- Paperback: 296 pages
- Publisher: Scholars Press (February 18, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0891304460
- ISBN-13: 978-0891304463
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 8.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,899,190 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A History of Pentateuchal Traditions Paperback – February 18, 2000
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After very few prolegomena Noth offers a terse analysis of JEP (he dealt with D in depth in other works) to launch the study. He is very emphatic that P is the basic narrative structure around which the other sources of the Tetrateuch cohere to flesh it out, or as Noth puts it, to 'enrich' it. (Noth uses 'Pentateuch' when referring to the three sources of the Tetrateuch; see 6.) Like what P is to the Tetrateuch, J is to the JE epic, however difficult they are to disentwine. Later on he asserts that when JEP was combined with D, this latter became the framework of narrative transmission. (see n.478, p.170) This view of the dynamics of the literary sources' adjoining dispels the straw man criticism that some single redactor stitched together a 'crazy patchwork' of four individual sources.
Noth doesn't assign definite dates to the Pentateuchal literary sources, but he does assert that the traditions behind them (oral or literary) arise out of the 12-tribe league's early history and no earlier since the foundation of all Pentateuchal tradition is that very experiential air of unity. He only places the literary sources within the general period of the monarchy, with the exception of P whose terminus a quo according to Noth is the exilic period with Ezekiel. (this is of course before more recent linguistic scholarship placing P earlier) J and P were definitely conceived in 'Judean circles', but Noth contends the northern provenance of E. (see n.179, p.58; 230&n.605) But for all its problems Noth's deliverance, like many Hebrew bible scholars today, is that 'the well-known documentary hypothesis...has proved to be sound.' 
In the next section he isolates five overarching motifs in the Pentateuch which were originally all separate; their gradual linkage over time created the one continuous narrative we possess in the first five biblical books. These motifs or themes in the order Noth discusses them are as follows:
1) Guidance out of Egypt
2) Guidance into the arable land
3) Promise to the patriarchs
4) Guidance in the wilderness
5) Revelation at Sinai
Each are traced to different contingents of the tribal constitution of early Israel, and each were fattened up, so to speak, by popular narrative elements, some reflecting historically mundane existence, others resulting from the imaginative flair of their composers, including many etiological tales. Important historical persons and those accreted to them lent further unity to these motifs and their secondary facets.
What's refreshing about Noth's work is that while he did defend, however meekly, some speculative views with relation to the sources of the Pentateuch, it's a conscious slice above the conniption fit of much of modern scholarship since Wellhausen in postulating distinct literary strands wherever one perceives the slightest tension or incongruity even within the most diminutive block of text. Noth describes this simply and aptly as 'dubious literary-critical views'. He understood the necessity of recognizing and applying an equilibrium of tradition criticism and literary criticism. (or source criticism as the second is better known now) I could go into some 'criticisms' of my own (e.g. in his discussion and dismissal of the Esau-Edom connection in the narrative transmission as secondary [95ff.] Noth curiously never mentions once Dt xxiii.7; or Noth's argument for the Grundlage) but I feel they're all eclipsed by the brilliance of this wonderful work. The add-up is a cogent and coherent analysis of Pentateuchal traditions.
And oh yes, Anderson included a table of Noth's source divisions as a supplement at the end of the book. His translation also brings out Noth's eloquence exceptionally well. I can't complain that anything was awkward to read.
* In n.451 on p.158 Noth writes: 'In P, Aaron then comes to the fore very prominently alongside of Moses; cf. above, pp. 178ff.' But naturally pp. 178ff. would actually come 'below' a footnote on p. 158, not 'above' it.