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Class V: OT Source Criticism: The Documentary Hypothesis: Its History and Present Status

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  1. Class V: OT Source Criticism: The Documentary Hypothesis: Its History and Present Status Apologetics Biblical Criticism December, 2009 Glenn Giles

  2. Source Criticism Definition • Source Criticism: --Source Criticism, with respect to literary documents, is the science of investigating the source or origin (whether oral, written, or communication in some other manner) of the material found in a written document.

  3. Definition Documentary Hypothesis (DH): It is a Source Critical hypothesis theorizing that the first five books of the Old Testament were composed via the use of several written sources, usually described as sources J, E, D, and P. It normally denies Mosaic authorship and attaches a much later date to these sources and the final Pentateuchal form than has been traditionally held before the Enlightenment era.

  4. Competing Pentateuchal World Views 1. Traditional Conservative View a. Moses is the author of the Pentateuch b. It was written ca. 1400 BC c. It is inspired by God 2. Radical Documentarian View a. Moses is not the author of any of it b. It was written much later than Moses’ time c. It is a composite of many documents and authors and a result of literary evolution d. It is not inspired by God. God is not assumed to exist

  5. The Birth and History of DH A. The Historical Critical Approach to Biblical Studies is a product of the Enlightenment 1. Interpretation was based on human reason and a naturalistic worldview. 2. The Bible is not considered God’s special revelation but written by mere human beings. Everything is to be explained naturally. The supernatural is locked out of interpretation. The Bible is only a human book and is to be interpreted from a naturalistic and eventually (in the 19th century) an evolutionary perspective.

  6. The Birth and History of DH B. Important Personages In Its History 1. Benedict Spinoza (1670), a Spanish pantheistic Jewish scholar, claimed the Pentateuch not written by Moses because: (1) in passages he is spoken of in third person rather than first person (he rather than I) (2) Moses could not have written of his own death in Deut. 34 “Spinoza therefore proposed Ezra as the final composer of the Torah” (Gleason Archer, Jr., A Survey of the Old Testament Introduction (Chicago: Moody, 1980), 81)

  7. Birth of DH 2. Jean Astruc, a French physician, (1753): a. Noticed that two different words for God were used in Gen. 1 and 2, (Elohim and Yahweh) b. He then proposed two separate authors for the two chapters with Moses putting them together as Gen. 1 and 2 c. This became the primary assumption upon which DH was built.

  8. The Birth of DH 3. Johann Gottfried Eichhorn (1780-83) a. Used the “Elohim/Yahweh” criterion to divide up all of Genesis and Exodus up to the account of the burning bush into the J or Jawist (Yahweh) and the E or Elohist (Elohim) accounts. The J-E division of the Pentateuch began. b. Concluded that the Pentateuch was much later than Moses and he could not be the author.

  9. Birth of DH 4. Alexander Geddes, a Scottish Roman Catholic priest, set forth his “fragmentary theory” in 1792 in which he proposed that the Pentateuch was copied from many fragments 5. Johann S. Vater, a supporter of the fragmentary theory, in 1802 proposed that Genesis was composed from at least 39 different fragments which he dated from Moses’ time up to 586 B.C.

  10. Birth of DH 6. Wilhelm M. L. De Wette (1805-06) a. Put forth the idea that Deuteronomy was the law book found by Hilkiah in the Temple in II Kings 22 around 621 BC b. This became document D (Deuteronomist) c. None of Pent. was to be dated earlier than David d. Pent. Books=compiled by Redactors from independent fragmentary sources.

  11. Birth and History of DH 7. Friederich Bleek (1822), Heinrich Ewald (1823), and Franz Delitzsch (1852) a. proposed the “supplementary theory” of the origin of the Pentateuch in which there was “one basic document or body of tradition (E) which underlay all the rest and which dated from about 1050-950 BC” (Archer, 83) b. later additions were made by the J author c. laws attributed to Moses by the text were genuinely his. The rest were codified by priests after the conquest of Canaan

  12. Birth and History of DH 8. Hermann Hupfeld (1853): The 4 document theory a. Re-examined the E document and proposed that there were two documents (E1 and E2) b. E2 was composed of “considerable portions of the Elohist which greatly resembled J in style vocabulary, and type of subject matter” (Archer, 85) c. E2 was mainly distinguished from J only by the term “Elohim.” This undermines “the soundness of using the two names as a criterion for source division.” (Archer, 84). E2 became simply E. d. E1 later became document P (Priestly) e. The sources dated PEJD in that dating order.

  13. Birth and History of DH 9. Karl Heinrich Graf (1866) a. P contained legal material so proposed “legal-P” document. b. “legal-P” was later than D c. Historical P was very early so had order of documents as P,E,J,D, legal-P d. E supplemented by J, E-J put together by the author of D in Josiah’s day.

  14. The History and Birth of DH 10. Abraham Kuenen (1869) a. argued for a unified P document which should not be split b. argued that the entire P document had to be of late origin. c. now the order changed from P-E-J-D-legalP to J-E-D-P. P went from the earliest to the latest in dating.

  15. The History and Birth of DH 11. Julius Wellhausen (1878). a. contributed basically nothing new b. restated the four source theory with “great skill and persuasiveness, supporting the JEDP sequence upon an evolutionary basis” fitted into Hegelian dialecticism and the supposed evolutionary development of polytheism to monotheism in the Jewish religion (Archer, 87) c. Became “Graf-Wellhausen Hypothesis” or “The Documentary Hypothesis” d. Classic statement is found in his Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel (New York: The World Publishing Co, 1957).

  16. Wellhausenian E/P and J Division Based on Divine Names’ First Use An alleged contradiction between Gen. 4:26 and Ex. 6:2-3 gave impetus to the assertion that E/P and J were separate documents. Ex. 6:2-3: “God also said to Moses, “I am YHWH. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name YHWH I did not make myself known to them.” This is P. Cf., Ex. 3:15, considered E. Yet Gen. 4:26 states, “At that time men began to call on the name of YHWH.” So this is J as P/E does not present men as having known YHWH yet. --The conclusion is then drawn that “different sources have a different idea of when the name YHWH was first revealed to humans” (Friedman, The Bible, 10, See also Wellhausen, Prolegomena, 338-339). --A solution can be found in the term “to know” (YADA’)

  17. The Documentary Hypothesis The J Document: a. written about 850 BC by an unknown writer in the Southern Kingdom of Judah. b. uses “Yahweh” for God d. often refers to God anthropomorphically c. makes up about ½ of Genesis, the first half of Exodus, and some parts of Numbers

  18. The Documentary Hypothesis The E Document a. written about 750 BC by an unknown writer in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. b. dwells on “concrete particulars,” is interested in ritual, worship, God communicates through dreams rather than walking and talking with man (Archer, 89). c. uses “Elohim” for God up to Ex. 3:15. d. makes up about a third of Genesis, half of Exodus, and some portions of Numbers

  19. The Documentary Hypothesis The J-E Combination a.written about 650 BC by an unknown redactor b. This Redactor “combined J and E into a single document”, J-E (Archer, 89).

  20. The Documentary Hypothesis The D Document a. “composed, possibly under the direction of the high priest Hilkiah, as an official program for the party of reform sponsored by King Josiah in the revival of 621 BC.” It was done to force people to stop worshiping in High places and worship only in Jerusalem (Archer, 89). b. contains almost all of Deuteronomy (and also Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings). c. uses Yahweh for God.

  21. The Documentary Hypothesis The P Document a. “composed in various stages, all the way from Ezekiel, with his holiness code (Lev. 17-26) ca. 570 . . . to Ezra.” b. “P is concerned with a systematic account of the origins and institutions of the Israelite theocracy. It shows a particular interest in origins, in genealogical lists, and details of sacrifice and ritual” (Archer, 89). c. makes up a fifth of Genesis, large portions of Exodus and Numbers, and nearly all of Leviticus. d. uses “Elohim” for God up to Exodus 6:2-3.

  22. How Was the Pentateuch Formed? Dr. Ronald Troxel, Univ. of Wis., Madison:

  23. The DH Scheme: from

  24. Some Main Criteria for Source Division 1. The use of two different names for God (Elohim myhlaand Yahweh hwhy) in different passages. -For example: 1:1-2:3 uses Elohim while Yahweh is used in Gen. 2:4-4:24. -It is compound (“Yahweh Elohim,” LORD God) in Gen. 2-4 but only Yahweh in Gen. 4. -Why the different usages? Could it be explained by positing different sources/writers? Yes, says the Source DH Theorist.

  25. Some Main Criteria for Source Division 2. Doublets seemingly repeating the same story, e.g., a. two different stories of creation b. two converged stories of the floodc. two stories of the covenant between God and Abrahamd. two stories of Abraham claiming Sarah is his sistere. two stories of Jacob making a journey to Mesopotamiaf. two stories of God changing Jacob's name to Israelg. two stories of Moses getting water from a rock at a place called Meribah (From Source Critic query: -Could these stories have each been originally only one story which were modified or merged to create the narrative in the Pentateuch? Yes, says the Source DH Theorist.

  26. Some Main Criteria forSource Division 3. Language and Style differences. -Why the differences in language and style observed at different portions of the Pentateuch? Does this point to different authors and sources? -Yes, says the Source DH Critic

  27. The Documentary Hypothesis In Trouble After Wellhausen A. Criteria Issues 1. Problems with Elohim and Yahweh used as a criterion for source division: Umberto Cassuto (Hebrew, 1941; English translation, 1961) in The Documentary Hypothesis and the Composition of the Pentateuch: Eight Lectures (Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, 1961) publishes lectures that should devastate the Documentary Hypothesis critiquing the major DH criteria for source division, but it is not taken seriously by many at the time.

  28. DH in Trouble -E.g., Cassuto studied the use of the two names of God (Elohim and Yahweh) and noted the following: a. These names are not of the same type: “Elohim” is an “appellative, that was applied both to the One God of Israel and to the heathen gods . . .” and “YHWH is a proper noun, the specific name of Israel’s God, the God whom the Israelites acknowledged as the Sovereign of the universe and as the Divinity who chose them as His people” (18).

  29. DH in Trouble b. When studied out, Cassuto was able to determine 7 rules with regard to the use of the two names. For instance note the following rule: (1). “It selected the name YHWH when the text reflects the Israelite conception of God, which is embodied in the portrayal of YHWH and finds expression in the attributes traditionally ascribed to Him by Israel, particularly in His ethical character” (31). “It preferred the name Elohim when the passage implies the abstract idea of the Deity prevalent in the international circles of ‘wise men’ –God conceived as the Creator of the physical universe, as the Ruler of nature, as the Source of life” (31)

  30. DH in Trouble (2). Another rule is: “The name YHWH is employed when God is presented to us in His personal character and in direct relationship to the people or nature” (31). This is his personal covenantal character. “Elohim, when the Deity is alluded to as the Transcendental Being who exists completely outside and above the physical universe” (31) This is his Almighty and otherly character.

  31. DH in Trouble c. When applied to Gen. 1 and 2, it perfectly explains the different usages of the two terms in these passages without a need to posit two different authors/sources. --Genesis 1 is the story of Creation and Lord of the Universe which would, according to the rules above, require the term “Elohim.” Indeed “Elohim” is the word used in that passage. --With respect to Genesis 2-3, “God is portrayed as the moral Ruler, for He imposes a certain injunction on man, symbolic of the ritual precepts that are subsequently to be given to Israel, and he requires an accounting from him for his actions” (13). This is appropriate here as it is dealing with God’s personal relationship with people.

  32. DH in Trouble d. In his article, “El, Elohim, and the YHWH in the Bible” (Jewish Quarterly Review 46 (1955/56), 89-115), M. H. Segal shows --The use of these names in the narrative prose of the historical books “has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that, contrary to the assertion of the Documentary Theory, the change of names is not caused by a change of a literary source or document” (112). --It is part of the “living speech of the day” and “the fondness of the Hebrew writers for the use of a picturesque variety of expression” (115).

  33. DH in Trouble With respect to the use of Elohim and Yahweh: Cassuto concludes: “There is no reason, therefore, to feel surprise that the use of these Names varies in the Torah. On the contrary, we should be surprised if they were not changed about . . . every Hebrew author was compelled to write thus and to use the two Names in this manner, because of their primary signification, the general literary tradition of the ancient East, and the rules governing the use of the Divine Names throughout the entire range of Hebrew literature.” (Cassuto, 41).

  34. DH in Trouble 2. Problems with the doublet issue as a criterion for source division: E.g., the Flood Doublet composed of J and P. -Assumptions: a. The terms “two of every species” (p) is incompatible with “seven of every clean species” (J) to be taken into the ark. b. There is an assumed discrepancy in the number of days the flood lasted: J=40 days, see Gen. 7:12, 17; 8:6; P=150 days, see Gen. 7:24 c. He sends out a dove (J) and a raven (P). Surely he did not do both, did he? These are all indicators of different sources according to Source Critics

  35. DH in Trouble Sample: Gen. 8:2-9, what it looks like: J=normal type, P is bold italic type And the fountains of the deep and the apertures of the skies were shut, And rain was restrained from the skies. And the waters went back from on the earth, going back continually, and the water receded at the end of a hundred fifty days. And the ark rested in the seventh month, in the seventeenth day of the month, on the mountains of Ararat. And the water went on receding until the tenth month. In the tenth month, in the first of the month, the tops of the mountains appeared. And it was at the end of forty days, and Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made. And he let a raven go, and it went back and forth until the water dried up from the earth. And he let a dove go from him to see whether the waters had eased from the face of the earth.

  36. DH in Trouble --It is assumed that doublets were pieced together by a redactor and this is the cause of the perceived “inconsistencies.” --But is this a valid assumption? There seems to be no reason why there has to be a piecing together of different documents here. --In addition, Whybray states about DH, “. . . the hypothesis can only be maintained on the assumption that, while consistency was the hallmark of the various documents, inconsistency was the hallmark of the redactors” (Quoted by Gordon Wenham, “Pondering the Pentateuch: The Search for a New Paradigm” in The Face of Old Testament Studies: A Survey of Contemporary Approaches, David W. Baker and Bill T. Arnold, eds., (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1999), 130). Can this assumption truly be maintained? How do you know? It seems to beg the question.

  37. DH in Trouble 3. The Issue of Language and Style Differences a. It is not disputed that there are style differences found in the documents as separated by the Documentarians b. However, are the style and language differences due to different authors or something else? c. Cassuto determined that “change in style depends on change of subject-matter, not on differences of sources” (54, see his discussion of this on pages 42-54).

  38. DH in Trouble d. Possible circular reasoning: “the supposed consistency of criteria over a large body of writing is contrived and deceptive (especially on vocabulary, for example), and will hold for “style” only if one in the first place picks out everything of a particular kind, then proclaims it as all belonging to one document separate from the rest, and finally appeals to its remarkable consistency—a consistency obtained by deliberate selection in the first place, and hence attained by circular reasoning. ‘P’ owes its existence mainly to this kind of procedure, and was not even recognized to have existed for one hundred years from Astruc in 1753 until Hupfeld in 1853” (Kenneth Kitchen, quoted in Josh McDowell, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1999), 520).

  39. DH in Trouble e. Studies on style and vocabulary result in widely varying conclusions: Antony F. Campbell and Mark A. O’Brien for instance conducted a vocabulary analysis of Genesis 1-11 and found that “while it is not impossible that Genesis One, Gen 5:1-2, and the P flood text were written by the same person or group, given the extent of the differences between them, such unity of authorship must be considered highly unlikely”. Rethinking the Pentateuch, 115. --They conclude that there is “No P Text in Genesis 1-11” --This would seem to be a major blow to the concept of P found in Genesis 1, 5, and 6-8 based on vocabulary usage. (Rethinking the Pentateuch: Prolegomena to the Theology of Ancient Israel (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 2005)11-15, 105-115)

  40. DH in Trouble f. DH Scholars cannot agree on the specifics of the documental divisions. --For example: One website ( has listed over 100 discrepancies between S. R. Driver’s and Richard Friedman’s division of the text. (Information was gleaned from Richard Friedman (The Bible with Sources Revealed (New York: HarperCollins, 2003)and S. R. Driver (Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament,1913))

  41. DH in Trouble B. Consensus by 1970 despite challenges: --Gordon Wenham states that even though there were many substantive challenges to the Documentary Hypothesis in the early 20th century “by 1970 these had been forgotten, and everyone who wanted to be thought a serious Old Testament scholar had to believe in J, E, D, and P and in the dates assigned to them by the consensus” (“Pondering the Pentateuch: The Search for a New Paradigm” in The Face of Old Testament Studies: A Survey of Contemporary Approaches, David W. Baker and Bill T. Arnold, eds., (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1999), 116.

  42. DH in Turmoil C. Crumbling of Consensus after 1970 1. Gleason Archer states (1974/1980): “For the most part . . . the trend of the twentieth-century scholarship has been toward the repudiation of the Graf- Wellhausen theory, whether in whole or in part” (Archer, 91-92)

  43. Genesis can be seen as a Unity 2. 1985: Issac M. Kikawada and Arthur Quinn, argue for the unity of Genesis 1-11 over a literary patchwork of different authors by comparing it with ancient Near Eastern primeval histories, especially the Atrahasis epic (structure: Creation, First Threat, Second Threat, Third Threat, Resolution) and other ancient primeval histories (Before Abraham Was: The Unity of Genesis 1-11 (Nashville: Abingdon, 1985, see especially pp. 36-53).

  44. DH not Plausible 3. 1987: Roger Norman Whybray in The Making of the Pentateuch (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1987) argues that the Documentary Hypothesis is not plausible. Wenham states that Whybray (1) considers “most of their hypotheses at best unverifiable and at worst illogical speculation” as well as self-contradictory (Wenham, The Face of Old Testament Studies, 132) (2) “the phenomena of repetition and stylistic variation found in the Pentateuch, which the documentary hypothesis is alleged to explain, may be understood quite differently, as they usually are in other literatures” (Wenham, The Face of Old Testament Studies, 130).

  45. DH in Ferment 4. By the end of the 20st century Gordon Wenham writes: “On the face of it, the study of the Pentateuch is in ferment . . . The debate between different points of view is lively and sometimes heated. As yet, no new consensus has emerged about the composition of the Pentateuch.” (“Pentateuchal Studies Today,” Themelios 22 (1996): 3, 12).

  46. DH: A Fix is Needed 5. 2005: Antony F. Campbell and Mark A. O’Brian state that the Documentary Hypothesis is “no longer solving” the problems encountered in the Pentateuch and “a fix is needed”(Rethinking the Pentateuch: Prolegomena to the Theology of Ancient Israel (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005), 1.

  47. Critical Scholar’s Continued Stance From a critical scholars’ standpoint, however, the following is true: “Contemporary critical scholars disagree with Wellhausen and with one another on details and on whether D or P was added last. But they agree that the general approach of the Documentary Hypothesis best explains the doublets, contradictions, differences in terminology and theology, and the geographical and historical interests that we find in various parts of the Torah.” (

  48. The Great “Never-the-Less” Dr. Ronald Troxel, Univ. of Wis., Madison:

  49. DH: No Shred of Objective Evidence --With respect to the whole of the Documentary Hypothesis, there is not one shred of external objective evidence that has ever been found to support the theory. That is, there has not been any “document” or part of one found which are hypothesized with the original Wellhausenian J E D P theory or any of its modern variants. The theory is based solely on internal hypothetical markers and presuppositions.

  50. Dr. Ronald Troxel, Univ. of Wis., Madison: