Q&A: Theological Viewpoints in the Pentateuch

Theological Viewpoints in the Pentateuch

Why do so many people believe there are contradictory theological viewpoints in the Pentateuch?

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Answer

You know, there are people who will argue that there are contradictory theological viewpoints in the Pentateuch. I think we need to be real careful here. I think many who embrace that sort of view have been trained in the historical critical method to look at sources. Okay? But we're never commanded in Scripture to do biblical paleontology, to try to excavate to see where what the sources are of the text; we're command to read the text as it stands. And so, I think a lot of disagreement between those with a high view of Scripture and those with a low, has to do with presuppositions. So, somebody with a low view of Scripture, who has embraced the historical critical model, will come and say, "Well, there's Genesis 1 and there's Genesis 2. It's a second creation account, look at the contradictions." Well, I say, "Not so fast." Okay? A typical characteristic of Hebrew narrative is to state something generally and then unpack something important. So, what we have in Genesis 1 is creation stated in general terms, and in chapter 2 we have the zoom in lens, so to speak, where we have extra time spent on the creation of Adam. And so, when we see that chapter 2 is simply explicating a particular part of chapter 1, there's not a contradiction there. What it is is a focusing in to highlight the creation of humanity. Another great example of those who argue for different theological, contradictory theological viewpoints in the Pentateuch will say, "Deuteronomy 12 argues for the centralization of worship, yet we have people worshipping at any altar at any place." Well, context is king. Deuteronomy 12 What keeps getting repeated by Moses in Deuteronomy? When you're in the land when you're in the land. The idea is Moses, who will not enter the land with the people, is preparing the people for when they enter the Land of Promise. And when they enter the land, at some point they are going to centralize worship. That's not contradicting the practices of the patriarchs before Israel enters the land and becomes a covenant nation before Yahweh.

Answer by Dr. Erika Moore

Dr. Erika Moore is Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Trinity School for Ministry.