Naville On The Composition And Sources Of Genesis -- By: John Roaf Wightman

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 076:302 (Apr 1919)
Article: Naville On The Composition And Sources Of Genesis
Author: John Roaf Wightman


Naville On The Composition And Sources Of Genesis

John Roaf Wightman

Oberlin, Ohio

[Revue de l’Histoire des Religions (Paris, 1918) contains an article by fidouard Naville, entitled “La Composition et les Sources de la Genèse.” As it is too long (38 8vo pages) for us to reprint a translation, we are pleased to give the following summary, prepared by Professor John Roaf Wightman, Ph.D., of Oberlin College.—Editor.]

M. Naville first recalls how in two previous works, viz. “Archaeology of the Old Testament” (Loudon, 1913) and “The Text of the Old Testament “(The Schweich Lectures,

London, 1915), he had shown that the so-called “Books of Moses “were not original works, and that they had not been written in Hebrew; and how, in his article entitled “The Two Names of God in Genesis,” published in Revue de l’Histoire des Religions (1917), he had shown that the Book of Genesis could have but one author, Moses, instead of six or seven, as held by Kautzsch and Socin.

He now proposes to examine the sources from which Moses has drawn his material, — a task rendered the more easy because of the recent discoveries of Assyriologists. History in these early times, we know, did not exist, but only biography or annals. The author of Genesis, like those of other ancient writings, wrote with a definite end, to give information about persons. His first aim would be to write intelligibly, and hence in a language familiar to his readers. Now we know, from the excavations of the last thirty years, that this must have been the writing employed in all western Asia, viz. the cuneiform, which was written by a stylus in damp clay. It was in this cuneiform writing, inexactly called the Babylonian, that Genesis must have been written. The writers of that time did not write “books,” but “tablets.” Now “tablets “differ from “books” in being independent, and sometimes forming a group upon a certain subject, the scribe showing their consecutive order by repeating the last words of one at the beginning of the next. They resemble the several lectures in a course. Of the vast number of Babylonian tablets of the time of Moses, the majority were on religious subjects, as the creation of the world, and these formed the bases for the religions. Composed in Sumerian, the legends were later rewritten and transformed under Semitic influence. At this early period the tablets were not used in commerce, but were in collections, either in royal libraries or in a chest or jar, as at Tel el Amarna. In Moses’ day, more so even than to-day, a knowledge of writing was in the East the privilege of the few. To this few belonged Moses himself,...

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