Book Review: Ancient Records and the Structure of Genesis -- By: Ron Zuck
Ancient Records and the Structure of Genesis
For the past 200 years, the book of Genesis has been under attack from many quarters. In the mid 1700’s a French physician, Jean Astruc, began promoting the “Documentary Hypothesis” which divided Genesis among various source documents. Identification of each source was based on different names for God. This theory, popularized and expanded in the late 1800’s by Graf and Wellhausen, is still in vogue among non-evangelical scholars and ministers. Much good material has been written to undermine this erroneous theory, but most people are not aware of it.
For the serious Bible student Ancient Records and the Structure of Genesis, by P.J. Wiseman, is a timely reissue. His son, also an outstanding scholar of the ancient Near East, Donald J. Wise-man, has recently updated and expanded this valuable work of his father’s. Originally published in 1936 as New Discoveries in Babylonia About Genesis, the demand was such that new printings were ordered immediately. What prompted such a phenomenal response? The content!
P.J. Wiseman invested many years in research before writing his book. For years at the sites of Ur and Kish during their actual excavation in Iraq, he observed the evidence first-hand. Concerned over the subjective analysis of the Documentary Hypothesis, which denies that Moses was the author of Genesis, Wiseman believed that by studying excavation results, he would gain an understanding of the literary methods used by ancient peoples.
Taking his cue from these studies, the origins of the book of Genesis unfolded to him. He theorized that Genesis was originally written on tablets in an ancient script by the patriarchs themselves (or dictated to a scribe), recording events with which they were intimately acquainted. Later, Moses compiled the books of the Pentateuch as we now have them. In Genesis he plainly directs attention to the true sources of his information.
In support of this theory, Wiseman in a simplified manner charts a course leading the reader through convincing evidence. R.K. Harrison makes this comment about Wiseman’s work, “After a brief description of archaeological discoveries in Babylonia, he examines ancient scribal methods before discussing the phrase, “These are the generations of … ‘ which for him holds the answer to the literary structure of the book of Genesis… By adducing comparable literary materials from secular society to support his thesis, he brings a greater degree of realism to his task than is achieved by any other treatment of the sources underlying Genesis… Wiseman’s work represents an important forward movement in an understanding of the source criticism and compilation of Genesis agains...
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