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

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 040:160 (Oct 1883)
Article: Proposed Reconstruction Of The Pentateuch
Author: Edwin Cone Bissell

Proposed Reconstruction Of The Pentateuch

Prof. Edwin C. Bissell

The Hexateuch, as analyzed by Julius Wellhausen and the school of critics he represents, may be formulated as follows: JE + D + HG + PC (Q) + R.1 This formula will be found convenient for reference, as well as to present to the eye the relative order of the codes according to this system. Each of these letters or combination of letters, it will be seen, — except the last, — represents a different stage of the legislation; JE having for its nucleus the Book of the Covenant, which is followed by the Deuteronomic code, and

that in succession by Lev. 18:26, and the remaining priestly legislation of the middle books of the Pentateuch.

The method adopted by Wellhausen to prove that these collections of laws do actually represent different so-called stratifications, which took form in the widely separated periods indicated in our note, is twofold. I. He endeavors to show that when compared there is evidence of a marked development in these several parts of the legislation themselves in the direction named, i.e. from JE toward PC. II. He calls attention to the impression left by the laws on the historical books of the Old Testament, — not excepting the Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua, — and claims that the history most readily adapts itself to such a theory of the post-Mosaic development of the codes. Under the first head five particulars are specially dwelt upon: 1. the place of worship; 2. the sacrifices; 3. the feasts; 4. the priests and Levites; 5. the provision made for the support of priests and Levites. The object of the present article will be to discover, if possible, what fair conclusion may be drawn from an examination of these several collections of laws on the points named. Is such a theory of development as is proposed a necessary or legitimate outcome of a really candid and critical investigation? Adopting Wellhausen’s order, let us consider the attitude of these laws as it respects:

1. The Place of Worship. The position here assumed is, that there are three successive steps in the growth of the idea and practice among the Israelites of worshipping at one central sanctuary, and that these three steps are distinctly

marked off in the three principal codes of the Pentateuch. In JB, for example, a plurality of altars, it is said, is freely permitted. In P, however, which represents the point of view of king Josiah, who struck “the first heavy blow” against this practice, unity of worship is every...

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