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Despite innumerable studies from at least the time of the Reformation, it was not until little more than a century ago that one hypothesis concerning the origin of the Pentateuch, the so-called 'Documentary Theory' formulated by Julius Wellhausen, established itself as the point of departure for all subsequent study of this topic. This has remained so until recently, but during the past twenty-five years the study of the Pentateuch has been once more in turmoil, and new theories have proliferated. This book arises from the conviction that much in current Pentateuchal research needs to be subjected to rigorous scrutiny and that much, indeed, is radically mistaken. Professor Nicholson argues that the work of Wellhausen, for all that it needs revision and development in detail, remains the securest basis for understanding the Pentateuch. The book is not a mere call to go 'back to Wellhausen', however, for Professor Nicholson also shows that much in the intervening debate has significantly modified his conclusions, as well as asking questions that were not on Wellhausen's agenda.
But the Documentary Hypothesis should remain our primary point of reference, and it alone provides the most dependable perspective from which to approach this most difficult of areas in the study of the Old Testament.
Ernest Nicholson is Provost of Oriel College, Oxford