Yehezkel Kaufman's main contributions to Biblical historiography and source criticism

Kaufman demonstrated or, at the very least, provided very strong evidence for the following claims:

·        Torah’s total misunderstanding of paganism and pagan religion demonstrates that there could have been no relation between ancient Canaanite religion and Israelite religion; therefore, Israelite religion did not grow out of any pre-existing religion

·        Monotheism is an entirely Israelite phenomenon

·        The thorough-going monotheism of Torah begins with Moses (i.e., the Sinatic revelation)

·        Once monotheism is adopted by the people Israel, the mythological elements characteristic of pagan thinking are completely absent from Israelite thinking (note how holy days, clearly from a pre-monotheistic period, have lost all connection to their pagan variants)

·        The occasional instance of Baal worship was never a religious movement of the people of Israel but was confined to the royal court, exclusively

·        Idol worship that is referenced in Torah is only “vestigial fetishistic idolatry” and not a religious expression (in other words, a form of worship completely detached from its original meaning)

·        The messenger prophet is uniquely Israelite without demonstrable external influence

·        Therefore, the major “innovation” of the Prophets is the focus on the ethical components of Israelite religion; the Prophets shift religious focus from the sacrificial cult to its ethical content

·        The pre-prophetic books reflect the earliest stages of Israelite religion, not as Wellhausen wanted to claim, a later, post-prophetic stage

·        Wellhausen’s claim that the Priestly sources are the latest (helps bridge to Christianity) is utterly wrong-headed: the Priestly sources are unaware of centralization of sacrifice in Jerusalem and deal only with local alters; therefore, this document must actually be very early  


Other (non-technical) reading:

Official Religion and Popular Religion in Pre-Exilic Ancient Israel, Jacques Berlinerblau (very good read, attempting to refute a key assertion of Kaufman and reformulate the frame of reference)

Several wikis use this essay: Ezekiel Kaufman

Prussner and Hayes' discussion in Old Testament Theology