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R. A. Torrey :: Three Peculiarities of the Pentateuch Which Are Incompatible with the Graf Wellhausen Theories of Its Composition

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By Andrew Craig Robinson, M. A.,
Ballineen, County Cork, Ireland,
Author of "What About the Old Testament?"

There are—amongst others—three very remarkable peculiarities in the Pentateuch which seem to be incompatible with modern theories of its composition, and to call for some explanation from the critics.

The first of these peculiarities is:


The first occurrence of the name "Jerusalem" in the Bible is in the Book of Joshua (Joshua 10:1): "Now it came to pass when Adonizedek, King of Jerusalem", etc. In the Pentateuch the city is only once named (Genesis 14) and then it is called "Salem"—an abbreviation of its cuneiform name "Uru-salem". Now on the traditional view of the Pentateuch the absence of the name Jerusalem presents no difficulty; the fact that Bethel, Hebron, and other shrines are named, whilst Jerusalem is not, would merely mean that at these other shrines the patriarchs had built their altars, whilst at Jerusalem they had not.

But from the point of view of modern critics who hold that the Pentateuch was in great part composed to glorify the priesthood at Jerusalem, and that the Book of Deuteronomy in particular was produced to establish Jerusalem as the central and only acceptable shrine for the worship of Israel—this omission to name the great city, then of historic and sacred fame, which they wished to exalt and glorify, seems very strange indeed. According to the theories of the critics the composers of the Pentateuch had a very free hand to write whatsoever they wished, and they are held to have freely exercised it. It seems strange then to find the "Yahvist," supposed to have been written in the Southern Kingdom, and to have been imbued with all its prejudices, consecrating Bethel by a notable theophany (Genesis 28:16, 19), whilst in all that he is supposed to have written in the Pentateuch he never once even names his own Jerusalem. And so the "priestly writer" also, to whom a shrine like Bethel ought to be anathema, is found nevertheless consecrating Bethel with another theophany: "Jacob called the name of the place where God spoke with him Bethel" (Genesis 35:14-15), and he never even names Jerusalem.

What is the explanation of all this? What is the inner meaning of this absence of the name Jerusalem from the Pentateuch? Is it not this: that at the time the Pentateuch was written, Jerusalem, with all her sacred glories, had not entered yet into the life of Israel.

The second remarkable peculiarity to which attention is called is:

The Absence of Any Mention of Sacred Song from the Ritual of the Pentateuch

This is in glaring contrast to the ritual of the second temple, in which timbrels, harps, and Levite singers bore a conspicuous part. Yet it was just in the very time of the second temple that the critics allege that a great portion of the Pentateuch was composed. How is it then that none of these things occur in the Mosaic ritual? It might have been expected that the priests in post-exilic times would have sought to establish the highest possible sanction for this musical ritual, by representing it as having been ordained by Moses. But no such ordinance in point of fact occurs, and the Pentateuch stands in its primitive simplicity, destitute of any ordinance of music in connection with the ritual, except those passages in which the blowing of the trumpets is enjoined at the Feast of Trumpets, the blowing of the trumpet throughout the land in the year of Jubilee, and the command, contained in a single passage (Numbers 10:10), that in the day of gladness, and in the beginnings of the months, over the burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of the peace offerings the silver trumpets were to sound. No mention in connection with the ritual of cymbals, harps, timbrels, or psalteries; no mention of sacred song, or Levite singers. NO music proper entered into the ritual, only the crude and warlike blare of trumpets. No ordinance of sacred song, no band of Levite singers. The duties of the Levites, in the Book of Numbers, are specially defined. The sons of Gershom were to bear the tabernacle and its hangings on the march; the sons of Kohath bore the altars and the sacred vessels; the sons of Merari were to bear the boards and bands and pillars of the sanctuary. No mention whatsoever of any ministry of sacred song. A strange omission this would be, if the "Priestly Code" (so-called) which thus defines the duties of the Levites, had been composed in post-exilic times, when Levite singers—sons of Asaph—cymbals, harp, and song of praise formed leading features in the ritual. Does it not seem that the Mosaic Code, enjoining no music but the simple sounding of the trumpet-blast, stands far behind these niceties of music and of song, seeming to know nothing of them all?

The third remarkable peculiarity to which attention is called is:


The first occurrence of this Divine title in the Bible is in 1 Samuel 1:3: "And this man went out of his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice unto the Lord of hosts in Shiloh." After this it occurs in a number of the remaining books of the Bible, and with increasing frequency. The pre-Samuelitic period of the history of Israel is thus differentiated from the post-Samuelitic period by this circumstance, that in connection with the former period this title is never used, whilst in connection with the latter it is used, and with growing frequency—at all stages of the history, even down to the end of the Book of Malachi; occurring altogether 281 times.

Now the theory of the criticism of the present day is that the Pentateuch was composed, edited, and manipulated, during a period of more than four hundred years, by motley groups and series of writers, of differing views, and various tendencies. One writer composed one part, and one composed another; these parts were united by a different hand; and then another composed a further part; and this by yet another was united to the two that went before; and after this another portion was composed by yet another scribe, and afterwards was joined on to the three. Matter was absorbed, interpolated, harmonized, smoothed over, colored, edited from various points of view, and with different—not to say opposing—motives. And yet when the completed product—the Pentateuch—coming out of this curious literary seething pot is examined, it is found to have this remarkable characteristic, that not one of the manifold manipulators—neither "J", nor "E", nor "JE", nor "D", nor "RD", nor "P", nor "P2", nor "P3", nor "P4", nor any one of the "Redactors of P", who were innumerable—would appear to have allowed himself to be betrayed even by accident into using this title, "Lord of hosts", so much in vogue in the days in which he is supposed to have written; and the Pentateuch, devoid as it is of this expression, shows an unmistakable mark that it could not possibly have been composed in the way asserted by the criticism, because it would have been a literary impossibility for such a number of writers, extending over hundreds of years, to have one and all, never even by accident, slipped into the use of this Divine title for Jehovah, "Lord of hosts", so much in vogue during those centuries.

In point of fact the Pentateuch was written before the title was invented.

These three peculiarities of the Pentateuch to which attention is here drawn, are points absolutely undeniable. No one can say that the name "Jerusalem" does occur in the Pentateuch; no one can say that any mention of sacred song does occur in the ritual of the Pentateuch; and no one can say that the Divine title "Lord of hosts" does occur in the Pentateuch.


The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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