PENTATEUCH pĕn’ tə tōōk (Πεντάτευχος, literally five volumed [book]; Heb. תּוֹרָה, H9368, torah, law, or teaching, Deut 17:11). The term applies to the first five books of the Bible—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. As a division of the Heb. canon it is older than the LXX or the Samaritan Pentateuch.

Contents and divisions

The term “Hexateuch” was used by the higher critics to imply that their theories could be carried out not only in the first five books but also in Joshua, but this is much disputed, as is the whole documentary hypothesis.

The Heb. names of the first five books of the OT are based on an ancient custom derived from Mesopotamia, of naming a document after the first few words with which it begins (cf. Enūma ēliš, the Akkadian Creation Epic, ANET p. 60). So Genesis is named from the first word, meaning “in the beginning.” The Heb. title of Exodus, however, is less meaningful since the book begins with the words meaning simply “and these are the names of.” Likewise Leviticus fares poorly, the first word “and he called.” For an unknown reason Numbers received as its title the fifth word instead of the first, which makes a title that is more descriptive of the entire contents than “Numbers,” for it means “in the wilderness.” Deuteronomy uses the first two words, “these are the words.” Except for Numbers the Heb. titles are not very descriptive of the entire contents of each book. The Eng. titles derive from the LXX and are more or less descriptive of the contents, Genesis and Numbers being less so than the other three. It should be borne in mind that the more ancient method reflected in the Heb. Bible was never meant to be a title but rather, a way of identifying a scroll or tablet.

Mosaic authorship

History of the higher criticism of the Pentateuch

The post-Biblical Jews accepted the Pentateuch as Mosaic, considering only the passage on Moses’ death (Deut 34:5-12) as written by Joshua, although Josephus and Philo of Alexandria even thought this section was written by Moses in anticipation of his death.

The first of the aforementioned stages in the development of higher criticism was the fragmentary hypothesis. This view was proffered by Alexander Geddes, who believed that the Pentateuch was compiled from many documents about the time of Solomon. These documents, he thought, came from the two schools J and E, each of which gathered fragments. A little later, J. S. Vater expanded Geddes’ view into thirty-eight original documents. Such fragmentation led to a reaction toward unity. Whereas, previously most criticism had been on literary grounds, now W. N. DeWette began to use historical criteria, propounding the view held by many to this day that the book found in the Temple in the days of Josiah (621 b.c.) by Hilkiah the priest was part of the Book of Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy, it was said, does not show any knowledge of laws earlier than the 7th cent., nor any knowledge of kings earlier than the 7th cent. The Deuteronomist, who lived in the 7th cent., was also responsible for some of the material in 2 Kings, whereas the writer of Chronicles rewrote the history to make it look as if they knew the laws of an earlier date. About 1830, the Heb. scholar Ewald set forth his supplementary hypothesis, which said that the basis of the Pentateuch was written by Moses using E material and that later the material was worked over and supplemented by a number of Jehovistic writers plus a number of Deuteronomists. The view was an attempt to answer the embarrassing question of why the name Jehovah was used in Elohistic passages. Later, Ewald revised his view; instead of considering J and D as supplements to E he simply taught that there was an amalgam or crystallization of five or six sources that made up the Pentateuch.

In 1853, H. Hupfeld gave up the supplementary view and went back to the old J and E idea, which he modified by considering E two documents instead of one. The second E was made up of those passages that did not correspond in style to either E or J; that is, they appeared to combine both styles. The first E Hupfeld called P, that is, the priestly writings dealing with the incidents from Creation to the Conquest. The second E he called E but it was E with a prophetic emphasis, whereas J was another prophetic type of writing covering all the incidents also from Creation to the Conquest as did P. Then, of course, there was also Deuteronomy, which he held to be written about the time of Solomon although not added to the other documents until the time of Josiah. In all this, Hupfeld maintained that it was an unknown redactor of a much later period who put all the documents together, and since this redactor allowed himself considerable freedom, any inconsistencies between the documents was blamed on the redactor. It is basically in this form that the documentary hypothesis came into the 20th cent. Through the years there have been many suggested revisions to these theories to solve inconsistencies and irregularities by further subdividing the documents or suggesting successive recensions, redactors, and glosses.

In the 19th cent., some scholars began to apply a new philosophy of history to the problems of OT criticism. This system, developed by the philosopher Hegel, insisted that history moved from the simple to the complex through a series of stages that he called thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. On this basis, E. Reuss in 1833 and Vatke in 1835 both considered the priestly code (the P document) as the most complex of the laws of the Bible and therefore the latest. In evolutionary fashion a simple religion had to precede the complex external religion of the priests. In 1866, Graf, a pupil of Reuss, developed these ideas further by attempting to show that the laws of the OT always moved from the simple to the complex. The simplest laws were the Ten Commandments (Exod 20). The so-called Covenant Code (Exod 21-23) was more complex and so it was the next to be written. Still more complex in details were the laws of Deuteronomy, which came about the time of Josiah (621 b.c.). Finally, the most complex laws were those of P, written after the time of Ezekiel. Graf showed that D knew the stories of J and E, but did not know the laws and some of the stories of P. It was in these years that Charles Darwin developed his views, which were largely Hegelian, based on the development of life from simple to complex forms. This same type of philosophy continued to be applied to the critical views of the Pentateuch. In 1874 the Dutch scholar Kuenen flatly stated that the religion of Israel was purely a man-made religion, which developed, (or evolved) like all other religions—from a simple animism to gross polytheism, then to a limited form of polytheism, which was called henotheism, and thence to the ethical monotheism of the great writing prophets such as Isaiah. Then came the cultic centralization of the Deuteronomist and finally postexilic sacerdotalism (the P document). In 1870, J. Wellhausen wrote a book that popularized Graf’s views and thus they became generally accepted in Germany. Wellhausen in his work on the history of Israel denied all the supernaturalism of the Pentateuch and regarded most of its history as unreliable. By 1900, these views were generally accepted by Biblical critics all over the world. W. Robertson Smith in Scotland, S. R. Driver in England and Francis Brown and Charles A. Briggs in America were among the men responsible for spreading these views in their respective countries. The only American scholar who attempted to answer the higher critics of the Pentateuch was William H. Green in his Higher Criticism of the Pentateuch. S. R. Driver’s Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament and R. H. Pfeiffer’s Old Testament Introduction generally represent the higher criticism as it is held by many naturalistic OT scholars to this day.

In summary, the documentary view of the Pentateuch began with dividing the documents on the basis of the two names for God. Only a part of the Pentateuch had been successfully divided on this basis until it was noted that there was a difference in the styles of the two. Then this style criterion was used to divide the rest of the Pentateuch; when the dividing was completed, the J and P documents were considered to be complete narratives from Creation to the Conquest, having many parallel stories. Hence four arguments were used: the names, the parallel narratives, the continuity of the accounts, and the style. The date of most of Deuteronomy was then established at about 621 or a little earlier. An attempt was made to show that the Deuteronomist knew the laws and history of JE but was ignorant of P, thus establishing the order of the documents as JE, D, and P. Finally the evolutionary concept was added to bolster earlier conclusions showing a development in all the laws and institutions from the simple versions in JE through the more complex of D to the most complex in P.

Examination of some specifics in the arguments for the documentary hypothesis

The use of divine names as evidence for documents.

This argument began by using the various divine names as evidence for different documents. The major problem is that division into documents on this basis is not consistent. The J document often uses Elohim and the E document uses Jehovah. Such inconsistency is attributed to later redactors (those who put the documents together), but in reality this inconsistency destroys the validity of the use of divine names as an objective standard for partition of the text into documents (for further information and refutation see W. H. Green, The Higher Criticism of the Pentateuch, pp. 88-106, and R. D. Wilson, “Divine Names in the Pentateuch,” Princeton Theological Review, vol. 18). There may be other reasons for using different divine names. The frequent references to deity in a passage on Creation would make a single name very monotonous. Most of the names for God are titles and adjectives describing various divine qualities. A context sometimes reflects the attribute of God that the name used suggests. Instead of indicating that different documents have been pieced together, the names may simply reflect a distinctive literary mode. The mode where one god may have many names or even be given a dual name is abundantly evident in the Ugaritic lit., which dates from the middle of the second millennium, the traditional date for Moses. For example, Kothar wa-Khasis is the dual name of the Ugaritic craftsman god (ANET, p. 134).

Continuous narration in the several documents.

The claim that division of the Pentateuch on the basis of divine names supplies us with evidence of documents each of which had a continuous narrative cannot be demonstrated for either the J document or the E document. This is more or less admitted by the documentarians, but they do claim a strong case of continuous and complete narrative for the P document. When one examines the material claimed to be P, he finds serious omissions. For example, most of the Flood story in Genesis 6-9 is P document, but one of the most important elements in the account—the reason for the Flood—is missing. Another example is Genesis 19, where one v. is attributed to P (29), which describes the destruction of the Cities of the Plain, but there is no statement of the cause of this destruction. One could hardly call this a part of a continuous narrative. Certain fragments of the stories of Jacob and Esau (27-36) are included in P. There is no mention, however, of Jacob’s posterity that he acquired in Paddan-aram, even though such statistics are supposed to be a peculiar feature of P. (Because of lack of space the reader is referred to Green, pp. 106-109, and to O. T. Allis, The Five Books of Moses, pp. 111-115.)

Parallel passages.

Another higher critical argument claims all the so-called doublets, or parallel passages, are evidence for different documentary sources. The first of these is the alleged double account of Creation (Gen 1; 2). Genesis 1 is said to come from P during or after the Exile and Genesis 2 is from J in the 9th cent. There are alleged discrepancies between the two. That man is created at the end of the first account but at the beginning of the second account is a superficial approach to the texts. Genesis 2 is merely focussing on man and stressing man’s relationship to the rest of Creation, which Genesis 1 does not do. This is not at all an unusual literary procedure. If the hypothetical redactor who put these accounts together saw no contradictions, why should not a single author have felt the same way?

A multiple source for the Flood story can also be shown to be imaginary. The narrative in Genesis 6 is neither contrary to nor can it be separated from the account in Genesis 7. Chapter 6 describes a preparation for the Flood and ch. 7 the coming of the Flood itself. For example, there is an alleged discrepancy between Genesis 6:19, which calls for taking one pair of each species into the ark, and Genesis 7:2, where Noah must take seven pairs of clean animals aboard. It is obvious that 6:19 is a generalization and 7:2 is an exception concerning clean animals only. A very excellent and concise handling of these doublets as criteria for source division may be found in G. L. Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, pp. 117-124.

Division into documents on the basis of style.

Differences in the literary style of passages is a principal argument for source partition. Here circular reasoning is most evident in Pentateuchal criticism. The distinctive characteristics of the alleged documents were decided upon often on the basis of preconceived notions about the evolution of Heb. religion and with complete disregard of the changes in style that a single author may use, depending on his subject matter. Most of the division into sources is done on the basis of style; and though divine names were used as the starting point, they are presently ignored, and inconsistency is blamed on the redactor. After having divided on the basis of style, one should not be surprised to find particular styles turning up in the documents he has created on that basis. Differences in style, therefore, as a proof for the documents cannot be taken seriously.

Lists often were made of various words and idioms peculiar to a particular document. It was claimed that the J document and the E document used different words for their respective designations of a “female slave.” In Genesis 20, however, which was assigned to E, both words appear. This led the Ger. critic Holzinger in his commentary on Genesis to delete the offending word from Genesis 20:14, and then again he deleted this same J word when it appears in Genesis 30:18, which he also assigned to E. Related to this is the case that employs the name Elohim exclusively (Gen 33); yet this chapter is assigned to J wholly on the basis that the J word for “female slave” is used in this ch. It seems quite obvious that either this word is not characteristic of J or else Elohim is not characteristic of E. It never occurred to these men that the necessity of such deletions and discrepancies might indicate that something was wrong with their approach to the text. Due to difficulties in clearly defining the stylistic differences between J and E, critics like S. R. Driver stressed the differences between JE as a joint source and P as another existing alongside (cf. An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament, p. 19). The style of the P document is represented as very schematic, highly ritualistic, and highly statistical with frequent use of genealogies, dates, and figures. References to the Aaronic priesthood are one of its major features. When it is pointed out that the Aaronic priesthood is mentioned thirteen times in J, this is sloughed off as the work of the redactor.

The date of Deuteronomy.

Another key argument on this matter of the 7th cent. date of Deuteronomy is that the particular deuteronomic reforms, esp. the centralization of worship (Deut 12), were not practiced before the time of Josiah and therefore could not have been known earlier. The same argument was used of other legal sections of the Pentateuch, such as the Covenant Code (Exod 21-23). George Mendenhall, in his Law and Covenant in Israel and the Ancient Near East, has effectively refuted this argument by showing that Hammurabi’s Code was never referred to in later legal documents; therefore arguments from silence are weak. All periods of history attest that laws may be written and even codified and then be forgotten. The Book of Judges makes it abundantly clear that this is what the Israelites did. The idolatrous Israelite cult centers that archeologists have found at Hazor and Arad are in harmony with the Book of Judges. The fact is that many of the laws of the Book of Deuteronomy are to be found also in the other books of the Pentateuch, esp. Exodus and Leviticus. Careful examination of the law in Deuteronomy 12 certainly leads one to believe that the “law of the central sanctuary” was to show the Israelites that they were not to sacrifice anywhere they pleased as the Canaanites did, but that there would be one altar to the one God; not that it would never move, but that it would be the place that God would choose, one place at a time. When they arrived in the land they would find many altars to many gods, but their one Lord would have one altar. Deuteronomy 12:1-7 is not a contradiction to Exodus 20:24, as some maintain. The latter v. provided for an altar before the Tabernacle was built, or even for temporary altars at places where God recorded His name, where there was a divine revelation, a theophany, where God’s presence was. Even an altar of Baal could be turned into an altar of the Lord, as in the case of Elijah’s calling down fire from heaven. Such an incident is not in contradiction to the basic idea of God’s having an official sanctuary where His shekinah glory was located.

Survey of modern approaches to Pentateuchal criticism

In general, higher critical views on the origin of the Pentateuch have moved in the direction of the old fragmentization theory. Hermann Gunkel came to the conclusion that the peculiar characteristics of the separate documents are really meaningless. He stressed the need for examining short pieces of Biblical lit., thereby tracing variant schools of oral tradition. The Dutch scholar B. D. Eerdmans rejected the documents, but continued with the concept of the evolutionary development of Heb. religion. He adopted the view of G. A. Klosterman that the divine names could be no criteria for dividing the books into documents because they were based solely on the MT, where the LXX often gave different readings. Through the early part of the 20th cent. almost all phases of the documentary hypothesis have been questioned. There have come attacks on the Josianic date of Deuteronomy, some giving philosophical and archeological reasons why Deuteronomy could not have come from this time. Others have questioned whether the Bible says Josiah’s primary purpose was to limit the sanctuary to Jerusalem. R. H. Kennett and G. Hölscher put Deuteronomy after the Exile, since to have stoned those who committed idolatry (Deut 13; 17) would have killed off most of the people at the time of Josiah. Today there is no unanimity of opinion as to the date of Deuteronomy. Others in the 20th cent. have questioned the late date of the P document. Smend and Eichrodt agreed with Eerdmans in rejecting the characteristics of the P document. On the basis of careful exegesis, M. Löhr showed that there was no reason to maintain an independent P document at all. Löhr held that the Pentateuch was composed by Ezra in Babylon using many materials. In 1933, two scholars, Volz and Rudolf, denied that there was even a separate source called E in Genesis. Later, Rudolf published a similar study for the other books of the Pentateuch. U. Cassuto called into quest ion all the major arguments in favor of the documentary view in his work entitled The Documentary Hypothesis. Cassuto maintained that Genesis was written by one author, although he dated it in the time of David (1000 b.c.). R. Dussaud, on the basis of the documents from Ras Shamra (Ugarit), sought to show that the documentary view was false in two major points: first, its sources were too late; and second, it underestimated the value of Israelite tradition. F. Dornseiff, a student of Gr. philology, showed quite effectively that Homer could be divided on the basis of dual names. His conclusion was that repetitions and parallelisms were really simply a literary mode and that legal portions were often found in the midst of narratives in the Gr. texts and are not to be looked upon as separate documents. He also questioned the notion that Deuteronomy was a priestly fraud and also the notion that a firstrate literary work could emerge from the hands of multitudinous redactors as they cut sources into small pieces.

In 1930, S. Mowinckel also rejected the E document as separate from J. Like Gunkel, he laid stress on oral tradition, which he tied to his own ideas of divine kingship and cultic prophecy in Israel. Related to this was the British myth and ritual school. J. Pedersen, of the University of Copenhagen, while accepting some of the documents, opposed the 19th-cent. evolutionism of the Wellhausian hypothesis, esp. as it applied to culture. In the so-called late and artificial priestly material of the Pentateuch some laws, such as the laws regarding redemption, Pedersen said, came from real-life situations. Many of the social laws were considered to be of this class. J and E contain much “living material” according to Pedersen, esp. in the Genesis stories. The parallel narratives were not the result of documents, but were based on Israelite psychology and so all the so-called sources were both pre- and postexilic. Pedersen viewed Exodus 1-15 as a cultic legend of the Passover reflecting the annual reliving of the historical events. The material was passed on in this way from generation to generation. According to Pedersen, the Exodus narrative was a cultic glorification of God at the Paschal feast, an exposition of the historical event that created the nation. The narrative was not a report of historical events. As a cult legend, it is impossible to reconstruct the historical events from it. On this basis the Exodus accounts and the Genesis stories have very little relationship to each other. Both have marks of being pre- and postexilic. In 1945, I. Engnell, of the same Scandinavian school, accused the documentary theory of artificial interpretation based on modern philosophy without taking into view the ancient Sem. literary techniques, views, and psychology. He absolutely denied that there were any continuous documents out of which the Pentateuch was composed. He looked upon Deuteronomy as north-Israelite and claimed it had noth ing to do with Jerusalem. His view was that there were different schools of tradition. There was a P school of tradition in the Tetrateuch (Genesis through Numbers) and a D school of tradition in Deuteronomy and 2 Kings. There were individual oral stories and legend cycles that were cultic in origin and connected with the sanctuary. Basically P was a Judahite tradition, whereas D was an northern Israelite tradition, which in its final form got into the hands of the people of Judah. So to Engnell there were no written documents at an early time at all, nor redactors, but units of oral tradition, circles of tradition, and schools within these circles.

Two more scholars should be mentioned. First there is G. von Rad, who held that the Hexateuch (the first six books) was put together as a literary unit. He worked with the traditional documentary dates, but saw in them (esp. in P) much that was very old and archaic in form. He claimed that J gave the Pentateuch its definitive form and that E and P brought nothing really new. The other scholar is M. Noth, who also was an “orthodox” higher critic, but he denied the idea of the Hexateuch and followed the notion that the original book of Moses was Genesis through Numbers and perhaps some of Deuteronomy 31-34. He also stressed oral tradition, putting J and E together as a common base and calling them G (the “Ground”).

One of the major trends in modern criticism of the Pentateuch is away from any schematic and determinant system of development. A. Weiser, in his Introduction to the Old Testament, says some strata in the Pentateuch cannot be defined in detail, but can be understood only in light of the cult. In other words, the origin of the lit. lies in the cult and even after the tradition was fixed many alterations came about to conform to cultic changes. Weiser is willing to admit that oral and written tradition existed side by side through many centuries, but he insists that individual authors were responsible for these strata and not just schools, as Gunkel held.

One of the major themes of the modern critic is called “tradition history.” This is not just the memory of past events in history, but is the kind of history that originates in cultic festivals and continues in sacramental cultic acts. This results in a trend away from literary criticism to questions of interpretation of OT religion. C. R. North, in his discussion of modern Pentateuchal criticism in The Old Testament and Modern Study, feels that the modern critic has two major problems: One is the historical value of the Biblical account of Creation down to the death of Moses, and the second is the value of the Pentateuch as a source for the history of Heb. religion from the time of the Exodus down to the postexilic period. This latter is based on the principle that the Pentateuch comes from all different periods in Israel’s history and is therefore really an epitome of the history of Israel’s religion. One can easily see that such a position assumes that the results of Pentateuchal criticism are generally correct. The old scholars were interested in rationalizing out all of the miraculous elements of the text to discover what these historical events were, but the newer concept of “tradition history” stresses the fact that the lit. in the Pentateuch reflects a community experience coming from generations of people who transfigured the bare facts of history by their faith. One, therefore, should not look on the history in the Bible from creation to the death of Moses as having any substantial reality, although there may be a nucleus of history behind it, but it must be interpreted as “salvation history,” as “sacred history,” or “tradition history.” The second problem mentioned by North—the value of the Pentateuch as a source for the history of OT religion down to postexilic times—grew directly out of the old documentary approach to the Pentateuch; but there is a marked diff erence between the old critical position and this more recent approach. The old view asserted that the religious history of a millennium was telescoped within the Pentateuch by means of the documents, J, E, D, and P, which reflected the evolutionary development of OT religion. The old view held that it was possible to show how and when the OT ideas and institutions came to be. To many modern scholars, all evolutionism and logicism is considered a modern invention imposed on the OT. They are very skeptical about the results and about all attempts to date the documents. Pedersen was not even interested in OT religion as much as he was in the psychology of OT religion. Engnell decided there were no documents at all, but only a mass of traditions from which different types of material originated. Many who still accept the basic outlines of the documentary hypothesis use oral transmission as a way to solve the problems of inconsistency. They claim that the oral forms from different periods existed parallel to one another and thus form the reason why the same documents may have both pre- and postexilic material in them. By and large, literary criticism of the Pentateuch at the present time is in a state of chaos. C. R. North also suggests that we must now be less precise about the history of Israel’s religion and stress rather the theology of the OT. Despite all of this divergence of opinion, the modern critical approach to the Pentateuch still clings generally to the terminology of the old documentary hypothesis, simply because the modern critic has nothing else to take its place as a humanistic explanation of how these books came into being. Indeed it has become an “orthodoxy” among OT scholars. If these general tenets are accepted, then the Pentateuch as it now stands cannot be accepted as an authentic witness to events in space and time that took place in the days of the patriarchs and Moses. Against this, the question must be asked: are there archeological and literary evidences that bear witness to the authenticity of the history and cultural institutions reflected in the Pentateuch?

Archeological witness to the Pentateuch

The covenant treaty forms of the great kings of the ancient Near E throw interesting light on the format of the Book of Deuteronomy and of the Decalogue itself. Such treaty texts were found in Hitt. archives, at Ugarit, in Aram. inscrs. from Sefireh and in the later Assyrian texts of Esarhaddon. Their original classic form dates from the middle of the second millennium, and the striking similarity of format with the Book of Deuteronomy certainly lends weight to an early or second millennium composition of the Book of Deuteronomy. M. G. Kline has developed this theme for the Book of Deuteronomy in his book The Treaty of the Great King.

The Canaanite alphabetic texts from Ugarit of the 14th and 13th centuries b.c. are full of technical terms for sacrifices that at one time were all thought to be postexilic by the documentarians. The Sem. words for the whole burnt offering, the shared or peace offering, the trespass offering and the sin offering, were all in full use in the second millennium b.c. The Canaanite cult of the dead, reflected in Deuteronomy 14:1, is attested in the Ugaritic texts, as is a rain (?) cult, which is reflected in the Heb. prohibition of seething a kid in its mother’s milk (Exod 23:19; 34:26; Deut 14:21; and C. H. Gordon, Ugaritic Literature, p. 59).

The old higher critical idea that the concept of ethical dualism arose in the Near E only after the rise of the Pers. religion of Zoroaster can no longer be taken seriously in the light of the new texts. That rituals and consciousness of sin are postexilic ideas is simply no longer tenable. Offering lists and rituals far more elaborate than anything found in the Pentateuch come from documents in Egypt and Mesopotamia that date all the way back to the third millennium. That social concepts in the Mosaic writings are too high for the second millennium is now refuted by the great social consciousness expressed by the Middle Kingdom kings of Egypt and by kings of Canaan and Mesopotamia, who often acclaimed their care for the orphan and the widow and spoke of themselves as shepherds of the people. Triumph hymns attested in Egyp. texts of the 15th to the 13th centuries compare well with the song of Moses and Miriam (Exod 15). The second millennium poetry of the Ugaritic mythological texts illuminates the language of certain poetic parts of the Pentateuch, such as the poems of Balaam (Num 22-24), Moses’ poem (Deut 32), and Jacob’s blessings (Gen 49). Undoubtedly there was an updating of the language of the Pentateuch by scribes like Ezra, as Jewish tradition tells us, but most of the poetry was left archaic so as not to destroy its beauty. The Sinuhe story from Middle Kingdom Egypt corroborates many of the concepts found in the Joseph account in Genesis. Among these is the Egyp. attitude toward shepherds (Gen 46:34). The authenticity of the Joseph story can only really be appreciated by one who is well versed in Egyp. lit. of the second millennium. The possibility of a non-Egyp. like Moses being brought up in the Egyp. court is known from New Kingdom papyri. Craftsmen like Bezaleel and Oholiab (Exod 31:1-6) fit well into the Egyp. picture, as do also the Hebrews as laborers making bricks without straw. The techniques used in the construction of the Tabernacle were used in Egypt centuries before Moses. The overlaying of wood with gold sheeting, as described in the building of the Tabernacle, is evident in the treasures taken from the well-known tomb of King Tut, whose date is approximately the time of Moses.

Sometimes archeology has raised problems as well as solved them; therefore archeology cannot confirm all the details of the Bible; but certainly one of the results of the modern archeological movement has been to confirm substantially the historicity of the culture and times reflected in the narratives of the patriarchs and of Moses and the Exodus. Archeology has done this so effectively that the modern literary criticism of the Pentateuch has had to find new ways of working this new evidence into its theories of the origin of these books.

These remarks on the literary criticism of the Pentateuch may be concluded by a statement of what is and what is not meant by Mosaic authorship. Mosaic authorship means that the books of the Pentateuch came from the time of Moses and that Moses is their real author. This does not assert that Moses did this singlehandedly without help or that every word was dictated to him from heaven. The divine inspiration that God gave to Moses consisted of directing Moses in writing those materials that God wanted Moses to write and also in directing him to the sources that he needed for this purpose. There were instances, as on Mount Sinai, where God gave Moses words directly from heaven, but most of the Pentateuch does not consist of this type of material. There are legal portions, some of which reflect the common law of the day. There is the creation account, which Moses must have had by direct divine revelation, but many of the details of the Flood account are so similar to those of the Babylonian flood story that undoubtedly Moses had source materials, and God gave him divine wisdom in choosing his materials. There are poetic sections and literary formats that very much reflect the time in which Moses lived.

The much disputed third person sing. used sometimes by Moses about Moses is a literary form used by other ancient writers, such as Xenophon. In the narrative material from Exodus through Deuteronomy, the one place where Moses plays no role at all is in the Balaam account (Num 22-24). This account is strategically placed at the end of the wilderness wandering in that last year of preparation before the children of Israel were to enter the land of promise. Moses was soon to pass from the scene. There is no way of knowing how the Israelites learned what was going on among the Moabites as recorded in the Balaam account, but “the Book of the Wars of the Lord” (Num 21:14) may represent an old work contemporaneous with Moses that later was used as a historical source.

The Pentateuch, then, was composed by the great man Moses under the influence of divine inspiration with the assistance of faithful men who recorded Moses’ words and assisted him in putting into writing the great pieces of literary composition now comprising the Pentateuch. Some later modernization of the text must be admitted, in keeping with Jewish tradition, most of which dates from the time of Ezra and explains certain anachronisms and glosses that exist in the text. These are not so numerous as some think. For example, although many of the nations mentioned in Genesis 10 came into the light of history in the first millennium, they certainly had their origins in the second millennium and some even in the third millennium. Recent archeological evidence proffered by P. Lapp in the Dhahr Mirzabaneh Tombs (New Haven, 1966) points to the presence of peoples from the western Mediterranean, Europe and central Asia in second millennium Pal., so that the reference to the Canaanites and Perizzites being then in the land is highly authentic and is not the work of a late hand, as the documentarians had claimed. This theory must still be proved, but the critics, after they were proved wrong in denying the existence of the Hittites (who were known only from the Bible) still denied the existence of the Biblical first millennium Hittites, since their kingdom was destroyed in the late second millennium. Then, to their consternation, Assyrian documents proved that though the Hittite kingdom was destroyed in the second millennium, many Syrians were called Hittites in the first millennium.

The general character of the language of the Pentateuch

Hebraists used to show that certain words in the Pentateuch were late. Usually this was connected with attempts to determine which material came from the late P document. An example of this is in the two different forms used for the first person independent pronoun, ’ānōkî and ’ānî. The longer form was considered to be early, and the short form was judged to be late, since the latter was used frequently by Ezekiel. Much to the embarrassment of those who held this position, the Ugaritic texts, which date from the 14th cent. b.c., used both forms. Since we have only a limited knowledge of the total Heb. vocabulary of the Biblical period, none can be very dogmatic about the emergence of a word in the language. It has been demonstrated that words occurring frequently in late Heb. of the Talmud but that are very rare or even nonexistent in the OT still may be very early words, as we now know from their appearance in other early documents. Because Aram. became the trade language of the ancient Near E in postexilic times, scholars claimed that any OT word that appeared in Aram. was an Aramaism and therefore late. This fallacious idea was exposed by R. D. Wilson in his Scientific Investigation of the Old Testament as early as 1926. Aramaic does appear early in the Bible (Gen 31:47), where Jacob’s uncle Laban called the heap of stones they had set up as a witness Jegar-sahadutha. Aramaic was spoken in northern Mesopotamia (Padan-aram or Aram-naharaim) in the second millennium. Although we have late second millennium documents, as yet there are no Aram. documents from the patriarchal age. Assyrian records, however, tell of Aramean migrations across northern Mesopotamia into northern Syria in the 12th cent. b.c., and such a movement can scarcely represent a sudden appearance of a people without a lengthy history (see J. Bright, A History of Israel, pp. 81, 82, for further evidence). The language that Moses spoke was a Heb. that came into its own right as a NW Sem. dialect sometime after Abraham’s entrance into Canaan with his Mesopotamian background, possibly even an Aramean background. According to Genesis 22:20-24, the Arameans were descendants of Abraham’s brother Nahor.

As Heb. developed into a language in its own right, it grew out of various shades of NW Sem. The Pentateuch has in it archaisms that reflect a very early linguistic form, even pre-Mosaic. This form is usually preserved by the poetry, as in Jacob’s blessings (Gen 49). Some of the present uniformity of the text comes from modernizing that was done in post-Mosaic times. The uniform vocalizing of the masculine and feminine third sing. pronoun, which was originally spelled h’, prob. came about in the Biblical period. This practice appears to bear witness to the unity of the Pentateuch at a comparatively early time. However, the language of the Pentateuch cannot be expected to represent one period exclusively or even one dialect, even though it originally came from one source. This is not only because of subsequent treatment, but because Moses’ sources were varied and because there could have been variation in his scribal help (Num 11). The whole process offers so many linguistic and literary possibilities that one can hardly be dogmatic. This is where the higher critics went astray.

The Israelites’ long stay in Egypt and Moses’ Egyp. education are abundantly evident throughout the Pentateuch in linguistic and cultural ways. An excellent summary of these internal evidences for the antiquity of the Pentateuch may be found in G. L. Archer’s, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, pp. 101-109. This author has demonstrated esp. well, the authentic Egyp. influence. He presents the best of the material given in A. S. Yahuda’s, The Language of the Pentateuch and its Relationship to Egyptian, but Professor Archer also adds many other interesting features of his own.

Textual criticism of the Pentateuch

The literature of the Pentateuch

Narrative materials.

The narrative of Exodus continues with the family of Jacob in Egypt, the ensuing bondage by a Pharaoh who did not know Joseph and the call of Moses to be God’s instrument to lead Israel out of bondage into the land promised to their ancestors. God used the stubbornness of Pharaoh to demonstrate His power and glory through a series of plagues on Egypt. The Israelites finally made a hasty retreat from Egypt after the death angel slew the first-born of Egypt, but passed over the blood-sprinkled homes of the Israelites. The narrative continues with the Israelites’ miraculous crossing of the Sea of Reeds (Yam Suph) and their journey to Sinai, where the narrative of Exodus stops. Israel received the law, the stipulations of God’s covenant with them, and here the covenant was ratified (Exod 24:1-11). The remainder of the Book of Exodus deals mainly with the plans for and the building of the Tabernacle, the place of God’s special presence with Israel (Exod 25-40). This section of Exodus is interrupted in ch. 32 by a narrative describing the brief defection of Aaron and the people while Moses was in the mountain, but Moses interceded in behalf of the sinful people, and the covenant was renewed (ch. 34).

The Book of Leviticus presents the priestly code and has only a brief section of narrative, which deals with the ritual sins of Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron (Lev 10). This narrative is included only to reinforce the laws of ritual purity, thus stressing the holiness of God.

Eventually they made their way around both Edom and Moab and came into the territory of the Amorites, N of the Arnon River. Here God gave several military victories and they took the main cities of the Amorites and all the territory adjacent to the Jordan. The narrative breaks at this point (Num 22:1) and continues from the viewpoint of Balak, the king of Moab, who was distressed at Israel’s presence and hired a would-be prophet of the Lord to curse Israel. Balaam succeeded only in proving himself to be a religious opportunist, but God allowed only words of blessing on Israel to proceed from his lips. The king of Moab, finding his plan to turn Israel’s God away from them thwarted, now proceeded with a plan to turn Israel away from its God. Israelite men were enticed by promiscuous Moabite women into sins of adultery and subsequent idolatry. Numbers 26-36 deal largely with preparation for entry into the land, which included a second military census, this one of the new generation, various miscellaneous laws, the disposition of the two and one-half tribes in the territory E of Jordan and the future boundaries of Canaan. There is no narrative in this portion, unless one considers under that heading ch. 33, the itinerary of Israel’s journey from Egypt to the Plains of Moab.

The Book of Deuteronomy is in the form of an address by Moses to Israel to further prepare them for settlement in the land. There is little additional narrative. After reviewing their history up to that point Moses presented a formal restatement of the law as the stipulations of God’s covenant, as well as directions for a ratification ceremony after they entered the land (Deut 27:11ff.). The ceremony was carried out (Josh 8:30-34). This time the law was given in view of their imminent settlement in the land of promise as a sedentary people. The only new narrative portions of the book come at the very end, where Moses transferred the scepter of leadership from himself to his assistant Joshua (ch. 31). The brief narrative of Moses’ death and burial is recorded in ch. 34.

Legal parts of the Pentateuch.

It is evident from some of the laws of the Pentateuch, esp. civil and domestic laws, that God allowed His people to live under a system that was not in harmony with His highest purpose, such as polygamy, and there are other laws that represent a similar accommodation to the culture of that time. The practice of selling a daughter as a handmaid (concubine, Exod 21:7-11) was a part of that culture, but even here the law is given for the purposes of securing certain rights and privileges for the handmaid. The inclusion of certain laws is difficult to understand, such as that regarding the wife suspected of adultery (Num 5:11-31). Elements of this law are unique in the Bible, but the law has an underlying general principle of trial by ordeal, a common practice in the Biblical world (Hammurabi’s Code, no. 132). The Middle Assyrian laws often were very harsh and cruel, frequently calling for castration and even the mutilation of the whole face of the offender (ANET, p. 181, laws 8 and 15). Hittite laws, in contrast, are characterized by their laxity. Allowance is even made in the Hitt. laws for bestiality (ANET, p. 197, law 200), a practice strictly forbidden among the Hebrews (Lev 18:23; 20:15; Exod 22:19), as are homosexuality (Lev 18:22) and incest (Lev 20:11-12), practices common in the Biblical world. The consistently high level of ethics, of civil and domestic morality, as prescribed in the Biblical law is not found in the other codes of the ancient Near E, including compassion for the deaf and blind, fairness in court, warnings on gossip and grudge bearing, and finally the command to love one’s neighbor as oneself (Lev 19:11-18).

M. Noth believes that the apodictic formulation was the normal pattern for the earliest legal material of the Israelite tribes. The Decalogue itself is the purest expression of apodictic law: “You shall,” “you shall not.” The Pentateuch claims that these categorical imperatives were written by the hand of God. These apodictic expressions are not limited, however, to the Decalogue. They are found throughout the Pentateuch, often intermingled with the case laws. They are more apt to express great moral principles and as such show the important relationship between law and covenant in ancient Israel. The covenant principle must be understood to appreciate the purpose of law in the OT economy. The Decalogue was not merely a terse ethical expression, but it represents the entire Sinaitic covenant. M. G. Kline, in his Treaty of the Great King, develops this theme, suggesting that each of the two tablets were complete duplicate copies of the Decalogue. In keeping with the classic suzerain treaty practice of the second millennium, one copy of the covenant was placed in the sanctuary of the vassal and the other in the sanctuary of the suzerain. In ancient Israel these two sanctuaries coincided, for God was the suzerain, and therefore the two tablets, each containing the complete expression of the Decalogue written on both sides, were placed in the Ark of the covenant. Professor Kline points out that one copy was a documentary witness to and against Israel of her covenant obligations to her sovereign Lord who had redeemed her, and the other was the Lord’s covenant witness of His promise to show mercy to thousands of generations of those who loved Him. The place where the documents of witness were kept was both the throne of God and the place of atonement, so that the witness against Israel when she broke the stipulations of God’s covenant always went up to God along with the witness of the atonement blood that secu red God’s mercy (see Kline, p. 22).

This leads to the ceremonial and ritual laws in the Pentateuch. It is not necessary to assume that these came from a late period, because the same cultic terminology found in the Pentateuch was widespread throughout the ancient Near E in the second millennium (see above). The tablets from Ras Shamra even use the term “chief priest.” Many of the cultic practices of the surrounding peoples were emphatically rejected by Moses. The most basic general prohibition of cultic worship was the interdiction against worship of “other gods.” Along with this came the rejection of all images, even the prohibition against erecting Canaanite cult pillars (Deut 16:22; and Lev 26:1). Such stones were used earlier in Israel’s history, esp. in the days of the patriarchs, as memorial stones of theophanies (Gen 28:18), but because the Canaanites used them to mark the dwelling places of local deities, the pillars were forbidden when the people were ready to enter the land. All aspects of the Canaanite cult of the dead were rejected (Lev 19:28; Deut 14:1) as well as the common practice of Canaanite temple prostitution (Deut 23:17, 18).

Fertility and sex were chief aspects of the Canaanite cult. Their spring festivals celebrated the mating of the god of rain and vegetation, Baal, with the goddess of fertility, who had various names but eventually came to be known in Pal. as Asherah. Her symbol, the sacred tree (or possibly a sacred post, perhaps even a carved post), and the cult pillar (which some believe may have been a symbol of Baal) were an integral part of every Canaanite shrine. Such interdictions as “You shall tear down their altars, and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim” (Exod 34:13) take much more meaning when something of the nature of the Canaanite religion is known. The comparatively large number of figurines of the fertility goddess that are found indicates their importance in the religion of the common people. They were handled like magical objects or charms to secure fertility of humans, animals, and crops. The warning against playing the harlot after their gods is not just a figure of speech for idolatry (Exod 34:15, 16), but suggests the particular nature of Canaanite worship. On the other hand, the Israelite cult had features that were not unlike some of the worship that was carried on in that day. The Hebrew incense altar with horns was similar to the Canaanite altars of incense with horns (Exod 37:25-28). In the peace offering priests were given the right shoulder of the animal as their portion (Lev 3), known also to have been the practice in a Canaanite temple discovered at Lachish (G. Ernest Wright, Biblical Archeology, pp. 114, 115).

The dietary regulations (Lev 11; Deut 14), can be understood only in the light of Israel’s relationship to these pagan cults. Animals such as the ox, the sheep, or the goat were sacrificed by the pagan cults, but since these animals were so universally used for sacrifice they were not identified with any particular cult. There were, however, other cult practices peculiar to the worship of certain gods that came into direct conflict with the covenant concept of Israel’s allegiance to Yahweh. This is the major reason for the dietary laws. There were certain animals and certain types of animals that were so completely identified with Canaanite cult practice that the Israelites were forbidden to eat these animals or to use them for sacrificial purposes. Hygienic reasons for the dietary laws, if valid at all, played a minor role.

Therefore the Pentateuch presents a system of worshiping God that was not foreign to the second millennium b.c. The sacrificial system was not unlike that used by other peoples. God, through Moses, however, taught Israel to use those features of worship that were not contrary to their relationship with Him and that positively taught Israel something of His character as holy, just, and merciful. The Israelites were unique in interpreting their entire national and individual life in terms of this solemn covenant with a single, divine Lord who called Himself the jealous God, thus stressing monotheism. God was also holy, thence an elaborate method of approach to Him through mediation, priests, and a system of blood sacrifices was necessary. The Canaanites also sacrificed, but only to offer food for the god as a gift to bribe their deity. No Canaanite system of atonement is known, for Israel’s sacrifices were primarily propitiatory or expiatory; that is, to make approach to God possible through forgiveness and cleansing. For Israel there was the substitutionary aspect of the sacrificial victim, who bore the guilt of the sinner. It was necessary that hands be laid on the head of the victim and confession of sins be made so that the victim ceremonially bore the sins of the people and died in the place of the worshiper (Lev 16:21, 22). This was the only way the covenant could remain intact, since Israel was constantly breaking the stipulations of the covenant. Nor did Israel’s sacrificial system allow for the pagan notion that the sacrifice itself accomplished anything. To Israel it was a lesson—it taught a doctrine of atonement and it called for personal commitment, the love of the worshiper for his God. The Book of Deuteronomy lays great stress on this aspect of Israel’s worship. Moses stressed the true meaning of God’s original covenant with Abraham when he admonished the people to circumcise their hearts, to fear the Lord their God and to walk in all His ways, to love Him and to serve the Lord their God with all their heart and with all their soul (Deut 10:12-16).

Another important aspect of Pentateuchal law was the annual feasts of the Lord. These too were an integral part of the covenant law. The Israelite was expected to present himself before the Lord three times a year—at the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Passover, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Ingathering (Exod 23:14-17; 34:18-24; Lev 23; Deut 16:1-17). The feasts can also be more clearly understood in the light of the surrounding polytheism. The polytheisms were nature religions that tended to deify every aspect of nature. Each part of nature represented a particular deity; the gods were limited and struggled with each other just as do the powers of nature. Such religion was concerned not with history but with mythology about the lives of the gods that reflected nature and therefore touched the lives of men. There was an underlying pantheism in these religious concepts. In the Pentateuch God is separate from nature. God created nature and is the originator and controller of history. God’s creature, man, must obey the sovereign God and be in harmony with God’s purpose and movement in history. The festivals of the polytheists were based on their mythology, which consisted of stories of the gods and centered around the cosmic pattern to which all of life had to adjust itself. To the Hebrews the yearly festivals were remembrances of Israel’s history, and Israel’s worship consisted of a rehearsal of the great deeds of their sovereign God. At these festivals they read the stipulations of the law and so were reminded of their covenant relationship with Him.

The subject of the Hebrews and history is important because of the tendency of modern criticism to stress “salvation history” at the expense of factual history—real events in space and time. “Salvation history,” or “tradition history,” is defined as cultic glorification of historic events in the mind of the community. This is how much of the “history” of Israel is explained by those of this school. These critics conclude that it was in the annual festivals that this process evolved; that only a kernel of real history may be found in most of the stories of the Pentateuch, since they are cultic interpretation of events. Therefore the supernatural aspects of these stories (these critics assume that God cannot intervene in such a way in space and time) are conveniently explained away. On the other hand, some of those who accept the supernatural as a viable possibility, as being one way God deals with man, make the mistake of assuming that the supernatural is God’s only way of dealing with man. They forget, for example, that God not only provided the cloud and pillar of fire to guide Israel, but also used Hobab’s knowledge of the desert (Num 10:29-31).

The Pentateuch may be accepted as true history, but it is most emphatically not merely history; that is, the Pentateuch was not written merely to include just historical events at a given time or among a given people. The Pentateuch is a history of redemption, not in the cultic meaning suggested by the term “salvation history,” but in the sense that only those things are recorded that are needed to explain God’s redemptive dealings with certain men. The Pentateuch itself is only the beginning of that history. The point is that it is real history, although much is left out that men today in an age of expanding knowledge would like to know. Some of this knowledge is being supplied through archeology, which tends to uphold in general the historicity of the Biblical accounts. There are problems, however, for which there is no answer and for which there may never be a satisfactory answer, but this is true of all areas of human experience and knowledge.

Poetic material.

Genealogical material.

The genealogies have as their purpose the presentation of certain lines of descent, which are necessary for understanding the Biblical story. The early genealogies (Gen 5 and 11) are somewhat schematic, containing gaps, because their purpose is not to show the age of man on earth but rather to trace the representative names in the line that led to Abraham, the line through whom God would bless all the families of the earth, the line of the promised Redeemer. The genealogies are somewhat short and are presented only because of the closeness of their relationship to the line of promise. Ishmael’s genealogy (Gen 25:12-18) is shorter than the genealogy of Esau (ch. 36), because Esau had a closer relationship to the Hebrews than did Ishmael. One of the most interesting pieces of lit. in the Pentateuch (ch. 10), is not really a genealogy at all, but a table of nations. The Heb. text does not use the word “to beget,” in a form that would indicate literal descent. The table of nations simply presents the various nations of the Biblical world in what might be called their ethno-geographical relationships.

The importance of the Pentateuch for Christian theology

The foundation for all Christian theology is the doctrine of creation. Without the Biblical doctrine of creation as presented in the Book of Genesis, Christianity cannot be properly distinguished from the other philosophical systems of the E, which are pantheistic and identify their deity with the universe. There is no creation account like that of the Book of Genesis in all the world. No modern attempt to explain the origin of the universe gives a more satisfying explanation than what is presented in Genesis. All the NT says about salvation loses its meaning without Genesis 3, and the rest of the Pentateuch, with its progressive revelation of God. God’s redemptive plan has meaning only in the light of the fall of man as presented in Genesis. The Apostle Paul made clear in Galatians 3 and in Romans 4 that the Christian Gospel is based on the covenant history found in the Pentateuch. Christian faith is the same faith as that of Abraham and the same faith as that of the Israelites who kept covenant with God and used the religious institutions that Moses set up in the way that God intended that they should be used. These same religious institutions increasingly pointed to and prepared for the coming Christ. The rest of the Bible, both OT and NT, has its roots in the Pentateuch. The Apostle Paul said the law is a schoolmaster—a tutor to bring men to Christ (Gal 3). No one can be brought to Christ unless he learns from the tutor what God is like and what sin is. The Pentateuch laid that foundation, but it did even more; through its ritual symbols it taught how God would bring into effect His redemption of man.


W. H. Green, Higher Criticism of the Pentateuch (1895); S. R. Driver, An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament (1897 and 1956); J. E. Carpenter and G. Harford, The Composition of the Hexateuch (1902); R. D. Wilson, “The Names of God in the Old Testament,” Princeton Theological Review, vol. 18, no. 3 (July, 1920); O. T. Allis, The Five Books of Moses (1943); G. Ch. Aalders, A Short Introduction to the Pentateuch (1949); O. T. Allis, God Spake by Moses (1951); C. North, “Pentateuchal Criticism,” The Old Testament and Modern Study (1951); A. Bentzen, An Introduction to the Old Testament (1952); C. A. Simpson, “The Growth of the Hexateuch,” Interpreter’s Bible I (1952); H. F. Hahn, Old Testament in Modern Research (1954); G. Mendenhall, Law and Covenant in Israel and the Ancient Near East (1955); G. T. Manley, The Book of the Law (1957); H. H. Rowley, The Growth of the Old Testament (1958); U. Cassuto, The Documentary Hypothesis (1961); A. Weiser, The Old Testament, Its Formation and Development (1961); M. G. Kline, Treaty of the Great King: The Covenant Structure of Deuteronomy (1963); G. Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (1964); E. M. Yamauchi, “Do the Bible Critics Use a Double Standard?” Christianity Today (Nov. 1965); C. H. Gordon, “Higher Critics and Forbidden Fruit,” A Christianity Today Reader (1966); M. Noth, The Laws in the Pentateuch and Other Studies (1966); C. S. Lewis, “Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism,” Christian Reflections (1967); K. A. Kitchen, “Moses: A More Realistic View,” Christianity Today (June 21, 1968); E. J. Young, “History of the Literary Criticism of the Pentateuch,” The New Bible Commentary Revised (1970); J. W. Wenham, “Moses and the Pentateuch,” The New Bible Commentary Revised (1970).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)




1. The Current Critical Scheme 2. The Evidence for the Current Critical Scheme

(1) Astruc’s Clue

(2) Signs of Post-Mosaic Date

(3) Narrative Discrepancies

(4) Doublets

(5) The Laws

(6) The Argument from Style

(7) Props of the Development Hypothesis

3. The Answer to the Critical Analysis

(1) The Veto of Textual Criticism

(2) Astruc’s Clue Tested

(3) The Narrative Discrepancies and Signs of Post-Mosaic Date Examined

(4) The Argument from the Doublets Examined

(5) The Critical Argument from the Laws

(6) The Argument from Style

(7) Perplexities of the Theory

(8) Signs of Unity

(9) The Supposed Props of the Development Hypothesis

4. The Evidence of Date

(1) The Narrative of Genesis

(2) Archaeology and Genesis

(3) The Legal Evidence of Genesis

(4) The Professedly Mosaic Character of the Legislation

(5) The Historical Situation Required by Pentateuch

(6) The Hierarchical Organization in Pentateuch

(7) The Legal Evidence of Pentateuch

(8) The Evidence of D

(9) Later Allusions

(10) Other Evidence

5. The Fundamental Improbabilities of the Critical Case

(1) The Moral and Psychological Issues

(2) The Historical Improbability

(3) The Divergence between the Laws and Post-exilic Practice

(4) The Testimony of Tradition

6. The Origin and Transmission of the Pentateuch


1. Style of Legislation

2. The Narrative

3. The Covenant

4. Order and Rhythm


1. Textual Criticism and History

2. Hebrew Methods of Expression

3. Personification and Genealogies

4. Literary Form

5. The Sacred Numbers

6. Habits of Thought

7. National Coloring

8. How Far the Pentateuch Is Trustworthy

(1) Contemporaneous Information

(2) Character of Our Informants

(3) Historical Genius of the People

(4) Good Faith of Deuteronomy

(5) Nature of the Events Recorded

(6) External Corroborations

9. The Pentateuch as Reasoned History


1. Hindu Law Books

2. Differences

3. Holiness

4. The Universal Aspect

5. The National Aspect


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 ff), but such passages as Le 14:54-57; De 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 Hexateuch).

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 Le 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 the Bible.

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 assigned.

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 Ex 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 Ex 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 (De 34). Other examples are to be found in seeming allusions to post-Mosaic events, e.g. in Ge 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" (36:31) presumes the existence of the monarchy. The Canaanites who are referred to as being "then in the land" (Ge 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. De 3:11 (Og’s bedstead) comes unnaturally from one who had vanquished Og but a few weeks previously, while Nu 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. Ex 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 Ge 21:14 f Ishmael is a boy who can be carried on his mother’s shoulder, but from a comparison of 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 (Ge 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 25:26; 26:34; 35:28)? Yet we can only diminish this period by extending proportionately the interval between Esau marrying his Hittite wives (26:34) and Rebekah’s suggestion to Isaac to send Jacob away, lest he should follow his brother’s example (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 33:38, Aaron died on the 1st day of the 5th month. From De 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 Nu 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 (Nu 20:28; 33:38), now at Moserah (De 10:6). According to De 1; 2:1,14, the children of Israel left Kadesh-barnea in the 3rd year and never subsequently returned to it, while in Nu they apparently remain there till the journey to Mt. Hor, where Aaron dies in the 40th year. The Tent of Meeting perhaps

some of the most perplexing of the discrepancies, for while according to the well-known scheme of Ex 25 ff and many other passages, it was a large and heavy erection standing in the midst of the camp, Ex 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 (Ge 37:27,28; 39:1), anon by Midianites (31:28a,36). Sometimes he is imprisoned in one place, sometimes apparently in another. The story of Korah, Dathan and Abiram in Nu 16 is equally full of difficulty. The enormous numbers of the Israelites given in Nu 1-4, etc., are in conflict with passages that regard them as very few.

(4) Doublets.

Another portion of the critical argument is provided by doublets or duplicate narratives of the same event, e.g. Ge 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 (Nu 11:4-6,31 ff; Ex 16:13) Twice does Moses draw water from the rock, when the strife of Israel begets the name Meribah (`strife’) (Ex 17:1-7; Nu 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 Ex 21:1-6; De 15:12 ff permit a Hebrew to contract for life slavery after 6 years’ service, but that Le 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 of Exodus.

(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 Ge 1, where ’Elohim is used throughout, we find the word "create," but this is not employed in 2:4b ff, 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 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.

See Number.

(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.

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.

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 Ex 21 ff and occasional later passages, such as the judgment in the case of Shelomith’s son (Le 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 (Nu 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 Nu 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 Nu 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 ways, and

(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 De 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 Nu 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 Ge 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"; Nu 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" (Ge 4:7); "The fountains of the great deep (were) broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened" (Ge 7:11); "how I bare you on eagles’ wings" (Ex 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 De 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 Ge 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 Jos 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 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 Ex 9:6 it is possible to interpret "all" in the most sweeping sense and then see a contradiction in 9:19,22, etc., which recognize that some cattle still existed. Or again the term may be regarded as limited by 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 Nu 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" (Ge 4:20). These habits (of personification and genealogical expression of relationships) are greatly extended, e.g. "And Canaan begat Zidon his first-born" (Ge 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 Ge 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 Nu 33 the journeys seem designed to present 40 stations and must not be held to exclude camping at other stations not mentioned; Ge 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 Ex 23:20 f; Isa 30:27; see further EPC, 47 ff.


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 historical importance.

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 Ge 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 Le 19:11) and the attribution of truthfulness to God (Ex 34:6), but it may readily be detected throughout; e.g. in Ge 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" (Ex 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" (De 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. (De 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. (Ex 12:26 f). "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" (De 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 De 4:32 ff). 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 magnitude.

(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 Ex 7:19 and the very food of the lower classes in Nu 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" (De 29:29).

But if the Pentateuch has significant resemblances to other old law books, there are differences that are even more significant.

2. Differences:

"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).

3. Holiness:

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, Le 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 His creatures.

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