Dynastic Covenant -- By: Meredith G. Kline

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 23:1 (Nov 1960)
Article: Dynastic Covenant
Author: Meredith G. Kline


Dynastic Covenant

Meredith G. Kline

New winds are blowing on the bark of Deuteronomic studies. It has managed not to drift very far from its Josianic (7th century B.C.) dock only because of the unusually stout cables of critical traditionalism which tie it there.1 The fate of so much higher critical treasure rides with this vessel that the scholarly merchants have been understandably anxious about its moorings and timid about entrusting it to the gods of wind and wave—especially since the winds appear to be blowing in the general direction of the Mosaic port, whence (so some say) the merchants pirated the craft.

Over twenty years ago Gerhard von Rad signalized the need for discovering the nature and meaning of the over-all form of Deuteronomy.2 Attention had been paid to the individual Gattung, whether parenesis, legal precept, or curse and blessing formula. But what was the structural coherence of the several parts within the whole? In current discussions this question is of crucial significance because the problem of the unity of Deuteronomy is judged to be not stylistic but structural.3 Higher criticism has sought to distinguish an original core of Deuteronomy from the alleged accretions. Wellhausen and others have limited this core to chapters 12–26 but due to the stylistic homogeneity most would now expand this to chapters 5–26 and 28. It is the remaining chapters which are thought to disturb the structural unity and are regarded as editorial appendages. A. C. Welch, who

distinguishes a Deuteronomic code (beginning in chapter 12) and framework, finds confusion throughout, but deems the framework in particular so hopelessly disordered that he declares it misleading to speak of editing since that would suggest that a degree of order had been introduced into the chaos!4

It is then with this issue of the structural unity and integrity of Deuteronomy that the present investigation is concerned. The question resolves itself into one of literary genre and Sitz im Leben. We believe it can be shown that what Mendenhall tentatively suggested concerning biblical history and law in general is certainly true in the case of Deuteronomy: “…the literary criticism of the past has been proceeding with completely inadequate form-critical presuppositions”.

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