Page 16 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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Two intellectual trends must be singled ou t for special m en ­
tion. Within biblical studies, “literary criticism,” which used to
be virtually synonymous with “source criticism,” now increas­
ingly pays atten tion to literary esthetics. It will be seen from
the descriptions o f the work o f individual scholars tha t the study
o f “the Bible as litera tu re ,” “holistic in te rp re ta tion ,” “synchronic
analysis,” and atten tion to “inner-biblical in te rp re ta tion ,” have
become increasingly popu lar in Israeli scholarship.3
Secondly, a study o f the contributions o f many o f the writers
shows tha t insistence on a pre-exilic date fo r the composition
o f the Priestly code (P) o f the Pentateuch, although still influ­
ential, no longer enjoys the status o f dogma tha t it once held
in Israeli scholarship. It will be remembered tha t Yehezkel
Kaufmann (1889-1963), the most influential Israeli biblicist o f
his generation , was the foremost p roponen t o f a pre-exilic P.
Kaufmann was hardly a fundamentalist and the notion o f a
pre-exilic P is not equivalent to asserting Mosaic authorsh ip .
Rather, Kaufmann’s writing was in response to elements in G er­
man Bible scholarship, which distinguished sharply between a
vital and prophetic pre-exilic Israelite religion, and a post-exilic
legalistic and degenerate Juda ism . T h e tone o f this scholarship,
regarded in its earliest days by some Jews as anti-Semitic,4 had
a particularly chilling resonance against the background o f the
Nazi period. While K aufmann’s argumen ts for a pre-exilic P
were scholarly, his ideological agenda was never far from the
surface (certainly no fu r th e r than tha t o f the German scholars
he assailed). Ironically, by dating most o f To rah - lite ra tu re in
the pre-exilic period , Kaufmann tacitly accepted the German
scholarly assessment tha t the bulk o f Israelite creativity an te­
dated the Babylonian exile. In contrast to Kaufmann , some o f
the more recen t Israeli scholars who agree with the common
post-exilic dating o f P, have in the ir researches dem onstra ted
tha t post-exilic biblical litera tu re was the creative p roduc t o f
a period o f intellectual ferm en t in which old traditions were
re-exam ined and reconceptualized.
3. On the emergence o f the “Bible as literature” in North America, see ibid.,
4. In an oft-quoted statement, Solomon Schechter referred to higher criticism
as “higher anti-Semitism.” See ibid., 42.