When it comes to how the creation or formation of the Pentateuch or the Torah (that is the first five books of the Hebrew and Christian Bible) and the Old Testament are thought of, there are generally two popular views. The traditional view of the Pentateuch is that Moses, the prophet chosen by God to lead His people out of Egypt and to the promised land, wrote the Pentateuch. The more recent view that has gained prominence among Biblical scholars is that the Pentateuch was written over a long period of time by multiple authors and finally compiled sometime around 400-500 B.C. In this first post of a four-part series, I will be looking at the more recent view known as the Documentary Hypothesis. In the following three posts, I will be discussing the evidence for Mosaic authorship, the historical evidence for the Biblical Exodus and Joshua’s conquest of Canaan, as well as answering a few objections specifically about Moses, followed by a post about how Jesus Christ and the New Testament authors viewed the Old Testament and authorship of the Pentateuch.
The Documentary Hypothesis (JEDP Hypothesis)
Over the past two centuries, a view known as the Document Hypothesis arose and was developed by many different Biblical scholars. One of the most well-known of these individuals is Jean Astruc, a French Physician and amateur Biblical scholar. He was one of the first prominent individuals who first noticed and wrote about the different names for God that appear in the beginning chapters of the book of Genesis. He saw how the first chapter of Genesis used the name Elohim for God, while the second chapter began using Yahweh Elohim. Astruc thought that Moses had taken two different accounts of the Biblical creation account and placed them together, thus accounting for the different names within Genesis.
Astruc’s work was met with wide acceptance over the years and many other more established scholars, such as Thomas Hobbes and Julius Wellhausen, expanded and refined his ideas. Eventually, the idea of Mosaic authorship was completely rejected for not only Genesis, but for the rest of the Pentateuch as well. The Document hypothesis states that the Pentateuch is made up of four distinct documents labeled as J, E, D, and P.
J – Named for Jaweh or Jehovah (German pronunciation) since Yahweh is solely used in this document. Thought to have been written between 922 and 722 BCE when the Kingdom of Israel was divided.
E – Named for the use of the divine name of Elohim. Thought to be written during the same period as J.
D – Named because it makes up most of the book of Deuteronomy.
P – Named because it is thought to be largely concerned with priestly duties and thoughts. Also uses the name Elohim for God.
Finally, these documents were then compiled and edited by a Redactor after the Exilic period (1).
“Who Wrote the Bible?”
I will be largely looking at this view from the sources written by Richard Elliot Friedman and Umberto Cassuto, who both summarize, explore, and discuss the Hypothesis and evidence in-depth. I also will be discussing mainly their points of literary evidence for their views. Friedman also heavily writes about the “Deuteronomistic history” which encompasses several other books of the Bible. I will not be addressing his points on that topic.
Friedman, in his book “Who Wrote the Bible?,” cites several beginning pieces of evidence in support of the JEDP Hypothesis. On the topic of the creation story, he claims that there are two separate, contradictory accounts; One story within Genesis chapter one and another in chapter 2. The first major issue is the fact of differing names for God. As Astruc noticed many years ago, the first account uses the name Elohim, whereas the second uses Yahweh Elohim. The second major issue is the supposed difference in order of creation events. In the first creation story, Friedman highlights that the order of creation is plants, then animals, and lastly man and woman. As for the second account, he lists the order as man, plants, animals, and lastly woman (2).
Friedman also lists the presence of doublets. stories or accounts that occur more than once, throughout Genesis as evidence for multiple sources. He cites the flood account within Genesis 6-9 as support for this claim. Indeed there are many repetitions of sentences and events within the account. He also cites the different positions or views of God within the Flood account as evidence for different sources. For example, Friedman states that document “J pictures a deity who can regret things that he has done…It pictures a deity who can be ‘grieved to his heart,’ who personally closes the ark and smells Noah’s sacrifice” whereas in P “God is regarded as more as a transcendent controller of the universe” (3). Throughout his listing of evidences, Friedman attempts to tie details and stories within the supposed sources, specifically J and E, to politically charged events that took place during the period of time when the Hebrews were divided into the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. He places J within the southern kingdom of Judah and E in the northern kingdom of Israel. For example, he uses the appearance of a golden calf in both Exodus 32 and In 1 Kings 12: 25-30. Within 1 Kings 12 passage, the Bible records Jeroboam, king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, making two golden calves and placing them in temples in the cities of Dan and Bethel. Thus, Friedman hypothesizes, that the author of document E viewed Jeroboam’s golden calves as a sin and wrote the account of Exodus 32 where the Israelites are condemned for worshiping a golden calf (4). Friedman also ties the fact that the idol in both the Exodus and 1 Kings accounts is a calf to the idea that bulls were symbols of the Canaanite god El (5).
Overall, Friedman’s argument is that the sources of J and E were written in direct opposition to one another in an attempt to make one of the two kingdoms or a group within the kingdoms look sinful. Thus, the Pentateuch was not written by Moses and written in an extremely politically charged environment and time resulting in many of these political elements coming out in the text. These two texts were then edited and tied together after the northern kingdom fell to the Assyrians in 722 BCE. Refugees from Israel would have fled to Judah, where E was joined with J (6).
“The Documentary Hypothesis”
Honestly, the above evidences, as well as the rest of Friedman’s book and argument, are powerful. There is weight behind the evidence he presents. However, after much research and digging, I found many answers to his points. Many of Friedman’s points and evidences were actually discussed and refuted before Friedman was even born. In 1941, Umberto Moshe David Cassuto, rabbi of Florence, Italy, professor of Hebrew language, and chair of Bible studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem published a set of eight lectures he gave in 1940 in Jerusalem titled “The Documentary Hypothesis.” I was surprised to have never heard of this publication or Cassuto. However, I assume that his response and evidence against the Document Hypothesis was met with a wall of silence. This is the typical response of academia to arguments brought up against the ruling paradigm of the time. This seems to be the case with Friedman himself as he states “To this day, no one known to me who challenged the hypothesis has ever addressed this fact” referring to the multiple evidences of the hypothesis. A lack of trying could be behind this. Nevertheless, Cassuto approaches the JEDP theory objectively and in an extremely detailed manner. He looks at the texts from the viewpoint of the Ancient East and Israel.
Cassuto begins by looking at the history of the Documentary Hypothesis. He shows how the methodology of the scholars who began and developed this idea of different sources was not unique or even objective. Rather, this type of study and method of cutting up works to locate different sources was common at the time as well as within the region the scholars lived. Cassuto states that an “analogous question” was being proposed “in Greek literature” (7). He continues by pointing out how similar studies were also happening in respect to the epic poetry of the Indians as well as Medieval European poetry. Cassuto notices the parallelism between the different studies. Focusing in on the similarity between the Biblical and Greek writings, he shows how the original scholars who began the studies were both French and both amateurs in the field of literary criticism and study. Even the titles of their works were extremely similar in name. These two were both followed by German professionals who also had similar titles in their works. Cassuto states they had a “like textual approach and similar methods of research” (8). Both the Biblical study and Greek Homeric study resulted in the idea that the works had multiple source documents. Thus, Cassuto postulates, both branches of study affected each other in some manner.
Cassuto summarizes this argument:
This being so, it may well be that we have before us not an objective discovery of what is actually to be found in ancient books, but the result of the subjective impression that these writings have on the people of a given environment. (9)
Cassuto points out that all of the studies, Biblical, Greek, Indian, and Medieval European, were all written by very different people and in different epochs and times, yet resulted in similar complex “literary phenomena” of being constructed by multiple sources/authors (10). This similarity between studies and near identical conclusion adds some suspicion to the objectivity and actual relevance of the Documentary Hypothesis. This might mean that the origin of the idea for the Pentateuch being constructed in the fashion such as Friedman suggests was largely shaped by the culture and ideas of the time in which the idea was first developed, rather than fact or evidence. It is ironic, as this is exactly the argument of the proponents of the Document Hypothesis in respect to the Bible when they claim its contents were shaped by the events occurring at the time of its composure.
In the hope of limiting the amount of space I use for this first part of the blog series, I will only list the points of defense that correspond with the arguments for the JEDP Hypothesis I listed under Friedman’s argument.
Differing Divine Names
On the topic of the Divine names in Genesis, I think Cassuto summarizes it best when he says “One thing appears to me to be beyond doubt, namely, that the variations in the choice of the divine names did not come about accidentally but by design” (11). Cassuto begins by examining the two names used in the creation account. He shows how Elohim was originally a common noun which was used for both the God of Israel and the pagan gods. Yahweh, however, was solely used for the God of Israel. However, to an Israelite, the names Elohim and Yahweh were equal. If an Israelite were to say to another, “Elohim is almighty,” it would be clear that they were stating that Yahweh was almighty, not a pagan god. However, an Israelite could not forget that the term Elohim still meant little “g” god to the gentiles and pagans that lived around them. In that context, only the name Yahweh “expressed the particular personality of Israel’s God” (12).
Cassuto gives an equivalent example to support this. In Israel, Jerusalem eventually became the main, prominent and important city in the nation. One could merely say City and an Israelite would know you meant Jerusalem. However, the term “city” was still a common noun to others not living in Israel. Rather, strangers to Israel would know Jerusalem by its proper noun and name. This is similar to my current living situation in northern Illinois. If I were to say to my neighbor, “I’m going into the city,” they would assume that I would be going to Chicago. If I went to Texas and tried to use that same phrase, the individual would most likely not assume Chicago. It wouldn’t mean the same thing to them. Therefore, the two divine names for God listed above are considered equal.
Cassuto then examines the different categories and types of literature that are within the Bible. He discovers that specific divine names are used in different types of literature:
Prophetic Literature: Yahweh is used.
Legal Literature (the precepts of Yahweh): Yahweh is used.
Poetic Literature: Yahweh is used, except poetry that is considered within the wisdom category.
Wisdom Literature: Elohim is used.
Narrative Literature: Yahweh and Elohim are used.
Cassuto goes further and points out how the wisdom or “sapiential” literature of other ancient eastern civilizations also used a common noun or appellative for their god or deity:
Egyptian: Used the common noun ntr for god.
Babylonian: Used the common noun ilu for god.
Aramaic: Used the common noun Elahin for god. (13).
As Cassuto argues, it seems as though there are other reasons for the uses of divine names than solely different sources. Generally, he states, the use of different names can be explained by that narrative literature contains elements of the multiple categories I listed above. He then zeroes in on the narrative literature Pentateuch and examines in detail each instance of where Yahweh and Elohim could be substituted for one another. In doing this, he discovers a sort-of set of rules for when each name is used:
Yahweh is used when:
- The account is purely Israel’s conception of God and His attributes
- There is a “direct, intuitive notion of God”
- The account describes the “divine attributes in relatively lucid and…palpable terms…a clear picture”
- “When the Torah seeks to arouse…the feeling of the sublimity of the Divine presence in all its majesty and glory” (Emphasis added)
- God is in “personal character and in direct relationship to people or nature”
- There is “reference to God of Israel, his people, and their ancestors”
Elohim is used when:
- There is an abstract idea of deity, the creator, who is ruler of nature and the source of life
- Lofty thoughts of existence in relation to God
- God is portrayed in general, superficial, or hazy terms. Not a clear picture
- God is talked about in an ordinary manner
- God is discussed as a “transcendental being who exists completely outside and above the physical universe”
- God is referenced to or by strangers to the Israelite people (14).
Going back to the creation story in Genesis 1, it can be seen why the name Elohim is used to describe God. God is depicted as the Creator and Lord of all and has dominion of all He has created. Everything is created by his direct “fiat” without any contact with nature. In Genesis 2, however, Yahweh Elohim is used for multiple reasons. One, Yahweh is used because God is depicted as a moral ruler who imposes warnings and judgement as well as a being who is in direct relation to man and creation. Second, the compound name of Yahweh Elohim is used to show how the God who created the universe is the same God who is the God of Israel. Even pagan gods of the ancient east had similar compound names such as the god Amon-Re in Egyptian mythology. The god Amon was the god of the capital city of Thebe whereas Re was the “universal sun God.” Jonathan Sarfati states that “Amon-Re signifies a single god, showing that the god of Thebes was also the universal sun god – Amon = Re” (15). Sarfati shows how ridiculous it would be for scholars to claim that Amon and Re were names used solely by different groups or authors and thus assign them to different documents.
Cassuto also cites Psalm 19 to show how Yahweh and Elohim are used interchangeably when the context and subject demands (16). The first part of the verse uses Elohim because it describes God as the creator of “physical light” where as the second part uses the name Yahweh because it describes God as the creator of “moral light.” The Psalm begins with, “The heavens declare the glory of God (Elohim), and the sky above proclaims his handwork” (V. 1) describing God as a transcendent ruler of all. It continues with, “The law of the Lord (Yahweh) is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord (Yahweh) is sure, making the wise simple;” describing God who revives the very soul of the psalmist and is in close contact with his creation (V. 7).
If we continue into Genesis 3 and 4 to the account of Cain and Abel, the rules that Cassuto outlines continues to fit nicely. In reference to the sacrifices that Cain and Abel present to God, Yahweh is used to refer to God. Cassuto argues that sacrifices or “oblations” can only be presented to a personal God. In fact, the Torah only uses Yahweh when an individual is sacrificing to God, unless it is a stranger or outsider, such as Jethro in the Exodus story. In this case, Elohim is used instead, again fitting Cassuto’s rules of Divine names (17). Yahweh continues to be the correct choice to describe God due to the fact that “God appears in an ethical role” when dealing with Cain’s murder of Abel and his following judgement and punishment (18).
Therefore, these two names for God are used at different times for different purposes, rather than indicators for different authors.
Repetitive Narrative Elements
Now we come to Friedman’s point about doublets and repetitions and contradictions that come along with them. His first example was the order of creation between Genesis 1 and 2. I agree with Friedman on this point: If you split up Genesis 1 and 2, you notice that they begin with different starting points. Genesis 1 begins with water whereas 2 begins with land. However, there is only this distinction if you split up the first two chapters (19). If you don’t split them up due to their difference in divine names, and as Cassuto has shown there is no need to do so, then the second chapter begins right where the first ends. If you rip apart a complete story, there will be missing details. This cannot be held as evidence for JEDP. A better explanation, rather, is that the author of Genesis employs the literary technique of recapitulation:
[The] technique of recapitulation was widely practiced in ancient Semitic literature. The author would first introduce his account with a short statement summarizing the whole transaction, and then he would follow it up with a more detailed and circumstantial account when dealing with matters of special importance. (20).
As Sarfati states:
Thus, Genesis 1:1 – 2:3 is a summary outline of the whole creation, in chronological order. This culminates with man being created in God’s image and given dominion over creation. Genesis 2:5-25 focuses in on the creation of man and woman, expands on their order of creation and their marriage, how man’s authority over creation was emphasized with the naming of the animals, and preparation of their home and occupation. So the difference in styles is due to the difference in subject matter, not different authors. [Emphasis added] (21).
This same technique is employed between Genesis 10 and 11. In chapter 10, the table of nations is explained and shows how the peoples of the world are descended from Noah’s sons. At the end of each section attributed to a son, it ends with the phase “These are the sons of (Insert Japheth, Ham, or Shem) by their clans and languages in their territories and nations. Chapter 11 then begins with “Now the whole world had one language and a common speech.” This is seems blatantly contradictory with the preceding chapter. However, when one understands the literary technique of recapitulation, one can connect the dots. Chapter 10 gives a summary of the descendants of Noah and his sons. Chapter 11 then provides a detailed account of why they are distributed. Chapter 11 then tells you that man disobeyed God’s command to disperse. They began to rebel and construct the tower of Babel. God then confuses their language and scatters them. This technique is all over the narrative sections of the Bible and is employed outside of the Bible as well. Friedman, as well as most other JEDP proponents seem blind to this fact or at least ignorant to it.
Friedman states several times between multiple works of his that if you were to read the different documents or sources as he splits them, they form “separable and complete” stories (22). However, as Cassuto explains, there are issues with this statement. If we split creation up into two accounts, the question of evil in a “good” creation cannot be answered. Genesis 1 ends with God deeming creation “good” six times followed by “very good.” Only when we connect it with Genesis 2 do we understand that “man’s transgressions” result in evil. Also, if one were to read J by itself, that is beginning with Genesis 2:5, the details of how the rest of creation originated are lost. One might assume that God created it, but what were the details? Only when Genesis 1 and 2 are placed together does this make sense.
Recapitulation also helps solve part of Friedman’s point of order of creation between Genesis 1 and 2. First, Genesis 1, as the idea of recapitulation and summarizing explains, gives a general account of the creation and man and woman: “male and female he created them.” At a first glance, this seems to suggest that Genesis 1 states that Man and Woman were formed simultaneously. However this specific isn’t stated. The account merely states that God created them at the end of day 6. It does not tell us which he made first or last or if there was or wasn’t a slight gap between when he created one before the other. However, Genesis 2 goes into more detail and explains that God first creates man and then later woman (23). This is textbook recapitulation: general statement/summary followed by detailed account. Not only does this solve the so-called discrepancy between the timing for the creation of man and woman, this recapitulation also shows unity between Genesis 1 and 2. What about the plants and animals though? Lets take a look at the text with Hebrew. Genesis 2:5 states:
Now no siah (shrub) of the field were yet in the earth and no esebh (herb) of the field had yet sprung up.
Again, an initial reading suggests that the order of creation in Genesis 2 records plants being formed after man. Indeed, Friedman translates this verse differently:
“when all produce of the field had not yet been in the earth, and all vegetation of the field had not yet grown” (24)
If this is the case, the account would be contradictory to the preceding chapter. However, when we look at the Hebrew language, this verse does not encompass all of plant life at the formation of man. Rather, it is specific plant species that have yet to grow. Cassuto explains that siah or shrub is a direct reference to the thorns and thistles that grow up from the ground in response to God’s curse on the ground after man sins (25). Sarfati explains that esebh “refers to non-woody vegetation that grows only with rain, e.g. grass, cereals, and vegetables. But the specific eseb hassadeh ‘refers to an non-woody, edible plant which requires human cultivation” (26). Therefore, Genesis 2 does not state that, at the time of man on day 6, no plants had yet been created. The account continues by stating “for the Lord God (Yahweh Elohim) had not yet sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground.” This accurately shows that the verse does not describe all plant life. It states why these specific plant species haven’t popped up yet. Later on in chapter 2:9, the account states that God made trees to spring up in the garden of Eden. These are specific trees: “trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.” Again, this is not all-encompassing of plant life but rather only tree that were “pleasing to the eye and good for food.” This shows that there is no issue in the order of formation of plants between Genesis 1 and 2.
As for the animals, Friedman likewise translates this verse in favor of his view:
“And YHWH God fashioned from the ground every animal of the field and every bird of the skies”
However, Sarfati explains that the language and grammar of the Hebrew should be translated “Now the Lord God had formed…all the wild animals and all birds in the sky,” thus stating that animals had already been created prior to man (27). Again, this shows that Genesis 2 is in accordance with Genesis 1 and vice versa. Thus, there seems to be no discrepancy in the order of creation between the first and second chapters of Genesis.
The Flood Account
Let’s move onto Friedman’s points of doublets and repetitions in the flood narrative of Genesis 6-9. Indeed, there are many sentences or details that are repeated. For example, God commands Noah to take his family into the ark multiple times, discusses what animals to take multiple times, as well as when the waters and rains come. According to Friedman’s book “The Bible with Sources Revealed,” the sources within the narrative are still largely split up due to differences in divine names. Cassuto points out again that the switch between Yahweh and Elohim are due to the context and attributes of God the author was wishing to convey. Elohim is used largely used as the name for God in the narrative, however Yahweh us used “when moral motive is accorded special prominence and emphasis” (28). Yahweh is used in reference to:
- Punishment due to wickedness
- Prosperity of Noah due to righteousness
- Sacrifices or “clean animals”
- A “direct and palpable relationship” such as when Yahweh closes the door on the ark to protect Noah and his family
Thus, the uses of the divine names fit with the instances and rules Cassuto explains. What about the repeated information though? Sarfati explains these instances with the literary device known as Chiasmus. This term means “‘the same language and style elements are repeated in the second part in reverse order – last matching first and first matching last'” (29). This device, as with recapitulation, is common in ancient and classical authors. Sarfati uses the example of Genesis 9:6 to help explain this:
A – Whoever sheds
B – the blood
C – of man
C’ – by man shall
B’ – his blood
A’ – be shed.
There are many other small ones within scripture. One can just Google “Chiasmus in scripture” and many examples will come up. Sarfati shows that there is an overarching chiastic structure to the flood account:
A Noah and his sons (6:10)
B All life on earth (6:13a)
C Curse on earth (6:13b)
D Ark (6:14-16)
E All living creatures (6:17–20)
F Food (6:21)
G Animals in man’s hands (7:2–3)
H Entry into Ark (7:13-16)
I Waters increase (7:17–19)
J Mountains covered (7:20)
X God remembers Noah (8:1)
J’ Mountains visible (8:5)
I’ Waters decrease (8:13-14)
H’ Exit from Ark (8:15-19)
G’ Animals in man’s hands (9:2)
F’ Food (9:3–4)
E’ All living creatures (9:10a)
D’ Ark (9:10b)
C’ Blessing on earth (9:13–16)
B’ All life on earth (9:17)
A’ Noah and his sons (9:19)
As Sarfati argues, this structure shows the unity of the narrative (30) If we split up the text, we lose this literary device. This structure was also probably used and employed to help memorization of the text in an oral culture.
Besides sentence by sentence repetitions such as the “doublets” in the flood account, there are larger, more expansive repetitive events that have been cited as evidence for JEDP. For example, throughout the book of Genesis, the locations of Bethel/Ai, Shechem, and Negeb/Hebron are spots of importance in the accounts of Abraham, Jacob, and Joshua. Friedman often claims that these references were written because of political events occurring during the supposed late writing of the JEDP sources instead of actual history. Cassuto provides a different and compelling argument for these references. He points out that as both Abraham and Jacob come to the significant sites of Bethel, Shechem, and Negeb/Hebron during their journeys through Canaan, these patriarchs construct alters, purchase land, or are a part of a battle within these three locations. If we fast forward to Joshua, his conquest of Canaan is in reverse order of the patriarchs during their sojourns through the land. Cassuto explains that these repetitions are special and have importance. The sojourns of Abraham and Jacob symbolically began the conquest/claimation of the promised land long before Joshua began his conquest. Cassuto states that this was the beginning of the Lord’s promise that was fulfilled much later: “Everything that is done twice or thrice is to be regarded as confirmed and established.” He cites Genesis 41:32 as support for the Bible agreeing with his argument. The account in Genesis 41 records Pharaoh receiving two dreams and Joseph interpreting them both. Joseph states “The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon.” Thus, the Bible states exactly why certain events and statements are repeated (31). They are important and fixed by God, not evidence for JEDP.
In order to save space, I will not include the rest of Cassuto’s arguments. He goes on to discuss arguments about composite structure, further variations and contradictions, and differences in language and style. However, I highly suggest a reading of both Friedman’s and Cassuto’s works if someone wants to study this topic.
Solid Evidence for JEDP?
All discussion of evidence within the text aside, one huge point of evidence has yet to be made or, rather, found by proponents of JEDP. That being that there is absolutely no actual physical document or documents of the supposed sources. There is no manuscript evidence for JEDP. Kenneth Kitchen comments on this:
But if, for example, a sufficiently well preserved copy of the supposed Pentateuchal document ‘J’ were to be found in Judea in an indubitable archaeological context of (for example) the ninth century BC – then we would have real, verifiable (genuinely objective) evidence for a documentary theory. Equally, if an archaic copy of one or more of the existing books of the Pentateuch (or even the Pentateuch) were to be discovered in an irreproachable context of the twelfth or eleventh century BC, this would be clear and final evidence against such a theory. (32)
Interestingly enough,despite the lack of physical evidence, this theory is considered absolutely and staunchly correct. This is the case for even my own University (at least the classes I have been a part of). Even more though, if we look at the Samaritan Pentateuch, we find more evidence against JEDP. Sarfati explains:
The Samaritan Pentateuch was written in an ancient form of Hebrew that pre-dates the Babylonian Exile. And its most ancient manuscript has over 2,000 corrections of the Jewish manuscript. This implies that the original was far earlier still to accumulate so many copyist errors. (33)
Therefore, due to the “ancient form of hebrew” used in the Samaritan Pentateuch, it seems as though the Pentateuch we have today, along with the supposed “sources,” was in its current state long before the exile or combination/formation of the JEDP sources.
Combination of J and E?
In my own researching of the Documentary Hypothesis and Friedman’s works, I observed some additional things. For example, Friedman’s explanation of how the sources J and E eventually became combined after the northern kingdom of Israel fell seems faulty. He explains that a Levite from the northern kingdom was most likely the author of E and brought the source to the southern kingdom of Judah as he fled from Assyrian control. After this, an editor then combined E with J. Friedman suggests that the two documents were combined to basically keep the peace between the Judeans and Israelite refugees. If the scriptures were to be read aloud in the temple or place of teaching, a northerner might object because their account or source of E wasn’t being represented or spoken accurately (34). However, there are several issues with this suggestion. First, Friedman previously showed in the history of Israel and Judah that the Levite priests had either been exiled or slaughtered in the two divided nations. The Levites had seemed to fall out of priestly power in the two kingdoms. Recall the discussion about King Jeroboam’s golden calves in 1 Kings 12. Jeroboam built these temples at Dan and Bethel instead of Shiloh, where the Levite priests resided. Therefore, the citizens of the northern kingdom would have no longer gone to Shiloh and would have never even heard the source E in the temples. The Levites were no longer prominent and no longer spoke in the northern temples. Their E document would have never circulated through the lay people and citizens. Therefore, there would be no reason to keep the peace between the refugees and Judeans. Also, why would someone combine the two sources of J and E if they had been constructed in direct opposition to one another in a politically charged environment as Friedman argues? It seems more likely that J, the source claimed to have been written in the southern kingdom of Judah would have become the most prominent resulting in the loss of E altogether after the northern kingdom fell.
While I have brought the topic of the golden calf up again, let me point out another issue with Friedman’s argument. He presupposes that the reason there are two accounts of golden calves is due to multiple sources. He doesn’t allow for another reason golden calves were used in these instances besides that bulls were related to the Canaanite god El. Upon reading both the Exodus and the 1 Kings passages that contain the gold calves, I found like statements that discuss the idols as the god or gods that brought the Israelites out of Egypt. So, I looked up Egyptian gods who were related to bulls or calves. The number one result I got was related to the Egyptian goddess known as Hathor. According to the lore, Hathor is directly related to cows or calves and is the goddess of joy, love, and celebration. She was also known to be the “mother” goddess whom all other gods were derived. (35) It would make sense for the Israelites to bow down to an idol of the Egyptian goddess whom many of them may have begun to already worship during their 400 year-long captivity in Egypt. Again, it just doesn’t seem like the Documentary Hypothesis and its proponents allow for other answers, and frankly simpler answers, in order to solidify their position.
Also, Friedman touts that “Ages, dates, measurements, numbers, order, and precise instructions are an obvious, major concern in P. There is nothing even nearly comparable in degree in J, E, or D” (36). He also states how words such as “cubit” and “property” and words like these all, or mostly all, occur within the source of P. This is circular reasoning. Of course those types of writing won’t be found in J or E if they are all assigned to another source. If you assume that whenever you come across “ages, dates, measurements, numbers,” etc. that it belongs in P and then claim the existence of such examples as proof of P, it is circular reasoning. Even more so, if such data is assumed or always assigned to P, and then state the absence of such examples within J or E as proof of the existence of a source known as P, it is likewise circular reasoning. The only reason dates, measurements, and the like are or are not within one document or another is because the they were assigned that way, not because there are multiple documents/authors as the Documentary Hypothesis assumes. Also, this assignment of bland, statistical, genealogical information and tables of data creates a “disparity” in style and atmosphere between the supposed sources. Proponents of the JEDP theory then cite this disparity, which is a direct result of their own assignment of verses and information, as proof of different sources. Their conclusion is the same as their premise. Friedman’s earlier statement is also blatantly incorrect. The genealogy of Cain is attributed to source J. Normally, these accounts would be given to P.
Taking a Peek at the JEDP Sources
Lastly, just by reading how Friedman split the Pentateuch into the different sources, I found multiple contradictions or exceptions. Some of these he addresses, while others he does not:
- Genesis 3:1-7:
- This section is attributed to J yet uses the term Elohim for God.
- Genesis 15
- This section is attributed to J due to its use of Yahweh, yet includes a theophany in the form of a vision or dream, which is always attributed to E. (36)
- Genesis 28:13
- This section also includes a dream, yet uses Yahweh for God. In an attempt to remove this issue, the account is split verse by verse, and even into half verses. The one verse that includes Jacob going to sleep and dreaming is given to E. This would solve the issue, yet later, in J, Jacob is said to wake up and claim “Yahweh is actually in this place, and I did not know!” According to the verses attributed to the J source, though, Jacob never fell asleep. How could he wake up then? Here we see a desperate attempt to reconcile the Document theory. If the verse that includes Jacob awaking and his following statement about God is instead attributed to J, then the argument of theophanies in dreams or visions could no longer be heralded as evidence for E. (37)
- Genesis 20: 17-18
- This is attributed to E, yet Yahweh is used here.
- Genesis 21: 1a and 1b
- Attributed to P (which only uses Elohim in Genesis) yet uses Yahweh in this instance
- Etc. Etc. Etc.
I think the strength of these examples are enough. As Cassuto would say, it is “superfluous” to state any more examples against the hypothesis when these suffice.
In conclusion, the Documentary Hypothesis, its proponents, and their supposed “evidences” for multiple authorship seems quite weak in light of actual research and textual detail. And what I have provided above is merely scratching the surface of Cassuto’s discussion and lectures on flaws and faults of the hypothesis. Also, in the subsequent posts to this, I will be discussing the evidence for Mosaic authorship and date of authorship of the Pentateuch, which only further weakens the position of the Documentary Hypothesis. All arguments and points aside, what frustrates me the most about the Documentary Hypothesis and those who follow it, they never provide the opposite side of the discussion and research. I can attest to this from personal experience. In most, if not all, of the theology, Biblical studies, hermeneutics classes I have taken, JEDP is preached as though it were a part of Christian doctrine. There is hardly even any discussion of whether or not JEDP should be considered or not. No evidence or argument or discussion is ever even brought near its borders. And, as I have written about already, there is plenty of it to be shown. There is no excuse for this other than plain ignorance of these sources, which, in light of when works such as Cassuto’s were written, this seems unlikely.
I suggest, no matter if you are a Biblical scholar, someone who hardly picks up a book, someone who views JEDP as fact, or someone who thinks JEDP is complete rubbish, that you research, read, discuss, and decide for yourselves on this issue. Too many individuals, pastors, professors, and lay people fall victim to believing that the foundation of the Documentary Hypothesis is strong without even looking for themselves.
(1) – Friedman, R. E. 2003. The Bible with Sources Revealed. HarperCollins Publishing. (p. 3-5.)
(2) – Ibid. (p. 51)
(3) – Ibid. (p. 60)
(4) – Ibid. (p. 70-75)
(5) – Ibid. (p. 82)
(6) – Ibid. (p. 88)
(7) – Cassuto, U. 2006 (Originally 1941). The Documentary Hypothesis and the Composition of the Pentateuch. Ha’askan Street, Jerusalem: Shalem Press. (p. 11)
(8) – Ibid. (p. 13)
(9) – Ibid. (p. 15)
(10) – Ibid. (p. 15)
(11) – Ibid. (p. 21)
(12) – Ibid. (p. 22)
(13) – Ibid. (p. 26-27)
(14) – Ibid. (p. 28)
(15) – Sarfati, J. 2015. The Genesis Account: a theological, historical, and scientific commentary on Genesis 1-11. Powder Springs, GA: Creation Ministries International. (p. 30)
(16) – Cassuto, U. 2006 (Originally 1941). The Documentary Hypothesis and the Composition of the Pentateuch. Ha’askan Street, Jerusalem: Shalem Press. (p. 40)
(17) – Ibid. (p. 41)
(18) – Ibid. (p. 41)
(19) – Ibid (p. 88-89)
(20) – Sarfati, J. 2015. The Genesis Account: a theological, historical, and scientific commentary on Genesis 1-11. Powder Springs, GA: Creation Ministries International. (Sarfati quoting Archer, A. Survey of Old Testament Introduction [p. 26])
(21) – Ibid. (p. 27)
(22) – Friedman, R. E. 1987. Who Wrote the Bible? New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers. (p. 60)
(23) – Cassuto, U. 2006 (Originally 1941). The Documentary Hypothesis and the Composition of the Pentateuch. Ha’askan Street, Jerusalem: Shalem Press. (p. 89)
(24) – Friedman, R. E. 2003. The Bible with Sources Revealed. HarperCollins Publishing. (p. 35)
(25) – Cassuto, U. 2006 (Originally 1941). The Documentary Hypothesis and the Composition of the Pentateuch. Ha’askan Street, Jerusalem: Shalem Press. (p. 91)
(26) – Sarfati, J. 2015. The Genesis Account: a theological, historical, and scientific commentary on Genesis 1-11. Powder Springs, GA: Creation Ministries International. (Sarfati quoting Kulikovsky, A.S., Creation, Fall, Restoration. [p. 296])
(27) – Ibid. (p. 323)
(28) – Cassuto, U. 2006 (Originally 1941). The Documentary Hypothesis and the Composition of the Pentateuch. Ha’askan Street, Jerusalem: Shalem Press. (p. 43)
(29) – Sarfati, J. 2015. The Genesis Account: a theological, historical, and scientific commentary on Genesis 1-11. Powder Springs, GA: Creation Ministries International. (p. 12)
(30) – Ibid. (p. 13)
(31) – Cassuto, U. 2006 (Originally 1941). The Documentary Hypothesis and the Composition of the Pentateuch. Ha’askan Street, Jerusalem: Shalem Press. (p. 99)
(32) – Sarfati, J. 2015. The Genesis Account: a theological, historical, and scientific commentary on Genesis 1-11. Powder Springs, GA: Creation Ministries International. (Quoting Kitchen. 1966. Ancient Orient and Old Testament. [p. 32])
(33) – Ibid. (p. 26)
(34) – Friedman, R. E. 1987. Who Wrote the Bible? New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers. (p. 88)
(36) – Friedman, R. E. 2003. The Bible with Sources Revealed. HarperCollins Publishing. (p. 12)
(37) – Cassuto, U. 2006 (Originally 1941). The Documentary Hypothesis and the Composition of the Pentateuch. Ha’askan Street, Jerusalem: Shalem Press.