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Study Resources :: Dictionaries :: Pentateuch, 2b

Dictionaries :: Pentateuch, 2b

Below are articles from the following dictionary:
International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia

Pentateuch, 2b:

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 Ex 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 Ex 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 (6:16; 9:22; 33:8). The true Meribah was Kadesh (Nu 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 Ge 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 Ge 1:1 to Ex 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 Ex 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 f, 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 Ge 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 Ge 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 Ge 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 Nu 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 (Nu 14:45) before it is explained (Nu 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" (Nu 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: Nu 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 Nu 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 Ex 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 Ex 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, Ex 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 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 Ex 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. Nu 27. If now we look at the other available clues, it appears that Ex 33:11 seems to introduce Joshua for the first time. The passage should therefore precede 17:8-15; 24:13; 32:17, where he is already known. Again, if Ex 18 refers to the closing scenes at Horeb (as it clearly does), Ex 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. Ex 33:7 ff provides such a statement. The only earlier place to which it can be assigned is after 13:22, but there it fits the context marvelously, for the statements as to the pillar of cloud in 33:9 f attach naturally to those in 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" (Ex 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 Nu 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 De 10:6 f (Aaron's death, etc.), the references to the Israelirish kingdom (Ge 36:31) and the Canaanites as being "then" in the land (Ge 12:6; 13:7), the bedstead of Og (De 3:11) and other passages. In Ge 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 1Ki 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 Nu 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. Ge 16 and 21 are, to all appearance, narratives of different events; so are Ex 17:1-7 and Nu 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 Nu 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 f, 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 (Ge 14:14; 17:12, etc.), gift (Ge 20:14), capture in war (Ge 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. Le 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 (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 Ge 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 Ge 1:1-2:4 a and 3 times in Ge 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 Nu 16:30 and D in De 4:32. On the other hand, P does not use the word exclusively, even in Ge 1-2:4, the word "make" being employed in 1:7,25,26,31; 2:2, while in 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. Ge 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 Nu 16, the effect of rising anger is given to the dialogue by the repetition of "Ye take too much upon you" (16:3,7), followed by the repetition of "Is it a small thing that" (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 Ge 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."

Ge 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 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 Ge 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 authorship.

(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 Ex 21:12 ff. In the story of Cain we have one stage; in Ge 9:6, which does not yet recognize any distinction between murder and other forms of homicide, we have the other.

Our other example shall be the unlimited power of life and death possessed by the head of the family (Ge 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. Ge 9:6 post-exilic, while assigning Ex 21 to a much earlier period. (On the whole subject see further OP, 135 ff.)

(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 De 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 (Nu 9:10 f). 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 Le 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 (Nu 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 Nu 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 f).

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 (Le 10:11; De 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 1Sa 2:36 to the appointment by the high priest to positions carrying pecuniary emoluments is far beyond the primitive simplicity of P" (OP, 122).

(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 Nu 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 ff). Again in Nu 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 (Ge 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 (20:16-18) and the Amalekites (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 (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 (23:3,4), in favor of Edom (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 (48:47) and Ammon (49:6), which he denies to Edom (49:17,18), who is also to Joe (3:19), Obadiah, and 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 (De 17:14 ), nowhere implies an actual regal government, but vests the supreme central authority in a judge and the priesthood (De 17:8-12; 19:17); which lays special stress on the requirements that the king must be a native and not a foreigner (De 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.' (De 17:16), as they seemed ready to do on every grievance in the days of Moses (Nu 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. De 22:26 testifies to the undeveloped intellectual condition of the people). Of JE it is unnecessary to speak, for Ex 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. Eze 22:26 clearly knows of a law that dealt with the subjects of the Priestly Code (P), used its very language (compare Le 10:10 f), and like P was to be taught to the people by the priests. Ho 4:6 also knows of some priestly teaching, which, however, is moral and may therefore be Le 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 Ex 21$; 22$; 23$, and this passage cannot be met by Wellhausen who resorts to the device of translating it with the omission of the important word "write."

(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 Nu 28 demands two. Now in 1Ki 18:29,36, we find references to the offering of the evening oblation, but 2Ki 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 2Ki 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: Jer 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 Ge 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 and fraud?

(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 f, 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 (Nu 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 (1Ch 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 De 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 Ex 35$; 36$; 37$; 38$; 39$ or Nu 1$; 2$; 3$; 4$; 7$; 26$, but Nu 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 Ex 35$; 36$; 37$; 38$; 39$. It is well known that the Septuagint preserves an entirely different edition from that of Massoretic Text (supported in the main by the Samaritan and other VSS). Some other examples have been noticed incidentally in the preceding discussion; one other that may be proved by further research to possess enormous importance may be mentioned. It appears that in the law of the kingdom (De 17) 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 (2Ki 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 Ex 35$; 36$; 37$; 38$; 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 Nu 1-4; 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, Ex 35$; 36$; 37$; 38$; 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.

Written by Harold M. Wiener


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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