A seminal work in the history of Biblical studies, Julius Wellhausen’s Prolegomena to the History of Israel created an eruption of controversy after it was published in 1883. Challenging traditional beliefs, Wellhausen’s contentious book argues that the Torah, or the Five Books of Moses, was not written by Moses, but ascribed to him later by redactors from a series of completely independent chronicles.
While 18th and 19th century biblical scholars were already formulating this supposition under the documentary hypothesis, it was Wellhausen who culled a century’s worth of research into a singular, systematic theory of the Torah’s origination.
A divisive and fascinating work, it marked Wellhausen as one of the most important biblical scholars of his time and a significant figure in Old Testament studies. It altered the paradigm and discussion for scholars studying the origins of the Pentateuch for much of the 20th century, and remains as an engaging polemic for researchers today.
Julius Wellhausen (1844–1918) is best known for his studies of how the Pentateuch was understood, and the controversies his scholarly pursuits created.