This overview of the Pentateuch reviews the various historical-critical attempts to read it based on ideas about the social evolution of Israel’s religion and culture. Among the questions it addresses are: Is the Pentateuch an accumulation of folk traditions?; Is it a work of ancient historiography?; And is it a document legitimizing religious reform? Van Seters, in dialogue with competing views, advocates a compositional model that recognizes the social and historical diversity of the literary strata. He argues that a proto-Pentateuchal author created a comprehensive history from Genesis to Numbers that was written as a prologue to the Deuteronomistic History (Deuteronomy to 2 Kings) in the exilic period and later expanded by a Priestly writer to make it the foundational document of the Jerusalem temple community.
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“I also think it unlikely that the whole of P was written for this single occasion. Yet the P narrative (Pg) is a single unified composition written in the late Persian period and reflecting the general circumstances and ideological issues of that time.” (Page 189)
“The greatest weakness of the Documentary Hypothesis is its lack of clarity about the literary role and function of the ‘redactor’ and how one can identify redactional activity in a text.” (Page 41)
“The division into books does not correspond to the works of the different authors and is entirely secondary” (Page 16)
“Isaiah and the latter’s appeal to Abraham and the theme of divine blessing of the Patriarch” (Page 60)