A Summary Of Recent Findings In Support Of An Early Date For The So-Called Priestly Material Of The Pentateuch -- By: David R. Hildebrand

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 29:2 (Jun 1986)
Article: A Summary Of Recent Findings In Support Of An Early Date For The So-Called Priestly Material Of The Pentateuch
Author: David R. Hildebrand


A Summary Of Recent Findings In Support Of An Early Date For The So-Called Priestly Material Of The Pentateuch

David R. Hildebrand*

Recent years have seen a growing movement toward an early dating of the Priestly tradition—of the traditions themselves, if not also for their written form—and this in opposition to the majority opinion that assigns the P-corpus a postexilic provenance.

I. The Majority Opinion: Wellhausen

The classic exposition of this opinion was, of course, set forth by Julius Wellhausen.1 He said that development in Israel’s religion can be traced from simple and spontaneous to formal and ritualistic, and with it an increase in the influence of the priesthood. The culmination of this growth is to be seen in P and Chronicles.

Such a development can be noticed concerning the place of worship. During Samuel’s time one could sacrifice wherever he chose (e.g. 1 Sam 16:2). Josiah limited all sacrifice to the temple at Jerusalem (2 Kings 23; cf. Deuteronomy 13). Josiah’s centralization seems to have received general acceptance, for Leviticus (e.g. 17:1–9) assumes that all sacrifices must be offered at the tabernacle. Wellhausen and others consider the Leviticus tabernacle to be a retro-jection of the Jerusalem temple back into Mosaic times.

The growth of ritualism can be seen also in the offering of sacrifices and in the festivals. Sacrifice was once a joyous fellowship meal (see e.g. Judg 13:16 ff.), but by the time of Leviticus it was a fairly complicated priestly ceremony largely for the purpose of atonement for sin.

The festivals—e.g., Unleavened Bread, Weeks, and Tabernacles— were at first harvest festivals, celebrated at different times in the different areas, according to how early or late the crops and the harvest were in that particular area. Then, when worship was centralized in Jerusalem, a fixed timetable was established for the national feasts, the situation presupposed in Leviticus 23.

Another area that evolved from simple to more complex was the priesthood. In ancient Israel a priest was not needed in order to offer a sacrifice. But by postexilic times, not only was it required that a priest attend the offering of a sacrifice, but also there were significant gradations within the priesthood itself: high priest, priests, Levites.

*David Hildebrand is dean of academic affairs at Briercrest Bible College in ...

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