Is The So-Called “Priestly Code” Post-Exilic? -- By: J. J. Lias

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 067:266 (Apr 1910)
Article: Is The So-Called “Priestly Code” Post-Exilic?
Author: J. J. Lias

Is The So-Called “Priestly Code” Post-Exilic?

Rev. Chancellor J. J. Lias


It may be well, before entering into an analysis of the post-exilic books, to make one or two preliminary observations. As regards Ezra and Nehemiah, their authenticity is supported by a tradition of more than two thousand years, during which they have been believed to be autobiographical sketches of the work of the persons whose names they bear, in the restoration of the temple and walls of Jerusalem. A tradition which has so long held the field would naturally, when disputed, be regarded in all other departments of historical research, as authoritative enough to throw the onus probandi on those who dispute it, especially as the contents square remarkably well with the tradition. But the critic always contrives, with great but often unsuspected dexterity, to throw the onus probandi on the shoulders of those who are in possession. We are now told that the books in question are “a compilation made by an author writing long after the age of Ezra and Nehemiah themselves, on the basis, partly, of the authentic ‘memoirs’ of those two reformers, and partly of other materials.”1 This description of the sources displays the usual ingenuity of the critics. It admits the genuineness of the pas-

sages which it would he difficult to assign to other writers, and disputes those in which the writer resorts to the oratio obliqua. The reason is given in the usual oracular fashion. Thucydides, it is admitted, makes a similar “change from the 1st to the 3rd person, and vice versa.” But he does this “at wide intervals in his work.” Such a change “is not probable in nearly contiguous sections.” Dr. Driver, strangely enough, manages to forget the vast difference between the history of Thucydides and those of Ezra and Nehemiah, the first being a history of Greece on a large scale, whereas the two latter are short biographical notices by the authors of their own special work in the rebuilding of Jerusalem and its Temple. But aliquando bonus dormitat Homerus. Dr. Driver nods here in a note, recalling some other momentary lapses into a hazardous originality of which mention was made in the former paper: “The change from the 3rd person to the 1st in Thuc. 5, 26 arises manifestly from the nature of the fact to be narrated.” Exactly. But why then should not the changes from the first person to the third in Ezra and Nehemiah “arise manifestly from the nature of the fact to be narrated”? Dr. Driver gives no answer whatever to so natural a question. Then we are informed that “the treatment of the history” is “uneven.” Is it usual to qu...

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