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

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 075:298 (Apr 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 Pentateuch1

Harold M. Wiener

II.

III.

The present texts of the Pentateuch have been produced by the operation of several factors, and an acquaintance with these is often essential to the comprehension of difficult passages. No single topic can be exhausted on the consideration of one factor alone. We must therefore leave the conclusions of the preceding sections hanging for the present, and make a series of fresh starts in order to observe other influences that have been at work.

It is proposed to devote the present section to a consideration of glossing; but to do this fruitfully we must first ex-

amine the principle which must guide us in every part of the textual inquiry.

The great majority of Old Testament students have been content to rely in the main on our present Hebrew, the Massoretic text, abandoning its readings only when practically compelled to do so. Various considerations have been urged in favor of this course; such as, the habitual support of the Samaritan, the idea that it is “reasonable” to suppose this to be the best text, etc. Let it be clearly stated that this investigation entirely discards that point of view in favor of the principle of scientific textual criticism. The only possible basis for really scientific work is a critical text, and the dominant principle to be observed in the formation of such a text is so simple that everybody can grasp it. The function of scientific textual criticism is to recover that text from which all our existing evidence has been derived. If and in so far as the textual critic is unable to show how an existing reading has come into existence, he has failed in his task; and it is only fair to add that, in the present condition of Old Testament studies, failure must be the rule and not the exception. But it must be hoped that the work of the next two or three generations will reverse this.

The function of scientific textual criticism is to recover that text from which all our existing evidence has been derived. Let us examine this a little more closely. It means, first. that the critic should have all the extant evidence before him; and, secondly, that when he has completed his operations he should be able to point to the text which explains every single reading that we have, and show by what processes they have been derived from that text. The latter may or may not itself have been preserved in some existing authority. This ideal is very high and exacting. At present it

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