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Modern Views of the Authorship of the Pentateuch

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.   All of this was in response to a question I received about what scholars today have to say about it.   Here is what I say, briefly, about that in my 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 [...]

Did Moses Write the Pentateuch? The JEDP Hypothesis.

I have been discussing the sources of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), sometimes also called the Torah or the Law of Moses.  So far I have explained the kinds of literary problems that led scholars to realize that these books were not the writing of a single author, but represented a combination of earlier written accounts.  The traditional “documentary hypothesis,” as it is called, was most famously formulated by the nineteenth-century German scholar, Julius Wellhausen, who, along with some of his predecessors, called the sources J E D and P. This was the standard view of the matter back when I was doing my PhD in biblical studies way back when.   Here is how the hypothesis worked, in nuce.  (Again, this is taken from my textbook on the Bible). ************************************************************* The J source was the first source to be written. From it comes a number of the stories in Genesis and Exodus, including, for example the second creation account and the story of Adam [...]

Other Literary Tensions in the Pentateuch

I have started a brief thread on the Pentateuch and why scholars think that it was not written by a single author – Moses or anyone else – but is composed of several sources later patched together.  In my previous post I started giving the reasons for thinking so, the literary tensions found in the opening chapters of Genesis.  I continue here with this theme.  Again, this is taken from my book The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction ******************************************************************* The literary inconsistencies of Genesis are not unique to these two chapters.  On the contrary, there are such problems scattered throughout the book.   You can see this for yourself simply by reading the text very carefully.  Read, for example, the story of the flood in Genesis 6-9, and you will find comparable differences.  One of the most glaring is this:  according to Gen. 6:19 God told Noah to take two animals “of every kind” with him into the ark; but according to Gen. 7:2 God told him to take seven pairs of all “clean animals” [...]

2020-04-03T03:32:16-04:00July 1st, 2016|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

Who Wrote the Pentateuch? Early Questions of Authorship.

On to something different!  I want to move to a new blog topic for a while.  I’ve been talking about my new book – still being written! – about the Christianization of the empire – for a while, and it’s obviously the topic near and dear to me just now.  But variety is the spice of life. Several readers have responded to me about my response to the question of the sources behind the Pentateuch – the first five books of the Hebrew Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, also called, collectively, the “Torah” or the “Law” of Moses).   I thought it might be refreshing to say a few more things about these books and the question of who actually wrote them.  I had discussed some of this on the blog three years ago, when I was writing my textbook The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction.   Here I will lift a few sections from the book dealing with this fascinating and important topic. The question: Who wrote the Pentateuch?  Historically, it was always [...]

The Name of Saul/Paul and the Sources of the Pentateuch: Weekly Mailbag June 26, 2016

  Why did Saul change his name to Paul?  And what were the sources lying being the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible?  Good questions!  I’ll deal with them here in the Weekly Reader’s Mailbag   QUESTION: What is the meaning of “Paul” that Saul of Tarsus was moved to change to that name upon his conversion? RESPONSE: Ah, right – my students ask me this a lot in my New Testament class.  When we all grew up in Sunday School we learned that when Saul of Tarsus converted, he changed his name to Paul, so that Saul was his Jewish name and Paul his Christian name.  As it turns out, that’s not quite right. Paul himself never gives any indication that he had another name, Saul.   But he is called Saul in the book of Acts.  Until he converts.  After that he is usually called Paul.  But not always!  See, e.g., Acts 11:30 and 13:2 (there are other instances).  There the Christian Paul is called Saul. What gives with that?  Did [...]

The Hebrew Bible and Its Sources

QUESTION: Do you have a suggestion for a book concerning the OT's construction? I believe in the History of God (by K. Armstrong) she mentioned that there were about five distinct writers for the OT. Is this the scholarly view and do you have a book suggestion to delve deeper into it?   RESPONSE: Right!  The Old Testament (for Christians; otherwise: the Jewish Scriptures, the Hebrew Bible; the Tanakh – these are all more or less synonyms.) It’s been on my mind a lot lately.  Right now, my current writing project is a college-level textbook on the entire Bible, Genesis to Revelation.   This seems to me to be way too much to cram into a semester, but as it turns out, something like half the colleges in the country teach biblical courses this way, rather than having Hebrew Bible in one semester and New Testament another.   And, in my judgment, the textbooks currently available for the course are not as good as they should be.   So my publisher, some years ago, urged me to write [...]

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