The Shifting Sands Of Old Testament Criticism: Does Jeremiah 7:22-23 Reject Animal Sacrifices As Part Of The True Religion Of Moses? -- By: Paul Ferguson

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 27:3 (Summer 2014)
Article: The Shifting Sands Of Old Testament Criticism: Does Jeremiah 7:22-23 Reject Animal Sacrifices As Part Of The True Religion Of Moses?
Author: Paul Ferguson


The Shifting Sands Of Old Testament Criticism:
Does Jeremiah 7:22-23 Reject Animal Sacrifices As Part Of The True Religion Of Moses?

Paul Ferguson

For I did not speak to your fathers or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices.
But this is what I commanded them saying, “Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.”

Je 7:22-23, NKJV

The Scholarly View Of The Fifties And Sixties

Back in the 1950s when I was beginning college as a religion major in a liberal school, animal sacrifice was disparaged and called “slaughterhouse religion.” The head of my department, also a comedian, said, “The Israelites had all those smelly tabernacle skins spattered with blood. No wonder the Ammonites and Moabites wouldn’t let them in their country!”

When I was out in the hall, someone came up to this professor and asked him, “What do you do about people that believe the Bible is inerrant?” He advised the poor student to tell them, “You can believe anything you want to, but these seem to be the facts.” For good measure he added, “This is what the scholars say.” What if a “scholar” said otherwise? Well, then, he wouldn’t be a scholar, would he? In my Philosophy of Religion class the textbook said, “In the case of Jeremiah, indeed, the prophet goes so far as apparently to maintain that Yahweh had never imposed ritual requirements upon Israel at all.” He cited Je 7:21-23 as proof.1 Citing the same verses, the text for my Hebrew History course said, “In another oracle, Jeremiah repudiated the practice of sacrifice.”2

About the same time, the Swedish scholar J. Lindblom confidently stated: “The fact remains that Jeremiah believed that in the time of Moses commands about animal sacrifices were unknown.”3 They were all influenced by German scholars like Wilhelm Rudolph and Martin Noth, who claimed the practice of sacrifice came not from Moses, but from the Canaanites.4

A Major Scholarly Shift In The Eighties

One might have been tempted to ask the department head, “What if I don’t like what these ‘scholars’ are writing?” The answer to this question would depend on the publication date on the liberal book you were reading. You got one ...

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