This popular textbook regards the Pentateuch as a literary whole, with a single theme that binds it together. The overarching theme is the partial fulfillment of the promises to the patriarchs. Though the method of the book is holistic, the origin and growth of the theme is also explored using the methods of traditional source analysis. An important chapter explores the theological function of the Pentateuch both in the community for which the Pentateuch was first composed and in our own time. For this second, enlarged edition, the author has written an Epilogue reassessing the theme of the Pentateuch from a more current postmodern perspective.
“As far as Deuteronomy is concerned, it goes without saying that everything focuses upon the land. Among its most characteristic phrases are ‘the land you are to possess’, which occurs (with variations) 22 times, and ‘the land (or, ground, gates, cities, etc.) that Yahweh your (or, our, etc.) God gives you (or, us)’, which occurs 34 times.” (Page 62)
“As I noted in my statement of theme (Chapter 5), in Genesis it is the promise of progeny that has predominated, in Exodus and Leviticus the promise of the relationship of Yahweh and Israel, and in Numbers and Deuteronomy the promise of the land.” (Page 65)
“Can there be more than one theme in a literary work? Ultimately, I think not” (Page 22)
“If ‘theme’ is a statement of the content, structure and development of a work, as I have suggested above, the ‘sin—speech—mitigation—punishment’ pattern, significant though it is, can only be called a recurrent motif in the primaeval history, and not the unifying theme of Genesis 1–11 as a whole.” (Page 69)
“As for the book of Leviticus, its function, within the scheme of the promise and its fulfilments, is to spell out in detail the means by which the relationship now established is to be maintained.” (Page 54)