stormy sea, flood

The Flood Story and Torah’s Multiple Authors (Documentary Hypothesis)

stormy sea, floodI see the evidence that Torah is a combined product from multiple authors and that an editor (often called “the Redactor”) collated these sources into one well-woven narrative. The Redactor, I believe, is Ezra, as Richard Elliott Friedman theorizes (Who Wrote the Bible?). Also known as the Documentary Hypothesis or the JEDP theory, this notion of Torah’s multiple sources is highly visible in the flood story. Two complete stories have been intertwined into an amalgamation that has repetitions and contradictions.

I ask you to turn off your skepticism filters temporarily. In order to avoid completely plagiarizing Richard Elliott Friedman, I will present his breakdown using as my basis a standard translation (the English Standard Version). I will use the ESV renderings to present first the Priestly version of the flood, then the J version, and finally, I will paste in the entire biblical text with P in bold and J in italics.

If you can see from this layout that two different versions of the flood story used to exist independently, then you have taken a step toward seeing the Documentary Hypothesis as the best explanation of Torah’s origin. There are hundreds of specific evidences. I just happen to think this one might show you, there is nothing wrong with examining the Bible with both a believing heart and a critical eye. Realistic faith is, in my opinion, the best kind.

The P (Priestly) Flood Story

These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.

And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above, and set the door of the ark in its side. Make it with lower, second, and third decks. For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die.

“But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive. Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up. It shall serve as food for you and for them.”

Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.

Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters came upon the earth.

Of clean animals, and of animals that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground, two and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, as God had commanded Noah.

In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened.

On the very same day Noah and his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them entered the ark, they and every beast, according to its kind, and all the livestock according to their kinds, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, according to its kind, and every bird, according to its kind, every winged creature. They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him.

And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind.

And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days.

But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided. The fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed.

At the end of 150 days the waters had abated, and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. And the waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen.

And [he] sent forth a raven. It went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth.

In the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried from off the earth. In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth had dried out.

Then God said to Noah, “Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh—birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth—that they may swarm on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.”

So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him. Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by families from the ark.

The J (Judean) Flood Story

The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.

Then the LORD said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation. Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate, and seven pairs of the birds of the heavens also, male and female, to keep their offspring alive on the face of all the earth. For in seven days I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.” And Noah did all that the LORD had commanded him.

And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him went into the ark to escape the waters of the flood. And after seven days the waters of the flood came upon the earth. And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights. And the LORD shut him in.

The flood continued forty days on the earth. The waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. The waters prevailed and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the face of the waters. And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep.

Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark.

The rain from the heavens was restrained, and the waters receded from the earth continually. At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made. Then he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground.

But the dove found no place to set her foot, and she returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took her and brought her into the ark with him. He waited another seven days, and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark. And the dove came back to him in the evening, and behold, in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth. Then he waited another seven days and sent forth the dove, and she did not return to him anymore.

And Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and behold, the face of the ground was dry.

Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.

The Combined Version from the Redactor

(P in bold and J in italics)
Genesis 6:5 – 8:22, ESV

5 The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.

9 These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. 10 And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. 13 And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. 14 Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. 15 This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. 16 Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above, and set the door of the ark in its side. Make it with lower, second, and third decks. 17 For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. 19 And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. 20 Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive. 21 Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up. It shall serve as food for you and for them.” 22 Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.

1 Then the LORD said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation. 2 Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate, 3 and seven pairs of the birds of the heavens also, male and female, to keep their offspring alive on the face of all the earth. 4 For in seven days I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.” 5 And Noah did all that the LORD had commanded him.

6 Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters came upon the earth.

7 And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him went into the ark to escape the waters of the flood.

8 Of clean animals, and of animals that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground, 9 two and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, as God had commanded Noah.

10 And after seven days the waters of the flood came upon the earth.

11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened.

12 And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights.

13 On the very same day Noah and his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them entered the ark, 14 they and every beast, according to its kind, and all the livestock according to their kinds, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, according to its kind, and every bird, according to its kind, every winged creature. 15 They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. 16 And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him.

And the LORD shut him in.
17 The flood continued forty days on the earth. The waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. 18 The waters prevailed and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the face of the waters. 19 And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. 20 The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep.

21 And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind.

22 Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. 23 He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark.

24 And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days.
1 But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided. 2 The fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed,

the rain from the heavens was restrained, 3 and the waters receded from the earth continually.

At the end of 150 days the waters had abated, 4 and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. 5 And the waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen.

6 At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made

7 and sent forth a raven. It went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth.

8 Then he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground. 9 But the dove found no place to set her foot, and she returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took her and brought her into the ark with him. 10 He waited another seven days, and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark. 11 And the dove came back to him in the evening, and behold, in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth. 12 Then he waited another seven days and sent forth the dove, and she did not return to him anymore.

13 In the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried from off the earth.

And Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and behold, the face of the ground was dry.

14 In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth had dried out. 15 Then God said to Noah, 16 “Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. 17 Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh—birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth—that they may swarm on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” 18 So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him. 19 Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by families from the ark.

20 Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. 22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.

See More in Richard Elliott Friedman’s Book

Who Wrote the Bible, book coverSee Richard Elliott Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible? for further evidences in the flood story, including the very consistent multiple criteria in which P and J use different language. You can find it on amazon here: https://amzn.com/0060630353

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20 Comments

  1. Hey, Tina. I did not address that here.

    J was in Judea sometime before the northern kingdom was ruined and the upper class population deported in 722 BCE. In other words, J was sometime between Solomon and Hezekiah.

    P was in Judea, probably during the reign of Hezekiah.

  2. I still believe in most of the Documentary Hypothesis as it pertains to Deuteronomy, Creation, and Noah, but I saw some intertextualities recently with the Judah/Tamar foray that make it seem somewhat irreducibly integral to the rest of the Joseph narrative; as though the 13 chapters of E would be stilted without it. It seems like what many of these critics are reading as politically motivated insertions.

    Consider:

    Yaakov has a son who is lost because of a “rah” report.
    Second son in line (Shimon) is detained after Joseph overhears Reuven exonerate himself. Thus Yaakov loses 2nd son for disloyalty to first dead son.
    Patriarch does not wish to relinquish 3rd lost and last son of Rachel, Benyomin. But if he does, he gets them ALL back.
    The masked woman eludes patriarch beyond the grave.

    Er (whose name means awake) dies because he is “rah.” Yehudah proposes Yibum to restore his name/bring him back.
    Second son (Onan) is also lost because he is disloyal to the first dead son.
    Patriarch does not want to relinquish 3rd and last son Shelah (whose name means petition). But if he does offer Yibum, he gets all his lost sons back.
    The masked woman chases patriarch beyond the grave.

    This is actually a very simple breakdown of what I’ve found. But if we suggest that there independently developed some southern J source that was later inserted, Judah’s ordeals just so happen to have the exact and corresponding karmic reverb to E, which seems to take a lot for granted. Either both stories were known as integral to one another for a very long time before the composition of the Torah, or Ezra “massaged” the Judah/Tamar story to match its surroundings. Such a perfect fit seems unlikely to have developed apart.

    Without the Judah/Tamar story, there is no causal reason why Yehudah could repent before Joseph in the way that he did, the end of Genesis is incomplete, Judah is no longer built up as a formidable opponent to eventually clash with Yosef, and there is no tension in sibling rivalry to carry the story. I don’t see a Yosef narrative existing without it in any meaningful way. It would certainly lack the triumph and context of reconciliation, and it seems like a hollow story for E to pass down for centuries without it.

    Perhaps I’m hobbled. I see these stories as a literary unity because I parse them from a literary standpoint. Yet the JEDP crowd is constantly looking at political motivation.

    George Lucas murdered classic Star Wars because he went back and re-inserted new encounters, effects, and creatures into a complete and tidy trilogy. Yet if all the insertions of his began actually “enhancing” the film, I would have to ask if the scenes weren’t with the original production from the beginning, and simply didn’t make the first cut.

    1. Sleepwalker,

      It would be interesting to parse out your literary karma theory of the combined J and E accounts and see if the Documentary Hypothesis stands the test in this case. Call me interested. If you send me some bullet points with verse references it will save me time since I work 3 part time jobs now 🙂

      Interestingly, a student of Friedman’s, Joel S. Baden, has a book detailing the monumental evidence for multiple sources in the Joseph story. I’d be happy to let you borrow it if we have coffee sometime soon.

      1. Rabbi Fohrman has a whole series on it called “Rachel: The Poison Pill.” You can see the rest there.

        Let’s see…There is the motif of a devoted woman concealing the fruit of life, sharing the fruit of life with her mate, her life is permitted fruit, and hence its final sharing results in blessing and not curse. The resulting two sons experience a reversal favoring the younger, just like Cain and Abel. A woman goes from being a tree of life to a tree of knowledge, first appearing insidious and then benign.

        Meanwhile, Yosef is put in charge of a precinct in which he is told he rules everything, but there is one thing in it he cannot taste (Potipher’s wife/the tree). In his own unique temptation, Yosef the Seer rebuffs the offer of forbidden knowledge and is blessed. When he rises to power, he is given the daughter of Potipher(a) named Asenath (goddess of wisdom and understanding), who looks a lot like Potipher’s wife enough for Jewish tradition to equate them. Their resulting sons experience a reversal favoring the younger, just like Cain and Abel. A woman goes from being a tree of knowledge to a tree of life, first appearing insidious and being tamed into the benign.

        Judah and Tamar’s episode combines Eden’s choices, the account puts Yehudah through the same living hell of losing each of his sons for the same reasons resulting in him clinging bitterly to the 3rd like Yaakov did (see previous post), Tamar asks for a goat that’s oddly absent and takes a coat as a pledge replaying his trickery of his father, Yosef and Yehudah ignore the pleas of a woman for different reasons, one is rewarded for repenting and the other for resisting…I could go on.

        Yosef’s caravan went DOWN to Egypt.
        Yaakov went DOWN to Sheol in mourning.
        Yehudah went DOWN from among his brothers.
        Shua his father-in-law’s name means DOWN.
        And after descending, Yehudah, Yaakov, and Yosef begin experiencing shadows of one another’s ordeal in ways that replay Eden.

        I cannot proffer any evidence from archeology or the political context. At least not deeply. Myth and story are my repertoire, and source criticism is not the randy campfire topic. So I can only point out what I think is a cohesive yarn in terms of narrative. Now as I understand, the Documentary Hypothesis has two constraints:

        1. It’s a compilation from independently devised sources from different peoples and eras.
        2. Reverence for each source precluded alteration of the sources themselves when they were stitched up.

        Think about it. A politically motivated southern court could have spun any number of accounts of Yehudah’s life, each much less compatible with the Northern account than what we have. And so with Judah/Tamar I’m skeptical that an independent, unaltered insertion just so happened to result in the perfect symmetrical foil to Yosef’s plight, Eden’s dilemmas, and Yaakov’s progression of loss.

        There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Take it or leave it. 🙂

  3. And for an alternative to Friedman’s faithless denial of Mosaic authorship, see the commentary by Rabbi Dr. J.H.Hertz in the Soncino Press “Pentateuch & Haftorahs” humash that he edited, in his additional notes on Genesis following the text of that book. The JEDP hypothesis, formulated, promulgated and defended by so-called “Higher Critics”, has been debunked repeatedly for its linguistic shortcomings, logical fallacies, and lack of actual evidence. I suggest that this would be even clearer if the readers of this blog could discuss this text in its Hebrew context, where subtleties of stylistic variation are not misread as an excuse to claim distinctive authorship, because such variations are known to appear in other texts by the hand of the same author, sometimes as a given text is revisited multiple times over the course of several decades of personal efforts to refine it.

    1. As is often the case, ProclaimLiberty, you say, “Wrong! You’re wrong!” But you don’t comment on the positive evidence I just presented.

      1. But Derek, your so-called “positive evidence” wasn’t evidence at all. You didn’t actually offer Friedman’s justification for slicing up the text into supposedly separate versions of the story. Had you done so, it would have been possible to evaluate the approach. The entire basis of the Documentary Hypothesis is denial of what the text itself declares, along with the longstanding tradition of study and preserved collateral knowledge. It is by nature inimical to the text and to trust in the text and its authors.

        I didn’t merely declare you wrong, Derek. I offered a reference to an alternative opinion of faith backed by evidence. Where do you wish to take your stand, Derek? Do you wish to foster those who attempt to use pseudo-scientific methods to argue against the validity of the text that we Jews have preserved so assiduously for millennia? Or would you not find it preferable to employ knowledge in support of it, as did Dr. Hertz? This is a fundamental choice of approach to Jewish tradition and to its witness of HaShem.

        1. ProclaimLiberty,

          There is no reason to assume the numerous people who accept the Documentary Hypothesis are deniers of the sacredness of Torah. That is simply your rationalist construct (“if it is not literal history by the traditionally projected author, it cannot be sacred”).

          Many Jewish authors (I might mention my favorite, Jacob Milgrom), who revere Torah, have written how it can be “of Moses” and yet the actual text comes from later sources (JEDP).

          As for positive evidence in this blog post:
          1. I showed that the Flood Story is a perfect doublet — there are two complete flood stories here, chopped up and collated.
          2. The argument is simple, “Why would an author write a story where every element is repeated?”
          3. If you compare the two versions, you will see contradictions between the accounts. They don’t harmonize completely.

          1. Suppose, Derek, that we consider your third question first, and consider likewise the literary process likely to have been employed by Moshe Rabbeinu while compiling the stories of Genesis, all of which occurred before his lifetime. Could we not consider *him* as a redactor and harmonizer of earlier material? Why would we need a hypothesis that someone even *later* than Moshe must have compiled slightly differing accounts originating with more than one eyewitness of such events? Why not one account from Shem and another from Japhet, harmonized by Moshe, while we’re hypothesizing? However, this takes us to your second question, about the function of repetition in Hebrew literary style and its origin in oral storytelling. Repetition is a particularly necessary function in orally transmitted material, often with subtle variation to provide perspective or enhancement of certain elements. It does not presume or imply multiple storytellers. If anything, it may be considered indicative of the antiquity of the material and its original method of transmission.

            Moreover, while the present text doesn’t seem to include any later scribal adjustments, even a strong tradition dedicated to accurate preservation of such material does not entirely preclude the occasional later scribal insertion of a clarifying comment that in much-later literature might have been delimited by parentheses or appended as a footnote. That is not a justification to shred the text altogether into competing alternative narratives.

          2. “Rationalism and its relegation of the very notions of prophetic before-the-fact prediction and supra-normal occurrences to the realms of superstition and delusion….”

            Good point, PL. Because the Documentary Hypotheses stems from a non-faith position (which prefers to discount the truthfulness of miraculous events, including predictive prophecy) we need to look at it with at least some suspicion. The Documentary Hypothesis presupposes that predictive prophecy was written down after the prophecied events occurred and then uses this to suggest dates for the various JEDP authors. While I do think some of the JEDP’s obsevations are insightful, I also have trouble seeing the theory as the be-all-end-all in the discussion, or even necessarily the superior “theory”.
            However the “two account” version of the flood story seems to make sense. It’s quite likely that two versions of the flood account were recorded and then harmonized by a redactor. Either way, it’s still a truthful event. The minor variations don’t in any significant way question the overall truthfulness of the account. (At least not in my mind.)

          3. P.S. — I’d like to address two others of your comments, Derek.

            Jacob Milgrom (‘alav b’shalom) may have been merely accommodating the existence of a popular hypothesis, without addressing its merits or demerits. This is not uncommon in the rabbinical world, particularly since the Shoah when it became needful to accommodate a severe loss of faith among many Jews. That is how Mordechai Kaplan came to formulate Reconstructionist Judaism, and how it also became popular. But the existence of accommodating commentary, or of a popular viewpoint, does not necessarily prove the validity of the viewpoint being accommodated.

            Moreover, I could do quite well without your attempt to attribute to me expressions that I never wrote or intended. I wrote of textual validity being denied by Documentary Hypothesis presuppositions, not “sacredness”. You might do well to look more closely at the 18th- & 19th-century origins of the hypothesis and why its originators found it so impossible to credit Moshe Rabbeinu with his proper literary credentials. You might look also at their particular version of Enlightenment Rationalism and its relegation of the very notions of prophetic before-the-fact prediction and supra-normal occurrences to the realms of superstition and delusion. They tended to presume that the literary arts were not sufficiently developed in Moshe’s era to enable him to compose his five books, hence they had to imagine that later authors and editors were responsible for producing this literature. Subsequent archeology has demonstrated otherwise, for example that ancient civilizations were often much more capable and highly developed than was credited in the 19th century, but the hypothesis continues to churn along regardless — perhaps because it is just too, too convenient as a justification for some folks to say things like: “the Tenakh can’t be taken at face value for what it says … it really doesn’t mean what it says … it was written by other folks centuries later than the actual events; and maybe those events never actually happened .. they’re just fables, because they couldn’t be eyewitness accounts….” They thus devote their efforts to criticizing the text and elaborately tearing it apart in order to “prove” that it could have been assembled differently. Nonetheless, all their efforts are merely hypothetical rather than probative. The same amount of effort and ingenuity could be better spent showing how the text actually could have been produced as the traditional testimony has always claimed that it was produced, and explaining how the process of preserving a literature over the course of a thousand years from Moshe to Ezra affected the text here and there with only minor scribal anomalies (corrections, adjustments, time-compensatory improvements?).

  4. Thank you for laying this out so nicely, Derek. You have a unique gift in that you are able to distill difficult academic constructs into paradigms that are easy to grasp for the lay person.
    Regarding authorship it’s really hard to know exactly who wrote what and when. The JEDP theory is just one (popular) theory that tries to answer the question of individual authorship. And looking at it objectively it makes reasonable sense. Regarding PL’s comment however I don’t think this should be the larger issue.
    Somewhere along the line the books we have that make up our Tanakh were given the stamp of authority by those who determined the final version of the canon. So we must, in some way see, the hand of God in determining and preserving the final product (this would include the final product of the NT as well). Knowing who wrote what when shouldn’t concern us as much as what is being conveyed within its pages. The overall narrative of Scripture is internally consistent. None of the “majors” are jeopardized by the minor variations (aka “discrepancies”) we see within its pages.
    Scripture is human testimony of God’s dealings with mankind, particularly as witnessed through Israel’s history. It is truthful human testimony told by truthful human authors of truthful events. It is “authoritative” because it reveals God’s will and expectations for those who place their trust in Him. It is “inspired/God-breathed” because it contains words of life to all who believe.
    So whether or not one sees Scripture in the verbal plenary mode or in the JEDP mode (or whatever mode), for us, the final product is Scripture and as such, it is authoritative.

    1. PS: I should add too, that the “truthful human testimony” began of course from original eye witness sources. These original testimonies were written down (and/or passed down through oral history and then recorded at a certain point). Redactors may have seen the need to supplement or correct areas that may have been improperly transcribed over time. But I tend not to see them as having any ulterior agenda. Also, if their “supplements/corrections” had been fabricated then we would probably see some MAJOR contradictions present in Scripture (which we don’t!). We also have Yeshua’s testimony. He quoted from all but 5 books of the Tanakh (the unquoted books are: Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Esther, Nehemiah, Ezra.) And Yeshua definitely gave his stamp of authority on these books. So I’m quite confident that we have the “real deal” testimony! 🙂

  5. Merrill and ProclaimLiberty,

    It is not accurate to day that the Documentary Hypothesis stems from a non-faith position. You may be referring to Julius Wellhausen, but he is not the originator of the hypothesis. And I would not call his view non-faith, but screwy faith.

    The Documentary Hypothesis is accepted by hundreds of thousands of people who have faith in God and in the inspiration of the Torah. Conservative Judaism embraces the Documentary Hypothesis. You will find it assumed in Etz Chaim, the chumash of the Conservative movement. You will find it in The Jewish Study Bible. It is also the belief of hundreds of thousands, perhaps more, of Christians.

    I believe it and my faith in God and Messiah is quite strong. I also believe that Torah is inspired, authoritative, and reveals God truly.

    1. Thank you, Derek, for clarifying. You are obviously a lot more learned on the DH than I am. Admittedly, I’m more of a newcomer to the DH (at least in any serious sense of study). Very glad to hear not all adherents are strict secularists.
      Very much appreciate your integrity and scholarship, Derek 🙂

    2. I don’t understand how you can possibly dismiss the simple and obvious fact that the DH by definition dis-believes the witness of the text. That is not merely a non-faith position, but actually an anti-faith position (relative to the text and the tradition that supports it). If one cannot trust the text that informs us about HaShem, a text that He presumably inspired and influenced and preserved, then how can one claim to trust HaShem? How can one even presume to know Him or anything reliable about Him? I hope you can recognize the “kal v’homer” logic of this syllogism.

      Citing Conservative Judaism as a support for the DH is about as valid as citing its acceptance of homosexuality as justification to dismiss the Torah’s clear identification of that practice as an abomination (“toevah”) in HaShem’s view. There are many people who are quite inconsistent and irrational about their purported beliefs, so I wouldn’t challenge your assertion that the “Documentary Hypothesis is accepted by hundreds of thousands of people who [claim to] have faith in God and in the inspiration of the Torah”. I would challenge instead their logical inconsistency; and thus I insert my square-bracketed qualifier into your assertion.

  6. Derek Hi ,
    I find this whole topic extremely interesting and I did just a little research I’m beginning to realize that this would take a whole lot more time than I have to get even a good firm grasp on all of its complexities.
    I would like to ask you a question. Do you believe that Moses wrote anything down?
    a/o 2 questions do you Believe the Genesis stories are true or do you think they’re just poetry designed to teach us beginnings, how do you see the Genesis stories?

  7. Pingback: Believing in Torah While Accepting Biblical Criticism - Derek Leman

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