Observations On Dr. Kyle’s Solution Of The Pentateuchal Problem -- By: Harold M. Wiener
BSac 75:299 (July 1918) p. 451
Observations On Dr. Kyle’s Solution Of The Pentateuchal Problem
Dr. Kyle’s fine article on the Pentateuchal problem in the January number of this Review will have set many scholars thinking about the topics with which he deals. While full consideration must be reserved pending the more complete publication of the materials which he promises, it may not be too soon to offer some observations.
Dr. Kyle touches the subject of covenants (pp. 33 f.). I, for one, should like to see him and others devote far more space and far more consideration to what is one of the most important as well as the most unique features alike of the contents and of the form of the Pentateuch. Let me endeavor to sketch as shortly as may be the underlying ideas and the points of view from which the covenants should be considered.
In a modern civilized community the whole of the machinery of business is based on a single idea, viz. that the state will, through its courts, enforce lawful agreements into which men may have entered in an appropriate manner; and it is broadly true that the requirements as to manner are merely those which are considered adequate to prevent fraud. Thus if a man employs a shepherd, the latter will know that when the time for payment arrives he will receive his money or, in default, be in a position to invoke the help of the state. He will also know that the certainty of his being able to take the latter course will probably make it unnecessary, and that his master will duly pay his debt. This is a very simple case, but it will be seen that precisely the same notion lies at the bottom of the most complicated operations of modern business; indeed, of every transaction except the simplest in-
BSac 75:299 (July 1918) p. 452
stances of barter or purchase for cash. The overwhelming majority of the transactions for which we receive or pay money rest on this one conception — that the state through its courts will, if necessary, compel the due observance of lawful agreements properly made.
Subtract the power of the state, and what remains? Some pieces of paper or parchment or the memory of some spoken words entirely devoid of binding force. It may be that some contracting parties would choose, through some motive of honor or interest, to carry out their obligations. It is certain that many of them would not.
In times and places in which men live without a strong state organization, the question of how to provide an adequate sanction to induce the performance of such obligations is very serious. A most common solution is to rely on a supernatural power or powers. Hence the oath. It is a promise, coupled with an appeal to o...
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