Could we have studied the scriptures of the Israelitish race about 400 B.C., we should have classified them under four great divisions: The prophetic writings, represented by the combined early Judean, Ephraimite, and late prophetic or Deuteronomic narratives, and their continuation in Samuel and Kings, together with the earlier and exilic prophecies; the legal, represented by the majority of the Old Testament laws, combined with the late priestly history; the wisdom, represented by the older small collections of proverbs; the devotional or liturgical, represented by Lamentations and the earlier collections of psalms.
It is evidently based upon the toroth, or decisions, rendered by the priests concerning the various ceremonial questions thus treated. The recurring phrase, according to the ordinance, probably refers to the fixed usage observed in connection with the first temple. The atmosphere and point of view of these priestly laws as a whole are the exilic and post-exilic periods.
Undoubtedly many prophecies were never delivered orally, but were originally written like Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians, and sent out as circular letters. The Babylonian exile scattered the Jews so widely that the exilic and post-exilic prophets depended almost entirely upon this method of reaching their countrymen and thus became writers of epistles.
To such impracticable ideals, for that age, did this exilic movement of the new religion look, with sober, strenuous, systematic effort for their realization; and therein may we see its intensity of moral life. The period of the Restoration, from B.C. 536.
The tendency of the purely literary school of critics has been to explain the process by the direct use of Babylonian documents wholly within exilic times. If the Creation and Deluge narratives stood alone, a case might perhaps be made out for confining Babylonian influence to this late period. It is true that during the Captivity the Jews were directly exposed to such influence.