Authorship Of The Pentateuch -- By: S. C. Bartlett

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 020:80 (Oct 1863)
Article: Authorship Of The Pentateuch
Author: S. C. Bartlett


Authorship Of The Pentateuch

Rev. S. C. Bartlett

It is the object of the present Article to set forth some of the reasons which justify intelligent men in holding the firm belief that Moses, the great leader of Israel, was the author of the Pentateuch.

In maintaining this proposition, it is not asserted, (1) that the present text is free from all errors of transcription; nor

(2) that the volume has never received any minor modification, made by inspired, and therefore competent, men; nor

(3) that Moses incorporated into his work no pre-existing materials, handed down by valid tradition or written record; nor (4) that the account of Moses’s own death and character (Deut. 34) was written by himself.

There are reasons, both general and special, for admitting that the text of the Pentateuch, though preserved with extraordinary care, yet contains some minor blemishes. It is, moreover, so far from being intrinsically probable that the oldest portion of the scriptures should have passed, for a thousand years through the hands of inspired men without any explanatory modification whatever, that a few surface-marks of revision would not offer the slightest objection to evidence, otherwise conclusive, of the early origin of the volume as a whole. It does not require a tradition that the prophet Ezra revised the earlier scriptures, to render plausible a procedure which now yearly takes place in some form in the editing of old books. That Moses may have used, with or without change, other oral or written narratives, at the same time endorsing them, is no more incompatible with his proper authorship, than a similar course invariably pursued by modern historians is inconsistent with their claims as authors. We may, in due time, have occa-

sion to allude to the indications that such was the fact. And furthermore, the annexation of a sketch of his death and character directly to the end of his narrative, is only the simplest mode of doing what is constantly practised now in the prefixing of a biographical notice of an author to his works. Thus the closing portion of Macaulay’s fifth volume of history (in the American edition), is a sketch of his life and writings; and that of Hugh Miller’s last work (also in the American edition) is a memorial of his death and character, although in each of these instances the modern art of printing has transposed the order of composition, and placed first that which in a manuscript must have stood last.1 The appended sketch of Moses’s death and character, therefore, so far from impairing the proof of his authorship, i...

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