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The implication to be drawn from this was that the Mosaic Law contained in Leviticus , which is largely by the Priestly author, as well as the substantial amounts of material from the Priestly source to be found in Genesis , Exodus and the Book of Numbers , did not exist in the age of Joshua , Samuel , David and Solomon.

Its argument is that the ancient Israelites did not practice a religion recognisable as Judaism: the earliest religion of the Israelites, as depicted in the Yahwist and Elohist sources, was polytheistic and family-based.

The middle layer, the Deuteronomist, shows a clear impulse to the centralisation of worship under the control of a dominant priesthood with royal support. Only in the final, post-Exilic, layer, the Priestly source, when the royal authority has vanished and the priesthood has assumed sole authority over the community, is there evidence of the religion that the world knows as Judaism.

Introduction[ edit ] Wellhausen announces his intention to demonstrate the hypothesis of Karl Heinrich Graf that the Law is later than the Prophets : that the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy the torah, or "law", as they are known to the Jewish tradition and immediately precede the history of Israel making up the series from Joshua to Kings, the "prophets", called because they were thought to have been written by the prophet Samuel and others, but they were in fact written after those books.

He then sets out some commonly agreed ground: 1. The Pentateuch plus the book of Joshua make up a literary unit of six books, or Hexateuch , tracing the history of the Israelites from the Patriarchal age to the conquest of Canaan ; and 2. Wellhausen proposes to fix the dates of each of the sources, especially of the Priestly source, "by reference to an independent standard, namely, the inner development of the history of Israel so far as that is known to us by trustworthy testimonies, from independent sources.

The Priestly source consistently attempts to disguise what are in fact innovations with a veneer of antiquity by inventing, for example, a fictional Tabernacle not mentioned anywhere in the oldest sources, to justify its insistence on centralised worship in Jerusalem.

In the Books of Judges, Samuel, and Kings, the fact of the radical difference of the old practice from the Law is not disputed [but] is simply condemned. In the Chronicles the pattern according to which the history of ancient Israel is represented is the Pentateuch, i.

Thus in the question of the order of sequence of the two great bodies of laws, the history of the tradition leads us to the same conclusion as the history of the cultus. He summarises also his further conclusions: There was no written law in ancient Israel, the Torah being held as an oral tradition by priests and prophets. Deuteronomy was the first law and gained currency only during the Babylonian exile , when the prophetic tradition ceased.

Ezekiel and his successors were responsible for the codification and systematisation of worship and Ezra for the introduction of the Priestly code the laws contained in Leviticus. It was that creation of a written Torah which marked the break between the ancient history of Israel and the later history of Judaism. Further reading[ edit ] Nicholson, Ernst Oxford University Press.


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Biography[ edit ] Wellhausen was born at Hamelin in the Kingdom of Hanover. In , he was appointed professor ordinarius of theology at the University of Greifswald. However, he resigned from the faculty in for reasons of conscience, stating in his letter of resignation: I became a theologian because the scientific treatment of the Bible interested me; only gradually did I come to understand that a professor of theology also has the practical task of preparing the students for service in the Protestant Church, and that I am not adequate to this practical task, but that instead despite all caution on my own part I make my hearers unfit for their office. Since then my theological professorship has been weighing heavily on my conscience.


Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel

Wellhausen devised a new paradigm which explained many of the apparent inconsistencies in the Biblical texts. Or that the Levitical code was redacted into the text by the priestly class at a very late date in the evolution of the Bible. Or that the Bible even evolved He has continued relevance. The current Christian fundamentalist movement emerged as a response to the Biblical criticism of Wellhausen and other 19th century scholars. Wellhausen remains difficult to fully grasp by all but those schooled in the ways of the Documentary hypothesis.


Julius Wellhausen




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