Martin Noth

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Martin Noth (August 3, 1902 – May 30, 1968) was a German scholar of the Hebrew Bible who specialized in the pre-Exilic history of the Hebrews. With Gerhard von Rad he pioneered the traditional-historical approach to biblical studies, emphasising the role of oral traditions in the formation of the biblical texts.



Noth was born in Dresden, Kingdom of Saxony. He studied at the universities of Erlangen, Rostock, and Leipzig and taught at Greifswald and Königsberg.

From 1939-41 and 1943-45, Noth served as a soldier during World War II. After the war he taught at Bonn, Göttingen, Tübingen, Hamburg, and University of Basel. He died during an expedition in the Negev, Israel.


Noth first attracted widespread attention with "Das System der zwölf Stämme Israels" (“The Scheme of the Twelve Tribes of Israel”, 1930), positing that the Twelve Tribes of Israel did not exist prior to the covenant assembly at Shechem described in the book of Joshua.

"A History of Pentateuchal Traditions," (1948, English translation 1972) set out a new model for the composition of the Pentateuch, or Torah. Noth supplemented[1] the dominant model of the time, the documentary hypothesis, seeing the Pentateuch as composed of blocks of traditional material accreted round some key historical experiences. He identified these experiences as "Guidance out of Egypt," "Guidance into the Arable Land," "Promise to the Patriarchs," "Guidance in the Wilderness" and "Revelation at Sinai," the details of the narrative serving to fill out the thematic outline. Later, Robert Polzin showed that some of his main conclusions were consistent with arbitrary or inconsistent use of the rules that he proposed[2].

Even more revolutionary and influential, quite reorienting the emphasis of modern scholarship, was "The Deuteronomistic History". In this work Noth argued that the earlier theory of several Deuteronomist redactions of the books from Joshua to Kings did not explain the facts, and instead proposed that they formed a unified "Deuteronomic history", the product of a single author working in the late 7th century.

Noth also published commentaries on all the five books of the Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Following Wellhausen's hypothesis, Noth proposed that the book of Joshua plus the Pentateuch originally formed a six-book work, the Hexateuch.


  • Martin Noth, A History of Pentateuchal Traditions
  • Martin Noth, History of Israel: Biblical History
  • Martin Noth, The Deuteronomistic History


  • "Die Wege der Pharaonenheere in Palästina und Syrien. Untersuchungen zu den hieroglyphischen Listen palästinischer und syrischer Städte. III. Der Aufbau der Palästinaliste Thutmoses III.", ZDPV 61 (1938), pp.26–65.

See also


  • 1. Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005
  • 2. Polzin, Robert (1976). "Martin Noth's A History of Pentateuchal Traditions*". Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (The American Schools of Oriental Research) (221): 113–120. Retrieved 2009-07-22.

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