Inconsistency in the Torah: Ancient literary convention and the limits of source criticism

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This book proposes a new approach to the Pentateuch's narrative and legal inconsistencies that scholars have taken as signs of fragmentation and competing agendas. Recent studies of the scribal culture of the ancient Near East reveal that the models of textual growth hypothesized by biblicists often find no basis in the empirical evidence of these neighboring cultures. It reveals precursors for a variety of Pentateuchal inconsistencies in the narrative literature of the ancient Near East, deliberately deployed by a single agent. It explores the inconsistencies between the Pentateuch's law corpora and arguing the view that these collections conflict with one another rests on an anachronistic understanding of ancient Near Eastern and biblical law as statutory law. It maintains that the historical critical approach to the Pentateuch has relied upon scholarly intuition concerning the inconsistencies found in the text. The recent pivot to empirical models constitutes a major challenge to traditional historical-critical method, mandating a review of its premises. The book includes a critical intellectual history of the theories of textual growth in biblical studies tracing how critics were influenced first by the fascination with science in the eighteenth century and then by Romanticism and Historicism in the nineteenth. These movements unwittingly led the field to adopt a range of commitments and interests that impede the proper execution of historical critical method in the study of the Pentateuch. It concludes by advocating a return to the hermeneutics of Spinoza and adopting a methodologically modest agenda.

Original languageEnglish
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages308
ISBN (Electronic)9780190658809
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Oxford University Press 2017. All rights reserved.


  • Biblical law
  • Hammurabi
  • Hittites
  • Kadesh
  • Legal theory
  • Pentateuch
  • Ramesses II
  • Source-criticism
  • Spinoza
  • Torah


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