Monday, January 18, 2010
The Old Testament: God’s Word
The Wellhausen Hypothesis (The Documentary Hypothesis) had asserted that the OT had been nothing more than the product of numerous editors who cut and pasted the OT together from a shabby assortment of previously existing documents in order to suit their political agendas. However, this hypothesis has been overturned by numerous forms of evidence.
One line of evidence argues that the OT reflects a Divine agenda rather than a human one. Here are just a very limited number of evidences that we might consider:
1. Our Patriarchal forefathers are shown to be scoundrels – pimps, cheats and liars – not the heroes that the Jewish commentaries portray them as being. They are hardly the role-models that we’d invent in order to make our religion appealing to perspective buyers.
2. The future monarchy (Deut. 17), rather than being presented as God’s ideal, appears to be God’s reluctant concession to His stubborn people. Furthermore, kings are warned that they are no better or more deserving than others and are subject to the same laws. This legislation does not reflect the interests of the monarchy or ruling class whose interest it would have been to promote a strong monarchy.
3. The laws protecting the poor and marginalized could not have been the product of the rich and privileged. The poor could glean grapes and grain from the vineyards of the rich (Deut. 24:24-25). Such a law could not protect the interests of the rich and powerful who characteristically make such laws to protect their own interests,
4. Whenever soldiers feared for their safety, the law encouraged them to go AWOL (Deut. 20) – hardly the legislation of a ruling class wanting to protect its interests.
5. The Levites would not legally be entitled to any inheritance. Why would the priestly caste ever institute or allow such legislation unless it came from above!
6. The ordained holidays do not commemorate any historical event -- the Passover is the one clear exception – but instead seem to be prophetic. However, nations do not establish such holidays. No one would embrace them!
7. Instead of encouraging Israel that they had a winning religion that would make the Israelites successful, Moses assured them that they would fail (Deut. 30:6). This is something that human designers of a religion wouldn’t do lest their people mutiny.
8. Instead of giving the Israelites a sense of superiority, Moses and the Prophets consistently revealed how utterly unworthy they were of anything from God. Why would Israel accept such a revelation unless the hand of God had been so manifestly present!
In contrast to the Documentary Hypothesis, all of these teachings are anomalous. I don’t think you will find them in other religions or legislation. They reflect the landscape of a transcendent God and not human interests.