The Torah's Vision of Worship

By Samuel E. Balentine | Go to book overview

2.

PERSIAN POLITICS
AND THE SHAPING
OF THE PENTATEUCH

THE FINAL FORM OF THE PENTATEUCH CONVEYS A RELIGIOUS PERSPECtive on worship in Israel. This perspective is clearly important and theologically instructive for the community of faith. It is, nevertheless, a literary construct, a textual profile, not simply, or even necessarily, a historical description. The serious reader will therefore probe for further information. Did a community defined by worship in the manner described by the Pentateuch actually exist? Could such a community have existed, or should it have existed? These questions shift the inquiry from theology to sociology. The issue is not simply what the biblical view of worship in the Pentateuch is, but rather why these books present this particular view. The answer requires investigating the social, economic, and political circumstances that shaped the world of the Pentateuch and its literary tradents.

It is generally agreed that the Pentateuch achieved its final form during the two centuries (539–333 B.C.E.) when Jews were subject to Persian rule. It has been easier to come to this general conclusion, however, than it has been to explain the circumstances and events that precipitated the canonization. With the collapse of Wellhausen's documentary hypothesis (JEDP), recent work in Pentateuchal criticism has largely abandoned the search for continuous pre-exilic narrative sources that cover the entire range of the Pentateuch. The current discussion now focuses more on exilic and postexilic combinations of what are broadly classified as Priestly and nonPriestly materials.

Two redacţional theories dominate the present debate; neither thus far has established itself as the consensus view. R. Rendtorff has argued that the overarching redaction that created the Pentateuch was accomplished by an exilic Deuteronomic editor, with relatively minor additions from a post-exilic

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