Literary And Historical Sides! by Dr. J.W.Bernard

My search in Biblical Criticism had long been in the literary problems of Scripture.  Soon, I began to look at the historical side of it.  I noticed that even though the Old Testament contains a collection of laws and histories, professing to tell the origin of Israel's religion, a careful study of this collection reveals that they do not agree with each other and the stories they tell are not consistently represented.  At a closer look, you will see that practices which belong to a much later period are assigned to an early one; and vice versa.  I noticed that two different sets of laws were there and that they contradicted each other.  Not only is it disturbing, it is noticeable.  

Sacrifice was one of the most important customs of the Hebrews.  Genesis tells us about Cain, Able and Noah, as well as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob employing this simple sacrificial form of religion.  They did not have a member of the priestly cast to offer up an animal to Yahweh.  At this time, sacrifice was not limited to a chosen priest.  It was the paramount form of Hebrew worship-- and everybody sacrificed upon rugged rocks selected from the fields.  Exodus 20:24 says that the ancient Israelites practiced this where ever they were located.  Archaeology also proves it.  

"An altar of earth shalt thou make unto Me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt-offerings, and thy peace-offerings, thy sheep and thine oxen: in every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come unto thee and I will bless thee.  And if thou make Me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone."  

This verse reveals at once a primitive mode of worship; an altar of earth or undressed stones, starkly bare and severely simple.  It give freedom to erect such an altar in any place, for it conceives God as not being at all particular where He is worshipped.  According to this law, no one place is sacred to the exclusion of all others.  At this time in history there is no mention of the great temple of elaborate decoration.  Here, a simple altar of earth will serve the all present God.

The Book of Deuteronomy lays out a different principle.  It frowns upon the idea of a layman offering sacrifice.  Deuteronomy is definitely against a multiplicity of altars.  It cries against the village shrines by declaring them all illegitimate.  Deuteronomic law demands one shrine or altar which constitutes the legitimate sanctuary of Yahweh.  Deuteronomy (12:5) says 

"Unto the place which Yahweh your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put His Name there, even unto His habitation shall ye seek, and thither thou shalt come: and thither ye shall bring your burnt-offerings, and your sacrifices."  

The permission granted in the law of Exodus for any one to sacrifice anywhere he chooses is flatly denied in Deuteronomy.  The local sanctuaries should be abolished and all sacrifice be restricted to only one place. 

"Ye shall surely destroy all the places wherein the nations which ye shall possess served their gods, upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree; and ye shall break down their altars, and break their pillars and burn their Asherim with fire." (Deut. 12:2,3).  

It has become my opinion that Moses would not have said to the people that they could sacrifice in any place and then tell them in the same breath that they couldn't.  This historical fact tells me that one author did not write the Five Books of Moses.

Being an Evangelist and Revivalist for many years, I was interested in the principles that brought about revival.  I read many books that described revival in different lands.  I looked up passages in Scripture that spoke of revival.  One of my favorite sections of Scripture was the 22nd and 23rd chapters of 2nd Kings.  These chapters tell the story of a radical religious reform carried out by a group of zealous prophets at Jerusalem in the reign of Josiah, the young king of Judah.  In BC 621, while making repairs in the Temple, a priest by the name of Hilkiah discovered a mysterious Code of Laws.  He told Shaphan, the king's secretary of his discovery.  This Holy Code was brought to Josiah.  Josiah was astonished and declared that it was written by Moses and contained violent threats and curses that would be visited upon the land if its laws were not enforced.  Josiah was terrified when he began to hear the words of the newly found Book of the Law.  He rent his garments in dismay.  He called together the prophetic party, priests and people and read it to them.  What an impression this had on everyone!  They were all moved to its adoption, there on the spot.  That was revival.  They had read the Book of the Law and adopted it as written to them.  I used this story to move the churches into revival.  I brought out the fact that the nature of the new law contained in this Code created a sensational religious revolution and immediate upheaval?

The more I looked at this Hebrew revival, I learned that it brought about the most sweeping and drastic reforms in the history of the Hebrew people and that it was carried out with much severity, cruelty and bloodshed.  The contents of this new found Code told them to wipe off the face of the kingdom every sanctuary except the temple at Jerusalem.  Village shrines that dotted the country sides must go.  Before this great revival of destruction, the Hebrews had sacrificed for hundreds of years in any place they chose to erect an altar and now, they can no longer worship that way. 

It is now understood that Hilkiah's "Book of the Law" is identified as Deuteronomy.  The account in the book of Kings matches the injunctions in Deuteronomy and does not match the laws of any other book of the Pentateuch.  Deuteronomy is the product of the age of Josiah and could not have been the composition of Moses.  Solomon offered burnt-offering in the "high place" at Gibeon and the prophet Elijah himself repaired the altar on Mt. Carmel.  These celebrated leaders did not have any knowledge of this forbidden practice in the Deuteronomic Law.  The early Hebrews were not controlled by the Deuteronomic Code of Law.  Prophets like Amos, Hosea, Micah and Isaiah never once declared the local shrines illegal.  If the Deuteronomic Code was known at that time, they knew nothing about it and said nothing about it.  The early Hebrew history tells of a number of sanctuaries scattered throughout the country each one being regarded as legitimate for sacrificial purposes.

The book of Judges mentions Mizpah, Bethel and Shiloh as prominent centers where the ancient Israelites offered sacrifices.  The prophet Samuel as well as King Saul and King David are known to have sacrificed at many altars.  It was at Shiloh that Samuel was dedicated to the service of Yahweh and he ministered at the sanctuary in his own home town of Ramah.  If the restricted legislation of Deuteronomic Law was unknown to such representative men as Elijah, Hosea, Amos, Samuel, Saul and David, it could not have been instituted by Moses.  This Deuteronomic Code was unknown to Moses.  It made its first public appearance in the reign of King Josiah, who with self-appointed authority, proclaimed it the supreme law of the Hebrews, given by Moses.

Continue with an analysis of the Yahwistic & Elohistic Bibles