Biblical Studies Deuteronomistic History
Gary N. Knoppers, Jonathan S. Greer
  • LAST REVIEWED: 23 November 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 13 September 2010
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0028


The Deuteronomistic History (DH) is a modern theoretical construct holding that behind the present forms of the books of Deuteronomy and Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings (the Former Prophets in the Hebrew canon) there was a single literary work. In the late 19th century, some scholars conceived of the DH as a loosely edited collection of works, written in reference to some of the standards espoused in the book of Deuteronomy. The architect of the modern theory, which holds to greater unity within the work, was Martin Noth who built upon older theories (see Noth’s Theory [Single Literary Work]). He noted similarities in language, style, and content among these biblical books in his Überlieferungsgeschichtliche and suggested that an originally unified work was composed during the exilic period by an individual—the “Deuteronomist” (Dtr)—reflecting on the loss of the kingdoms soon after the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem in 587–586 BCE following the conclusion of 2 Kings. Noth’s theory was so persuasive that it was widely accepted within critical scholarship until recently. While the theory still enjoys significant support in modified forms, many of its central tenets have been called into question. These challenges have given rise to a proliferation of new theories, as detailed below. The topic of history and history writing in the Deuteronomistic History (and in the rest of the Hebrew Bible) is a large and important topic distinct from, but related to, the theory of the DH.

General Overviews

For one interested in the topic of the DH, many overviews are readily accessible from dictionary-type entries and articles to essay collections. The latter grouping is more helpful for the advanced inquirer interested in exposure to the complexity and ongoing nature of the debate, particularly in European circles.

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