Pentateuch, 3

See also the McClintock and Strong Biblical Cyclopedia.

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 21:1-36 ff and occasional later passages, such as the judgment in the case of Shelomith's son (Le 24:10 ff). No doubt these laws were memorized by the elders.

Secondly, the legislation of Dt 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 33:1-56 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 13:1-33. 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 Dt (see in detailSBL , 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"; Nu 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"; Ge 4:12: na' wa-nadh, "a fugitive and a wanderer"; Ge 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 De 28:1-68. 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 14:1-24 represents Abram as having inflicted a defeat on the enemy with only 318 men (Ge 14:14), whereas from Ge 14:24 (compare Ge 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 22:1-34 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 Jos 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 Ex 9:19,22, etc., which recognize that some cattle still existed. Or again the term may be regarded as limited by Ex 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 Ge 10:1-32 will claim that Ge 14:1-24 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 24:1-67 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 33:1-56 the journeys seem designed to present 40 stations and must not be held to exclude camping at other stations not mentioned; Ge 10:1-32 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".


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 furtherEPC , Isa 47:1-15 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 De 4:1-49 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 19:1-37. 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

Bible Verses by Topic Nave's Bible Concordance McClintock and Strong Biblical Cyclopedia Online Bible KJV Dictionary

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