The Pentateuch in the Twentieth Century: The Legacy of Julius Wellhausen

By Ernest W. Nicholson | Go to book overview

5
Attempts to Redate the 'Yahwist'

One of the most striking shifts in recent Pentateuchal research has taken place in the study of what has hitherto been generally accepted as the oldest of its sources, that is, the so-called J document. First, there has been a mounting trend towards dating this narrative to the exilic period or even later. Detailed studies advocating this have come from Hans Heinrich Schmid, John Van Seters, Hermann Vorländer, Hans-Christoph Schmitt, Martin Rose, and Christoph Levin. Second, and closely associated with this, some have taken the further step to argue that this earlier material in the Tetrateuch was composed as a 'prologue' to the Deuteronomistic History and was not therefore, as usually believed, presupposed by the authors of the latter. Van Seters and Rose have especially sought to demonstrate this. On such a view D is no longer the mid-point between J(E) and P, but was rather the first stage in the emergence of the Pentateuch--a topsy-turvy view, indeed, from the perspective of the Documentary Theory.

Major studies by Van Seters and Schmid have led the way in the current move towards dating the Yahwist narrative to the exilic period, the former in a number of substantial contributions,1 the latter in an influential monograph.2 A significant forerunner, however, was Frederick Winnett whose short and bold outline of the case for such a dating of the Yahwist influenced both of these scholars, especially Van Seters whose teacher he was at the University of Toronto, and has continued to win followers.3

____________________
1
J. Van Seters, Abraham in History and Tradition ( New Haven 1975); id., In Search of History. Historiography in the Ancient World and the Origins of Biblical History ( New Haven 1983); id., Der Jahwist als Historiker ( Zürich 1987); id., Prologue to History: The Yahwist as Historian in Genesis ( Louisville, Ky. 1922); id., The Life of Moses: The Yahwist as Historian in Exodus-Numbers ( Kampen 1994).
2
H. H. Schmid, Der sogenanate Jahwist: Beobachtungen und Fragen zur Pentateuchforschung ( Zürich 1976).
3
F. V. Winnett, "Re-examining the Foundations", JBL 84 (1965), 1-19. Cf. also N. E. Wagner, "Pentateuchal Criticism: No Clear Future", Canadian Journal of Theology, 13 ( 1967), 225-32.

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