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HEXATEUCH (hĕk’sa-tūk). “The six-volumed book,” a term invented to include the Book of Joshua with the Pentateuch in a literary unit, on the assumption that its component parts were combined by a common editor.

HEXATEUCH hĕx’ ə tōōk. The theory that the original compilation of books pertaining to the early background and establishment of the commonwealth of Israel included the Book of Joshua, rather than Deuteronomy, as its last component, was apparently first set forth by Alexander Geddes in 1792 (cf. E. J. Young, Introduction to the OT [1958], p. 133). He felt convinced that Joshua was compiled by the same author as the preceding five books, and that it constituted “a necessary appendix to the history contained in the former books.” This position was more fully elaborated by Friedrich Bleek in his De libri Geneseos origine (1836), in which he argued that after the first redaction of the “Mosaic” books in the 10th cent. b.c., a second redaction was carried through by the compiler of Deuteronomy in the late 7th cent., and this included Joshua as well. (Thus one should speak of a Hexateuch of six books, rather than a Pentateuch of five.) Heinrich Ewald in his History of the People of Israel (1840-1845) regarded the Hexateuch as the product of five redactions or stages of crystallization, the final stage being about 600 b.c. (He later brought the final compilation of Deuteronomy down to 500.) After enjoying great favor for a cent. or more the Hexateuch concept has begun to fall out of vogue in 20th cent. critical scholarship. D. N. Freedman remarks (IDB, ii, 597): “In recent scholarship the Hexateuchal reconstruction has come under suspicion, and the Hexateuch itself has disintegrated. It is by no means certain that the sources in Joshua are the same as those in the Pentateuch. Prominent scholars have argued that J and E are not to be found in Joshua, but end substantially in the book of Numbers; that the lists in Joshua may be P-type material, but not necessarily P; and finally that Joshua in its present form is part of the great Deuteronomic history extending from Deuteronomy through 2 Kings, and does not therefore belong to a Pentateuchal complex.” Thus the position of Ivan Engnell in his 1945 OT Introduction has come to the forefront, and the present trend is to understand Genesis through Numbers as a P complex, and Deuteronomy through 2 Kings as a D complex.

It was only natural for adherents of the Documentary Hypothesis, who dated the earliest portions of the Pentateuch (Document J) in the 9th cent., to feel that the successful climax of the Heb. migration from Egypt to Canaan must have been included in the Israelite tradition by that time. Yet there are absolutely compelling considerations which render the Hexateuch theory logically untenable. Foremost is the undeniable fact that the Samaritan text, which regarded the Pentateuch as canonical, did not include Joshua with it. This is all the more significant because the Samaritans above all others had every reason to exalt Joshua to canonical status. It is apparent from the propagandistic insertions into the Samaritan text of the Torah that they were most concerned to prove that Mt. Gerizim, rather than Mt. Zion, was the holy mountain of the Lord, and that leadership of Israel belonged to the tribe of Ephraim rather than to Judah. Unquestionably there is much in Joshua to commend itself to Samaritan nationalism, for Joshua himself was an Ephraimite hero, and he summoned the twelve tribes to meet with him in Shechem, under the brow of Mt. Gerizim. Furthermore, in this book is recorded the setting up of inscribed stelae containing the law of Moses in conformity to Joshua’s command (8:32), after which the solemn reading of the Torah with all its blessings and curses took place in the presence of the twelve tribes upon the slopes of Gerizim and Ebal. Despite all of these incentives to include Joshua with the Pentateuch as authoritative and canonical, the Samaritans never did so. There can be only one reason for this: at the time of the Samaritan schism it was so widely and universally known that the Pentateuch constituted a unity by itself that it was impossible to add Joshua to it, however advantageous it would have been for them to do so.

A second difficulty for the Hexateuchal theory is found in the consideration that Joshua does not purport to have been composed or compiled by Moses himself; hence it could not have been regarded as part of his legacy to the nation. Therefore, no matter how profoundly influenced in viewpoint, ideals and language the Book of Joshua may have been by the Pentateuch, this must be understood as a natural consequence ensuing from Joshua’s status as the successor and spiritual heir of Moses. Joshua is not at all presented as a God-inspired legislator; he is only an executive who carries out in action the principles of the law. Joshua, therefore, is not to be regarded as an integral part of the Torah.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)


1. Evidence for:

This word, formed on the analogy of Pentateuch, Heptateuch, etc., is used by modern writers to denote the first six books of the Bible (i.e. the Law and Joshua) collectively. Many critics hold that these six books were composed out of the sources JEP, etc. (on which see Pentateuch), and only separated very much later into different works. The main grounds for this belief are:

(1) the obvious fact that Jos provides the sequel to the Pentateuch, narrating the conquest and settlement in Canaan to which the latter work looks forward, and

(2) certain material and stylistic resemblances. The composition of the respective works is considered in the articles PENTATEUCH and JOSHUA.

2. Evidence against:

Here we must glance at the evidence against theory of a Hexateuch. It is admitted that there is no trace of any such work as the Hexateuch anywhere in tradition. The Jewish Canon places the Pentateuch in a separate category from Joshua. The Samaritans went farther and adopted the Pentateuch alone. The orthography of the two works differs in certain important particulars (see E. Konig, Einleitung, 151 f, 250). Hence, a different literary history has to be postulated for the two works, even by those who adopt theory of a Hexateuch. But that theory is open to objection on other grounds. There are grave differences of opinion among its supporters as to whether all the supposed Pentateuchal documents are present in Joshua, and in any case it is held that they are quite differently worked up, the redactors having proceeded on one system in the Pentateuch and on quite another in Joshua. Arguments are given in the article PENTATEUCH to show the presence of Mosaic and pre-Mosaic elements in the Pentateuch and the unsoundness of the documentary theory in that work, and if these be correct theory of a Hexateuch necessarily falls to the ground.

For Bibliography see Pentateuch; Joshua.

Harold M. Wiener