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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible
HEXATEUCH . The first five books of the OT were known in Jewish circles as ‘the five-fifths of the Law.’ Christian scholars as early as Tertullian and Origen adopted the name Pentateuch , corresponding to their Jewish title, as a convenient designation of these books. ‘The Law’ was regarded as a unique and authoritative exposition of all individual and social conduct within Israel: a wide gulf seemed to divide it from the Book of Joshua, which inaugurated the series of historical books known as ‘the Latter Prophets.’ As a matter of fact, this division is wholly artificial. The five books of the Law are primarily intended to present the reader not with a codification of the legal system, but with some account of the antiquities and origins of Israel, as regards their religious worship, their political position, and their social arrangements. From this standpoint, nothing could be more arbitrary than to treat the Book of Joshua as the beginning of an entirely new series: ‘its contents, and, still more, its literary structure, show that it is intimately connected with the Pentateuch, and describes the final stage in the history of the Origines of the Hebrew nation’ (Driver, LOT [Note: OT Introd. to the Literature of the Old Testament.] 103). Critics have accordingly invented the name Hexateuch to emphasize this unity; and the name has now become universally accepted as an appropriate description of the first six volumes of the OT. In this article we propose to consider (I.) the composition, (II.) the criticism, and (III.) the characteristics of the Hexateuch.
I. Composition of the Hexateuch. 1. The Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch was for long regarded as an unquestioned fact. The basis of this belief was the Jewish tradition of their origin which the Church took over with the books themselves. But this wide-spread and long-prevailing tradition cannot be sustained after an impartial investigation of all the facts. Indeed, the Pentateuch itself never claims such an authorship.
The account of the death of Moses and Joshua must, of course, have been added by a later writer. The description of Moses’ character in Numbers 12:3 cannot be the comment of the legislator himself; while the appreciation of his character which closes Deuteronomy ( Deuteronomy 34:10 ) suggests that a long line of prophets had intervened between the writer’s own time and Moses’ death. Similarly, Genesis 12:6 is a reminder to the readers that the Canaanites were the original inhabitants of Palestine a fact which it would have been obviously needless for Moses to record, but which subsequent generations might have forgotten. Again, in Genesis 36:31 a reference is made to the time ‘before there reigned any king over the children of Israel,’ which is explicable only as the comment of an author who lived under the monarchy. The words contain no hint of any predictive suggestion such as might be held to dispute the legitimacy of the same inference being drawn from the law of the kingdom ( Deuteronomy 17:14 ), though even then it would be difficult to deny that, if Mioses provided for the contingency of a monarchical constitution, the form in which his advice is recorded is largely coloured by reminiscences of the historical situation in the reign of Solomon.
Certain passages do, indeed, lay claim to Mosaic authorship e.g. the defeat of the Amalekites ( Exodus 17:14 ) and the Book of the Covenant ( Exodus 24:4 ), the central part of the Deuteronomic legislation, i.e. chs. 12 26 ( Deuteronomy 31:24 ). (In the same way Joshua 24:26 refers to the preceding section, not to the whole book.) In fact, the care with which the writers or editors felt it necessary to emphasize a Mosaic origin for certain sections, is the surest indication that it never occurred to them to attribute the remaining portions of the book either to Moses or to Joshua, and that they wished their readers to exercise as much discrimination as themselves in such matters. How did the belief in the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch arise? Probably it was a natural inference from the language of Deuteronomy. There is absolutely nothing to suggest his name as the probable author of the four earlier books; but when once Deuteronomy was added to the collection, the name of Moses was transferred from that book to the whole work; much as, at a later period, the name of David was prefixed to the Psalter, though there has practically never been any doubt as to the inclusion of many post-Davidic psalms in that anthology of religious poems.
2. The indirect evidence of the Hexateuch, however, is of more importance; and the multitudinous repetitions, divergences, and even contradictions thus brought to light furnish a convincing proof that the books of the Hexateuch are the result of complicated literary processes, and cannot by any possibility be ascribed to a single author. It will be well to consider these phenomena as they concern respectively the legal and the historical sections of the Hexateuch.
( a ) The demonstration that in the Hexateuch we have at least three independent bodies of law , corresponding to the requirements of as many distinct historical situations, may be considered one of the most brilliant, as it is also one of the most certain, of the achievements of Biblical criticism.
(i.) The Book of the Covenant (= C) , Exodus 20:1-26; Exodus 21:1-36; Exodus 22:1-31; Exodus 23:1-33 . In these laws we catch a glimpse of primitive Israel. They are directed to the simple needs of an agricultural community. In religious matters, three feasts are mentioned when the sanctuary must be visited; and sacrifice may be done to Jehovah in any place, upon rough altars of earth or unhewn stone.
(ii.) The Deuteronomic Code (= D [Note: Deuteronomist.] ) gives unmistakable evidence of an advanced civilization. Seven feasts are mentioned; and their original agricultural character is wholly subordinated to their religious significance; the permission as to the numerous localities where Jehovah might be met and worshipped is arbitrarily and emphatically abrogated.
(iii.) The Levitical legislation, or Priestly Code (= P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] ) , presupposes rather than anticipates a completely altered situation. The consciousness of sin, and the need of forgiveness, had taken the place of the earlier spirit of joyous festivity which came at stated times ‘to see Jehovah’ (an expression judiciously altered by orthodox scribes in later times into ‘to be seen by, or to appear before, Jehovah’). Accordingly P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] describes with the utmost fulness the ritual of the Day of Atonement; this’ culminating institution of the Levitical system ‘is apparently unknown to all previous legislation. P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] , moreover, is in open conflict with D [Note: Deuteronomist.] on the subject of the priesthood. In pre-exilic days the Levites were priests, even if one family, that of Aaron, may have enjoyed a special pre-eminence; but P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] takes the utmost pains to distinguish ‘the priests, the sons of Aaron,’ from ‘the Levites,’ the subordinate ministers of the sanctuary a fact which practically proves the composition of the Priestly Code to have been subsequent to the reforms indicated by Ezekiel. Further innovations may be observed in the means adopted for the provision of the priesthood. Thus, while in D [Note: Deuteronomist.] the worshipper himself consumes the firstlings, though of course the priest receives his due, in P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] the worshipper has no part or lot therein, as they are unreservedly appropriated for the support of the officiating minister. Other differences have also been detected.
Now these divergences might conceivably be susceptible of being explained away by harmonistic ingenuity, were not the conclusions they suggest borne out by corroborative testimony drawn from two independent quarters.
Historically it can he shown that these different codes correspond to different stages of Israel’s development. It can be shown that D [Note: Deuteronomist.] was unknown before Josiah, and P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] before the Exile. A minute and patient investigation of such contemporary evidence as we possess in the historical books has proved conclusively that many of the laws of the Pentateuch as a whole were for centuries wholly unknown to the religious leaders or social reformers of the country. It has also been shown that on two occasions far-reaching changes were taken in hand on the lines, and on the basis, of those two later codes, embodied in Deuteronomy and Leviticus.
Linguistically it has become no less evident that each code has its own peculiar terminology, its own stylistic idiosyncrasies, its own characteristic mode of presentation. The continual recurrence of remarkable words, phrases, and even sentences, in each of the three codes, coupled with the fact that this distinctive phraseology and vocabulary is strictly confined to that particular code, and does not reappear in either of the others, practically excludes the possibility of their emanating from the same author.
It may therefore be held to be beyond reasonable dispute that the legal portions of the Hexateuch are incompatible either with unity of authorship or with an even approximately contemporaneous promulgation. Language shows that they are not the work of the same legislator; history is equally decisive against their being the product of a single age.
( b ) Passing from the legal to the narrative portion of the Hexateuch , we are confronted with a problem even more intricate and involved.
(i.) There are frequent repetitions . Continually we see the clearest traces of the same event being twice recorded. We may instance the story of Creation, the Flood, the history of Joseph, the Plagues of Egypt, the giving of quails and the sending of manna, the history of the spies, the rebellion of Korah, the appointment of Joshua, the conquest of Canaan. The names of various personages and famous sanctuaries are explained twice and even thrice. These examples must by no means be considered exhaustive: they could be multiplied almost indefinitely. It might, of course, be argued that the author deliberately repeated himself, but
(ii.) These repetitions are marked by a corresponding change of language , and a difference of representation in the events they describe. We shall take the latter, the material differences, first.
The second story of Creation (Genesis 2:4-25 ) seems to know nothing of the six days, and gives an order of the creative acts (man vegetation animals woman) evidently opposed to that given in the first chapter.
In the two accounts of the Flood (Genesis 6:18-22 , Genesis 7:1-24 ), the former states that two of every sort of beast entered the ark ( Genesis 6:19 , Genesis 7:15 ), while the latter states with equal explicitness that for one couple of unclean beasts, seven couples of clean animals were to be admitted ( Genesis 7:2-3 ). One account gives the duration of the Flood as 61 days; the other as a year and 10 days.
In Joseph’s history, while one writer explains that at Reuben’s suggestion he was thrown into a pit from which he was stolen by the Midianites, the other records how Judah took the lead in selling him to the Ishmaelites (Genesis 37:15-20 the exact division is uncertain).
‘The narrative of the plagues (Exodus 7:14 to Exodus 11:10 ) is marked by a aeries of systematic differences, relating to four distinct points (1) the terms of the command addressed to Moses; (2) the demand made of Pharaoh; (3) the description of the plague; (4) the formula expressive of Pharaoh’s obstinacy’ (Driver, l.c. p. 25).
In theatory of the spies (Numbers 13:1-33; Numbers 14:1-45 ), the two accounts are so clear and complete that they can be extricated from each other without much difficulty and present us with two wholly independent narratives. In one, the spies explore only the south of Judah, and returning praise the fertility of the land, but dread the strength of the inhabitants; Caleb alone dissents from their counsel of despair, and is alone exempted from the punishment of exclusion from the Holy Land. In the other, the spies penetrate to the extreme north, and on their return expatiate on the aterility of the soil; Joshua is associated with Caleb both in the vain task of pacification and in the ensuing promise.
We may take as a final instance the rebellion of Korah (Numbers 16:1-50; Numbers 17:1-13 ), where it seems that three narratives have been combined. In one, Dathan and Abiram, of the tribe of Reuben, head a political rebellion against the civil domination of Moses, and are swallowed up alive by the earth; in the second, Korah and two hundred and fifty princes of the congregation protest against the limitation of priestly rites to the tribe of Levi, and are consumed by fire; in the third, Korah is the spokesman of an ecclesiastical agitation fostered by the Levites against the exclusive privileges enjoyed by Aaron and the Aaronic priesthood.
These differences of representation are invariably accompanied by a change of language and of characteristic expression so that out of inextricable confusion there are gradually seen to emerge three literary entities corresponding to the three great legal strata.
(1) Deuteronomy (= D [Note: Deuteronomist.] ) stands almost alone; but there are several Deuteronomic additions in the Book of Joshua, conceived in that spirit of bitter hostility to the heathen which was considered an indispensable accompaniment of meritorious zeal.
(2) The main body of the work corresponds to the Book of the Covenant, which is contained in its pages. Laborious investigations have established the fact that this is not a homogeneous document, but a composite work. Two writers have been distinguished; and from the fact that one uses ‘Jahweh,’ the other ‘Elohim’ as the ordinary title for God, they have been called respectively the Jahwist and the Elohist, contracted into J [Note: Jahwist.] and E [Note: Elohist.] while the combination of those histories which seems to have been effected at a comparatively early date is known as JE [Note: Jewish Encyclopedia.] .
(3) The framework of the entire history is due to the author of the Priestly Code, and this document, which supplies the schematic basis for the arrangement of the whole work, is accordingly known as P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] .
In conclusion, we should mention H [Note: Law of Holiness.] , which stands for the Law of Holiness ( Leviticus 17:1-16; Leviticus 18:1-30; Leviticus 19:1-37; Leviticus 20:1-27; Leviticus 21:1-24; Leviticus 22:1-33; Leviticus 23:1-44; Leviticus 24:1-23; Leviticus 25:1-55; Leviticus 26:1-46 ), a collection of moral and ceremonial precepts plainly anterior to the work of P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] in which it is embodied. There is also the redactor or editor (= R [Note: Redactor.] ), who fused the different narratives together into one smooth and connected whole.
Even this enumeration does not exhaust the capacity of critics to distinguish yet other sources used in the composition of the Hexateuch. The excessive subtlety and arbitrary methods by which some writers have succeeded in detecting the existence, and defining the precise limits, of multitudinous authors, editors, and revisers, often resting their hypotheses on no surer foundation than the extremely precarious basis of subjective preferences, must be pronounced rather a caricature than a legitimate development of critical ingenuity.
II. Criticism of the Hexateuch. It is the task of criticism to discover the respective dates, and to determine the mutual relations of the component parts of the Hexateuch.
1. Spasmodic attempts have been made throughout the 17th cent. towards a critical study of the Hexateuch; but to Jean Astruc, physician to Louis xiv., belongs the honour of being the first to deal with the subject in a scientific and systematic form (1753). He it was who first noted in Genesis the alternation of Divine names, and attributed this phenomenon to the two main sources from which he concluded Genesis was compiled. This discovery was developed by Eichhorn, and became known as the Document Hypothesis . Eichhorn observed that the variation of Divine names was regularly accompanied by other characteristic differences both from a linguistic and an historical standpoint. Further investigation revealed the presence of two sources, both employing the title ‘Elohim.’ This theory of a Second Elohist, from which at first many erroneous inferences were drawn, has established itself in the domain of Biblical criticism as a no less unassailable conclusion than the original discovery of Astruc himself.
2. These unexpected discoveries in the text of Genesis naturally suggested the critical analysis of the remaining books of the Hexateuch. But the absence of any such distinctive criterion as the use of the two Divine names made progress difficult. Geddes, however, in Scotland (1800) and Vater in Germany (1802) essayed the task. The latter, in particular, developed a consistent theory, known as the Fragment Hypothesis . He held that the perpetual repetitions and varying phraseology characteristic of the different sections, were susceptible of rational explanation only as an agglomeration of unconnected fragments, subsequently collected and not inharmoniously patched together by an industrious historian of Israel’s early literature and antiquities. He believed that Deuteronomy originated in the time of David; and that it formed the kernel round which the rest of the Pentateuch was gradually added.
3. The chief weakness of this second theory (itself a natural exaggeration of the first) lay in the fact that it entirely ignored those indications of a unifying principle and of a deliberate plan which are revealed by an examination of the Hexateuch as a whole. It was the great merit of de Wette to make this abundantly clear. But he also inaugurated an era of historical as opposed to, or rather as complementary to, literary criticism. He led the way in instituting a careful comparison between the contemporary narratives and the Pentateuchal legislation. As a result of this examination, he became convinced that Deuteronomy presented a picture of Israel’s life and worship unknown in Israel before the time of Josiah’s reformation. Only a short step separated this conclusion from the identification of D [Note: Deuteronomist.] with the law-book discovered in the Temple in Josiah’s reign and adopted by that monarch as the basis of his reforms ( 2 Kings 22:1-20 ). The elimination of D [Note: Deuteronomist.] considerably simplified, but did not finally solve, the main problem. A reaction against de Wette’s (at first) exclusively historical methods in favour of literary investigations resulted in establishing the connexion that subsisted between the Elohist of Genesis and the legislation of the middle books. This was considered the Grundschrift or primary document, which the Jahwistic writer supplemented and revised. Hence this theory is known as the Supplement Hypothesis , which held the field until Hupfeld (1853) pointed out that it ascribed to the Jahwist mutually incompatible narratives, and a supplementary position quite foreign to his real character.
4. We thus come to the Later Document Theory . Hupfeld’s labours bore fruit in three permanent results. (1) There are two distinct Elohistic documents underlying Genesis those chapters which have undergone a Jahwistic redaction ( e.g. 20 22) being due to an entirely different author from the writer of Genesis 1:1-31 . (2) The Jahwist must be regarded as an independent source no less than the Elohist. (3) The repetitions and divergences of the Jahwist entirely disprove the Supplement Theory, and show that he is probably not even acquainted with the Elohist, but furnishes a self-contained, complete, and independent account. Hupfeld found a valuable ally in NÃ¶ldeke, who, while introducing some minor modifications, showed how the Elohistic framework could be traced throughout the entire Hexateuch, and how it might easily be recognized by observing the recurrence of its linguistic peculiarities and the fixity of its religious ideas.
5. The Graf-Wellhausen Theory . It will be observed that although criticism had begun to disentangle the component parts of the Hexateuch, no effort was made to inaugurate an inquiry into the mutual relations of the different documents. Still less does it seem to have occurred to any one to regard these three literary stratifications as embodiments, as it were, of various historical processes through which the nation passed at widely different periods. A provisional solution had been reached as to the use and extent of the different sources. Graf (1866) instituted a comparison between these sources themselves; and, assuming the identity of D [Note: Deuteronomist.] with Josiah’s law-book as a fixed point from which to commence investigations, concluded, after an exhaustive inquiry, that while D [Note: Deuteronomist.] presupposes the Jahwistic laws in Exodus 20:1-26; Exodus 21:1-36; Exodus 22:1-31; Exodus 23:1-33; Exodus 34:1-35 , the bulk of the Levitical legislation ( i.e. P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] or the Elohistic Grundschrift ) must have been unknown to the writer. Testing this result by external evidence, he concluded that P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] could not have been produced before the Exile, and that in all probability it was compiled by Ezra.
Some details of Graf’s theory rendered it especially vulnerable; but it was adopted by Wellbausen, whose Prolegomena to the History of Israel (1883) may be regarded as the culminating point of Biblical criticism. In his opinion and in general we may consider his views on the main question indisputable a comparison of the laws with the evidence supplied by the prophetical and historical books shows that ‘the three great strata of laws embodied in the so-called books of Moses are not all of one age, but correspond to three stages in the development of Israel’s institutions.’ Moreover, he justly pointed out that there were no valid grounds to distinguish between the legal and the historical sections: JE [Note: Jewish Encyclopedia.] , which is mainly narrative, yet embodies the Sinaitic legislation; Deuteronomy gives a full historical presentation; the Priestly Code supplies the framework of the whole. The chronological order of these codes may now be considered beyond dispute Jahwistic, Deuteronomy, Priestly Code. ‘When the codes are set in their right places the main source of confusion in the study of the Old Testament is removed, the central problem of criticism is solved, and the controversy between modern criticism and conservative tradition is really decided’ (W. R. Smith, OTJC [Note: TJC The Old Test. in the Jewish Church.] 2 388).
III. Characteristics of the Hexateuch. It now remains to note the characteristics of the different documents, distinguishing not merely their literary differences but also their religious standpoint. Perhaps it will he simplest to begin with Deuteronomy, which, being more self-contained, also exhibits more unmistakably the clearest evidence of independent thought and language, and whose approximate age, moreover, can be determined with a precision little short of absolute certainty.
(1) D [Note: Deuteronomist.] . From 2 Kings 22:1-20; 2 Kings 23:1-37 we learn that a book of the Law discovered in the Temple created an immense sensation, and provided the basis for the national reformation undertaken by king Josiah in the year b.c. 621 at the instance of the prophetic party. The old theory was that this ‘Book of the Covenant’ was really the Pentateuch, composed ages before, long fallen into complete oblivion, at length accidentally re-discovered, and finally adopted as the rule of national righteousness. But this view is wholly untenable.
(i.) It is incredible that the whole Pentateuch should have disappeared so utterly, or been so wholly forgotten. The book discovered in the Temple made so great an impression because to every one concerned it brought an entirely new message.
(ii.) History has shown clearly that a very large part of the Pentateuch the Levitical legislation did not come into being, or at any rate into force, till very many years later: and that, therefore, these laws could not by any possibility have been included in this newly discovered work.
(iii.) We may add that the account mentions that ‘all the words of the book’ were read out loud twice on one day. The manifest impossibility of such a feat with reference to the entire Pentateuch has driven conservative critics to suggest a theory of appropriate selections; but this arbitrary supposition is little better than a dishonest evasion.
(iv.) Finally, the ‘Book of the Covenant’ is a title never given to the entire Pentateuch, but only to certain of its constituent elements.
If negative evidence proves that the law-book thus discovered was only a part of the Pentateuch, positive reasons leave practically no room for doubt that this part of the Law was identical with Deuteronomy.
(i.) The name ‘Book of the Covenant’ can refer only to Exodus 24:7 or to Deuteronomy. The other title ‘Book of the Law’ is repeatedly used in D [Note: Deuteronomist.] itself as its own appropriate and familiar designation.
(ii.) But we can best judge of the contents and character of Josiah’s law-book by observing its effect. The discovery of the book led to two important consequences, ( a ) An entire reform of the whole system of Israelite religion, the abolition of local sanctuaries, and the centralization of all sacrificial worship in the Temple at Jerusalem, ( b ) The celebration of a great Passover strictly in accordance with the ceremonies prescribed in the new hook, by the entire people.
Stylistically and linguistically, the distinguishing characteristics of D [Note: Deuteronomist.] are very marked. ‘In vocabulary, indeed, it presents comparatively few exceptional words; but particular words and phrases, consisting sometimes of entire clauses, recur with extraordinary frequency, giving a distinctive colouring to every part of the work’ (Driver, op. cit. 99). So much so, indeed, that it is possible to recognize immediately a passage of Deuteronomic authorship, or written under Deuteronomic influence. (For a convenient conspectus of such words and phrases the reader is referred to the careful synopsis, ib. 99 102.) The style is free and flowing; long and stately periods abound; but there is no affectation or monotony in the persuasive eloquence with which the writer urges the claims of Jahweh upon Israel.
Theologically, the distinctive feature of D [Note: Deuteronomist.] is the law of the one sanctuary, which is perpetually enforced with solemn warnings; but it is, after all, only an external method of realizing the inmost thought of the book the greatness of God’s love in the election and redemption of Israel, and the response for which He looks in the entire devotion of the human heart. This truly prophetical theme is handled with such warmth and tenderness as to justify its happily chosen designation as ‘the Gospel of the OT.’
(2) P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] . If D [Note: Deuteronomist.] represents the prophetic formulation of Mosaic legislation, viewed in the light of the subsequent history and religious experiences of four centuries, so does P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] show us how, a hundred years later, when the theocracy found practical embodiment in the realization of priestly ideals, the early history of Israel was interpreted in accordance with the requirements of a later age. Just as the law of the one sanctuary in Deut. is the practical application of Isaiah’s doctrine concerning the sanctity and inviolability of Zion, so the separation of the Levites from the priests, which is perpetually emphasized throughout Leviticus, is really the outcome of Ezekiel’s suggestion as to the best solution of the difficulty which arose when, in consequence of Josiah’s reformation, the high places were suppressed, and the priests who served them were consequently dispossessed of all means of subsistence. It was Ezekiel’s idea that the Levites, though previously enjoying full priestly rights, should forfeit their privileges in consequence of their participation in the idolatrous practices which had characterized the worship at the high places, and should be degraded to the performance of menial duties connected with the cultus established at Jerusalem. A comparison of the theology and of the historical circumstances presupposed by P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] practically demonstrates its origin to be later than Ezekiel. Of course this refers only to its literary production, not to all its contents, some of which ( e.g. the ‘Law of Holiness’) are plainly derived from a much more ancient source. It is, however, a mistake to view P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] as simply a code dealing with ritual regulations, or as the religious law-book of the restored community. The author, writing from a priestly standpoint, aims at giving a complete and systematic account of the ‘origins,’ both political and religious, of his nation. Accordingly chronological lists, enumeration of names, and other similar statistics constitute a prominent feature of his narrative; and by those signs throughout the entire Hexateuch it becomes easy to distinguish the writer. As a rule, he is content to give a mere outline of the history, unless it becomes necessary to explain the origin of some ceremonial institution. In representing God’s converse with men, he shrinks from using the forcible, familiar language which earlier writers employed without scruple. Anthropomorphisms are rare, angels and dreams are not mentioned. On the other hand, P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] nowhere deals with those deeper spiritual problems the origin of evil, the purpose of election, the idea of a universal mission, the Messianic hope which were so marked a feature in Israel’s religious consciousness, and which both claimed and received sympathetic, if not systematic, treatment from the other authors of the Hexateuch.
The style of P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] is scarcely less distinctive than that of D [Note: Deuteronomist.] . It is ‘stereotyped, measured, and prosaic.’ There is a mark d absence of the poetical element; and a no less marked repetition of stated formulÃ¦. Even the historical sections are marked by a quasi- legal phraseology, while the methodical completeness with which details are described, and directions given, tends at times to degenerate into monotonous prolixity.
There can be no doubt that P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] with its systematic chronology furnishes the historical and literary framework of the Hexateuch; but the obvious deduction that it was therefore the earliest document, to which the others were in process of time attached, has been proved erroneous by a comparison and combination of historical, literary, and theological considerations. We must, however, remember that ‘although there are reasons’ and reasons which cannot seriously be controverted ‘for supposing that the Priests’ Code assumed finally the shape in which we have it, in the age subsequent to Ezekiel, it rests ultimately upon an ancient traditional basis.â€¦ The laws of P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] , even when they included later elements, were still referred to Moses no doubt because in its basis and origin Hebrew legislation was actually derived from him, and was only modified gradually’ (Driver, op. cit. 154).
(3) JE [Note: Jewish Encyclopedia.] . We now come to the remaining portions of the Hexateuch which for convenience’ sake are known as the work of JE [Note: Jewish Encyclopedia.] . One is naturally suspicious of any needless multiplication of writers or documents; but the critical analysis of JE [Note: Jewish Encyclopedia.] forces us to the conclusion that it is really a composite work, embodying two distinct traditions combined with no little skill by a subsequent editor. From a literary no less than from a linguistic standpoint, diversities and even divergences appear which convert doubt into certainty. Yet the compilation has a character of its own, and principles of its own, which may be termed prophetical in distinction from those which find expression in the Priestly Code. Both the documents from which JE [Note: Jewish Encyclopedia.] was compiled traverse pretty much the same ground, and were probably composed at about the same time. This would largely account for their frequent similarities; and of course it would have been the editor’s aim to remove any glaring discrepancies. We thus find the whole narrative characterized by a kind of superficial homogeneity, and also by the same general religious beliefs and hopes. But notwithstanding these considerations, the original independence of the two documents is so manifest in the greater part of the narrative that it has become an almost unanimously accepted conclusion of Hexateuchal criticism. The two sources are distinguished in three ways. They often tell a different tale; they employ different language; they proclaim a different message.
It is in the history of the patriarchs that we first become aware of different accounts of the same transaction (neither of which can be referred to P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] ) standing side by side, although the independence is so marked that it passes into irreconcilable divergences. Similar phenomena abound throughout the Hexateuch. When once the possibility of two documents was suspected, stylistic distinctions, themselves hitherto unsuspected, began to confirm this conclusion. The use of ‘Jahweh’ by the one writer, of ‘Elohim’ by the other, furnished a simple criterion, which was not, however, uniformly available, especially after Genesis. But other differences, not sufficient in themselves to prove diversity of authorship, were yet collected in sufficient numbers to lend strong support to the hypothesis which had been arrived at on quite different grounds. But the distinctions are by no means merely literary artifices. While E [Note: Elohist.] arose in Northern Israel, as is evidenced by the interest the author manifests in the Northern sanctuaries, J [Note: Jahwist.] appears to have originated in the kingdom of Judah (cf. the prominent part that distinctively Southern stories occupy in the course of the patriarchal history, and the preeminence of Judah, rather than Reuben, among the sons of Jacob). J [Note: Jahwist.] is a patriot, and takes a loving pride in Israel’s early history; but he is not content with the mere facts, he seeks a philosophy of history. He embodies in his narrative his reflexions on the origin of sin, and on the character of Israel’s God. He not merely recounts the election of the patriarchs, but realizes that the election is according to purpose, and that God’s purpose embraces humanity. The whole patriarchal story is ‘instinct with the consciousness of a great future’ (Driver), which takes the form of a mission in , if not to , the world. The style of J [Note: Jahwist.] is free and flowing, vivid and picturesque. His delineation of character, his introduction of dialogue, his powerful description of scenes from common life, if somewhat idealistic, are yet so natural and graceful as to give the impression of unsurpassable charm. Speaking of Jahweh, he is untrammelled by theological scruples, and uses anthropomorphic and even anthropopathic expressions with frequency and without reserve.
E [Note: Elohist.] the Elohist or Ephraimite source is more restrained in his language, more didactic in his history, more theological in his religious beliefs. The prophetical element is strongly brought out. Abraham is expressly called a prophet, Miriam a prophetess. The function of Moses is prophetic in all but in name; the seventy elders receive prophetic inspiration; Joseph receives the spirit of Elohim; and Balaam’s prophetic office is recognized. E [Note: Elohist.] , moreover, both in his historical and in his legal sections, emphasizes the importance of a high ethical standard. God speaks through angels and human agents, reveals Himself in dreams. By this means the bold but forceful language of J [Note: Jahwist.] is toned down in conformity with the demands or fears of a more timorous orthodoxy. It is a curious fact that E [Note: Elohist.] ignores Israel’s mission to the world; indeed, the author takes little or no interest in the affairs of other nations, or in the universal significance of Israel’s history or Israel’s hope. It is the theocracy in Israel that engages all his attention, and his work may be considered as drawing from the early history of the national ancestors a much needed lesson for the age in which he wrote a lesson of the importance of high ethical standards, and of the reverence and worship due to the exalted Being who was Israel’s God.
Which of those two histories was the first to be committed to writing is a subject upon which critics are not agreed; but there is a general consensus of opinion that both authors wrote after the establishment of the monarchy. The usual date fixed is the century before b.c. 750. It must not, however, for a moment be imagined that the date of an event being recorded in a regular historical work is contemporaneous with its actual occurrence, and there is no valid reason for throwing discredit upon the narratives or representations of JE [Note: Jewish Encyclopedia.] because it was not till many years later that oral tradition concerning them became crystallized in a written record.
It may legitimately be asked to what extent the criticism of the Hexateuch affects our belief in the inspiration of the sacred books . Our answer is that we have gained immeasurably. (1) Assuming the whole Hexateuch to have been composed by Moses, the divergences and alterations throughout the entire legislation are so numerous and manifold as to lay the work of the great lawgiver open to the charge of endless inconsistency and ‘arbitrary experimentalizing.’ (2) The history of the chosen nation was, on the traditional view, perfectly unintelligible. For many centuries the majority of the laws given ex hypothesi at Sinai were not only impracticable but even unknown. Now we see how at each stage of the nation’s religious development God raised up men inspired by His Spirit to interpret the past in the light of present requirements, and the present by the aid of past experience; men who were commissioned to develop past legislation into a living message, to show how the Mosaic legislation contained within itself germs productive of an inextinguishable life, ever ready to renew itself in such laws or forms as were required to secure the preservation of the nation and the religious ideals for which it stood. It is true that the Hexateuch has been analyzed into many component parts; yet it was not by one man’s mouth, but ‘in many fragments and in many manners, that God spoke of old to the fathers’ ( Hebrews 1:1 ); and it is the realization of this progressive revelation in olden days which, more than anything else. enables Christians to grasp the majesty of that supreme and final dispensation wherein the same God has spoken once for all to us in His Son.
Ernest A. Enghill.
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Hastings, James. Entry for 'Hexateuch'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdb/h/hexateuch.html. 1909.