|pen'-ta-tuk ((pente) five, (teucos) vessel, instrument, book)
RELATED: Bible, Law, Moses, Septuagint, Torah
BOOKS OF THE PENTATEUCH: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
Easton's Bible Dictionary
The five-fold volume, consisting of the first five books of the Old Testament.
This word does not occur in Scripture, nor is it certainly known when the roll
was thus divided into five portions Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy.
Probably that was done by the LXX. translators. Some modern critics speak of a
Hexateuch, introducing the Book of Joshua as one of the group. But this book is
of an entirely different character from the other books, and has a different author.
It stands by itself as the first of a series of historical books beginning with
the entrance of the Israelites into Canaan. (See JOSHUA.)
The books composing the Pentateuch are properly but one book, the "Law of Moses,"
the "Book of the Law of Moses," the "Book of Moses," or, as the Jews designate
it, the "Torah" or "Law." That in its present form it "proceeds from a single
author is proved by its plan and aim, according to which its whole contents refer
to the covenant concluded between Jehovah and his people, by the instrumentality
of Moses, in such a way that everything before his time is perceived to be preparatory
to this fact, and all the rest to be the development of it. Nevertheless, this
unity has not been stamped upon it as a matter of necessity by the latest redactor:
it has been there from the beginning, and is visible in the first plan and in
the whole execution of the work.", Keil, Einl. i.d. A. T.
A certain school of critics have set themselves to reconstruct the books of the
Old Testament. By a process of "scientific study" they have discovered that the
so-called historical books of the Old Testament are not history at all, but a
miscellaneous collection of stories, the inventions of many different writers,
patched together by a variety of editors! As regards the Pentateuch, they are
not ashamed to attribute fraud, and even conspiracy, to its authors, who sought
to find acceptance to their work which was composed partly in the age of Josiah,
and partly in that of Ezra and Nehemiah, by giving it out to be the work of Moses!
This is not the place to enter into the details of this controversy. We may say
frankly, however, that we have no faith in this "higher criticism." It degrades
the books of the Old Testament below the level of fallible human writings, and
the arguments on which its speculations are built are altogether untenable.
The evidences in favour of the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch are conclusive.
We may thus state some of them briefly:
These books profess to have been written by Moses in the name of God ( Exodus
17:14 ; 24:3 , 24:4 , 24:7 ; 32:7 - 10 , 32:30 - 34 ; 34:27 ; Leviticus 26:46
; 27:34 ; Deuteronomy 31:9 , 31:24 , 31:25 ).
This also is the uniform and persistent testimony of the Jews of all sects in
all ages and countries (Compare Joshua 8:31 , 8:32 ; 1 Kings 2:3 ; Jeremiah 7:22
; Ezra 6:18 ; Nehemiah 8:1 ; Malachi 4:4 ; Matthew 22:24 ; Acts 15:21 ).
Our Lord plainly taught the Mosaic authorship of these books ( Matthew 5:17 ,
5:18 ; 19:8 ; 22:31 , 22:32 ; 23:2 ; Mark 10:9 ; 12:26 ; Luke 16:31 ; 20:37 ;
24:26 , 24:27 , 24:44 ; John 3:14 ; 5:45 , 5:46 , 5:47 ; 6:32 , 6:49 ; 7:19 ,
7:22 ). In the face of this fact, will any one venture to allege either that Christ
was ignorant of the composition of the Bible, or that, knowing the true state
of the case, he yet encouraged the people in the delusion they clung to?
From the time of Joshua down to the time of Ezra there is, in the intermediate
historical books, a constant reference to the Pentateuch as the "Book of the Law
of Moses." This is a point of much importance, inasmuch as the critics deny that
there is any such reference; and hence they deny the historical character of the
Pentateuch. As regards the Passover, e.g., we find it frequently spoken of or
alluded to in the historical books following the Pentateuch, showing that the
"Law of Moses" was then certainly known. It was celebrated in the time of Joshua
( Joshua 5:10 , cf 4:19 ), Hezekiah ( 2 Chronicles 30 ), Josiah ( 2 Kings 23 ;
2 Chronicles 35 ), and Zerubbabel ( Ezra 6:19 - 22 ), and is referred to in such
passages as 2 Kings 23:22 ; 2 Chronicles 35:18 ; 1 Kings 9:25 ("three times in
a year"); 2 Chronicles 8:13 . Similarly we might show frequent references to the
Feast of Tabernacles and other Jewish institutions, although we do not admit that
any valid argument can be drawn from the silence of Scripture in such a case.
An examination of the following texts, 1 Kings 2:9 ; 2 Kings 14:6 ; 2 Chronicles
23:18 ; 25:4 ; 34:14 ; Ezra 3:2 ; 7:6 ; Daniel 9:11 , 9:13 , will also plainly
show that the "Law of Moses" was known during all these centuries.
Granting that in the time of Moses there existed certain oral traditions or written
records and documents which he was divinely led to make use of in his history,
and that his writing was revised by inspired successors, this will fully account
for certain peculiarities of expression which critics have called "anachronisms"
and "contradictions," but in no way militates against the doctrine that Moses
was the original author of the whole of the Pentateuch. It is not necessary for
us to affirm that the whole is an original composition; but we affirm that the
evidences clearly demonstrate that Moses was the author of those books which have
come down to us bearing his name. The Pentateuch is certainly the basis and necessary
preliminary of the whole of the Old Testament history and literature. (See DEUTERONOMY
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
the five books of Moses
Smith's Bible Dictionary
is the Greek name given to the five books commonly called the "five books of Moses."
This title is derived from "pente", five, and "teucos") which, meaning originally
"vessel" "instrument," etc., came In Alexandrine Greek to mean "book" hence the
fivefold book. In the time of Ezra and Nehemiah it was called "the law of Moses,"
( Ezra 7:6 ) or "the book of the law of Moses," ( Nehemiah 8:1 ) or simply "the
book of Moses." ( 2 Chronicles 25:4 ; 35:12 ; Ezra 6:13 ; Nehemiah 13:1 ) This
was beyond all reasonable doubt our existing Pentateuch. The book which was discovered
the temple in the reign of Josiah, and which is entitled, ( 2 Chronicles 34:14
) "a book of the law of Jehovah by the hand of Moses," was substantially, it would
seem the same volume, though it may afterward have undergone some revision by
Ezra. The present Jews usually called the whole by the name of Torah , i.e. "the
Law," or Torath Mosheh "the Law of Moses." The division of the whole work into
five parts was probably made by the Greek translators; for the titles of the several
books are not of Hebrew but of Greek origin. The Hebrew names are merely taken
from the first words of each book, and in the first instance only designated particular
sections and not whole books. The MSS. of the Pentateuch form a single roll or
volume, and are divided not into books but into the larger and smaller sections
called Parshiyoth and Sedarim . The five books of the Pentateuch form a consecutive
whole. The work, beginning with the record of creation end the history of the
primitive world, passes on to deal more especially with the early history of the
Jewish family, and finally concludes with Moses last discourses and his death.
Till the middle of the last century it was the general opinion of both Jews and
Christians that the whole of the Pentateuch was written by Moses, with the exception
of a few manifestly later additions,--such as the, 34th chapter of Deuteronomy,
which gives the account of Moses death. The attempt to call in question the popular
belief was made by Astruc, doctor and professor of medicine in the Royal College
at Paris, and court physician to Louis XIV. He had observed that throughout the
book of Genesis, and as far as the 6th chapter of Exodus, traces were to be found
of two original documents, each characterized by a distinct use of the names of
God; the one by the name Elohim, and the other by the name Jehovah. [GOD] Besides
these two principal documents, he supposed Moses to have made use of ten others
in the composition of the earlier part of his work. The path traced by Astruc
has been followed by numerous German writers; but the various hypotheses which
have been formed upon the subject cannot be presented in this work. It is sufficient
here to state that there is evidence satisfactory that the main bulk of the Pentateuch,
at any rate, was written by Moses, though the probably availed himself of existing
documents in the composition of the earlier part of the work. Some detached portions
would appear to be of later origin; and when we remember how entirely, during
some periods of Jewish history, the law seems to have been forgotten, and again
how necessary it would be after the seventy years of exile to explain some of
its archaisms, and to add here and there short notes to make it more intelligible
to the people, nothing can be more natural than to suppose that such later additions
were made by Ezra and Nehemiah. To briefly sum up the results of our inquiry --
The book of Genesis rests chiefly on documents much earlier than the time of Moses
though it was probably brought to very nearly its, present shape either by Moses
himself or by one of the elders who acted under him.
The books of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers are to a great extent Mosaic. Besides
those portions which are expressly declared to have been written by him other
portions, and especially the legal sections, were, if not actually written, in
all probability dictated by him.
Deuteronomy, excepting the concluding part, is entirely the work of Moses as it
professes to be. It is not probable that this was written before the three preceding
books, because the legislation in Exodus and Leviticus, as being the more formal,
is manifestly the earlier whilst Deuteronomy is the spiritual interpretation and
application of the law. But the letter is always before the spirit; the thing
before its interpretation.
The first composition of the Pentateuch as a whole could not have taken place
till after the Israelites entered Cannan. It is probable that Joshua and the elders
who were associated with him would provide for its formal arrangement, custody
The whole work did not finally assume its present shape till its revision was
undertaken by Ezra after the return from the Babylonish captivity. For an account
of the separate books see GENESIS,
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
I. TITLE, DIVISION, CONTENTS
(Torah, "law" or "teaching").--It has recently been argued
that the Hebrew word is really the Babylonian tertu, "divinely revealed law" (e.g.
Sayce, Churchman, 1909, 728), but such passages as Leviticus 14:54 - 57 ; Deuteronomy
17:11 show that the legislator connected it with horah (from yarah), "to teach."
Also called by the Jews chamishshah chumeshi torah, "the five-fifths of the law":
ho nomos, "the Law." The word "Pentateuch" comes from pentateuchos, literally
"5-volumed (book)." The Pentateuch consists of the first five books of the Bible,
and forms the first division of the Jewish Canon, and the whole of the Samaritan
Canon. The 5-fold division is certainly old, since it is earlier than the Septuagint
or the Sam Pentateuch. How much older it may be is unknown. It has been thought
that the 5-fold division of the Psalter is based on it.
The five books into which the Pentateuch is divided are respectively Genesis,
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, and the separate articles should
be consulted for information as to their nomenclature.
The work opens with an account of the Creation, and passes to the story of the
first human couple. The narrative is carried on partly by genealogies and partly
by fuller accounts to Abraham. Then comes a history of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
the collateral lines of descendants being rapidly dismissed. The story of Joseph
is told in detail, and Genesis closes with his death. The rest of the Pentateuch
covers the oppression of the Israelites in Egypt, their exodus and wanderings,
the conquest of the trans-Jordanic lands and the fortunes of the people to the
death of Moses. The four concluding books contain masses of legislation mingled
with the narrative (for special contents, see articles on the several books).
II. AUTHORSHIP, COMPOSITION, DATE
1. The Current Critical Scheme:
The view that Moses was the author of the Pentateuch, with the exception of the
concluding verses of Deuteronomy, was once held universally. It is still believed
by the great mass of Jews and Christians, but in most universities of Northern
Europe and North America other theories prevail. An application of what is called
"higher" or "documentary criticism" (to distinguish it from lower or textual criticism)
has led to the formation of a number of hypotheses. Some of these are very widely
held, but unanimity has not been attained, and recent investigations have challenged
even the conclusions that are most generally accepted. In the English-speaking
countries the vast majority of the critics would regard Driver's, Introduction
to the Literature of the Old Testament and Carpenter and Harford-Battersby's Hexateuch
as fairly representative of their position, but on the Continent of Europe the
numerous school that holds some such position is dwindling alike in numbers and
influence, while even in Great Britain and America some of the ablest critics
are beginning to show signs of being shaken in their allegiance to cardinal points
of the higher-critical case. However, at the time of writing, these latter critics
have not put forward any fresh formulation of their views, and accordingly the
general positions of the works named may be taken as representing with certain
qualifications the general critical theory. Some of the chief stadia in the development
of this may be mentioned.
After attention had been drawn by earlier writers to various signs of post-Mosaic
date and extraordinary perplexities in the Pentateuch, the first real step toward
what its advocates have, till within the last few years, called "the modern position"
was taken by J. Astruc (1753). He propounded what Carpenter terms "the clue to
the documents," i.e. the difference of the divine appellations in Genesis as a
test of authorship. On this view the word 'Elohim ("God") is characteristic of
one principal source and the Tetragrammaton, i.e. the divine name YHWH represented
by the "LORD" or "GOD" of the King James Version and the Revised Version (British
and American), shows the presence of another. Despite occasional warnings, this
clue was followed in the main for 150 years. It forms the starting-point of the
whole current critical development, but the most recent investigations have successfully
proved that it is unreliable (see below, 3, (2)) Astruc was followed by Eichhorn
(1780), who made a more thorough examination of Genesis, indicating numerous differences
of style, representation, etc.
Geddes (1792) and Vater (1802-1805) extended the method applied to Genesis to
the other books of the Pentateuch.
In 1798 Ilgen distinguished two Elohists in Genesis, but this view did not find
followers for some time. The next step of fundamental importance was the assignment
of the bulk of Deuteronomy to the 7th century BC. This was due to De Wette (1806).
Hupfeld (1853) again distinguished a second Elohist, and this has been accepted
by most critics. Thus, there are four main documents at least: D (the bulk of
Deuteronomy), two Elohists (P and E) and one document (Jahwist) that uses the
Tetragrammaton in Genesis. From 1822 (Bleek) a series of writers maintained that
the Book of Joshua was compounded from the same documents as the Pentateuch (see
Two other developments call for notice:
| (1) there has been a tendency to subdivide these documents further, regarding
them as the work of schools rather than of individuals, and resolving them into
different strata (P1, Secondary Priestly Writers, P3, etc., J1, Later additions
to J, etc., or in the notation of other writers Jj Je, etc.);
(2) a particular scheme of dating has found wide acceptance. In the first period
of the critical development it was assumed that the principal Elohist (P) was
the earliest document.
A succession of writers of whom Reuss, Graf, Kuenen and Wellhausen are the most
prominent have, however, maintained that this is not the first but the last in
point of time and should be referred to the exile or later. On this view theory
is in outline as follows: J and E (so called from their respective divine appellations)--on
the relative dates of which opinions differ--were composed probably during the
early monarchy and subsequently combined by a redactor (Rje) into a single document
JE. In the 7th century D, the bulk of Deuteronomy, was composed. It was published
in the 18th year of Josiah's reign. Later it was combined with JE into JED by
a redactor (Rjed). P or Priestly Code the last of all (originally the first Elohist,
now the Priestly Code) incorporated an earlier code of uncertain date which consists
in the main of most of Leviticus 17:1-26:46 and is known as the Law of Holiness
(H or Ph). P itself is largely postexilic. Ultimately it was joined with JED by
a priestly redactor (Rp) into substantially our present Pentateuch. As already
stated, theory is subject to many minor variations. Moreover, it is admitted that
not all its portions are equally well supported. The division of JE into J and
E is regarded as less certain than the separation of Pentateuch. Again, there
are variations in the analysis, differences of opinion as to the exact dating
of the documents, and so forth. Yet the view just sketched has been held by a
very numerous and influential school during recent years, nor is it altogether
fair to lay stress on minor divergences of opinion. It is in the abstract conceivable
that the main positions might be true, and that yet the data were inadequate to
enable all the minor details to be determined with certainty. See CRITICISM OF
This theory will hereafter be discussed at length for two reasons:
| (1) while it is now constantly losing ground, it is still more widely held
than any other; and
(2) so much of the modern literature on the Old Testament has been written from
this standpoint that no intelligent use can be made of the most ordinary books
of reference without some acquaintance with it.
Before 1908 the conservative opposition to the dominant theory had exhibited two
separate tendencies. One school of conservatives rejected the scheme in toto;
the other accepted the analysis with certain modifications, but sought to throw
back the dating of the documents. In both these respects it had points of contact
with dissentient critics (e.g. Delitzsch, Dillmann, Baudissin, Kittel, Strack,
Van Hoonacker), who sought to save for conservatism any spars they could from
the general wreckage. The former school of thought was most prominently represented
by the late W.H. Green, and J.
Raven's Old Testament Introduction may be regarded as a typical modern presentation
of their view; the latter especially by Robertson and Orr. The scheme put forward
by the last named has found many adherents. He refuses to regard J and E as two
separate documents, holding that we should rather think (as in the case of the
parallel Psalms) of two recensions of one document marked by the use of different
divine appellations. The critical P he treats as the work of a supplemented, and
thinks it never had an independent existence, while he considers the whole Pentateuch
as early. He holds that the work was done by "original composers, working with
a common aim, and toward a common end, in contrast with the idea of late irresponsible
redactors, combining, altering, manipulating, enlarging at pleasure" (POT, 375).
While these were the views held among Old Testament critics, a separate opposition
had been growing up among archaeologists. This was of course utilized to the utmost
by the conservatives of both wings. In some ways archaeology undoubtedly has confirmed
the traditional view as against the critical (see ARCHAEOLOGY AND CRITICISM);
but a candid survey leads to the belief that it has not yet dealt a mortal blow,
and here again it must be remembered that the critics may justly plead that they
must not be judged on mistakes that they made in their earlier investigations
or on refutations of the more uncertain portions of their theory, but rather on
the main completed result. It may indeed be said with confidence that there are
certain topics to which archaeology can never supply any conclusive answer. If
it be the case that the Pentateuch contains hopelessly contradictory laws, no
archaeological discovery can make them anything else; if the numbers of the Israelites
are original and impossible, archaeology cannot make them possible. It is fair
and right to lay stress on the instances in which archaeology has confirmed the
Bible as against the critics; it is neither fair nor right to speak as if archaeology
had done what it never purported to do and never could effect.
The year 1908 saw the beginning of a new critical development which makes it very
difficult to speak positively of modern critical views. Kuenen has been mentioned
as one of the ablest and most eminent of those who brought the Graf-Wellhausen
theory into prominence. In that year B.D. Eerdmans, his pupil and successor at
Leyden, began the publication of a series of Old Testament studies in which he
renounces his allegiance to the line of critics that had extended from Astruc
to the publications of our own day, and entered on a series of investigations
that were intended to set forth a new critical view. As his labors are not yet
complete, it is impossible to present any account of his scheme; but the volumes
already published justify certain remarks. Eerdmans has perhaps not converted
any member of the Wellhausen school, but he has made many realize that their own
scheme is not the only one possible. Thus while a few years ago we were constantly
assured that the "main results" of Old Testament criticism were unalterably settled,
recent writers adopt a very different tone: e.g. Sellin (1910) says, "We stand
in a time of fermentation and transition, and in what follows we present our own
opinion merely as the hypothesis which appears to us to be the best founded" (Einleitung,
18). By general consent Eerdmans' work contains a number of isolated shrewd remarks
to which criticism will have to attend in the future; but it also contains many
observations that are demonstrably unsound (for examples see BS, 1909, 744-48;
1910, 549-51). His own reconstruction is in many respects so faulty and blurred
that it does not seem likely that it will ever secure a large following in its
present form. On the other hand he appears to have succeeded in inducing a large
number of students in various parts of the world to think along new lines and
in this way may exercise a very potent influence on the future course of Old Testament
study. His arguments show increasingly numerous signs of his having been influenced
by the publications of conservative writers, and it seems certain that criticism
will ultimately be driven to recognize the essential soundness of the conservative
position. In 1912 Dahse (TMH, I) began the publication of a series of volumes
attacking the Wellhausen school on textual grounds and propounding a new pericope
hypothesis. In his view many phenomena are due to the influence of the pericopes
of the synagogue service or the form of the text and not to the causes generally
2. The Evidence for the Current Critical Scheme:
The examination of the Graf-Wellhausen theory must now be undertaken, and attention
must first be directed to the evidence which is adduced in its support. Why should
it be held that the Pentateuch is composed mainly of excerpts from certain documents
designated as J and E and P and D? Why is it believed that these documents are
of very late date, in one case subsequent to the exile?
(1) Astruc's Clue.
It has been said above that Astruc propounded the use of the divine appellations
in Genesis as a clue to the dissection of that book. This is based on Exodus 6:3,
'And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, as 'El Shadday (God
Almighty); but by my name YHWH I was not known to them.' In numerous passages
of Genesis this name is represented as known, e.g. 4:26, where we read of men
beginning to call on it in the days of Enosh. The discrepancy here is very obvious,
and in the view of the Astruc school can be satisfactorily removed by postulating
different sources. This clue, of course, fails after Exodus 6:3, but other difficulties
are found, and moreover the sources already distinguished in Genesis are, it is
claimed, marked by separate styles and other characteristics which enable them
to be identified when they occur in the narrative of the later books. See CRITICISM
OF THE BIBLE.
(2) Signs of Post-Mosaic Date.
Close inspection of the Pentateuch shows that it contains a number of passages
which, it is alleged, could not have proceeded from the pen of Moses in their
present form. Probably the most familiar instance is the account of the death
of Moses (Deuteronomy 34). Other examples are to be found in seeming allusions
to post-Mosaic events, e.g. in Genesis 22 we hear of the Mount of the Lord in
the land of Moriah; this apparently refers to the Temple Hill, which, however,
would not have been so designated before Solomon. So too the list of kings who
reigned over Edom "before there reigned any king over the children of Israel"
(Genesis 36:31) presumes the existence of the monarchy. The Canaanites who are
referred to as being "then in the land" (Genesis 12:6 ; 13:7) did not disappear
till the time of Solomon, and, accordingly, if this expression means "then still"
it cannot antedate his reign. Deuteronomy 3:11 (Og's bedstead) comes unnaturally
from one who had vanquished Og but a few weeks previously, while Numbers 21:14
(the King James Version) contains a reference to "the book of the Wars of the
Lord" which would hardly have been quoted in this way by a contemporary. Exodus
16:35 refers to the cessation of the manna after the death of Moses. These passages,
and more like them, are cited to disprove Mosaic authorship; but the main weight
of the critical argument does not rest on them.
(3) Narrative Discrepancies.
While the divine appellations form the starting-point, they do not even in Genesis
constitute the sole test of different documents. On the contrary, there are other
narrative discrepancies, antinomies, differences of style, duplicate narratives,
etc., adduced to support the critical theory. We must now glance at some of these.
In Genesis 21:14 f Ishmael is a boy who can be carried on his mother's shoulder,
but from a comparison of Genesis 16:3 , 16 ; 17, it appears that he must have
been 14 when Isaac was born, and, since weaning sometimes occurs at the age of
3 in the East, may have been even as old as 17 when this incident happened. Again,
"We all remember the scene (Genesis 27) in which Isaac in extreme old age blesses
his sons; we picture him as lying on his deathbed. Do we, however, all realize
that according to the chronology of the Book of Genesis he must have been thus
lying on his deathbed for eighty years (compare Genesis 25:26 ; 26:34 ; 35:28)?
Yet we can only diminish this period by extending proportionately the interval
between Esau marrying his Hittite wives (Genesis 26:34) and Rebekah's suggestion
to Isaac to send Jacob away, lest he should follow his brother's example (Genesis
27:46); which, from the nature of the case, will not admit of any but slight extension.
Keil, however, does so extend it, reducing the period of Isaac's final illness
by 43 years, and is conscious of no incongruity in supposing that Rebekah, 30
years after Esau had taken his Hittite wives, should express her fear that Jacob,
then aged 77, will do the same" (Driver, Contemporary Review, LVII, 221).
An important instance occurs in Numbers. According to Numbers 33:38, Aaron died
on the 1st day of the 5th month. From Deuteronomy 1:3 it appears that 6 months
later Moses delivered his speech in the plains of Moab. Into those 6 months are
compressed one month's mourning for Aaron, the Arad campaign, the wandering round
by the Red Sea, the campaigns against Sihon and Og, the missions to Balaam and
the whole episode of his prophecies, the painful occurrences of Numbers 25, the
second census, the appointment of Joshua, the expedition against Midian, besides
other events. It is clearly impossible to fit all these into the time.
Other discrepancies are of the most formidable character. Aaron dies now at Mt.
Hor (Numbers 20:28 ; 33:38), now at Moserah (Deuteronomy 10:6). According to Deuteronomy
1 ; 2:1 , 14, the children of Israel left Kadesh-barnea in the 3rd year and never
subsequently returned to it, while in Numbers they apparently remain there till
the journey to Mt. Hor, where Aaron dies in the 40th year. The Tent of Meeting
perhaps provides some of the most perplexing of the discrepancies, for while according
to the well-known scheme of Exodus 25 and many other passages, it was a large
and heavy erection standing in the midst of the camp, Exodus 33:7 - 11 provides
us with another Tent of Meeting that stood outside the camp at a distance and
could be carried by Moses alone. The verbs used are frequentative, denoting a
regular practice, and it is impossible to suppose that after receiving the commands
for the Tent of Meeting Moses could have instituted a quite different tent of
the same name. Joseph again is sold, now by Ishmaelites (Genesis 37:27 , 28 ;
39:1), anon by Midianites (Genesis 37:28a , 36). Sometimes he is imprisoned in
one place, sometimes apparently in another. The story of Korah, Dathan and Abiram
in Numbers 16 is equally full of difficulty. The enormous numbers of the Israelites
given in Numbers 1 - 4, etc., are in conflict with passages that regard them as
Another portion of the critical argument is provided by doublets or duplicate
narratives of the same event, e.g. Genesis 16 and 21. These are particularly numerous
in Genesis, but are not confined to that book. "Twice do quails appear in connection
with the daily manna (Numbers 11:4 - 6 , 31 ; Exodus 16:13) Twice does Moses draw
water from the rock, when the strife of Israel begets the name Meribah (`strife')
(Exodus 17:1 - 7 ; Numbers 20:1 - 13)" (Carpenter, Hexateuch, I, 30).
(5) The Laws.
Most stress is laid on the argument from the laws and their supposed historical
setting. By far the most important portions of this are examined in SANCTUARY
and PRIESTS AND LEVITES. These subjects form the two main pillars of the Graf-Wellhausen
theory, and accordingly the articles in question must be read as supplementing
the present article. An illustration may be taken from the slavery laws. It is
claimed that Exodus 21:1 - 6; Deuteronomy 15:12 permit a Hebrew to contract for
life slavery after 6 years' service, but that Leviticus 25:39 - 42 takes no notice
of this law and enacts the totally different provision that Hebrews may remain
in slavery only till the Year of Jubilee. While these different enactments might
proceed from the same hand if properly coordinated, it is contended that this
is not the case and that the legislator in Le ignores the legislator in Exodus
and is in turn ignored by the legislator in Deuteronomy, who only knows the law
(6) The Argument from Style.
The argument from style is less easy to exemplify shortly, since it depends so
largely on an immense mass of details. It is said that each of the sources has
certain characteristic phrases which either occur nowhere else or only with very
much less frequency. For instance in Genesis 1, where 'Elohim is used throughout,
we find the word "create," but this is not employed in 2:4b, where the Tetragrammaton
occurs. Hence, it is argued that this word is peculiarly characteristic of P as
contrasted with the other documents, and may be used to prove his presence in
e.g. 5:1 f.
(7) Props of the Development Hypothesis.
While the main supports of the Graf-Wellhausen theory must be sought in the articles
to which reference has been made, it is necessary to mention briefly some other
phenomena to which some weight is attached. Jeremiah displays many close resemblances
to Deuteronomy, and the framework of Kings is written in a style that has marked
similarities to the same book. Ezekiel again has notable points of contact with
P and especially with H; either he was acquainted with these portions of the Pentateuch
or else he must have exercised considerable influence on those who composed them.
Lastly the Chronicler is obviously acquainted with the completed Pentateuch. Accordingly,
it is claimed that the literature provides a sort of external standard that confirms
the historical stages which the different Pentateuchal sources are said to mark.
Deuteronomy influences Jeremiah and the subsequent literature. It is argued that
it would equally have influenced the earlier books, had it then existed. So too
the completed Pentateuch should have influenced Kings as it did Chronicles, if
it had been in existence when the earlier history was composed.
3. Answer to the Critical Analysis:
(1) The Veto of Textual Criticism.
The first great objection that may be made to the higher criticism is that it
starts from the Massoretic text (MT) without investigation. This is not the only
text that has come down to us, and in some instances it can be shown that alternative
readings that have been preserved are superior to those of the Massoretic Text.
A convincing example occurs in Exodus 18. According to the Hebrew, Jethro comes
to Moses and says "I, thy father-in-law .... am come," and subsequently Moses
goes out to meet his father-in-law. The critics here postulate different sources,
but some of the best authorities have preserved a reading which (allowing for
ancient differences of orthography) supposes an alteration of a single letter.
According to this reading the text told how one (or they) came to Moses and said
"Behold thy father-in-law .... is come." As the result of this Moses went out
and met Jethro. The vast improvement in the sense is self-evident. But in weighing
the change other considerations must be borne in mind. Since this is the reading
of some of the most ancient authorities, only two views are possible. Either the
Massoretic Text has undergone a corruption of a single letter, or else a redactor
made a most improbable cento of two documents which gave a narrative of the most
doubtful sense. Fortunately this was followed by textual corruption of so happy
a character as to remove the difficulty by the change of a single letter; and
this corruption was so widespread that it was accepted as the genuine text by
some of our best authorities. There can be little doubt which of these two cases
is the more credible, and with the recognition of the textual solution the particular
bit of the analysis that depends on this corruption falls to the ground. This
instance illustrates one branch of textual criticism; there are others. Sometimes
the narrative shows with certainty that in the transmission of the text transpositions
have taken place; e.g. the identification of Kadesh shows that it was South of
Hormah. Consequently, a march to compass Edom by way of the Red Sea would not
bring the Israelites to Hormah. Here there is no reason to doubt that the events
narrated are historically true, but there is grave reason to doubt that they happened
in the present order of the narrative. Further, Deuteronomy gives an account that
is parallel to certain passages of Numbers; and it confirms those passages, but
places the events in a different order. Such difficulties may often be solved
by simple transpositions, and when transpositions in the text of Nu are made under
the guidance of Deuteronomy they have a very different probability from guesses
that enjoy no such sanction. Another department of textual criticism deals with
the removal of glosses, i.e. notes that have crept into the text. Here the ancient
versions often help us, one or other omitting some words which may be proved from
other sources to be a later addition. Thus in Exodus 17:7 the Vulgate (Jerome's
Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) did not know the expression, "and Meribah" (one word
in Hebrew), and calls the place "Massah" simply. This is confirmed by the fact
that Deuteronomy habitually calls the place Massah (Deuteronomy 6:16 ; 9:22 ;
33:8). The true Meribah was Kadesh (Numbers 20) and a glossator has here added
this by mistake (see further (4) below). Thus we can say that a scientific textual
criticism often opposes a real veto to the higher critical analysis by showing
that the arguments rest on late corruptions and by explaining the true origin
of the difficulties on which the critics rely.
(2) Astruc's Clue Tested.
Astruc's clue must next be examined. The critical case breaks down with extraordinary
frequency. No clean division can be effected, i.e. there are cases where the Massoretic
Text of Genesis makes P or E use the Tetragrammaton (YHWH) or J Yahweh (Yahweh).
In some of these cases the critics can suggest no reason; in others they are compelled
to assume that the Massoretic Text is corrupt for no better reason than that it
is in conflict with their theory. Again the exigencies of the theory frequently
force the analyst to sunder verses or phrases that cannot be understood apart
from their present contexts, e.g. in Genesis 28:21 Carpenter assigns the words
"and Yahweh will be my God" to J while giving the beginning and end of the verse
to E; in Genesis 31, verse 3 goes to a redactor, though E actually refers to the
statement of 31:3 in verse 5; in Genesis 32, verse 30 is torn from a J-context
and given to E, thus leaving 32:31 (Jahwist) unintelligible. When textual criticism
is applied, startling facts that entirely shatter the higher critical argument
are suddenly revealed. The variants to the divine appellations in Genesis are
very numerous, and in some instances the new readings are clearly superior to
the Massoretic Text, even when they substitute 'Elohim for the Tetragrammaton.
Thus, in 16:11, the explanation of the name Ishmael requires the word 'Elohim,
as the name would otherwise have been Ishmayah, and one Hebrew MS, a recension
of the Septuagint and the Old Latin do in fact preserve the reading 'Elohim. The
full facts and arguments cannot be given here, but Professor Schlogl has made
an exhaustive examination of the various texts from Genesis 1:1 to Exodus 3:12.
Out of a total of 347 occurrences of one or both words in the Massoretic Text
of that passage, there are variants in 196 instances. A very important and detailed
discussion, too long to be summarized here will now be found in TMH, I. Wellhausen
himself has admitted that the textual evidence constitutes a sore point of the
documentary theory (Expository Times, XX, 563). Again in Exodus 6:3, many of the
best authorities read "I was not made known" instead of "I was not known" a difference
of a single letter in Hebrew. But if this be right, there is comparative evidence
to suggest that to the early mind a revelation of his name by a deity meant a
great deal more than a mere knowledge of the name, and involved rather a pledge
of his power. Lastly the analysis may be tested in yet another way by inquiring
whether it fits in with the other data, and when it is discovered (see below 4,
(1)) that it involves ascribing, e.g. a passage that cannot be later than the
time of Abraham to the period of the kingdom, it becomes certain that the clue
and the method are alike misleading (see further EPC, chapter i; Expository Times,
XX, 378, 473-75, 563; TMH, I; PS, 49-142; BS, 1913, 145-74; A. Troelstra, The
Name of God, NKZ, XXIV (1913), 119-48; The Expositor, 1913).
(3) The Narrative Discrepancies and Signs of Post-Mosaic Date Examined.
Septuagintal manuscripts are providing very illuminating material for dealing
with the chronological difficulties. It is well known that the Septuagint became
corrupt and passed through various recensions (see SEPTUAGINT). The original text
has not yet been reconstructed, but as the result of the great variety of recensions
it happens that our various manuscripts present a wealth of alternative readings.
Some of these show an intrinsic superiority to the corresponding readings of the
Massoretic Text. Take the case of Ishmael's age. We have seen (above, 2, (3))
that although in Genesis 21:14 f he is a boy who can be carried by his mother
even after the weaning of Isaac, his father, according to 16:3,16, was 86 years
old at the time of his birth, and, according to Genesis 17, 100 years old when
Isaac was born. In 17:25 we find that Ishmael is already 13 a year before Isaac's
birth. Now we are familiar with marginal notes that set forth a system of chronology
in many printed English Bibles. In this case the Septuagintal variants suggest
that something similar is responsible for the difficulty of our Hebrew. Two manuscripts,
apparently representing a recension, omit the words, "after Abram had dwelt ten
years in the land of Canaan" in 16:3, and again, 16:16, while in 17:25 there is
a variant making Ishmael only 3 years old. If these readings are correct it is
easy to see how the difficulty arose. The narrative originally contained mere
round numbers, like 100 years old, and these were not intended to be taken literally.
A commentator constructed a scheme of chronology which was embodied in marginal
notes. Then these crept into the text and such numbers as were in conflict with
them were thought to be corrupt and underwent alteration. Thus the 3-year-old
Ishmael became 13.
The same manuscripts that present us with the variants in Genesis 16 have also
preserved a suggestive reading in 35:28, one of the passages that are responsible
for the inference that according to the text of Genesis Isaac lay on his deathbed
for 80 years (see above, 2, (3)). According to this Isaac was not 180, but 150
years old when he died. It is easy to see that this is a round number, not to
be taken literally, but this is not the only source of the difficulty. In 27:41,
Esau, according to English Versions of the Bible, states "The days of mourning
for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob." This is a perfectly
possible rendering of the Hebrew, but the Septuagint translated the text differently,
and its rendering, while grammatically correct, has the double advantage of avoiding
Isaac's long lingering on a deathbed and of presenting Esau's hatred and ferocity
far more vividly. It renders, "May the days of mourning for my father approach
that I may slay my brother Jacob." Subsequent translators preferred the milder
version, but doubtless the Septuagint has truly apprehended the real sense of
the narrative. If we read the chapter with this modification, we see Isaac as
an old man, not knowing when he may die, performing the equivalent of making his
will. It puts no strain on our credulity to suppose that he may have lived 20
or 30 years longer. Such episodes occur constantly in everyday experience. As
to the calculations based on Genesis 25:26 and 26:34, the numbers used are 60
and 40, which, as is well known, were frequently employed by the ancient Hebrews,
not as mathematical expressions, but simply to denote unknown or unspecified periods.
The other chronological difficulty cited above (namely, that there is not room
between the date of Aaron's death and the address by Moses in the plains of Moab
for all the events assigned to this period by Numbers) is met partly by a reading
preserved by the Peshitta and partly by a series of transpositions. In Numbers
33:38 Peshitta reads "first" for "fifth" as the month of Aaron's death, thus recognizing
a longer period for the subsequent events. The transpositions, however, which
are largely due to the evidence of Deuteronomy, solve the most formidable and
varied difficulties; e.g. a southerly march from Kadesh no longer conducts the
Israelites to Arad in the north, the name Hormah is no longer used (Numbers 14:45)
before it is explained (Numbers 21:3), there is no longer an account directly
contradicting De and making the Israelites spend 38 years at Kadesh immediately
after receiving a divine command to turn "tomorrow" (Numbers 14:25). A full discussion
is impossible here and will be found in EPC, 114-38. The order of the narrative
that emerges as probably original is as follows: Numbers 12 ; 20:1 , 14 - 21 ;
21:1 - 3 ; 13 ; 14 ; 16 - 18 ; 20:2 - 13 , 12 ; 21:4b-9, then some missing vs,
bringing the Israelites to the head of the Gulf of Akabah and narrating the turn
northward from Elath and Ezion-geber, then 20:22b-29; 21:4a, and some lost words
telling of the arrival at the station before Oboth. In Numbers 33:40 is a gloss
that is missing in Lagarde's Septuagint, and 33:36b-37a should probably come earlier
in the chapter than they do at present.
Another example of transposition is afforded by Exodus 33:7 - 11, the passage
relating to the Tent of Meeting which is at present out of place (see above 2,
(3)). It is supposed that this is E's idea of the Tabernacle, but that, unlike
the Priestly Code (P), he places it outside the camp and makes Joshua its priest.
This latter view is discussed and refuted in PRIESTS AND LEVITES, sec. 3, where
it is shown that Exodus 33:7 should be rendered "And Moses used to take a (or,
the) tent and pitch it for himself," etc. As to theory that this is E's account
of the Tabernacle, Exodus 18 has been overlooked. This chapter belongs to the
same E but refers to the end of the period spent at Horeb, i.e. it is later than
Exodus 33:7 - 11. In 18:13 - 16 we find Moses sitting with all the people standing
about him because they came to require of God; i.e. the business which according
to Exodus 33 was transacted in solitude outside the camp was performed within
the camp in the midst of the people at a later period. This agrees with the Priestly
Code (P), e.g. Numbers 27. If now we look at the other available clues, it appears
that Exodus 33:11 seems to introduce Joshua for the first time. The passage should
therefore precede Exodus 17:8 - 15 ; 24:13 ; 32:17, where he is already known.
Again, if Exodus 18 refers to the closing scenes at Horeb (as it clearly does),
Exodus 24:14 providing for the temporary transaction of judicial business reads
very strangely. It ought to be preceded by some statement of the ordinary course
in normal times when Moses was not absent from the camp. Exodus 33:7 provides
such a statement. The only earlier place to which it can be assigned is after
Exodus 13:22, but there it fits the context marvelously, for the statements as
to the pillar of cloud in Exodus 33:9 f attach naturally to those in Exodus 13:21
f. With this change all the difficulties disappear. Immediately after leaving
Egypt Moses began the practice of carrying a tent outside the camp and trying
cases there. This lasted till the construction of the Tabernacle. "And there I
will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee" (Exodus 25:22). After its erection
the earlier tent was disused, and the court sat at the door of the Tabernacle
in the center of the camp (see, further, EPC, 93-102, 106 f).
Some other points must be indicated more briefly. In Numbers 16 important Septuagintal
variants remove the main difficulties by substituting "company of Korah" for "dwelling
of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram" in two verses (see EPC, 143-46). Similarly in the
Joseph-story the perplexities have arisen through corruptions of verses which
may still be corrected by the versional evidence (PS, 29-48). There is evidence
to show that the numbers of the Israelites are probably due to textual corruption
(EPC, 155-69). Further, there are numerous passages where careful examination
has led critics themselves to hold that particular verses are later notes. In
this way they dispose of Deuteronomy 10:6 f (Aaron's death, etc.), the references
to the Israelirish kingdom (Genesis 36:31) and the Canaanites as being "then"
in the land (Genesis 12:6 ; 13:7), the bedstead of Og (Deuteronomy 3:11) and other
passages. In Genesis 22, "the land of Moriah" is unknown to the versions which
present the most diverse readings, of which "the land of the Amorite" is perhaps
the most probable; while in 22:14 the Septuagint, reading the same Hebrew consonants
as Massoretic Text, translates "In the Mount the Lord was seen." This probably
refers to a view that God manifested Himself especially in the mountains (compare
1 Kings 20:23 , 28) and has no reference whatever to the Temple Hill. The Massoretic
pointing is presumably due to a desire to avoid what seemed to be an anthropomorphism
(see further PS, 19-21) . Again, in Numbers 21:14, the Septuagint knows nothing
of "a book of the Wars of Yahweh" (see Field, Hexapla, at the place). It is difficult
to tell what the original reading was, especially as the succeeding words are
corrupt in the Hebrew, but it appears that no genitive followed wars" and it is
doubtful if there was any reference to a "book of wars."
(4) The Argument from the Doublets Examined.
The foregoing sections show that the documentary theory often depends on phenomena
that were absent from the original Pentateuch. We are now to examine arguments
that rest on other foundations. The doublets have been cited, but when we examine
the instances more carefully, some curious facts emerge. Genesis 16 and 21 are,
to all appearance, narratives of different events; so are Exodus 17:1 - 7 and
Numbers 20:1 - 13 (the drawing of water from rocks). In the latter case the critics
after rejecting this divide the passages into 5 different stories, two going to
J, two to E and one to Pentateuch. If the latter also had a Rephidimnarrative
(compare Numbers 33:14 P), there were 6 tales. In any case both J and E tell two
stories each. It is impossible to assign any cogency to the argument that the
author of the Pentateuch could not have told two such narratives, if not merely
the redactor of the Pentateuch but also J and E could do so. The facts as to the
manna stories are similar. As to the flights of quails, it is known that these
do in fact occur every year, and the Pentateuch places them at almost exactly
a year's interval (see EPC, 104, 109 f).
(5) The Critical Argument from the Laws.
The legal arguments are due to a variety of misconceptions, the washing out of
the historical background and the state of the text. Reference must be made to
the separate articles (especially SANCTUARY; PRIESTS AND LEVITES). As the slave
laws were cited, it may be explained that in ancient Israel as in other communities
slavery could arise or slaves be acquired in many ways: e.g. birth, purchase (Genesis
14:14 ; 17:12, etc.), gift (Genesis 20:14), capture in war (Genesis 14:21 ; 34:29),
kidnapping (Joseph). The law of Exodus and Deuteronomy applies only to Hebrew
slaves acquired by purchase, not to slaves acquired in any other way, and least
of all to those who in the eye of the law were not true slaves. Leviticus 25 has
nothing to do with Hebrew slaves. It is concerned merely with free Israelites
who become insolvent. "If thy brother be waxed poor with thee, and sell himself"
it begins (Leviticus 25:39). Nobody who was already a slave could wax poor and
sell himself. The law then provides that these insolvent freemen were not to be
treated as slaves. In fact, they were a class of free bondsmen, i.e. they were
full citizens who were compelled to perform certain duties. A similar class of
free bondsmen existed in ancient Rome and were called nexi. The Egyptians who
sold themselves to Pharaoh and became serfs afford another though less apt parallel
In all ancient societies insolvency led to some limitations of freedom, but while
in some full slavery ensued, in others a sharp distinction was drawn between the
slave and the insolvent freeman (see further SBL, 5-11 ).
(6) The Argument from Style.
Just as this argument is too detailed to be set out in a work like the present,
so the answer cannot be given with any degree of fullness. It may be said generally
that the argument too frequently neglects differences of subject-matter and other
sufficient reasons (such as considerations of euphony and slight variations of
meaning) which often provide far more natural reasons for the phenomena observed.
Again, the versions suggest that the Biblical text has been heavily glossed. Thus
in many passages where the frequent recurrence of certain words and phrases is
supposed to attest the presence of the Priestly Code (P), versional evidence seems
to show that the expressions in question have been introduced by glossators, and
when they are removed the narrative remains unaffected in meaning, but terser
and more vigorous and greatly improved as a vehicle of expression. To take a simple
instance in Genesis 23:1, "And the life of Sarah was a hundred and seven and twenty
years: .... the years of the fife of Sarah," the italicized words were missing
in the Septuagint. When they are removed the meaning is unaltered, but the form
of expression is far superior. They are obviously mere marginal note. Again the
critical method is perpetually breaking down. It constantly occurs that redactors
have to be called in to remove from a passage attributed to some source expressions
that are supposed to be characteristic of another source, and this is habitually
done on no other ground than that theory requires it. One instance muse be given.
It is claimed that the word "create" is a P-word. It occurs several times in Genesis
1:1 - 2:4 a and 3 times in Genesis 5:1 , 2 , but in 6:7 it is found in a J-passage,
and some critics therefore assign it to a redactor. Yet J undoubtedly uses the
word in Numbers 16:30 and D in Deuteronomy 4:32. On the other hand, P does not
use the word exclusively, even in Genesis 1:1 - 2:4, the word "make" being employed
in Genesis 1:7 , 25 , 26 , 31 ; 2:2, while in Genesis 2:3 both words are combined.
Yet all these passages are given unhesitatingly to P.
(7) Perplexities of the Theory.
The perplexities of the critical hypothesis are very striking, but a detailed
discussion is impossible here. Much material will, however, be found in POT and
Eerd. A few general statements may be made. The critical analysis repeatedly divides
a straightforward narrative into two sets of fragments, neither of which will
make sense without the other. A man will go to sleep in one document and wake
in another, or a subject will belong to one source and the predicate to another.
No intelligible account can be given of the proceedings of the redactors who one
moment slavishly preserve their sources and at another cut them about without
any necessity, who now rewrite their material and now leave it untouched. Even
in the ranks of the Wellhausen critics chapters will be assigned by one writer
to the post-exilic period and by another to the earliest sources (e.g. Genesis
14, pre-Mosaic in the main according to Sellin (1910), post-exilic according to
others), and the advent of Eerdmans and Dahse has greatly increased the perplexity.
Clue after clue, both stylistic and material, is put forward, to be abandoned
silently at some later stage. Circular arguments are extremely common: it is first
alleged that some phenomenon is characteristic of a particular source; then passages
are referred to that source for no other reason than the presence of that phenomenon;
lastly these passages are cited to prove that the phenomenon in question distinguishes
the source. Again theory is compelled to feed on itself; for J, E, the Priestly
Code (P), etc., we have schools of J's, E's, etc., subsisting side by side for
centuries, using the same material, employing the same ideas, yet remaining separate
in minute stylistic points. This becomes impossible when viewed in the light of
the evidences of pre-Mosaic date in parts of Genesis (see below 4, (1) to (3)).
(8) Signs of Unity.
It is often possible to produce very convincing internal evidence of the unity
of what the critics sunder. A strong instance of this is to be found when one
considers the characters portrayed. The character of Abraham or Laban, Jacob or
Moses is essentially unitary. There is but one Abraham, and this would not be
so if we really had a cento of different documents representing the results of
the labor of various schools during different centuries. Again, there are sometimes
literary marks of unity, e.g. in Numbers 16, the effect of rising anger is given
to the dialogue by the repetition of "Ye take too much upon you" (Numbers 16:3
, 7), followed by the repetition of "Is it a small thing that" (Numbers 16:9 ,
13). This must be the work of a single literary artist (see further SBL, 37 f).
(9) The Supposed Props of the Development Hypothesis.
When we turn to the supposed props of the development hypothesis we see that there
is nothing conclusive in the critical argument. Jeremiah and the subsequent literature
certainly exhibit the influence of Deuteronomy, but a Book of the Law was admittedly
found in Josiah's reign and had lain unread for at any rate some considerable
time. Some of its requirements had been in actual operation, e.g. in Naboth's
case, while others had become a dead letter. The circumstances of its discovery,
the belief in its undoubted Mosaic authenticity and the subsequent course of history
led to its greatly influencing contemporary and later writers, but that really
proves nothing. Ezekiel again was steeped in priestly ideas, but it is shown in
PRIESTS AND LEVITES, sec. 5b, how this may be explained. Lastly, Chronicles certainly
knows the whole Pentateuch, but as certainly misinterprets it (see PRIESTS AND
LEVITES). On the other hand the Pentateuch itself always represents portions of
the legislation as being intended to reach the people only through the priestly
teaching, and this fully accounts for P's lack of influence on the earlier literature.
As to the differences of style within the Pentateuch itself, something is said
in III, below. Hence, this branch of the critical argument really proves nothing,
for the phenomena are susceptible of more than one explanation.
4. The Evidence of Date:
(1) The Narrative of Genesis.
Entirely different lines of argument are provided by the abundant internal evidences
of date. In Genesis 10:19, we read the phrase "as thou goest toward Sodom and
Gomorrah, and Admah and Zeboiim" in a definition of boundary. Such language could
only have originated when the places named actually existed. One does not define
boundaries by reference to towns that are purely mythical or have been overthrown
many centuries previously. The consistent tradition is that these towns were destroyed
in the lifetime of Abraham, and the passage therefore cannot be later than his
age. But the critics assign it to a late stratum of J, i.e. to a period at least
1,000 years too late. This suggests several comments. First, it may reasonably
be asked whether much reliance can be placed on a method which after a century
and a half of the closest investigation does not permit its exponents to arrive
at results that are correct to within 1,000 years. Secondly, it shows clearly
that in the composition of the Pentateuch very old materials were incorporated
in their original language. Of the historical importance of this fact more will
be said in IV; in this connection we must observe that it throws fresh light on
expressions that point to the presence, in Genesis of sources composed in Palestine,
e.g. "the sea" for "the West" indicates the probability of a Palestinian source,
but once it is proved that we have materials as old as the time of Abraham such
expressions do not argue post-Mosaic, but rather pre-Mosaic authorship. Thirdly,
the passage demolishes theory of schools of J's, etc. It cannot seriously be maintained
that there was a school of J's writing a particular style marked by the most delicate
and subjective criteria subsisting continuously for some 10 or 12 centuries from
the time of Abraham onward, side by side with other writers with whom its members
never exchanged terms of even such common occurrence as "handmaid."
Genesis 10:19 is not the only passage of this kind. In 2:14 we read of the Hiddekel
(Tigris) as flowing East of Assur, though there is an alternative reading "in
front of." If the translation "east" be correct, the passage must antedate the
13th century BC, for Assur, the ancient capital, which was on the west bank of
the Tigris, was abandoned at about that date for Kalkhi on the East.
(2) Archaeology and Genesis.
Closely connected with the foregoing are cases where Genesis has preserved information
that is true of a very early time only. Thus in Genesis 10:22 Elam figures as
a son of Shem. The historical Elam was, however, an Aryan people. Recently inscriptions
have been discovered which show that in very early times Elam really was inhabited
by Semites. "The fact," writes Driver, at the place, "is not one which the writer
of this verse is likely to have known." This contention falls to the ground when
we find that only three verses off we have material that goes back at least as
far as the time of Abraham. After all, the presumption is that the writer stated
the fact because he knew it, not in spite of his not knowing it; and that knowledge
must be due to the same cause as the noteworthy language of Genesis 10:19, i.e.
to early date.
This is merely one example of the confirmations of little touches in Genesis that
are constantly being provided by archaeology. For the detailed facts see the separate
articles, e.g. AMRAPHEL; JERUSALEM, and compare IV, below. From the point of view
of the critical question we note
| (a) that such accuracy is a natural mark of authentic early documents, and
(b) that in view of the arguments already adduced and of the legal evidence to
be considered, the most reasonable explanation is to be found in a theory of contemporary
(3) The Legal Evidence of Genesis.
The legal evidence is perhaps more convincing, for here no theory of late authorship
can be devised to evade the natural inference. Correct information as to early
names, geography, etc., might be the result of researches by an exilic writer
in a Babylonian library; but early customs that are confirmed by the universal
experience of primitive societies, and that point to a stage of development which
had long been passed in the Babylonia even of Abraham's day, can be due to but
one cause--genuine early sources. The narratives of Genesis are certainly not
the work of comparative sociologists. Two instances may be cited. The law of homicide
shows us two stages that are known to be earlier than the stage attested by Exodus
21:12. In the story of Cain we have one stage; in Genesis 9:6, which does not
yet recognize any distinction between murder and other forms of homicide, we have
Our other example shall be the unlimited power of life and death possessed by
the head of the family (Genesis 38:24 ; 42:37, etc.), which has not yet been limited
in any way by the jurisdiction of the courts as in Exodus-Deuteronomy. In both
cases comparative historical jurisprudence confirms the Bible account against
the critical, which would make e.g. Genesis 9:6 post-exilic, while assigning Exodus
21 to a much earlier period. (On the whole subject see further OP, 135.)
(4) The Professedly Mosaic Character of the Legislation.
Coming now to the four concluding books of the Pentateuch, we must first observe
that the legislation everywhere professes to be Mosaic. Perhaps this is not always
fully realized. In critical editions of the text the rubrics and an occasional
phrase are sometimes assigned to redactors, but the representation of Mosaic date
is far too closely interwoven with the matter to be removed by such devices. If
e.g. we take such a section as Deuteronomy 12, we shall find it full of such phrases
as "for ye are not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance" etc.; "When
ye go over Jordan," "the place which the Lord shall choose" (the King James Version),
etc. It is important to bear this in mind throughout the succeeding discussion.
(5) The Historical Situation required by Pentateuch.
What do we find if we ignore the Mosaic dress and seek to fit P into any other
set of conditions, particularly those of the post-exilic period? The general historical
situation gives a clear answer. The Israelites are represented as being so closely
concentrated that they will always be able to keep the three pilgrimage festivals.
One exception only is contemplated, namely, that ritual uncleanness or a journey
may prevent an Israelite from keeping the Passover. Note that in that case he
is most certainly to keep it one month later (Numbers 9:10). How could this law
have been enacted when the great majority of the people were in Babylonia, Egypt,
etc., so that attendance at the temple was impossible for them on any occasion
whatever? With this exception the entire Priestly Code always supposes that the
whole people are at all times dwelling within easy reach of the religious center.
How strongly this view is embedded in the code may be seen especially from Leviticus
17, which provides that all domestic animals to be slaughtered for food must be
brought to the door of the Tent of Meeting. Are we to suppose that somebody deliberately
intended such legislation to apply when the Jews were scattered all over the civilized
world, or even all over Canaan? If so, it means a total prohibition of animal
food for all save the inhabitants of the capital.
In post-exilic days there was no more pressing danger for the religious leaders
to combat than intermarriage, but this code, which is supposed to have been written
for the express purpose of bringing about their action, goes out of its way to
give a fictitious account of a war and incidentally to legalize some such unions
(Numbers 31:18). And this chapter also contains a law of booty. What could be
more unsuitable? How and where were the Jews to make conquests and capture booty
in the days of Ezra?
"Or again, pass to the last chapter of Numbers and consider the historical setting.
What is the complaint urged by the deputation that waits upon Moses? It is this:
If heiresses `be married to any of the sons of the other tribes of the children
of Israel, then shall their inheritance be taken away from the inheritance of
our fathers, and shall be added to the inheritance of the tribe whereunto they
shall belong.' What a pressing grievance for a legislator to consider and redress
when tribes and tribal lots had long since ceased to exist for ever!" (OP, 121
Perhaps the most informing of all the discrepancies between P and the post-exilic
age is one that explains the freedom of the earlier prophets from its literary
influence. According to the constant testimony of the Pentateuch, including the
Priestly Code (P), portions of the law were to reach the people only through priestly
teaching (Leviticus 10:11 ; Deuteronomy 24:8 ; 33:10, etc.). Ezra on the other
hand read portions of P to the whole people.
(6) The Hierarchical Organization in Pentateuch.
Much of what falls under this head is treated in PRIESTS AND LEVITES, sec. 2,
(a), (b), and need not be repeated here. The following may be added: "Urim and
Thummim were not used after the Exile. In lieu of the simple conditions--a small
number of priests and a body of Levites--we find a developed hierarchy, priests,
Levites, singers, porters, Nethinim, sons of Solomon's servants. The code that
ex hypothesi was forged to deal with this state of affairs has no acquaintance
with them. The musical services of the temple are as much beyond its line of vision
as the worship of the synagogue. Even such an organization as that betrayed by
the reference in 1 Samuel 2:36 to the appointment by the high priest to positions
carrying pecuniary emoluments is far beyond the primitive simplicity of P" (OP,
(7) The Legal Evidence of the Pentateuch.
As this subject is technical we can only indicate the line of reasoning. Legal
rules may be such as to enable the historical inquirer to say definitely that
they belong to an early stage of society. Thus if we find elementary rules relating
to the inheritance of a farmer who dies without leaving sons, we know that they
cannot be long subsequent to the introduction of individual property in land,
unless of course the law has been deliberately altered. It is an everyday occurrence
for men to die without leaving sons, and the question What is to happen to their
land in such cases must from the nature of the case be raised and settled before
very long. When therefore we find such rules in Numbers 27, etc., we know that
they are either very old or else represent a deliberate change in the law. The
latter is really out of the question, and we are driven back to their antiquity
(see further OP, 124). Again in Numbers 35 we find an elaborate struggle to express
a general principle which shall distinguish between two kinds of homicide. The
earlier law had regarded all homicide as on the same level (Genesis 9). Now, the
human mind only reaches general principles through concrete cases, and other ancient
legislations (e.g. the Icelandic) bear witness to the primitive character of the
rules of Numbers. Thus, an expert like Dareate can say confidently that such rules
as these are extremely archaic (see further SBL and OP, passim).
(8) The Evidence of Deuteronomist.
The following may be quoted: "Laws are never issued to regulate a state of things
which has passed away ages before, and can by no possibility be revived. What
are we to think, then, of a hypothesis which assigns the code of Deuteronomy to
the reign of Josiah, or shortly before it, when its injunctions to exterminate
the Canaanites (Deuteronomy 20:16 - 18) and the Amalekites (Deuteronomy 25:17
- 19), who had long since disappeared, would be as utterly out of date as a law
in New Jersey at the present time offering a bounty for killing wolves and bears,
or a royal proclamation in Great Britain ordering the expulsion of the Danes?
A law contemplating foreign conquests (Deuteronomy 20:10 - 15) would have been
absurd when the urgent question was whether Judah could maintain its own existence
against the encroachments of Babylon and Egypt. A law discriminating against Ammon
and Moab (Deuteronomy 23:3 , 4), in favor of Edom (Deuteronomy 23:7 , 8), had
its warrant in the Mosaic period, but not in the time of the later kings. Jeremiah
discriminates precisely the other way, promising a future restoration to Moab
(Jeremiah 48:47) and Ammon (Jeremiah 49:6), which he denies to Edom (Jeremiah
49:17 , 18), who is also to Joel (Joel 3:19), Obadiah, and Isaiah (Isaiah 63:1
- 6), the representative foe of the people of God. .... The allusions to Egypt
imply familiarity with and recent residence in that land .... And how can a code
belong to the time of Josiah, which, while it contemplates the possible selection
of a king in the future (Deuteronomy 17:14), nowhere implies an actual regal government,
but vests the supreme central authority in a judge and the priesthood (Deuteronomy
17:8 - 12 ; 19:17); which lays special stress on the requirements that the king
must be a native and not a foreigner (Deuteronomy 17:15), when the undisputed
line of succession had for ages been fixed in the family of David, and that he
must not `cause the people to return to Egypt.' (Deuteronomy 17:16), as they seemed
ready to do on every grievance in the days of Moses (Numbers 14:4), but which
no one ever dreamed of doing after they were fairly established in Canaan?" (Green,
Moses and the Prophets, 63 f). This too may be supplemented by legal evidence
(e.g. Deuteronomy 22:26 testifies to the undeveloped intellectual condition of
the people). Of JE it is unnecessary to speak, for Exodus 21 f are now widely
regarded as Mosaic in critical circles. Wellhausen (Prolegomena (6), 392, note)
now regards their main elements as pre-Mosaic Canaanitish law.
(9) Later Allusions.
These are of two kinds. Sometimes we have references to the laws, in other cases
we find evidence that they were in operation.
| (a) By postulating redactors evidence can be banished from the Biblical text.
Accordingly, reference will only be made to some passages where this procedure
is not followed. Ezekiel 22:26 clearly knows of a law that dealt with the subjects
of the Priestly Code (P), used its very language (compare Leviticus 10:10 f),
and like P was to be taught to the people by the priests. Hosea 4:6 also knows
of some priestly teaching, which, however, is moral and may therefore be Leviticus
19 ; but in 8:11 - 13 he speaks of 10,000 written precepts, and here the context
points to ritual. The number and the subject-matter of these precepts alike make
it certain that he knew a bulky written law which was not merely identical with;
(b) Again, in dealing with institutions the references can often be evaded. It
is possible to say, "Yes, this passage knows such and such a law, but this law
does not really come into existence with D or the Priestly Code (P), but was an
older law incorporated in these documents." That argument would apply, e.g. to
the necessity for two witnesses in the case of Naboth. That is a law of D, but
those who assign Deuteronomy to the reign of Josiah would assert that it is here
merely incorporating older material. Again the allusions sometimes show something
that differs in some way from the Pentateuch, and it is often impossible to prove
that this was a development. The critics in such cases claim that it represents
an earlier stage, and it frequently happens that the data are insufficient either
to support or refute this view. "But fortunately there are in P certain institutions
of which the critics definitely assert that they are late. Accordingly, references
that prove the earlier existence of such institutions have a very different probative
value. Thus it is alleged that before the exile there was but one national burnt
offering and one national meal offering each day: whereas Numbers 28 demands two.
Now in 1 Kings 18:29 , 36 , we find references to the offering of the evening
oblation, but 2 Kings 3:20 speaks of `the time of offering the oblation' in connection
with the morning. Therefore these two oblations were actually in existence centuries
before the date assigned to P--who, on the critical theory, first introduced them.
So 2 Kings 16:15 speaks of `the morning burnt-offering, and the evening meal-offering
.... with the burnt-offering of all the people of the land, and their meal-offering.'
This again gives us the two burnt offerings, though, on the hypothesis, they were
unknown to pre-exilic custom. Similarly in other cases: Jeremiah 32 shows us the
land laws in actual operation; Ezekiel is familiar with the Jubilee laws--though,
on the critical hypothesis, these did not yet exist. Jeroboam was acquainted with
P's date for Tabernacles, though the critics allege that the date was first fixed
in the Exile" (OP, 132 f) .
(10) Other Evidence.
We can only mention certain other branches of evidence. There is stylistic evidence
of early date (see e.g. Lias, BS, 1910, 20-46, 299-334). Further, the minute accuracy
of the narrative of Ex-Nu to local conditions, etc. (noticed below, IV, 8, (6)),
affords valuable testimony. It may be said generally that the whole work--laws
and narrative--mirrors early conditions, whether we regard intellectual, economic
or purely legal development (see further below, IV, and OP, passim).
5. The Fundamental Improbabilities of the Critical Case:
(1) Moral and Psychological Issues.
The great fundamental improbabilities of the critical view have hitherto been
kept out of sight in order that the arguments for and against the detailed case
might not be prejudiced by other considerations. We must now glance at some of
the broader issues. The first that occurs is the moral and psychological incredibility.
On theory two great frauds were perpetrated--in each case by men of the loftiest
ethical principles. Deuteronomy was deliberately written in the form of Mosaic
speeches by some person or persons who well knew that their work was not Mosaic.
P is a make-up--nothing more. All its references to the wilderness, the camp,
the Tent of Meeting, the approaching occupation of Canaan, etc., are so many touches
introduced for the purpose of deceiving. There can be no talk of literary convention,
for no such convention existed in Israel. The prophets all spoke in their own
names, not in the dress of Moses. David introduced a new law of booty in his own
name; the Chronicler repeatedly refers temple ordinances to David and Solomon;
Samuel introduced a law of the kingdom in his own name. Yet we are asked to believe
that these gigantic forgeries were perpetrated without reason or precedent. Is
it credible? Consider the principles inculcated, e.g. the Deuteronomic denunciations
of false prophets, the prohibition of adding aught to the law, the passionate
injunctions to teach children. Can it be believed that men of such principles
would have been guilty of such conduct? Nemo repente fit turpissimus, says the
old maxim; can we suppose that the denunciations of those who prophesy falsely
in the name of the Lord proceed from the pen of one who was himself forging in
that name? Or can it be that the great majority of Bible readers know so little
of truth when they meet it that they cannot detect the ring of unquestionable
sincerity in the references of the Deuteronomist to the historical situation?
Or can we really believe that documents that originated in such a fashion could
have exercised the enormous force for righteousness in the world that these documents
have exercised? Ex nihilo nihil. Are literary forgeries a suitable parentage for
Genesis 1 or Leviticus or Deuteronomy? Are the great monotheistic ethical religions
of the world, with all they have meant, really rooted in nothing better than folly
(2) The Historical Improbability.
A second fundamental consideration is the extraordinary historical improbability
that these frauds could have been successfully perpetrated. The narrative in Kings
undoubtedly relates the finding of what was regarded as an authentic work. King
and people, priests and prophets must have been entirely deceived if the critical
theory be true. It is surely possible that Huldah and Jeremiah were better judges
than modern critics. Similarly in the case of the Priestly Code (P), if e.g. there
had been no Levitical cities or no such laws as to tithes and firstlings as were
here contemplated, but entirely different provisions on the subjects, how came
the people to accept these forgeries so readily? (See further POT, 257, 294-97.)
It is of course quite easy to carry this argument too far. It cannot be doubted
that the exile had meant a considerable break in the historical continuity of
the national development; but yet once the two views are understood the choice
cannot be difficult. On the critical theory elaborate literary forgeries were
accepted as genuine ancient laws; on the conservative theory laws were accepted
because they were in fact genuine, and interpreted as far as possible to meet
the entirely different requirements of the period. This explains both the action
of the people and the divergence between preexilic and post-exilic practice. The
laws were the same but the interpretation was different.
(3) The Divergence between the Laws and Post-exilic Practice.
Thirdly, the entire perversion of the true meaning of the laws in post-exilic
times makes the critical theory incredible. Examples have been given (see above,
4, (5), (6), and PRIESTS AND LEVITES, passim). It must now suffice to take just
one instance to make the argument clear. We must suppose that the author of P
deliberately provided that if Levites approached the altar both they and the priests
should die (Numbers 18:3), because he really desired that they should approach
the altar and perform certain services there. We must further suppose that Ezra
and the people on reading these provisions at once understood that the legislator
meant the exact opposite of what he had said, and proceeded to act accordingly
(1 Chronicles 23:31). This is only one little example. It is so throughout Pentateuch.
Everybody understands that the Tabernacle is really the second Temple and wilderness
conditions post-exilic, and everybody acts accordingly. Can it be contended that
this view is credible?
(4) The Testimony of Tradition.
Lastly the uniform testimony of tradition is in favor of Mosaic authenticity--the
tradition of Jews, Samaritans and Christians alike. The national consciousness
of a people, the convergent belief of Christendom for 18 centuries are not lightly
to be put aside. And what is pitted against them? Theories that vary with each
fresh exponent, and that take their start from textual corruption, develop through
a confusion between an altar and a house, and end in misdating narratives and
laws by 8 or 10 centuries! (see above 3 and 4; SANCTUARY; PRIESTS AND LEVITES).
6. The Origin and Transmission of the Pentateuch:
If anything at all emerges from the foregoing discussion, it is the impossibility
of performing any such analytical feat as the critics attempt. No critical microscope
can possibly detect with any reasonable degree of certainty the joins of various
sources, even if such sources really exist, and when we find that laws and narratives
are constantly misdated by 8 or 10 centuries, we can only admit that no progress
at all is possible along the lines that have been followed. On the other hand,
certain reasonable results do appear to have been secured, and there are indications
of the direction in which we must look for further light.
First, then, the Pentateuch contains various notes by later hands. Sometimes the
versions enable us to detect and remove those notes, but many are pre-versional.
Accordingly, it is often impossible to get beyond probable conjectures on which
different minds may differ.
Secondly, Genesis contains pre-Mosaic elements, but we cannot determine the scope
of these or the number and character of the sources employed, or the extent of
the author's work.
Thirdly, the whole body of the legislation is (subject only to textual criticism)
Mosaic. But the laws of Deuteronomy carry with them their framework, the speeches
which cannot be severed from them (see SBL, II). The speeches of Deuteronomy in
turn carry with them large portions of the narrative of Exodus-Numbers which they
presuppose. They do not necessarily carry with them such passages as Exodus 35
through 39 or Numbers 1 through 4 ; 7; 26. Numbers 1 - 4 contains internal evidence
of Mosaic date.
At this point we turn to examine certain textual phenomena that throw light on
our problem. It may be said that roughly there are two great classes of textual
corruption--that which is due to the ordinary processes of copying, perishing,
annotating, etc. and that which is due to a conscious and systematic effort to
fix or edit a text. In the case of ancient authors, there comes a time sooner
or later when scholarship, realizing the corruption that has taken place, makes
a systematic attempt to produce, so far as possible, a correct standard text.
Instances that will occur to many are to be found in the work of the Massoretes
on the Hebrew text, that of Origen and others on the Septuagint, and that of the
commission of Peisistratos and subsequently of the Alexandrian critics on Homer.
There is evidence that such revisions took place in the case of the Pentateuch.
A very important instance is to be found in the chronology of certain portions
of Genesis of which three different versions survive , the Massoretic, Samaritan
and Septuagintal. Another instance of even greater consequence for the matter
in hand is to be found in Exodus 35 through 39 and some other passages where the
Massoretic and Samaritan texts speak of a hereditary king, the Septuagint knew
nothing of such a person (see further PS, 157-68). The superiority of the Septuagint
text in this instance appears to be attested by 1 Samuel, which is unacquainted
with any law of the kingdom.
Thus, we know of at least three recensions, the M, the Samaritan and the Septuagint.
While there are many minor readings (in cases of variation through accidental
corruption) in which the two last-named agree, it is nevertheless true that in
a general way the Samaritan belongs to the same family as the M, while the Septuagint
in the crucial matters represents a different textual tradition from the other
two (see The Expositor, September 1911, 200-219). How is this to be explained?
According to the worthless story preserved in the letter of Aristeas the Septuagint
was translated from manuscripts brought from Jerusalem at a date long subsequent
to the Samaritan schism. The fact that the Septuagint preserves a recension so
different from both Samaritan and (i.e. from the most authoritative Palestinian
tradition of the 5th century BC and its lineal descendants) suggests that this
part of the story must be rejected. If so, the Septuagint doubtless represents
the text of the Pentateuch prevalent in Egypt and descends from a Hebrew that
separated from the ancestor of the M before the Samaritan schism. At this point
we must recall the fact that in Jeremiah the Septuagint differs rom Massoretic
Text more widely than in any other Biblical book, and the current explanation
is that the divergence goes back to the times of Jeremiah, his work having been
preserved in two editions, an Egyptian and a Babylonian. We may be sure that if
the Jews of Egypt had an edition of Jeremiah, they also had an edition of that
law to which Jeremiah refers, and it is probable that the main differences between
Septuagint and Massoretic Text (with its allies) are due to the two streams of
tradition separating from the time of the exile--the Egyptian and the Babylonian.
The narrative of the finding of the Book of the Law in the days of Josiah (2 Kings
22), which probably refers to Deuteronomy only, suggests that its text at that
time depended on the single manuscript found. The phenomena presented by Genesis-Numbers
certainly suggest that they too were at one time dependent on a single damaged
MS, and that conscious efforts were made to restore the original order--in some
cases at any rate on a wrong principle (see especially EPC, 114-38; BS, 1913,
270-90). In view of the great divergences of the Septuagint in Exodus 35 through
39, it may be taken as certain that in some instances the editing went to considerable
lengths. Thus, the history of the Pentateuch, so far as it can be traced, is briefly
as follows: The backbone of the book consists of pre-Mosaic sources in Genesis,
and Mosaic narratives, speeches and legislation in Exodus-Deuteronomy. To this,
notes, archaeological, historical, explanatory, etc., were added by successive
readers. The text at one time depended on a single manuscript which was damaged,
and one or more attempts were made to repair this damage by rearrangemerit of
the material. It may be that some of the narrative chapters, such as Numbers 1
through 4 ; 7; 26, were added from a separate source and amplified or rewritten
in the course of some such redaction, but on this head nothing certain can be
said. Within a period that is attested by the materials that survive, Exodus 35
through 39 underwent one or more such redactions. Slighter redactions attested
by Samaritan and Septuagint have affected the chronological data, the numbers
of the Israelites and some references to post-Mosaic historical events. Further
than this it is impossible to go on our present materials.
III. SOME LITERARY POINTS
1. Style of Legislation:
No general estimate of the Pentateuch as literature can or need be attempted.
Probably most readers are fully sensible to its literary beauties. Anybody who
is not would do well to compare the chapter on Joseph in the Koran (12) with the
Biblical narrative. A few words must be said of some of the less obvious matters
that would naturally fall into a literary discussion, the aim being rather to
draw the reader's attention to points that he might overlook.
Of the style of the legislation no sufficient estimate can now be formed, for
the first requisite of legal style is that it should be clear and unambiguous
to contemporaries, and today no judgment can be offered on that head. There is,
however, one feature that is of great interest even now, namely, the prevalence
in the main of three different styles, each marked by its special adaptation to
the end in view. These styles are (1) mnemonic, (2) oratorical, and (3) procedural.
The first is familiar in other early legislations. It is lapidary, terse in the
extreme, pregnant, and from time to time marked by a rhythm that must have assisted
the retention in the memory. Occasionally we meet with parallelism. This is the
style of Exodus 21 and occasional later passages, such as the judgment in the
case of Shelomith's son (Leviticus 24:10). No doubt these laws were memorized
by the elders.
Secondly, the legislation of De forms part of a speech and was intended for public
reading. Accordingly, the laws here take on a distinctly oratorical style. Thirdly,
the bulk of the rest of the legislation was intended to remain primarily in the
custody of the priests who could certainly write (Numbers 6:23). This was taken
into account, and the style is not terse or oratorical, but reasonably full. It
was probably very clear to those for whom the laws were meant. There are minor
varieties of style but these are the most important. (On the whole subject see
especially PS, 170-224.)
2. The Narrative:
What holds good of the laws is also true with certain modifications of the narrative.
The style varies with the nature of the subject, occasion and purpose. Thus, the
itinerary in Numbers 33 is intentionally composed in a style which undoubtedly
possesses peculiar qualities when chanted to an appropriate tune. The census lists,
etc., appear to be written in a formal official manner, and something similar
is true of the lists of the spies in Numbers 13. There is no ground for surprise
in this. In the ancient world style varied according to the genre of the composition
to a far greater extent than it does today.
3. The Covenant:
A literary form that is peculiar to the Pentateuch deserves special notice, namely,
the covenant document as a form of literature. Many peoples have had laws that
were attributed to some deity, but it is only here that laws are presented in
the form of sworn agreements entered into with certain formalities between the
nation and God. The literary result is that certain portions of the Pentateuch
are in the form of a sort of deed with properly articulated parts. This deed would
have been ratified by oath if made between men, as was the covenant between Jacob
and Laban, but in a covenant with God this is inapplicable, and the place of the
jurat is in each case taken by a discourse setting forth the rewards and penalties
attached by God to observance and breach of the covenant respectively. The covenant
conception and the idea that the laws acquire force because they are terms in
an agreement between God and people, and not merely because they were commanded
by God, is one of extraordinary importance in the history of thought and in theology,
but we must not through absorption in these aspects of the question fail to notice
that the conception found expression in a literary form that is unknown elsewhere
and that it provides the key to the comprehension of large sections of the Pentateuch,
including almost the whole of De (see in detail SBL, chapter ii).
4. Order and Rhythm:
Insufficient attention has been paid to order and rhythm generally. Two great
principles must be borne in mind:
| (1) in really good ancient prose the artist appeals to the ear in many subtle
(2) in all such prose, emphasis and meaning as well as beauty are given to a great
extent by the order of the words. The figures of the old Greek rhetoricians play
a considerable part.
Thus the figure called kuklos, "the circle," is sometimes used with great skill.
In this the clause or sentence begins and ends with the same word, which denotes
alike the sound and the thought. Probably the most effective instance--heightened
by the meaning, the shortness and the heavy boom of the word--is to be found in
Deuteronomy 4:12, where there is an impressive "circle" with qol, "voice"--the
emphasis conveyed by the sound being at least as marked as that conveyed by the
sense. This is no isolated instance of the figure; compare e.g. in Numbers 32:1,
the "circle" with "cattle"; 14:2 that with "would that we had died." Chiasmus
is a favorite figure, and assonances, plays on words, etc., are not uncommon.
Such traits often add force as well as beauty to the narrative, as may be seen
from instances like Genesis 1:2: tohu wa-bhohu, "waste and void"; 4:12: na' wa-nadh,
"a fugitive and a wanderer"; 9:6: shophekh dam ha-'adham, ba-'adham damo, yishshaphekh,
literally, "shedding blood-of man, by-man his-blood shall-be-shed"; Numbers 14:45:
wayyakkum-wayyakkethum, "and smote them and beat them down."
The prose of the Pentateuch, except in its more formal and official parts, is
closely allied to poetry (compare e.g. the Aeschylean "Sin coucheth at the door"
(Genesis 4:7); "The fountains of the great deep (were) broken up, and the windows
of heaven were opened" (Genesis 7:11); "how I bare you on eagles' wings" (Exodus
19:4)). In the oratorical prose of Deuteronomy we find an imagery and a poetical
imagination that are not common among great orators. Its rhythm is marked and
the arrangement of the words is extraordinarily forcible, especially in such a
chapter as Deuteronomy 28. It is difficult to convey any idea of how much the
book loses in English Versions of the Bible from the changes of order. Occasionally
the rendering does observe the point of the original, e.g. in Deuteronomy 4:36:
"Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice," and if we consider how strikingly
this contrasts with the fiat "He made thee to hear his voice out of heaven," some
notion may perhaps be formed of the importance of retaining the order. More frequently,
however, the English is false to the emphasis and spirit of the Hebrew. Sometimes,
but not always, this is due to the exigencies of English idiom. This is the cardinal
fault of the King James Version, which otherwise excels so greatly.
IV. THE PENTATEUCH AS HISTORY
1. Textual Criticism and History:
Beyond all doubt, the first duty of any who would use the Pentateuch for historical
purposes is to consider the light that textual criticism throws upon it. So many
of the impossibilities that are relied upon by those who seek to prove that the
book is historically worthless may be removed by the simplest operations of scientific
textual criticism, that a neglect of this primary precaution must lead to disastrous
consequences. After all, it is common experience that a man who sets out to produce
a history--whether by original composition or compilation--does not intentionally
make, e.g., a southward march lead to a point northward of the starting-place,
or a woman carry an able-bodied lad of 16 or 17 on her shoulder, or a patriarch
linger some 80 years on a deathbed. When such episodes are found, the rudiments
of historical judgment require that we should first ask whether the text is in
order, and if the evidence points to any easy, natural and well-supported solutions
of the difficulties, we are not justified in rejecting them without inquiry and
denying to the Pentateuch all historical value. It is a priori far more probable
that narratives which have come down to us from a date some 3,000 years back may
have suffered slightly in transmission than that the Pentateuch was in the first
instance the story of a historical wonderland. It is far more reasonable, e.g.,
to suppose that in a couple of verses of Exodus a corruption of two letters (attested
by Aquila) has taken place in the Massoretic Text than that the Pentateuch contains
two absolutely inconsistent accounts of the origin of the priesthood (see PRIESTS
AND LEVITES). Accordingly, the first principle of any scientific use of the Pentateuch
for historical purposes must be to take account of textual criticism.
2. Hebrew Methods of Expression:
Having discovered as nearly as may be what the author wrote, the next step must
be to consider what he meant by it. Here, unfortunately, the modern inquirer is
apt to neglect many most necessary precautions. It would be a truism, but for
the fact that it is so often disregarded, to say that the whole of a narrative
must be carefully read in order to ascertain the author's meaning; e.g. how often
we hear that Genesis 14 represents Abram as having inflicted a defeat on the enemy
with only 318 men (14:14), whereas from 14:24 (compare 14:13) it appears that
in addition to these his allies Aner, Eshcol and Mature (i.e. as we shall see,
the inhabitants of certain localities) had accompanied him! Sometimes the clue
to the precise meaning of a story is to be found near the end: e.g. in Joshua
22 we do not see clearly what kind of an altar the trans-Jordanic tribes had erected
(and consequently why their conduct was open to objection) till Joshua 22:28 when
we learn that this was an altar of the pattern of the altar of burnt offering,
and so bore not the slightest resemblance to such lawful altars as those of Moses
and Joshua (see ALTAR; SANCTUARY). Nor is this the only instance in which the
methods of expression adopted cause trouble to some modern readers; e.g. the word
"all" is sometimes used in a way that apparently presents difficulties to some
minds. Thus in Exodus 9:6 it is possible to interpret "all" in the most sweeping
sense and then see a contradiction in Exodus 9:19 , 22 , etc., which recognize
that some cattle still existed. Or again the term may be regarded as limited by
Exodus 9:3 to all the cattle in the field. See ALL.
3. Personification and Genealogies:
At this point two further idiosyncrasies of the Semitic genius must be noted--the
habits of personification and the genealogical tendency; e.g. in Numbers 20:12
- 21, Edom and Israel are personified: "thy brother Israel," "Edom came out against
him," etc. Nobody here mistakes the meaning. Similarly with genealogical methods
of expression. The Semites spoke of many relationships in a way that is foreign
to occidental methods. Thus the Hebrew for "30 years old" is "son of 30 years."
Again we read "He was the father of such as dwell in tents" (Genesis 4:20). These
habits (of personification and genealogical expression of relationships) are greatly
extended, e.g. "And Canaan begat Zidon his first-born" (Genesis 10:15). Often
this leads to no trouble, yet strangely enough men who will grasp these methods
when dealing with Genesis 10 will claim that Genesis 14 cannot be historical because
localities are there personified and grouped in relationships. Yet if we are to
estimate the historical value of the narrative, we must surely be willing to apply.
the same methods to one chapter as to another if the sense appears to demand this.
See, further, GENEALOGY.
4. Literary Form:
A further consideration that is not always heeded is the exigency of literary
form; e.g. in Genesis 24 there occurs a dialogue. Strangely enough, an attack
has been made on the historical character of Genesis on this ground. It cannot
be supposed--so runs the argument--that we have here a literal report of what
was said. This entirely ignores the practice of all literary artists. Such passages
are to be read as giving a literary presentation of what occurred; they convey
a far truer and more vivid idea of what passed than could an actual literal report
of the mere words, divorced from the gestures, glances and modulations of the
voice that play such an important part in conversation.
5. The Sacred Numbers:
Another matter is the influence of the sacred numbers on the text; e.g. in Numbers
33 the journeys seem designed to present 40 stations and must not be held to exclude
camping at other stations not mentioned; Genesis 10 probably contained 70 names
in the original text. This is a technical consideration which must be borne in
mind, and so, too, must the Hebrew habit of using certain round numbers to express
an unspecified time: When, for instance, we read that somebody was 40 or 60 years
old, we are not to take these words literally. "Forty years old" often seems to
correspond to "after he had reached man's estate". See NUMBER.
6. Habits of Thought:
Still more important is it to endeavor to appreciate the habits of thought of
those for whom the Pentateuch was first intended, and to seek to read it in the
light of archaic ideas. One instance must suffice. Of the many explanations of
names few are philologically correct. It is certain that Noah is not connected
with the Hebrew for "to comfort" or Moses with "draw out"--even if Egyptian princesses
spoke Hebrew. The etymological key will not fit. Yet we must ask ourselves whether
the narrator ever thought that it did. In times when names were supposed to have
some mystic relation to their bearers they might be conceived as standing also
in some mystic relation to events either present or future; it is not clear that
the true original meaning of the narratives was not to suggest this in literary
form. How far the ancient Hebrews were from regarding names in the same light
as we do may be seen from such passages as Exodus 23:20 ; Isaiah 30:27; see further
EPC, 47. See also NAMES, PROPER.
7. National Coloring:
The Pentateuch is beyond all doubt an intensely national work. Its outlook is
so essentially Israelite that no reader could fail to notice the fact, and it
is therefore unnecessary to cite proofs. Doubtless this has in many instances
led to its presenting a view of history with which the contemporary peoples would
not have agreed. It is not to be supposed that the exodus was an event of much
significance in the Egypt of Moses, however important it may appear to the Egyptians
of today; and this suggests two points. On the one hand we must admit that to
most contemporaries the Pentateuchal narratives must have seemed out of all perspective;
on the other the course of subsequent history has shown that the Mosaic sense
of perspective was in reality the true one, however absurd it may have seemed
to the nations of his own day. Consequently in using the Pentateuch for historical
purposes we must always apply two standards--the contemporary and the historical.
In the days of Moses the narrative might often have looked to the outsider like
the attempt of the frog in the fable to attain to the size of an ox; for us, with
the light of history upon it, the values are very different. The national coloring,
the medium through which the events are seen, has proved to be true, and the seemingly
insignificant doings of unimportant people have turned out to be events of prime
There is another aspect of the national coloring of the Pentateuch to be borne
in mind. If ever there was a book which revealed the inmost soul of a people,
that book is the Pentateuch. This will be considered in V, below, but for the
present we are concerned with its historical significance. In estimating actions,
motives, laws, policy--all that goes to make history--character is necessarily
a factor of the utmost consequence. Now here we have a book that at every point
reveals and at the same t ime grips the national character. Alike in contents
and in form the legislation is adapted with the utmost nicety to the nature of
the people for which it was promulgated.
8. How Far the Pentateuch Is Trustworthy:
When due allowance has been made for all the various matters enumerated above,
what can be said as to the trustworthiness of the Pentateuchal history? The answer
is entirely favorable.
(1) Contemporaneous Information.
In the first place the discussion as to the dating of the Pentateuch (above, II,
4) has shown that we have in it documents that are in many cases certainly contemporaneous
with the matters to which they relate and have been preserved in a form that is
substantially original. Thus we have seen that the wording of Genesis 10:19 cannot
be later than the age of Abraham and that the legislation of the last four books
is Mosaic. Now contemporaneousness is the first essential of credibility.
(2) Character of Our Informants.
Given the fact (guaranteed by the contemporaneousness of the sources) that our
informants had the means of providing accurate information if they so desired,
we have to ask whether they were truthful and able. As to the ability no doubt
is possible; genius is stamped on every page of the Pentateuch. Similarly as to
truthfulness. The conscience of the narrators is essentially ethical. This appears
of course most strongly in the case of the legislation (compare Leviticus 19:11)
and the attribution of truthfulness to God (Exodus 34:6), but it may readily be
detected throughout; e.g. in Genesis 20:12 the narrative clearly shows that truthfulness
was esteemed as a virtue by the ancient Hebrews. Throughout, the faults of the
dramatis personae are never minimized even when the narrator's sympathy is with
them. Nor is there any attempt to belittle the opponents of Israel's heroes. Consider
on the one hand the magnanimity of Esau's character and on the other the very
glaring light that is thrown on the weaknesses of Jacob, Judah, Aaron. If we are
taught to know the Moses who prays, "And if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of
thy book which thou hast written" (Exodus 32:32), we are also shown his frequent
complaints, and we make acquaintance with the hot-tempered manslayer and the lawgiver
who disobeyed his God.
(3) Historical Genius of the People.
Strangely enough, those who desire to discuss the trustworthiness of the Pentateuch
often go far afield to note the habits of other nations and, selecting according
to their bias peoples that have a good or a bad reputation in the matter of historical
tradition, proceed to argue for or against the Pentateuchal narrative on this
basis. Such procedure is alike unjust and unscientific. It is unscientific because
the object of the inquirer is to obtain knowledge as to the habits of this people,
and in view of the great divergences that may be observed among different races
the comparative method is clearly inapplicable; it is unjust because this people
is entitled to be judged on its own merits or defects, not on the merits or defects
of others. Now it is a bare statement of fact that the Jews possess the historical
sense to a preeminent degree. Nobody who surveys their long history and examines
their customs and practices to this day can fairly doubt that fact. This is no
recent development; it is most convincingly attested by the Pentateuch itself,
which here, as elsewhere, faithfully mirrors the spirit of the race. What is the
highest guaranty of truth, a guaranty to which unquestioning appeal may be made
in the firm assurance that it will carry conviction to all who hear? "Remember
the days of old, Consider the years of many generations: Ask thy father and he
will show thee; Thine elders, and they will tell thee" (Deuteronomy 32:7). "For
ask now of the days that are past, which were before thee, since the day that
God created man upon the earth," etc. (Deuteronomy 4:32). Conversely, the due
handing down of tradition is a religious duty: "And it shall come to pass, when
your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service? that ye shall
say," etc. (Exodus 12:26). "Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently,
lest thou forget the things which thine eyes saw, and lest they depart from thy
heart all the days of thy life; but make them known unto thy children, and thy
children's children" (Deuteronomy 4:9). It is needless to multiply quotations.
Enough has been said to show clearly the attitude of this people toward history.
(4) Good Faith of Deuteronomy.
Closely connected with the preceding is the argument from the very obvious good
faith of the speeches in Deuteronomy. It is not possible to read the references
to events in such a chapter as Deuteronomy 4 without realizing that the speaker
most fully believed the truth of his statements. The most unquestionable sincerity
is impressed upon the chapter. The speaker is referring to what he believes with
all the faith of which he is capable. Even for those who doubt the Mosaic authenticity
of these speeches there can be no doubt as to the writer's unquestioning acceptance
of the historical consciousness of the people. But once the Mosaic authenticity
is established the argument becomes overwhelming. How could Moses have spoken
to people of an event so impressive and unparalleled as having happened within
their own recollection if it had not really occurred?
(5) Nature of the Events Recorded.
Another very important consideration arises from the nature of the events recorded.
No nation, it has often been remarked, would gratuitously invent a story of its
enslavement to another. The extreme sobriety of the patriarchal narratives, the
absence of miracle, the lack of any tendency to display the ancestors of the people
as conquerors or great personages, are marks of credibility. Many of the episodes
in the Mosaic age are extraordinarily probable. Take the stories of the rebelliousness
of the people, of their complaints of the water, the food, and so on: what could
be more in accordance with likelihood? On the other hand there is another group
of narratives to which the converse argument applies. A Sinai cannot be made part
of a nation's consciousness by a clever story-teller or a literary forger. The
unparalleled nature of the events narrated was recognized quite as clearly by
the ancient Hebrews as it is today (see Deuteronomy 4:32). It is incredible that
such a story could have been made up and successfully palmed off on the whole
nation. A further point that may be mentioned in this connection is the witness
of subsequent history to the truth of the narrative. Such a unique history as
that of the Jews, such tremendous consequences as their religion has had on the
fortunes of mankind, require for their explanation causal events of sufficient
(6) External Corroborations.
All investigation of evidence depends on a single principle: "The coincidences
of the truth are infinite." In other words, a false story will sooner or later
become involved in conflict with ascertained facts. The Biblical narrative has
been subjected to the most rigorous cross-examination from every point of view
for more than a century. Time after time confident assertions have been made that
its falsehood has been definitely proved, and in each case the Pentateuch has
come out from the test triumphant. The details will for the most part be found
enumerated or referred to under the separate articles. Here it must suffice just
to refer to a few matters. It was said that the whole local coloring of the Egyptian
scenes was entirely false, e.g. that the vine did not grow in Egypt. Egyptology
has in every instance vindicated the minute accuracy of the Pentateuch, down to
even the non-mention of earthenware (in which the discolored Nile waters can be
kept clean) in Exodus 7:19 and the very food of the lower classes in Numbers 11:5.
It was said that writing was unknown in the days of Moses, but Egyptology and
Assyriology have utterly demolished this. The historical character of many of
the names has been strengthened by recent discoveries (see e.g. JERUSALEM; AMRAPHEL).
From another point of view modern observation of the habits of the quails has
shown that the narrative of Numbers is minutely accurate and must be the work
of an eyewitness. From the ends of the earth there comes confirmation of the details
of the evolution of law as depicted in the Pentateuch. Finally it is worth noting
that even the details of some of the covenants in Genesis are confirmed by historical
parallels (Churchman, 1908, 17 f).
It is often said that history in the true sense was invented by the Greeks and
that the Hebrew genius was so intent on the divine guidance that it neglected
secondary causes altogether. There is a large measure of truth in this view; but
so far as the Pentateuch is concerned it can be greatly overstated.
9. The Pentateuch as Reasoned History:
One great criticism that falls to be made is entirely in favor of the Hebrew as
against some Greeks, namely, the superior art with which the causes are given.
A Thucydides would have stated the reasons that induced Pharaoh to persecute the
Israelites, or Abraham and Lot to separate, or Korah, Dathan and Abiram and their
followers to rebel; but every reader would have known precisely what he was doing
and many who can read the material passages of the Pentateuch with delight would
have been totally unable to grapple with his presentation of the narrative. The
audience is here more unsophisticated and the material presented in more artistic
form. In truth, any historian who sat down to compose a philosophical history
of the period covered by the Pentateuch would in many instances be surprised at
the lavish material it offered to him. A second criticism is more obvious. The
writer clearly had no knowledge of the other side of the case. For example, the
secondary causes for the defeat near Hormah are plain enough so far as they are
internal to the Israelites--lack of morale, discipline and leadership, division
of opinion, discouragement produced by the divine disapproval testified by the
absence from the army of Moses and the Ark, and the warnings of the former--but
the secondary causes on the side of the Amalekites and Canaanites are entirely
omitted. Thus it generally happens that we do not get the same kind of view of
the events as might be possible if we could have both sides. Naturally this is
largely the case with the work of every historian who tells the story from one
side only and is not peculiar to the Pentateuch. Thirdly, the object of the Pentateuch
is not merely to inform, but to persuade. It is primarily statesmanship, not literature,
and its form is influenced by this fact. Seeking to sway conduct, not to provide
a mere philosophical exposition of history, it belongs to a different (and higher)
category from the latter, and where it has occasion to use the same material puts
it in a different way, e.g. by assigning as motives for obeying laws reasons that
the philosophic historian would have advanced as causes for their enactment. To
some extent, therefore, an attempt to criticize the Pentateuch from the standpoint
of philosophic history is an attempt to express it in terms of something that
is incommensurable with it.
V. THE CHARACTER OF THE PENTATEUCH
1. Hindu Law Books:
The following sentences from Maine's Early Law and Custom form a suggestive introduction
to any consideration of the character of the Pentateuch: "The theory upon which
these schools of learned men worked, from the ancient, perhaps very ancient, Apastamba
and Gautama to the late Manu and the still later Narada, is perhaps still held
by some persons of earnest religious convictions, but in time now buried it affected
every walk of thought. The fundamental assumption is that a sacred or inspired
literature being once believed to exist, all knowledge is contained in it. The
Hindu way of putting it was, and is, not simply that the Scripture is true, but
that everything which is true is contained in the Scripture. .... It is to be
observed that such a theory, firmly held during the infancy of systematic thought,
tends to work itself into fact. As the human mind advances, accumulating observation
and accumulating reflection, nascent philosophy and dawning science are read into
the sacred literature, while they are at the same time limited by the ruling ideas
of its priestly authors. But as the mass of this literature grows through the
additions made to it by successive expositors, it gradually specializes itself,
and subjects, at first mixed together under vague general conceptions, become
separated from one another and isolated. In the history of law the most important
early specialization is that which separates what a man ought to do from what
he ought to know. A great part of the religious literature, including the Creation
of the Universe, the structure of Heaven, Hell, and the World or Worlds, and the
nature of the Gods, falls under the last head, what a man ought to know. Law-books
first appear as a subdivision of the first branch, what a man should do. Thus
the most ancient books of this class are short manuals of conduct for an Aryan
Hindu who would lead a perfect life. They contain much more ritual than law, a
great deal more about the impurity caused by touching impure things than about
crime, a great deal more about penances than about punishments" (pp. 16-18).
It is impossible not to see the resemblances to the Pentateuch that these sentences
suggest. Particularly interesting is the commentary they provide on the attitude
of Moses toward knowledge: "The secret things belong unto Yahweh our God; but
the things that are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that
we may do all the words of this law" (Deuteronomy 29:29).
But if the Pentateuch has significant resemblances to other old law books, there
are differences that are even more significant.
"By an act that is unparalleled in history a God took to Himself a people by means
of a sworn agreement. Some words that are fundamental for our purpose must be
quoted from the offer; `Now, therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep
my covenant, then ye shall be mine own possession from among all peoples: for
all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests and a holy
nation.' The views here expressed dominate the legislation. Holiness--the correlative
holiness to which the Israelites must attain because the Lord their God is holy--embraces
much that is not germane to our subject, but it also covers the whole field of
national and individual righteousness. The duty to God that is laid upon the Israelites
in these words is a duty that has practical consequences in every phase of social
life. I have already quoted a sentence from Sir Henry Maine in which he speaks
of the uniformity with which religion and law are implicated in archaic legislation.
There is a stage in human development where life is generally seen whole, and
it is to this stage that the Pentateuch belongs. But no other legislation so takes
up one department of man's life after another and impresses on them all the relationship
of God and people. Perhaps nothing will so clearly bring out my meaning as a statement
of some of the more fundamental differences between the Pentateuchal legislation
and the old Indian law-books which often provide excellent parallels to it. Those
to which I desire to draw particular attention are as follows: The Indian law-books
have no idea of national (as distinct from individual) righteousness--a conception
that entered the world with the Mosaic legislation and has perhaps not made very
much progress there since. There is no personal God: hence, His personal interest
in righteousness is lacking: hence, too, there can be no relationship between
God and people: and while there is a supernatural element in the contemplated
results of human actions, there is nothing that can in the slightest degree compare
with the Personal Divine intervention that is so often promised in the Pentateuchal
laws. The caste system, like Hammurabi's class system, leads to distinctions that
are always inequitable. The conception of loving one's neighbour and one's sojourner
as oneself are alike lacking. The systematic provisions for poor relief are absent,
and the legislation is generally on a lower ethical and moral level, while some
of the penalties are distinguished by the most perverted and barbarous cruelty.
All these points are embraced in the special relationship of the One God and the
peculiar treasure with its resulting need for national and individual holiness"
(PS, 330 f).
These sentences indicate some of the most interesting of the distinguishing features
of the Pentateuch--its national character, its catholic view of life, its attitude
toward the Divine, and some at any rate of its most peculiar teachings. It is
worth noting that Judaism, the oldest of the religions which it has influenced,
attaches particular importance to one chapter, Leviticus 19. The keynote of that
chapter is the command: `Holy shall ye be, for holy am I the Lord your God'--to
preserve the order and emphasis of the original words. This has been called the
Jew's imitatio Dei, though a few moments' reflection shows that the use of the
word "imitation" is here inaccurate. Now this book with this teaching has exercised
a unique influence on the world's history, for it must be remembered that Judaism,
Christianity and Islam spring ultimately from its teachings, and it is impossible
to sever it from the history of the "people of the book"--as Mohammed called them.
It appears then that it possesses in some unique way both an intensely national
and an intensely universal character and a few words must be said as to this.
4. The Universal Aspect:
The great literary qualities of the work have undoubtedly been an important factor.
All readers have felt the fascination of the stories of Genesis. The Jewish character
has also counted for much; so again have the moral and ethical doctrines, and
the miraculous and unprecedented nature of the events narrated. And yet there
is much that might have been thought to militate against the book's obtaining
any wide influence. Apart from some phrases about all the families of the earth
being blessed (or blessing themselves) in the seed of Abraham, there is very little
in its direct teaching to suggest that it was ever intended to be of universal
application. Possibly these phrases only mean that other nations will use Israel
as a typical example of greatness and happiness and pray that they may attain
an equal degree of glory and prosperity. Moreover, the Pentateuch provides for
a sacrificial system that has long ceased to exist, and a corpus of jural law
that has not been adopted by other peoples. Of its most characteristic requirement--holiness--large
elements are rejected by all save its own people. Wherein then lies its universal
element? How came this the most intensely national of books to exercise a world-wide
and ever-growing influence? The reason lies in the very first sentence: "In the
beginning God created the heavens and the earth." This doctrine of the unity of
an Almighty God is the answer to our question. Teach that there is a God and One
Only All-powerful God, and the book that tells of Him acquires a message to all
5. The National Aspect:
Of the national character of the work something has already been said. It is remarkable
that for its own people it has in very truth contained life and length of days,
for it has been in and through that book that the Jews have maintained themselves
throughout their unique history. If it be asked wherein the secret of this strength
lies, the answer is in the combination of the national and the religious. The
course of history must have been entirely different if the Pentateuch had not
been the book of the people long before the Jews became the people of the book.
The current critical view is set forth in vast numbers of books. The following
may be mentioned: LOT; Cornill's Introduction to the Canonical Books of the Old
Testament; Carpenter and Harford-Battersby's Hexateuch (a 2nd edition of the Introduction
without the text has been published as The Composition of the Hexateuch); the
volumes of the ICC, Westminster Comms. and Century Bible. Slightly less thoroughgoing
views are put forward in the German Introductions of Konig (1893), Baudissin (1901),
Sellin (1910); and Geden, Outlines of Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (1909);
Kittel, Scientific Study of the Old Testament (English translation, 1910); Eerdm.
has entirely divergent critical views; POT; TMH, I, and W. Moller, Are the Critics
Right? and Wider den Bann der Quellenscheidung; Robertson, Early Religion of Israel;
Van Hoonacker, Lieu du culte, and Sacerdoce levitique are all much more conservative
and valuable. J.H. Raven, Old Testament Intro, gives a good presentation of the
most conservative case. The views taken in this article are represented by SBL,
EPC, OP, PS, Troelstra, The Name of God, and in some matters, TMH, I.
Harold M. Wiener
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