Old Testament Criticism To-Day -- By: W. H. Griffith Thomas

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 072:286 (Apr 1915)
Article: Old Testament Criticism To-Day
Author: W. H. Griffith Thomas


Old Testament Criticism To-Day

W. H. Griffith Thomas, D.D.

The article in the Expositor for December, 1913, by Professor Adam C. Welch, on “The Present Position of Old Testament Criticism,” will have been read with keen interest by students of the Old Testament. It is a satisfaction to realize that Dr. Welch is fully alive to the results of recent works directed against the Wellhausen school. Certainly nothing could be more encouraging to conservative scholarship than the admissions he makes. He opens by saying that

“men are not merely questioning some of the results arrived at, but revising certain of the canons set up. . . the criticism is no longer confined to insistence on the dangerous tendencies of the hypothesis or on the disturbing character of its results; it has taken for its arms the weapons used by the school in its days of unquestioned triumph — the weapons of scientific accuracy and loyalty to facts” (p. 518).

But, in spite of these frank words, Dr. Welch considers it would be unwise to conclude that the Wellhausen hypothesis is exploded and that we can return to earlier positions. He believes the theory in general is too firmly based on facts to be lightly set aside, and he, therefore, advises those who consider the Wellhausen position is overturned to note two things: (1) that some of the strongest assailants are far more radical than Wellhausen himself in relation to the traditional position; (2) that even though the Wellhausen theory is being questioned at present, the majority “quietly accept its well-assured results.”

As to the first of these contentions, it may be frankly admitted that Eerdmans’ view is in many respects far more radical than Wellhausen’s; but the point to be remembered is that Eerdmans has confessedly attacked a position which was thought to be impregnable, and has compelled the reopening of what was thought to be closed years ago. It really does not matter, for the moment, that Eerdmans’ view is untenable to conservatives; it suffices to point out his attack on the “assured results “of Wellhausen. As to this Eerdmans says: —

“Personally I am convinced that critics are on the wrong track, and that we shall never be able to explain the composite character of the Hexateuch if we do not do away with the Jehovistic, Elohistic and priestly works of the numerous younger Jehovistic, Elohistic and priestly writers” (Expositor, Seventh Series, vol. 8. p. 23).

As to Dr. Welch’s second statement, one of the “well-assured results” is said to be that Deuteronomy is not Mosaic in its present form, in the sense of dating from the Exodus, and that this was recognized long ago in t...

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