In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Book of the Twelve Prophets

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Works
  • History of Research
  • Essay Collections
  • History of Interpretation

Biblical Studies Book of the Twelve Prophets
Marvin A. Sweeney
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 March 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 March 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0016


The book of the Twelve Prophets is the fourth of the major prophetic books of the Tanakh (the canonical Jewish version of the Hebrew Bible [b. Baba Batra 14b]). It is a hybrid composition insofar as it consists of twelve individual prophetic compositions that are identified as discrete prophetic books within the book of the Twelve. The Talmud identifies the book of the Twelve as a single prophetic book called Tĕrê ‛āśār, Aramaic for “the Twelve,” although the Talmud calls for scribes to leave three blank lines between each of the individual twelve prophetic books (instead of the four lines normally prescribed for separating biblical books) to signal their distinctive characters (b. Baba Batra 13b). Christianity counts the Twelve Prophets as twelve individual prophetic books, and refers to them as the Dodekapropheton (Greek for “twelve prophets”) or simply as “the Minor Prophets,” indicating their relative length when compared to the Major Prophets. Most contemporary Bibles follow the order of the Jewish Masoretic traditions: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Current printed editions of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Bible from the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE, present a different order that follows the Codex Vaticanus: Hosea, Amos, Micah, Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Ancient Greek manuscripts and canon lists, however, display a variety of orders for the Twelve Prophets.

Introductory Works

Blenkinsopp 1996 presents literary- and historical-critical introductions to the study of each of the Twelve Prophets, whereas Rad 1965 provides a theological assessment of each of the individual works of the Twelve Prophets. Heschel 1962 discusses the theological character only of selected books, including Amos, Hosea, Micah, and Habakkuk. Petersen 2002 and Sweeney 2005 both discuss the book of the Twelve as a whole as well as the individual books of the Twelve Prophets, although Petersen emphasizes their historical characters, whereas Sweeney emphasizes their literary and theological characters.

  • Blenkinsopp, Joseph. A History of Prophecy in Israel. Rev. ed. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1996.

    Foundational historical-critical introductions to each of the Twelve Prophets in relation to the history of Israel/Judah and the ancient Near Eastern world. Especially valuable for its bibliographies.

  • Heschel, Abraham J. The Prophets. New York: Harper and Row, 1962.

    A phenomenological introduction to selected books from the Twelve, including Amos, Hosea, Micah, and Habakkuk, which focuses on the themes of human apprehension of G-d and divine pathos.

  • Petersen, David L. The Prophetic Literature: An Introduction. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2002.

    A discussion of the book of the Twelve as a whole, as well as a standard historical-critical introduction to each of the twelve prophetic books. Includes discussion of oracle types and social background.

  • Rad, Gerhard von. Old Testament Theology. Vol. 2, The Theology of Israel’s Prophetic Traditions. Translated by D. M. G. Stalker. New York: Harper, 1965.

    Provides a tradition-historical and theological assessment of each of the twelve prophetic books in relation to their respective historical backgrounds and theological viewpoints.

  • Sweeney, Marvin A. The Prophetic Literature. Interpreting Biblical Texts. Nashville: Abingdon, 2005.

    A literary-critical and theological assessment of both the Masoretic Hebrew and Greek Septuagint versions of the book of the Twelve, as well as literary and theological discussion of each of the Twelve Prophets. The study is attentive to the respective historical backgrounds of each of the Twelve Prophets, but focuses on a reading of the final literary forms of each of the books to discern their distinctive theological viewpoints.

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