The Poetic Priestly Source
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Much of scholarly research on the Pentateuch has revolved around the question of sources and how they might be identified by differences in vocabulary, theme, and characterization. Jason M. H. Gaines brings a different perspective to the delineation of the Priestly source (P) by applying specific criteria for the identification of biblical Hebrew poetry.
These criteria allow him to distinguish a nearly complete poetic P stratum (“Poetic-P”), coherent in literary, narrative, and ideological terms, from a later prose redaction (“Prosaic-P”), which is fragmentary, supplemental (filling out mundane details including names dates, ages, places, numbers, and so on), and distinct in thematic presentation and apparent theological concern.
Gaines describes the whole of the “Poetic-P” source and offers a Hebrew reconstruction of the document. He also outlines the different emphases of the two strata, including differences in the characterization of patriarchs and of God’s treatment of a disobedient Israel. The result is a coherent and dramatically innovative understanding of the history of the Priestly composition that is sure to draw keen interest and to open up new vistas in the study of the Pentateuch.
"This highly original and innovative book proposes an entirely new model for understanding the Priestly source in the Torah, as comprised of an original poetic work that has been supplemented by a prose composition. This book will be of great interest to any student of the Bible, but especially to those exploring biblical poetry and the development of the Torah."
—Marc Zvi Brettler
"Jason Gaines’s study offers a fresh and challenging perspective about the nature of the style of the priestly writings that cuts against typical scholarly identifications of a priestly Grundschrift and its supplements. It also presents evidence that enhances our understanding of the stylistic middle ground between prose and poetry."
"The Priestly source of the Pentateuch has long been seen as static, fossilized 'law,' with scant literary or spiritual merit. Some Reader’s Digest-type Bibles have even omitted major portions of it as uninteresting. The past several decades have, thankfully, completely changed this approach, rediscovering the literary and religious creativity of the Priestly authors. Jason Gaines in this valuable study continues that renaissance, with careful analysis and close readings of a series of key texts."
—Bernard M. Levinson
University of Minnesota
Review in Bible Today