he was a Hebrew in Egypt; that he fought for the political independence of Israel; that the ten commandments formed the basis of Israel’s political constitution (and became the basis of western society); that on the basis of the commandments, Moses dispensed justice, confronted the power of Egypt, and acted as a crisis-leader; that he had a political background by virtue of his Egyptian background; that he was a radical nationalist who was prepared to murder an Egyptian who was mistreating a Hebrew; that he had political foresight, for example in sending spies into Canaan; that as a politician he sought counsel from a higher authority (God); that he shared the workload with the elders, and so on.

In favour of the view that Moses was first and foremost a prophet, many candidates pointed out that Moses ticked all the prophetic boxes of call, commission, intercession, miracle-working, and so on; that he was the fountainhead of prophetic authority; that as a stammerer, he was hardly good-quality material to be a politician; that he was present at the transfiguration, and so on.

Quite a few candidates made the very strong claim that Moses’ political authority was the inevitable accompaniment of his prophetic authority – his political activities were carried out, quite simply, as a function of his prophetic commission, and could not otherwise even have been considered. In his case, then, prophecy and politics were inseparable.

–  –  –

Weaker responses tended to be weak through style rather than content, for example by listing examples of prophets performing miracles and prophets performing symbolic acts without making much, if anything, of a judgement about their relative importance in the message of the prophets. Quite a few favoured miracles as outward and visible signs of a prophet’s power that caused people who saw them to turn to Yahweh, e.g.

Elijah’s extermination of the 450 Baal prophets, God’s miraculous deliverance of the escaping Hebrews at the sea (by the way, the Hebrew says ‘yam suf’, which means sea of reeds, not Red Sea), and so on.

Most opted for symbolic acts as being more important in the message, and some argued that miracles were not part of the prophetic message, but were just a way of authenticating the prophet’s vocation. Candidates referred to a variety of symbolic acts, mainly from Jeremiah, Isaiah and Hosea, and suggested that they clarified the prophet’s message to the people, and sometimes to the prophet concerned – they ‘decoded heavenly language into earthly terms’. One candidate produced a very neat conclusion: ‘The importance of the prophet’s message depended on miracles from God, whereas the importance of symbolic acts depended on the prophet himself.’

Question 4

This was a very popular question. Weaker responses tended to list all the functions of Samuel, and then all the functions of Moses, and usually Elijah, and then said something like, ‘This shows that Samuel was the greatest of the pre-exilic prophets’, whereas producing lists like this does no such thing, of course. Those who agreed with the statement generally did so on the basis of the multiplicity of Samuel’s roles as seer-intransition-to-prophet, cultic functionary, judge, intercessor, king-maker, king-breaker, and so forth. Most referred to Cross’s view that prophecy began with the monarchy, and concluded that this gave Samuel preeminent status as the first of the line.

Against this, others gave a similar list of credentials for Moses, augmented by Moses’ miracle-working powers, his role in the exodus from Egypt, his function as law-giver, and his status as the founder of the covenant tradition which all later prophets (including Samuel) followed. Not everybody was so impressed with Moses, and one or two suggested that he was over-reliant on miracles, and that his many roles had been read-back into the past by later editors. Much the same comment was made for Samuel himself, and indeed for Elijah, although a lot of candidates gave the vote to Elijah because of his success in killing 450 Baal prophets on Carmel. A few quoted the neat line that without Moses, Prophecy would not have been born, and without Elijah, prophecy would have died. Several concluded that it is neither possible nor appropriate to make comparative judgements about greatness, since all prophets were called for a particular task and, regardless of the size of it, a prophet can be judged only by how well he or she carries out that particular task.

Question 5

On the whole, candidates did not deal too well with the concept of “necessary evil”. In fact many candidates simply ignored the word ‘necessary’, and simply discussed which kings were good, which were evil, and which were sometimes good and sometimes evil. Many did produce good answers, of course, beginning usually with Samuel’s institution of the monarchy against Yahweh’s advice. On the basis of this, some said that kings were necessary because inevitably, the Israelites needed a political setup which allowed for the centralization of power in the hands of a single leader, as the basis for dealing with external threats such as the Philistines. Candidates judged that this was evil for two reasons – first because it went against the notion of a theocratic state in which the main reliance was on Yahweh, and second because however good kings were as leaders (and some were not good even at that), many of them were evil in some aspects of their character, as witness David’s awful affair with Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah the Hittite.

Candidates assessed the characters of a number of kings on this kind of basis – usually condemning the likes of Saul (deposed for his evil ways by Samuel) and Ahab (condemned to death by Elijah), and being rather kinder to the likes of David (generally supported by Nathan) and Josiah (approved of, at least early on, by Jeremiah). Some pointed out that beginning with Samuel, prophets anointed kings, and so of necessity they acknowledged kings as Yahweh’s vice-regents. Moreover court prophets could only exercise their function within the orbit of the king, and at least the arrangement gave prophets the chance to show their authority.

–  –  –

This was a very popular question. Where it was answered not-so-well, this tended to be because some candidates simply agreed with the question, and gave long lists of doom-oracles spoken by Amos. Very few candidates had any problem showing that God appears to be rather unloving, judged by Amos’ oracles, and most summarized Amos’ position by saying that since the covenant relationship had been abrogated, doom was inevitable, so God (as the author of that message of doom) also inevitably appeared as unloving.

Most candidates referred to the prophecy in chapter 9 about God raising up and rebuilding the fallen booth of David. Most acknowledged that these were probably the result of editorial activity, and so were not the real words of Amos, although others argued that these words were genuine, either as the result of a re-think by Amos, or else by his disciples. Some argued that Amos’ intercession with God in chapter 7 shows an element of love on God’s part. Some suggested that of course God appears as a God of love – why else would he be so concerned about the fate of the poor and the oppressed? None dealt with the eventual fate of the Northern Kingdom through the Assyrian invasion of 721, and with the question of why its effects fell alike upon those who were innocent as well as those who were guilty.

Question 7

This was probably the least popular question, although those who answered it generally made a good job of it, displaying an in-depth knowledge of the historical circumstances which caused Isaiah to make use of the idea of God as Sovereign Ruler. Most gave a detailed analysis of Isaiah’s vision in the Temple as the source of his understanding of God as the exalted king whose universal power and sovereignty extends over nations, over time, and over creation as a whole.

Most referred to the tradition of the invulnerability of Zion, and with the associated material about the Davidic ‘shoot’/stump, seen against the background of Isaiah’s relations with Ahaz and Hezekiah and the political scene of foreign alliances. On the whole, for those who knew the material, their answers were clear and straightforward, since there was plenty of material to draw upon.

Question 8

Most candidates found it easier to demonstrate that Hosea’s message does indeed show that love is stronger than judgement than to demonstrate otherwise. For example, candidates suggested that Gomer’s/Israel’s punishment was reformatory and not retributive; the renaming of the children shows the primacy of love; Yahweh’s hesed-love for Israel is the all-embracing love of the parent for the child; the ‘alluring’ into the wilderness is to rekindle the love experience (the ‘honeymoon love’, as some put it) of the wilderness period; Yahweh is God, not man, so his love is more powerful, and so on.

On the judgement side, most dealt with the original symbolism of the children’s names. Several pointed out that the book starts with a judgement on Hosea by his being commanded by God to marry a prostitute. This was so unthinkable that it stands as a symbol of complete judgement. Some suggested that the balance of love and judgement in the message of Hosea depends on several factors that are not known – for example, were the children necessarily Hosea’s? If not, then Hosea’s (and God’s) actions show even more love.

Some argued very powerfully that judgement comes into play necessarily because of love – love ought not to be blind, even though it sometimes is – so love can lead to judgement, or love can follow judgement, for example.

Question 9

Quite a few candidates could not make their minds up about this question, so were in the same difficulty as Jeremiah! Many elected to say that Jeremiah did in fact make up his mind to speak a message of doom, claiming that he was confused by God, and quoting the language of his ‘confessions’, which are accusatory in their tone when addressed to God. A few opted for the reverse, suggesting that Jeremiah believed that covenant faithfulness would triumph over wrath, as with the new covenant.

The favoured conclusion, however, was that the messages of doom and hope had nothing (or very little) to do with any indecision on Jeremiah’s part, but were related precisely to the ambivalent nature of his call, where he is told that he will pluck up / break down, destroy and overthrow / build and plant. In other words, the doom/hope duality was built into his call experience, and became the paradigm of his life: e.g. his experiences with Hananiah / his experiences of God’s power and love; the parable of the good and bad figs;

abrogation of the covenant / the new covenant, etc. Essays were generally well constructed, and were enjoyable to read.

–  –  –

Question 10 Gobbets (a) Almost all candidates identified this correctly as Moses’ speech before the entry of the Israelites to Canaan. Most suggested that divinatory practices were against the covenant, so Moses’ words establish the basis of the covenant with Yahweh and the hallmarks of a true prophet. Weaker responses tended to get bogged down in talking about divinatory methods. Better responses tended to be those that concentrated on the hallmarks of ‘true’ prophecy being related to the demands of the covenant, since the prophets were those whose function centred around their demand for covenant obedience. One or two suggested that this was a read-back from the concerns of a later age.

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