My house is full of books, My storage shed is full of books. I have vowed not to get any more books. There is no room. More and more I am turning to e-books. But you still cannot get everything.
This makes some of my old out-of-print books even more precious. For instance, I have a copy of Adam Welch’s 1924 The Code of Deuteronomy: A New Theory of It’s Origin. It was printed in England. The pages are yellowed and it has the old-book smell. It is a pretty fragile book.
Scholars have written a lot about Deuteronomy since Welch. Some of what he says is outdated. But his main argument can still impress modern scholars. Brevard Childs says:
“In my judgment, Welch made out a strong case that many of the laws of Deuteronomy originally functioned without a concept of cult centralization. He felt that originally the theological emphasis was on the purity of Israel’s worship rather than its unity.” (Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture p. 218)
Child’s canonical approach means that he doesn’t have much use for how a text originally functioned. So, although he finds Welch interesting and even convincing, he moves quickly on to the final form of the text.
I, on the other hand, am very much interested in God’s revelation in history, not just the final form scribes gave to the Bible. So I want to re-read Welch and blog through his main argument.
Modern discussion of Deuteronomy comes back again and again to the idea that the core of Deuteronomy is the book found in the temple according to 2 Kings 22:8. This book then became the guide for King Josiah’s religious reform.
I think that an early form of Deuteronomy is the book that was found. Welch doubts this.
You have to understand that he was working around the pious fraud theory. Many scholars in his day thought that the “finding” of the book was fake. They thought the book was written in Josiah’s own time and then produced as a way to manipulate the naïve, young king.
Welch also reacts to the even more radical view of Hoelscher, that Deuteronomy was written later, during the exile, as a fantasy of the priests about what Josiah’s reform should have been like.
Since von Rad, it has been more common for scholars to think that the book came to be during Hezekiah’s reign, was suppressed under Manassah, and then rediscovered under Josiah. Welch wrote before this theory became prominent.
Both the pious fraud theory and the Hezekiah theory hold that the main point of the book was that Israelites could not worship anywhere but at the temple in Jerusalem–the centralization of the cult.
The centralization of the cult became embedded in Deuteronomy at some point. But Welch wanted to go back to a form of Deuteronomy that existed before that happened.