CHANGING PERSPECTIVES IN OLD TESTAMENT STUDY
WHEN the predecessor of this volume, The Old Testament and Modern Study, appeared in 1951, the task of renewing international communication and co-operation in Old Testament research after the difficulties of the war years was already well under way. An immense amount of work remained to be done on the new material which had become available in the years between the wars, of which the discoveries at Ras Shamra were the most important; and, shortly before the period covered by the present volume, the sensational finds at Qumran brought to light manuscript riches which opened up new perspectives both in the history of the text of the Old Testament and in the varieties of sectarian belief and practice in early Judaism. Discoveries apart, important developments in various fields of Old Testament research, which had been initiated before the outbreak of war and continued during the years of restricted communication between scholars, had now to be assessed and taken further.
The cacoethes emendandi which had distorted textual criticism of the Old Testament for two generations or more had begun to be replaced by an enhanced respect for the received Hebrew text. From sundry quarters, assaults had been made on some of the most widely accepted conclusions of source criticism, and, more constructively, important attempts had been made to use the techniques of form and tradition criticism to reconstruct the development and interrelations of the hypothetical written sources and to assess the extent and nature of oral tradition. Some scholars, indeed, assigned a dominant and creative role to oral tradition in certain types of literature, notably in some of the prophetic books, which, it was alleged, contained material which had been transmitted, expanded, arranged, and interpreted within