AN INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOKS OF THE OLD TESTAMENT. by W. O. E. Oesterley, D.D., Litt.D.,& T. H. Robinson, D.D., Litt.D. Hon. D.D. (Aberdeen), Hon. D.Th. (Halle Wittenberg). © W O E Oesterley & T H Robinson 1934. First published SPCK. 1934. - This edition prepared for katapi by Paul Ingram 2003.


HOME | The Pentateuch: Contents | Structure | General Analysis | Further Analysis of Sources | Deuteronomy | Compilation | Characteristic Features | Dates | Other Views of Structure and Dates | Hebrew Text

It has been usual among Old Testament critics to add to the Pentateuch the Book of Joshua, and to include the whole under the name Hexateuch. This was due to the fact that the final revision of these books, that of the priestly school, extended as far as the end of Joshua, and no farther, and it used to be held also that two of the older sources, J and E, likewise came to an end at that point. The literary work of the Deuteronomic school, on the other hand, extended beyond its limits, and certainly included the Book of Judges. We might even say that it was carried almost to the end of Kings. It is, however, now generally recognized that J and E are to be carried on through Judges, and possibly, into Samuel, making Joshua much less clearly the last section of a literary unit. Further, the general habit of thinking of the first five books of the Bible together may simpify matters for the student, who should, however, remember that the term Hexateuch is still in common use in learned works of the Old Testament. He may refer for scholarly discussions to the works of Addis, The Documents of the Hexateuch (Vol.1, 1892, II, 1898) and Carpenter and Harhord-Battersby, The Pentateuch (1900); Chapman, An Introduction to the Pentateuch (1911). By far the best book on the subject for the general reader is Simpson's Pentateuchal Criticism (1924).

The Old Testament in all its forms begins with the five books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. ← The names are derived from the Septuagint. In the Hebrew bible the first word, or pair of words, of each book is used as its title - Bereshith, We'elleh shemoth, Wayyiqra, Bemidhbar (the fourth word, not the first) and Elleh debharim. Exodus and Deuteronomy, however, are usually cited by the second of the two words that, properly, compose the title in each case.

They are always grouped together, and form, in the Jewish Canon the Torah, or Law.

They were traditionally ascribed to Moses and are sometimes cited under his name. Jewish writers often spoke of them as the "five-fifths" of the Law, and the name "Pentateuch" is a Greek way of expressing the same essential thought. In Jewish theology the collection had, and has, a degree of sanctity that is far above that of the other books of the Old Testament. And many orthodox Jews who accept critical conclusions regarding the Prophets and the Writings do not feel free to handle the Torah in the same way.


The Pentateuch purports to present a continuous narrative that starts with the Creation of the world and ends with the death of Moses, as Israel is on the point of entering the Promised Land. The story runs as follows:

Bible Reference


Gen.i-xi: The Creation and the history of mankind down to the time of Abraham.
Gen.-xxv.18: The story of Abraham.
Gen.xxv.19-xxvi.35: The story of Isaac, including the early life of Jacob.
Gen.xxvii-xxxvi: The story of Jacob.
Gen.xxxvii-1: The story of Joseph, showing how the Israelites came to be in Egypt.
Exod.i: The oppression of Israel in Egypt.
Exod.ii-xv. 21: Moses delivers Israel.
Exod.xv.22-xix.25: Moses brings the people to Sinai.
Exod.xx-xxiv: A code of laws, opening with the Decalogue, is given, and a covenant is made between Israel and Yahweh.
Exod.xxv-xxxi: Moses, in the mountain, receives instructions as to the building of the Tabernacle, its furniture, the priestly robes and consecration ceremonial.
Exod.xx: The Golden Calf; Moses breaks the two Tables of Stone.
Exod.xxi: Moses' method of communication with Yahweh.
Exod.xxxiv: Moses receives a second law, written on another pair of tables.
Exod.xxxv-xl: Moses carries out the instructions received according to chs.xxv-xxxi.
Lev: A series of laws, mainly ritual, received by Moses ,in the Tabernacle.
Num.i-iv: A census of Israel.
Num.v-vi: Further laws.
Num.vii: Dedication of the Tabernacle.
Num.viii-x: Some ritual ordinances.
Num.xi: The people murmur, and quails are sent.
Num.: Rebellion of Miriam and Aaron.
Num.i-xiv: Spies are sent into Canaan, and an unsuccessful attempt is made to enter the land from the south.
Num.xv-xix: Ritual regulations, including the story of the rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abiram.
Num.xx: Incidents prior to the departure from Kadesh. Num. xxi. 1-20. Incidents on the journey from Kadesh.
Num.xxi.21-35: Defeat of Sihon.
Num.x-xxiv: The blessing of Balaam.
Num.xxv: Apostasy at Baal-peor.
Num.xxvi: A census.
Num.xxvii-xxxi: Sundry laws, mostly ritual.
Num.xx: Settlement of the eastern tribes.
Num.xxi: The itinerary of Israel.
Num.xxxiv-xxxvi: The apportionment of Canaan among the tribes, including the appointment of Levitical cities and cities of refuge.
Deut.i-iv: Moses, on the eve of his death and the entry of Israel into Canaan, recapitulates the history and exhorts Israel to fidelity.
Deut.v-xi: A second discourse of Moses, enjoining fidelity to Yahweh, and introducing the code.
Deut.-xxvi: A code of laws, mainly ethical.
Deut.xxvii: Arrangements for the solemn adoption of the Law in Canaan.
Deut.xxviii: Consequences of obedience and of disobedience.
Deut.xxix-xxx: Moses' third discourse.
Deut.xxxi: Moses' farewell.
Deut.xx: The Song of Moses.
Deut.xxi: The Blessing of Moses.
Deut.xxxiv: The death of Moses.



Narrative Portions | Legal & Ritual Portions

Even a glance over this rough outline indicates that there are two elements in the Pentateuch, a legal and a narrative, and that these have been interwoven. At once we note that Deuteronomy stands apart from the rest; the narrative portion is simply a recapitulation of what has been said before, and the legal section is also, in large measure, an expansion and a revision of material that is to be found in Exodus. The last chapter, however, with the account of Moses' death, does introduce a fresh element, and it is worth noting that it links itself naturally to the end of Numbers. This is clear if we read the last verse of Numbers and the first verse of Deut.xxxiv continuously:

"These are the commandments and the judgements which the Lord commanded by the hand of Moses unto the children of Israel in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho. And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho." (Num.xxxvi.31; Deut.xxxiv.1).

While, then, we may leave Deuteronomy, as a whole, for separate consideration, we should include its last chapter in any discussion of the rest of the Pentateuch.

Narrative and law are unevenly distributed throughout the Pentateuch. Genesis has little reference to law, introducing legal matters only to explain the origin of institutions such as the Sabbath and circumcision. Leviticus, on the other hand, is practically all law, with no narrative, and the two elements are combined in Exodus and Numbers. We can separate the two, and shall do best if we consider the narrative portions first. top

i. Narrative portions.

At the very start we are struck by the fact that we have two accounts of the Creation, the first ending with Gen.ii.4, and the second continuing down to the end of ch.ii. Even to the superficial eye it is clear that these are difficult to harmonise. The first tells the story of the making of the world in six days, the general order being evolutionary and leading up to the creation of man, both sexes being made at the same time. At three points the word " create " is introduced, first in connection with the appearance of chaotic matter, next when animal life arrives, and, lastly, when man is brought into existence. The implication is that each of these three events involves a new element, which cannot be accounted for on the basis of what has previously existed. In the second, the order is entirely different. Man is made first - there is no reference to the creation or preparation of the world of inanimate matter - and then vegetation is produced. Animals are next constructed that the man may not be lonely, and, when these fail to satisfy him, woman is formed, but on a different method from that employed in making man and the animals.

But this superficial difference in presentation entirely fails to bring out the gulf that separates the two narratives when they are read in Hebrew. There are striking variations in the vocabulary, e.g. in ch.i the words used for creation are literally "create" and "make"; in ch.ii they are "model" and (used only of making the woman) "build". Another obvious difference that may be mentioned here is the divine name. In Gen.i we have only "God"; in Gen.ii we have the compound phrase "Lord God", i.e. in Hebrew, Yahweh Elohim, where the second word (literally "God") seems to be a sort of "determinative" attached to the name of the God of Israel. (For a list of terms peculiar to Gen. i and allied passages, see Driver, An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament, pp.123-128 (1913); Skinner, Genesis, ff (1910).]

These differences, however, are comparatively slight beside the contrast presented by the tone and outlook of the whole of the two passages. The second is the work of a storyteller, and is such as we should tell to children, simple, straightforward, naive, and anthropomorphic. Yahweh is very powerful and very clever, but He can make a mistake, though, when He fails, He knows how to try another method, which succeeds. The first narrative, on the other hand, is dignified, stately, systematic, and almost scientific. There is a whole area of culture lying between the two. Both express the same fundamental truth that God made the world, but while the one presents it to an audience still in its intellectual and spiritual nursery, the other addresses an adult and "sophisticated" age. Finally, we may note that the first story of Creation leads up to the institution of the Sabbath, and this suggests an interest in, perhaps even an enthusiasm for, ritual and religious ceremonial.

We may next glance at a doublet of another type. In Gen.iv.17-26 we have a genealogy, telling us of the descendants of Adam. In Gen.v we have another genealogy, which includes some names very like others found in ch.iv, and one or two which are identical. But, just as in the two Creation stories, so here, we find differences in vocabulary, still more in style and outlook. In ch.iv we have a chatty account of the descendants of the first man, while in Gen.v we have the whole fitted into a regular and formal scheme. In other words, the second genealogy matches the first Creation story, and the first genealogy the second Creation story. And, as we read through the Pentateuch, we find many another passage which presents us with the same general characteristics as Gen.i and v. Their prevailing interest in matters of law and ritual has led scholars to describe them as priestly, and to indicate them by the letter P.

As we read further, other problems arise. In the story of the Flood, for instance, we find at least one glaring self-contradiction. In and in Gen.vii.1-5 we have accounts of the command that was given to Noah, ending with his entry into the Ark. But in vi.19 Noah is bidden take one pair of every species, in order to preserve them, while in vii.2f he is ordered to take seven of each "clean" species (i.e. of each species that may be eaten and offered in sacrifice) and two of each "unclean" species. Further, we have different estimates of the duration of the Flood. The data supplied to us in vii.1, 24; viii.3-5, 13, 14 give us a period of: Five months from the beginning of the Flood before the water began to go down, Nine months before the tops of the mountains appeared, Eleven months before the ground was dry, And a total of just over twelve months for the whole time Noah was shut in the Ark.

On the other hand, vii.4, 12, viii.6-12 suggest forty days' rain. Twenty-one days during which Noah made experiments with birds as to whether the water was subsiding; And a further seven days during which he still waited to make sure that the ground was dry. This provides a total of sixty-eight days.

Finally, we may note that the means whereby the Flood was produced differ. In Gen.vii.4, 12 it is brought about by exceptionally heavy rain, while in vii.11 (cp. also viii.2) it is due to a collapse of the fabric of the universe, which admits the waters of the great deep both from above and from below. It is impossible to avoid the feeling that two independent narratives have here been interwoven with one another. Actual experiment serves to confirm this impression, and the clues already given facilitate the analysis of the whole story of the Flood into two complete, distinct narratives. [For the actual process, cp. The People and the Book (ed. Peake), pp164 f.]

These bear characteristics similar to those of the two stories of Creation, and the two genealogies already noticed. The narrative, which speaks of two animals of every species, is closely allied to Gen.i (we may note especially the use of the word "God" as the divine name, the fondness for actual figures, and the structure of the universe implied) and the genealogy in ch.v. The story that refers to seven clean animals, on the other hand, clearly comes from the same circles, possibly even from the same original document, as the second Creation story and the genealogy in Gen.iv. Again, we note especially the more naive presentation of the record, and the use of the divine name Yahweh (" Lord "), though this time it lacks the determinative word "God". The last feature has led scholars to speak of this element in the Pentateuch as "Yahwistic", and to cite it under the letter J (Latin and German for Y).

These two elements, P and J, may be found, either singly or in combination, throughout the first four books of the Bible. It should, however, be noted that one of the distinctive marks of P in Genesis disappears soon after the beginning of Exodus. In we have P's account of a revelation given to Moses. In verse 3 we read:

"I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, as God Almighty" (RV margin 'El Shaddai'), "but by my name Jehovah was I not known unto them."

This explains the reason why P scrupulously avoids the use of the name Yahweh (= Jehovah, see p.13) in the account of Creation and in the stories of the patriarchs. But now that the name has been revealed, it is no longer an anachronism to use it, and it becomes the normal, almost invariable, practice of P to use the name Yahweh in speaking of the God of Israel after this point. So, as between P and J, we have to depend on other features for the analysis of the two. Yet the style and outlook of P are so clearly marked that we seldom, if ever, find serious disagreement among scholars as to the identification and reconstruction of this document of the Pentateuch.

This however, does not exhaust the sources that the compiler of the Pentateuch used in the construction of his book. An interesting and instructive passage is the story of how Joseph was sold into Egypt. In Gen.xxxvii in verse 25 we hear of a caravan of Ishmaelites; in the second part of verse 28 Joseph is sold to them, and in xxxix.1 they have brought him down to Egypt, and Potiphar buys him from them. But in the first part of verse 28 Midianites are mentioned as having taken Joseph out of the pit in which his brothers had left him on the instigation of Reuben (verse 22), in verse 36 it is they who take him down to Egypt and sell him to Potiphar. This is a direct contradiction and, once more, is best explained on the theory that we have two stories interwoven with one another. The "doublets", which occur throughout the whole, support this impression. There are two reasons given for the hatred felt by the brothers - Joseph's own dreams and his father's favouritism, manifested in the special coat he wore. Two of the brothers intervene to save his life, and by different methods - Reuben suggests throwing him alive into a pit, and Judah recommends that he be sold to the Ishmaelites. Again, two complete narratives can be disentangled. [For details of the process see The People and the Book, pp.155ff.]

According to the one, Joseph arouses the jealousy of his brothers and the anger of this father by his dreams. One day he is sent to them, and they decide to kill him. Reuben saves him by having him dropped alive into a pit, where he is found, in the absence of the brothers, by Midianites, who take him down to Egypt. Reuben, unable to find him when he returns to release him, is in despair, and Jacob mourns for his son. In the other story, Joseph is his father's favourite, and has a special coat given to him, implying that he is to be free from the labours which fall to the lot of his brothers. One day, as he approaches his brothers, they plot to kill him, but, after they have taken his coat off, Judah persuades them to sell him to a passing caravan of Ishmaelites. The coat is dipped in goat's blood, and is taken back to the old father, who recognises that Joseph has been devoured by a wild animal.

Though no divine name appears at all in this chapter, it is easy to see that there is no trace of P except in the two opening verses. The two stories very closely resemble one another in style, tone and outlook, and clearly belong to the same general stage of development. If differences are to be observed at all, they may be found in one or two minor points. What we may call the "Midianite" story is interested in Reuben, which suggests that its provenance was northern Israel, while the "Ishmaelite" story places Judah in the forefront, and, therefore, probably belongs to the south. A further characteristic feature of the "Midianite" story may be seen in its interest in dreams.

The indications (especially the promises of Judah) are just sufficient to enable us to associate the "Ishmaelite" story with the J element, which we have already noted in the earlier chapters, while the other belongs to a different, though parallel, group of literary material. [Possibly also the name Israel may be added. After Gen.xx.28 it seems to be used regularly by J, cp. Gen.xliii.i-12 and xlvi.28-34; both passages in which Judah is prominent.]

For further investigation of the element to which the "Midianite" story of Gen.xxxvii belongs we may turn to other passages. In Gen..10-20 and xx we have two similar stories. They differ in many details, and the variations were clearly sufficient to prevent the idea that they describe the same events, and so they were not combined into a single whole, as were the two Flood narratives and the two accounts included in Gen.xxxvii. But they have the same motif, since both tell the reader how Abraham lied about his wife in order to avoid a possible danger to himself. We note at once a difference in the divine names. In Gen. we have "Yahweh", which we have noted as a sign of J, and in Gen.xx we have "God", which we have hitherto, in Genesis, accepted as an indication of P. But there is nothing else in Gen.xx, which in the least suggests the style and outlook of P. On the contrary, but for the divine name and the presence of a parallel story in ch., we should have been quite prepared to assign this passage to J. There is, however, one further point of distinction between the two stories. In Ch. nothing is said as to the means whereby Pharaoh discovered who Sarah was. In ch.xx, on the other hand, the truth is revealed to Abimelech in a dream. We are at once reminded of one of the features of the "Midianite" story of Gen.xxxvii, and, in the absence of strong reasons to the contrary, we may attribute both these narratives to the same original group. From the fact that the divine name generally used is the Hebrew word Elohim, the term Elohistic is commonly applied to this element, indicated by the letter E.

So far we have confined our attention to Genesis, partly because it stands first, and partly because the three elements (especially P) are fairly easy to distinguish. But the same phenomena of literary structure are to be observed also in Exodus and in Numbers. A good illustration is to be found in the story of the institution of the Passover. Exod..2-28, 40-50, with their legal tone and their introduction of exact figures, are clearly P, while most of the remainder, with its comparatively naive simplicity and its anthropomorphic presentation of God, suggests J. Even more striking is the combination of sources to be found in the account of the crossing of the Red Sea. Here two stories may fairly easily be disentangled. According to one of them, the passage is made possible by a natural withdrawal of the water (possibly owing to the tide - a phenomenon unfamiliar to the Israelites) and an unusually strong drying wind. The tide returns under the sand, clogs the wheels of the Egyptian chariots, and, eventually, drowns the pursuers before they can reach solid ground. This has all the marks of E, though there may be elements derived from J. In the other narrative the miraculous element is strongly brought out. The sea is actually divided, and stands up in watery cliffs on each side of the track along which the Israelites pass, falling back on the Egyptians as soon as the fugitives are safely across. This is due to P.

At the same time, it should be clearly stated that, while P always stands out because of its peculiar style and interests, the disentanglement of J and E after the end of Genesis is often difficult and sometimes impossible. E still sometimes uses the divine name "God", but, after the revelation of Yahweh to Moses in Exod.iii.1-15, that name often appears even in E. Other differences are to be noted, however, and these may serve as a guide where they appear. Amongst them we may especially mention the preference of E for the name "Amorite", as applied to the pre-Israelite inhabitants of Canaan, while J usually has "Canaanite", confining "Amorite" to peoples east of the Jordan. Still more striking is the fact that the sacred mountain, where Yahweh first appeared to Moses and where the Covenant was made, is called Horeb in E and Sinai in J and P. But, where such indications fail, though we may be conscious of a double narrative or of two parallel accounts, the differentiation is often quite uncertain.

ii. Legal and Ritual portions.

We have already remarked that P shows a deep interest in matters of law and of the cultus. (See above, p.27.)

We need to remember that civil and religious law, us and fas, were not distinguished in the mind of the ancient Israelite, and that a collection of laws, or "code," might include both types of regulations - indeed probably would do so. But the interest of the priestly writers was naturally focussed on matters of ritual, ceremonial cleanness, the priesthood and the like. These are not wholly absent from other elements in the Law, but they can hardly be expected to assume the same proportions as in P.

Beside P, whose characteristic style is stamped on most of the legislation in Exodus, and of the whole of that found in Numbers and Leviticus (with exceptions in this latter book to be noted later), we have three collections of laws in the Pentateuch, each of which was, we may assume, originally an independent code. (At this point reference should also be made to the work of Jirku, especially to his Das weltliche Recht im Alten Testament (1927). He redistributes the laws among a fresh series of codes from which, he believes, they have been taken to form the existing documents. His study of the subject contains valuable features, especially in his comparison of Israelite laws with those of other peoples of western Asia, but his conclusions would involve a wholly new analysis of most of the Pentateuch. His views rest on the assumption that in any one code the same formula must have introduced all the laws, and this appears too uncertain to justify a wholesale abandonment of conclusions which have proved themselves to be otherwise soundly based.)

These three collections are to be found in:

  1. Exod.xx-xi,
  2. Exod.xxxiv.17-28,
  3. Deut.-xxvi.

The last of these will be discussed later, when the whole of the book in which it appears is considered. The first opens with the Decalogue, followed by certain regulations for worship, and then proceeds to lay down laws for the conduct of Israelite society. Most of the laws contained in chs.xxi-xi are moral and social, but, especially in ch.xi, we find also a certain number of prescriptions dealing with worship - sacred dues, festivals and sacrifice. The little code in Exod.xxxiv is accompanied by a narrative explaining the circumstances in which Moses wrote it down at the dictation of Yahweh, together with an exhortation to root out utterly the pre-Israelite inhabitants of Palestine. It is worth noting that the prescriptions in the code itself are essentially matters of worship and ritual, and that they are found also in Exod.xx-xi. Only in one instance is there a material variation: in the Decalogue carved images are forbidden (Exod.xx.4-6), while in Exod.xxxiv.17 it is molten figures that are prohibited. Clearly we have here a case of a doublet of the type that we have seen already in dealing with the narrative portions of the Pentateuch, and we may safely assume that the two codes belong to the two elements that we have already noted, J and E. A brief glance over the two makes it clear that, while the code in xx-xi has distinct affinities with the E narrative; that of Exod.xxxiv is naturally connected with J, especially in the use of the name "Sinai" in the narrative framework. Here, again, we have a clear case of two parallel documents, which in this instance, seem to have been nearly identical. (It is enough to note here the use of the divine name "God," cp.xx.20, 21; xxi.6, 13; xxi.8, 28; the interpretation "judges" suggested by the RV margin in some of these passages is not wholly probable. It is true that "Yahweh" occurs in this code, but, as we have seen (p.32), E frequently uses this name after Exod.iii, while neither of the other elements freely employs the word "God" without "Yahweh" in speaking of the God of Israel.)


Genesis | Exodus | Numbers | Deuteronomy

Detailed analysis of the whole of the Pentateuch is here, naturally, impossible. Differences in minor points are to be observed in the assignment of various parts of many passages, especially in Exodus and Numbers, but, on the whole, the following division may be accepted as a general approximation. (For discussions of individual points the reader is referred to any scholarly modern commentary on the separate books. The Century Bible, the Camb. B. (esp Driver's Exodus), and the Westminster Commentaries may be consulted, and still more important are the volumes on Genesis and Numbers in the International Critical Commentary.)





i.4b-iv.26   i.1-ii.4a
v.29   v.1-28, 30-32
vi.1-8;   vi.9-22
vii.1-5, 7, 10, 12, 16.b, 17b, 22a-23a   vii.6, 8-9, 11, 13-16a, 17a, 18-21, 23b-24,
viii.2b-3a, 6-12, 13b, 20-22   viii.1-2a, 3b-5, 13a, 14-19,
ix.18-27   ix.1-7, 28-29

An analysis such as this looks complicated and arbitrary, but a careful reconstruction of the two narratives of the Flood, or the reading of such a translation as that found in the National Adult Schools Union's Genesis in Colloquial English will serve to show, by the completeness and the accuracy of the two narratives, how fully the process is justified.




x.8-19, 21, 25-30.   x.1-7, 20, 22-24, 31-32
xi.1-9, 28-30.   xi.10-27, 31-32
.1-4a, .6-i.5, 7-11a, 12b-18.   .4b-5, i.6, 11b, 12a

Ch. xiv presents problems all its own. In style and general character it is utterly unlike anything else in the Pentateuch, and is probably based on independent reminiscences, handed down through centuries, of events recorded, not in Palestine, but in Mesopotamia.




xv.1bd, 2a, 3b-4, 6-12a, 17-21 xv.1ac, 2b-3a, 5, 12b-16  

It may be remarked that verses 20, 21 are best regarded as a later note appended by some scribe imbued with the style and language of Deuteronomy. See below pp.47 f.




xvi.1b-2, 4-14   Xvi.1a, 3, 15-16
xviii.1-xix.28, 30-38   Xix.29
xxi.1a, 2a, 6b-7, 25-26, 29-30, 32a, 33 xxi.6a, 8-24, 27-28, 31, 32b, 34 Xxi.1b, 2b-5
x.20-24 x.1-19 Xi.1-20
xxv.1-6, 11b, 18   xxv.7-11a, 12-17
xxv.21-26a, 27-28 xxv.29-34 xxv.19-20, 26b
xxvi.1-33   xxvi.34-35
xxvii.1a, 3, 4b, 5-6 xxvii.1b-2, 4ac xxvii.46
xxvii.7, 8a, 15, 18a, 20, 23-27, 29ac, 30a, 31b, 33-34, 38b, 41b-45 xxvii.7, 8b-14, 16-17, 18b-19, 21-22, 28, 29b, 30b-31a, 31c-32, 35-28a, 39-41a  

Here again we have a passage where two narratives are very closely interwoven, especially in verse 7, though here it is possible to apportion the words with some degree of certainty between them.




xxviii.10, 13-16, 19-21b xxviii.11-12, 17-18, 20-21a, 22 xxviii.1-9
xxix.2-14, 18-23, 25-28a, 30-35 xxix.1, 15-17 xxix.24, 28b-29
xxx.1a, 3b, 9-16, 20b-21, 22c-23a, 24b, 25, 27, 29-43 xxx.1b-3a, 4b-8, 17-20a, 22b, 23b24a, 26, 28 xxx.4a, 22a
xxxi.1, 3, 19a, 21, 25b, 27, 31b, 36a, 38-40, 44, 46, 48, 51-53a xxxi.2, 4-18a, 19b20, 22-24, 25a, 26, 28-30, 32-35, 36b-37, 41-43, 45, 47, 49-50, 53b-xx.1 xxxi.18b
xx.4-14, 23a, 24a, 25, 26b, 28-29, 32-33 xx.2-3, 15-22, 23b, 24b, 26a, 27, 30-31  
xxi.1-5a, 6-10a, 11b-17 xxi.5b, 10b-11a, 18b-20 xxi.18a
xxxiv.2b-3a, 5, 7, 11-13, 19, 25b-26, 30-31 xxxiv.1-2a, 3b-4, 6, 8-10, 14-18, 20-25a, 27-29  
xxxv.21-22 Xxxv.1-5, 6b-8a, 14ac, 16-20 xxxv.6a, 8b, 9-13, 14bd, 15, 23-29
xxxvi.31-39   xxxvi.1-30, 40-xxxvii.1
xxxvii.3-4a, 12-13a, 14b-17, 18b, 21, 23, 25b-27, 28b, 31, 32a, 33ac, 35 Xxxvii.2b, 4b-11, 13b-14a, 18a, 19-20, 22, 24, 25a, 28ac, 29-30, 32b, 33b, 34, 36 xxxvii.2a
xl.1b, 3b, 5b, 15b xl.1a, 2-3a, 4-5a, 6-15a  
xli.9b, 14b, 31, 34a, 35ac, 36a, 41-42a, 44-45, 48, 49b, 53-54a, 55, 56b-57 xli.1-9a, 10-14a, 14c-30, 32-33, 34b, 35b, 36b-40, 42b-43, 46b-47, 49a, 50-52, 54b, 56a xli.46a

In the earlier part of this chapter only fragments represent the J account. It was probably so similar to E that the compiler did not think it necessary to preserve both.




xlii.2, 4b, 5, 7, 9b-11a, 12, 27-28a, 38 xlii.1, 3-4a, 6, 8-9a, 11b, 13-26, 28b-37  
xliii.1-13, 15-23a, 24-xliv.34 xliii.14, 23b  
xlv.1a, 2a, 4b-5a, 5c, 7b, 10a, 13-14 xlv.1b, 2b-4a, 5bd, 6-7a, 8-9, 10b-12, 15-28  
xlvi.1a, 28-34 xlvi.1b-5 xlvi.6-27
xlvii.1-5a, 6b, 13-26, 29-31 xlvii.12 Xlvii.5b-6a, 7-11, 27-28
xlviii.2b, 9b-10a, 13, 14, 17-20a, 20c xlviii.1-2a, 8-9a, 10b-12, 15-16, 20b, 21-22 Xlviii.3-7

Verse seven may be an insertion from a later time, though derived from a comparatively early source. Its closest affinities, however, are with P.




xlix.1-27, 33b   xlix.29-33a, 33c

Verse 28 is a late note appended to the blessing of Jacob.




l.1-3a, 4b-10a, 11, 14 l.3b-4a, 10b, 15-26 l.12-13






i.6, 8-12 i.15-22 i.1-5, 7, 13-14
ii.11-23a i.1-10 ii.23b-25
iii.2-4a, 4c-5, 7-8, 16-18 iii.1, 4b, 6, 9-15, 19-22  
iv.1-16, 19-20a, 21-26, 29-31 iv.17, 18, 20b, 27-28  

This passage, like many others in Exodus and Numbers, contains a certain amount of material that must have been introduced by the compilers. Such material is not especially indicated in this analysis, but is included in the passage concerned. Thus, an addition made to a section predominantly J is not separately specified, but is included in the same section as the basic sentences. For fuller discussion of the general question: see below, P. 48.




v.3, 5-vi.1 v.i-2, 4 vi.2-vii.7
vii.14, 16-17a, 18, 21a, 24-25 vii.15, 17b, 20b, 23 vii.8-13, 19-20a, 21b-22
viii.1-4, 8-15a, 20-32   viii.5-7, 15b-19
ix.1-7, 13-21, 23b, 24b, 25b-34 ix.22-23a, 24a, 25a,, 35 ix.8-12
x.1-11, 13b, 14b-15a, 15c-19, 24-26, 28-29 x.12-13a, 14a, 15b, 20-23, 27  
xi.4-8 xi.1-3 xi.9-10
.21-27, 29-34, 37a, 38-39, 42a .35-36 .1-20, 28, 37b, 40-41, 42b-i.2

The provenance of verses 21-24 is uncertain, and some editors would regard them as a redactional addition. Verses 25-27 are clearly such as addition; their tone and style strongly recall those of Deuteronomy.




i.3-16, 21-22 i.17-19 i.20
xiv.5b-6, 7b, 10a, 11-14, 19b, 20b, 21b, 24, 25b, 27b, 28b, 30-31 xiv.3, 5a, 7a, 15b, 16a, 19a, 20a, 25a xiv.1-2, 4, 8-9, 10b, 15ac, 16b-18, 21ac, 22-23, 26-27a, 28a, 29
xv.1-2, 22-25a, 26-27 xv.3-21, 25b  

The "Song" is possibly later than any of the main documents, and may have been inserted by a comparatively late editor.




  xvi.4 xvi.1-3, 5-36
xvii.1b-7 xvii.1b-7 xvii.1a

The presence of the two elements is clear, but their assignment is very uncertain.




xix.3b-6a, 9, 11b-13a, 18 xix.2b-3a, 6b-8, 10-11a, 13b-17, 19 xix.1-2a
  xx.1-xxiv.15, 18b xxiv.16-18a
  xxxi.18b xxv.1-xxxi.18a
xxi.1-4, 12-33 xxi.5-11  
xxxiv.2-28 xxxiv.1 xxxiv.29-35






x.29-33 x.34-36 i.1-x-28
xi.4-6, 10, 13, 18-24a, 31-34 xi.1-3, 11-12, 14-17, 24b-30 xi.7-9
.16a .1-15 .16b
i.17b i.17c i.1-17a
xiv.1b xiv.1b xiv.1a, 2, 5-7, 10, 26-30, 33-38
xiv.8, 9, 11-25 xiv.8, 9, 11-25  
xiv.31-32, 39b, 40b, 41b, 43, 45b xiv.39a, 40a, 40c-41a, 42, 44-45a, 45c  
xvi.1b, 2a, 12-15, 25, 26, 27b Xvi.1b, 2a, 12-15, 25, 26, 27b xvi.1a, 2b-11, 16-24, 27a, 35-50
xvi.28-31, 33a Xvi.32, 33b-34 xvii.1-xix.22
  Xx.1b, 5, 8a, 8c-9, 11, 14-21 xx.1a, 2-4, 6-7, 8b, 10, 12-13, 22-29
xxi.1-3, 32-35 Xxi.4b-9, 12-31 xxi.4a, 10-11
x.3b-5a, 5c, 6, 7, 11, 17-18, 21b, 22-35, 37, 39 X.2-3a, 5b, 5d, 8-10, 12-16, 19-21a, 21c, 36, 38, 40-41  
xxiv.1-25 Xi.1-30  
xxv. 1b-2, 3b-4 Xxv.1a, 3a, 5 xxv.6-xxxvi.13






  xxxiv.1b-6 xxxiv.1a, 7-12

It remains to add only that we may for the present regard the whole of Leviticus as coming under the general head of P.


Our next step must be to inquire whether we can go farther in the analysis of the three main strata that have been already indicated. In other words, can we assume that there ever were such documents as J, E, and P, and, if there were, is it possible that they themselves were composite before they reached the compilers who united the three into a single whole?

If we read through each of the three groups separately, the first impression made upon us, especially in Genesis, is that we have a number of more or less isolated stories that have been put together by a compiler; many, if not all, of the sections are apparently self-contained, and can be read without reference to what precedes and what follows. There is, admittedly, a certain unity of subject, and there is a background with which the original reader may be expected to be familiar; but to take a single example, the narratives assigned to the J and E sections of Exodus and Numbers are in no sense a history of Israel during the wilderness period. And there is no certainty that the events between the great Covenant and the arrival in Moabite territory (there are very few of them) are placed even in chronological order. Such narratives as appear in P are obviously designed to serve as a framework for the legal (including the ritual) sections, and, as such, have a greater appearance of unity, even on the surface. Yet here also it might conceivably be maintained that the narratives come from a circle of storytellers and not from a document in the strict sense of the term.

More detailed examination, however, shows that the connection between the various stories is often too close to be the result of casual synthesis. (Cp. Especially, Eissfeldt, "The smallest Literary Unit in the Narrative Books of the Old Testament," in Old Testament Essays, publ. Griffin (1927).]

The P narratives in Genesis, for instance, are linked together in a way that cannot be explained simply by a theory of editorial redaction. The final compiler would not have taken the trouble so to modify the P story of Creation as to make it anticipate that of the Flood, nor would he have edited the P Flood story in such a way as to make it follow on the story of Creation. The E narratives in Genesis are, perhaps, less closely connected than those of either of the other strata, yet a common thread and purpose can be traced through many of them. E in Exodus and Numbers, on the other hand, does present us with something like a continuous history, at least up to the Covenant and after the removal from Moabite territory. And we may make the same remark of J, though there appear to have been several stages in the growth of this document before it reached the form in which it was combined with E.

The last remark introduces our second question. Are the three primary documents themselves compilations from earlier works? It may be said at once that there are occasionally indications in the narratives that suggest that the answer should be in the affirmative. Once or twice, even within the limits of J and E respectively, we find traces of doublets. We have, for instance, two presentations of Noah. In he is the hero of the Flood, while in ix.20-27 he is the first grower of the vine. The two presentations are not incompatible, but they suggest a different origin. In Gen..9-20 and xxvi.1-10 we hear of a patriarch lying in regard to his wife for his safety's sake. Now it is quite possible that the two should have had the same origin. But, in view of other facts, the natural supposition is that the studies are drawn from different sources, and that that in which Isaac appears is due to a later edition - we can go no further than that of the original collection.

It is usual, then, to recognise that in J we have a comparatively short early collection, which was gradually enlarged by the addition of fresh material, drawn from the same general cycle of narratives, but finding its place in the final collection at different times. Different scholars somewhat variously define the limits of the original "book". (Eissfeldt (Hexateuchsynopse [1927] has gone so far as to make a clear distinction between this older compilation, which he calls "L" - a Lay document, and the later elements, to which he would confine the symbol J.  Morgenstern (see The Oldest Document of the Hexateuch [1927]) has isolated a primitive document which he calls K, and which, he believes, has been subjected to repeated revision.  Most scholars, however, are content to use "J1," "J2," etc.]

Similar phenomena, though they are less obvious, have been detected in E. But when we turn to P, we find more than anywhere else, clear and distinct evidence of compilation from earlier sources. The first, and most obvious early element (and it should never be forgotten that all scholars have recognised that there are very early elements in P, whatever may be the date of its final form) is a collection of laws, mainly dealing with ceremonial purity, now found in Lev.xvii-xxvi, in the introduction:

"This is the thing which the Lord hath commanded" (xvii.2).

And the conclusion:

"These are the statutes and judgements, and laws, which the Lord made between him and the children of Israel in mount Sinai by the hand of Moses" (xxvi.46),

suggest that we have here a complete and independent code. The impression is borne out by two other considerations. In the first place, we find here a number of laws, which are repeated elsewhere, though usually with slight differences. Thus we have injunctions as to the observance of the Sabbath (xix.3, 30). Molten images are forbidden (xix.4). A fallow year is to be observed (xxv.2-7), though the regulations do not at all agree with those given in Exodus. The Lex talionis is repeated, almost in the same words as in Exod.xxi.23-25. All this, and much more, suggests an independent code. Still more striking is the general tone, which resembles Deuteronomy (from which, however, the code is widely removed in point of style) in its humanitarianism and its exclusiveness. In substance it shows striking in similarities with Ezekiel, especially with chs.xl.ff. The greater part is devoted to laws of ceremonial cleanliness, with special reference to the priesthood, and the thought is constantly repeated that, since Yahweh is holy, His people must be holy also. It is from this latter feature that the code derives its modern name of the "Law (or Code) of Holiness", and its common designation by the letter H.  We may add that, in the opinion of some scholars, even H in its present form, has been produced by the expansion of an original nucleus.

Similar phenomena, though less clearly marked, suggest that there are other elements to be found within the limits of P, even after H has been isolated. It is possible to trace a regular continuity throughout the whole of the Pentateuch, and to observe the sections that do not fit in with it, except on the assumption that they are later insertions, due to a series of revisions. Beginning with the story of creation this groundwork of P proceeds, by means of genealogies, to link the beginning of the world with the birth of Moses, pausing only to describe at some length the Flood, and Abraham's purchase of the field of Machpelah. The real interest of the narrative begins with the revelation to Moses. This is followed by the deliverance from Egypt (P mentions five plagues only, three of which are identical with plagues named in J, and the other two appear to be alternative forms of two others found in the older source), including fairly full prescriptions for the observance of the Passover. The miraculous crossing of the Red Sea is then described, and, after an account of the sending of the Manna, the people are brought to Sinai. Moses ascends into the mountain, and receives instructions as to the making of the Ark, the building of the Tabernacle, and the consecration of Aaron and his family. These instructions are carried out.

The Law is then given from the Tabernacle, dealing first with various types of offerings and sacrifices, then passing on to forms of "uncleanness", i.e. that which places people temporarily or permanently outside the religious community of Israel. This section of the Law concludes with the ritual of the Day of Atonement. At this point the priestly writers embodied H, adding notes from time to time. Once or twice new laws are inserted; e.g. in Lev.xxv P appends the law of jubilee to the H law of the sabbatical year. Laws concerning vows follow, and a fairly long section is devoted to the priesthood. Arrangements are made for the orderly grouping of the tribes about the Tabernacle, and sundry ritual laws are added, possibly belonging to a later stratum, though some of the ritual involved is probably very ancient.

Then Israel moves from Sinai, and marches straight to the Wilderness of Paran. Thence spies are sent, including Joshua, who traverse the whole length of Palestine, finally bringing back the report that the land is not good. The people refuse to attempt an entry, the spies (except Caleb and Joshua) fall by disease, and the people are condemned to wander for forty years in the wilderness.

The remainder of P in Numbers contains laws of various kinds, mostly ritual. Not infrequently incidents are described which serve to reinforce or to illustrate the priestly law in general. Thus, the rebellion of Korah established the Aaronic priesthood, and the case of the daughters of Zelophehad introduces the law of female inheritance in the absence of male heirs. [Two other narratives of this type, the story of the man, who gathered sticks on the Sabbath and the account of the annihilation of Midian, probably belong to a later stage in the development of the document.]

The account of the settlement of the Transjordanic tribes is based on JE, but a priestly hand has revised it, and P probably contained some mention of the affair. Itineraries and a census are included, and with the appointment of Cities of Refuge on the cast of Jordan, Israel is brought to the point at which she is about to enter the Promised Land.

To the later elements belong a large number of small notes and expansions, which, by some peculiarity in form, or by some unsuitability to their present context, betray a later origin. A good example occurs in Exod.xxix.38-42, where rules for the daily offering, repeated in Num.xxviii.3-8, interrupt the instructions for the consecration of the altar. Again, at the beginning of the construction of the golden altar of incense is commanded. Elsewhere P speaks as if there were only one altar, i.e. the great altar of burnt offering. Since, however, the whole represents much the same point of view, the distinction between the various strata of P is not of great importance for the student of Israel's religious history, and if it be desired to enter into details, they can readily be obtained from any good modern commentary.


We now reach the last of the five books of the Law. Deuteronomy - D covers a brief period at the end of the life of Moses and, in its present form, contains simply his final charge to the people. But it stands markedly apart from all the rest of the Pentateuch, both in style and in outlook. Its kernel is a code (chs.-xxvi, xxviii), to which is prefixed a hortatory introduction in chs.i-xi. The code itself resembles that of E (Exod.xxi-xi), and nearly every law in the shorter document is reproduced in the longer, though often in a considerably modified form. (For a complete list of parallels between Deut. On the one hand, and JE and P (including H) on the other, see Driver, Deuteronomy, pp.iv-vii (1902).] There are also a number of laws in Deuteronomy that find no place in the Book of the Covenant (Exod.xx-xi). (There are occasional parallels with the J code in Exod.xxxiv, but these may be neglected, since, in every instance, the law is also found in the E code.]

A comparison of the two codes, E and D, makes clear one striking fact: when the same law appears in both, if there be a difference in the form, it will be found that the law of D is the milder, and carries with it a distinctly humanitarian tone. One illustration will suffice. In Exod.xxi.2-11, and Deut.xv.12-18, we have the law of limited slavery. In both codes the period is defined as six years. But in E it is expressly stated that the slave is to go free exactly as he entered bondage. If he has married and has begotten children, he must leave them behind, or, as an alternative, submit to the ceremony that transforms him into a permanent slave. In D nothing is said about the slave's wife or children, but his master is enjoined to give him such presents as will enable him to make a fresh start in life. Permanent slavery is still contemplated, but the motive is assumed to be, love for the master himself. There is no direct contradiction here. But E, when dealing with a female slave, expressly states that she is not liable to be liberated; she is a permanent slave in any case, and the best that the legislator can do is to secure her rights if her master marries her to himself or to his son. In D, on the other hand, it is expressly stated that she stands on the same footing as the male slave. We receive the same impression of sympathy for the poor and oppressed in other instances.

The laws found in D, but not in E, are equally instructive. Some of them are ritual and ceremonial; many of these were probably intended to be condemnation of Gentile practices. Such are the prohibition of disfigurement in mourning (Deut.xiv.1-2), of interchange of garments between the sexes (x.5), and of Asherahs and Massebahs. But we have others, which again suggest a high degree of sensitiveness to human feeling. One of the best illustrations is the law in Deut.xxiv.16, which ordains that the family of a criminal is not to suffer with him. A like sympathy is extended to animals; a mother-bird is not to be taken with her eggs (x.6-7), the ox is not to be muzzled as he treads out the corn (xxv.4). The most striking difference, however, concerns a matter of ritual. E, evidently, contemplates the possibility that there will be a number of altars on which sacrifice may be offered to Yahweh; D (Deut..1-16) insists that there can be but one. [As Driver has said, "Deut.-xxvi is an enlarged edition of the 'Book of the Covenant'" (op. cit., p.x).]

The earlier chapters of Deuteronomy form an exhortation, or rather a series of exhortations. They are written in a highly characteristic style with long and (for Hebrew) rather complex sentences. Again and again the text insists on right relations between Yahweh and His people, or rather on the maintenance by Israel of a right attitude towards her God. The first address of Moses occupies chs.i.1-iv.43. This opens with an historical introduction, in which Moses summarises the history of the people from the giving of the Law down to the time at which he was speaking. It is a noticeable fact that this section includes nothing that is not also found in E, and may be regarded as a compendium of the history as contained in that element in the Pentateuch. Again, we note that there is little or nothing which, must have come from J; in particular, the name of the mountain of the Law is in D invariably Horeb, as in E, and not Sinai, as in J (and P). The conclusion is almost irresistible, that the compiler of Deuteronomy, even in its present form, had E before him, but no other of our Pentateuchal sources.

It is generally agreed that Deuteronomy is not homogeneous, but has, in its present form, undergone revision from its primitive shape. What that shape was we do not know for certain, but there is little, if anything, in the code itself which suggests later addition; the principal question is as to the introductory and concluding chapters. It is generally agreed that the first exhortation, i.1-iv.43, was no part of the book in its original form, but opinions differ as to whether the same remark should be made of the second exhortation, iv.44-xi. On the whole, the probability seems to lie on the side of that view which holds that, when the Deuteronomic code was made available in its present form for general use, it was already provided with this introductory homily.

Ch.xxvii bears all the marks of a later insertion. Moses is no longer the speaker, and there are internal difficulties, which suggest the expansion of an original Deuteronomic nucleus, which has been transferred to this point from some other position. In chs.xxix, xxx we have another, or third, address by Moses, which, had it been original, might well have been included in the second, and is, therefore, commonly regarded as secondary. Ch.xxxi seems to contain the conclusion of the original code in verses 9-13, but the remainder is apparently derived from JE. Chs.xx, xxi consist of two poems attributed to Moses; the intervening passage, xx.48-52 belongs to P. Neither of the poems has any essential connection with the rest of Deuteronomy. And finally, ch.xxxiv, describing the death of Moses, is apparently derived from the other three main elements in the Pentateuch, J, E, and P. (Attempts have been made from time to time to analyse D on the basis of the pronouns used. Israel is sometime addressed in the singular and sometimes in the plural. But the text changes so rapidly from one to the other that a satisfactory analysis on this basis is nearly impossible.]

Thus it is clear that Deuteronomy, like other elements in the Pentateuch, is, in its present form, the result of a process of growth. We can recognise an original document with greater clearness here than elsewhere, possibly, but it remains true that this book has undergone a process of revision. Comparatively little change seems to have been made in the main body of the work, but it has been expanded by additions both at the beginning and at the end. Some, at least, of the extra matter, is due to revisers who were imbued with the spirit and adopted the style of the main document. Finally, the incorporation of the whole into the great body of the Pentateuch led to the insertion of occasional phrases and sentences characteristic of the priestly school, and to the inclusion of a very small amount of narrative derived, from the older documents J and E.


Up to this point we have been primarily concerned with the main sources from which our present Pentateuch was ultimately derived. We have inevitably assumed an editorial process; we should now do well to sketch it briefly in detail.

We may start with the earliest form of the narrative material. This would, in the nature of the case, consist of stories told in various parts of the country - round the shepherds' fires at night, at the city gates, and, above all, at the various sanctuaries, where the priests would instruct the worshippers in the traditions of the shrine at which they offered their gifts. In course of time these would be collected and continuous histories would be formed. Two such histories, both comparatively ancient, have come down to us; they are those indicated by the symbols J and E.

In one or two other instances it seems that narratives now incorporated in the Pentateuch maintained an independent existence through the centuries till they were incorporated in the text as we now have it. A good illustration is to be found in Gen.xiv; while some scholars hold that the account of the sack of Shechem (Gen.xxxiv) contains a narrative derived, not from E, but from some source not otherwise represented in the Pentateuch, in addition to the J element, whose presence is generally admitted.

The next stage that we note is the combination of J and E which are sometimes so closely interwoven as to defy accurate and certain disentanglement. E, however, was used as the basis for another document containing a summary of the historical element (from the giving of the Law onwards) and an expansion of the legal. This we know as Deuteronomy (D), and the evidence shows that it, like other parts of the Pentateuch, underwent a certain amount of revision. This document was the product of a school of thinkers and writers who did not confine their attention merely to the book of Deuteronomy, but also studied and revised a great deal of the older material. We find not infrequently in Exodus and Numbers (though not in Genesis), passages that can be explained best as due to a revision by this school.

[Examples have been seen in such passages as Exod..25027 and i.8-9, where the stress is laid on the constant remembrance of the deliverance from Eqypt, the expansion of the law prohibiting the graven image in Exod.xx.4-6, where the language recalls Deut.vii.9, and the reference to Og in Num.xxi.33-35. The activities of this school do not end with the Pentateuch, and they are far more in evidence in Joshua and Kings. As we shall see later, we may even ascribe to it the present form of the books of Kings.]

Our next "source" is a collection of laws, mainly ritual and ceremonial, to which the name "Law of Holiness" has been given. This is at present incorporated in P, apparently by the earlier compilers of that work. The Priestly document seems to have had an independent existence, but was used as a framework by the final compilers of the Pentateuch, who, imbued with its attitude, and writing in its style, took the existing works and bound them together into a single whole. It goes without saying that at each stage of development a certain modicum of editorial matter was introduced, partly to smooth over awkward joints and partly to produce a certain harmony of the whole. This latter end, however, has been very imperfectly attained, and it still remains possible to separate, in the main, the earlier documents of which the whole has been composed.


Before proceeding to discuss the dating, it will be convenient briefly to glance at the characteristic features of each of these documents. J and E we can treat together. Both are written in the best style of the golden age of Hebrew prose. If there is a difference to be observed, it is to be found in the lighter and more delicate touch of J in narrative. He has the gift of bringing a whole scene vividly before his readers with a few clear words, and it is in no small part due to his genius that the stories of the Pentateuch are among the best known in the world. (It is, of course, admitted that J, as it now appears in the prose narratives of the Old Testament, is the work of a "school" rather than an "author," but the present writer feels that the original nucleus around which the whole has grown was probably the work of a single hand. Cp.pp.39f.)

The principal theological distinction between the two documents has already been noticed. For the rest, they have much in common. Both strongly represent the outlook of that element in Israel's religious life that we may call the prophetic, though, when we use this term, we must think of Elijah and not of the canonical prophets. Both recognise only one God for Israel though neither in the cast suggests a true monotheism. J carries back the worship of Yahweh by Israel's ancestors to a very early period, while E makes it originate with the revelation to Moses. The mythology of J (E has no mythological stories) at times suggests an ultimate polytheistic basis, but that has been largely eliminated. Both are interested in matters of worship, and record frequently the foundation of shrines by the patriarchs. The scanty fragment of law, which appears in J, is almost confined to matters of ritual, and the E code opens with regulations for the altar, besides including the provisions also found in J. In both, the ethical element is clear and strong; though some acts, which a more developed conscience would condemn, pass without comment, yet the general stress is laid upon righteousness and fair dealing as between man and man.

The connection between J and the south, and between E the north, has already been mentioned. (See p.30)

J is interested in the southern sanctuaries, especially in Hebron, while E has a wider range of reference. The names that E brings into prominence are those that are connected with the north - Reuben, Joshua, etc., while in the J narrative it is Judah and the southern heroes (e.g. Caleb) who stand out. E is familiar with Egyptian matters, though apparently with the Egypt, not of the XVIIIth and XIXth dynasties, but of a rather later period. [i.e. roughly between 1600 and 1200BC.]

We have already touched on some of the characteristics of H, its hortatory passages, in which we have the beginnings of Hebrew rhetorical prose, its stress on Yahweh's holiness and on His demand for holiness in His people. We have also noted the close resemblances between H and Ezekiel, on which it will suffice to quote Driver: [Intr, pp.140f; cp. Also the list of words and phrases on p.140]

Both breathe the same spirit; both are actuated by the same principles, and aim at realising the same ends. Thus both evince a special regard for the 'sanctuary', and prescribe rules to guard it against profanation. Both allude similarly to Israel's idolatry in Egypt, and to the 'abominations' of which Israel has since been guilty. Both emphasise the duty of observing the Sabbath. Both attach a high value to ceremonial cleanness, especially on the part of the priests; both lay stress on abstaining from blood, and from food improperly killed. And both further insist on the same moral virtues, as reverence to parents, just judgement, commercial honesty, and denounce usury and slander...

In other words, in spite of differences which prohibit identity of authorship [Cp. Driver. Intr., p141.], both emanate from the same circle, i.e. the pre-exilic Jerusalem priesthood. H, in the form in which it came into the hands of the priestly compiler, was clearly a manual of toroth, or directions as to the religious life and practice of Jerusalem.

If H belongs to the south, D equally clearly has affinities with the literature of the north. Its doctrine of a single altar may (though this is by no means necessary) have been originally formed in the interests of a northern sanctuary - perhaps Bethel - for no particular place is specified. It is certainly dependent on E rather than on J, and the hortatory style and rhetorical prose (even more strongly marked than in H) suggest the same period as H and the same general stage of development. As we have seen, it is in a real sense a revision and an expansion of the legal portion of E, and, we may almost say, it bears roughly the same relation to H that E does to J. It is marked throughout by an intense fervour for Yahweh. This is not so much, as in H, a demand for ceremonial purity and external consecration, as an insistence on a higher moral union between God and people. To this end must all else be subordinated. The great deliverance, in which Yahweh first showed His choice of, and His love for, Israel, must never be forgotten - hence the stress on the Passover. All Canaanites ought to have been destroyed on the entrance of Israel into the Promised Land, and all traces of their cults eradicated (here, especially in the condemnation of Massebahs, D differs from E, cp. Deut.vii.5, .3, etc.), lest they should lead Israel into apostasy. Above all, the supreme motive from which service should be rendered to Yahweh is that of love.

We turn now to P. The literary characteristics of this element of the Pentateuch have already been noticed, especially the rather stilted, yet dignified, style, the orderly arrangement, the fondness for exact details in numbers and in dates, the careful genealogies, and the interest in all things concerned with ritual. In P, as we now have it, whatever views may have been originally suggested by earlier material incorporated in it, the theology is definitely monotheistic; nowhere is the reality of any god but Yahweh suggested. It may be possible to discover traces of anthropomorphism, but these have been for the most part eliminated. God speaks, that is all; there is little indication of the means whereby His utterance is audible, and no human form is attributed to Him. Even direct communication in this way ceases with the revelation to Moses. After his death the will of God may be ascertained through the priestly manipulation of the sacred lot, or by some similar means. The single altar is assumed, and the priesthood is strictly limited, not, as in Ezekiel, to the family of Zadok, but to that of Aaron, suggesting a compromise between the rigour of the pre-exilic law of Jerusalem and the wider basis on which the prescriptions of D are founded.


Comparative Dating | Absolute Dating

We must now proceed to the very difficult task of attempting to determine the dates to which we should assign the construction and combination of the documents we have discussed. Our study necessarily falls into two parts, the comparative dating and the absolute dating. The former, which consists in determining the order of the documents, is comparatively easy; the latter, which involves assigning each to a definite period, is precarious and often uncertain.

i. comparative dating

For the comparative dating of the documents we may take Deuteronomy as a starting-point, since it is obviously related to all the rest. The general conclusion, accepted by practically all modern students might be summed up in Driver's words: (Deuteronomy, p.xiv.] "It" (i.e. Deuteronomy) "is an expansion of the laws in JE (Exod.xx.22-xi.33, xxxiv.10-26, i.3-16); it is, in several features, parallel to the Law of Holiness; it contains allusions to laws - not, indeed, always the same as, but similar to the ceremonial institutions and observances codified in the rest of P". While this represents the general judgement, it needs a certain amount of elucidation, perhaps modification.

In the first place, it is difficult to find any clear proof of D's dependence on J. The use of E is obvious, and there can be little doubt but that both the historical and the legal portions of that document were in the hands of the Deuteronomists. But, though there are references to laws that occur in J, it will be found on examination that, in every case, the law appears also in E. A similar statement may be made as to the historical references in D, though we cannot speak here with the same absolute confidence. But it is clear that J and E belong to the same general age of Israelite history, and we cannot assume that D came in between them. On the other hand, the combination JE may well have been produced not earlier than the construction of D.

[There are three instances in which D has a reference to which the only parallel in our present texts is in J. The first is the mention of the "ten commandments," Exod.xxxiv.28, and the second is the allusion to Kibroth-hattaavah, Num.xi.34, the third is the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah. In the first case, however, the phrase looks like a later insertion in the text of Exodus - it is in any case paranthetic - and the second may well have been a tradition which was found in both documents, and taken by the compiler of J and E only from the former. This must have happened many times; practically nothing remains of E's story of the crossing of the Red Sea, but it is incredible that it should have been omitted from the original narrative. The reference to Sodom is in Deut.xxix.22 (23), which belongs to a later stratum.]

The relation between D and H is somewhat obscure. The close parallels between H and Ezekiel complicate the matter, which have led some writers to suppose that the prophet is the earlier. But opinion is crystallising into the view that the dependence lies on the side of Ezekiel - or rather on the side of the author of Ezek.xl-xlviii. But was H earlier than D? The only point on which clear comparison can be made is to be found in the regulations for worship. The outstanding peculiarity of D is its centralisation of worship in a single spot, and its prohibition of sacrifice at any but the one altar. Of this there is no clear evidence in H, and if H were an actual contemporary of, or only a little later than D, we should expect such evidence. [Even in Lev.xxvi.31 the destruction of the sanctuaries is threatened only as a punishment, and it does not follow that they were in themselves a reason for the punishment. The whole of ch.xxvi - at least in substance - might have come from Amos. Again, in Lev.xvii.4 and elsewhere we have references to the "tent of meeting" or the "sanctuary." But the Hebrew phrase does not, in any case, imply that the sanctuary in question is the only one, and it may fairly be conjectured that the term "tent of meeting," at any rate, is due to the compilers who inserted H in P. On the whole subject see especially G. B. Gray in the Encycl. Bibl., Art. "Law Literature," esp. cols. 2738 f., and G. F. Moore, ib., Art. "Leviticus," esp. cols. 2782-2792.] A really significant contrast, however, may be seen in the law that deals with the slaughter of domestic animals. In Deut..15 this is expressly permitted as a secular act - clearly an accommodation to the law of the single altar. But in Lev.xvii.3ff such an act is regarded as equivalent to murder, unless performed under sacred auspices. In other words, we have here a statement - and the only explicit statement - of the ancient practice abrogated by Deuteronomy. We can hardly believe that the passage in H could have been formulated after the appearance of Deuteronomy. And especially if, as some scholars hold, ch.xvii belongs to a somewhat late stage in the development of H, we have here very strong grounds for presuming a comparatively early date for its original nucleus. In many ways the two documents resemble one another, both in form and in religious emphasis. And we are led to suspect that, while the Deuteronomists relied for their material to a large extent on E, they represent the same stage of general religious and literary development, as does the school in which H took its shape.

When we turn to P, it is at once obvious that even the groundwork of this document should be placed later than J and E. It is necessary only to compare the two stories of Creation to assure us of the wide distance that separates the two. The probability is that centuries of intellectual and theological growth lie between them, though the old story on which the P narrative is based may be as ancient as that represented in the J narrative. When we compare P with Deuteronomy, however, we must base our judgement on other grounds. While the laws of P are mainly ritual and those of D mostly ethical and social, there are points of contact. One of the most obvious of these is the position of the priesthood. In D (and, incidentally, in H) all members of the family of Levi are priests; there is nothing to suggest a distinction of order within the sacred tribe. But in Ezekiel we do meet with a difference. Owing to their presumed apostasy, the priests of the local sanctuaries (in D placed on the same level as their Jerusalem brethren) are degraded to menial duties in the ideal scheme, while the true officiating priesthood is confined to the family of Zadok.

The same distinction is made in P, though there the range of the priesthood proper seems somewhat wider, and includes all the descendants of Aaron. [The mention of Aaron in H e.g. in Lev.xxi.1, 16, 24, x.2, 4, 18, is to be ascribed to the redaction which accompanied the inclusion of H in the body of P.]

The prescriptions for the Passover in D and P vary considerably, and even contradict one another. In J, E and P, it is essentially a household festival. D attempts to centralise it and have it observed by all Israelites in the one sanctuary - clearly a part of the general policy that is characteristic of D. The P regulations strongly suggest a return, to some extent, to the older form, since the new order is clearly impracticable. The actual practice in the later Judaism was a combination of the two; the victim was killed in the Temple and then taken away, cooked, and eaten in a private house. When we add to these facts an obvious acquaintance, not only with E but also with J, we feel justified in placing P latest of the five sources we have identified.

Our general conclusions up to this point may be reinforced by reference to the social conditions presupposed in the legal codes. That of E in Exod.xxi-xi (and we may add the little J code Exod.xxxiv.17-18) is clearly intended for a community which is almost entirely agricultural, and whose social and political organization is still comparatively undeveloped. D, on the other hand, while not neglecting the country and the tillers of the soil, obviously contemplates also a city life, with a higher stage of constitutional development, referring constantly, as it does, to the "gates", (Cp., e.g., Deut..15, 18, xiv.7, etc.) i.e. to the cities, and laying down regulations for the appointment and duties of the judges and other officers.

(Cp. Deut.xvi.18-19. Their functions in E and other early sources are performed simply by "elders."]

Finally, P is addressed (in its present form) to a community in which the political interests were falling into the background, and ritual and religious ceremonial took their place. Its Israel is now a Church rather than a State.

So far we are on fairly safe ground, but we can be less certain when we consider the relative ages of J and E. It is clear that they come from the same stage in the history of Israelite development, and that their style corresponds closely with that which we can recognise elsewhere as being characteristic of the early or middle monarchy. There are features that suggest that E originated in a slightly more advanced community than J, particularly certain theological assumptions. These may be summed up by saying that the anthropomorphism, which is so pronounced a feature is somewhat mitigated in E. Such phrases as those used of Yahweh in the J story of Creation would be unnatural in E. Revelation comes less often by theophany than by dreams - indeed the dream is a characteristic feature of E. On the other hand, in matters of actual worship J seems to be further advanced than E, especially in its avoidance of any material object of worship, except the Ark and the stones contained therein. With this may be contrasted the fact that E frequently mentions the Massebah, or the sacred pillar, in such a way as to make it clear that it is regarded as a legitimate symbol of the divine presence.

The general impression produced by the two documents leaves us with the feeling that J is somewhat the earlier.

At the same time it must be recognised that the two come from different parts of Israel, the one from the south and the other from the north. The differences in outlook, then, may have a local rather than chronological explanation; Judah may have been slower to advance in theological conceptions of Yahweh than was the north. Of this, however, we cannot be certain, especially since we know that communication between the two was close and continuous, and there is a slight balance of probability in favour of the priority of J. [It is significant that both Amos and Isaiah addressed themselves to northern Israel, the former exclusively.]

We thus reach a probable order, J, E, H, D, P. Once again we may pause to remind ourselves that all the documents (with the possible exception of H) include much earlier material. A good illustration is to be found in E's occasional quotations of songs that seem to be more or less contemporary with the events to which they refer. The curious and almost unintelligible snatch of verse in Num.xxi.14-15 is expressly stated to have been taken from a written collection known as "The Book of the Wars of Yahweh"; and in Josh.x.13 we hear of a "Book of Jashar", which meets us again in ii Sam.i.18. (For the extension of the pentateuchal elements into Joshua see below, pp.69 ff.)

It is universally recognised that P contains very much earlier material, including ceremonial regulations, which certainly codified ancient practice, and were handed down from generation to generation, perhaps even in written form. Strength is lent to this last suggestion by the presence of a passage in D concerning "clean" and "unclean" animals, (Deut.xiv.4-20.]which (with the omission of the names of the "clean" animals) occurs also in P.[Lev.xi.3-20.] Clearly both documents have taken the passage ultimately from the same source, for there are slight variations that make a theory of direct borrowing improbable. The Creation and Flood narratives in P are derived from a source that was independent of J, and must go back to an early period in Canaanite culture, though they have been profoundly modified in the course of centuries, and now bear little resemblance to what must have been their original form. top

ii. Absolute Dating.

With this caveat in mind we can proceed to the task of attempting something like an absolute dating of the various elements in the Pentateuch. Our only hope of doing this with any degree of success is to find some event, recorded outside the Pentateuch, with which we can definitely connect the origin or promulgation of one of its constituent parts. A mere reference to events recorded in the Pentateuch is not enough, since the writer's knowledge might be derived from some other document, or even simply from oral tradition. Thus Hosea's mention of Admah and Zeboim, and Isaiah's references to Sodom and Gomorrah, do not entitle us to assert that they had J, still less our Pentateuch, in their hands. But in ii Kgs.x, xi we have an account of a great reformation of religion, which was based on a book of the Law, discovered in the Temple. The measures taken by Josiah to carry out the provisions of this Law, especially the removal of all sanctuaries except that at Jerusalem, have led to the belief that the book thus discovered was our Deuteronomy, though possibly not in exactly its present form. The view has not passed unchallenged in recent years, nevertheless it is still the most usual opinion. (See below, pp.65 f.)

Sundry adaptations of existing practice suggest that the writers of Deuteronomy regarded that the law of the single alter as an innovation. One is the permission to eat the flesh of the domestic animals under secular conditions. A second is the arrangement whereby the priests of the local sanctuaries were to be permitted to come to Jerusalem and officiate there. (It is expressly stated in ii Kgs.xi.9 that this provision was not actually carried out, suggesting that it was enjoined in the law under which the changes were made). And we have also the provision of the Cities of Refuge, to take the place of local altars as spots to which the innocent manslayer might flee.

The principal difficulty with which this view is faced is that of explaining how a work, essentially belonging to northern Israel (Cp. P.52.), should have been found in Jerusalem. And the absence of a reliable and certain solution of this problem has led some scholars to question the correctness of the identification.


But it is clear that the discovery of the book and of its contents was a complete surprise to the priests, especially to Hilkiah. We may assume that their manual hitherto had been H or something like it, and the law of the one altar, together with its necessary corollaries, was strange to them. It is hardly likely that a school of Jerusalem priests could have kept their aims and work so completely secret that all memory of it should have perished. It must have been brought from the outside as a complete document, and have represented the ideals of a group who had no official connection with the Jerusalem Temple. This group might have been connected in some way with the eighth-century prophets, and D certainly shows more than traces of their influence. But if we have to single out one especially among them, it is Hosea, and not Isaiah or Micah, on whom our choice would fall. It would, in fact, not be unfair to describe D as E modified by the teaching of Hosea. We do not know exactly what happened to the north after the fall of Samaria. But we have no reason to doubt that, even after the formation of the Assyrian province of Samaria by Sargon in 720BC, there was free intercourse between the different parts of the country. And Bethel, in particular, was near enough to Jerusalem to make it easy for the one place to influence the other. We have no means of knowing how it reached Jerusalem, but the important fact remains that a law-book was found in the Temple in 621BC and that all the positive evidence leads us to identify this book with the kernel of Deuteronomy, i.e. v-xxvi, xxviii.

If this identification can be accepted we have a terminus ad quem for the composition of the book. The only clue that we have as to the earlier limit is to be sought in the tone of the work itself. We have already observed its affinity to the work of the great prophets of the eighth century, especially of Hosea. It is clear that the prophet is the earlier, since he makes no appeal to the law in support of his demands and denunciations. In particular, we may note the insistence on love. It is true that Hosea's favourite word is hesed, while that of D is 'ahabah, which suggests that we must not make the connection too close. But the type of appeal is the same in both cases.

Further, it is Hosea, more than any other prophet of his age, who denounces the nominal Yahweh-cult of the local sanctuaries as being in reality the worship of Baal. (This view now (1941) requires some modification, since excavations at Tell el Nasbeh (Mizpah) have disclosed the existence of an Ashtoreth temple alongside the temple of Yahweh.]

It is a significant fact that every Israelite sanctuary, except Shiloh, which has yet been excavated, shows clear evidence of having been used as a Canaanite shrine in pre-Israelite days. Had the invaders been imbued with the principle which, centuries later, was enunciated by the authors of D, and utterly destroyed the old "high places", with all their emblems, there would hardly have been an opportunity for the development of that syncretism which, to Hosea, was but a thinly-veiled Baalism.

Finally, we may note that the Jewish community at Elephantine knew nothing of the provisions of Deuteronomy. Not only were they evidently unaware of the demand for the centralisation of sacrifice. (They appealed to their Palestinian brethren for help in restoring their Temple after an Egyptian rising had destroyed it). But they actually admitted subordinate deities, including a goddess Anath, alongside of Yahweh, though they regarded Him as their chief God. We do not know when the Elephantine Jews migrated to Egypt. They may have been descendants of the exiled communities of northern Palestine, moving first to Mesopotamia (where they learnt to speak Aramaic instead of Hebrew), [Cp. Oesterley and Robinson, History of Israel, II. Pp.160 ff. (1932).] or they may have gone as fugitives even as early as the time of Hosea, who makes frequent references to Israelites going down to Egypt. (Hos.vii.16; ix.6; xi.11; .1.]

In any case, the evidence which their documents offer us makes it impossible to carry D back to a period earlier than the beginning of the seventh century. Many scholars believe that the book was the work of the prophetic party, which suffered eclipse during the reign of Manasseh (696-641BC). And this may have been the case, provided that we can assume the work to have been carried on, not in Jerusalem itself, but somewhere in northern Israel, possibly, as has already been suggested, at Bethel.

H is, as we have seen, the southern analogue to D. It breathes the same prophetic spirit, but we may suggest that the direct influence was that, not of Hosea, but of Isaiah, whose stress on holiness cannot have failed to bear fruit in the religious thinking of the best men among his people. While it includes much that is comparatively early, there are also elements that suggest a protest against the iniquities of the reign of Manasseh. As a special instance we may cite. the condemnation of human sacrifice in Lev.xx.2-5. This suggests an origin not unlike that often ascribed to D - a prophetic revision of a code already in existence, intended to help Israel to a better and purer religious life after the wicked king should have passed away. But in the case of D the earlier code was still extant, while the older basis of H, if any, must be conjecturally extracted simply from the document itself. Many of the regulations regarding sexual morality, the purity of the priesthood, the type of animal required for sacrifice, the creatures that are ceremonially clean and unclean, together with others, may have been current among the Jerusalem priesthood long before the time of Manasseh, and would not be affected by his policy. But, in its present form, or rather in the form in which it was subjected to priestly revision, it can hardly be carried farther back than the early part of the seventh century.

The terminus ad quem for H is obviously the date of Ezek.xl-xlviii. There is, however, a widespread conviction among scholars that these chapters are not to be ascribed to Ezekiel himself, and do not date from the exilic period at all. It is clear that they are not the latest "programme" for the ecclesiastical establishment, but they may have to be ascribed to one of the first two centuries in the post-exilic period. A more reliable point is fixed by D. As we have already seen, the central feature, alike of D and of the reform of Josiah in 621BC, is the centralisation of sacrifice. That clearly carried with it the secularisation of the flesh of the domestic animals, a regulation that is directly contradicted in H. It does not follow that H is necessarily earlier than D, but it does seem to indicate that H, in a form that included Lev.xvii, was earlier than the promulgation of D, or at least the reform of Josiah. We are thus reduced to assigning H to much the same period as D, i.e. to the seventh century.

The approximate dating we have reached for D and H gives a terminus ad quem for J and E; neither can be later than the middle of the eighth century.  [It has been held in some quarters that Josiah's law-book is not D but the E code. The account of the reform, however, with its centralisation of sacrifices, makes it impossible to maintain this view, unless we are to regard the narrative of Kings xi, as largely Midrash, composed in the interests of the Deuteronomic law at a later period. Such a wholesale surrender of the historicity of II Kings would need much stronger support than is available from the facts as known to us, though it may be admitted that there are elements in the story (some of the details which refer to the king's action at Bethel, for instance) which are probably due to later revision of the narrative.] The earlier limit for these documents is more difficult to determine. In style and general quality they resemble writings that must be assigned to the first half of the monarchical period, and they represent the general position of religion and ethics that was accepted by the best elements in the Israelite community in the ninth century. We have however, no real clue beyond this, and it is not surprising to find that the dates assigned by different scholars vary about a century. There are those who would place E before J, though the general opinion inverts this order. Some would place J as early as 900BC, and others believe that E may be as late as 750. We can only say that, in all probability, the true dates lie between these extremes.

From some points of view the dating of P is simpler than that of J and E. Even the "groundwork" is admittedly than D and H, and even later than Ezek.xl-xlviii. If these last chapters could be regarded as the work of the prophet whose name they bear, it would be necessary to assign P, at the earliest, to a comparatively late point in the Exile. But, since the probability is that these chapters themselves are post-exilic, P must be later still. (See below, pp.320 f.)

If further evidence is required, it may be remarked that, whereas D is obviously intended for a community living under a monarchic constitution, P contemplates only a theocratic order. (Cp. Deut.xvii.14-20.]

The point in the post-exilic period on which our minds fasten is inevitably the period of Ezra. In Neh.viii-x we read of a great assembly in Jerusalem, at which Ezra promulgated a law, solemnly accepted and sworn to by the whole people. It is in the record of this event that we have for the first time (outside the Pentateuch) a distinction made between the priests, sons of Aaron, and the rest of the tribe of Levi. [Cp., e.g., Neh.x.28, 34, 38]

As we have already seen, this arrangement is the most striking difference between the community as conceived by P and that of D. And it is not unnatural to connect Ezra with P, just as Josiah may be connected with D. This gives us the date 398-7BC for the point at which P entered into the actual life of Israel. [For the correctness of this date see below, pp.127 ff. ]

It goes without saying that it was compiled at some time before this, and, since its provisions seem to have been unknown in Palestine (apart from features in which P overlaps D), the place of compilation was probably Mesopotamia. At the same time it should be observed that it shows no direct signs of Babylonian influence, and contains much material, even apart from H, which must have been traditional in Israel long before the Exile; the post-exilic prophets Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi show no acquaintance with P, while their utterances are quite consistent with a knowledge of D. The same remark may be made of Nehemiah, who is to be dated roughly two generations before Ezra. In any case it is difficult to find any strong reasons for denying the general identity of at least the groundwork of P with the Law proclaimed by Ezra in 398-7BC. As we have already remarked, P continued to receive additions, even before the general combination of all the elements into our present Pentateuch. We cannot say exactly when the whole process was completed, but early in the second century BC, the Law was regarded as a single whole, with, apparently, no suspicion of its composite origin. We shall nor greatly err, then, if we assign its final completion to a date not later than 300BC. [We may select as obvious examples the stories of the Creation and the Flood. While both suggest Mesopotamian origin, they have been so modified as to demand a period of many centuries for their growth. And they must be regarded as a part of the inheritance left by the early period of Mesopotamian influence in the West, i.e., the latter half of the third millennium BC. The extent to which the primitive tradition might be modified in course of time has been recently illustrated by the discovery of the Ras-Shamra inscriptions, which give us a form of the Creation myth very different from that, which survived in Balylonia.]


Structure & Analysis(below) | Dates

i Structure and Analysis.

What has been said above forms an outline sketch of the position that has been most widely held during the last half-century. There have been, however, isolated scholars who have challenged it at one or more points, in addition to the occasional divergent views, which have been noted in passing. The normal analysis has been, on the whole, almost universally accepted. Doubts have been expressed as to the possibility of separating J and E outside Genesis, but there are only two or three cases of scholars who have challenged the whole system. First among these may be mentioned Eerdmans, who, in a very interesting original study of the problem, has propounded the theory that the older narratives had a polytheistic basis, which was repeatedly revised and re-edited. Eedmans study of the question contains some important observations, but the theory, as a whole, has found no support. [Die Komposition der Genesis (1908), see also his Die Vorgeschichte Israels (1908), Exodus (1910), Leviticus (1912).] Lohr, claiming Eerdmans as his predecessor, has recently developed the view that the Pentateuch was the work of a single individual, probably Ezra, who put together a great mass of earlier material. [In Der Priestercodex in der Genesis (1924).] The use of the divine names as a criterion for analysis has been attacked in a number of quarters. It will suffice to mention two scholars, Dahse and Wiener. Both call attention to variations in the text of the Septuagint, and argue from them that we cannot be certain of the use of the names Yahweh and Elohim in the original Hebrew text. This has been met by Skinner [The divine names in Genesis (1914).] and Battersby-Harford, [Since Wellhausen (1926).] both of whom show that on grounds of scientific textual criticism the MT is to be held the more reliable in this matter. Dahse himself propounded a theory that resembles that of Eerdmans in that it postulates a series of revisions, and these, he holds, were responsible for the alternations in the divine name. We may further note the type of view, represented by Moller[Wider den Bann der Quellenscheidung (1912).], which endeavours to save the unity of the Pentateuch (and, incidentally, its Mosaic authorship) by explaining the two names as indicating different meanings, Elohim being used when the reference is to the God of nature, Yahweh implying the God of revelation. Harford has no difficulty in showing the weakness of this position. [Op. cit., pp.45-47.]

In any case, the use of the divine names is only one of the facts on which the critical analysis is based. There are passages (e.g. Gen.xxxvii) where that analysis is as certain as it ever can be, in which no divine name is used at all. Volz and Rudolph, however, have recently challenged the whole position, in a monograph entitled Der Elohist als Erzahler (1933). The authors believe that the grounds on which J and E have been distinguished in the narrative portions of Genesis are inadequate to support the theory. In many instances where there is an alternation between the two divine names it is to be explained on other grounds. Narratives that others have regarded as composite can be defended as simple. There still remain, it is true, peculiarities in the text, which cannot be thus explained away, but these are due to a revision of the original J. As far as the narrative of Genesis goes, "E" simply represents that revision. The opinion of two scholars of the learning and ability of Volz and Rudolph entitles their view to every respect, but some will feel, even after reading Rudolph's defence of the unity of Gen.xxxvii, that here we have surely a composite narrative.

On the whole, then, we may say that the analysis hitherto accepted still holds the field; the isolation of P, in particular, is hardly questioned, and is admitted even by so conservative a critic as Orr. [The Problem of the Old Testament (1906).]

Nor is there any serious difference of opinion as to the relative dating of the documents, beyond some uncertainty as to whether J or E is the earlier, and as to whether H precedes or follows D. Neither point is of serious importance. The absolute dating, on the other hand, has been vigorously challenged from two quarters, some scholars seeking to place the whole series earlier than is usually done, others preferring a later date. top

ii. Dates.

As we have seen, the central point for the absolute dating is the identification of Deuteronomy with the book of the Law referred to in ii Kgs.x. As supporters of an earlier date we may mention especially Oestreicher and Welch. The latter has acutely observed that there is much in D that can hardly have been applied in practice to the conditions of the late sixth century BC. All Judah, for instance, could not have eaten the Passover in the Temple at Jerusalem. The difficulty is solved, by denying that the original Deuteronomy intended to enjoin centralisation of sacrifice at all. Deut..2-14, the fundamental passage in this respect falls into two parts, which are doublets. The former, which does unmistakably limit sacrifice to one spot (verse 5), is a later addition to the original. And verse 14, which seems to have the same meaning, really means that a number of sanctuaries are recognised as legitimate, provided that they have not previously been used for Canaanite worship. Welch notes carefully how strong the protest still is against Baalism, and deduces from this fact the view that the old cults were still carried on under the old names. We have no room here to argue the point in detail. It can only be remarked that the interpretation of Deut..14 sounds forced and unnatural, and that Welch might have been on firmer ground if he had assigned the whole of ch. to a later period than the main body of the book. Further, there are difficulties created by a theory which throws D back into a period earlier than that of the first great canonical prophets.

Holscher and Kennett, on the other hand, feel that 621BC is too early a date for D. Holscher notes the difficulties which Welch also has observed, but solves them by assigning D to a period after the Exile, when Jewish territory was much circumscribed and its population small. The narrative of ii Kgs.x-xi is largely, if not wholly, a pure invention. Holscher accompanies his view of D with a drastic and sweeping criticism of the literature of the OT. in general and particularly of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Such criticism is necessary if the theory of a post-exilic Deuteronomy is to be maintained, but there is a strong feeling among scholars that the extensive excisions required by the hypothesis are not justified on other grounds. To Holscher D is the law-book of Ezra. [Cp., e.g., Komposition und Ursprung des Deuteronomiums, ZATW, xl. Pp.161-255 (1922).]

Kennett seems to have felt most strongly the difficulties created by the obvious northern affinities of D. He attempts to meet these by supposing it to have originated at Bethel and to have been brought to Jerusalem during the Exile, when sacrifices were still offered, though the Temple lay in ruins. The theory involves a compromise between the Jerusalem (or Zadokite) and the Bethel (or Aaronic) priesthoods, which was responsible for the later developments in religious literature and practice. This theory has the advantage of explaining how D came to Jerusalem. But it does not account for the description of Josiah's reforms or for the connection between D and Jeremiah. Both these difficulties, on Kennett's hypothesis, can be met only by a theory of extensive interpolation in the two books mentioned. It may well be that Deuteronomy had its proper home in Bethel, but most critics would prefer that its introduction to Jerusalem should involve as little interference with the Biblical text as possible.  [Cp., e.g., Deuteronomy and the Decalogue (1920).]


The text is, on the whole, better preserved than that of any other portion of the Old Testament, perhaps because it was the first section to receive the meticulous care that the scribes bestowed upon their Scriptures. We have a valuable witness to the general accuracy of the MT in the Samaritan text, which, though it must have diverged at an early date from that used in Judaea, nevertheless corresponds very closely with it. Variations in the Samaritan are often borne out by the Septuagint, which, again, shows less difference than is the case in most books. There are occasional suggestions of an Egyptian form of text that varied more widely than any extant copies, whether in Hebrew or in Greek.

If, for instance the "Nash Papyrus" was originally part of a biblical MS., then Deuteronomy must have had two widely different recensions, of which only one has survived. It is usually held, however, that this fragment belonged, not to a Biblical MS., but to a Liturgy of some kind, which did not necessarily follow the Biblical order. The other principal versions also offer strong support to the substantial accuracy of the MT. [For an account of this papyrus, which dates from the second century AD, see S. A. Cook in Proceedings of the Society for Biblical Archaeology for 1903.]