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

OT and History

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.

RULES OF USING THE PRONOUN

  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.

Addendum

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)

Conclusion

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.

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.

Examples

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.

 

 

OT and History: Part IIb The Text of the Old Testament

OT and History: Part IIb The Text of the Old Testament

Or, how Abraham became post-exilic.

Last week, we took a brief overview of the most important theory underpinning modern Old Testament studies, the Documentary Hypothesis.  Today we look at the “Text of the Old Testament.”   What we find here, as we continue to observe the moderate-to-liberal position on the scripture, can be interpreted a few different ways.  After this post, I will start to outline my view.  Remember, the positions described here are not my own.  But, being so prevalent, it is necessary to describe them before going over the conservative position.

A key element to all of this is that a person’s current theories will color how the state of the text is interpreted today.  If one is precommitted to the OT as scripture then the information today likely will not cause a problem for you.  If, however, one is precommitted to the Documentary Hypothesis, then the date of the texts of the Old Testament will be seen as corroborative evidence for the more liberal theories.

A Timeline and Understanding the ‘Problem.’

A simple timeline

**The general date for the time of Abraham and Moses are reckoned according to Eugene H. Merrill’s book, Kingdom of  Priests.  Dr. Merrill, and others, work from the time that the temple of Solomon was built backwards to Abraham.  If anyone is interested in more information and details on how these dates can be reached then I would heartily recommend his book.  Sooner or later, this will be the subject of one of my posts.  Also, not all calendars have a year 0.  I have represented it only for visual aid.**

This, then, is the situation.  The earliest complete manuscript of the Old Testament is dated to about 1008-9 A.D.  It purports, I believe, to tell us accurate history from nearly 2000 B.C.  Can one trust a text to have accurate, reliable, and historical information about a period nearly 3000 years before?

The Text(s) of the Old Testament

The last paragraph is put in the most shocking terms it could be.  That characterization does not accurately reflect the current situation, but, only containing a bit of truth, could be used to shake a person’s trust of the Hebrew Bible.  So let’s get some more details.

The oldest complete Hebrew Manuscript we have of the Old Testament is the Leningrad Codex which is dated to 1008-1009 AD. The Aleppo Codex, once complete, is nearly a hundred years older (925), but parts of it were lost in a fire.

The question has been, “How are we to know that the Old Testament reliably tells us history from 2100 B.C.?” The complete text is nearly 3000 years away from the events of, let’s say, Abraham in the early parts of Genesis.

Now, there are other factors to consider. There are other ancient translations of the Hebrew.

Ancient Translations

The Greek (Septuagint, abbreviated by LXX) is of most importance. Every book is represented and they are dated from the first to the third centuries B.C.  The Septuagint, because it is a translation, represents an earlier Hebrew text than it was translated from.  In the Septuagint, different approaches to translation were taken.  Some books were translated woodenly and literally, but others… not so much.  In addition to the Greek, there are other translations: Aramaic (Targums), Syriac (Peshitta and Origen’s Syro-Hexapla), SamaritanLatin (Old Latin is a translation of the Greek and the Vulgate is a translation from the Hebrew by Jerome).  Many of these translations, then, are witnesses to Hebrew texts earlier than the Leningrad and Aleppo Codices.  Last, not all of these translations and copies agree with the Leningrad codex.  So, there are variations between these manuscripts.

If it were not for the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS)  250 B.C. – 65 A.D., there would be no Hebrew manuscripts prior to the birth of Christ, and the Septuagint would have been the only witness before our common era.  This is why the discovery of the DSS was so important.  We now have Hebrew texts that are prior to the birth of Christ.  The texts found in the caves of the Dead Sea are of a high variety, though.  Some agree with the Leningrad Codex, and some do not.  So, in sum, we have attestation of the Hebrew Bible as early as 300 B.C., but the majority of our attestations are found much later.

When confronted with manuscripts that do not agree, the science of Textual Criticism is employed.  Textual Criticism is the science of removing errors by comparing available manuscripts and reconstructing as far as possible the original.  Remember, it is the original that fundamentalists believe to be inspired.  Most of the differences, it should be duly noted, are completely insignificant.  For example David may be spelled with or without the Yod.  But for some differences, careful study must be taken to see what caused the change.  This science is used for all ancient documents.  If you want to know what Aristotle was really saying in his work Rhetoric, then we must compare the copies of Aristotle’s original.  One day, I hope to provide an example of how this is done.

Many scholars, if not most, though, say that the few major differences between the manuscripts mean the text was fluid.  This is because some of the documents recovered have significant language, grammar, and narratival differences from the Text currently in the Bible.

The Dead Sea Scrolls and Text Fluidity

So what does this matter?  A fluid text essentially means that there was not any one authoritative OT text.  It’s more accurate to speak of equally valid versions of the Old Testament. More than that, some scholars would say the words and content of the text(s) of the OT were constantly changed by scribes/priests/prophets.  Some of the facts represented here are undeniable.  It is not normally the facts that ‘fundamentalists’ disagree with, but rather how they are interpreted.  Conservatives are aware that the copies of the Hebrew manuscripts that exist do not always agree 100%.  The narrative that the liberals give concerning this is that there was not one authoritative text that you could call “The Text.”  The Old Testament, they say, was in flux.  A conservative would say that “the text” resided in the temple, and that the other manuscripts that differ in a great degree reflect popular versions.  In this view, it would be much like excavating a modern book store and finding the NASB beside the Message version.  Would the finding of a KJV and the Message necessitate the view that there is no “Bible?”  Or would it be that some other versions were made to make the language of the bible more understandable–more popular?  Would it necessitate that the people who lived at the time of the Message version, the NASB, the ESV, the KJV don’t care for words of the text?

In the case of the Pentateuch–which will be the main focus from hereon–Moses’ authorship would be out the window if for no other reason than it would be difficult to say we have Moses’ words (remember, these scholars are saying the texts were changed for various reasons).  It would be possible, in this view, to say that the original source might be Mosaic, but it would be nearly impossible to know what parts are Mosaic because of the changes made to the OT text.  Which parts were changed? Which parts stayed the same?

Please note, I’m not saying that these scholars believe that the OT text was merely updated.  They typically hold that the OT text has been changed in numerous ways including vocabulary,  reorganizing legends, genealogies, etc.  I personally do not see how one could hold to this massive, continual reworking of the OT text and still say it can be attributed to Moses.  Most scholars that I’ve read in this field (i.e., King from Boston College, Stager from Harvard, Martin Noth, Thompson from Copenhagen, et. al) don’t attempt to claim Mosaic authorship.  Instead, they see the development of the Pentateuch in terms of Source Criticism.

Most scholars believe that the Pentateuch reached its final edited form after the exile, let’s say, 500-400 B.C.  This was the conclusion based upon the Documentary Hypothesis Theory discussed last week.  But modern scholars are also saying the DSS give evidence that the Pentateuch was edited after this period as well.  In fact, many would say the Pentateuch was subject to changes all the way until it was finally standardized in the 1st century AD.  Prior to this, stories were rearranged, added, and (probably) deleted.  Some of the DSS manuscripts read like summaries (almost as if adapted for a child) and, some move stories into different spots.

Consequences of the JEDP Theory and Text Fluidity

As mentioned at the beginning of this series in Old Testament and History, here, J. Alberto Soggins no longer sees Abraham as a story about a man dwelling in tents and living according to the promise of Yahweh.  His words are worth quoting again:

Soggins, J. Alberto, A History of Ancient Israel (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1984)

One of the values of the studies by Thompson and Van Seters has been their discovery that the mention of ethnic groups, places, and individuals in the patriarchal narratives makes sense only at a time of the united monarchy (for Van Seters as late as the post-exilic period), and certainly never before! …So we must conclude that, leaving aside the possibility of re-readings and later reinterpretations, the nucleus of the patriarchal narratives can be traced back without any difficulty to the time of the united monarchy. (p. 90)

…Once we accept that the patriarchal traditions were re-read at the end of the exile and in the early post-exilic period: the itinerary of Abraham then became the itinerary of those who were returning home, from south-eastern Mesopotamia, passing through Harran, the usual route between the two regions. (p. 92)

This aligns very well with the view I’ve been describing.  The patriarchal narratives may be traced to the united monarchy (J&E), but for Van Seters they are traced only as late as post-exile.  Nevertheless, the final view is that the form of the Pentateuch that we have now must be interpreted from a post-exilic angle (who knows, after all, what J & E looked like during the Kingdom if it existed then).

This post-exilic interpretation is what Soggins does in the second paragraph.  Since the text came to finalization after the exile, the meaning of the pentateuch is also found post-exile.  This is according to a (good!) rule of literature:  The meaning of any particular text is found by interpreting it through the culture and time period that the text was written in.  This means, Huck Finn, for example, must be understood from the time period of Southern Antebellum and also from Mark Twain’s own period.  Even when authors write about the past–even if the goal is history–the author always makes the past relevant to the present.  Hence the saying, “Those that ignore history…”

Soggins believes that when the exiles returned and re-read the traditions about Abraham (largely believed to be myths and legends), the Pentateuch became restructured and re-interpreted to represent the trek from exile in Babylon back to Judah.  Because the meaning of a text is found in the date of its composition (post-exile), the meaning of the story of Abraham’s travels from Mesopotamia to Canaan land is found, truly, in the journey of exiles from Babylon to Judah.  Abraham is not historical, but has become a literary device.

Factors and presuppositions that are leading to this view are

1. Moses didn’t write the Pentateuch.  The Pentateuch was the work of redactors bringing together separate traditions from the 10th century B.C. onward.

2. There is no way that Jews living in the 1000-700 B.C. century (the time most scholars believe J & E was being formed) could recall history from 2000 B.C. (the approximate time Abraham would be living if he is accepted as historical).  Abraham and the patriarchs are, therefore, mythical.

3.  The source traditions (the common word used when referring to the idea of fluid, changed and changeable, material that makes up the Pentateuch) which made up the Pentateuch were repurposed for each new generation.

This is what Soggins suggests in what is quoted above.  Upon the return from exile, the Jewish community, in order to make the tradition relevant to themselves, would have repurposed the patriarchal narratives found in Genesis.  Thus, since Abraham is considered ahistorical, his life becomes an image of the Jewish Exiles relationship with Yahweh.  Just as Abraham was called in the land of Ur to live in Canaan, the Exiles were called by Yahweh (through Cyrus) to go back to Canaan.  The story of Abraham is now the story of the return from exile.  Changes to the tradition would have been made to accommodate this “repurposing.”

Summary

Theory (JEDP) affects the interpretation of evidence (the date of the manuscripts) and vice versa.  Further, all of these factors affect the interpretation of the text.  Is Abraham a man living by faith in Yahweh or is he a literary device who is representative of Israel after the exile? What I’m attempting to show is the interrelatedness of all these things, and how liberals view them:

(some points will be repeated)

1. The date of the manuscripts which exist today plus…

2.  The differences between manuscripts has lead to skepticism about there being an “authoritative” version.

3. How the date assigned to the manuscripts gives scholars a window of dating their ‘original’ composition (e.g. finding manuscripts of the Pentateuch from about 300 B.C. could mean a composition date of 500-400 B.C. is reasonable).  Anything earlier starts to stretch credulity.  Also, anachronisms** and other internal evidence is used to corroborate this date.

4.  It’s impossible for Jews living in 950 B.C. to actually remember historical information from the distant past.  (The Grandfather law states that anything remembered  prior to the third generation is seriously unreliable).  Therefore, the patriarchs in Genesis are not historical in any meaningful sense and are more than likely made up to serve the literary purpose(s) of the author(s).

5.  Finally, the meaning of a text is determined in part by the time it was written.  Further, the time it was written is determined, in part, by the date of the copies that are now present.  Thus, the date of the oldest manuscripts currently in possession (ca.  300 B.C.) affects the date of their composition to some extent.  They are no longer dated to Moses (ca. 1400 B.C.), but to post-exile.  They were then repurposed by the exiles, 536  B.C. and afterwards.  Practically speaking, the meaning of the Pentateuch is now found in either the age of the monarchy or in the Hellenistic age.  Genesis-Exodus tells us not of the events it records, but what exile and exodus mean to Jews coming back to Jerusalem after their exile.

 

 

 

 

 

**An anachronism is a piece of a story that doesn’t fit within the time frame it represents.  For example, in Genesis 14:14 it is recorded that Abram went to war with four kings and pursued them as far as Dan.  The issue is that Dan didn’t exist by the name Dan, yet.  Dan is the great-great-grandson of Abraham, and Abraham died before Dan was born.  That area in the north was named Dan after Joshua led the conquest of Canaan nearly 600 years later.  Therefore, the naming of that place as “Dan” is an anachronism.  Many scholars who are already skeptical of the Bible will say that this is a proof that this story was composed after the monarchy began and the tribe of Dan conquered this northern region.  I would simply say that it is more likely that the original name of the city that Abraham pursued the four kings to no longer made sense after Dan conquered it.  Therefore, to keep the text accurate, the name of that city was edited to Dan (by some prophet or priest guided by the Spirit).  The difference is that I still hold that the original composition is historical and by Moses.

OT and History: Part IIa The Documentary Hypothesis (JEDP)

OT and History: Part IIa The Moderate-to-Liberal View of the Text, The Documentary Hypothesis

Continuing the series of the Old Testament and History (see, Part I), we will be covering the moderate-to-liberal view of the Old Testament’s history and text.  It should be stated that the Old Testament field is home to a wide range of views.  However, some theories and facts have shaped the landscape of Old Testament studies so greatly that they must be addressed.  And in doing so, a large portion–perhaps well above the majority–can be characterized.

In this post, and in posts that follow, I will summarize theories and beliefs that I do not personally hold.  Aristotle is quoted as saying, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it,” and that is what we must do if we are to take Biblical studies seriously.  Only after giving full weight to the positions held in scholarship, will I describe and defend my position, which is typically referred to (pejoratively) as fundamentalist.  That being said, I hope to summarize these theories and the reasons for their success, and I hope to do so in such a way that a proponent of that theory would sign off on it.  Without further ado, the Documentary Hypothesis.

Source Criticism and Documentary Hypothesis

Source Criticism is the scientific study of the text in such a way to determine whether there are multiple, originally independent, sources that make up various books of the Old Testament, and, if so, what these sources are or may have looked like.  Jean Astruc, though not the first, popularized it in the scholarly community of France in 1753 and Germany (when Eichhorn took it up and elaborated, 1780-3).  This source criticism reached its height under Julius Wellhausen, a brilliant German scholar, and the resulting theory has become known as the Documentary Hypothesis.

The theory had its beginning when Astruc and others met with confusion the first two chapters of Genesis.  In Genesis 1, the name of the deity is Elohim, but in Genesis 2:4ff, the deity is Yahweh Elohim.  Second, the story in Genesis 2:4ff seems to be in conflict with Genesis 1.  First, Genesis 1 has Elohim creating the heavens and the earth, and all that is in them, in six days.  But in Genesis 2:4, it is stated, “…in the day that Yahweh Elohim made the earth and heaven.”  Some scholars, certainly not all, see this as a slight contradiction, because 2:4 sees creation as taking a single day whereas chapter 1 recounts it as taking six.  Secondly, in Genesis 1  vegetation is created on the third day in verse 11, and this takes place before man is made in in the sixth day (v. 26).  Well, in Genesis chapter 2, man is created before the vegetation.

Genesis 5: Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the LORD God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground.
6  But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground.
7  Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
8  The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed.
9  Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for foodNew (American Standard Bible)

So, in this account, Yahweh Elohim formed man, and then caused trees to grow and vegetation to grow up (because, as it says, man hadn’t been formed to work the ground and it hadn’t rained).

This, and other factors to be discussed below, led to conclusion that there are two separate creation accounts.  What appears to have happened, they argue, is that the final editor of  the Pentateuch had two hopelessly contradictory creation accounts, and either 1. attempted to merge them and failed or 2.  embraced the differences and included them both.  In the final analysis, Genesis 1 is ascribed to source P, and Genesis 2:4ff is ascribe to source J.

The sources of the modern Documentary Hypothesis are named J(Y)ahwist, Elohist, Deuteronomist, and Priestly (JEDP), and it is believed that their originally separate documents were edited, merged, rearranged, and finalized into our current Pentateuch.  Hence the name, Documentary Hypothesis.  According to Umberto Cassuto, there are five pillars to the Documentary Hypothesis that show our current Genesis-Deuteronomy books were created from individual source documents that were compiled at a much later date than 1400 B.C. which would be date given if we take the biblical chronology and count backwards to the time of Moses.1 Typically, the date for the composition of the Pentateuch rests somewhere after the exile from 536-400 B.C.

The five pillars of are:

(1) Thedifferent terms used for the Divine Name (Either Elohim/El/El shaddai, etc or Yahweh)
(2) variations of language and style (i.e. 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)2

We can see from this list that Genesis 1-2:3 and Genesis 2:4ff fit nicely into the Documentary Hypothesis’ system.  We have different uses for the name of God in these two sections.  We have alleged contradictions and/or divergent viewpoints (Yahweh is much more personal than Elohim… see how Yahweh forms man by hand, but Elohim creates man by fiat).  The creation of man is repeated in both sections, and this duplication is what aroused suspicions in the first place.  With all of these factors combined, the conclusion that there are two creation accounts was accepted.

This process is just repeated throughout the Pentateuch, and although scholars differ, they have concluded that there were presumably many transmitted traditions (many orally) about creation, the patriarchal “myths”, the exodus, and the conquest.

The narrative that many scholars would give the Pentateuch is that some group (authors/narrators) or a single person in the southern kingdom of Judah received some traditions–probably mostly oral–and put them to writing.  This document became J.  This tradition is characterized by the name of Yahweh as the deity, and typically reveals God as more personal and nearer than Elohim.  Martin Noth also delineated the central themes of this source.  They are: leading out of Egypt, leading into Canaan, the promise to the fathers (Abraham, et. al), leading in the desert, and the revelation at Sinai.3  This tradition is normally considered to have been written down earliest.

The northern kingdom of Israel–probably prophetic circles–held a different tradition, E, in which God was referred to as Elohim.  Elohim is normally represented as being more distant.  This makes sense, these scholars say, because the prophets always reminded Israel (who was more prone to idolatry) of their sin, and so their tradition leaned more towards a separation from sinners.  It is alleged that most of the stories attributed to E take place in the north (where the prophets spent most of their time), and the stories in J took place mostly in the south.  E has a tendency to focus on these themes: prophetic leadership, the fear of God, Sinai Covenant (don’t approach the mountain!).  At least in some point in history, if not still today, many scholars held that sources J and E came from the same oral tradition.4  This oral tradition is named G, and since this oral tradition was received by the southern kingdom, Judah, differently than the more northern Israel, the contents of and E differed in their emphases.

The D source came later, and it consists in the book of Deuteronomy.  This is primarily because the content of Deuteronomy differs in genre compared to the narratives of Genesis and Exodus, and it also differs from the more Priestly (P) documents found in Leviticus.  The D source is typically considered to have more than one editor.  According to Anderson, even though D was written before P, it was only later that D was added to JEP, and the Pentateuch as know it came into existence.5.

P can be described as the residue of what’s left one JEP is taken out: some large narratives (like Gen. 1), genealogies, laws concerning sacrifices, temples, etc.  E were around during the time of the monarchy, 1000 B.C., but finally were combined by an editor.  D comes after 700 B.C.  The Priestly document, P, was once considered the oldest document, is now considered the latest source that was merged with and gave structure to the Pentateuch.6  P is now generally dated to after the exile.  This is not to say that everything in our current Pentateuch that is attributed to P is as late as the post-exilic period.  Many scholars would hold that P retains very ancient priestly rites and beliefs that possibly stem from the Mosaic period (but NOT that Moses originated these practices).  P is responsible for the holiness code, Lev. 17-26, the latter part of Exodus 25-31 (for example).  The P material presumably took the older materials (JE), and used it as a supplement.  The covenant with Abraham in Gen. 17, which contains blood, ritual, and other priestly material, was supplemented by other Abrahamic narratives (like Gen. 15).

So, there is no single Mosaic tradition unless one is going to say that the oral tradition postulated, G, is Mosaic.  I don’t know any that would claim it is Mosaic, however.  Rather, there were primarily two (JE) different and sometimes contradictory epics concerning Israel’s history.  The Priests of the post-exilic period, in order to justify their current practices, sought to tie their laws and rituals to that of Israel’s ancient ancestors, and then modified the epics E which may have already been combined.  Last, the Deuteronomistc Historian, the person or people responsible for editing and redacting the D source, and who ultimately was believed to have written Israel’s history (1 Samuel-2nd Kings) added Deuteronomy to the sources.

Let’s take a second and think about the implications. Many moderate-to-liberal scholars put the beginnings of the composition of JE in the time of the monarchy (c.a. 950 for J, and c.a. 850 for E).  P, remember, is even later.  This removes Moses as the author.  Moses can’t be considered the author of three different sources composed at different times because, if Moses is historical, he lived 400 years before the monarchy.  Some of these scholars will say that the oral prehistory may go back to someone like Moses, but  most prefer to say that they are just tribal legends, rituals, myths, and folklore that were passed down orally through the ages.

Reasons for a Late Date

Anachronisms and Post-Mosaica

An anachronism is a piece of a story that doesn’t fit within the time-frame it represents.  For example, in Genesis 14:14 it is recorded that Abram went to war with four kings and pursued them as far as Dan.  The issue is that Dan didn’t exist by the name Dan, yet.  Dan is the great-great-grandson of Abraham, and Abraham died before Dan was born.  That area in the north was named Dan after Joshua led the conquest of Canaan nearly 600 years later.  Therefore, the naming of that place as “Dan” is an anachronism.7 Technically, it is not only an anachronism, but is considered Post-Mosaica.

Post-Mosaica are anachronisms in the text that Moses couldn’t have written.  One other example is in Genesis 11:31, Abraham is called out from Ur of the Chaldees.  Much ink has been spilt on this subject.  Suffice it to say that Moses was long, long dead before the Chaldu came and conquered that region.  It would be something like someone saying John was called from the from Boston, Massachusetts, United States before America was even “discovered.”  The Chaldu didn’t exist during the period of Abraham, and hte conquered the region nearly 400 years after Moses died.  Evangelical scholars will say that this was a minor update to the text so that Ur made sense to the readers in the monarchy or exile.  A skeptic will say this is evidence of the traditions being written and composed in the monarchy.

One other Post-Mosaica is the fact that Moses’ own death is recounted in Deuteronomy:

5 So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD, 6 and he buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth-peor; but no one knows the place of his burial to this day. 7 Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated. 8 And the people of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days. Then the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended.

ESV,  Dt 34:4–8.

It is unlikely that Moses wrote this.  It can either be said that what we mean by authorship is that the pentateuch is basically Mosaic with some updating of language, grammar, and place names or that the composition of the Pentateuch isn’t Mosaic at all, but is the product of numerous, disparate sources.

Concluding Remarks

I gave evidence at the beginning for the and sources so that the casual reader could see why scholars might consider Genesis 1-2 as two separate and conflicting creation accounts.  I didn’t do such a thing for P and D.  It could come off, then, to the casual reader as if there are no reasons for postulating two more sources to the Pentateuch except for the wild fancies of scholars.  Well, that’s not true.  The primary reason for this is that the genres across the Pentateuch are wildly different.  From vivid stories about Jacob trying to marry Rachel to so-and-so begot so-and-so to how to purify oneself if he or she were to touch a cadaver.  It is primarily this difference of content that leads to the scholars’ postulation of different sources, and that, with some anachronisms has lead to the status of the Pentateuch we have today.  Finally, Martin Noth noted that 1 Samuel-II Kings shares very similar language to Deuteronomy.  This has lead him and many others to suppose that Deuteronomy, 1 Samuel-II Kings, at least, are the work of one author.  This also is another reason why D has been considered a separate source.

Summary:

  • The OT was not written by Moses.
  • The OT is a composite work of many different sources
  • These sources contradict each other
  • When these sources were merged, not all of the contradictions were taken out
  • The final composition took place after the exile,536-400 B.C., almost 1000 years before most evangelical believers thought it was composed (1400 B.C. with Moses).
  • The content was transferred orally and may not be accurate as actual history.

This can be a lot to take in.  The OT is one of the most studied books in history, and we have had to cover a lot of ground quickly.  I hope one can see, after reading this, the reasonableness of this position.  If the position were not reasonable then no one would believe it.  Now, I reject this JEDP theory, but knowledge of this theory is needed in order to understand almost any modern research and writing on the Old Testament.  The next post will look at the manuscript history of the OT, and how that plays a role in how moderate-to-liberal scholars treat and interpret the Old Testament.  But this Documentary Hypothesis is foundational to the next post as well.  After the next post, I will finally attempt to offer a critique of the moderate-to-liberal positions as well as give my own position on the subject.  If you made it through this, then good work and thanks for reading!

 

1. See Eugene H. Merrill, Kingdom of Priests for a timeline.

2. Umberto Cassuto is not a proponent for the Documentary Hypothesis, but his description of the pillars is excellent.
Umberto Cassuto, The Documentary Hypothesis and the Composition of the Pentateuch, (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1961), 14.

3. de Pury, Albert. “Yahwist (‘J’) Source.” The Anchor Bible Dictionary.  New York: Doubleday, 1992.  Vol. VI, 1012-20.

4.  Jenks, Alan W. “Elohist.” The Anchor Bible Dictionary.  New York:  Doubleday, 1992.  Vol. II, 478-82.

5.  Anderson, Bernhard W.  “The Priestly Tradition.” In Understanding the Old Testament. 4th ed.  Englewood Cliffs:  Prentice-Hall. 1986. Pp. 449-66.

6. Ibid.

7. Many scholars who are already skeptical of the Bible will say that thisevidence that this story was composed after the monarchy began and the tribe of Dan conquered this northern region.  I would simply say that it is more likely that the original name of the city that Abraham pursued the four kings to no longer made sense after Dan conquered it.  Therefore, to keep the text accurate, the name of that city in the original text that was already written was edited to Dan (by some prophet or priest guided by the Spirit).  The difference is that I still hold that the original composition is historical and by Moses.