Torah Criticism - Essay

William H. Green (essay date 1892)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Pentateuchal Analysis" in Moses and His Recent Critics, edited by Talbot W. Chambers, Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892, pp. 101-37.

[In the following essay, Green focuses on the first eleven chapters of Exodus to claim, contrary to many other critics, that there is no convincing evidence for the hypothesis that the Pentateuch was composed by several authors who combined and enlarged three or four distinct treatises.]

In the limited space allowed in these essays it is impossible to undertake the full discussion of the critical division of the Pentateuch in all its length and breadth, to which such a multitude of volumes has been devoted, and upon...

(The entire section is 8700 words.)

Alexa Suelzer (essay date 1964)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Themes of the Pentateuchal Narratives" in The Pentateuch: A Study in Salvation History, Herder and Herder, 1964, pp. 22-100.

[In this essay, Suelzer examines the themes that structure what he takes to be an essentially unified Torah.]


The partition of the Pentateuch into the individual books of Moses was a practical measure undertaken to render the massive work more manageable and intelligible. The essential unity of the work as a whole however was not impaired, for no matter what additions and redactions the Pentateuch underwent it ever retained a basic constant in the light of which disparate traditions were...

(The entire section is 25913 words.)

Norman C. Habel (essay date 1971)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Interpreting Literary Sources: The Yahwist and the Promise" in Literary Criticism of the Old Testament, Fortress Press, 1971, pp. 43-64.

[In the following essay, Habel dissects the literary structure and style of the Yahwist in order to recognize the writer's characteristic way of interpreting Israel's past.]

As a literary artist the Yahwist1 has been compared to Homer and as a theologian to St. Paul. These accolades may be true but they may also prove a smoke screen for the beginning student of the Pentateuch. He wants to see the evidence for a Yahwist source beyond the texts of Genesis 2-9. We could, of course, follow the lead of most...

(The entire section is 8967 words.)

Richard Elliott Friedman (essay date 1981)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Sacred History and Theology: The Redaction of Torah" in The Creation of Sacred Literature: Composition and Redaction of the Biblical Text, edited by Richard Elliott Friedman, University of California Press, 1981, pp. 25-34.

[In this essay, Friedman claims that the Priestly redaction of the Torah—the combination of the Priestly source with the Elohist-Jahvist documentsignificantly shaped the Pentateuch's conception of God and the portrayal of the magnalia Die.]

One of the significant consequences of the enterprise of source criticism is the demonstration that the Torah (and ultimately the Hebrew Bible), more than perhaps any...

(The entire section is 5872 words.)

Bernard J. Bamberger (essay date 1981)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Torah and the Jewish People" in The "Torah:" A Modern Commentary, Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1981, pp. xxix-xxxvi.

[In the following excerpt, Bamberger explores the role of the Torah in forming the Jewish community.]

The Torah was always the possession of all Israel. It was addressed to the entire people, who were to learn its contents and teach them diligently to their children. A number of biblical passages, in particular Psalms 19 and 119, testify to the love which the Torah evoked and the widespread concern of the people with its teachings.

The Book of Nehemiah (chs. 8-10) reports a public reading of the...

(The entire section is 3873 words.)

Douglas A. Knight (essay date 1985)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Pentateuch" in The Hebrew Bible and Its Modern Interpreters, edited by Douglas A. Knight and Gene M. Tucker, Fortress Press, 1985, pp. 263-96.

[In the essay that follows, Knight examines the literary structure and intentions of the author(s) of the Torah through a critical survey of Pentateuchal scholarship.]

It would be difficult to overestimate the role that the Pentateuch has played in the course of biblical scholarship. In all likelihood, these first five books have been subjected to scrutiny more than any other single block of the Bible, with the sole possible exception of the Gospels. It is significant that the Pentateuch has generally...

(The entire section is 14619 words.)

Wilson G. Baroody and William F. Gentrup (essay date 1993)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy" in A Complete Literary Guide to the "Bible," edited by Leland Ryken and Tremper Longman III, Zondervan Publishing House, 1993, pp. 121-36.

[In the essay that follows, Baroody and Gentrup examine the literary structure of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy in order to establish the complex interrelationship between their narrative elements and the presentation of Torah as law.]

The life of Moses, from his birth and early years in the opening of Exodus to his death and legacy at the close of Deuteronomy, provides the narrative frame for most of the Pentateuch. As...

(The entire section is 6786 words.)

Tamara Cohn Eskenazi (essay date 1995)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Torah as Narrative and Narrative as Torah" in Old Testament Interpretation: Past, Present, and Future; Essays in Honor of Gene M. Tucker, edited by James Luther Mays, David L. Petersen, and Kent Harold Richards, Abingdon Press, 1995, pp. 13-30.

[In this essay, Eskenazi surveys the literary approaches to the Torah that have recently emerged in an effort to understand how they provide for a fuller religious and historical appreciation of the text.]

When, in time to come, your children ask you, "What mean the decrees, laws, and rules that YHWH our God has enjoined upon you?" you shall say to your children, "We were...

(The entire section is 8124 words.)

David L. Petersen (essay date 1995)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Formation of the Pentateuch" in Old Testament Interpretation: Past, Present, and Future: Essays in Honor of Gene M. Tucker, edited by James Luther Mays, David L. Petersen, and Kent Harold Richards, Abingdon Press, 1995, pp. 31-45.

[In this essay, Petersen examines the compositional history of the Pentateuch and its effect on interpreting the literary and historical unity of the text.]

The title of this essay betrays one way of thinking about the Pentateuch, namely, a concern with its history, how it came to exist. To be sure, not all scholars today are interested in this issue. Some would prefer to talk about the literary configuration of the...

(The entire section is 6411 words.)

Mordechai Breuer (essay date 1996)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Study of Bible and the Primacy of the Fear of Heaven: Compatibility or Contradiction?" in Modern Scholarship in the Study of "Torah ": Contributions and Limitations, edited by Shalom Carmy, Jason Aronson Inc., 1996, pp. 159-80.

[In this essay, Breuer asserts that the Torah was directly written by God and that its different styles reflect different qualities of God.]

The topic assigned to me implies a possible contradiction between the study of Bible and yirat shamayim (fear of heaven). The God-fearing student of the Bible must confront this presumed contradiction and seek to resolve it. Failing to do so, his wisdom will take precedence...

(The entire section is 8859 words.)

Frank Crülsemann (essay date 1996)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Pentateuch as Torah: The Way as Part of the Goal" in The "Torah": Theology and Social History of Old Testament Law, translated by Allan W. Mahnke, Fortress Press, 1996, pp. 329-67.

[In the following essay, Crusemann explores the social and political context in which the Pentateuch was produced in an effort to understand the development of the Judeo-Christian Torah. According to him, the Pentateuch unifies the strictures of a monotheistic religion with regulations of justice set against the background of Persian law.]

There came a voice of revelation saying,
"These and those are words of the...

(The entire section is 24034 words.)