Presentation Title

Priestly Writing and the Composition of the Pentateuch

Presenter Status

Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages, Department of Old Testament and Semitic Languages; Director of the PhD program in Theological Studies

Location

Seminary Chapel

Start Date

4-4-2016 10:50 AM

End Date

4-4-2016 11:40 AM

Presentation Abstract

When Julius Wellhausen wrote his Prolegomena to the History of Israel (1878), over two centuries had already passed since Baruch Spinoza had written his Theological-Political Treatise, which proved to be foundational to the development of the historical critical method. By the early nineteenth century a Documentary Hypothesis with the basic parameters of the J, E (or JE), D, and P documents had already become well-established in critical circles, and the Josianic date of Deuteronomy was in place as a scholarly consensus. Wellhausen’s revisionist theory of the history of Israelite religion and the composition of the Pentateuch – the “New Documentary Hypothesis” – was the date he gave to P, in the exilic/post-exilic period, at the chronological end rather than the beginning of the composition of the Pentateuch. There are those, especially in the Israeli school of criticism, who would put P before D. But the exilic/post-exilic date is still the norm within the so-called “historical critical consensus,” if there is such a thing. The variegated pluralistic character of the field calls this into question but, in any case, the hypothesis along with its late date for P is presently being revived and renewed as one major school of thought within the pluralistic “consensus.”

This state of affairs calls for a renewed examination of the criteria, rationale, and conclusions of the historical critical school of thought by those of us who were never convinced of the Wellhausenist theory in the first place. How should one who holds to a historical Moses as the primary source and essential author of the Pentateuch handle the features of the text that they call attention to in their analysis and argumentation? These are intelligent people who have pointed to important primary biblical and extra-biblical data that we need to consider in our own scholarly work without giving-in to questionable theories about the data, whether conservative or non-conservative. We must pay due attention to both data and theories without confusing the two: verifiable data is always primary, theories are always secondary. These are the challenges this essay will address as we consider the literary, historical, and theological dimensions of the composition of the Pentateuch, with special attention to its priestly features.

Biographical Sketch

Richard began his present ministry as a full-time professor in the Old Testament and Semitic Languages Department at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS), Deerfield, Illinois in 1994. In 2010 he also took on the Directorship of the PhD program in Theology Studies at TEDS.

Richard has published numerous articles in the fields of ancient Near Eastern Studies, especially Sumer and Sumerian literature, the relationship between ancient Near Eastern Studies and the Old Testament, the Old Testament Law, especially the ritual law and priestly theology of the Old Testament (Leviticus, the tabernacle, the sacrificial system, etc.), the latter in Walter Elwell's Dictionary of Biblical Theology (Baker, 1996); Willem VanGemeren's New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis (Zondervan, 1997); and David W. Baker’s and T. Desmond’s Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch (InterVarsity Press, 2003). He was Chair of the Biblical Law Section of the Society of Biblical Literature from 2004 to 2010, and serves on several other professional society committees. Richard also co-edited and contributed to Crossing Boundaries and Linking Horizons: Studies in Honor of Michael C. Astour on His 80th Birthday (Bethesda, Maryland: CDL Press, 1997), he was the main editor and a contributor to Life and Culture in the Ancient Near East (Bethesda, Maryland: CDL Press, 2003), has published on the Gudea Cylinders and Sumerian Creation Texts in The Context of Scripture volumes 2 and 4 (the latter forthcoming), and has published numerous other articles in these fields.

In recent years, Richard has become engaged in the renewed scholarly discussion about the early chapters of Genesis. He was one of the five main speakers at the Bryan Institute symposium on reading Genesis 1-2, September 29-October 1, 2011, Chattanooga, Tennessee, along with Todd Beale, C. John Collins, Tremper Longman III, and John Walton. Richard’s chapter is entitled: “A Literary Day, Inter-Textual, and Contextual Reading of Genesis 1 and 2,” in Five Views on Genesis 1 and 2, ed. Daryl Charles (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, forthcoming 2013). He is also the author of “The Three ‘Daughters’ of Baal and Transformations of Chaoskampf in the Early Chapters of Genesis,” in Chaoskampf in the Bible and the Ancient Near East, ed. JoAnn Scurlock (Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns, forthcoming 2013). Most recently he has been appointed a co-director of the "Evangelical Theology and the Doctrine of Creation Project” funded by the Templeton Religion Trust through the Henry Center for Theological Understanding at TEDS.

Richard is married to Melinda. They have two sons, Nathan and Micah, and two. grandsons, Jaycob and Levi.

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Apr 4th, 10:50 AM Apr 4th, 11:40 AM

Priestly Writing and the Composition of the Pentateuch

Seminary Chapel

When Julius Wellhausen wrote his Prolegomena to the History of Israel (1878), over two centuries had already passed since Baruch Spinoza had written his Theological-Political Treatise, which proved to be foundational to the development of the historical critical method. By the early nineteenth century a Documentary Hypothesis with the basic parameters of the J, E (or JE), D, and P documents had already become well-established in critical circles, and the Josianic date of Deuteronomy was in place as a scholarly consensus. Wellhausen’s revisionist theory of the history of Israelite religion and the composition of the Pentateuch – the “New Documentary Hypothesis” – was the date he gave to P, in the exilic/post-exilic period, at the chronological end rather than the beginning of the composition of the Pentateuch. There are those, especially in the Israeli school of criticism, who would put P before D. But the exilic/post-exilic date is still the norm within the so-called “historical critical consensus,” if there is such a thing. The variegated pluralistic character of the field calls this into question but, in any case, the hypothesis along with its late date for P is presently being revived and renewed as one major school of thought within the pluralistic “consensus.”

This state of affairs calls for a renewed examination of the criteria, rationale, and conclusions of the historical critical school of thought by those of us who were never convinced of the Wellhausenist theory in the first place. How should one who holds to a historical Moses as the primary source and essential author of the Pentateuch handle the features of the text that they call attention to in their analysis and argumentation? These are intelligent people who have pointed to important primary biblical and extra-biblical data that we need to consider in our own scholarly work without giving-in to questionable theories about the data, whether conservative or non-conservative. We must pay due attention to both data and theories without confusing the two: verifiable data is always primary, theories are always secondary. These are the challenges this essay will address as we consider the literary, historical, and theological dimensions of the composition of the Pentateuch, with special attention to its priestly features.