Contributions To A New Theory Of The Composition Of The Pentateuch -- By: Harold M. Wiener

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 075:297 (Jan 1918)
Article: Contributions To A New Theory Of The Composition Of The Pentateuch
Author: Harold M. Wiener

Contributions To A New Theory Of The Composition Of The Pentateuch

Harold M. Wiener


The question how the Pentateuch reached its present form has been under debate for centuries. For some time it looked as if the line of inquiry suggested by Astruc’s discrimination between the passages in Genesis which used Elohim and those which were characterized by the presence of the Tetragrammaton had opened up a possibility of solution. For a century and a half theories were elaborated which culminated in the well-known documentary and evolutionary hypotheses. Within the last few years the unsoundness of these hypotheses in all their branches has been successfully demonstrated, and the critics who sought to vindicate them in open controversy have been reduced to silence.1

The gap left by the destruction of the documentary theory is as yet unfilled. The most complete solution of the Pentateuchal problem which is possible on the materials at present

known to exist cannot be given in the lifetime of our generation, for too much preliminary work is necessary. Nevertheless, our present knowledge makes it possible to offer certain contributions to the ultimate answer to the question.


All extant copies of the Pentateuch are ultimately derived from one MS. For the sake of convenience the last common ancestor of our existing texts will be called the archetype. The present section will aim at making out a prima facie case for holding that the form of the Pentateuch is partially due to pre-archetypal or archetypal damage. For the sake of simplicity this matter will be as far as possible isolated: no distinction will be made between injuries that may be supposed to have occurred at an earlier date and those that may have happened later; and the question of the original form of the autograph will be reserved.

It is obvious that editors confronted with a damaged MS. might adopt various methods of dealing with their difficulties. They might simply leave matters alone as far as possible. If they found portions of it in fragments, they might merely transcribe the fragments in any casual order. A modern scholar finding an old damaged MS. would endeavor to note the precise order in which the material was discovered, but that will scarcely have been the method of an uncritical age. In the first examination of the fragments — nay, in taking them up from the place in which they were deposited — the original order will have been lost. Hence its preservation by the editors is scarcely a possibility.

Another method available for ancient editors was to try to a...

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