The Literature of the Old Testament (1913) [Chapter 7]

[Articles in the Summed Up series are intended to be summaries of chapters of selected theological books. The author(s) will be quoted verbatim for the purposes of ensuring accurate representation]

Age of the Sources: Composition of the Pentateuch

(pp.66-73)

A) About the author of the chapter:

George Foot Moore “graduated from Yale College in 1872 and from Union Theological Seminary in 1877, in 1878 Moore was ordained in the Presbyterian ministry and until 1883 was pastor of the Putnam Presbyterian Church, Zanesville, Ohio.

He was Hitchcock professor of the Hebrew language and literature at Andover Theological Seminary, 1883–1902. In 1902 he became professor of theology and in 1904 professor of the history of religion at Harvard University.” [1]

[1] https://www.britannica.com/biography/George-Foot-Moore

B) Chapter Summary:

“Deuteronomy is a fixed point, by reference to which the age of other strata in the Pentateuch may be determined, at least relatively.”1

“The inference is plain that P was written at a time when the principle of the unity of the sanctuary for which Deuteronomy contends with the zeal of innovation was no longer disputed, at least in the author’s surroundings, so that he has no need to enjoin it, and can, indeed, ignore the fact that there ever had been other sanctuaries of Jehovah. Such a state of things never existed while the kingdom stood; it was only in the Persian period, when Judæa was reduced to a circle of a few miles about Jerusalem, that the conditions implied in P arose.”2

“… the older laws in P go back, substantially in their present shape, to the days of the kingdom, and in many cases represent a prescriptive usage which is of remote antiquity; while the latest additions to P were made at a time so recent that they had not found entry into the copies from which the earliest Greek version was made in the third century B.C.”3

“It must be enough here to say that the older laws in P go back, substantially in their present shape, to the days of the kingdom, and in many cases represent a prescriptive usage which is of remote antiquity; while the latest additions to P were made at a time so recent that they had not found entry into the copies from which the earliest Greek version was made in the third century B.C.

J and E are both older than Deuteronomy. In Genesis, as has already been noted, they recite the foundation legends of Shechem, Bethel, Hebron, Beersheba, and other of the holy places of Canaan, telling how the patriarchs built the altars, set up the sacred stones, planted the sacred trees, dug the holy wells, and offered sacrifice to their own God at these spots, by this origin legitimating as Israelite sanctuaries what were, at the time of the conquest and long after, Canaanite “high places.””4

“On the other hand, the strong interest in the origins of the holy places of Canaan indicates that when J and E were written these high places were Israelite sanctuaries, which had as such their sacred legends; indeed, a considerable part of the patriarchal stories is ultimately derived from these legends of local sanctuaries, which form a cycle, harmonized and connected by a migration motive. That both J and E were written long after the settlement of the Israelites in Palestine is proved even more conclusively by the fact that the obligatory religious observances are those of an agricultural people.”5

“It is difficult to reconstruct the narratives of the exodus and the wanderings in the desert in J and E as they originally were. Extensive transpositions seem to have been made at some stage in the transmission, by which parallel relations of the same occurrence are separated and appear as distinct events. There were evidently considerable differences in the traditional accounts which the earliest authors found current. The holy mountain is in E named Horeb, in J (probably) as in P, Sinai; Moses’ father-in-law in the one is Jethro, in the other Hobab. In J there are some traces of a tradition, perhaps the oldest of all, in which there was no mention of Sinai; the Israelites made their way straight from the Red Sea to Kadesh.”6

“A comparison of J and E with the history of the times of Saul and David in Samuel, and with the stories of Elijah and Elisha in Kings, would lead us to ascribe them both to the classic age of Hebrew prose of which those narratives are specimens. On the other hand, in J and the older stratum of E there is no influence of the prophetic movement of the eighth century which left so deep a mark on religion and literature. On these grounds J may be probably ascribed to the ninth century, and E, which is somewhat younger, to the first half of the eighth. Both used older sources, and both were revised and enlarged by later hands; we have had more than one occasion to refer to an edition of E which reflects the teaching of the prophets, particularly of Hosea.”7

“At a considerably later time, perhaps in the fifth century B.C., or even in the fourth, the Origins of the Religious Institutions, a product of the Persian period, with the mass of laws that had been incorporated in it (see above p. 57), was united with JED, thus bringing together into one volume all that was preserved about the history down to the conquest of Canaan and all the various institutions and collections of laws which were attributed to Moses. The author of this comprehensive work, as was most natural, took P, with its sharply marked divisions and outstanding epochs, as his basis, and introduced in each period the parts of JE which seemed to him to belong there. Where P had a parallel narrative, as in the story of the Flood, he wove the strands together with more or less ingenuity, omitting, in ordinary cases, only the most palpable doublets. It is possible that the same author first incorporated in P a large part of the so-called priestly laws; it is more certain that, besides the harmonistic changes necessary in combining his sources, he made numerous additions; but there is usually no way of distinguishing his hand from that of earlier or of still later editors.”8

This hypothesis, which, for all its seeming complexity, is doubtless a great simplification of the actual literary history, is accepted by the majority of Old Testament scholars—with many variations in particulars, it need hardly be said. It is commended to the historian, not merely by the fact that it explains the confusion and contradiction which reign in the Pentateuch and offers a solution of its literary problems, but that, when the sources are distinguished and reconstructed and their age and relations determined, they become historical sources of great value for the times in which they were respectively written, confirming, supplementing, or interpreting the evidence of the historical books and the prophets, and contributing important material of various kinds to our knowledge of civilization in ancient Israel and of its religious development.”9

The Literature of the Old Testament (1913) [Chapter 3]

[Articles in the Summed Up series are intended to be summaries of chapters of selected theological books. The author(s) will be quoted verbatim for the purposes of ensuring accurate representation]

The Pentateuch

(pp.29-33)

A) About the author of the chapter:

George Foot Moore “graduated from Yale College in 1872 and from Union Theological Seminary in 1877, in 1878 Moore was ordained in the Presbyterian ministry and until 1883 was pastor of the Putnam Presbyterian Church, Zanesville, Ohio.

He was Hitchcock professor of the Hebrew language and literature at Andover Theological Seminary, 1883–1902. In 1902 he became professor of theology and in 1904 professor of the history of religion at Harvard University.” [1]

[1] https://www.britannica.com/biography/George-Foot-Moore

B) Chapter Summary:

“The Old Testament begins with a comprehensive historical work, reaching from the creation of the world to the fall of the kingdom of Judah (586 B.C.), which in the Hebrew Bible is divided into nine books (Genesis-Kings). The Jews made a greater division at the end of the fifth book (Deuteronomy) and treated the first five books (the Pentateuch) as a unit, with a character and name of its own, the Law.”[1]

“The names of the several books in our Bibles are derived from the Greek version, and indicate in a general way the subject of the book, or, more exactly, the subject with which it begins: Genesis, the creation of the world; Exodus, the escape from Egypt; Leviticus, the priests’ book; Numbers, the census of the tribes; Deuteronomy, the second legislation, or the recapitulation of the law.”[2]

“The three middle books of the Pentateuch (Exodus-Numbers) are more closely connected with one another than with the preceding and following books (Genesis, Deuteronomy); in fact, they form a whole which is only for convenience in handling divided into parts. In these books narrative and legislation are somewhat unequally represented. Exod. 1-19 is almost all narrative, as are also c. 24, and cc. 32-34; the story is picked up again in Num. 10, what lies between is wholly legislative; in Num. 10-27, 28-36, narrative and laws alternate, the latter predominating. It is evident that from the author’s point of view the narrative was primarily a historical setting for the Mosaic legislation.”[3]

“Deuteronomy begins with a brief retrospect (Deut. 1-3) of the movements of the Israelites from the time they left the Mount of God till they arrived in the Plains of Moab, the lifetime of a whole generation. There, as they are about to cross the Jordan to possess the Land of Promise, Moses delivers to them the law which they shall observe in the land, and with many exhortations and warnings urges them to be faithful to their religion with its distinctive worship and morals. Thus Deuteronomy also presents itself essentially as legislation.”[4]

“The history of the Israelite tribes opens with the account of the oppression in Egypt, the introduction to the story of deliverance. Its antecedents are found in the Book of Genesis, the migration of Jacob and his sons from Palestine to Egypt several generations earlier in a time of famine; and this in turn is but the last chapter in the patriarchal story which begins with the migration of Abraham from Syria or Babylonia to Palestine.”[5]

“Gen. 1-11 tells of creation and first men; the great flood; the dispersion of the peoples, with a genealogical table showing the affinities of the several races and another tracing the descent of Abraham in direct line from Shem the son of Noah. But even in Genesis the interest in the law manifests itself in various ways, such as the sanction of the sabbath, the prohibition of blood, and the introduction of circumcision.”[6]

“In regarding the whole Pentateuch as Law, or, to express it more accurately, as a revelation of the principles and observances of religion, the Jews were, therefore, doing no violence to the character and spirit of these books; and in ascribing them to Moses they were only extending to the whole the authorship which is asserted in particular of many of the laws, and especially of the impressive exhortations in Deuteronomy which form the climactic close of his work as a legislator.”[7]

[1] pp.29-30

[2] p.30

[3] Ibid.

[4] pp.30-31

[5] p.31

[6] Ibid.

[7] pp.31-32

C) Chapter Review:

  • Readability: 7/10
  • Theological depth: 5/10
  • Any other comments: Interestingly enough, George Foot Moore did not touch on the different theories regarding the authorship of the Pentateuch. The chapter, just like the previous one, was really short & found wanting content wise.