Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 August 2010
DATING THE SOURCE MATERIAL: THE PENTATEUCH
At this point, any discussion of biblical, and especially pentateuchal, material must begin with a discussion of the dating of texts. As is well-known, the general consensus that existed two or three decades ago regarding the dating of pentateuchal sources, or even the legitimacy of the source-critical approach itself, has evaporated and been replaced by a seemingly endless array of approaches and arguments. Narrative sources that were once seen as dating to the reign of Solomon are now placed by some in the exilic period, or later. Legal materials that were once seen by all as predating other legal materials are now thought by some to postdate those self-same corpora. But before I describe these challenges in more detail, let me make clear at the outset that my argument does not in any way depend on the precise dating of texts, but only on relative dating – a fact that I will turn to again later – nor does it rely on adherence to source criticism as it was traditionally conceptualized. It also bears mentioning that, though the state of pentateuchal studies may currently seem to be one of total confusion, there is in actuality more agreement by scholars on issues of dating than there might at first glance appear to be. While shifting has in fact noisily occurred on these and other issues, it is inaccurate to allege, as some might, that the study of the Pentateuch is in a state of irreconcilable discord.