Historical Criticism Of The Pentateuch -- By: Harold M. Wiener

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 071:284 (Oct 1914)
Article: Historical Criticism Of The Pentateuch
Author: Harold M. Wiener

Historical Criticism Of The Pentateuch

A Reply To Dr. Kœnig

Harold M. Wiener


The following pages have been written in reply to Dr. Eduard König’s “Die moderne Pentateuchkritik und ihre neueste Bekämpfung,” in which the author criticized certain of my positions. I wish to make it clear at the very outset that this reply is written consciously and intentionally in the interest of a totally different method of studying the ancient books of Israel from that pursued by the enormous majority of modern theologians. The method followed and the spirit that gave rise to that method are those of the historical school. 1 seek to understand the narratives and laws of the Mosaic age by reference to the conditions under which Moses had to work and the problems he was called upon to solve, always remembering that “the roots of the present “— every present — “lie deep in the past,” and that in considering the results of human labors we must never forget to take into account the known and inevitable tendencies of human nature. And as with the actions of Moses and his contemporaries, so with the conduct of those who have had to transmit the text throughout the ages. The student of the history of the Mosaic period is no more entitled to disregard the influences that

have molded the documents that relate to it into their present form than to neglect the motives that influenced Moses himself. Our record of those days in the form in which we have it can be understood intelligently only if three conditions be observed. In the first place, we are to remember that we are dealing with a narrative of the historical events of a most critical period in which supreme statesmanship was displayed. Secondly, we must bear in mind that this narrative was couched in the language of the people and imbued with the ideas and mental habits of the people, place, and epoch. Thirdly, we must never forget that the documents which embodied it have passed through a long and troubled history that now extends over a century of generations, and have undergone the vicissitudes that are inseparable from such a history, with all its changes in orthography and character, natural decay of the physical materials on which the documents were written, scribal errors, glossators’ true and false explanations and amplifications, and editorial efforts — often misdirected — to remedy the confusions which these causes were seen to have introduced.

It will be observed that the textual criticism which I advocate and seek to practice is essentially a branch of historical criticism — always illuminated by its spirit and methods, ever seeking to test and strengthen its result...

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