Saturday for the Defense

9  The Documentary Hypothesis

In the 19th century, scholars began to discover more inconsistencies and anomalies in the Bible, and its compositional history appeared more complex than anyone had previously thought. In 1886, the German historian Julius Wellhausen proposed that the Hexateuch (the Pentateuch plus Joshua) was a composite of four distinct documents by different authors. These documents were labeled J (Jahwist), E (Elohist), D (Deuteronomist), and P (Priestly), and each has its own theology and agenda.

This theory explains overlapping or repetitive stories (“doublets”) such as the two accounts of Creation and the two accounts of the Flood—Genesis 7:17 describes a 40-day flood, while Genesis 8:3 describes one lasting 150 days. It is believed that later editors stitched together the multiple sources into one narrative, sometimes intertwining two versions of a single story and neglecting to iron out the seams, as can be seen in the Flood narrative.

The J source calls God “Yahveh,” or “Jahveh” in German, hence the designation “J.” It pictures God in anthropomorphic terms, appearing to people like Abraham face-to-face. E calls the deity “Elohim,” who shows Himself indirectly, as in dreams. D is the source for Deuteronomy as well as the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. It defines God as having no form that anyone can see at all. P is cultic in its character and is obsessed with genealogies and lists.

More recently, the idea of four separate, complete, and coherent documents has come under question, but the composite character of the Pentateuch remains the commonly accepted view.

Well despite unforeseen delays I am back on track.  Now taking a look at the documentary hypothesis we must first look at the presupposition behind the hypothesis.  First there is a denial of any supernatural working with regards to the text.  The stories must come about via naturalistic meanings because if they allow for God then it is possible that the stories are from one source.  Second the hypothesis depends heavily on the theory of religious evolution.  I learned this theory (JEDP) at university the teacher who taught it said that the religion of Israel started out like all religions basically worshiping the elements which morphed into worshiping different gods (polytheism) then to worshiping one god while acknowledging other gods (henotheism) until finally it become monotheism belief in only one god.  Again if you acknowledge that monotheism existed from the beginning you undermine the underpinnings of the thesis.

Second this theory is a literary theory not based upon empirical evidence.  There are no documents that have every been found that are just parts of books with just the J texts or just the E texts.  Only books that contain all the different names of God.  Plus the designation of which text is J, E, D, or P is quite arbitrary sometimes a text is designated J or E with no evidence of either names of God present in the verses.  This tears up the manuscript into no known pattern that has ever been found.

Here is an example using just the J and P texts using Genesis 1-7. (NASB)


Text of Genesis

2:4b- 4:26
5:1-28 v. 28, “And Lamech lived one hundred and eighty-two years, and became the father of a son.”
5:29 v. 29, “Now he called his name Noah, saying, ‘This one shall give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the Lord has cursed.'”
5:30-32 v. 30, “Then Lamech lived five hundred and ninety-five years after he became the father of Noah, and he had other sons and daughters.”
7:1-5 v. 5, “And Noah did according to all that the Lord had commanded him.”
7:6 v. 6, “Now Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of water came upon the earth.”
7:7-10 v. 7, “Then Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him entered the ark because of the water of the flood.”
7:11 v. 11, “In the six hundredth year oses the name of Yahweh or Elohim is said to be separate texts that have been brought together because the same god is called by different names.  But there are multiple things wrong with this for one when you look at the different texts that they have designated J, E,D,or P the texts actually break up in the middle of sentences!  And the choice of  which text is J,E,D, or P is entirely arbitrary sometimes a text is declared J or E yet it doesn’t have either names in the text.f Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened.”
7:12 v. 12, “And the rain fell upon the earth for forty days and forty nights.”
7:13-16a v. 16a, “And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, entered as God had commanded him. . .”
7:16b v. 16b, “. . . and the Lord closed it behind him.”
7:17a v. 17a, “Then the flood came upon the earth for forty days”
7:17b v. 17b, “and the water increased and lifted up the ark, so that it rose above the earth.”
7:18-21 v. 18, “And the water prevailed and increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark floated on the surface of the water. 19 And the water prevailed more and more upon the earth, so that all the high mountains everywhere under the heavens were covered. 20 The water prevailed fifteen cubits higher, and the mountains were covered. 21And all flesh that moved on the earth perished, birds and cattle and beasts and every swarming thing that swarms upon the earth, and all mankind,”
7:22-23 v. 22-23, “of all that was on the dry land, all in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, died. Thus He blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky, and they were blotted out from the earth; and only Noah was left, together with those that were with him in the ark.”
7:24 v. 24, “And the water prevailed upon the earth one hundred and fifty days.”

Source: CARM

Also when JEDP was originally developed many archaeological digs of the ancient near easts (ANE) didn’t exist.  Ugartic clay tablets were found with names of God in them that are both separate and combine forms of the name.  So in example you could have El-Yahweh or just El and then Yahweh next or just El alone.  And since these were baked clay tablets which multiple names of the same God were found it would be ludicrous to assert that they were made over different time periods.

There is also the fact that it is well known that treaties change over time (this was proven by examining Hittite found at different time periods) the Ten Commandments are in the form of the Suzerainty Covenant and so is Deuteronomy so if Exodus was written centuries before Deuteronomy as the proponents of the JEDP claim why does the style resemble a treaty centuries earlier and not the treaties of the time period?  The answer is that both books were written at the same time period not centuries apart.

Lastly this quote:

‘After feeding the 20,000 Hebrew words of Genesis into a computer at Technion University in Israel, researchers found many sentences that ended in verbs and numerous words of six characters or more. Because these idiosyncratic patterns appear again and again, says project director Yehuda Radday, it seems likely that a sole author was responsible. Their exhaustive computer analysis conducted in Israel suggested an 82 percent probability that the book has just one author.’  Source Omni

Please see these links also:

JEPD Theory

A Critical Assessment of the Graf-Wellhausen Documentary Hypothesis

Does archaeological evidence contradict the Documentary Hypothesis?

Authorship of the Pentateuch

Did Moses really write Genesis?

Next:  Deuteronomy Originated As Royal Propaganda