The Recensional Criticism of the Pentateuch -- By: Harold M. Wiener

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 070:278 (Apr 1913)
Article: The Recensional Criticism of the Pentateuch
Author: Harold M. Wiener


The Recensional Criticism of the Pentateuch

Harold M. Wiener, M.A.

It is unfortunately the case that the close relation which exists between the higher or documentary criticism and the lower or textual criticism is frequently ignored. Still more frequently it happens that it is admitted in words, but habitually overlooked in the work that is done. In these pages stress has often been laid on the importance of the relationship; and in the present article some of the wider bearings of textual criticism will be considered.

The object of the science is to recover the ipsissima verba of an author from the materials that have come down to us. These materials may be the ultimate product of many processes — accidental decay or damage to the texts, faults of transcription whether due to the eye or the ear, to copying or dictation, glossing, displacements caused by injury to a MS. In addition to these there may, however, be yet another disturbing cause — I mean intentional editing undertaken with some purpose or other. Such a recension may be undertaken because it is realized that the text is in a bad condition and it is desired to improve it. In such a case the recension tends towards standardizing a particular form of text; but that form will bear the imprint of the minds that were responsible for its production. It will stereotype cer-

tain ideas current at the time; and if those ideas were from our point of view erroneous, i.e. if they differed from those of the original author, they may do much for the deterioration, instead of the improvement, of the text. A recension, moreover, may not be dominated, either wholly or in part, by a desire to improve the text in the modern sense. It may seek to harmonize the text or to produce a text that will favor some particular religious or other theory. In a word, it may be what the Germans call “tendencious.”

Now, since textual criticism aims at recovering the original documents in the form in which they left the author’s hand, it must necessarily take account of all these corrupting processes and endeavor to reverse them. This is well understood in the case of the non-recensional causes of corruption; but it seems to be less generally apprehended of the recensional causes. Of course in Old Testament criticism some little use is made of the best known recensions of the LXX, and there is occasional talk of the genealogical principle; but there the matter ends. In practice little attention is given to the results of the principle, and none at all to the recensional principle. At present the study of the text of the Pentateuch is in so backward a condition that little can be done beyond suggesting lines of inquiry for further study; but ...

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