The Temple Scroll and Higher Criticism

On and off, I’ll be commenting on articles that I’ll read for my comps.  This evening, I read Stephen Kaufman’s “The Temple Scroll and Higher Criticism,” which appeared in Hebrew Union College Annual 53 (1982) 29-43.

Kaufman says that the Temple Scroll demonstrates the plausibility that the Pentateuch is composed of different sources.  The reason is that the Temple Scroll contains different sources: it draws from different books of the Pentateuch to create a synthesis.  Obviously, the ancients felt free to use diverse sources when they composed documents.  Some have criticized the Documentary Hypothesis and the view that the Gospel authors drew from sources such as Mark and Q, asserting that advocates of these ideas are projecting their own reality onto the ancients.  In this case, “their own reality” is defined as scholars composing papers in a cozy Oxford study, using different sources.  “The ancients didn’t do things that way,” we’re told.  But, for Kaufman, the Temple Scroll from Qumran shows that they did do things that way: they composed documents, drawing from different sources.  So why couldn’t the people who composed the Pentateuch do so?

But my impression is that Kaufman is skeptical about our ability to identify the sources in the Pentateuch, for, if we didn’t have the actual books of the Hebrew Bible in front of us, identifying them in the Temple Scroll would be a difficult (if not an impossible) task.  There are times when the Temple Scroll quotes the Pentateuch, and there are times when it has its own stuff.  We can’t really distinguish sources in the Temple Scroll according to the type of Hebrew that they use (i.e., whether it’s early or late), for the author sometimes writes in older Hebrew and paraphrases the biblical documents into later Hebrew.  Advocates of the Documentary Hypothesis say that we can identify the existence of multiple sources on the basis of repetition within the Pentateuch: Why, for example, would a single author need to repeat stuff about the Flood?  There must be two sources, they claim.  But Kaufman points out that the author of the Temple Scroll is repetitious in the original parts of his document, the parts that don’t draw from the Bible.  So a single author can be repetitious, perhaps to emphasize a point.  Moreover, there are times when the author of the Temple Scroll interweaves a variety of biblical texts into a coherent whole.  So something that looks coherent to us may have multiple sources behind it!  

Without the Bible, we’d have a hard time dividing up the sources in the Temple Scroll.  We could “see” multiple sources in what’s by a single author, and a single author in the product of multiple sources!  So how can we be dogmatic when we approach the Pentateuch, considering we’ve never even seen J, E, P, and D as documents by themselves?

Kaufman doesn’t throw higher criticism out the window, for he says we can differentiate sources on the basis of linguistic criteria (which I don’t entirely understand), and also ideological tensions within the text.  His agenda may be to promote humility.

Tomorrow, I’ll continue my journey through Israel Knohl’s Sanctuary of Silence.  Knohl is big on identifying the different sources of the Pentateuch.  Stay tuned!

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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