The Place of the Law in the Religion of Ancient Israel

By Moshe Weinfeld | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX
GOD THE CREATOR IN THE PRIESTLY
SOURCE AND DEUTERO-ISAIAH

Since Wellhausen, it has almost become commonplace that the priestly literature (P) is distinguished by its abstract religious thought. Holzinger (1893: 376–377) followed Wellhausen’s lead in contending that P is free from anthropomorphic descriptions. According to the generally accepted theory, P was composed during the postexilic period, the time when monotheism reached its height. It is therefore natural, according to this theory, that the author of P should set before us a more refined and more abstract description of the deity than the earlier Pentateuchal sources. We must admit that a comparison of Gen 1 with Gen 2 reveals differences of great significance with regard to the conception of God and Creation. In this respect, Wellhausen (1905: 303 [E.T. 303–304]) was correct in saying that the descriptions of Gen 1 give us a sober reflection about nature, while the two following chapters place us on the ground of marvel and myth. In Gen 1, God acts by means of his word, and everything is created by the breath of his mouth, while in Gen 2 he works in a thoroughly human manner: he plants a garden (2:8), forms man from the dust of the earth (2:7), fashions the beasts and the birds of the sky (2:19), takes a rib from Adam and forms a woman with it (2:21), etc. In Gen 1 we have a systematic, almost rationalistic description of the process of creation, while in Gen 2 we have an almost mythological account. Surely there is no possibility of assuming that the two accounts (Gen 1 and Gen 2–3) came from a single hand or crystallized in the same literary circle. On this fact, there was already agreement before Wellhausen. The latter, however, sought to derive historical conclusions1 from this fact. Our question is: to what extent were his conclusions justified? In connection with this, we must clearly answer two questions: (1) Is the change in the conception of God

1 As is well-known, Wellhausen’s view concerning the dating of Gen 1 is linked
to his general point of view concerning the dating of P; however, to avoid digress-
ing we shall have to consider Gen 1 separately.

-95-

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