Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918) was one of the greatest biblical scholars of the nineteenth century.  He

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received his licentiate in theology at the University of Göttingen in 1870 and taught at the University of Greifswald, the University of Halle, the University of Marburg, and the University of Göttingen.

            Within biblical studies, Wellhausen is best known for his work on source-criticism and Israelite religious history.  In his magnum opus, the Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel, he used the four sources of the Pentateuch to reconstruct the trajectory of Israelite religion over time.  For Wellhausen, this trajectory is one of steady decline.  The JE source was the earliest, since it focused on personal piety and spontaneous communion with the deity.  The D source, with its emphasis on centralized temple cult, was next, and the P source, concerned as it was with ‘dry’ ritual obligation, came last.  Wellhausen’s approach to the Pentateuch marks a watershed moment in biblical studies; he was the first scholar to use source criticism to answer historical questions.  For this reason, his views continue to be taught and debated today.   


Gignilliat, Mark S.  A Brief History of Old Testament Criticism from Benedict Spinoza to Brevard Childs.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012. 

Smend, Rudolf.  “Julius Wellhausen.” In Dictionary of Biblical Interpreters Vol. II., edited by John H. Hayes, 629-631.  Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1999.  

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