The Undiluted Theology of the Pentateuch

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

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The great thing about the Pentateuch is that it is not sort of a homogenized view of theology or of God or of religious truth. It presents the various truths in sort of undiluted form. I've always liked what G.K.iChesterton once said. He said there are no pastels in the Bible, they're all pure colors, and it's up to each generation to mix the colors in the way that is appropriate for that generation. And this is what you have in the Pentateuch. You have strong statements about God's absolute transcendence, and you have strong statements about his nearness, his immanence. And in a real way, then, as Chesterton had said, it's where each culture, each situation is that we can relate to these truths in various ways. But in the end, they are not truly contradictory. It's not the idea that, well, in one place you have one God and in other places God is many. Not at all. He is the one God, the one Yahweh throughout but sometimes presented in differing aspects, and sometimes people latch onto those differences. They will argue, "Well, if it was all inspired by God, it ought to be all even, it shouldn't?" Well, that's not the way God did it. He related to different people in different times and places and presented himself to them as they needed to hear him.

Answer by Dr. John Oswalt

Dr. John Oswalt is the Visiting Distinguished Professor of Old Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary.