Biblical Archaeology Review 4:4, November/December 1978

Dating the Patriarchal Stories

Van Seters responds to Nahum Sarna's review of Abraham in History and Tradition

By John Van Seters

In his review of my book, Abraham in History and Tradition, Nahum Sarna sets the context for his remarks with a brief but very helpful survey of the development of historical criticism of the Pentateuch, including literary and form criticism (see “Abraham in History,” BAR 03:04). However, he does not deal with my literary treatment of the stories of Abraham except to say that it is a return to the position of Wellhausen but “even more extreme”.

Since I regard this part of the book as the most important aspect of my study, I am not entirely happy with this rather pejorative assessment of my literary analysis. The historical and archaeological questions were taken up to show that the traditions were not the heritage of a very early period in Israel’s history but could be viewed as a literary product of the exilic period. So, while literary and historical issues are closely related, they must be separated here since the debate on differences between us is only focused on historical questions.

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