Priests And Levites: The Fourth Chapter Of Wellhausen’s Prolegomena -- By: Harold M. Wiener

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 067:267 (Jul 1910)
Article: Priests And Levites: The Fourth Chapter Of Wellhausen’s Prolegomena
Author: Harold M. Wiener


Priests And Levites: The Fourth Chapter Of Wellhausen’s Prolegomena

Harold M. Wiener

“For the position of the Levites is the Achilles heel of the Priestly Code.”—Wellhausen.

For the Wellhausen reconstruction of the history of Israel our present subject is second in importance only to “Sanctuaries.” The latter topic was disposed of in the Bibliotheca Sacra for October, 1909,1 and of necessity much of what is said concerning the priesthood was incidentally treated, for it is not possible to consider the places of sacrifice without some reference to the persons who officiated at them. Yet much remains, and accordingly it is proposed to devote this article to a correction of the Graf-Wellhausen hypothesis respecting the priesthood.

Independent investigation of the material phenomena has led me to the conclusion that the conservatives and the critics are alike at fault. Two errors are common to both equally. Neither set of students have seriously attempted to apply textual criticism, and both have assumed that the traditional views are necessarily the only explanations possible. Yet the author or authors of the Pentateuchal documents are entitled to the same measure of justice as all other authors. It is not too much to ask that some trouble should be given to the task of

ascertaining what they actually wrote; and, further, that in the interpretation of their writings the plain and obvious meaning should be preferred to the views of any subsequent writer whomsoever. In addition I am of the opinion that the conservatives and the critics have made one great mistake each. The conservatives have assumed that all the statements contained in the Bible must necessarily be of equal value historically. No doubt they have been assisted in this by the departure from the order of the Jewish canon, which does not place Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah in the same category with Judges, Samuel, and Kings. These latter books belong to the series of “earlier prophets” while the former are only hagiography. This mistake has been avoided by most of the critics, who, however, have more than compensated for this by adopting an impossible documentary theory which has placed sound history out of their reach. A mediating school have combined both positions. To save the history of the Chronicler they have sacrificed the history of Moses, and have consequently failed to do any good to either in spite of many shrewd observations. The present article is accordingly written on the basis of a frank acceptance of four main principles, which will find their justification as the inquiry proceeds. T...

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