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in the battle for

; with a series of

I
So, thirdly, Israel must keep the covenant
wholeheartedly. 'Love the LORD your God with
all your heart and with all your soul and with all
THE PENTATEUCH
announced publicly to the whole nation, for the
Lord's appearance on the mountain was too ter­
rifying. Instead they were made known to
s and how the

rng the secular

Levi (chs. 34 ­

I
your strength' (6:5) sums up the whole message
of Moses. This meant keeping the Ten Com­
Moses alone (Ex. 20: 19-21; Dt. 5:5), who then
passed them on to the people.
o the establish­

those guilty of

~ land was more

Ile land in which

i
mandments given by God at Sinai (ch. 5). It
meant applying the Commandments to every
sphere of life. The second and longest sermon
of Moses consists of a historical retrospect
Moses' role as a mediator is stressed
throughout the Pentateuch. Time and again
laws are introduced by the statement, 'Then the
LORD said to Moses'. This implies a special in­
vas therefore, a
followed by an expansion and application of the timacy with God, suggesting that if God is the
Jfe: especially of
commandments to every sphere of Israel's life ultimate source of the law, Moses was its chan­
. (ch. 35). It was,
in Canaan; the laws in chs. 12 - 25 roughly nel, if not the human author of it. This impres­
for ever, and the
follow the order of the commandments and ex­ sion is reinforced most strongly by the book of
:signed to ensure
pand and comment on them. Israel must be as Deuteronomy, with Moses addressing the na­
hin the tribe (ch.
warm-hearted in her response to the law as the tion in his own words, explaining the laws given
Lord had showed himself in giving her the land on Sinai and urging Israel to keep them when
and the law itself. they enter the promised land.
Finally, Israel's future destiny depended on Deuteronomy contains the last words of
Law') is Moses'
her response to the law. Obedience to the com­ Moses to Israel before he died. Moses talks
tel. It consists of
mandments would lead to immense prosperity about himself in the first person, 'The idea
before his death,
in family, farm and nation, whereas disobe­ seemed good to me' (1:23); and sometimes he
. ry notice. In some dience would result in disaster, culminating in identifies with Israel 'as the LORD our God com­
one before, hence expulsion from the land (ch. 28). But if this hap­ manded us, we set out' (1: 19). At other times he
ereas Exodus to pened, and Moses feared it would, it would not sets himself over against them, 'I told you, but
lS they were given spell the end of Israel's relationship with God. you would not listen' (1:43). Chs. 1 - 11
ly we have Moses Repentance would lead to renewal of the cove­ describe most of the same events from the ex­
applying it ~o the nant blessings and national prosperity would be odus to the conquest of Transjordan as the
experience In the restored (chs. 29 - 30, 32). books of Exodus to Numbers do, but whereas
these books recount it from the perspective of a
a summary of the
The composition of the Pentateuch narrator outside the situation, Deuteronomy
·e. It is a prophetic While there is broad agreement among many describes the events as Moses experienced
es, the greatest ?f scholars about the theme of the Pentateuch as them. The claim that Moses is the speaker in
rael's prospects In sketched above, there are very deep differences Deuteronomy is inescapable.
o choose whether of opinion about its composition. This has not If Deuteronomy ended at 31 :8, it would be
. a way of prosperi­ always been the case; indeed, for nearly two possible to suppose that Moses preached about
'whims and inclina­ millennia it was universally agreed that Moses the law, but someone else, perhaps much later,
was the principal author of the whole Pen­ committed his ideas to writing. However 31 :9,
my weaves a rich tateuch. It therefore seems best to tackle the 'Moses wrote down this law and gave it to the
First and foremost issue of composition under three heads. First, priests', and 31 :24, 'Moses finished writing in a
generosity of G.od. the traditional theory of Mosaic authorship. book the words of this law from beginning to
lent of the promises Secondly, the consensus critical view, the end', seem to exclude such a loose view of
ob. Israel had bee~ documentary hypothesis, which reigned almost Mosaic authorship. If then Moses wrote
experienced God s unchallenged from 1880 to 1980. Thirdly, Deuteronomy, it would seem likely that Exodus
Mt. Sinai, and was modem theories. to Numbers were written by him earlier in his
\d flowing with milk career, and that Genesis, the indispensable in­
The traditional view
ses ready for them to troduction to the other books, may well have
en them by God, not From pre-Christian times to the beginning of been composed by him too.
the nineteenth century it was accepted by nearly These are the arguments that led early Jewish
, but because God
- 8). everyone that Moses was the author of nearly all writers, the NT, and nearly everyone who
stresses Israel's un­ the Pentateuch. This is a natural conclusion to studied the Bible until about 1800 to conclude
ent sinfulness. They draw from a straightforward reading of Genesis that Moses was the author of the Pentateuch:
refused to enter the to Deuteronomy. From Ex. 2 onwards Moses is Consequently, Genesis was often called the first
.uraged them. They the leading actor in the story. The Lord reveal­ book of Moses, and so on. However in the nine­
ater. Even Moses lo~t ed himself to Moses at the burning bush (Ex. 3); teenth century this ancient consensus began to
.ord, and forfeited his then Moses negotiated with Pharaoh for Israel's crumble, and to this change of approach we
id Moses feared that release and brought the people through the Red must now turn.
I; they would forsak.e Sea to Sinai. There he personally received the
The 'documentary hypoth~sis'
maanite gods. And If Ten Commandments, other laws and the in­
hiven from the land, structions for erecting the tabernacle. The nar­ It all began with an interesting book written by a
e (chs. 9 - 11). rative stresses that many of the laws were not French doctor, J. Astruc in 1753. Astruc
47
THE PENTATEUCH
observed that in the early chapters of Genesis to suppose that Deuteronomy's laws were a
God is sometimes referred to as God and at dead letter from the time of Moses? This argu­
others as 'the LORD'. This suggested to him that ment of de Wette connecting Deuteronomy
at least two sources had been drawn on by with the centralization of worship in Josiah's day
Moses in the writing of Genesis. This was sup­ was to become one of the main planks in the
ported by the observation that there was 'Wellhausen synthesis' at the end of the century.
duplication of material in Genesis (e.g. two ac­ Most of Wellhausen's ideas had been an­
counts of creation in chs. I and 2). ticipated by others. But he transformed OT
Astruc had no intention of denying the scholarship with a book published in 1878,
Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch; he was sweeping away traditional views of the origin of
simply exploring what sources Moses may have the Pentateuch. Iffew of his ideas were new, the
used. Yet his source analysis became a key in­ way they were presented by Wellhausen was
gredient of later criticism. In the course of the brilliant and appealed very strongly in an era
nineteenth century his analysis was refined, and when the theory of evolution was new and
some scholars argued that these sources were believed by many to explain not just biological
later than Moses. change but many other historical developments.
About fifty years after Astruc a much more Wellhausen painted a picture of Israel's
radical proposal was put forward by W. M. L. religious development that seemed natural and
de Wette, who in his dissertation of 1805, and inevitable without the need for miracle or divine
in another work (1806-7), argued that revelation. In the earliest stages, he argued,
Deuteronomy was written in the time of Josiah Israelite religion was relatively unregulated.
(i.e. about seven.centuries after Moses) and that
People offered sacrifice when they liked and
the book of Chronicles gives a quite unreliable
where they liked, without any priestly in­
account of the history of Israel's worship. Both
terference. This is the situation Wellhausen saw
these ideas became central in the view of pen­
reflected in the books of Samuel and Kings. At
tateuchal origins that emerged later in the cen­
the end of the monarchy period King Josiah in­
tury. So it is appropriate here to note how de
tervened, limiting all worship to Jerusalem,
Wette reached his conclusions, for they are fun­
thereby greatly enhancing the power of the
damental to the new critical consensus often
priests, who were now able to control the details
known as the documentary hypothesis.
of worship. Once the priests had this power,
De Wette noted that Chronicles has much they consolidated it, and during the exile
more to say about worship than Kings does, (587-537 BC) they invented all sorts of rules and
although both deal with the same historical regulations about the details of worship, the
period. Hitherto scholars had regarded the status of the priests, their entitlement to tithes
details of Chronicles as an accurate supplement and sacrificial portions and so on.
to the picture in Kings, but de Wette argued Wellhausen then proceeded to show how this
that since Chronicles was written after Kings, it picture of Israel's religious evolution could be
could not be trusted. By dismissing the evidence tied in with the sources of the Pentateuch,
of Chronicles in this way he could more easily which had first been identified by Astruc.
argue that Deuteronomy too was a late work. Wellhausen accepted that four main sources
The language and atmosphere of Deut­ could be identified, which were designated by
eronomy differ from the preceding books, but the letters J, E, P and D. J, the Yahwistic source,
that hardly determines when it was written. uses the divine name 'the LORD' (Yahweh). It
What de Wette fastened on was Deuteronomy's comprises about half of Genesis and small parts
insistence that all worship should be conducted of Exodus and Numbers. E, the Elohistic
at the place which the Lord would choose. source, only uses the generic term 'God'
Deuteronomy forbids worship at the country (Elohim). It comprises about a third of Genesis
shrines, on the hilltop altars under every green and small parts of Exodus and Numbers. P, the
tree, but insists that sacrifices, and especially priestly source, like E uses the generic term
the national feasts of Passover, Pentecost and 'God'. It comprises about a sixth of Genesis
Tabernacles, must be held at the central sanc­ (mainly chs.l, 17, 23 and various genealogies)
tuary chosen by the Lord (ch. 16). A reading of and most of Ex. 25 - Nu. 36. 0 is the book of
Samuel and Kings suggests that such strict rules Deuteronomy.
were not introduced until the seventh century Wellhausen argued that Deuteronomy (D)
Be. Then in about 622 BC King Josiah abolished knows only the material found in J and E, but
all the country shrines and required worship to that P knows the material in J, E and D. This
take place only in Jerusalem (2 Ki. 22 - 23). If gives a relative ordering of the material in the
Deuteronomy's principles for worship were not Pentateuch; J-E-D-P. He then argued that
enforced until Josiah's day, is it not easier to the picture of worship in J and E matches the
suppose the principles were invented then than practice of worship in the monarchy period,
48
THE PENTATEUCH
.y's laws were a
when lay people could worship where and when Similarly H. Gressmann (1913) argued that a
loses? This argu­
they liked. The picture of Dleuteronomyl fits in primitive form of the Ten Commandments
19 Deuteronomy
with the aims of Josiah's centralizing reforms, came from the time of Moses.
hip in josiah's day
while P's attention to the minute details of wor­ More important for confirming the impres­
ain planks 10 the
ship fits in with the dictatorship of the priestly sion that acceptance of the documentary
.nd of the century.
class which Wellhausen surmised had hypothesis did not mean saying good-bye to any
:as had been an-
developed in and after the exile. He therefore knowledge of the patriarchal era was the work of
transformed OT
suggested that J should be dated c. 850 BC, E A. Alt (1929). He argued that the picture of
Iblished in 1878,
C. 750 BC, 0 c. 622 BC and Pc. 500 Be. These patriarchal religion in a few passages in Genesis
:ws of the origin of
sources, once they had been written down, were (31:5, 29, 53; 46:3; 49:25) was true to their
deas were new, the
merged one after the other, so that eventually nomadic life-style, with the essential idea of a
y Wellhausen was
the current Pentateuch emerged in the time of tribal god, who protected the tribe in its
strongly in an era
Ezra (fifth century BC). wanderings and blessed it with children.
ion was new and
The implications of this approach to the Pen­ Although Alt relied on a very narrow range of
L not just biological
taeuch were far-reaching. If the earliest sources, texts, his picture of patriarchal religion
rical developments.
J and E, were written about six centuries after resembles in outline the picture a more tradi­
picture of Israel's
Moses, they could hardly be relied on to give an tional reader might construct.
seemed natural and
accurate picture of that era, let alone the Similarly, by focusing on those elements
for miracle or divine
patriarchal era. And if J and E were untrustwor­ common to both J and E, M. Noth (1930) was
stages, he argued,
thy, how much more so were the later sources 0 able to construct a picture of Israel before the
uively unregulated.
and P. Wellhausen himself was quite clear about monarchy that consisted of a league of tribes
-hen they liked a~d
the consequences of his critical position. J and E bound together by covenant, fighting holy wars
lit any priestly 10­
give us no historical information about the and worshipping at a central shrine. Once again,
uion Wellhausen saw
patriarchal period; instead they project the though Noth was very far from finding much
amuel and Ki~gs ..At
religious situation of the monarchy period into history in the Pentateuch itself, he was sket­
eriod King josiah 10­
hoary antiquity like a 'glorified mirage'. Similar­ ching an outline ofIsrael's religious constitution
rrship to Jerusalem,
ly, 0 and P reflect the concerns of the time in that was not dissimilar to an uncritical reading
.g the power of t~e
which they were composed, not the Mosaic era. of Exodus to Judges. In a similar way G. von
e to control the detailS
We IIhausen's negative judgment about the Rad (1938) argued that the earliest Bible creed
iests had this pow:r,
historical worth of the Pentateuch initially evok­ in Dt. 26 gradually developed in the course of
nd during the exile
ed a very hostile reaction. Nevertheless, his ap­ time into our present Pentateuch. By affirming
ed all sorts of rules and
proach soon became widely accepted by critical a continuity between the oldest elements in the
~tails of worship, the
Protestant scholarship. It took much longer for Pentateuch and the existing work and finding a
r entitlement to tIthes
it to be embraced by Catholic or Jewish slim historical kernel within it, these scholars
id so on. . scholars. helped to make the documentary hypothesis
~eded to show how this The acceptance of this theory was aided by more palatable.
nis evolution could be several factors. First, it was accepted and ad­ The archaeological approach of the American
es of the Pentateuch, vocated by scholars like S. R. Driver, who, W. F. Albright and his school further enhanced
identified by Astruc. unlike Wellhausen, did believe in biblical in­ the impression that the Pentateuch could be
hat four main sources spiration and argued that the late dating of the trusted, even ifits constituent sources were very
ich were designated by pentateuchal sources did not affect their late. They argued that the names of the
J the Yahwistic source, spiritual value. One could accept Wellhausen's patriarchs were typical names of the early se­
,h'e LORD' (Yahweh). It critical theories without betraying the Christian cond millennium, that the migrations and semi­
Genesis and small p.ar~s faith and becoming an atheist. nomadic life-style of the patriarchs also fitted
bers. E, the ElohIstI~ Secondly, and probably more significant in this period, and that many of the legal rites and
e generic term 'God the long run, were the modifications made to family customs mentioned in Genesis (e.g. giv­
about a third of GenesIs the documentary theory by the form-critical ing dowries) were also attested in old non­
Ius and Numbers: P, the school of Gunkel, AIt, Noth and von Rad. By biblical texts. This all showed the essential
~ uses the genenc terf!l arguing that behind the relatively late sources historical trustworthiness of Genesis. R. de
bout a sixth of Gen 7sls 0, E, 0, P) there were old traditions, (some in­ Vaux's The Early History ofIsrael (1971) is pro­
and various genealogies) deed reaching back to, or even before Moses), bably the greatest monument to this approach,
Nu. 36. 0 is the book of this form-critical school restored trust in the combining judiciously the insights of ar­
historical value of the Pentateuch to some ex­ chaeology with the critical methods of AIt, Noth
I that Deuteronomy (D) tent. It may after all tell us something about the and Wellhausen to produce a quite positive view
rial found in J and E, b~t periods to which it purports to relate; maybe not of Israel's historical development.
terial in J, E and. D ..ThiS a lot, but certainly more than the nil returns of There was thus a consensus across the
.ing of the matenal 10 the Wellhausen. For example, Gunkel in his com­ scholarly world that there were four main
I-P. He then argued that mentary on Genesis (1901) suggests that the sources 0, E, 0, P) in the Pentateuch, mostly
ip in J and E matches .the earliest form of the patriarchal stories came written long after 1000 BC, which, despite their
in the monarchy penod, from before Israel's settlement in the land. age, gave a good insight into the history ofIsrael
49
THE PENTATEUCH
between 2000 and 1300 BC. significant than theirs. Yet Westermann, while
holding fast to a tenth-century date for the J
The collapse ofthe consensus
source (not the sixth century as Van Seters
The 1970s saw the publication of several holds) does more or less dispense with the E
seminal works which initiated a period of great source. The patriarchal stories tend to be view­
turmoil in pentateuchal studies. In 1974 T. L. ed by Westermann as a substantial unity from
Thompson presented a thorough examination the hand of J, with occasional inserts from the
of the oft-cited archaeological arguments for the much later P source.
historical character ofthe patriarchal narratives. Another trend in biblical studies that began to
He showed that many of the arguments proved make its mark in the 1970s has encouraged
much less than was often alleged, indeed that scholars to read the Pentateuch as a unity. The
sometimes the Bible or the parallel non-biblical new literary criticism is primarily concerned
sources had been misinterpreted to bolster with understanding works in their existing form
belief in Genesis. There were some elements not with the process of their composition. It is
left that looked early, e.g. the names of the concerned with the arrangement of works as
patriarchs, but if one believed that Genesis was wholes, their theme, the use a narrator makes of
written after 1000 BC, as Thompson did, these devices such as repetition, mimesis (portrayal of
could be explained quite differently. reality), and dialogue; the depiction of character
J. Van Seters (1975) went further in querying and motive within narrative. The old criticism,
the critical consensus. He argued, not that the on the other hand, was preoccupied with
patriarchal stories were undatable as Thompson authorship, the date of composition, sources,
did, but that they actually fitted conditions and and the historical circumstances surrounding
legal institutions of the sixth century BC. Fur­ the writing of the text. The new literary
thermore, he queried the two-century old belief criticism has led to a much greater appreciation
that the variation in the names of God ('the of the techniques of the Hebrew writers and
LORD'/'God') or that parallel stories (cf Gn.12 often, as a consequence, to a rejection of the
/Gn. 20) were necessarily indicators of different criteria used to distinguish sources, For exam­
writers or sources. In fact Van Seters went a long ple, whereas repetition tended to be viewed by
way to eliminating the E source in Gn.12 - 26, older critics as a mark of multiple sources, new
arguing that it was not a coherent entity, but just critics tend to regard it as an important nar­
early elements incorporated by J, who was the rative device, which can be exploited by a single
major author of this part of Genesis. author for dramatic effect. There has been no
R. Rendtorff (1977), like Van Seters, dis­ frontal attack by new literary critics on the
pensed with many of the standard criteria for documentary hypothesis, but many asides from
distinguishing sources and poured scorn on e.g. R. Alter (1981) and M. Sternberg (1985),
many of the arguments put forward by scholars who indicate their dissatisfaction with the stan­
favouring a documentary, analysis. He argued dard source criticism. And the unified readings
that Genesis emerged in quite a different of the Pentateuch offered by Clines (see
fashion. There was one group of stories about bibliography) and Whybray owe much to the
Abraham, another group about Jacob, another new criticism.
about Joseph. These grew independently for a These new directions in pentateuchal studies
long while until they were joined together by an have broken the century-old critical consensus,
editor who linked up the originally separate but they have not established themselves as a
stories to form a coherent long narrative. new orthodoxy. They probably represent the
Finally, there was the great commentary on views of a vocal minority, whereas a silent ma­
Genesis by C. Westermann, published in in­ jority still hold a moderate form of the'
stalments from 1968 to 1982. Westermann is of documentary hypothesis such as de Vaux
similar vintage and outlook to de Vaux, whereas defended.
Thompson, Van Seters and Rendtorff are We can perhaps set out the main critical op­
younger radicals, and his work is probably more tions in a table:

Old documentary hypothesis New critical view


J 10th century Contain authentic 6th century Reflects late monarchy
echoes of Moses and or exilic situation
the patriarchs
E 8th century Not really a distinct
. source
D 7th century 7th century
P 6th century or later 6th century or later
50

THE PENTATEUCH
The new critical view retains the late dating there any history in the patriarchal stories, and
estermann, while of D and P of the old documentary hypothesis when were the opening chapters of Genesis
ry date for the J but rejects the distinction between J and E. It composed? Thirdly, how far can P and] be
y as Van Seters maintains that the enlarged] (roughly old] + E) sharply defined? When was the priestly material
Jense with the E does not give historical insight into the early composed? Finally, was Deuteronomy really
; tend to be view­ periods (i.e. the patriarchs, Moses or the composed to promote or justifyJosiah's reforms
:antial unity from judges), but rather into the beliefs of the Jews in in 622 BC? These issues are, of course, highly
[ inserts from the the exile. complex, taking up acres of print in many books,
Hitherto we have only looked at the views of and it is possible here to outline just one direc­
idies that began to mainlin.e critical Christian scholars. Critical tion of thought.
; has encouraged Jewish scholars have in recent years made the First, source analysis. It was Astruc who sug­
ch as a unity. The greatest contribution to the study of the ritual gested that the alternation between 'God' and
marily concerned texts of the Pentateuch (i.e. Ex. 25 - Nu. 36), 'the LORD' (Elohim/Yahweh) marked different
their existing form what is usually termed P. For example, sources. Nowadays it is widely accepted that
composition. It is Milgram has argued that the exilic dating ofP is this criterion does not serve to distinguish the
ment of works as mistaken. The laws on worship in Leviticus do sources] and E very well, so that many conclude
I narrator makes of not correspond to what was done in the temple that there is no E source. However, the distinc­
mesis (portrayal of when it was rebuilt after the exile, which they tion between the P and] sources is often main­
)iction of character should do if the book was written then. The tained on the strength of the divine-name
The old criticism,
language of these books(P) is more archaic than criterion and the sources' alleged difference in
preoccupied with
that of Ezekiel, the priest-prophet who preach­ style. On this basis the flood story (Gn. 6 - 9) is
riposition, sources,
ed about 600 Be. The style of worship, the often split into] and P versions. Yet even here
ances surrounding
equipment used in worship, and the priests' several recent writers have acknowledged that
The new literary
duties as described in Exodus to Numbers have the case is not proven. Others have pointed out
'reater appreciation
many similarities to what is known about wor­ that other ancient texts also use a variety of
lebrew writers and
ship in other parts of the ancient Near East of names for the same God, so why should this
I a rejection of the
the second millennium Be. This suggests to phenomenon in the Hebrew Bible indicate
sources. For exam­
these scholars that P (Ex. 25 - Nu. 36) is at least multiple sources? Often in Genesis a theological
led to be viewed by
pre-exilic and describes what happened in the reason is evident for the alternation. Where
ultiple sources, new
worship of the first temple, and maybe the God is the universal Creator of the world, the
an important nar­
tabernacle as well. However, few Christian God of foreigners as well as Israelites, 'God'
~xploited by a single
scholars have paid much attention to these argu­ (Elohim) is the preferred term. Where though
There has been no
ment and most still seem to regard P as an exilic he is the covenant partner, particularly ofIsrael,
.rary critics on the
or post-exilic work. 'the LORD' (Yahweh) is frequently used.
Lit many asides from
Thus the divine name criterion is a doubtful
l. Sternberg (1985), A conservative response . .
pointer to different sources. This IS not to say
action with the stan­ Given the current critical confusion about the that Genesis is a total unity that sprang com­
the unified readings Pentateuch, what can be affirmed about its pletely fresh from the mind of one author. It is
ed by Clines (see origins? Can it be trusted at all in what it says certain that the writer used a variety of sources,
Iy owe mlich to the about the eras of Moses and the patriarchs? Or genealogies, poems and narratives in creating
were the stories and laws just made up by the his work, but the names of God are by
pentateuchal studies exiles to express their hopes for the future? Is themselves an unreliable guide to source
Id critical consensus, the Pentateuch a substantial unity or is it com­ division.
.hed themselves as a posed of a variety of conflicting sources? The second major issue is the extent and date
Jbably represent the One response to the current debate about the of]. For simplicity the discussion here is confin­
whereas a silent ma-. Pentateuch might be: 'The critics are so divided ed to Genesis. The fragmentary nature of] in
[erate form of the among themselves that they cannot prove the later books makes its existence more pro­
such as de Vaux anything. So let us just go back to what the Pen­ blematic there. But in Genesis it comprises
tateuch says about itself and accept that Moses about 50% of the text according to the tradi­
: the main critical op- was its main author.' However, such a response tional documentary hypothesis; about 85% if,
fails to do justice to the earnestness of the with modern writers, E is not recognized as
debate and the very real issues that have been distinct; and nearly 100% if the P material was
raised. In attempting to set out a reasoned con­ written before] and has been worked into his
Leflects late monarchy servative reflection on the debate four issues composition.
.r exilic situation need to be addressed. First, how many sources The scope of ] thus remains subject for
can be identified in the Pentateuch? Are the debate and so does its date. The documentary
'-iot really a distinct traditional criteria for distinguishing the hypothesis held that] reflects the ideals of the
.ource sources valid? Secondly, does] date from the early monarchy, e.g. in the boundaries of the
time of the exile (c. 550 BC), early monarchy (c. promised land (Gn. 15:18-21), the implied rise
950 BC) or Moses (c. 1250 BC)? In particular is of the Davidic monarchy (Gn. 38; 49:10) and so
51
THE PENTATEUCH
on. More recent radical critics like Van Seters
Careful study of Deuteronomy by Milgrom and
have argued that J reflects the concerns of the
McConville has demonstrated that it knows P.
exiles yearning to return to Canaan, hence
Contrary to Wellhausen and his documentary
Genesis' preoccupation with God's promise of
hypothesis, Deuteronomy was written after P,
the land to Abraham and his descendants.
as the order of the biblical books itself suggests.
These observations about the interests of J cer­
This brings us to the final question, the date
tainly show its relevance to various epochs but
of Deuteronomy. For more than a century the
do not necessarily prove that it originated in
date of Deuteronomy has been taken as the fix­
those times. In fact, each of the three main parts
ed point in critical debate; all the other parts of
of Genesis, the 'proto-history' (chs. 1 - 11), the
the Pentateuch are dated relative to
patriarchal story (chs. 12 - 35) and the Joseph
Deuteronomy. Current critical discussion has
story (chs. 37 - 50) could have originated early.
hardly looked at this assumption. The source
The closest ancient Near Eastern parallels
analysis is questioned by some, J and P may be
to Genesis 1 - 11, the Atrahasis epic, the
redated by others, but that Deuteronomy is
Gilgamesh epic tablet 11, the Sumerian flood
from the late seventh century is hardly ques­
story, and the Sumerian king list all date from
tioned. It is simply accepted that the similarity
the early second millennium. Similarly, the por­
of Deuteronomy's style to that of Jeremiah and
trait of patriarchal life and religion drawn in
the books of Kings and that it contains the pro­
Genesis 12- 25 is unlike that of the Mosaic and
gramme for Josiah's reformation prove that it
subsequent periods. Names, religious practices
dates from that era.
and legal customs attested in these chapters of
Again these arguments cannot be properly
Genesis find parallels in the second millennium.
dealt with here. But their uncertainty may be
Finally there are features in the Joseph story
pointed out. First, similarity of Hebrew style
that suggest that it probably originated in the
does not prove a similar date for Deuteronomy,
Ramesside era, i.e. about the time of Moses.
Jeremiah and Kings. Literary styles changed
However, there are enough hints sprinkled slowly in the ancient Near East. It is more likely
throughout Genesis to show that if the book that Jeremiah and Kings were quoting from or
originated earlier than the monarchy period, it alluding to the earlier Deuteronomy to give
was at least revised then. Terms like Dan credibility to their own message. Jeremiah ap­
(14:14), Chaldeans (15:7) or Philistines pears to quote from all parts of Deuteronomy,
(21:32,34) and Joseph's title 'lord of his entire but never from the so-called deuteronomic
household' (45:8) look like modernizations to history (i.e. Joshua - 2 Kings). Secondly,
make the stories more easily intelligible to Deuteronomy does not promote the aims of
readers in monarchy times. Similarly, patriar­ Josiah's reformation by limiting all worship to
chal religion is described from a later perspec­ Jerusalem; rather it insists that an altar be built
tive. It was to Moses that the name Yahweh (the and sacrifices offered at what Josiah would have
LORD) was first revealed: the patriarchs wor­ called 'a high place', namely Mt. Ebal (Dt.
shipped God as EI Shaddai (God Almighty Ex. 27:5-7). This makes it inappropriate to regard
3:13-14; 6:3). Yet Genesis, acknowledging that Deuteronomy as a programme for, or a
the God who spoke to Moses was the God justification of, Josiah's reforms. Thirdly,
whom the patriarchs knew, interchanges the Deuteronomy does not seem to be aware of the
terms. Speeches by God tend to use the old big religio-political issues of the late monarchy
terms (EI Shadd ai, EI or Elohim), whereas the period. It is unaware of the division of the nation
narrator frequently speaks of God using later into two kingdoms. It gives no description of
terminology as 'the LORD' (Yahweh). Baalism and Canaanite worship, just condemn­
The P source is dated by the old documentary ing it in general terms. On the other hand, it
hypothesis and the new radicals to the exilic era demands the extermination of the Canaanites,
at the earliest. Here the notion that fragments of who by the seventh century had long since
Genesis (e.g. chs. 17,23) belong to P will not be disappeared as an identifiable entity.
examined; contrary to the critical consensus, These observations undermine the case for a
these passages do appear to be some of the older seventh-century date of Deuteronomy. There
parts of Genesis. The great bulk of the laws on are features in the book which make an earlier
worship between Ex. 25 and Nu. 36 are our con­ date more probable. First, it appears to be
cern here. The language and content of these quoted by the earliest writing prophets, Amos
sections show that the P material is much earlier and Hosea, in the eighth century Be. Secondly,
than the exile. Indeed Milgrom believes it it is arranged like Hittite treaties of the six­
reflects worship in the first, i.e. Solomonic, tem­ teenth to thirteenth centuries BC and the older
ple. Haran has traced some elements to worship laws of Hammurabi (c. 1750 BC), not like first­
in the even earlier tabernacle. This would mean millennium treaties. Thirdly, some of its laws
that Mosaic origin of the material is possible. on marriage seem closer to those of documents
52
THE PENTATEUCH
by Milgrom and of the second millennium than those of the first time. However Christian readers of the OT
that it knows P. millennium. These points do not require should remember that 'everything' (including
his documentary Mosaic authorship, but they suggest that an ear­ the Pentateuch) 'was written to teach us', not
; written after P, ly origin of Deuteronomy is possible. about theories of authorship, but to give us
ks itself suggests. 'hope' (Rom. 15:4), a hope disclosed first to
Conclusion Abraham, partially fulfilled in Moses' time, and
luestion, the date
han a century the 'In those days Israel had no king; everyone did ever more fully since. If we make the divine
n taken as the fix­ as he saw fit' is Judges' acid comment on the purpose of Scripture ('training in righteous­
the other parts of anarchy of that time. A similar lack of consensus ness'; 2 Tim. 3: 16) our paramount concern, we
ed relative to is found. today in the debates about the Pen­ may keep critical debates in their proper
cal discussion has tateuch. Scholarly arguments are traded to and perspective.
ption. The source fro, but underlying the debate there are many
ie, J and P may b.e undeclared assumptions. For example, should G.]. Wenham
t Deuteronomy IS we expect texts to be coherent unities or collec­
.ry is hardly ques­ tions of fragments? Is the Bible innocent until Further reading
that the similarity proved guilty or guilty until proved innocent? D. ]. A. Clines, The Theme of the Pentateuch
iat of Jeremiah and Does the teaching of Jesus and the apostles aSOT Press, 1978).
it contains the pro­ determine our view of the inspiration and R. W. L. Moberly, The Old Testament ofthe Old
lation prove that it authorship of these books? Different scholars Testament (Fortress, 1992).
answer these questions differently and their in­ R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the OldTestament
cannot be properly tegrity must be respected. (Eerdmans/IVP IUK, 1970).
uncertainty may be Reasons have been given above for seeing ]. H. Sailhammer, The Pentateuch as Narrative
.ty of Hebrew style much greater unity within the Pentateuch than (Zordervan, 1992) .
e for Deuteronomy, is often alleged by source critics, and for accep­ G.]. Wenham; 'Method in Pentateuchal Source
rary styles changed ting the basic.historical trustworthiness of these Criticism', in Vetus Testamentum 41 (1991),
~ast. It is more hkely books. But those who do not share a belief in the pp.84-109.
'ere quoting from. or essential coherence of texts, or who start with an - - - - , 'The Date of Deuteronomy:
euteronomy to grve assumption of their guilt, may find little dif­ Linch-Pin of Old Testament Criticism',
essage. Jeremiah ap­ ficulty in sweeping aside these arguments. So Theme/ios 10/3 (1985), pp. 15-20; 11/1
rts of Deuteronomy, doubtless the debates will continue for a long (1985), pp. 15-18.
called deuteronomic
~ Kings). Secondly,
Jromote the aims of
miting all worsh1p ~o
; that an altar be built
hat Josiah would have
unely Mt. Ebal (Dt.
lappropriate to regard
ogramme for, or a
s reforms. Thirdly,
eern to be aware of the
s of the late monar~hy
ie division ofthe nation
1ves no description of
~orship, just condemn,­
On the other hand, It
tion of the Canaan~tes,
entury had long since 1
fiable entity. 1
ndermine the case for a (ij
,f Deuteronomy. Th~re .!Ii
, which make an earlier
First, it appears to be
writing prophets, Amos
th century BC. Second~y,
I
trite treaties of the S1X­
nturies BC and the older .
1750 BC) not like first- .
~hirdly, so~e of its laws.
.er to those of documents .
53