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十月 29, 2015Coursework

【Book Review】Introduction to the Pentateuch

Course: Pentateuch
Professor: Rev. Dr. Moses Wong
Date: 2015 Fall Semester

Introduction to the Pentateuch. Authored by Chien-Kuo Paul Lai. Edited by Wing Kwan Law. Published by Tien Dao publishing house. Hong Kong. 459 pp. HKD 135.

Summary

The book is an “epoch-making” (p13) Introduction which written by a Chinese Christian scholar. It consists of 7 chapters. The first chapter is designed for anyone who without a prior study of the Pentateuch, which addresses some basic concepts such as the meaning of the name; the nature; historical context; geographical context, and any other hot spots and focuses.

The second chapter “Modern Research of Pentateuch” discusses the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch; the exegetical presupposition of Protestantism; four influences on Biblical Criticism in post-Reformation period; three hypotheses on 18th and 19th century; Pentateuch Criticism in the 20 century; the influence of Archaeology of Pentateuch Studies; Canonical Criticism referred by Childs in 1970s; the crisis of J.E.D.P. , and New Literary Criticism.

According to the tradition, Rev. Paul Lai divides Genesis into two parts, the former part is Ancient Times from chapter 1 to 11 and the latter is Fathers Period from Chapter 12 to 50. In the former part, he at first discusses the literary context, then uses 30 pages (p89-119) to expound a big topic — the Creation of God, then describes some historical matters from Adam to Noah. The latter part includes the stories of four major figures — Abraham, Issac, Jacob and Joseph.

In the Exodus Chapter, after discussing some fundamental concepts of this book as the relations between Exodus and other Torah Books, the author begins to tell the life story of Moses literally.

In the Leviticus Chapter, he discusses the literary structure of Leviticus, sacrifices and the laws related to them; the order of the worship given to the Priest (forbiddings; dates, … blessings and curses).

In the fourth book, he presents the relation between narrative structure and the law in Numbers; the date records; and the meanings of any other events such as the service of the whole nation, the typologies of Christ.

Deuteronomy is the last book of the book of the Law, at first Rev. Lai affirms the importance of the book and then introduces the historical context; modern research overview; the laws in Deuteronomy, last of all, the book ends up with the death of Moses and the completion of the law.

To summarize, the introduction offers the basic information that a beginner should know at the first stage, in which he analyses the historical context, structure and literary context, theology of each book.

Responses

The background of the author of the book is the general evangelicalism result in the relatively theological neutral attitude, research philosophy, and words and moods choices throughout the book.

Although Dr. Lai adheres to the traditional viewpoint which insists that Moses is the author of Pentateuch for the sake of the presupposition of inerrancy of scripture, he also points out some problems about the authorship of the Pentateuch without hesitation at all. If we turn the book to page 43, we can notice a sentence at the bottom of this page “however, apparently some texts in the Pentateuch are not written by Moses”. As an evangelical background reader, I cannot say that this is not a boldness expression which opens a new door for evangelicalism scholars.

Moreover, he then illustrated the point with the example of “those who in agreement with the authentic authorship of Moses”. But, please permit me to ask a question: whose are “those” he refers to? Though admittedly it is impossible for Moses to record his own death story in Deuteronomy Chapter 34. Does it not reveal an academic phenomenon that lacks strictly attitude?

It seems that the usages of some words in this book are relatively loose. For if he presents several “Philosophic”; “Psychologically”; “Greece Philosophy”; “one school”; “another school” (p109) thoughts and so forth. You will find lots of philosophy and psychology schools only if you pick up a philosophy of psychology book and skimming it, then, which school of philosophy, psychology he refers in the passage? Though the author take two school for examples, then, which schools? Is not an easy work for him to tell us the names of the thought schools? Is the author really academically concerned?

In the Exodus Chapter, Dr Lai discusses “lie of midwife” (p201-202) from the biblical ethics angle. His approach seems like an old Chinese aphorism “Of two evils choose the least.” [ 两恶相权取其轻。] However, we should have reservations about his “ethics priority principle”. Firstly, even if the massacre is against God’s creation, and “So God dealt well with the midwives.” (verse 20), telling a lie is not good and right before God as usual. Secondly, as the most powerful man in Egypt, how can the Pharaoh step back before a midwife, whose position is inferior in the society? Third, according to reformed biblical ethics, every disobedience of the bible is as the same, there is no high, medium or low priority choose distinction [ Christian Ethics Course, CRTS, Luke Lu. ], as there is no great sin or small fault distinction.

On the whole, in this book, Dr. Lain does not promote any world, life or other value views deliberately. However, the features and the spirit of the book are admittedly different from those so-called “objectivity”, that is, those secular scholars or liberals. Besides, we can perceive his meticulous type of writing in plain sight.

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