A Layman’s View of the Critical Theory. -- By: Herbert W. Magoun

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 070:279 (Jul 1913)
Article: A Layman’s View of the Critical Theory.
Author: Herbert W. Magoun


A Layman’s View of the Critical Theory.

Herbert W. Magoun, Ph.D.

III.

In the two papers preceding this one, nothing has been said of the “duplicate accounts,” so often postulated in various parts of the Pentateuch by members of the critical school. This has been regarded by many as a particularly strong point in the defense; and yet, as a matter of fact, it is an exceedingly weak one. Its plausibility may enable it to entrap the unwary, because they judge by appearances; but the hypothesis is not one that can commend itself to the thoughtful, since the well-known antithetical balancing of verse parts in Hebrew makes it particularly liable to a form of composition that lends itself easily to the sort of analysis exhibited in these supposed accounts. This, in itself, is a ground for suspicion. Tautological expressions are often to be found in other similar compositions, and balanced statements are a common peculiarity of various forms of literature. They are therefore by no means as significant as they have been represented to be, and little or no value can be attached to them.

Although this may seem like a strong statement to some, it can be abundantly justified by an appeal to experience; for it has often been remarked that it is possible to separate different kinds of literary compositions into parallel accounts, and numerous examples of the thing itself have already been furnished by well-known writers. Naturally the selections

have been mostly Biblical, and New Testament authors have been employed to furnish much of the material. There is no necessity, however, of confining such efforts to that field; for some of the classical poets can be pressed into the service, and they will readily yield specimen narratives of the kind needed. A brief one, selected almost at random from Vergil’s Æneid, as it appears in Conington’s translation, may not be out of place. The passage reads as follows: —

“When the banquet’s first lull was come, and the board removed, then they set up the hugh bowls and wreathe the wine. A din rings to the roof — the voice rolls through those spacious halls; lamps hang from the gilded ceiling, burning brightly, and flambeau-fires put out the night. Then the queen called for a cup, heavy with jewels and gold, and filled it with unmixed wine; the same which had been used by Belus, and every king from Belus downward. Then silence was commanded through the hall” (1. 723 ff.).

The selection might easily be prolonged; but this may be sufficient for the purpose. It yields two parallel accounts. They are well balanced and admirably illustrate the point at issue: —

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