Some Fatal Weaknesses Of The Wellhausen School. -- By: Harold M. Wiener

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 064:253 (Jan 1907)
Article: Some Fatal Weaknesses Of The Wellhausen School.
Author: Harold M. Wiener


Some Fatal Weaknesses Of The Wellhausen School.

Harold M. Wiener

The present position of the Wellhausen school is too well known to need description. To all appearance it has been triumphant all along the line. Many writers habitually act on the assumption that the main conclusions, at any rate, of the inquiries it has conducted are too well established -ever to be called seriously into question. Indeed, it seems to be generally supposed that nothing but religious prejudice or a total incapacity to appreciate scientific results can adequately account for the opposition which is still offered to it in some quarters.

There is, however, one very material point which has been overlooked by the theologians and philologists who believe that they are the exponents of true science. With insignificant exceptions, the whole literature of the Wellhausen school is the work of untrained men writing about subjects that can be safely handled only by experts. This statement may at first blush cause a good deal of surprise, for the critics habitually make no small display of their “training”; but a few minutes’ reflection will show that the seeming paradox is perfectly true. On what do the Wellhausen school rely in the first instance?

On the evidence of the laws. But is there a single member of that school who is a trained lawyer? The answer can be only an emphatic negative. And yet it is matter of common knowledge that law is a technical and difficult subject. A reasonable man guided by those considerations which habitually actuate prudent men in the conduct of their affairs would not venture to pronounce a definite opinion on any knotty point of the law of his own age and country without legal training. Nor would he rest satisfied with the views of a theologian or a philologist or a lexicographer on such a matter. Why, then, should such views be regarded as adequate when we are dealing with the Pentateuch? It is matter of notoriety that ancient law is as a rule much more technical and difficult to understand than the legislation of modern societies; and certainly the task does not become easier when we have to deal with law that is written in a dead language. Surely, if training goes for anything, it might be thought that here, if anywhere, we had a subject that needs to be studied by persons who possess the requisite skill.

Hitherto I have spoken as if the whole of the Mosaic Law consisted of what are termed “jural laws,” that is, rules intended for the guidance of courts. As everybody knows, that is not so. Early Hebrew law, like all other archaic systems, covers a much wider field than that which falls within the province of a court of justice. But it will not be contended that such subjects as s...

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