Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament)
The Documentary Hypothesis, and the
|11th Century CE: Isaac ibn Yashush suggested that the list of the
Edomite kings in Genesis 36 was added by an unknown person after Moses died. For this
assertion, he became known as "Isaac the Blunderer."
|15th Century: Bishop Tostatus suggested that certain passages were
written by one of the prophets, not by Moses.|
|16th Century: Andreas van Maes suggested that an editor added
additional material to some of Moses' writings.|
|17th Century: Thomas Hobbes prepared a collection of passages that
seemed to negate Moses' authorship.|
|18th Century: Three investigators (Witter, Astruc and
independently concluded that doublets in the Torah were written by two different authors.
A doublet is a story that is described twice, as in:
These doublets appeared to contradict each other. In most cases, one referred to God as
Yahweh while the other used the term Elohim.
|19th Century: Scholars noticed that there were a few triplets in the
Torah. This indicated that a third author was involved. Then, they determined that the
book of Deuteronomy was written in a different language style from the remaining 4 books
in the Pentateuch. Finally, by the end of the 19th Century, liberal scholars reached a
consensus that 4 authors and one redactor (editor) had been actively involved in the
writing of the Pentateuch.|
|20th Century: Academics have continued to refine the Documentary Hypothesis by identifying which verses (and parts of verses) were authored by the various writers. They have also attempted to uncover the names of the authors. In 1943, Pope Pius XII issued an encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu in which he urged academics to study the sources of Biblical texts. Recent archaeological discoveries and new linguistic analysis tools have facilitated the research into the hypothesis.|
Belief in the documentary hypothesis was triggered by a number of factors, such as:
|Anachronisms, like the list of the Edomite kings;|
|Duplicate and triplicate passages|
|Various passages portrayed God in different ways;|
|The flood story appears to involve the meshing of two separate stories;|
|The belief, centuries ago, by archaeologists and linguists that writing among the ancient Hebrews only developed after the events portrayed in the Pentateuch. Thus, Moses would have been incapable of writing the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures.|
These factors led theologians to the conclusion that the Pentateuch is a hybrid document which was written well after Moses' death, and much later than the events portrayed. The authors and redactors are unknown, and are commonly referred to as authors J, E, P and D.
As it happens, their belief about Moses being illiterate is probably wrong. Archaeological evidence has since been found which shows that all of the major civilizations surrounding the Hebrews were literate at the apparent time of the Exodus. So one can assume that Moses knew how to read and write.
|J: a writer who:|
|E: a writer who|
|D: a writer who:|
|P: a writer who:|
|R: a redactor who:|
We have prepared a copy of the first ten chapters of Genesis which identifies the passages contributed by J, P and R. Each of the authors' writings is shown in text of a different color. In the case of the creation stories, the first legend was written by P. Part way through chapter 2, J takes over and describes a second creation story. In the case of the Noachian Flood, from Genesis 6:5 to 8:22, the redactor has taken a different approach. He alternates between short passages from P and J. One can start at Genesis 6:5 and read the contribution of J; it is a complete story. One can then restart at the beginning and read P's text. Again, P has written a consistent account - one that differs significantly from J.
Friedman 3 suggests that when the Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom in 722 BCE, many refugees streamed south into Judea, bringing their sacred writing "E" with them. Subsequently, E and J were combined into a single document, referred to as "JE."
D was written perhaps a century later. It was conveniently "discovered" in the temple by the priest Hilkiah in 622 BCE, shortly after it was written. D was then joined with JE
P was written before the death of King Josiah in 609 BCE, probably during the reign of King Hezekiah. It was written as an alternative to JE.
R combined J, E, P and other documents together into the first four books of the Hebrew Scriptures. To this, he added D's writings, the book of Deuteronomy, to complete the Pentateuch. By the time that he did the editing, the JE, D and P documents were in wide circulation. Each was supported by various factions. R saw his task as attempting to join these sources together into a more or less cohesive, single document. Friedman suspects that Ezra was the redactor.
Of course, the various writers often incorporated into their writings earlier material obtained from Pagan sources outside of Israel and Judah. Friedman writes:
"From the texts found in Mesopotamia, it is clear that types of literature parallel to what is in the Old Testament existed during the period from the third to the first millennia BC. We know of law codes, creation stories, primeval histories, epic stories and the like from various periods of Mesopotamian history." 4
One might add a flood story with many parallels to the Noachian flood.
By the year 1919, when the German Nazi party was founded, the Documentary Hypothesis was widely accepted among German theologians. The Nazis used the Hypothesis to promote their beliefs that the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) was a collection of legends, myths, hero stories, and fictional material. According to author Ken Collins:
"The Nazis promoted a revised form of Christianity called Deutsches Christentum, in which they replaced the Old Testament with Germanic myths and legends. Deutsches Christentum never caught on with the public, but since it epitomized the beliefs of the leadership of the Nazi party, it contributed to the martyrdom of a number of famous German Christians." 5
Copyright � 1997 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on
Latest update: 2011-DEC-31
Written by: B.A. Robinson
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