The Answer Of Textual Criticism To The Higher Criticism Of The Story Of Joseph -- By: Harold M. Wiener

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 067:266 (Apr 1910)
Article: The Answer Of Textual Criticism To The Higher Criticism Of The Story Of Joseph
Author: Harold M. Wiener


The Answer Of Textual Criticism To The Higher Criticism Of The Story Of Joseph

Harold M. Wiener

II.

There has hitherto been one great fundamental historical difficulty in the story of Joseph. Most of the details are in themselves highly probable. The local coloring appears to be minutely accurate in the light of what is known of ancient Egypt. Joseph’s sudden rise to power is exactly what might be expected at an Oriental court. The incident of the purchase of the Egyptians and their lands finds world-wide parallels.1 Famines and successions of good years and bad are in themselves too frequent to arouse comment; but one great historical improbability remains. Is it likely that a minister of Joseph’s position would personally serve all who came to buy corn?

The other details of his activity are probable enough. We find him at the head of a large office controlling a number of store-houses,2 imprisoning people at pleasure, residing with a suite away from the office, and directing the policy of a great state department. Would such a man act as salesman to all comers? Undoubtedly the Massoretic text represents him as

so doing. Its other expressions are all susceptible of reasonable explanation, but in 42:6 it says bluntly: “And Joseph was the governor over the land; he it was that sold to all the people of the land.” The difficulty was felt by Jerome, for he paraphrases and makes the sales take place by Joseph’s direction (ad ejus nutum). On the other hand, Mr. Carpenter is inclined to assign the words “was the governor over the land “to R, on the ground that the word rendered “the governor “is late. The larger Cambridge Septuagint gives reasons for holding that the difficulties that troubled Jerome and Mr. Carpenter are alike due to the activity of a commentator. One MS. (f) omits the first half of the verse (down to “people of the land”); and this is clearly right.

But does the historical difficulty really vanish with this change? Do we not still see Joseph selling to the Egyptians and to his brethren? If the narrative be carefully examined we shall find the answer. It is no doubt true that we read of Joseph’s selling to the Egyptians and other similar phrases; but such expressions do not necessarily imply any more than that he directed the operations of the department that did these things. In the case of his brethren the matter is different; but the sequel makes it reasonably plain that the difficulty merely arises from the fact that the narrator’s interest is centered on...

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