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.

Continue reading “Saturday for the Defense”

Saturday for the Defense

This is a continuation that began here I believe that the anachronisms questions have been answered if you’ve forgotten I would suggest you check out these links:

  1. Alleged Anachronisms in the Bible
  2. Good question on the Mosiac authorship of the Pentateuch?

Now let’s deal with the last thing that denies the authorship of Moses.

Genesis 24 mentions domesticated camels, but camels were not domesticated until much later. The caravan trade in Genesis 37:25 only flourished in the eighth and seventh centuries B.C.

These quotes come from Christian Think Tank: What? No Camels?

But first, let’s look at where the ‘Genesis as anachronism’ view originated and why. [Several of the below quotes are from Bulliet’s definitive work on the subject The Camel and the Wheel, 1975, HI:TCAW].

“From these references [Genesis] a pattern of camel use can be extrapolated that seems very much in consonance with later Middle Eastern society: the camel forming part of a bride price, a small caravan of camels crossing the desert from Palestine to Iraq, a woman perched atop a camel loaded with camp goods, merchants carrying incense to Egypt. This entire vision, however, both original text and extrapolated image, has been categorically rejected by W.F. Albright, one of the foremost scholars of Biblical history and Palestinian archaeology and the person whose opinion on camel domestication is most frequently encountered. According to Albright, any mention of camels in the period of Abraham is a blatant anachronism, the product of later priestly tampering with the earlier texts in order to bring more in line with altered social conditions. The Semites of the time of Abraham, he maintains, herded sheep, goats, and donkeys but not camels, for the latter had not yet been domesticated and did not really enter the orbit of Biblical history until about 1100-1000 BC with the coming of the Midianites, the camel riding foes of Gideon.” [HI:TCAW:35-36]
Bulliet is carefully skeptical of most ancient artifacts that allegedly purport to demonstrate the early usage of the camel, as a couple of quotes will show:

“To be sure, one or two representations of camels from early Mesopotamia have been alleged, but they are all either doubtfully camelline, as the horsy looking clay plaque from the third dynasty of Ur (2345-2308 B.C.), or else not obviously domestic and hence possibly depictions of wild animals, as in the case with the occasional Ubaid and Uruk period (4000-3000 B.C.) examples” [HI:TCAW:46]

“These five pieces of evidence, needless to say, may not convince everyone that the domestic camel was known in Egypt and the Middle East on an occasional basis between 2500 and 1400 B.C. Other early depictions, alleged to be of camels, which look to my eyes like dogs, donkeys, horses, dragons or even pelicans, might be more convincing to some than the examples described above.” [HT:TCAW:64]

So, in light of this careful approach, the pieces of strong evidence that he advances that he does consider convincing are all the more substantial. He describes the evidence on pp. 60-64 of his book.

A 3.5 ft cord of camel hair from Egypt, dated around 2500 BC. Buillet believes it is “from the land of Punt, perhaps the possession of a slave or captive, and from a domestic camel”

The bronze figurine from the temple of Byblos in Lebanon. It is in a foundation with strong Egyptian flavoring, and is dated before the sixth Egyptian dynasty (before 2182 BC). Although the figure could be taken as a sheep, the figure is arranged with items that would strongly require it to be a camel (e.g., a camel saddle, camel muzzle, etc.)

Two pots of Egyptian provenance were found in Greece and Crete, both dating 1800-1400 BC, but both in area so far removed from the range of the camel as to suggest its presence in the intermediate areas (e.g., Syria or Egypt) during an earlier time. Both have camels represented, and one literally has humans riding on a camel back.

A final piece of strong evidence is textual from Alalakh in Syria, as opposed to archaeological: a textual ration-list. There is a entry for ‘camel fodder’ written in Old Babylonian. “Not only does this attest the existence of camels in norther Syria at this time, but the animal involved is clearly domestic.” [HI:TCAW:64].

The most likely scenario is that camel use wasn’t widespread in the area but was rather brought in by traders from outside the area.  Ten camels were probably the most owned by anyone in the area so when Abraham sent what was probably his entire wealth of camels with his servant it was in an effort to represent to whomever was to be his son’s bride that he was a man of substance.

So if we look at all the archeology data we’ll see that the supposed late date for camel domestication has been thrown over, and that it is quite probable that the old testament patriarchs did own camels albeit in small quantities.

See also:

Next week: The Documentary Hypothesis