Some Aspects of the Conservative Task in Pentateuchal Criticism -- By: Harold M. Wiener

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 068:269 (Jan 1911)
Article: Some Aspects of the Conservative Task in Pentateuchal Criticism
Author: Harold M. Wiener


Some Aspects of the Conservative Task in Pentateuchal Criticism

Harold M. Wiener

The necessity for meeting a large number of detailed arguments in the course of the great critical controversy as to the origin of the Pentateuch cannot be held to afford any justification for neglecting to take some general view of the task that confronts those who hold conservative opinions. Indeed, reflection shows rather that the efforts which have to be made for the purpose of grappling with individual difficulties must never be dissevered from the general principles by the aid of which alone success can be obtained: and the circumstance that many conservatives devote their labors to processes which are scarcely likely to prove more profitable than plowing the sands tends to emphasize the desirability of considering the lines along which our work should proceed.

It is a condition precedent of all conservative work that the conservative writer should know the higher critical case a great deal better than any critic does. That may sound paradoxical and difficult: it is really the simplest thing in the world. For the conservative must know not merely the

strength of the critical case, but also its weaknesses; and these appear never even to be suspected by the critics. But unless he knows the critical case thoroughly, knows it in its seeming strength, he will never be able to detect its weaknesses. He must be perfectly acquainted with the arguments he is to refute if he is to have any chance of showing others exactly where they go off the rails.

Another matter to be borne in mind is that a style of apologetics at present much in vogue is much more likely to damage our position than to improve it. I refer to the too frequent efforts to disprove the higher critical case by citing against one another the divergent opinions of different writers. “Here is a problem: Professor A says the solution is X, Professor B that it is Y: therefore there is no problem.” Stated in this way, the logic is a trifle weak: but unfortunately it will be found far too frequently on our side. No doubt in many cases something that presents no difficulties has been magnified into a problem; but in others there is a genuine question to be faced and answered, and in such cases this style of apologetics is worse than useless. The apologist may insist as he will: he may produce the most plausible of arguments: but the first time the student is confronted with the bed-rock difficulty in the text the conservative arguments will vanish into thin air and the solution of cither Professor A or Professor B will make a fresh convert. The true method is to show that the solution of the problem is neither X nor Y, but Z: and then there is a probabili...

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