Sources of the Pentateuch: Texts, Introductions, Annotations

By Antony F. Campbell; Mark A. O'brien | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
Introduction:
Pentateuchal Source Criticism

Early Discovery of Sources

Biblical scholarship from the patristic period until the late Middle Ages was, in general, not concerned with questions about the authorship or history of the biblical text.1 Some interest had been shown in the early synagogue and church, but the development of a historical perspective with its concern for the particular circumstances of a text’s composition had not yet occurred. There was little awareness that the text stemmed from a time and place quite different from that of a patristic or medieval interpreter and that the manner of its composition might have been different from what such an interpreter would have expected.

This began to change under the impact of the Renaissance and the Reformation. A renewed interest in the classical world and its literature was accompanied by a new awareness of how it differed from the contemporary world. The study of ancient languages was put on a more scientific footing, with the result that ancient documents could be examined in a way that was not available to earlier generations.

When this new, historically oriented and critically alert analysis was applied to the Pentateuch it was found to contain numerous duplications, a broad diversity of style, and contrasting viewpoints. It was primarily the discovery of duplication extending across a considerable body of text that led to the claim in the seventeenth century that the Pentateuch had its own history of composition. An early proponent of this hypothesis was Richard Simon (1638–1712), who argued that the Pentateuch had been compiled from a number of documents.2 Some of these docu

1.This review of the history of research is indebted particularly to H.-J. Kraus, Geschichtt der historischkritischen Erforscbung des Alien Testaments, 3d ed. (Neukirchen: Neukirchener Verlag, 1982). Other resources consulted here and available to students are O. Eissfeldt, The Old Testament: An Introduction (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1965); G. Fohrer, Introduction to the Old Testament (London: SPCK, 1968); J. H. Hayes, An Introduction to Old Testament Study (Nashville: Abingdon, 1979); and A. de Pury and Th. Römer, “Le Pentateuque en question: Position du problème et brève histoire de la recherche,” in Le Pentateuque en question: Les origines et la composition des cinq premiers livres de la Bible à la lumière des recherches récentes, ed. A. dc Pury (Le Monde de la Bible; Geneva: Labor et Fides, 1989)9–80.

2. The terms “source” and “document” are used rather freely in biblical scholarship. In this presentation, document refers to a written record of undetermined length and purpose. Source refers to an extended continuous narrative, which is probably but not necessarily written and which has a discernible purpose. Source is used in a different sense by historians and exegetes. The former use it to refer primarily to a text from which the history of Israel may be reconstructed. In the pentateuchal context, the latter use it to refer primarily to a text that was one of the building blocks of the present text.

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Sources of the Pentateuch: Texts, Introductions, Annotations
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Abbreviations xix
  • Chapter 1 - Introduction: Pentateuchal Source Criticism 1
  • Chapter 2 - The Priestly Document 21
  • Chapter 3 - The Yahwist Narrative 91
  • Chapter 4 - The Elohist Texts 161
  • Chapter 5 - Nonsource Texts: Material Other Than P, J, and E 195
  • Chapter 6 - Studies in Composite Texts 203
  • Bibliography 255
  • Index of Biblical Passages by Source 259
  • Index of Modern Authors 265
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