Wednesday, September 11, 2013

E. J. Young on "What is Meant by Mosaic Authorship?"

Image:  Edward Joseph Young (1907-1968)
Note:  As I teach a "Survey of the Old Testament" class this semester, I have been reading Edward J. Young's An Introduction to the Old Testament (Eerdmans, Revised Ed. 1960). In this work, Young offers the following nuanced defense of the traditional Mosiac authorship of the Pentateuch under the heading "What is Meant by Mosaic Authorship?":
When we affirm that Moses wrote, or that he was the author of, the Pentateuch, we do not mean that he himself necessarily wrote every word.  To insist upon this would be unreasonable.  Hammurabi was the author of his famous code, but he certainly did not engrave it himself upon the stele.  Our Lord was the author of the Sermon on the Mount, but he did not write it.  Milton was the author of Paradise Lost, but he did not write it all out by hand.
The witness of sacred Scripture leads us to believe that Moses was the fundamental or real author of the Pentateuch.  In composing it, he may indeed, as Astruc suggested, have employed parts of previously existing written documents.  Also, under divine inspiration, there may have been later minor additions and even revisions.  Substantially and essentially, however, it is the product of Moses.  The position which conservatives contend has been well expressed by Wilson:  ‘That the Pentateuch as it stands is historical from the time of Moses; and that Moses was its real author, though it may be revised and edited by later redactors, the additions being just as much inspired and as true as the rest.’

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