Thursday, March 22, 2007

Noth on Pentateuchal Traditions

Noth does not focus on source criticism per se, because he sees much of the important history of a text as having taken place before any of it was written down (1). He looks back to Hermann Gunkel and Hugo Gressmann as example of traditio-historical critics, but he sees their work as limited by their focus on individual units (3).

Much of the tradition behind the Pentateuch, Noth argues, was not assembled from individual pieces by its compilers, but rather was already formed into broader narratives during the preliterary (i.e., oral) phase of its development (2). Noth wants to consider how these pieces developed into units during the preliterary stage. He writes,
The chief task…is to ascertain the basic themes from which the totality of the transmitted Pentateuch developed, to uncover their roots, to investigate how they were replenished with individual materials, to pursue their connections with each other, and to assess their significance.
But before he can take on the preliterary task, Noth acknowledges he must answer literary questions (which he has done in previous study) (5).

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