I am now nearly finished talking about the “Documentary Hypothesis” devised by scholars of the Hebrew Bible to account for the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. I have already discussed the traditional view developed in the nineteenth century, especially as it was laid out by Julius Wellhausen (the JEDP hypothesis). But that was a long time ago. What do scholars say today? As one might expect, the discussions have not gotten simpler but more complicated. Here is what I say, briefly, about that in my undergraduate textbook on the Bible. It’s about as much as most beginning students (and most people in general) need to know.
The Scholarly View Today
It is impossible to speak about a single scholarly opinion about the Documentary Hypothesis today. Some scholars reject the idea that J and E were separate sources; some think that there were far more sources than the four; some propose radically different dates for the various sources (for example, one increasingly popular proposal is that the earliest sources were written in the 7th century; other scholars maintain that none of the sources was produced before the Babylonian exile in the 6th century). A number of scholars have produced mind-numbingly complicated proposals that try to take better into account all of the nuances of the data.
But it is possible to speak about a scholarly consensus on some of the truly critical points. These would include the following:
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