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  • Print publication year: 1998
  • Online publication date: May 2006

12 - The Pentateuch

from Part 2 - Biblical books in modern interpretation


By the last decades of the nineteenth century, a more or less coherent account of the formation of the Pentateuch had emerged and was widely accepted by Hebrew Bible scholars. The main tenet of this newer documentary hypothesis, as it was called, was that the Pentateuch reached its present form incrementally, by way of an accumulation and editing together of sources over a period of about half a millennium, from the first century of the monarchy to around the time of Ezra in the fifth or early fourth century BC. With its emphasis on origins, sources and development, the hypothesis was a typical product of academic research in the late eighteenth and throughout the nineteenth century. A century before the appearance of Julius Wellhausen's Prolegomena to the History of Israel in 1883, which laid out the documentary hypothesis in its classic form, Friedrich August Wolf published his Prolegomena to Homer which argued along much the same lines for the composite nature of the two epic poems.