Making Light of Sin: A Three-step How-to

Making Light of Sin

The three-step how-to as illustrated by Aaron the Priest

You might remember the story of the Golden Calf in the Hebrew Bible.  It is one of those passages that leave you saying, “What the…”, or something like that.  The Israelites had just been taken through a sea, and have been following a pillar of fire for quite some time now.  How on earth could they get tricked into idolatry so fast?  Well, that’s a question for tomorrow.  Today, we look at how one might make light of sin if he or she wanted to.

Moses had left to go to the top of the Mountain, and has been there nearly forty days.  That’s quite a while to be on top of a mountain.  So, the Israelites just assumed the worst.  Here is the passage:

32 When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” 2 So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4 And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” 5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.” 6 And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ex 32:1–6.

It’s unclear whether or not “gods” here should be translated “god.”  Aaron clearly thinks the “god” he made represents Yahweh (vs. 6).  Whichever view you land on partly determines whether you think the first or the second commandment is being violated.  Anyhow, I hope it is not too presumptive to draw attention to the first word the Israelites say to their priest who had been left in charge, “Up!”  I suppose he wasn’t doing much of anything.  It doesn’t look like he was doing priestly things like promoting religion.

We might also wonder about Aaron’s motive in making the Israelites take the gold from their family members.  Was it a poor attempt at dissuading the crowd?  Or is it just that gold makes for a more precious idol.  Anyhow, Aaron finally does rob the whole Israelite congregation of the gold they received from Egypt by the hand of the LORD (Ex. 12:35 “The people of Israel had… asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing. 36 And the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.”). Third, Aaron probably worked very hard on this.  He had to melt the gold and fashion it with a tool.

Last, we can note that Aaron decides, now, to invest a ton of time and action into foolishness.  The Israelites don’t have to prod him (Up! Up!).  He announces that a feast is going to take place the next day.  Well, anyone familiar with the Bible knows this doesn’t end well for the Israelites.  Aaron failed as a leader.  He was lazy.  He robbed the people.  He promoted Idolatry.  He spent copious amounts of time wasting their money.  But, and now to the point, if any of you should find yourself in this position then this is how you seek to escape it.  You will be confronted.  Moses was not happy with Aaron, and if you ever fail as a leader, act lazily, steal, lie, or sin some other way then you will meet someone unhappy with you.  This is one method on how to alleviate your embarrassment.

Ex. 32:21 And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought such a great sin upon them?”

I.  Tell the other guy to cool off
22 And Aaron said, “Let not the anger of my lord burn hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil.

You’re overreacting, Moses.  Don’t be so angry.  Cool off.  No. Big. Deal.

II.  Blame others
22 And Aaron said, “Let not the anger of my lord burn hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil.

Come on Moses!  You know these people.  They just can’t get right.  How am I supposed to lead people like them?

III.  Minimize your part in it
23 For they said to me, ‘Make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 24 So I said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.”

I swear, Moses!  All I did was just throw the gold in.  The calf practically made itself.  No graving tool.  No fashioning.  No smelting.  So, you see, I’m pretty innocent in the matter.

So there you have it.  You now have a way to make light of sin as illustrated by the father of all Israelite priests.  But on a serious note.  These are tendencies that I’m sure we are all prone to.  They never really fool anyone who is looking closely.  They only exhaust the interrogator.  The words of St. John shine like fashioned gold in light of this story,

1 Jn. 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.







JEDP’s Death Throes: Part IV Duplications (Of Wives and Kings)

OT And History

Cassuto and JEDP’s Death Throes: Part IV Duplications, Contradictions and Repetitions

Last week we looked at the creation account in Genesis to see if whether there are really two separate creation accounts merged together or whether Genesis 1 & 2 form a literary unit.  Today, we are going to overview why repetitions might exist in the first place.  More specifically, we will look at Umberto Cassuto’s explanation for why the Torah records Abraham lying to a king about his wife being his sister and Isaac following suit about Rebekah.  I will reference material from Cassuto in parentheses.

Here is the first instance:

Genesis 12:10 Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. 11 When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, “I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance, 12 and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13 Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake.” 14 When Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. 15 And when the princes of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. 16 And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels.
17 But the LORD afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. 18 So Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife; take her, and go.” 20 And Pharaoh gave men orders concerning him, and they sent him away with his wife and all that he had.

Again, a similar instance:

Genesis 20:1 From there Abraham journeyed toward the territory of the Negeb and lived between Kadesh and Shur; and he sojourned in Gerar. 2 And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. 3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.” 4 Now Abimelech had not approached her. So he said, “Lord, will you kill an innocent people? 5 Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.” 6 Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her.

Interestingly, Isaac also does the same thing at Gerar.

Genesis 26:6 So Isaac settled in Gerar. 7 When the men of the place asked him about his wife, he said, “She is my sister,” for he feared to say, “My wife,” thinking, “lest the men of the place should kill me because of Rebekah,” because she was attractive in appearance. 8 When he had been there a long time, Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out of a window and saw Isaac laughing with Rebekah his wife. 9 So Abimelech called Isaac and said, “Behold, she is your wife. How then could you say, ‘She is my sister’?” Isaac said to him, “Because I thought, ‘Lest I die because of her.’ ”

Passages taken from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001).

JEDP theorists, already assuming the conclusion, take these last two instances as possibly being an accidental duplication.  Or, the editor didn’t know whether the patriarchal figure was Abraham or Isaac and just left both stories.  Both are patriarchal figures who lie to a man named Abimelech in the city of Gerar.  Could this really have happened twice or is there a better explanation?

Generally, the explanation is sought within the framework of the Documentary Hypothesis.  Perhaps this tradition which was kept orally became corrupted.  Maybe Abraham was the one who was to have lied to Abimelech and sometime later it was accidentally changed to Isaac–or vice versa.  Maybe one geographical location always believed it was Isaac and then another location always retold the story as Abraham.  The final editor recording the stories in the Pentateuch probably couldn’t have known which was the original and simply left both stories in as a duplication.

Furthermore, the proponents of the Documentary Hypothesis have noted that Abraham’s actions with Pharaoh resemble, in structure, the account of the Children of Israel going to Egypt, plundering Pharaoh and leaving by the exodus.   Consider these similarities:

1. Famine in the land (78)
2. The term Sojourn (79)
3. Abram’s fear that he would die and Sarah (female) would live is echoed when Pharaoh orders the execution of all the male babies and the females are allow to live.
4. Abram/Israel (the people of) both left Egypt with very rich with silver, gold, and cattle.
5. Pharaoh tells Abram/Moses “take and be gone.”
6. Abram sets out towards Negeb. Moses sent spies ahead to Negeb. (80)
7. Abram builds an altar between Bethel and AI, the place where his descendants were destined to fight their first battle for the conquest.

Thomas Thompson, in his dissertation, argues that this is purely a common literary motif–a King plundered by an ancestral figure.2   This, for Thompson, I would assume explains the repetition and why both Isaac and Abraham would have been used in the myth.

But let’s say, for a minute, that this isn’t just a literary motif.  Let’s say that the events in these recorded narratives actually happened.  What would be the purpose of recording a patriarch lying to a king about his wife three separate times?  Let’s be real, the Documentary Hypothesis is a figment of the imagination.  There is absolutely no manuscript evidence of a single ‘source.’  It would take a nearly impossible find (a complete Torah dated to at least 800 B.C.) to disprove.  Each tenet has been devastated by a better explanation of the evidence that we have.  This makes it a poor theory indeed.  But I digress.  If Jesus is correct that Moses is the author of the Pentateuch, then what purpose would Moses have had in recording these three events.  After all, Moses couldn’t have recorded everything.  Moses was selective, and he selected this.  (Well, maybe the material Moses was working with was sparse)

Cassuto states that these parallels are certainly not coincidental. He states that these stories were selected to teach that “the acts of the fathers are a sign unto the children,” and that the “the conquest of the land had, as it were, already taken place symbolically in the time of the Patriarchs.” (81)

The repetition of Sarai in Egypt/Gerar and Rebekah in Gerar serve to solidify the promise contained.  “Everything done twice or three times is to be regarded as confirmed and established.” (82) See Josephs statement about Pharaoh’s dream occurring twice (with different metaphors), “And the doubling of Pharaoh’s dream means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass” Gen. 41.32 (83)

We ought to understand that although Abraham and Isaac would have lived many, many years before Moses was born, Moses was writing for the generation he was with.  For this reason, Moses would have emphasized  the Kings of Egypt and Canaan being plundered as a confirmation of the the promises made to those who left Egypt (plundering Pharaoh).  The children of Israel are travelling the path of their forefathers, and Yahweh has guaranteed their inheritance.  Furthermore, this would only make sense if Moses were writing the account for that generation.  The story of how a Hebrew bests foreign kings by the promise and protection of Yahweh would be nearly irrelevant for a post-exilic group of Israelites.

In the end, I agree with Cassuto’s conclusion:  These are intentional recapitulations, and not things that happened on accident or by chance because of a later redactor.  (83)

One may say, “We do not need to assert the historicity of these events in order for us to claim that they are repetitions given in order to strengthen the Israelite’s hopes of a successful conquest.”  This seems counter-intuitive to me.  How exactly would a fictional story about a fictional ancestor strengthen anyone to risk their life in battle?  If Yahweh never actually gave his patriarchal, covenantal follower salvation from the hand of a foreign king and richly rewarded them, then how is that going to give a new generation certainty that they will receive the land and the promises despite the fierce battles they would have with the Canaanites.

Imagine you are part of an army preparing to storm a beach that, if taken, will be a turning point in the war.  The beach is heavily defended.  Would the knowledge of D-day strengthen you?  Would you take comfort in remembering that this had been done before and that it could be done again?  Would it have the same effect on you if that had never happened, but was part of a comic book you had read?  Would knowing that there is a real, historical precedent for victory help?  I think so, and with those who believe otherwise we may just have to disagree.  They can speak all they want about how they are fictional stories that still carry true meaning,  but I think it makes total nonsense out of the situation.


1. Umberto Cassuto, The Documentary Hypothesis and the Composition of the Pentateuch, (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1961)
2.  See chapters 9, 11, and 12 in Thompson, Thomas. The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives. (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter & Co., 1974.)

JEDP’s Death Throes: Part IV Duplications (Genesis 1&2)

OT And History

Cassuto and JEDP’s Death Throes: Part IV Duplications, Contradictions and Repetitions


One mainstay of the Documentary Theorists is the persistent belief that certain Old Testament narratives are contradictory duplications of other passages.  As par for the course, Genesis 1-2 makes for a great example.  I don’t believe for a minute that these are two separate creation accounts, but let’s take a look at what some of these theorists might say about Genesis 1 and 2.  As always, Cassuto’s work will be referenced in parentheses.

There are three contradictions or inconsistencies that are argued for between the two repetitious creation accounts.

I. The Number of Days Creation Took to Complete

The first creation account states:

2:2 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.

The second creation account states:

2:4  These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.

The first creation account states that it took six days for God’s creation to be completed, but the second account states that it happened in one day.

II.  The Creation of Male and Female

1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

2:15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it…
18 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”
21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.

What we see between these two passages is that in the first creation account God made man and woman at the same time, but in the second account God created Adam first and then formed Eve later.

III.  Plants

In Genesis 1, plants were created on the third day which is prior to human beings (sixth day).  In Genesis 2, we find:

2:5 When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, 6 and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— 7 then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

So, in one account plants precede Mankind, and in the other the opposite is true.



Now it is true that, at least for the first two points, one must already believe the Documentary Hypothesis in order to view this as evidence of two creation accounts.  Thus, it is a bit circular.  To be fair, though, I’m assuming the text to be a literary unity, and so I bring my assumptions to the table when I am reading Genesis 1-2.  Second, the theorists approach the text assuming there are two creation accounts for reasons other than I’ve listed here (Use of Divine Names, Language, Repetitiveness).  Many of these other reasons have already been dealt with by Cassuto.  I’m mentioning this only because I want to deal fairly with those who hold to the Documentary Hypothesis.  It’s not entirely fair to say, “You’re assuming the conclusion.”

I.  In the day/On the day is a literary colloquialism for “at the time when”  (73)

The use of the Hebrew word yôm can change its meaning.  It can mean a span of time, a literal day, or it can be used in a phrase to mean something else, e.g. “The Day of the Lord.”  In order to assert that Genesis 1-2 is a contradiction, it would need to be proven that the phrase “in the day” necessitates the idea that only one day is in view.  But it doesn’t.

Cassuto calls up many examples, but consider a clear one from David in Psalm 18:


It should be noted that in the day/on the day consists of the same words in Hebrew.  Now, what are we to believe about David’s life now?  The title and content of the Psalm make clear that David is speaking not only about Saul, but also “all” of his enemies.  Were all of David’s enemies really conquered in one day?  If not, is the author ignorant of how his language works?  I’m going to say, “no” on both accounts.  David is giving praise for Yahweh delivering him from Saul and from the foreigners who harassed him.  This happened over a period of time, but it is referred to by the phrase, “On the day.”

This occurs also in Numbers in reference to Moses’ forty days on the Mount of God.

Numbers 3:1 Now these are the generations of Aaron and Moses in the day that Jehovah spake with Moses in mount Sinai.

American Standard Version (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995), Nu 3.

We know in Exodus that Moses spent forty days on Sinai, but Numbers 3 states “in the day.”  But, of course, this is fine because the phrase simply is a colloquialism signifying “at the time when.”

The assertion that this is a contradiction is based on ignorance of a Hebrew phrase.

II.  Repetition is a Characteristic of Hebrew Narratives (74)

In general, much of the discussion concerning multiple sources is rooted in repetition.  But this is a characteristic of Hebrew narratives (and at least NW Semitic, e.g., Baal Cycle in Ugaritic) in general, and not evidence for multiple authorship.

In keeping with what Cassuto has already stated concerning the creation account, he notes that in Genesis 1 we are not told how they are created, but merely that they were created.  Hebrew narratives work by giving a general account that is then followed by a detailed account.   Genesis 1 leaves you with the pinnacle of God’s creation, Mankind, and Genesis 2 gives detail to how that creation happened.

III.  What about the Plants?  That has to be a contradiction, right?

Plants on the third day in Gen. 1, but in 2 “No שיח of the field were yet in the earth and no עשב of the field had yet sprung up.

  1. Notice the construct form שיח/עשב of the field (השדה). Putting a noun into a construct field changes the meaning of a word.  Using the rest of the bible, Cassuto argues that the construct phrase refers to wheat and barley which are planted and grown in fields. (75)
  2. Cassuto argues, “If Scripture tells us that just these plants had not yet grown, it is these kinds and no others that are intended.  On the contrary, the negation also implies an affirmation, to wit, that the other plants were already to be found on the earth.”
  3. The importance of the field is that in 3:18, the curse says they shall eat the עשב השדח by the sweat of their brow and the שיח השדח is synonymous with ‘thorns and thistles.’  What Gen. 2:4ff is stating that these plants (Wheat and Barley) were not available yet because man had not yet transgressed.  After the transgression thorns and thistles came and man had to live on wheat/barley because the fruit of the trees were not available. (75)
  4. Gen. 1 stresses that God created the types of plants that reproduce bountifully with their seed.  Seed is repeated often.  But the plant life excluded in Gen. 1:11 is that which requires rain and tilling.  As Cassuto states: “This excludes those for which seed alone is not sufficient; they need something else in addition, something that had not yet come into the world.  We are specifically told in connection with the שיח/עשב of the field: ‘Now no שיח of the field were yet in the earth and עשב of the field had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, AND THERE WAS NO MAN TO TILL THE GROUND.” (76)  Thorns and thistles actually require rain to sprout Cassuto says, and fields of grain are only produced by man.
  5. 2:4ff is not a cosmology at all.  There is no mention of sea or fish, and even the creation of heaven and earth are mentioned only incidentally.  What we find is a general description followed by a detailed description of the creation of man—which Cassuto says is a frequent literary device employed by the author of the Torah. (77)


Genesis 1 is a general account that God created the world.  Genesis 2 is the detailed account of the creation of Man.  It begins with a notice that fields of barley and wheat did not exist because Man had not transgressed and rain had not fallen.  Rather, being put in the garden, Adam had plenty of food from only those fruit trees and other plants which carry their seed in them and can grow without thorns, thistles, plowing and tilling.  This comes later as a by-product of the curse.


Next week, we will look at another repetition often used as evidence for multiple sources, the stories of Abraham and Isaac lying to a king by saying their wives were sisters.


1. Umberto Cassuto, The Documentary Hypothesis and the Composition of the Pentateuch, (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1961).

JEDP’s Death Throes: Part III Divergent Views

OT and History

Cassuto and JEDP’s Death Throes: Part III, Divergent Views

If it is true that the Pentateuch is the result of merging documents and epics into a single literary work, then it would make sense to expect different views of the deity emerge.  This would be the result of geography, naturally, because one epic, J, might be a tradition written by or orally recited by those located in the south.  The southern community might have a different take on how the deity operates with humans than the northerners and their epic, E.  A second factor to consider is how authors might emphasize one aspect of the deity over another.  One example would be that of prophets vs. priests.  Prophets, in their writings and ministry, tend to emphasize the remoteness of the deity who is separate from and different than the sinners.  Priests, however, may emphasize the importance and necessity of the priesthood for proper worship.  Mystics, however, may be so caught up in the God-is-near moment that God speaks directly to them without temple worship or prophetic help.

These are just examples, and are not totally indicative of how those who subscribe to JEDP would describe their position.  But, I hope it helps to see just exactly what we are talking about.  This pillar describes a certain viewpoint that characterizes the so-called JE, and P sources.

J:  the deity is characterized as  personal and corporeal.
E:  the deity is characterized as more distant.  Instead of appearing physically, the deity appears only in dreams and visions.
P: the deity is characterized as more separate.  Communication is done by speech alone. 1

Before continuing, it may be helpful to note that this pillar is somewhat dependant on the others.  The pillars are used in a circular fashion that, while not inherently fallacious, can be used fallaciously.  These divergent views depend on whether or not there are distinct sources and that these sources use the divine name differently and use a different vocabulary (pillars 1 & 2).

Cassuto notes: 2

There are seven visions that occur prior to Moses’ appearance.  Out of these seven, three conflict with the theory.  So, 42% of the time the theory doesn’t work.  This makes for a poor theory indeed.

In Genesis 15:1

15 After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ge 15:1.

Notice, here, that Yahweh is used as appearing to Abraham in a vision.  Thus, we have J, not E being “distant.”  Cassuto argues the same thing happens in Genesis 26 with Isaac.

In Genesis 28,

11 And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. 12 And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! 13 And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ge 28:11–13.

Yahweh is the term used once again for referring to an encounter with man via dream.

The evidence does not fit, and so often the text is emended to put the “right name” for the deity in its place.  Gunkel does this in Gen. 15. (59)  But, as Cassuto has already shown, there is a better framework for interpreting why different names are used.  In these three visions above, men in Yahweh’s covenant are being communicated with and that is why all three have revelations from Yahweh.

But in the remaining four, we should take note of these things:

1. Two dreams are to gentiles, and therefore Elohim is to be used (and is).

2. In Gen. 31:10-11, Elohim is used because of the content of the revelation.  Nothing covenantal is being relayed, and the God of Laban (not in covenant), of Jacob and their cattle are in view.

3. Gen. 46:2 Elohim is used when narrating the account of Jacob going down to Egypt.  Cassuto notes that until Moses, Yahweh is never used in association with Egypt.

In other words, the different names for the deity can be made sense of in terms of the rules for using Elohim and Yahweh that Cassuto outlined.  The JEDP theory cannot make sense of the discrepancies, and so some actually change the words.   But why do this when there is a better way?





1. Umberto Cassuto, The Documentary Hypothesis and the Composition of the Pentateuch, (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1961), 59-61.

2. Ibid.

JEDP’s Death Throes: Part II Language and Style

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Cassuto and JEDP’s Death Throes: Part II, Variations in Language and Style

Today we take up the task of deciding whether variations in language and style will lead us to conclude that different sources (JEDP) were combined in order to form the Pentateuch.  The idea is that authors have a recognizable style with favorite words and a set vocabulary.  This would include the use of one word over its synonym.  For example, when writing, one may prefer–either by habit or by conscious choice–to use the word awesome instead of cool.  Or, you may have a coworker that always refers to their coffee as “Joe,” and another who refers to it as “Starbucks.”  No one would claim that your coworker (in keeping with the analogy) will never use the terms coffee or espresso, but just that their language is predominated by the terms “cup of joe” and “gotta get my starbucks this morning.”

Second, authors will tend to have favorite words or a theme that rests on certain words.  A clear biblical example of this is found in the gospels where a quick word search reveals that Mark, in his gospel, uses the word immediately 36 times in 16 chapters whereas Luke uses the word 12 times in 24 chapters.  Mark triples the usage in eight less chapters.*

Third, spelling differences can also be evidence that one text was written by another author.  For example, I Sam. -Kings uses דָּוִ֥ד for the name David and Chronicles spells it דָּוִ֖יד. The difference is a yōd (y) inserted.

In terms that are related to our subject (The Pentateuch), no one of the variations in language and style is considered as evidence for different authors/sources.  Rather, the evidence is considered as every factor taken as a whole.  So, it is not only that two different terms are used in reference to covenant making–but also that two different names for God are used (Yahweh & Elohim, see last weeks post).

I mention this because I’m not keen on attacking strawmen.  The evidence Cassuto brought forward from the Old Testament will put an utter end to some of these so-called variations.  So much so that the reader might think that these documentary theorists are not so smart.  But we must remember that the theorist is considering ‘evidence’ from five separate pillars and when this happens, she or he might see evidence for something where none exists (and these theorists are smart).

Enough of this.  On to the arguments.  Remember, I’m bringing evidence that may be found in Cassuto’s work which is referenced at the bottom.  I will put page numbers in parentheses so that the interested reader may know where to find it.

Pillar II:  Variations in Language and Style are Evidence for a Composite Composition

While there are more than three accusations of ‘obvious’ changes in literary style and vocabulary, only three will be mentioned in this post.  This is to keep it brief.

Accusation:  The terms used to “make a covenant” are different throughout the Pentateuch.  The use of two these two different phrases  or words which mean the same thing is evidence (when taken with all the other evidence) that the Pentateuch is made of at least two sources.

1. One source had an original author that preferred hăqîm, and the other source had an author who preferred kārat when recounting someone making a covenant.

First, it is impossible to tell if one author had preference for hăqîm and another for kārat.  Consider the story with Noah:

8 Then God (Elohim) said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 “Behold, I establish (haqim)  my covenant with you and your offspring after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. 11 I establish (haqim) my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ge 9:8–11.

We notice in the text that Elohim is the name used and that the term hăqîm is used.  But in Genesis 17:7, Yahweh and Elohim have both been referenced, Yahweh is the only term not used in a phrase (i.e. God almighty, El Shaddai and ‘I will be their God’) which argues for a narrative.  But hăqîm is used here as well.  So, even if it were true that two different sources were combined and that one source used hăqîm  and another used kārat, it would be impossible to tell who preferred which.

Secondly, these words are not synonyms as once supposed.  They actually have different meanings that are indeed derived from their roots.  The word kārat means to cut off or cut down.2  Hăqîm, on the other hand, is a derived form of qûm which means to arise, or stand.3  The form that qûm takes is called the Hiphil stem and usually gives a causative4 connotation or meaning, e.g. to make stand or to make one arise.  The ESV will translate this as establish (and good for them).

The term kārat is used when one is actually initiating or starting a new covenant.  The phrase to cut a covenant is used because an animal may be cut in half when a covenant is initiated.   This is what happens in the narrative with Abraham.  Hăqîm is used, however, only when causing a previously initiated covenant to stand, come to pass, be fulfilled, re-established, etc.

Thus, the variation between these words is not indicative of one author favoring one synonym over the other, but of word usage according to each words distinct meaning.

2. Two different first person pronouns (I) are used, anî and anōkî.  (Perhaps, they argue, there was a regional difference in pronunciation and this shows that parts of the pentateuch were composed in different places)

Cassuto shows, however, that there are actual rules of usage in how the 1st person pronoun is used.


  1. When the pronoun is the subject of a verbal-clause, that is, of a clause containing a verb in the past tense or future tense and regardless of which comes first (pronoun or verb), anōkî is used
  2. When the pronoun is part of a compound subject (others and I) and follows a verb, it is always anî.
  3. When the pronoun is nominativus pendens at the beginning of the sentence and the sentence appertains to the speaker, anî is invariably employed. As in the phrase, “As for ME, behold my covenant is with you” Gen 17.4.
  4. If pronoun is not the subject, but comes to emphasize the pronominal suffix of the preceding verb, it is invariably anî, as in “Bless me also” 27.34,38.
  5. In noun clauses, if it is desired to emphasize the subject, the pronoun is anōkî. But if the subject is not to be stressed, then anî is used.(50-51)

3.  The use of ṭerem and bṭerem

At some point, these two words were considered stylistic variations.  The word ṭerem has a meaning that refers to time: not yet, ere, before that.5  But Cassuto notes that a consistent usage, like that of hăqîm and kārat, holds not only in the Pentateuch, but throughout the whole Old Testament.  Simply, ṭerem means not yet and bṭerem means before. (51)

These are different meanings, not different sources. Sure, they are both related to time and the latter is the same word with a preposition, but that preposition serves a purpose that changes the meaning to the extent that it cannot be considered a stylistic difference.


Numerals:  The different method of writing numerals in the Pentateuch shows that the work is made of sources written by authors who didn’t share the same system for writing numbers.

The Hebrew of the Old Testament didn’t use our numbering system (1,2,3, etc.) but wrote their numbers with words.  Because of this, the writing of numbers were lengthy and could be done in two ways, ascending and descending.

value: 318 (Gen 14:14)
ascending: eight-ten (18) and three hundred
descending:  three hundred and eight-ten

However Cassuto,

“Upon investigating all the compound numbers in the Bible, I discovered that the ascending and descending orders are used according to definite rules that hold good for all books…when the Bible gives us technical or statistical data and the like, it frequently prefers the ascending order, since the tendency to exactness in these instances causes the smaller numbers to be given precedence and prominence.  On the other hand, when a solitary number occurs in a narrative passage or poem or in a speech and so forth, the numbers are invariably arranged…the descending order.” (52)


The common arguments against the unity of the Pentateuch in reference to language and style appear to be based on an effort to find ‘facts’ that fit the theory or as a result of not understanding how Hebrew literature functions.  There are indeed words that are used as synonyms.  However, using the existence of synonyms as evidence for composite authorship is itself tenuous.  We do often use synonyms just to give variance to our own writing so that we don’t sound so repetitive.  I often refer to the Documentary Hypothesis or JEDP Theory, et. al.

Therefore, there is a lot going against this argument levied against the unity of the Pentateuch.  Actual evidence of one author’s word choice over another can’t be found.  Supposed evidence can’t be tied to one supposed author or the other. And in order to make an argument from style and variation requires a mountain of supporting evidence.  For example, if one were to argue that the uses of natan and shîm for the meaning “to give” are evidence for different authors, then you would need to show how this variation developed.  It’s not enough to assert, you must name the child.  Did the south use natan for give and the north shîm? One would need to provide the evidence for that.  Otherwise, you just have synonyms breaking monotony or, better yet, purposeful word switches to give a more exact meaning or connotation.


Next week we look at the third pillar, “Divergent Viewpoints.”


*The search was done in English ad hoc, and so the two predominant Greek words that may mean immediately were not searched for independently.  Although, Luke uses both words, Mark always uses euthus.

1. Umberto Cassuto, The Documentary Hypothesis and the Composition of the Pentateuch, (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1961)

2. Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, electronic ed. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 2000), 503.

3. Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, electronic ed. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 2000), 877.

4.See Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1910), 144.

5.Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, electronic ed. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 2000), 382.

Baited and Switched by The Bait and Switch of Complementarians?

The CBE published a post on May 15th by Mimi Haddad titled The Bait and Switch of Complementarians.  I came across it by the usual suspect, Rachel Held Evans (whom I follow without trying to troll because I have learned from her), and even Scot McKnight linked to it (without commentary one way or the other).  But, judging from the publicity and the number of posts it was quite a hit.

I’m not going to levy an argument against egalitarianism or for complementarianism.  I’d just like to point out that we “got bait-and-switched” by reading the article.  How?  Well, you click a link to find an argument towards a solution and only receive a restatement of the problem.  I’m a beginner in seminary and I caught that.

The problem has always been whether it is legitimate to say that beings who are equal in ontology can be unequal in other areas (i.e., like telos).  Complementarians have consistently said they could, arguing from the Trinity (equal in ontos, but, no, Holy Spirit, you may not be incarnated).  Egalitarians have never really cared for that distinction (how legitimate is the analogy with the Trinity, anyhow?).

All that Dr. Haddad has effectively done is state the problem.  No solution.  No argumentation.  It’s popular only because it is cool.

The closest that Dr. Haddad gets to an argument is the statement:

Unless the Christ-exalting telos of Christian womanhood and Christian manhood opens equal opportunities to lead and serve with equal authority, regardless of gender, one questions whether they share equally in newness of life (ontos)—the fruit of Calvary. If the purpose (telos) of Christian discipleship is the result of Christ’s work on the cross (soteriology), it is inseparable from men and women sharing authority in the work of the church (ecclesiology), as Gordon Fee notes.

She states the problem backwards.  If the egalitarian believes equal ontology –> equal (roles to) telos, then the unequal (roles to) telos means, more than likely, there is unequal ontology.  But, this, of course, is only true if you already are an egalitarian and deny what Complementarians believe about ontos and the telos.  A

Second, the problem with authority and ecclesiology is something that will take a long time to nail down.  I do not critique Dr. Haddad for not elaborating.  She is writing a blog post, not a dissertation.  But, in some Baptist circles, i.e. Clifton Baptist in Louisville, the authority of the church is derived from the the congregation–and women have equal votes with men.  The authority is actually equal, but that is because, formally, the pastors and elders aren’t the final authority.

If you derive from an different ecclesiological structure, I can see that being different.  But, I’m just noting, the closest thing to an argument presented only works in certain structures.

In sum, Dr. Haddad’s blog post is near useless.  McKnight’s link to the article has ended up being an exercise in rallying the troops around an egalitarian mantra, but not for any argumentation.

JEDP’s Death Throes: Part I

OT and History

Cassuto and JEDP’s Death Throes:  Part I, The Divine Names

Having previously introduced and described the current moderate-to-liberal presuppositions, beliefs, theories, and views of the the Old Testament scripture (especially the Pentateuch).  I will now post a series of articles that critique their views and also seek to establish my (conservative) position.  Today, I will introduce the man that I believe is responsible for showing that the Documentary Hypothesis (JEDP) is completely bankrupt.  I will also share how he proved this in a five post series (starting today).

In 1961, Umberto Cassuto’s 8-part lecture over the Documentary Hypothesis was published in English by Magness Press in Jerusalem.  Cassuto,  born in Florence, was a Rabbi, and eventually moved to and lectured at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  It is my opinion that Cassuto’s work definitively puts to death the Documentary Hypothesis.  Cassuto’s 8-part lecture is actually a shorter representation of his fuller argument found in La Questione della Genesi.

In an earlier post describing the Documentary Hypothesis, I referred to Cassuto’s five-pillar categorization of the hyptohesis.  They are:

(1) Different terms used for the Divine Name (Either Elohim/El/El shaddai, etc or Yahweh)
(2) variations of language and style (e.g. terms used for covenant making Haqim berit/Karat berit)
(3) Contradictions & Divergent viewpoints
(4) duplications and repetitions (think of Abraham lying to a king about Sarah being his wife (twice), and Isaac doing the same to rebekah)
(5) signs of composite structure (signs of merging two different types of documents)

Cassuto shows that none of these stand.  As I give Cassuto’s evidence, I will cite the page number of his book where the argument may be found in parentheses.

Pillar I:  Preference for One of the Different Terms for the Deity in the Pentateuch Shows Different Authors or Different Source Traditions which have been Merged

Preliminary Considerations

The JEDP theory rests on the belief that Yahweh and Elohim were two names that could simply replace each other in any particular narrative.  So, for example, It could have just as easily been, in Gen. 15:7, “I am Elohim who brought you out from Ur…”  But this text happens to be from a source that used the term Yahweh when referring to the deity.  So when we evaluate the theory, we need to look at every occurrence of the term Elohim, and its variants, and Yahweh.

However,  when reading through the Old Testament (if you want to have an eye for how the names are used), you will see phrases such as “Man of God” referring to the deity.  These are phrases, and are neither here nor there in regards to the theory itself.  There are three types of occurrences of the Divine Names that the theorists and we who oppose them are concerned with.

1.   The occurrence of Elohim (or its variants, El Shadday, et. al) where it might have been possible to substitute Yahweh

2.  The occurrences of Yahweh where it might have been possible to substitute Elohim (or its variants, El Shadday, et. al)

3.  The times they occur together. E.g YAHWEH Elohim (LORD God, in English)

Cassuto looks at all occurrences of the Divine names in three categories:  Law, Prophets, and Narratives.  He concludes that the uses of the names Elohim (and variants of El) and Yahweh conform to rules of Hebrew composition.  Elohim is a general name for deity, pagan and Israelite alike, and Yahweh is the personal name for Israel’s God.1  This is analogous to “city” and “Jerusalem.”  If I were to live in the suburbs of Jerusalem, I could refer to Jerusalem as either “city” (I’m going to the city) or as Jerusalem.  People around me in the suburbs would know that I mean ‘Jerusalem’ by city because it would be the only city near me.  However, if I were in Egypt, I would, of necessity, have to use Jerusalem because ‘city’ would naturally refer to the nearest and biggest city in Egypt.

Here is Cassuto’s conclusion: “We may assume that in each case the Torah chose one of the two Names according to the context and intention, precisely as follows” (31)

  1. It selected YHWH when the Israelite conception of God is reflected. (esp. ethic)
  2. It preferred Elohim when the passage implies abstract Deity prevalent in international circles
  3. Again, YHWH when characterized by simple faith and prophetic spirit
  4. Elohim when thinkers meditate on the lofty problems connected with the existence of the world and humanity (Wisdom lit. for example)
  5. Again, YHWH when the Divine is depicted in lucid, palpable terms
  6. Elohim in more superficial, hazy, obscure terms
  7. Again, YHWH when the writer wants to arouse sublimity of Divine Presence
  8. Elohim when it mentions God in an ordinary manner.
  9. Again, YHWH when in relation to Israel’s ancestors
  10. Elohim when spoken of in relation to someone not of His people (31)
  11. Again, YHWH when concerning Israel’s tradition
  12. Elohim when universal tradition (32)

LORD God is used, Cassuto notes, when Elohim needs to be specified as Yahweh.

Cassuto then shows how these points are true across all of Hebrew scripture, not just the Pentateuch.  When the author of the Pentateuch is speaking of the deity in general, then we find the term Elohim.  But when the deity is mentioned as the God of  Israel (or ancestors, Adam, Abraham, et. al), then Yahweh is preferred.


In Genesis 1, we have the sublime creation of the “heavens and the earth.”  But, starting in Gen. 2:4, we have covenantal relations and moral injunctions from God to Man, and therefore YHWH is used.  Interestingly enough, Gen. 2:4 is the first time LORD God is used, and it is exactly where we would expect it to be used.  Genesis 1 deals with the creation of the world, and, in use with the general term for deity, Elohim is used throughout.  But in Genesis 2, the covenantal relationship between God and man begins and Yahweh is the appropriate term.  Therefore, in order to let the reader know that there are not two gods (one Elohim and the other Yahweh), the author of Genesis puts both names together at the beginning of Genesis 2.  This lets the reader know that the Elohim who created the world is known personally as Yahweh.

Psalm 19 is another excellent example of this rule in action. (34)  Consider:

Psalm 19
1  The heavens declare the glory of God, (El)
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
2  Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
3  There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
4  Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
5  which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
6  Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

7  The law of the LORD is perfect, (Yahweh)
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure, (Yahweh)
making wise the simple;
8  the precepts of the LORD are right, (Yahweh)
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure, (Yahweh)
enlightening the eyes;
9  the fear of the LORD is clean, (Yahweh)
enduring forever;
the rules of the LORD are true, (Yahweh)
and righteous altogether.
10  More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
11  Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
12  Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
13  Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.
14  Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. (Yahweh)
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ps 19.

Notice, now, how the different terms are used for God.  When speaking of the deity in general, as the sublime creator, El is used.  But as soon as the deity’s relationship with Israel is brought to the fore, Yahweh is used.  This Psalm, just like the Pentateuch, is not the result of an editor piecing together two documents that have different names for God.  Rather, this is the consistent work of one author using the names for the deity according to custom.

Gen 9:24 When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said,
“Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.”
26 He also said, “Blessed be the LORD (Yahweh), the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant.
27  May God (Elohim) enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his servant.”
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ge 9:24–27.

Shem is the ancestor of Abraham and the Israelites.  Therefore we would expect to see Yahweh.  Japheth and his descendents are not viewed as being in covenant, therefore the general term, Elohim, is used. (36)

When personal, covenantal, or religious actions are narrated by the author between men and God, Yahweh is used.  Cassuto notes that in Sifre Num § 143, The “Talmudic Sage” acknowledges that sacrifice (i.e. with Cain and Abel) are always made to YHWH.  Not to El/Sadday/Sebboth with one exception in Ex. 18:12 where a stranger offers without complete knowledge. (35)  The one exception even proves the rule.  The foreigner, not being among YHWH’s covenant people, is narrated as offering sacrifice to Elohim.  Jethro was a Midianite Priest.  This fact beautifully illustrates Cassuto’s argument.  When something is mentioned about the deity in general (i.e. a Midianite priest is sacrificing, or a philosophical treatise on the purpose of life–Ecclesiastes), Elohim is used.  Only when referring to Israel, Israel’s ancestors, and those who know God personally is Yahweh used.


Next week we will look at Pillar 2: Variations of Style and Language used in the Pentateuch.


1. Umberto Cassuto, The Documentary Hypothesis and the Composition of the Pentateuch, (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1961), 18.