The Mosaic Authorship Of The Pentateuch -- By: Duane L. Christensen

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 32:4 (Dec 1989)
Article: The Mosaic Authorship Of The Pentateuch
Author: Duane L. Christensen


The Mosaic Authorship Of The Pentateuch

Duane L. Christensen

Marcel Narucki*

In a recent book John Barton opted for a position intrinsically inadequate for understanding Biblical literature. His commitment to a neutral stance is a commitment to a certain way of perceiving reality, which is—ironically—another brand of fundamentalism, one that is particularly modern and reduces reality to the intellect.

Barton speaks forcefully in response to what he perceives to be a threat to the historical-critical method, stemming from an understanding of Scripture that tends toward the normative as expressed by the theological argument of Brevard Childs. As he put it:

It is a pity if they [Childs and those of his thinking] waste their time in trying to show that we should read the Old Testament in such a way, for that can never be shown by biblical criticism of any kind, but only by theological argument lying outside the biblical critic’s province.1

What is most amazing about this statement is that, for Barton and those of his persuasion, the Biblical critic’s province can be outside the theological engagement and that it can and should call into question any “tendency to seek the normative.” Such an approach claims an autonomy and detached neutrality that is alien to the theological concerns in Scripture about faith, conversion, and the way of a people called to live under God. The theological attitude and argument of Childs considers the canonical process through which the text becomes normative as Scripture. Only the whole text as Scripture bears witness to the truth and life within it. The canonical shape provides a critical theological judgment against any reading of the tradition that isolates and therefore falsities the smaller traditions within it. Thus there is a theological testimony of the whole. Though the canon itself is normative, before the canon of Scripture received its final form there were already norming principles operating within the experience of ancient Israel. Ultimately God himself is the norming norm, but the God of Israel is a God who reveals himself concretely in history, as the late G. Ernest Wright was wont to say.2

* Duane Christensen is professor of Old Testament languages and literature at American Baptist Seminary of the West and Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, and Marcel Narucki is a student at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, California.

This view of history is theological and requires a rather different hermeneutic than that of a view of history that emp...

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