Today's Scripture Reading (April 5, 2020): Habakkuk 1
Virginia Woolf, in "A Room of One's Own," wrote that "Anon (Anonymous), who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman." It is an interesting assertion, but one that is ultimately unprovable. But Woolf's statement does make sense. Often the female authors of history found it much harder to find publishing support or to be taken seriously than their male counterparts. It is for this reason that some women adopted a male nom de plume to publish their books. For instance, Mary Ann Evans published one of my favorite nineteenth-century works, "Silas Marner," under the name male name of George Eliot. So, Woolf's assertion may well be correct, but the evidence is at best anecdotal, Anonymous essentially means that we know nothing about who wrote the work. Any guesses about the author's identity are not based on fact.
And, sometimes, even a work that has a name attached to is essentially anonymous. Such is the case with the oracle of Habakkuk. No biographical information is provided in Habakkuk's prophecy; in fact, even the gender "he" is just a guess. We don't know what we don't know.
We can make some educated guesses. Likely, Habakkuk was living in Jerusalem at the same time as Jeremiah. His prophecy consists of declarations concerning the Chaldeans or the Babylonians, which supports the theory that he lived late in the history of the Kingdom of Judah. Some traditions hold that Habakkuk watched the destruction of the Temple and the demise of the city. Tradition also holds that, like Jeremiah, Habakkuk was not taken to Babylon in the Babylonian exile. Habakkuk is mentioned in "Bel and the Dragon," which is a non-canonical extension of the book of Daniel. There, the story is told of Habakkuk, who was at home in Judea cooking supper, when he received a vision of Daniel in the lion's den. God commands Habakkuk to take a portion of his supper to feed Daniel. Habakkuk responds that he does not know where the Lion's Den might be, or even how to get to Babylon, and in response, an angel transports him to the lion's den so that he can minister to Daniel's needs.
The Zohar, a foundational work in the area of Jewish mystical thought, argues that Habakkuk was the son who was born to the Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4) as a result of Elisha's declaration. But this actually stresses how much we don't know about Habakkuk, because the boy born to the Shunammite woman was born over three centuries before Daniel met his lions. So, unless the angel who took Habakkuk to Daniel also was adept at traveling through time, both stories can't be accurate. And the reality, because we know so little, is that neither story may be true, as is true with the assumptions that we make about all other anonymous works. All we know for sure about Habakkuk is contained in the pages of his short oracle. And in the mind of Habakkuk, who he is, is simply not relevant.
Tomorrow's Scripture Reading: Habakkuk 2