Old Testament History and Recent Archeology from Moses to David -- By: Gleason L. Archer, Jr.

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 127:506 (Apr 1970)
Article: Old Testament History and Recent Archeology from Moses to David
Author: Gleason L. Archer, Jr.


Old Testament History and Recent Archeology
from Moses to David

Gleason L. Archer, Jr.

From the earliest period of the development of the documentary hypothesis in the nineteenth century, it was assumed that Moses lived in an age prior to the knowledge and use of writing in ancient Israel. Since then there has been a wealth of archeological evidence proving that writing was well known and widely practiced by all of Israel’s neighbors during the second millennium B.C., and employed even for common purposes by the rank and file of the citizenry. It has nevertheless been difficult for those who still advocate the Wellhausen hypothesis to accept the possibility that Moses could himself have composed the five books of the Pentateuch and committed them to writing. Even the advocates of the form critical approach have insisted that while very ancient oral traditions may have been embodied in the Pentateuch, yet they were not committed to writing until the sixth century B.C. or later.

It is interesting to see how this carry-over of the older view still persists in the thinking of the Swedish scholar Ivan Engnell, who insisted that the art of writing was an affair of the specialist in Palestine.1 His argument that the written literature of Ugarit was unique in Syria-Palestine is belied by the facts that documents in the Ugaritic script have been discovered in Mount Tabor, at Beth-shemesh, and at Taanach. As Kitchen suggests,2 the reason for the scarcity of written materials from the late second millennium in Palestine is probably due to the fact that they made extensive use of papyrus (imported, of course, from Egypt), and in the

climatic conditions which prevailed through much of the Holy Land (excluding the Dead Sea region) this was a very perishable medium for documentation. Nevertheless, there have been some epigraphs found on a stone in a linear alphabetic script from the late Bronze Age in Palestine itself.3 It is safe to say that if the Ugaritic literature had been known to the scholarly world in the time of Wellhausen, it would have been impossible to assign to a late period those sections of the so-called priestly document of the Pentateuch which exhibit terms and phrases already appearing in fifteenth-century Ras Shamra. Some of the hitherto difficult expressions and passages in Leviticus have recently been cleared up by parallels in the Ugaritic tablets composed in the eighteenth to the fifteenth centuries B.C. Some of these have been noted by E. A. Speiser.4 Some of these expressions in Leviticus were alre...

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