The Proposed Reconstruction Of The Pentateuch -- By: Edwin Cone Bissell

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 040:158 (Apr 1883)
Article: The Proposed Reconstruction Of The Pentateuch
Author: Edwin Cone Bissell


The Proposed Reconstruction Of The Pentateuch

Prof. Edwin C. Bissell

II. The Law And The Prophets, Or The Prophets And The Law?1

Current problems of the Biblical criticism of the Old Testament have this peculiarity, that it makes little difference where one begins to discuss them, he cannot easily miss the main drift. Indeed, it is an obvious misfortune of this criticism, as represented in the school of Graf and Wellhausen, that instead of being able to concentrate its forces at any one point, it is obliged to scatter them along a line reaching from the times before Moses to those following Ezra, and to be as fully alert in one period as in another, since defeat anywhere must result in total rout and overthrow. Nominally, its aim is to reconstruct the Pentateuch, or rather, Israelitish history, on the principle of a natural development; but this necessitates as well a logical and historical revision of the entire Old Testament, not excepting the works of post-exilic writers. It accepts only the so-called Book of the Covenant (Ex. 20–23; 34, with nebulous fragments of history) 2 as the germ of the ancient Scriptures, and as representing down to the times of Josiah (c. B.C. 624), even through the notable reigns of David and Solomon, the aggregate of Israelitish annals and laws. With this king it dates the Deuteronomic code, holding it to be a recasting and enlargement of these same fragments of Exodus to suit the emergency of a central sanctuary, that is, of Solomon’s temple, and the tendency expressing itself in it. The Levitical

legislation, with its introductory history, forming the real body of the first four books of the Bible, appeared about two centuries later, under Ezra.

Now, from this scheme it will at once be seen that it is not alone the Pentateuch which is involved. The historical books must furnish a definite arena of discussion. And the prophets before the Exile, who it is supposed were special sources of the nation’s history and religion, are a pre-eminently important factor in the debate, while the Psalter and some other portions of the Hagiography, as evidently reflecting the spirit and teachings of the rest, cannot be altogether overlooked.

In this paper I shall direct attention to but one principal feature of the subject, viz. to the prophets who appeared before the Exile; and I shall seek to answer the question, whether, in fact, as is alleged by our critics, they preceded what is known as the Levitical code or followed it; that is, whether the tra...

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