The Composition And Date Of Deuteronomy -- By: Thomas Stoughton Potwin

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 051:201 (Jan 1894)
Article: The Composition And Date Of Deuteronomy
Author: Thomas Stoughton Potwin


The Composition And Date Of Deuteronomy

Rev. T. S. Potwin

In attempting a study of Deuteronomy, I shall aim to make it as independently of the other books of the Hexateuch as possible. No books of the Bible have a more distinct individuality than these first six. But the tendency of much recent criticism has been to throw them all into one confused mass.

I first inquire what is said in the book itself of the “writing” of the whole or any part of it; then what is said otherwise of its source or sources; next I shall examine any social conditions indicated as existing at the time of its writing, together with any historical and geographical allusions; and lastly I shall draw conclusions as to its date in its present form.

The first that is said of writing any part of the book is: “Thou shalt set thee up great stones, and plaster them with plaster: and thou shalt write upon them all the words of this law” (chap, 27:2-3. But they are few, we presume, who suppose that this could refer to the whole preceding twenty-six chapters of Deuteronomy. Some summary must be intended, just as that written upon the two tables

of stone was a summary of the Sinai legislation. And still the language is: “all the words of this law.”

“Book of this law,” which implies writing, is used in chap. 28:58, 61. But it would seem, from the peculiar emphasis laid here upon obedience, that “this law” must stand here for a collection of ethical precepts, and not for the great variety of minor matters which have gone before in the book of Deuteronomy. The same remark applies to chap. 29:20-21, 27. In chap. 30:10 the context following certainly is applicable only to what is in “thy heart that thou mayest do it.” From chap. 31:9, 24, it is apparent that Moses wrote the “words of this law in a book.” And from chap. 29:21 we learn that this “book of the law” was regarded as being, or as containing, a “covenant,” although the phrase “book of the covenant,” which is freely used by some writers, does not occur in Deuteronomy. The only other writing of any part of the book which is spoken of is the song in chap, 32. The book of the law which Moses wrote was given to the Levites to be kept with the a...

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