The Main Problem Of Deuteronomy -- By: Harold M. Wiener

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 077:305 (Jan 1920)
Article: The Main Problem Of Deuteronomy
Author: Harold M. Wiener


The Main Problem Of Deuteronomy

Harold M. Wiener

The work of the last few years has now cleared the ground for a fresh consideration of the authorship of the great speeches of Dt.1 The documentary theorists have laid very great stress on this portion of their hypothesis. A representative dictum may be quoted from Professor J. A. Paterson:––

“This book was long the storm-centre of Pentateuchal criticism, orthodox scholars boldly asserting that any who questioned its Mosaic authorship reduced it to the level of a pious fraud. But Biblical facts have at last triumphed over tradition, and the non-Mosaic authorship of Deuteronomy is now a commonplace of criticism” (Enc. Brit. [11th ed.], s.v. “Deuteronomy,” vol. 8. p. 117).

If it be asked why so much importance is attached to the late dating of the book, the answer may be given in part in the words of a recent writer, who, after contending for the critical dating, shows its importance:–—

“And now observe what follows. The book of Deuteronomy is by far the greatest support of miracle in the whole of the O. T.; the most serious argumentative support, that is; for though every miraculous narrative is in some degree or other a support of miracle, the proneness of the human mind toward marvels is so well known, especially among races al so rudimentary a stage of development as the Israelites when they conquered Canaan, that we should naturally explain the miracles of the books of Exodus and Numbers as ancient legends — legends with a background of truth no doubt, but not literal realities. It is the book of Deuteronomy which stands in the way of this conclusion — which insists that the miracles of the

Exodus and of Mount Sinai are literal truths, designed by God himself for the instruction of the Israelites first, of all mankind afterwards. If, however, the book of Deuteronomy was written six centuries after the Exodus, can the argument contained in it stand? Evidently not; the testimony in it, strong if Moses be supposed’ to be the true author of it, becomes weak when we see that it was written long after his date” (John Rickards Mozley, The Divine Aspect of History, vol. 1. p. 223).

In other words, the speeches of Dt, if genuine, are fatal to the rationalist case and to the whole evolutionary theory.2 To mention only three points: they establish the historical nature of the Hebrew tradition, the early origin of monotheism, and the truly miraculous character of the Hebrew revelation. So long as they stand, there can be no disputing the existence of the la...

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