Most prophetic books begin with a "superscription", these words seem to stand outside the text of the book, and to describe it (hence the name "superscription" which comes from Latin meaning to "be written over"). These passages, most often just one verse in length usually name and situate the prophet whose words are to be reported. The prophet is identified most often by date (to the reigns of one or more kings), and sometimes (also/instead) by genealogy and/or place of origin. Often their role as a messenger charged with a divine message is made clear by a phrase like "Adonai's word" or "which he saw"... Sometimes the target of the prophetic speech is identified also.
The form and content of these superscriptions make it seem likely that someone other than the prophet wrote them (they refer to the prophet as "he") at some later time (they date the prophet in particular kings reigns). They thus provide one clue that the prophetic books were collected by people over some time after the prophet themself was active, rather then being written by the named prophet. The books contain the prophets' words as they were remembered by others, just as the gospels (in the Christian New Testament) contain Jesus' words remembered - Jesus did not dictate his own gospel.
This page is part of the Hypertext Bible Commentary - Amos,
© Tim Bulkeley, 1996-2005, Tim Bulkeley. All rights reserved.