I did grad work in biblical studies in Berkeley in the 90s, which means that the Documentary Hypothesis was one of the unquestioned tenets of my faith. (For a quick and dirty explanation of the DH, see here. For a longer and more thoughtful explanation written for LDS, click here.)
But I didn’t really study the OT much, so I just accepted what I was told about the DH and let it go. Until this summer, when I’ve been working through Genesis (with some help from Wenham, Sarna, and Brodie). And I’m starting to think that the DH doesn’t work for me. I am perhaps predisposed to this position because what I did study in school was the NT and there are times when what at first blush looks like sloppy editing in the NT turns out, on further examination, to be the result of meticulous work by one author. While my Hebrew stinks, I am starting to think that literary explanations for seams in the text are (usually) a better fit than redactional explanations in the OT as well.
Now, I don’t completely dismiss the idea that there are multiple authors of Genesis (I find it highly unlikely that Genesis 14 was written by the main author, for example.) I don’t dismiss the idea that Moses had a major hand in the text, but I’m not completely wedded to that idea, either. But when you look at the specificity of the classic formulation of the DH, I think it is way too speculative in the assumptions that it makes about the authors, dates, and audiences and its ability to successfully assign passages to authors.
There’s also some logic behind the DH that doesn’t make sense to me. To be reductionist about it, the theory states “if there is a contradiction in the text, it shows that two different sources were used.” But do we think so little of the editor that he didn’t notice these “contradictions”? A classic case study for the DH involves an apparent contradiction in the Noah story: in Genesis 6:19, Noah is told to take two of each kind of animal into the ark but in 7:2, he’s told to take seven of each. You have to be pretty dense to copy a story about Noah being commanded to take two of each animal into the ark and then just a few sentences later to copy from another story about Noah being commanded to take seven of each animal with pausing and thinking, “Wait a minute!”
I prefer to regard the author/editor as a deliberate, literate, inspired creator and not a slavish, unthinking scribe. I’m not entirely sure what the best theory is for the seven-vs.-two animals bit, but I do think that automatically assuming there was a sloppy editor stitching together parts from two different stories is a bit of a cop-out. If, instead, we asked, “What might the author have been trying to convey by the seven/two thing?” we are in a position to think deeply (and, hopefully, with the guidance of the Spirit) and learn something interesting about the story. If we can’t come up with anything, then it might be reasonable to conclude that there is some sort of problem with the text, even evidence of multiple authors/editors. But if that’s our starting assumption, then we’re passing up many opportunities to learn something interesting from the text. In other words, my objection to the DH is primarily an objection to using it as a starting point for exegesis. We should try to find a deliberate literary move first and then, if that fails, think about some version of the DH. But if you went to the link above, you can see what a missed opportunity it would have been if I had started with the assumption that Mark was a sloppy editor instead of looking for an intentional meaning first.
So I no longer have the naive faith in the classic formulation of the DH that I once did. I’m open to having my mind changed on this still, but I think it is a mistake to use the DH as a starting place for understanding the OT.
In quickly skimming the article by Kevin Barney that you link to, I see he considers Biblical extracts in the Book of Mormon. Do you know if anyone has studied Mormon’s editing of the records of Nephi, et al., to look at your question? I know that outside of those Biblical extracts the Book of Mormon wouldn’t have anything directly to do with the Pentateuch, but I mean in the broader field of a prophetic editor making his selections and arranging his text. Or is that too naive a question?
Ardis, it is a very good question. I’m not aware of anything that has been done to answer it, but I don’t really keep up on BoM research, so maybe someone else could chime in here.
My suspicion, however, is that it would be very difficult to figure out anything because we don’t know what was written by the original BoM writer and what was the result of editing. (Although, oddly, the Book of Ether is usually very clear when it is Moroni writing.) (And, of course, we could say the same thing about the OT, but it doesn’t stop anyone from trying to separate the layers.) Another difference between BoM editing and OT editing is that we usually assume that the BoM editors/writers all had the same basic theology and goals while the assumption is that the different OT writers/editors had different theologies and approaches (down to using different names for God). Whether either of those assumptions is correct is, of course, debatable.
I was under the assumption that Noah took 2 of most animals but 7 of domesticated animals. I’m not one to know, but I have never agreed with the multiple author stuff. Except maybe for psalms. I tend to give Isaiah the benifit of the doubt before jumping to the conclusion that Isaiah was written by 2 or 3 authors.
David, the distinction in 7:2 is between clean and unclean animals instead of domesticated and wild. (But the point is that ch6 just says two–nothing about the seven, nothing about the clean or unclean.)
I agree with you about Isaiah (and the Psalms). But I’m not a hard-liner on authorship: I accept the academic consensus on the authorship of Paul’s letters and I believe the gospels to be anonymous.
I wish I could say blithely “my Hebrew stinks.” To be educated enough in Hebrew to be able to say that is an accomplishment in itself.
When, as a child, wandered into whatever church was nearby, I was taught directly from scripture, so the bible stories became familiar to me. I often hear people in Sunday School say that they don’t “get” the Bible like they get the Book of Mormon. I’m the opposite.
Of course, I’m not at your level, but I love the Bible and its stories. I feel lucky that way.
I have to admit I am less convinced of the E and J traditions then some other aspects of the hypothesis.Writings by Cassutto, Kenneth Kitchen, and others have made a compelling case for unity. I have found Kikawada and Quinn’s book fabulous in this regard.
On the other hand, I find a Deuteronomic Writer from the time of Josiah very probable and convincing as well as the idea of a redactor (something very familiar to us and the Book of Mormon).
As to the Isaiah issue, we have to remember much of the dating with both OT and NT and Isaiah function on the premises that there is no such thing as prophecy and that if a text discusses an event, it must have been written after such event.
I worry that there is something seriously wrong with me, or at least something that will prevent me from ever being a so-called intellectual, because I just can’t get worked up about Biblical authorship (or Book of Mormon historicity, for that matter). I’m very blasÃ© in my sense that these are important texts, God wants us to study them, and that’s all we really need to know. I find scholarly discussions of provenance interesting, but I feel like I have no dog in any of those fights. Should I get a dog? If so, can you explain (using small words : ) ), why?
By all means, Kristine. I’d suggest a Labrador retriever–great, friendly beasts, good with children, fun to take to the lake, etc. I’m working on teaching ours Hebrew, but she got hung up on Reformed Egyptian and refuses to study.
Other than the fact that acceptance of the multiple authorship of Isaiah (as well as the dates which scholars assign to the various authored portions) is inconsistent with belief in Lehi’s being able to bring certain Isaiah passages to the Promised Land (before they were allegedly written), is there any reason why any LDS should have a dog in this fight?
annegb, If you only knew of my many aborted attempts to study Hebrew . . . some women feel constant guilt over their inability to stick to a diet–me, I feel constant guilt over my inability to stick to studying Hebrew.
Joshua Madson, I haven’t closely studied the Deut strand the way I have Genesis and Leviticus, so I don’t know whether I would agree with you or not, but I’m certainly open to it.
Kristine, I don’t think you should get a dog. Aaron is right. I usually preface my classes with something like “This text has traditionally been attributed to Paul [or Moses, whatever], modern scholars don’t think that because of X, Y, or Z, but I think that who wrote the text is a much less interesting question than what the text is trying to say. So let’s move on to a close reading . . .”
Now, the counter point to my position is that the authority of the text goes kaput if the author isn’t some bigwig, but I just don’t think that that is true. No one thinks that Mark (for example) was written by an apostle or prophet, but there it is in the canon just the same.
There are people who think that you should have a dog just because there are many statements from modern prophets that say things like, “Moses taught in Deuteronomy that . . .” and therefore if you don’t think Moses wrote it, you are saying that that prophet was wrong. But I don’t think that that is a good argument.
So why did I write this post if I am not a dog owner? Just because I think scholars who credit the DH are likely to bark up the wrong tree in how they answer the question, “Why is this discontinuity here?” If the answer is a kneejerk “because J wrote that part but E wrote the other part,” then they aren’t looking for any other possible answers.
An example: there is usually thought to be an authorship seam at Genesis 2:4, since the text is using a different name for deity than the previous passage (LORD God instead of God). But what if ch2 is zeroing in on part of the account from ch1 (see esp. v4b on this) and pointing out that the God of Israel is the same as the creator God? What if the point is that the creator of humans is the covenant partner and not just some abstract deity? What if the nature of God changed as the result of the creation described previously? What if a different perspective is being given on events? Now, I’m not saying that I am persuaded by all or any of those theories, but I am saying that if you unquestioningly subscribe to the DH, you wouldn’t even ask any of those questions, and that would be a shame.
While the idea there are multiple authors seems strong, being able to pinpoint what always seemed an exercise in futility. There’s no way the “rules” work when applied to other texts. It’s simply drawing detailed conclusions from an amazingly little amount of evidence. Further folks specializing in one kind of criticism always seemed weak in others. The problem always struck me that the pressure to publish meant one always drew much stronger conclusions than the evidence warranted. Since there wasn’t really more “objective” ways of determining whether one was right (the way there typically is in say the hard sciences) all one had to do is convince ones peers. Who are operating in the same game. This then leads to “fads” and popularity. (Say the rise of looking at the Bible as literature from a few years back or the rise of comparison to other religions such as the Canaanites that was so popular in the 80’s and 90’s)
Some of these of course do lead to greater knowledge. I’m not sure they ultimately provide much for answering what the original texts were until some older texts are found. If they are found I’ll lay really good odds that the scholars will have some good hits and a lot of bad ones.
Clark, I agree with your critique of source criticism, but I think we can advance in our understanding of the text without finding more ancient texts. Mary Douglas revolutionized the OT world with her approach (and a pox on my house if Purity and Danger doesn’t have the best book cover ever), Norman Gottwald did it, for the NT Robert Fowler did it, I could go on and on. Yes, to some extent, they were starting fads, but I think they also made real contributions.
The fact that there are multiple authors is, I believe, indisputable. The question is who they are and where they’re from. The DH is the best answer to this question. It’s not so much that the it’s a speculative hypothesis — it’s a bold hypothesis. It makes very strong assertions on what is often circumstantial evidence. But it also makes a heck of a lot of order out of the chaos that is the Pentatuch.
I also don’t think that there are any really serious Bible scholars who wouldn’t ask any of the questions you describe in #10. A lay-person like me may very well fail to ask the questions, but then I’m not qualified to answer them anyway. The DH provides for me a much better way in to the text than anything I could come up with myself.
Lastly, since Moses didn’t exist, he a fortiori did not have a hand in authoring the Pentateuch.
I don’t think that acknowledging the evidence for the documentary hypothesis is inconsistent with a close reading of the redacted text. I find it fascinating to read the Pentateuch two ways. First, read the texts assigned to each author in sequence — it’s remarkable how each author’s hypothesized contribution reads like a complete and autonomous narrative with distinctive theological and political commitments. Then, read the text from the point of view of juxtaposition: how does each author’s perspective implicitly comment on the others?
Really, it shouldn’t be too weird to think of an editor wanting to keep as much as possible of the various sources in a unified text. All that we have to do is imagine that the editor thinks each source is authoritative. Then it’s easy to understand why the 2-vs-7 contradiction might be something the editor would retain; how to decide which position, among two equally authoritative accounts, to keep in making a synthesis?
Julie, I don’t pay too much attention to the hypothesis, but I have to say I’m glad to see that my rudimentary conclusions are similar to what your more studied ones are. It seems like there is far too much guesswork culminating in far too much certainty. These people need ot read up on confidence intervals :).
There was a great three part series on the DH over at FPR a few months back.
Lastly, since Moses didnâ€™t exist…
I’d like to hear my Old Testament Gospel Doctrine teacher drop that one in at the start of a lesson someday and see what happens.
Frank, I’d suggest that you at least read the three posts by jupiterschild that SmallAxe linked, and possibly also Richard E. Friedman’s Who Wrote the Bible, before accepting Julie’s position here; I suspect that Julie will confirm that her position is at least unusual and at most idiosyncratic among Bible scholars.
In my experience the acceptance of the DH depends on one\’s prior thinking (I guess the same could be said about anything). To be clear, the division of the Pentateuch into sources, or of Isaiah, Jeremiah, or anything for that matter is NOT the product of some liberal agenda and is certainly not based on a discrediting of \”prophecy\” (which in Isaiah\’s period meant precious little about the ability to foretell the distant future). (The name Cyrus is a drop in the ocean of evidence that points toward multiple authorship.)
What I tried to show in my post over at FPR (thanks smallaxe) is that the DocHyp is based on evidence that is only explicable with multiple documents. Friedman\’s introduction to his source division of the Pentateuch deals with this issue well. It\’s not just the fact that literarily the Pentateuch cannot make sense in many places as it stands, it\’s not that there are multiple names of god and widely divergent terminology (this is where Hebrew comes in handy), alone, but it\’s the confluence of thousands of data that point toward one conclusion.
The fact that there are endless debates over how to divide the sources doesn\’t mean that the sources are indivisible and certainly doesn\’t justify throwing out the baby with the bathwater. The fact is that most detractors do so based on theological, not literary, objections, and the lengths they go to in defending the \”unity\” of the text defies common sense.
As for the very good point about the original redactor (i\’d say compiler) not knowing that he was creating seams in the text, for the compiler all the texts were closed, and authoritative, so he was very reluctant to change anything. He was much more comfortable with literary hiccups than with excising the text or altering it. The only things he had to change were those places where the compilation would have created a physical impossibility, like Abraham being in two places at once. The best analogy I\’ve heard for the process of compilation is to the synchronization of the gospels, which we do all the time. The fact that there are contradictions and differences in sequence in the Gospels doesn\’t mean that we would consider throwing one of them out.
Unfortunately, this whole thread confirms my suspicion that people will embrace bad argumentation in order to preserve a point that defies reason, and my suspicion that it\’s not usually the people who are well-trained in source critical method that make the objections to it.
I agree with the point that it is interesting to read the seams with an eye toward how they might make sense (rather, how they made sense to the compiler), but this is only getting at one stage in the development of the literature. It\’s much more interesting to me to see four major, different theological perspectives operating in the pre-exilic period and to think about where they are coming from, what their sociological background is, etc. There is no solution that deals better with the text as it stands than the Documentary Hypothesis. Kikawada and Quinn, Cassuto, Kitchen (who, by the way, is a good Egyptologist but one of the nuttiest biblicists imaginable) are all grasping at straws, and the evidence for unity that they marshall can all be explained equally well by recourse to a common underlying tradition, if not to the fact that such \”evidence\” as chiasmus is almost totally in the eye of the beholder. (Wenham is notorious for massaging the texts into a chiastic whole while leaving out those things that break up his chiasm.) I\’ve heard a paper, for example, that dismantles the argument for chiasm in the Tower of Babel story–that the so-called chiasm can be seen just as well with the sources divided.
Well, I\’m rambling on. For a detailed example of the incontrovertible evidence for the DH, see my post over at FPR. I\’d love to see responses to it, especially on other ways the evidence can be explained.
I’m definitely not with the majority but I think idiosyncratic might be a bit too far. Survey the most recent batch of titles in OT criticism and while they won’t reject the DH outright (which I’m not really doing either), they will more often than not take objection to the “too much guesswork culminating in far too much certainty” that Frank mentions and then seek to find literary solutions to the seams.
But Frank definitely should read those posts; they were one part of leading to my uncertainty over the DH.
Julie, I’m curious now. How did the posts lead to your uncertainty?
Julie, I think it’s not that unusual in any field of research for the newest publications to push against an established finding. After all, you can’t get tenure by simply agreeing with prior work. It seems to me that a more telling way of summarizing what is the norm and what is the margin is by looking at graduate syllabi, right? Google work seems to show that the documentary hypothesis retains its centrality there. This doesn’t, of course, imply that you’re wrong. Revisionists are sometimes right, etc.
I’d love to see a discussion in which you really take on the evidence for the documentary hypothesis, by the way — beyond the superficial issue of contradictions, which as far as I know isn’t really a central support for the hypothesis. It would be enlightening to see how you respond to the apparently divergent theologies, political allegiances, and literary styles of the different hypothesized authors.
It is fine to be uncertain about the DH; it isn’t okay to be dismissive. As Jupiterschild noted, there is a host of evidence that supports the sources in generalities. While some of the notions that originally motivated the understanding of the sources (the natural progression of religion) have been thrown out, the sources have yet to be toppled in over 100 years of scholarship. We keep hearing about how know one really uses them anyone, but they never have gone away and they continue to represent the mainstream of the best scholarship.
Regarding dogs in the race, the reason to have a dog in the race (as an LDS scholar) and the reason why that dog is best understood to be on the side of the DH is because of the recent trend to ignore the DH. There are two reasons for this: 1. ignoring the DH means that you can safely ignore years of scholarship and, more importantly, careful, close reading of the text in consideration to mulitiple possible meanings for a given passage or phrase; 2. If you treat the Pentateuch only synchronically, which is generally speaking what people do when they toss out the DH entirely, then you suddenly can only talk about the Pentateuch from the viewpoint of the presumed final form (usually generated in the Persian period). If you want to approach the Pentateuch diachronically at all, you have to consider the evidence derived by methods informed by the DH. There is no way around it. And if you are interested in the history of the text and what that can tell us about the history of the people/religion/nation, then you have to be willing to study and understand the DH.
That said, you can be uncertain about the DH. Rolf Rentdorff’s critique of it is powerful, as are other recent critiques. I don’t believe that Rentdorff’s critique is motivated by theology (unlike, say, Cassuto’s). There is a lot of it that needs updating and work and there are many things that it simply fails to provide an adequate explanation for. But, like the theory of quantum physics, it appears to explain things better than all other possibilities.
First, I posted #20 without having seen jupiterschild’s comment, so I didn’t intend to look dismissive. (I admit that it sure does look that way given how the comments appeared–sorry about that.)
“In my experience the acceptance of the DH depends on one\â€™s prior thinking (I guess the same could be said about anything).”
Perhaps that is normally the case, but as you can see in my post, it wasn’t a theological commitment to unity that led to my opinion. (Perhaps my commitment to literary interp. (given the successes that I have seen it have with the NT) led to my willingness to dismiss the DH from ‘first responder’ status.)
“To be clear, the division of the Pentateuch into sources, or of Isaiah, Jeremiah, or anything for that matter is NOT the product of some liberal agenda and is certainly not based on a discrediting of \â€prophecy\â€”
“The fact that there are endless debates over how to divide the sources doesn\â€™t mean that the sources are indivisible and certainly doesn\â€™t justify throwing out the baby with the bathwater.”
Agreed in part. What I am arguing is much more modest: (1) trying to assign subpassages strikes me as a waste of time and (2) not looking for literary reasons for seams strikes me as a waste of an opportunity. But I do think that 100 years of inability to agree on what belongs to whom just might suggest that the endeavor is pointless and/or impossible and/or relying on a faulty premise. It certainly suggests that the next step (thinking about the sociology and/or theology and/or development of the communities responsible for the texts) is likely to be speculative beyond belief.
(NOTE: I came back and edited this because I had a cut-and-paste mishap. Sorry for any confusion.)
“The fact is that most detractors do so based on theological, not literary, objections, and the lengths they go to in defending the \â€unity\â€ of the text defies common sense.”
Agreed. Again, I have no _theological_ object to multiple sources in general or the DH in particular.
“As for the very good point about the original redactor (i\â€™d say compiler) not knowing that he was creating seams in the text, for the compiler all the texts were closed, and authoritative, so he was very reluctant to change anything.”
This strikes me as speculative. All the real evidence that actually exists about compilation (which, admittedly, is from different time periods, but it is all that we have), shows that we’ve never had a compiler who refused to change things. We can see the differences between the ancient versions of the OT in living color and we can, of course, watch the NT change over time. (And, dare I say it, the BoM.) But imputing “very reluctant to change anything” to a redactor (1) flies in the face of the historical record and (2) strikes me as an absurd degree of certainty to hold given that we have absolutely no evidence for it.
“my suspicion that it\â€™s not usually the people who are well-trained in source critical method that make the objections to it.”
Yes, but you have a causality problem there: no one should be surprised that those best-trained in source criticism are its most vocal defenders–the only question is whether their defense is based on good reasoning or on defending their career and life’s work and publication record.
“I agree with the point that it is interesting to read the seams with an eye toward how they might make sense (rather, how they made sense to the compiler), but this is only getting at one stage in the development of the literature. It\â€™s much more interesting to me to see four major, different theological perspectives operating in the pre-exilic period and to think about where they are coming from, what their sociological background is, etc.”
I think trying to get at the sociological background of the different strands is so incredibly speculative as to be a nearly useless endeavor.
Re #21: I was initially so excited about the series of posts because they came just as I was beginning to question my allegiance to the DH. My overall response to them was, “If this is the best defense of the theory, it is in big trouble.” I’m sure you want details and specifics on that, and if I can find time this week, I’ll do just that, but it isn’t the details/specifics that were the issue per se, it is that there just wasn’t as convincing a case as I had expected it to be. I kept waiting for a clincher that never came.
Re #22, I don’t know that graduate syllabi are our best metric, as any decent instructor has, I think, a moral obligation to let their students know the current lay of the land and not devote the lion’s share of class time to fringe theories (which I admit this is). I’d like to take on some more specifics and, time permitting, will do that.
John C. writes, “ignoring the DH means that you can safely ignore years of scholarship and, more importantly, careful, close reading of the text in consideration to mulitiple possible meanings for a given passage or phrase”
First, I don’t want to ignore the DH, I just don’t want it to be the first and only tool of interpretation. (What’s that line about if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail?) Second, even if you were to ignore the DH, it doesn’t *require* you to ignore the list you give there.
Secondly, and this is my own personal interest, I *am* solely interested in the final form. Others can do what they will and I won’t object, but the final form *is* my interest.
All: thanks for a good discussion. As I stated in the original post, I’m open to having my mind changed on this, but I just haven’t seen the evidence. The more I study the OT, the less I see, in fact.
Once again, to clarify, I’m not opposed to the basic thesis of the DH. I think there’s considerably evidence for it. I’m just dubious about the particular texts they pick. There’s just too little evidence. And, as I said, apply the methods to other kinds of texts and it just doesn’t work. This isn’t a theological point but an epistemological one. Certainly I agree that the DH is the best there is. But rather than seeing this as something grand, I see it as rather glaring evidence of the lack of knowledge we have.
Julie, I agree each approach increases our knowledge. I hoped to make that clear in my original comment. My point was less about whether we’re increasing in knowledge than a simple frank acknowledgment of the level of knowledge we actually have.
Clark, that’s a very thoughtful comment. I agree.
I agree that Friedman’s and others arguments are very persuasive. Some of Friedman’s arguments about who specifically wrote the documents is interesting but not overly convincing.
However, I tend to lean towards accepting the DH, but I also recognize that when it comes to specifics, it is less certain. I am less convinced of the strict E separation from J. I believe Margaret Barker, whom I know is considered not main stream, feels there may be more unity there. At the end of the day, the DH fits more into my personal view of scriptures and allows me to weigh the texts better realizing that man has a much larger part in scripture than revelation per se.
After thinking about it more, I realize that I probably could have made my case much more succinctly:
When even major defenders of the DH say that there are “endless debates over how to divide the sources,” then to *first* and *only* answer the question, “Why does this discontinuity exist?” with “because it is from two different sources” seems ill-advised at best. Let’s at least beat the bushes a little and use “because it is from two different sources” as a last resort, not a first one.
That’s all I’m saying. As I said in the original post, I don’t disbelieve the DH so much as I think it shouldn’t be our first choice of explanations for discontinuity.
Julie, I’m hugely in favor of any position that keeps us from becoming wedded to a single reading of scripture. So in that sense, I very much agree with the idea that no tool — documentary, literary, or whatever — ought to be our only interpretive lens. On the other hand, even in my layperson’s view, the documentary hypothesis really does a lot more than offer explanations for discontinuity; it seems to open a lot of other doors in terms of offering new ways of finding and reconstructing meaning, doesn’t it? In particular, the idea that the text is polyvocal in its view of God’s nature and attributes both clarifies contradictions (naturally) and invites us to explore God from different perspectives and to consider the possibility that our views are also partial, fragmentary, and limited.
Let me add that I am not saying that the DH crowd never gets anything right. I’m just saying they need to think about confidence intervals.
I actually already read one of those posts linked to above. It was sidebarred a while back as an anonymous bcc link titled something like “all the bible studies people believe dh and this is why”. So I was primed for some great stuff. What I got was a decent and interesting post that made a fair case for one instance of a mixture of authors or editors. Hardly a clincher for the grand DH. I am well aware, as Julie already noted, that the DH is very popular. I am told that tt was also popular, at one point, to assert that the Mayans were all peaceful.
Frank, you misunderstand. The DH is in a period of great unpopularity right now. Most of the big names spend most of their time punching holes in it. The problem is that the darn thing just won’t die (or in other words no-one has come up with anything that does a better job of explaining the evidence). This isn’t a popular trend or fad; this is a theory that has survived 100 years of serious attempts to topple it. It isn’t something to be casually dismissed (at least, you shouldn’t if you are genuinely interested in the Bible).
That said, I agree with Julie that it shouldn’t be a knee-jerk reaction to every Pentateuchal difficulty. Of course we should consider all possible solutions to a given textual problem.
You tell me I misunderstand and then agree with me. Is this a roundabout way of saying you misunderstand?
Julie 28: “Letâ€™s at least beat the bushes a little and use â€œbecause it is from two different sourcesâ€ as a last resort, not a first one.”
I don’t think that anyone could really disagree with this statement, including source critics. In the end, they have every bit as much at stake in identifying the sources correctly as anyone and they are happy to find consistency. That said, the methodology of source criticism is still a methodology to answer specific questions. Literary criticism is meant to answer a different set of questions. I agree with a number of your critiques of source crit, including the assumption of consistency as a standard. However, I am not sure that arguing that a different method which is designed to answer different questions is the answer. Instead, we have to revise the methods for source criticism.
“On the other hand, even in my laypersonâ€™s view, the documentary hypothesis really does a lot more than offer explanations for discontinuity; it seems to open a lot of other doors in terms of offering new ways of finding and reconstructing meaning, doesnâ€™t it?”
Hypothetically, yes, it does. In reality. . . it is so speculative in its assignments of texts to strands and its assumptions about those strands that I’m with Frank on the confidence interval business, even though I don’t like to use that kind of language in mixed company :)
TrailerTrash, no argument here. Maybe I should have more specifically laid out on the table to start that I think
(1) the questions source critics ask are not terribly interesting (to me)
(2) the answers source critics find are so speculative as to be nearly useless
At certain points you seem to concede that the DH is the best explaination and that you likely agree with its basic conclusions, then at other points you argue that the methods on which it is based are “nearly useless.” Could you clarify exactly what you are saying?
And let’s not exaggerate the “speculation.” There is broad consensus on the wide number of texts attributed to different authors. The disagreements are mostly about a relatively small number of instances. I think that there are a few conclusions that one could fairly say are speculative (which I don’t think is unique to this method or the overall theory), but I wouldn’t say that all “answers source critics find are so speculative as to be nearly useless”. Just because a theory has some speculative elements doesn’t mean that the basic premise is incorrect.
I’m not sure what I wrote that you thought I was conceding–maybe you took me “hypothetically” in #34 a little too seriously.
I think for any given instance, we should look for other reasons for the seams. Maybe another way to put it would be: I imagine that a variety of sources probably went into the composition of the Pent. I imagine that recovering which phrases/passages belong to which sources is virtually impossible at this point. [If there is even one layer of editing on top of JEPD, we’re pretty much toast. Similarly, if the assumptions we have made about the characteristics of J, E, P, or D are wrong, we’re toast. And if either J, E, P, or D had the same thought as Emerson about foolish consistency, then we are completely toast :).] Hence, I think source criticism is a fool’s errand–there just isn’t enough data to warrant the kind of conclusions–and the kind of certainty claimed for them–that are reached.
Your statements may be entirely correct. There may be a perfectly good alternative explanation for the seams. However, I would like to see such an alternative explanation if I am going to be convinced. Do you mind if we pick a text to test out your hypothesis? You have looked at Gen 6-9 in your original post. We could certainly explore that text if you are more comfortable with it. We also have jupiterschild’s example of Ex 34.
Can you provide an alternative explanation that a) shows where the DH doesn’t account for some of the data and b) your alternative explanation accounts for the data better?
I gave a rainbow of possibilities for the seam at Genesis 2:4 earlier in the comments. (Again, I’m not 100% sold on any of those, but I think that their explanatory power at least equals that of the DH, not to mention that the exploration of those possibilities has the potential to teach us something more meaningful about the text–even if the underlying cause is different strands.) Pick any other example from Genesis and let’s play with it.
However, I think that asking for something where “the DH doesn’t account for the data” isn’t quite fair–if you point to _any_ seam in the text, you could claim that it is accounted for by the presence of two authors. (In other words, you can always pull the DH out of your hat and it will always work since we don’t have recourse to original texts that would prove or disprove it.)
You and I will agree that there is merit to reading the text as it stands. However, this is to asking a different type of question than the one that source criticism asks. I will never say that source criticism is the only approach that we should take to the scriptures, only that it is a tool for dealing with a particular problem. The seams aren’t just illusions. There are real problems that gave rise to source criticism.
As for Gen 2:4, I can’t seem to find your explanations, though I am undoubtedly missing it. That said, you have to do better than “at least equals” in order to disprove a theory. You have to show why the other theory doesn’t work and why your theory does. If you want to do the Creation narratives, that is fine. You can choose Noah too (though this is so heavily debated that I think we should choose a less controversial example to test out your theory). Please lay out the argument for consistency.
OK, I’m not really sure what we are disagreeing on anymore. I think throughout this thread, a much stronger anti-DH position has been attributed to me than the one I meant to defend. (Which may just be my fault for not explaining myself as well as I should have.) When you say, “You and I will agree that there is merit to reading the text as it stands.” then I’m really not sure what we are disagreeing about.
The Genesis 2:4 thing is in comment #10. But before we get into it, I think we need to settle the equals/disproves issue. I think the DH has the unearned advantage of being able to say pretty much anything it wants to because it has no paper trail (i.e., extant texts–the way that we have four gospels to work with, which makes it abundantly clear who did what to whom when we look at a harmonization of the gospels). The DH is like the Windex in My Big Fat Greek Wedding–you spray it on any problem and it seems to cover it up. But that doesn’t mean it works. But it would be darn hard to prove to the old dad that the Windex didn’t help his wart.
In any case, I’m not sure armwrestling over Genesis 2:4 is going to settle anything (although I’m willing to try if you really want): I think (if I’m reading you right) that the only place we really disagree is over the relative merits of using source criticism versus literary criticism as our primary exegetical tool and that strikes me as a vanilla versus chocolate sort of debate. I suppose it also speaks to what your goals are–most of what I do is something that I’d like to see make its way into a devotional context (which does NOT mean I’m looking for cheap and easy warm fuzzies–Genesis 38 is one of my favorite texts for this, Leviticus another, Revelation a close third). If I were primarily concerned about understanding the various strands of thought as they developed historically, then I might be more interested in the kinds of answers the DH can provide. (But, even then, I think its results are just too speculative to be taken seriously for historical reconstruction.)
All: someone emailed me the following reference list–I provide it for anyone interested:
Introductory Scholarly Treatments of Pentateuchal Source Criticism
Friedman, Richard E. Who Wrote the Bible? San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1997. (Uses narrative to traces the development and scriptural arguments for the theory.)
-The Bible with Sources Revealed. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2003. (A footnoted translation of the Pentateuch with sources in different colors and source-critical commentary.)
Barton, John. â€œSource Criticismâ€ in The Anchor Bible Dictionary 6:162-165. Cf. â€œYahwist (J) Source,â€ â€œElohist (E) Source,â€ â€œPriestly (P) Source,â€ and â€œDeuteronomy.â€
Rofe, Alexander. Introduction to the Composition of the Pentateuch. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999. (A short but useful introduction, including a section entitled â€œChallenges to the Documentary Hypothesis.â€)
Tigay, J.H. “An Empirical Basis for the Documentary Hypothesis.” Journal of Biblical Literature 94 (1975): 329-42. (Uses Near Eastern parallels to demonstrate the validity of some source-critical assumptions. Cf. His edited volume Empirical Models for Biblical Criticism.)
Some Jewish Reactions
Levenson, Jon D. The Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament, and Historical Criticism: Jews and Christians in Biblical Studies: Westminster John Knox Press, 1993. (Devoted to historical-critical and devotional issues, and assumptions inherent in Biblical criticism. Cf. â€œThe Bible: Unexamined Commitments of Criticismâ€ in First Things 30 (February 1993): 24-33.
Brettler, Marc Zvi. How to Read the Bible: Jewish Publication Society, 2005. (Among other topics, explains to Jewish readers why and how a practicing Jew can accept source criticism and other modern theories.)
LDS Thoughts- Perspectives and Reactions
Barney, Kevin L. “Reflections on the Documentary Hypothesis.” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 33, no. 1 (2000): 57-99. (A balanced look at the spectrum of LDS responses, whatâ€™s â€œat stakeâ€ for LDS, and some arguments pro and con from an LDS perspective.)
Barlow, Philip L. Mormons and the Bible: The Place of the Latter-Day Saints in American Religion. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991. (Traces various LDS approaches to the Bible from Joseph Smith and Brigham Young to Elder McConkie, including various reactions to sourcecriticism.)
Peterson, Daniel. Editorâ€™s Introduction to FARMS Review, 9:2 (1997):ix-xiii (Recounts experience of three LDS graduate students who tested their professorâ€™s ability to differentiate between distinct sources edited together. )
Brown, S. Kent. “Approaches to the Pentateuch.” In Studies in Scripture Volume 3: Genesis to 2 Samuel, edited by Kent P. Jackson: Randall Book Company, 1985. (Briefly covers the issue.)
LDS Usages of Source Criticism- Some applications of the DH support LDS ideas.
Christensen, Kevin. Paradigms Regained: A Survey of Margaret Barker’s Scholarship and Its Significance for Mormon Studies. Edited by William J. Hamblin. Vol. 2, Farms Occasional Papers. Provo, UT: FARMS, 2001. (Barker has argued that early Christianity retained several traditions original to Israel, but edited out or otherwise lost. Christensen summarizes her work from an LDS perspective.)
Christensen, Kevin. “The Deuteronomist De-Christianizing of the Old Testament.” FARMS Review 16, no. 2 (2004). (Argues that Deuteronomistic editing removed proto-Christian symbolism.)
Peterson, Daniel C. “Nephi and His Asherah.” In Mormons, Scripture and the Ancient World: Studies in Honor of John L. Sorenson, edited by Davis Bitton, 191-243. Provo, UT: FARMS, 1998. (Discusses Nephiâ€™s apparent famiiarity with Asherah, and, briefly, how Deuteronomistic editing may have de-legitimated belief in a Mother goddess.)
Sorenson, John L. “The â€˜Brass Plates’ and Biblical Scholarship.” Dialogue 10 (Autumn 1977):31-39. (Sorenson argues that the Brass Plates show affinities with E, the putative northern source.)
Dissenting Non-LDS Scholars â€“ Scholars who donâ€™t accept the DH frequently share the assumptions and methodologies inherent to it.
Rendsburg, Gary. “Reading David in Genesis.” Bible Review 17, no. 1 (2001). (Argues that Genesis was written in the 10th century as a Davidic apologia. See further his book The Redaction of Genesis and audio lecture series on Genesis from The Teaching Company, http://www.teach12.com)
Lewis, C.S. â€œModern Theology and Biblical Criticismâ€ in Christian Reflections, ed. Walter Hooper (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1967) Reprinted in BYU Studies 9:1 (Autumn 1968) (Though not a source criticism scholar, Lewis offers insightful critiques on the methods and assumptions of earlier source critics, who overreached. â€œThe reconstruction of the history of a text, when the text is ancient, sounds very convincing. But one is after all sailing by dead reckoning; the results cannot be checked by fact. In order to decide how reliable the method is, what more could you ask for than to be shown an instance where the same method is at work and we have facts to check it by? Well, that is what I have done. And we find, that when this check is available, the results are either always, or else nearly always, wrong.â€)
Reis, Pamela Tamarkin Reading the Lines â€“A Fresh Look at the Hebrew Bible (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002)
Joshua Madson, #27: Friedman is sometimes nutty, especially with respect to his assignment of the authors. (He has recanted some of these identifications). But I really like his discussion of Source Criticism (which used to be called Literary Criticism) as based in evidence, not some “feeling” for the text, not on foolish consistencies, or even solely on “seams” in the text. But it’s the confluence of many streams of evidence that make the hypothesis incontrovertible. His works should be read as good introductions to the problems, but definitely not as the last word. As for Margaret Barker, I’m glad to hear that someone in LDS circles knows she’s not mainstream. She’s good for promulgating creative solutions to problems, and for raising awareness of important issues, but often her reach exceeds her grasp, and it’s disappointing to me to see the FARMS championing of her ideas simply because she says what we like to hear. I’ll stop there. As for J and E, there is no way that J and E are a unity. See my FPR posts, and my response to Julie below.
Julie M, two right off the bat: I think the DH has the unearned advantage of being able to say pretty much anything it wants to because it has no paper trail (i.e., extant textsâ€“the way that we have four gospels to work with, which makes it abundantly clear who did what to whom when we look at a harmonization of the gospels) (#40): My posts dealt directly with this. While we don’t have nearly the evidence of four separate gospels, we do have strong evidence of separate sources. D knew J and E as separate documents. The evidence I cited is as absolute as proof gets. I’d invite you (honestly) to come up with a better explanation for why Deuteronomy 10 quotes E and only E (when J and E had been intertwined in Exod 34). The simplest explanation is that the author of D knows E and J as distinct documents.
But the bigger criticism of your comment goes along with how you responded to me in #28, that the endlessness of the debates somehow indicates the futility of the exercise. As has been said already, good source critics for the most part are fine-tuning the details, nuancing the argument, and, most importantly, using source criticism as a way of figuring out how the texts came together. And, once again, my discussion attempted to show clear evidence of how this happened, at least in one case, which may be generalized.
And, in any case, the endless debate doesn’t say anything about futility! The bible itself is the subject of endless debate! Modern literary criticism and exegesis will always engender disagreement and will never be able even to approximate the soundness of much of the evidence in favor of the Documentary Hypothesis.
Thanks for clarifying re: your position on the DH. I’m still curious as to why my posts led to your doubting of the DH. The “is this all we’ve got” is naive and presumptuous, as the claim was never made that this is all we’ve got. Please engage that evidence if you’d like, not to get into an armwrestling match but because I really can’t see any way it can be taken differently than the way I’ve laid it out. Granted, such certainty is not available in all texts, especially because the sources themselves are not monolithic, but are collections of oral and written material transmitted through various channels. But again, your doubts have all been taken into account by all source critics: we didn’t make assumptions about JEDP and then go looking for texts to prove them. Sure, data has to be challenged, and our thinking will shift, but that doesn’t call into question the whole endeavor. And, thankfully in the case of the pentateuch, the evidence points toward a serious respect for underlying texts, which themselves were all continuous narratives for the most part. So even with a “layer” of redaction (which is one of the biggies that is being challenged now–I don’t think there were redactions the way Wellhausen and most since have understood them), we can tell that there are sources, and we’re not “pretty much toast”. And as for the “foolish consistency,” this is reductio ad absurdum…
The potential benefits of source criticism are also often overlooked. Aside from the major benefit of knowing better what the heck is going on in the stories and why the terminology keeps changing and deja vu happens over and over again, source criticism allows us to patch into different traditions and social settings and tells us worlds more than a straight reading of the text does, much the way competing philosophies like Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job are all in conversation with each other. It shows us how different groups conceived of God and related to him and to their world. I’m much more connected to the text because of the Documentary Hypothesis, but this isn’t the approach usually taught in places that have a stake in the Hebrew Bible.
I’m glad for the bibliography, it gives me a chance to add some annotations and to deal with a comment by Julie M:
The introductions are good. See what I said in 42 about Friedman’s Who Wrote the Bible.
The items under the heading “LDS thoughts…” are one of the reasons I made the comment that those who attack the documentary hypothesis are not the ones trained in it. To which Julie responded understandably that there’s a causal problem with this. But it’s not so simple. I disagree with my training all the time; that’s true scholarship. The problem is that the disagreement doesn’t come from people who are intellectual objectors, but without fail from groups who have a vested interest in there being a unity to the text. And even if it’s true that the problem with my comment is causal, it doesn’t change the fact that if you’re going to critique it, you’ve got to know it inside and out, and to do that requires training. For this reason I could never offer any critique of quantum theory that would be a) valid nor b) acceptable to the intellectual community working in that field.
More specifically: Barney’s treatment is “balanced”, I agree, but I’m not sure that the pros and cons listed are to be equally weighted nor complete. He discusses a spectrum of scholarship more than the evidence itself.
Barlow’s is a good look at the historical development, but gives no evaluation.
Peterson’s article should not be relied on at all. It totally skews the picture in favor of exactly what Julie is saying here: since we can’t be sure that the conclusions are right, we might as well throw our hands up and focus our attention elsewhere. The problem is that Peterson, not being trained in this (I know he’s read stuff and probably even had courses in it, but he’s not a trained Biblical Scholar, nor a source critic), fails to account seriously enough for the variables that separate his ‘experiment’ from what we can observe about the Biblical text. Without creating the same situation, in which literature was composed as an accretion of oral traditions whose verbal mechanisms are totally different from those of Peterson’s experiment, the comparison has little value. Not only that, but redaction is obviously not uniform even in the ancient world. The Pentateuch was put together in a process far different from that of the Deuteronomistic History, and these are different in turn from prophetic literature and from the New Testament. The fact that some students can’t separate modern sources, or for that matter, that people have “found” sources in Moby Dick, has absolutely no bearing on whether there were sources in the Pentateuch or not.
I’m surprised that this section neglects Anthony Hutchinson’s Dialogue articles on the different creation accounts. Although since he’s a defender of the theory, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised he wasn’t included in this list. This probably accounts also for the omission of Kevin Christensen’s response to Hutchinson, which is feeble at best.
As far as the section “LDS Usages of Source Criticism- Some applications of the DH support LDS ideas”, the Margaret Barker praisefest needs some serious and public critique. (I know that several BYU faculty have serious problems with this bandwagon.) First of all, it’s striking that Kevin Christensen had obviously defended the unity of the Pentateuch in responding to Hutchinson but at the same time loves Margaret Barker’s work, which is far more speculative on the one hand and on the other assumes something very much like the DH! As Williamson (I believe) remarked in a review of her “The Older Testament”, MB has her cake and eats it, too: where there’s no evidence, it’s because the evil Deuteronomists (who, by the way, aren’t far removed from the way Nephi and Mormon thought and worked) removed it, but then she gets to pick and choose and construct what she wants to include in her theology. If the Documentary Hypothesis is on shaky foundations, Margaret Barker is in outer space. (BTW, she’s also got no doctoral training.) Even though the Bible is obviously not even close to being representative of the range of Israelite belief (see Zevit’s book on Israelite religions), it doesn’t mean there was any pure doctrine that was removed by the Deuteronomists! If we believe Barker, Deuteronomy is more than just a source, it’s something that needs to be thrown out as uninspired. It’s impossible to discredit the DH and to accept Barker at the same time.
I like Peterson’s Asherah article (except for his subscription to Barker’s theory), in part because it’s cool to think of Mary as a fertility figurine. And I like the way Sorenson’s article represents the possibilities for using the DH for creative studies of Mormon ideas, but his methods are flawed and his conclusions wildly speculative.
I hope there will be more careful LDS work on DH in print in the future. Although I think we’ve got enough PhD candidates out there to do real work in this, in my experience we’ve been taught (implicitly and explicitly) to stay away from these troubled areas, so I don’t hold out much hope of real dialogue.
End of rant.
Julie 40: I think (if Iâ€™m reading you right) that the only place we really disagree is over the relative merits of using source criticism versus literary criticism as our primary exegetical tool and that strikes me as a vanilla versus chocolate sort of debate.
Well, that is not exactly what I am saying. What I was trying to say in 39 was exactly the opposite of this. I don’t want this to turn into a source criticism versus literary criticism debate since I think that both have merit. Each should be taken on its own merits since each are attempting to answer different questions. I even think that there is some merit to thinking theologically with the seams and gaps in the text. While I think that the historical answers that the DH provide are accurate, I think that the theological ones that we can gain with the received text are also powerful. At the same time, I concur with jupiterschild that there are tremendous theological gains to be had by taking the DH seriously. I am theologically promiscuous that way.
No, our real disagreement has to do with your repeated claim that “[source criticism’s] results are just too speculative to be taken seriously for historical reconstruction.” This is much more than a chocolate vs. vanilla claim since it discounts vanilla as a legitimate alternative. You have claimed that there are other explanations that are have at least equal explanatory power as the DH. I am simply asking that you offer an example of how the DH is too speculative in a specific case and that there is an alternative explanation which is better.
In my reading of your position, you are not saying that both source and literary criticism are valid, but that literary criticism (as you’ve defined it) can better answer the historical and textual questions of source criticism. Is that an accurate understanding?
jupiterschild, I don’t consider #43 a rant but a useful commentary on the list that was sent to me. I, too, am deeply troubled by the M. Baker near-worship and I appreciate your comments about it.
But back to #42. Let me use one teeny-tiny example from your Ex 34 work:
“vv. 2-3 donâ€™t fit well with v. 1: most obviously in their reference to Sinai, which is never an E term for the mountain.”
And how do we know that E never uses Sinai for mountain? Because if the text uses Sinai for mountain, then we don’t classify that text as E. Because it can’t be E, since E doesn’t use Sinai for mountain.
“Verse 5, where the Lord descends in a cloud, begins as E, where the Lord never descends in anything besides a cloud. ”
And how do we know that E never has the Lord descend from anything but a cloud? Because if the text has the Lord descending from something else, then we don’t classify it as E. Because it can’t be E, since E never has the Lord descend from anything but a cloud.
Your other items seem to rely on the assumption that events in a text should be perfectly logical, consistent, and literal–if it says something is supposed to happen, it has to happen right away. Once. By that logic, I have to assign Revelation 1:16 and 17 to different authors, otherwise the Lord just bonked the poor revelator on the head with a handfull of stars (ouch). Obviously Revelation calls for a less literal reading than Exodus, but I don’t think Exodus calls for a perfectly literal, logical one, either. For example, you wrote, “it says the â€œTen Wordsâ€, which is impossible for the material given in vv. 10-26, and must be a reference to the Decalogue.” Or, perhaps it is an author trying to help us see v10-26 as having some relation to the Big Ten. Or, it is recursiveness in a (unified) text pointing us back to the Big Ten.
If you left your commentary at: “there are several apparent contradictions in Ex 34 and this may be explained by different sources” you would have gotten no argument from me, although I think that searching for deliberate meaning (whether from one author or from a redactor) is a more useful endeavor. But when you use circular logic and an overly literal reading of the text to try to assign parts of passages to different underlying strands, it becomes too speculative for me.
“In my reading of your position, you are not saying that both source and literary criticism are valid, but that literary criticism (as youâ€™ve defined it) can better answer the historical and textual questions of source criticism. Is that an accurate understanding?”
I don’t think so, but I’m not entirely sure how you are defining “historical” here.
Thanks for engaging. Of course the logic is tautological as it stands in my post, because it’s necessary for keeping the post to a reasonable (i.e., under 1,000 pages) length. (I might also add that circular reasoning does not automatically lead to erroneous conclusions.) Source criticism has to be taken in toto; this is one reason why training is absolutely necessary to a solid critique of the enterprise. This means, further, that a small example from a single text, such as I gave, is not enough to show the merits of the hypothesis by itself. But this is only half of my argument. I used the standard methods of delineating J and E on purpose, knowing that the circular reasoning argument would be used against me (to be sure, there is circularity built into source criticism, but, as one friend put it, “Welcome to Biblical Studies!”). And the text separates perfectly into two separate strands, each complete internally and consistent with what we know of the source of each. What is the kicker, though, is that Deuteronomy 10 confirms this division perfectly. There is no reasonable way to understand the fact that Deuteronomy only quotes one of the strands. Unless he disentangled them himself, he knew J and E separately. Is this not clear? Is the DH still as murky as you’ve been making it seem? Is the above-cited C.S. Lewis contention that we’re always proven wrong when the evidence comes to light still valid? I see no way that the Documentary Hypothesis is in any way called into question by the hypothetical questions you raise. The possibility of other answers is not the same as evidence for them. In any case, in this text, we have proof that, at least this once, source critics are right.
My point was that it is ridiculous to not seek to understand and potentially apply the DH simply because it is speculative in some way. Like arguments against the speculative nature of human evolution, arguments against the DH have never proven fatal. To simply ignore the DH, as you implied you wanted to do, would be like ignoring Communism because we’ve never seen it practiced unfiltered on earth. It is an important idea that people should understand, even if they disagree with it. Saying, “I have to say Iâ€™m glad to see that my rudimentary conclusions are similar to what your more studied ones are. It seems like there is far too much guesswork culminating in far too much certainty.” misses the point entirely. Dismissing the theory because the proponent has provided you with only one good example also does this.
As a reluctant proponent* of the DH and the one who sent that bibliography to Julie, I want to pipe up.
First, that biblio was originally prepared for an hour-long aside for a Biblical Hebrew course at BYU, for students who had never heard of it before. The LDS references were simply to show what LDS had written about it, ie. precious little. I can’t remember why Hutchinson wasn’t included, but I can retroject some ideas (post to go up later today.)
The Lewis article was originally published in 1967 and directed to pastors-in-training. It’s outdated but still useful as a check against extremes. Though not by name, Lewis critiques the older DH proponents who either read minds or worked backwards about what a particular source/author/redactor must have been influenced by soci-politically. He compares this to his own critics, who read his books and then did the exact same thing. Lewis being alive was able to say “that’s not at all what I had in mind” and this is the context of the quote above. Jon Levenson similarly argues in his First Things article, if I understand him correctly, that such background should not be primary evidence for the DH nor the sole context.
I don’t like viewing the text *primarily* as expressions of different political/religious/social bias, as Friedman sometimes seems to do in his first book.
Friedman’s Bible with Sources Revealed contains a preface with seven primary categories of evidence, and makes the point that while each category can stand on its own (differing terminology, for example), the convergence of evidence from every category forms the strongest argument for the DH. I find it fairly convincing in the big picture, but I lack faith in the consistant ability of scholars to discern the fine details, that these three words in this verse are J and those E, for example.
I think literary criticism can provide some checks, but I’m not yet sure how to weigh the two techniques against each other.
One of the hinge questions, I think, is whether the method was cut-and-paste or actual editing. In my limited reading, many scholars seem to hold to a cut-and-paste method, ie. the redactor held his tradition(s) in such high esteem that he didn’t modify them substantially. On the other hand, other scholars have done much with the literary quality of particular passages – here I think of Robert Alter but particularly Gary Rendsburg.
“â€œIt is true that recognition of redactional structuring does not a priori militate against the conclusions of the JEDP theory. . . [but] it must be admitted that wherever the basic unity of a section can be established the Documentary Hypothesis can be called into question.â€ Redaction of Genesis, 101-102 .
â€œwhen traditional source criticism assigns corresponding units to different sources, we must wonder how is it that source x uses theme-words a,b, Correction-,d,e,f,g, etc., and that source y uses the exact same theme-words.â€- 102 Redaction of Genesis
â€œAll of this material [prior in the book] demonstrates how attention to redactional structuring greatly weakens the Documentary Hypothesis, indeed, according to the present writer, renders it untenable. To return to our first exampleâ€¦ it becomes simply incredulous that J wroteâ€¦ about the start of Abrahamâ€™s spiritual odyssey and E wroteâ€¦ about the climax of his spiritual odyssey, and that these two authors living approximately 100 years apart and in different parts of ancient Israel time and again chose the same lexical items. Surely this is too improbable, especially when such examples can be and have been multiplied over and over. Admittedly a corresponding word here or there could be coincidental, but the cumulative nature of the evidence tips the scales heavily against the usual division of Genesis into JEP.â€ 104-105. Redaction of Genesis
â€œThis does not mean that all of Genesis is the work of one author, for there clearly remain different sources and variant traditions.â€- 106 Redaction of Genesis
If the editor modified his sources for literary purposes instead of cut-and-paste, Rendsburg is simply wrong. It’s a difficult question fraught with assumptions.
Alter comments on seams and literary qualities in the text thus-
â€œOne has only to scan the history of a recent literary genre, the novel, to see how rapidly formal conventions shift, and to realize that elements like disjunction, interpolation, repetition, contrastive styles, which in biblical scholarship were long deemed sure signs of a defective text, may be perfectly deliberate components of the literary artwork, and recognized by such as the audience for which it was intended.â€
“â€œThe new literary perspective, let me stress, does not come to restore the seamless unitary character of the biblical text cherished by pious tradition, but it does argue in a variety of ways that scholarship, from so much overfocused concentration on the seams, has drawn attention away from the design of the whole. “Literary Guide to the BIble, 27,25.
“To obviate any possible misunderstanding, let me emphasize that there is no question of a return to a pre-critical reading of the biblical text. If the documentary hypothesis is in crisis, the question for those still interested in the formation of the Pentateuch, is whether the hypothesis is salvageable and, if not, what might take its place.
It is obviously possible to read and appreciate the Flood story without all this critical reconstruction of its literary history. People have been doing this for centuries. What is the point of a historical-critical reading of biblical texts? What are its advantages over other methods, e.g., literary, allegorical, midrashic, formalist, structuralist, etc.? People are increasingly asking this question, not only because the academic study of the Bible has had relatively little impact outside the academy (biblical scholars generally write for each other), but also because critical scholarship has tended to assume that this is the *only* way to read a biblical text.” Joseph Blenkinsopp, â€œThe Documentary Hypothesis in Troubleâ€ BR 01:04 (Winter 1985)
I am a proponent of the the DH better accounts for some things than other theories. I am a reluctant proponent because I do not find it a satisfying theory, but have nothing better to offer in its place.
Apologies for the length
I think you’re reading me stronger than I’m writing. When I said I was glad to see Julie agreed with me, you are reading it as me happily writing off the DH for all eternity because somebody with lousy Hebrew agreed with me (no offense, Julie). That ain’t so. I’m just happy to see confirmation of what seems apparent to me, that the DH is a bunch of guesswork (which it is). I am fine with guesswork as guesswork. I don’t dismiss guesswork out of hand, nor do I pay obeisance to it.
“My point was that it is ridiculous to not seek to understand and potentially apply the DH simply because it is speculative in some way.”
Yes, well this depends a great deal on one’s field. I am not in Bible studies so with the limited time I spend on the scriptures, accepting or ignoring the DH has almost no impact on how I study.
To reiterate, I apply speculative things all the time. I just like to keep front and center that they are, in fact, speculative. You say that the Bible studies field has been hammering on the DH of late. I’m all for it. Every piece of guesswork that has gotten as much reverence as the DH deserves a good hammering. We have similar sacred cows in economics that deserve a good beating, and sooner or later they get their due.
You concede the circularity and then ask me to abide by your conclusions? I’m sorry, but no. You ask, “Is this not clear? Is the DH still as murky as youâ€™ve been making it seem?” No. It’s worse. I really appreciate this chance to go toe-to-toe with a DH defender because when one argues with books one always wins (well, at least I do :)). But seeing the argument as you make it makes it even less palatable then I had previously thought. Some issues I didn’t bring up: for your separation of the strands to work:
(1) the strands have to _never_ use the words that they supposedly don’t use. Most authors favor certain words, but _never_ is a very unreasonable standard–if E or J used one of the verboten words so much as once, your entire strand separation enterprise is doomed.
(2) you have to assume that the text is inerrant as soon as the strands are combined. The addition of even one verboten word after compilation renders your efforts useless. The addition of “sinai” after mountain would be a very common type of scribal addition (i.e., the increase in specificity provided by a proper noun), and is therefore particularly suspect in this case.
(3) you have to assume that the redactor combined the stories by stitching together fragments of verses to create one story. This is an odd practice. It is certainly possible, but to insist on it is too speculative to take certainly any conclusions that branch from it. (And: why did the redactor(s) take whole stories without stitching individual phrases in Gen 1 and 2? In the wife-as-sister stories? Why stitch here?)
You are much more likely (but still not likely) to persuade me when you have two intact texts set side by side (as is supposedly the case with Gen 1 and 2) than with this kind of ‘individual phrases stitched together’ approach. You claim that Deut only knows E. But you set the rules (questionable rules, debatable rules) for what constitutes E. So of course you got what you wanted. If I could pick my test subjects, I could show that massive consumption of fettucini alfredo leads to a long and happy life.
Nitsav, thanks for piping up. You write, “I think literary criticism can provide some checks, but Iâ€™m not yet sure how to weigh the two techniques against each other.”
I’m not either, except for a gut sense which, of course, I don’t expect anyone else to agree with. I think this would be worthwhile to consider. (Want to write a guest post with all your free time?)
Frank, no offense taken, because what you wrote was correct. I probably wouldn’t have had the chutzpuh to even post on this issue, save that people who actually know Hebrew for real reach the same conclusions that I do, which leads me to conclude that knowledge of Hebrew does not seal one’s fate as supporting the DH.
Julie: “You concede the circularity…
With all respect, I don’t think that is exactly what jc was saying (and if he was I take exception to that concession). Rather, I understand him to be saying that there are a confluence of factors behind the conclusion that E only says X and J only says Y. For instance, different terminology besides simply Horeb and Sinai that are also consistently different between the two accounts. Further, if the argument were truly circular, it could be exchanged so that E only says Y and J only says X. However, this doesn’t work at all since it conflicts with the only factors that lead to the separation of the sources.
You are much more likely (but still not likely) to persuade me when you have two intact texts set side by side (as is supposedly the case with Gen 1 and 2) than with this kind of â€˜individual phrases stitched togetherâ€™ approach.
Well, why exactly to you think that Gen 1 and 2 are “two intact texts” that are not stitched together?
You claim that Deut only knows E. But you set the rules (questionable rules, debatable rules) for what constitutes E.
If you disagree with the rules or the conclusions in this particular case, please explain how it is that Deut only selectively quotes the Ex passage? It isn’t a matter of wanting to find a particular outcome, as your example with fettucini alfredo suggests. This is a real live problem that requires some explanation. If jc’s argument is flawed, please explain your solution to the problem or why you don’t think there is a problem.
“I am not in Bible studies so with the limited time I spend on the scriptures, accepting or ignoring the DH has almost no impact on how I study.”
Would you accept that possibly it should? that is, if studying the Bible is important? In this, I am not saying that it should, but that it might be necessary to consider the possibility. If one felt that one’s life depended in some real sense on economics, would it make more or less sense to get a good grip on the major ideas in economics before dismissing them? That was my only point, and we may be talking past each other.
To be honest, I don’t know that we get any closer to the truth via the DH than we would without it. It tends to work well in generalities but to lose consistency in the specifics. But, as Nitsav notes, we have nothing better at the moment.
John C, the evidence (and more importantly testability) of evolution is quite unlike the DH. Now if we were finding earlier texts, even if fragmentary, that fit the predictions of DH then they’d be similar. But while there are plenty of missing links in archaeology that support the predictions of evolution there’s not really much like that for DH. That’s not an argument against DH, merely a recognition that there’s a huge gap between the epistemic strength of the hard sciences and these textual claims. Tying them together is what I find discomforting.
No problem, Clark (although I think there is some archaeological evidence that coincides with some of the ideas of the DH). My point was merely that both theories have endured a century (or more) of attacks and nothing has yet toppled them.
Should read: “conflicts with the OTHER factors that lead to the separation of the sources”
The larger problem might be jc’s insistence that the really good evidence is too long to explain, so he’s using evidence he conceded is circular. . . but still expects me not to dispute it.
“Well, why exactly to you think that Gen 1 and 2 are â€œtwo intact textsâ€ that are not stitched together?”
I don’t. Source criticism does. And all I meant by it is that Gen 1 is taken to be from a different source than Gen 2 (after v3). But each creation story is presented in its entirety, then the other creation story from the other source is given (according to the theory, which I don’t buy). Unlike jc’s reconstruction of Ex 34, we don’t have Gen 1:1-3 followed by Gen 2:5-6 followed by Gen 1:4-5 followed by Gen 2:7-8. I may not be explaining myself well: my question is: why are the Gen 1-2 stories (supposedly) combined at the chapter level while Ex 34 is (supposedly) combined at the verse level? (Realizing of course that chapters and verses are later additions.) The idea of alternating back-and-forth at the phrase or sentence level (as opposed to the story level) strikes me as odd. (And, spectacularly difficult to reconstruct.)
“please explain how it is that Deut only selectively quotes the Ex passage?”
We see selective quoting all the time throughout scriptures. It doesn’t prove that the source of the quotation was not known in its entirety to the quoter. Deut may have wanted to only take up parts of it. Deut may not have quoted it at all, but later scribal harmozination (of either work) makes it appear to be quoting. Deut may have been familiar with the same oral tradition that (a unifed) Ex 34 was and both embroidered it in their own directions. Or, Deut may have known a previous version of Ex 34 that included only one source (yes, I think it possible). But the kind of surety that jc claims in the face of all of these options, factors, and unknowns would get someone laughed out of the physical sciences (see Clark’s comment on this.)
But I’m not sure that there is “a problem” that needs to be solved in any case. One of jc’s data points is that it is “impossible” that God would have said “Ten Words” in v28 when the preceding verses aren’t the Big Ten. Excuse me–impossible? I’d sign on for ‘curious’, but impossible? You think it is impossible that God could give two groups of commandments and then say, “Now please write down the first”? Again, I’m not so much objecting to the (1) the observation of a problem, (2) the identification of various strands, (3) or the suggestion of the solution, but the surety with which is it given. It frankly boggles my mind that someone could think this way–attribute this degree of certainty to evidence this fragmentary, based on methodology this fraught with problems.
John C., I completely agree with your comment, esp. the part about generalities versus specifics. What I am wondering is whether we would have something better if we spent some time looking for it.
That’s the rub. People have been looking for something better for 100 years, but haven’t really found anything. So, we still have it.
“Would you accept that possibly it should?”
Undoubtedly. Given unlimited time, energy, and interest and I would, if course, entertain _every_ theory exhaustively. Under my constraints, if I want to know how to interpret the Bible my first source is the Book of Mormon and my second are the ways modern prophets interpret it (maybe in the other order). Sometimes I even get personal revelation. Let me know if you come up with a way in which the DH should matter to my study, given the limited time I spend on studying, and I’ll be happy to entertain it.
Once again, circularity doesn’t disqualify an argument, so please treat the argument and don’t use the escape hatch. I was only acknowledging that it looks circular because I wasn’t about to repeat stuff that’s been discussed (and decided) for over a century, not because the argument itself is inherently circular. It’s an enormous and complicated endeavor to work out, and (apparently for many on this thread) cannot be adequately exemplified in brief. This, by the way, is how languages get deciphered. One makes assumptions and tests those assumptions, until the “theory” of how the language works starts to explain a heck of a lot of stuff in the data and allows one to move forward. Sure, there will be refinements in the details, semantic ranges will be expanded, but that doesn’t call into question the validity of the decipherment.
The grand problem in Exodus 34 is this: God says to Moses to come up to the mountain with tablets so that he (God) can write another copy of the ten commandments. This is clear from the plain sense of the verse: “I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets, which you broke”. Moses goes up, and starting in v. 10, God makes a covenant that he would be with the Israelites, driving out their enemies, and that the Israelites would be expected to do certain things, more than 10 (I count at least 14). In any case, immediately after this, God says “Write these words,” which can only refer to the words he just spoke. Now this blatantly contradicts what came before (“I will write the words that were on the former tablets.”), because now Moses is doing the writing and it’s no longer the former commandments. And then it says “and he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.” So we have two choices: either he wrote the words spoken in Exod 34, or God wrote the words of the former commandments.
The solution to this problem advanced by source critics explains all these discrepancies by showing that there are two episodes being put together here. One has Moses going up a mountain to make a covenant with god, which covenant Moses writes on something unspecified, and the other has moses going up to get a second set of tablets because he had broken the first. So internally, without any reference to anything else, we can separate these two into completely coherent narratives and suppose that they were independent traditions that were spliced together. This solves our problem.
But, it also happens that these two episodes line up perfectly well with what we know of J and E. And, what is more, we have independent confirmation of this from Deuteronomy 10. So now we’ve not only solved problems inherent in Exodus 34, but we’ve also shown that it provides a perfect continuation of the antecedent J and E narratives.
There is no explanation that comes close to touching this.
That said, let me put it so the circularity is excised:
Deuteronomy 10 quotes (we agree on that, right?) exact pieces of Exodus 34. It “just so happens” that the particular pieces quoted of Exodus 34 form a consistent narrative, and the parts of it that were omitted also form a consistent narrative. What is more, those consistent narratives that we are left with are perfectly in line with what scholars have come to call J and E, in terminology, in theology, etc. Deuteronomy quotes only E, and all of E. Are, then, you saying that this is coincidental? That it is an accident that the part left out happens to form an intact narrative, as if D wanted to make his narrative more efficient? And he happened to do exactly what modern source critics do? What other possible conclusion can one arrive at than that D knew E, at least in this section, as separate from J?
A. We see selective quoting all the time throughout scriptures. Sure, it happens, but not like this. (Can you give examples?) But does that selective quoting also happen to separate strands of narrative? Is the selective quoting happening at the levels of half verses? Texts are usually quoted so they can be reused in new contexts. Is that the best way to explain the lacunae in Deut 10? No way. Find me one example like this, and I’ll admit your objection, but then I’ll say that just because other texts do it doesn’t mean that it has to hold for this one. See my earlier comment about the compilation of the Pentateuch being different from the Redaction of the historical material in the DeutHist, from the New Testament… Nothing requires that these have undergone the same process, nor should we assume such.
This goes for your contention (which doesn’t constitute evidence) about the different types of splicing in Genesis 1/2-3 vs. Genesis 6-9. It’s very easily explained, and they’re not different. The compiler started where the narrative had to start and wrote until he had to include another source because of narrative chronology. You can’t put Genesis 2 first, and there’s no way to splice 2-3 in with 1. The flood traditions, however, were much more closely aligned to each other than the creation traditions, and required that the texts be woven together. The differences in the narratives dictate the way they are compiled.
B. Deut may have wanted to only take up parts of it. This is your evidentiary explanation of the problem? Can you come up with a justification? I’ll concede that absolute certainty isn’t attainable, but you must concede that these explanations don’t have the same explanatory power.
C. Deut may not have quoted it at all, but later scribal harmozination (of either work) makes it appear to be quoting. ??? So the later scribes happened to select out what scholars would later argue is J and E? A harmonization can only work in the direction of greater affinity from Deut 10 to Exod 34, which is not the case. Plus, harmonization means there’s something that needs to be harmonized, and supports therefore the incoherence of the text and the existence of, if not sources, traditions.
D. Deut may have been familiar with the same oral tradition that (a unifed) Ex 34 was and both embroidered it in their own directions. This is like the classicist who runs into the dept meeting shouting, “I’ve got it! The Iliad wasn’t written by Homer, but by another 5th-century Greek by the same name!” So if I understand you, you’re saying that Deuteronomy and Exodus 34 both knew of something that looked like what scholars call E, and Deuteronomy preserved that and Exodus 34 “embroidered” it (I’d say wove in an integral narrative) so that the applique’ now it looks like what scholars call J interspersed with what scholars call E?
Even if these were possibilities (I think they are totally unrealistic and unreasonable and therefore unacceptable), I don’t see how they even approach the probability achieved by the documentary hypothesis’ explanation, especially when connected with the larger body of evidence on the matter.
The documentary hypothesis is not, as people have been saying here, just about terminology. There are passages that have been erroneously assigned just because of reasons terminological. It’s not just about doublets, and it’s not just about theology. It’s the fact that thousands of pieces of evidence line up, and hundreds of problems are solved when this alignment takes place. There will never be anything that can compare. Is it flawed in its divisions? Sure. Are there limits to how far one can push this? Sure. But we have narrative seams that mark not only shifts in terminology but in theology and in repetition of events. And when we pull those apart, they solve the problems of terminology, of theology, of narrative, and they themselves form cohesive and complete narratives, and when they line up perfectly (broadly at least) with other doublets and seams throughout the whole Pentateuch, we’re dealing with a good deal more than conjecture.
You really should read Friedman’s intro to BWSR on this before your faith is totally lost.
Thanks for the clarification. I know that this was intended for beginners, but one must be very careful about what one prescribes as introductory reading. When you have Sorensen and Peterson on the same level as Friedman and Tigay, it can set up an equation that will obfuscate the student’s perspective. But points taken.
As for Alter, and his comment, One has only to scan the history of a recent literary genre, the novel, to see how rapidly formal conventions shift, and to realize that elements like disjunction, interpolation, repetition, contrastive styles, which in biblical scholarship were long deemed sure signs of a defective text, may be perfectly deliberate components of the literary artwork, and recognized by such as the audience for which it was intended, the history of the novel need have nothing to do with the Pentateuch. This is an objection that is all too often used, but one must ask whether such a solution is probable, and on what basis it might be thus concluded. See also my comments above on the literary differences within the Hebrew corpus.
“Once again, circularity doesnâ€™t disqualify an argument, so please treat the argument and donâ€™t use the escape hatch. I was only acknowledging that it looks circular because I wasnâ€™t about to repeat stuff thatâ€™s been discussed (and decided) for over a century, not because the argument itself is inherently circular.”
I believe circularity does, in fact, disqualify an argument–at least in this case. The assignation of teeny fragments of material to certain strands based on word usage, theology, etc., is extremely speculative business. That doesn’t mean it is always or necessarily wrong–it just means that its results cannot be spoken of with the level of confidence that you are using.
Your unwillingness to “repeat stuff that’s been . . . decided for over a century” is starting to sound an awful lot like “vote for me and _then_ I’ll tell you my secret, surefire plan to end the war in Iraq.” If you want my vote for the DH, you are going to have to lay your argument on the table for me. Unsurprisingly, I’m not willing to bow to the authority of some anon person on the Internet.
As far as your responses to my suggestions:
A. Well, forgive me for not looking up any texts when you admit they won’t change your mind.
“You canâ€™t put Genesis 2 first, and thereâ€™s no way to splice 2-3 in with 1.” .
What? Really? I could do it in ten minutes. (Plenty of people see 2-3 as an expansion of day six, others see it as the physical fulfillment of the spiritual creation of ch1.) Again we are left with the problem of why the redactor sometimes goes passage by passage and sometimes phrase by phrase. How does the DH account for this?
B. The thing is: I never claimed certainty (“a clincher”) for any of my suggestions. You did that. And that’s what I’m objecting to.
C. No, actually a harmonization can imply that a later author didn’t ‘get’ the unity of the original text. We see this with Matthew’s redaction of Mark all the time.
D. This was meant to suggest a very similar development to the DH, but not one that would require the intricate knitting of strands in Ex 34.
Another issue is this: the DH relies on the unwillingness of the redactor to tamper with blatantly contradictory texts out of respect for the authority of those texts. But putting those texts side-by-side destroys the authority of both texts. (Kind of like if I were a hard-core ‘LDS prophets never say anything wrong’ kind of person who was so committed to prophetic utterances that I refused to edit obviously contradictory statements from Joseph Smith and Brigham Young and instead included them right next to each other. Ooops, wait a minute, someone with that kind of commitment to prophetic correctness would never do that without at least explaining themselves, would they?)
“Is it flawed in its divisions? Sure. Are there limits to how far one can push this? Sure.”
The certainty with which you push your conclusions seems to contradict these two statements. In fact, these two look remarkably similar to the ground I’m trying to stake out here.
“But we have narrative seams that mark not only shifts in terminology but in theology and in repetition of events.”
But shifts in theology are in the eye of the beholder and if the author’s point was to suggest some ambiguity, conflict, or paradox, you’re in out of luck in separating the strands. And repetition of events may be a deliberate authorial choice–something we see in the NT a lot.
I’d like to see you respond specifically to some problems which I initially raised in #51, which I reproduce here:
(1) the strands have to _never_ use the words that they supposedly donâ€™t use. Most authors favor certain words, but _never_ is a very unreasonable standardâ€“if E or J used one of the verboten words so much as once, your entire strand separation enterprise is doomed.
(2) you have to assume that the text is inerrant as soon as the strands are combined. The addition of even one verboten word after compilation renders your efforts useless. The addition of â€œsinaiâ€ after mountain would be a very common type of scribal addition (i.e., the increase in specificity provided by a proper noun), and is therefore particularly suspect in this case.
I find your response in #61 extremely inadequate. It is interesting to me that DH-ers are usually seen as being in opposition to the literal/fundamentalist/traditionalist readers of the scriptures when the DH-ers are completely unwilling to consider things like “disjunction, interpolation, repetition, contrastive styles.”
“(1) the strands have to _never_ use the words that they supposedly donâ€™t use. Most authors favor certain words, but _never_ is a very unreasonable standardâ€“if E or J used one of the verboten words so much as once, your entire strand separation enterprise is doomed.”
I’m not sure exactly what you mean by this–you’re saying the enterprise is not doomed by the actual evidence, but merely by the possibility (“if”) that one of the pieces of data it makes use of might not be characteristic of a single author? (Maybe a concrete, actual example of this would illustrate your point?) This problem could certainly make some passages difficult to assign or force scholars to adjust their assumptions about the characteristics of different authors, but I fail to see how it blows the entire theory out of the water, especially given the fact, as JupitersChild said, that the general theory rests on a confluence of characteristics in which word choice plays only one part. Like deciphering a language, you don’t give up when one word seems to be used in the “wrong” context–you adjust your assumptions to incorporate the data.
I’m guessing we’re in agreement about at least the following:
Different dialects (regional, cultural, etc.) consistently use different words, sometimes for the same object or action (where I grew up we had buckets and shopping carts; where I live now we have pails and carriages. Relatively few people living at isoglossic boundaries randomly alternate between “shopping cart” and “carriage. And if someone blogs about drinking a frappe, for example, it’s a fairly good bet they live in New England.) Further, on the individual level, no one makes full use of the words and phrases available–some people say “in the ballpark” regularly and other people, though they understand it, have never uttered the phrase in their lives. So in theory, with a large enough data set, examining word choice should be a viable method for distinguishing different authors of a text.
However, in practice, dialects bleed into each other and complex textual transmission corrupts the “purity” of such distinctions, so such assumptions are never failsafe, especially when we can deploy no sociolinguists to conduct interviews and independently establish isoglosses or determine features of individual style by interacting directly with the individuals involved.
“(2) you have to assume that the text is inerrant as soon as the strands are combined. The addition of even one verboten word after compilation renders your efforts useless. The addition of â€œsinaiâ€ after mountain would be a very common type of scribal addition (i.e., the increase in specificity provided by a proper noun), and is therefore particularly suspect in this case.”
Again, I’m not sure why proponents of the DH should adhere to reasoning as rigid as this–that if one additional word has been added during the text’s history, this invalidates all other theological, terminological, and geographical congruences within particular passages. I think this is a valid methodological objection and should lead source critics to be cautious, but it’s amazing that in spite of the text’s long history of redaction and reworking there are still as many recognizable sets of congruences as there are.
I’m not unsympathetic to the problems you raise–I’m often quite skeptical of efforts to pinpoint the identity and motivations of Redactor #2 of the Deuteronomic History or what have you–but, like JupitersChild, it seems to me that when a whole slew of characteristics are associated with each other and other often mutually exclusive characteristics appear in other passages, attributing these differences to different texts makes elegant sense of the otherwise confused situation. The caveats should lead us to continually refine our theories and avoid dogma, but they don’t vitiate the utility of the enterprise.
To my mind, in its general contours, the DH explains so much so elegantly that it’s hard to refute. Why does Sinai even have two names to start with, for example? And why do the names generally occur in different contexts?
The assumption I find problematic about attributing the Pentateuch to a single core author is that, it seems to me, we have to accept that it was “normal” for one individual to compose a text that stops and starts and lurches around, repeating and contradicting itself, even while long stretches of text within that very composition (the Joseph story, for example) flow smoothly and harmoniously with barely a hitch. Modern proclivities undoubtedly lead us to value and seek consistency and identify and object to inconsistency, but I’d be interested in learning of any other ancient texts that are as problematic as the Pentateuch in this regard, and their textual history. The final tablet of the Standard Babylonian rescension of Gilgamesh, for example, contradicts much of what just occurred in the epic–but this is readily explained as being the incorporation of a separate source. In this instance, a cycle of separate Gilgamesh stories from much earlier confirms this supposition.
It’s easy to pick apart the reasoning used to sort out individual passages (such as Noah’s Ark) as though in each case the reasoning rests on those individual passages alone, which is not in fact the case. This is perhaps what makes such discussions so difficult–I doubt, for example, that JupitersChild is asking anyone to accept the hypothesis on his authority (“vote for me and then I’ll tell you my secret”); it’s simply that the hypothesis concerns a document of some length, and nothing short of a book could deal adequately with every point.
It’s unlikely the DH will ever be “proven accurate.” But it certainly is elegant.
Again, with all respect, I don’t see why you aren’t engaging the central issues. You keep making these broad assertions in generalities about what would doom the entire project and what source critics have failed to consider in their evaluations, but you aren’t actually backing up these statements with any examples that would demonstrate your point. Since we all seem to have settled on Ex 34, please provide a detailed reading that solves all of the problems that the DH solves in this case and can also solve the problems that you raise. We can sit here and assert to our hearts content, but only detailed examples are going to really convince anyone. JC has provided a very detailed assessment of the text, explained the problems, and the solutions. If you find this explanation inadequate, then please provide an adequate one. Pick one of the suggestions that you offered (or another one) and argue it out. One-sentence blow-offs to his objections to your explanations don’t do anyone any good.
“Another issue is this: the DH relies on the unwillingness of the redactor to tamper with blatantly contradictory texts out of respect for the authority of those texts. But putting those texts side-by-side destroys the authority of both texts.”
I thought that you said that these “contradictions” are actually just hidden deeper meaning in disguise. Why are you so willing to think that the author is the one who put all this contradictory material together to provide literary flourish but that it is unbelievable that the redactor would do so?
As for why the redactor chose to splice after 3 sentences in Ex 34 or after 30 in Gen 1/2, I am not sure that the source critic must provide such an explanation (or even whether it is possible). We’ll have to wait to ask the redactor why he did it one way and not another in the next life. This doesn’t really prove anything except that there is a complicated logic behind what the redactor is doing. The source critics only job is to find the different sources, not explain what the compiler was thinking when he did it. In some cases we can think of good reasons why it is put together that way. In other cases we can’t. So what?
(1) the strands have to _never_ use the words that they supposedly donâ€™t use. Most authors favor certain words, but _never_ is a very unreasonable standardâ€“if E or J used one of the verboten words so much as once, your entire strand separation enterprise is doomed.
I will let jc respond to these more fully, but this doesn’t seem to hold any water. You think that the entire thing falls apart if there is a single exception? This is an impossibly high standard that I don’t think that any theory can meet. This is like saying that two dialects cannot be distinct from one another because they both share a few phrases.
(2) you have to assume that the text is inerrant as soon as the strands are combined. The addition of even one verboten word after compilation renders your efforts useless. The addition of â€œsinaiâ€ after mountain would be a very common type of scribal addition (i.e., the increase in specificity provided by a proper noun), and is therefore particularly suspect in this case.
I don’t think that the theory requires this at all. In fact, Friedman posits a series of redactors to account for precisely this problem. The debates about this are just fine-tuning and are in fact central to the way that the categorizations are made. Look Julie, everyone, including the biggest proponents, admits to SOME speculation with regard to SOME of the divisions. Your argument seems to be that if there is ANY uncertainty in even ONE instance that the entire project should be abandoned. Again, this seems like unnecessary exaggeration and an impossible standard.
If you want to make an argument for a scribal addition in Ex 34 which would cause us to mistakenly attribute one strand incorrectly, by all means do so. Show us how the name “Sinai” in this passage looks inconsistent with the general tenor of the J in other passages and must have been added later. Show us how there is a grand unity in the passage. Show us how Dt really quotes from the other internally consistent narrative. I think that everyone here is willing to hear you out on this. You might really be onto something and you can publish an article on it. But if you just keep asserting that the theory can’t stand without ever showing a specific instance where it is wrong, you aren’t going to convince anyone.
I posted before I read Kiskilili. What Kiskilili said.
Kiskilili, thank you for taking up these points.
“This problem could certainly make some passages difficult to assign”
That’s all I’m saying. Since jc’s entire theory rests on the proper assignation of every jot and tittle of Ex 34, I think that this is a huge methodological hurdle for it. Not to say that one couldn’t reach tentative conclusions, but the certainty jc uses is inappropriate given what you note here.
“Again, Iâ€™m not sure why proponents of the DH should adhere to reasoning as rigid as thisâ€“that if one additional word has been added during the textâ€™s history, this invalidates all other theological, terminological, and geographical congruences within particular passages.”
This is why I am more more sympathetic to the application of the DH to entire blocks of text, but when jc tries to assign text fragments that are in some cases only a handful of words long, then the addition or deletion of one word–when there aren’t many (or any) other theo, termino, or geo congruences (because the passage in question is half of a verse!) makes the results something that we should not show unbounded faith in.
“But it certainly is elegant.”
No doubt. If “elegance = truth,” we could end the conversation right there.
But once again: I don’t deny seams in the text. I don’t deny the possibility of multiple sources as a reason for those seams. I deny only the ability to determine with minute precision the source for each phrase of the Pent. with the degree of certainty that people like jc attribute to their work.
“Since we all seem to have settled on Ex 34, please provide a detailed reading that solves all of the problems that the DH solves in this case and can also solve the problems that you raise.”
I don’t have to know how to cure your heart condition to know that leeches won’t cure it. Let’s say for the sake of argument that I have absolutely nothing to offer you to explain what’s going on in Ex 34. (Which isn’t true, but we’re pretending.) That is not a vote in favor of the DH. The DH stands or falls on its own methodology. (And again: I don’t so much think it falls as I think it speculative.) “But we have no other theory” is not a good reason for thinking something is true. It is a reminder to be extremely tentative in our conclusions.
“I thought that you said that these â€œcontradictionsâ€ are actually just hidden deeper meaning in disguise. Why are you so willing to think that the author is the one who put all this contradictory material together to provide literary flourish but that it is unbelievable that the redactor would do so?”
You missed my point. jc stated (somewhere up there) that the redactor did not feel free to tamper with authoritative texts, so just threw it all in there without smoothing out obvious inconsistencies. A literary approach would say there are no “obvious inconsistencies.” But the DH relies on the inconsistencies to assign strands of text. The idea of “obvious inconsistencies” coupled with “text too sacred to mess with” leads to a big methodological problem–why would the redactor put on display for the entire world “obvious inconsistencies” in texts “too sacred to mess with”? The DH seems to ask the impossible of the redactor.
“I will let jc respond to these more fully, but this doesnâ€™t seem to hold any water. You think that the entire thing falls apart if there is a single exception?”
If you are going to assign a sentence to a certain strand based on the presence or absence of one word then, yes, if there is a single exception, then your results cannot be 100% certain. (If I assign unattributed conference talks to President Monson based on the use of the passive voice, then he has to be the only one who uses it. Ever. If Elder Maxwell used it so much as once, then we can’t trust my attributions. )
“Look Julie, everyone, including the biggest proponents, admits to SOME speculation with regard to SOME of the divisions. ”
That’s all I’m saying. Go back and read some of the superlatives in jc’s three posts–I’m not hearing a whisper re some speculation on some of the divisions. I’m hearing unqualified certainty.
All: I think we’re losing sight of the forest. I’d appreciate it if y’all would reread my original post before commenting more. I didn’t completely dismiss the DH (even as an explanation for Ex 34–see previous comments) but rather “lost faith” in its ability to deliver the level of certainty that its proponent claim. jc’s posts at FPR were a small part of what led to my conclusions: the supposed “clincher” for the DH is based (see part one) on the slenderest of evidence. But a much larger part was the very good job that literary critics have done with providing alternative explanations for the “seams.”
Wow, fascinating post and discussion.
Since Ex 34 seems to be a key text, with the “these words” and “Ten Words” in vv. 27-28 as central to the “grand prolem” of the chapter (see comment jupiter’s comment #60 above), let me sketch an argument that John Durham makes in his Word Biblical Commentary volume (which I think has a bit of a conservative reputation/bias). I think this is the kind of work that Julie is calling for, work that doesn’t challenge the DH per se, but work that would not come about if the DH were taken too seriously and exclusively. Durham writes,
It is from the perspctive of this “larger narrative whole” that Durham takes up vv. 27-28 as a conclusion to this unit, arguing that “these words” in v. 27 are referring to the words that Moses has been commanded to write, which are purposely linked to the Ten Words which Yahweh wrote because of the covenantal significance:
Of course this reading is speculative. And I don’t think it contradicts the DH. But I do think it points to an interesting and plausible meaning of the text that goes beyond what a DH-informed analysis suggests—that is, evidence of a final-redactor who should be taken quite seriously in his own right. I think Julie’s point is that these kind of meanings can only be found and given due consideration if we are willing to look for them and, furthermore, that efforts to look for these kind of literary, unified text readings have proven surprisingly fruitful which is evidence that perhaps scholars have indeed been a bit too focused on only DH readings in the last 100+ years (after all, the DH is very young and faddish when viewed from the perspective of centuries of Biblical criticism…).
Blah, Robert C., I hate it when people say what I tried to say better than I said it.
If your only complaint was that the “level of certainty” with which scholars assign different passages is too high, then I think that you need to actually shed some doubt on some specific cases. Otherwise this is just a generalization. At worst, it is a character flaw, but too much confidence doesn’t in itself constitute a reason why someone is wrong. If you think a specific scholar is””too certain” then give a specific example. If you think jc is too certain, then explain specifically where you think he should be less certain. I am sure that if you can provide a compelling reason why he is wrong that he would listen. He is not dogmatic.
In reality, I think that it is only in the eyes of its detractors that the DH attains absolute certainty. The only “certainty” that I can read into jc’s claims have to do with the specific arguments he is making for Ex 34, not for every other passage that any other DH scholar has ever assigned ever. I think that everyone, including jc, has admitted that there is in SOME cases SOME speculation.
However, what is confusing is that in one breath you admit to the possibility that the DH is the best explanation, that you don’t outright reject it, and that you agree that there are multiple sources, but in the next breath you claim that it is “doomed,” “useless,” too speculative, and a “mistake”. It is these latter statements which are provoking so much reaction.
Yes, the World Biblical Commentary is very conservative and has a theological investment in the unity of the text. At least the author admits the problem in Ex 34. It is a nice suggestion. I not sure that it is a better solution because it still posits a later appendage in 28, which seems to put us more or less in the same place. It also doesn’t take into account the Dt evidence that jc mentions. This is jc’s text, so I will let him deal with the specific problems that he might see.
Julie, I invite you to deal with my central points in #60, which points you’ve left untouched. How can one better account for the problems inherent in the text itself, specifically the problem of who is to write and what is to be written?
Kiskilili and TT, good thoughts, thanks. Along these lines, I should make it clear that in my posts on Exodus 34, I’m not claiming that this same certainty applies across the board, to every text, that has been touched by source critics. As I said about the endeavor (and Kiskilili said better), it’s a process. It involves making hypotheses and testing them and refining them. What the posts on Exodus 34 show, however, is that we can be absolutely certain that at one point there existed a tradition in which the material that scholars call J and E were separate. This is confirmed by Deuteronomy. The certainty afforded by this text is designed to show that there’s more to commend the DH as a whole than many want to admit, not that the DH must therefore be correct in all cases. It shows that we had separate traditions that line up perfectly with J and E at the same time that it solves problems involved in a straightforward reading of the text, and so we’re not totally ungrounded when it comes to hypothesizing that such traditions existed independently of each other.
Robert C., thanks for bringing this up. What Durham shows is only that people of faith can make theological sense of convoluted passages. This type of reasoning can answer the question posed by Julie of why the compiler would stitch together a narrative that didn’t make sense once it was put together. I don’t think the compiler’s method (since he wasn’t an author) was to produce narratives that make sense, but to put all the available sources together into some kind of order, since they all overlapped in narrative and content at important points. The fact that people (especially rabbis, who were very close readers) have been puzzling over the problems of the literature for centuries doesn’t mean anything about the development of the text. It just means that people have been successful at finding theological value in it.
The main reason people are going to such lengths to preserve the unity of the text is because, as I’ve said, they’ve got a theological stake in it. No one cares, for example, that, as Kiskilili said, tablet XII of Gilgamesh comes from another source. There are no grand attempts at preserving a unity. There may be those who seek to understand how an audience would have understood the contradictions in Gilgamesh, but this is altogether different from explaining how the text came to be. And that’s what most people confuse when looking at the Pentateuch.
jupiterschild, I don’t think anyone’s claiming that the DH has no value or no basis (though the extent to which it is speculative does of course seem in play, and I must agree with others who have suggested your use of absolutist terms like “absolute certainty” in #71 really tends to undermine your credibility as a thinker and hence a scholar, though you’ve clearly made many excellent points). Rather, the open question (that interests me at least) is the extent to which any of the redactors tweaked the stitched-together texts in order to make the texts more coherent (and hence theologically meaningful). You say,
I would be interested in hearing more support for this strict author-compiler distinction. Were the stories passed along and then written down in one sacred-writing event and no one after that writing event ever dared edit the text? Was there only one compiling/redacting event with no attempt at tweaking the texts for coherence? As Julie noted above, it seems that the interspersion of various texts within various narratives itself suggests a redactor role which has nontrivial theological implications (which modern literary critics are trying to recover). It seems to me that to make a convincing case that no such tweaking-redactor ever existed, you’d have to prove that there are seams in the text that are so awkward that no theological sense can be made of the whole. In the case of Exodus 34, it seems you have not made this air tight of a case (i.e. Durham’s reading, which is the first commentary I looked at, weaknesses notwithstanding, seems to make the possible existence of such a theologically-tweaking redactor at least a possibility). But even if you could make an air tight case for this passage, how would that preclude the possibility of there being theologically tweaking redactors for other passages?
I believe I addressed everything you brought up in #60 in #62.
jc and trailertrash,
I can’t see where your latest comments add anything new to the conversation. I think we’ve reached terminal velocity here: we’ve all said our piece and no one has convinced anyone else of anything. I have thoroughly enjoyed this conversation. As I said before, I find it very helpful to discuss the issue with actual DH advocates. You’ll no doubt be thrilled to hear that you have confirmed the position I originally took in the post.
One final note: jc ends with the claim that theological discomfort with fragmented texts is the impetus for the unwillingness to accept the DH. While this certainly seems to be the case for all of the evangelical anti-DHers, you also have a new breed of literary theorists who don’t give a fig theologically whether the text is unified or not but just aren’t persuaded by the DH’s claims. I’m proud to fall into that camp.
Points taken about my language, but please note that I didn’t use “absolutely certain” about the whole shebang, and not even about J and E existing or being separate grosso modo, but about the existence of an independent tradition in Exodus 34 that fits perfectly well with what we know of J and E. It seems incontrovertible to me. But I suppose that there’s an infinitesimal chance that D happened to excerpt only E when he didn’t actually have an E-based narrative in front of him (although what we know of the relationship between D and E makes this so unlikely as to be practically impossible).
As for the author-compiler distinction, this is admittedly less certain on the whole, but the evidence as it stands suggests that the sources that got put together were intact narratives that intersected at many points, much like the gospels (I’m making a comparison, not an analogy). So all the narratives, for example, have a revelation of law at Sinai/Horeb, two have creation stuff, two have covenant stuff, patriarchs, etc… It is likely that P’s narrative went from Creation to the building of the Temple, though these lines get messy once we leave the Pentateuch. I’ve just heard evidence that P even notes the descent of Israel into Egypt, which hadn’t been thought previously. Anyhow, the places where we’re most confident about the division of sources show intact narratives, and those narratives make much more sense on their own than when put together. So it seems that the person putting them together was more of a compiler than an editor. The places where we’re confident (not absolutely so, but confident) about cutting and changing are minimal and are totally unrelated to an overarching theology.
Now, where we see people making theological points and displaying their intentionality, especially in monumental inscriptions and postbiblical literature, they are doing so in as straightforward a manner as possible, in logically organized, coherent texts. Take the book of Jubilees, for example. It obviously uses preexistent sources, but it actively makes sense of them and smooths out bumps and repairs breaks. That is an example of someone who takes existing source material and puts it together with other existing traditions and makes theological point after theological point. In the Pentateuch, which defies narrative logic at so many points, to show that a redactor existed and did a bunch of theological tweaking takes much more proof than does a compiler. How can you distinguish the hand of a redactor from an author? The existence of such a redactor is much more conjectural.
The way it seems to have happened is that many traditions and narratives circulated in ancient Israel, most probably orally and some in writing. These traditions were passed down and organized and nuanced and tweaked by their tradents until they were at some point shaped into a narrative (at which point they may have still been changed according to theological needs). They circulated in different strata of society (the parade example is P, who were obviously privy to insider information about the workings of the cult). These were put into writing separately and stored. That’s how we get our sources (again, this is an educated guess). Each of these sources, it should be emphasized, were not the products of one sitting nor one writing. They are the result of the appropriation of different traditions and made use of a variety of documents in their composition: folktales, itineraries, genealogies, laws, censuses, ancient “epic” poetry, etc. Each source reflected the theology and worldview of its promulgators, and we can see explicit intentionality in them.
In the post exilic period, the returning Judeans were given the impetus to promulgate their law code by the persians. By this time the documents had crystallized and gained authoritative status and had gone with the Judeans into exile and back. In order to create a single authoritative source that would serve as the halakhic basis for Jewish life, the traditions were compiled. The reason they were able to be compiled was because they were at that point narrative by nature: that is, they told the story, by now from various perspectives, of the Israelite prehistory until their entry into the land (and very likely beyond that, but that’s a different discussion…). The person or people, then, who put them together, did so in the interest of consolidating all the traditions, and the evidence suggests that narrative logic was less important to them than was the preservation of the material.
That’s the way I and many others see it. And I can’t emphasize enough that the objections to this reading only come from conservative religious groups, especially Protestant. And, ironically enough, minimalists, who want to see everything as a single creation so that they can push it into the Persian and Hellenistic periods. (This is much more suspicious than the circularity that has been erroneously identified in this thread.) The reason for such strong reaction is that, to quote a colleague, “If the canonical text cannot be read intelligibly, then our attempts to so, and the attempts of all our predecessors, are nothing more than eisegesis.”
As far as splicing vs. juxtaposing (i.e. the supposed difference in process between Genesis 1/2-3 and 6-9 and Exod 34), these are categories that Julie made up. It’s all splicing, with varying size of “chunk”. So, the claim that is made, which I believe the evidence strongly supports, is that the compiler put the sources together in the only way he could. If you take the sources, for example, and separate them, and give them to bible students and tell them to splice the sources together, the results are very nearly identical. (I have colleagues who have done this every year with their students.) While this obviously doesn’t prove the whole hypothesis, it does show that such splicing is easily possible and quite natural–that students see not even a few possible ways that the story could go together. (And, while Julie argues that some see Genesis 2 as an expansion of day 6 or whathaveyou, this strains credulity and isn’t the most natural fit for someone putting the stories together. Julie, if you want to debate this point, please take 10 minutes and rearrange Genesis 1-3 into an order that makes the most literary sense while preserving the narrative, and we’ll look at it.)
jc #74, thanks, this is very helpful and interesting!
“And I canâ€™t emphasize enough that the objections to this reading only come from conservative religious groups, especially Protestant.”
This simply isn’t true. I’m no expert on who’s who in the world of OT studies, but even though I’m only familiar with a dozen or so names, one that comes to mind is Thomas Brodie, who wrote _Genesis as Dialogue_, is Catholic, and can hardly said to be theologically opposed to multi-sourced scripture given that he also wrote a book on the sources behind John’s Gospel!
I think what may be confusing you here is the very loud people shouting about why the DH is evil do tend to be the conservative Protestants. But the people who quietly go about writing books looking for literary reasons for the seams don’t show up on the radar as ‘anti-DH.’ They make comments (like Brodie does in his intro) that the DH looks “increasingly unnecessary” and then move on with their work–they don’t waste time refuting the DH. They just move on. Robert Alter would also fit this model.
You dealt with ancillary points of #60 in #62. You responded to my rebuttals of your previous contentions, but not to the major point I was making, which was how source criticism solves the basic problem of reading Exodus 34 as a narrative. What I’d like is for your new-breed literary theory (or whatever) to explain the simple discrepancies between command and fulfillment in Exod 34, and especially why your (or another) theory does a better job of explaining the text as a whole.
And, can you really count yourself as one in that camp, who “don’t give a fig theologically whether the text is a unity or not”, when you make comments like “I donâ€™t dismiss the idea that Moses had a major hand in the text”? And if they don’t give a fig, why are they reading the Bible?
If you would, please point me toward some of these authors; I’d love to see how the questions they ask of the text differ from what I’ve been suggesting. (I’ll be willing to bet that they’re not even in the same ballpark as those the DH is trying to explain.)
I don’t see you bringing up anything in #77 that I haven’t already answered. If you didn’t believe me the first time, you won’t buy it the second. If you have anything new to say, say it and I’ll respond. Otherwise, I’m done here.
The Brodie book should be easy enough to find at Amazon. You can’t spit without hitting Alter. You know where to find it if you want it.
Julie, if you won’t answer my questions, will you at least point to where you think you answered them? This is an honest question. I really want to see competing explanations, and not even primarily to take them apart, but I am interested in the range of analysis people make. So the first one: can you explain better the discrepancies inherent in Exodus 34, the command and the fulfillment. And the second: an arrangement of Genesis 1-3 that could be as easily read as it is now. This would give us something to actually discuss.
I’m familiar with Brodie and especially Alter. I thought you were talking about a new movement. I’ve responded to Alter-type claims above. As for Brodie, his agenda is visible in the subtitle of the book: A literary, historical, and theological commentary. In place of sources he has the totally improbable theory that Genesis was composed as a unity of 26 dyptichs. His proof of this? Chiasm, which is as circular and speculative as they come, especially over long narratives, and is inadmissible as evidence. Chiasm can be and has been “shown” to exist in sources after they’re separated. In place of a post Exilic compilation, he has a Hellenistic production. His proof of this? The P material seems to correlate with the Jerusalem priesthood of the Hellenistic period. So he’s both a minimalist and a conservative.
Elegance may not equal truth, but this type of reasoning gets us further away from it.
At this point, I’m not sure what you are trying to accomplish. Everything you ask me to do, I’ve done. If you didn’t believe it then, you won’t believe it if I waste another half-hour typing it up again. I’ve enjoyed the conversation, but if you don’t have anything new, then we’re done.
Having just finished reading Brodie last week, I wonder if you have actually read his book because your description does not ring familiar to me. But that’s neither here nor there–I wasn’t entirely persuaded by Brodie either but just mentioned his name to refute your contention that only traditionalists objected to the DH.
Julie, it’s apparent to me that you’re avoiding a real reasoning out of this small example. You haven’t provided an answer to the problem that I outlined in the beginning of 60, and asked you to engage in 71, 77, and 79. I’m not asking you to rehash arguments nor to respond to my contentions. I’m asking you to perform analysis, yourself. Call it exegesis. So that we can discuss.
[Brodie is front-and-center a Catholic. He calls his commentary theological. And he wants to see unity in the text and disregard the DH. How is he an example?]
I’m done. D-O-N-E. You may attribute my unwillingness to continue to conversation to anything you’d like, but the comment record stands on its own. Have a nice day.
We Mormons have scriptures that were canonized recently enough that we can trace the manner in which they were compiled. We can see processes at work analogous to the processes the OT source critics posit were at work in the compilation of the OT
As an example of the compilation process, we may take D & C Section 130. This section was not part of the D & C until the 1876 edition, and accordingly was not canonized until then. It was never published during Joseph Smithâ€™s lifetime, and accordingly was never reviewed by him with a view to publication. Though the way the section is written makes it sound as if Joseph Smith originally wrote or spoke the words in the section, the actual process is as follows. On 4-1-1843 Joseph went to Ramus Illinois. With him were Orson Hyde and William Clayton. On 4-2 (Sunday) Orson Hyde preached at the meeting in Ramus on John 14:23. and 1 John 3:2. After the morning meeting the brethren went to dinner at the house of Josephâ€™s sister, Sophronia and Joseph remarked that he would offer some corrections to Orsonâ€™s sermon. Our knowledge of these affairs can be traced entirely to William Claytonâ€™s diary, which survives. William wrote his diary entries in the evening after the events of the day were over. Accordingly the â€œitems of instructionâ€ contained in section 130 were certainly not written by Joseph Smith. The record that survives was first written down in the evening of the day. Whether William wrote his diary entries from memory or from notes made at the time Joseph was speaking at the dinner table is not known. How close the wording follows words actually uttered by Joseph is not known. How fully Claytonâ€™s diary entry conveys what Joseph actually understood is not known. My impression of William from close study of his diaries is that he was a literal-minded man, and I am unconvinced that his diary entries always convey the extent to which Joseph meant things figuratively, or in some degree symbolically. It would be possible, given the process outlined above, that William did not entirely understand nor entirely set down the correct meaning of what Joseph said. In any event Joseph was reacting apparently to false doctrine preached by Orson, a matter not disclosed in the scripture. After the brethren returned to Nauvoo, a diary entry was made in the prophetâ€™s own diary of the transaction. But Joseph seldom wrote his own diary entries. During this period Josephâ€™s diary entries were made by Willard Richards. It is evident from comparison with the Clayton diary that Richards, in writing the Joseph Smith diary entry used the Clayton diary as a source. The Smith diary entry, which survives, is in the handwriting of Richards. Richards did not go on the Ramus trip. But Richardsâ€™s version is not exactly the same as Claytonâ€™s. There are expansions and format changes. We do not know whether Richards made these changes under the direction of Joseph or not. Given that we have almost no entries made by the various scribes of occasions when Joseph personally reviewed or directed diary entries or other records, it is unlikely that Joseph ever heard or saw the account of his â€œitems of instructionâ€. Many years after the transaction, the History of the Church by Joseph Smith was compiled by yet other hands, none of which were Josephâ€™s. As to the portion related to Section 130, the brethren used both the Clayton and Richards entries. The History was published in installments in the Deseret News. The first time what became section 130 was ever published was on July 9, 1856, in Utah. When the 1876 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants was published the entry from the History of the Church was included as section 130.
Accordingly we have two written sources setting down what was previously an oral discourse, the written sources being the work of at least two different people (Clayton and Richards) and being combined to arrive at a single scripture which is falsely presented as being the actual direct words of a third person, Joseph Smith, the authority, on a certain date. One of the sources is based on the other, and both are traceable to an event which we have no reason to doubt actually occurred. But the possibilities of variance between the event and the final scripture are present. Moreover there is variance between the sources. There are various levels of redaction. The final redaction differs from both sources. Verse 1-2 follows the Richards version. Verse 3 is a combination of Richards and Clayton. Verse 22 in the scripture should be compared with the Clayton entry and the Joseph Smith diary entry. The sources exclude all mention of the Father and Son. The draft manuscript of the History of the Church follows the Clayton diary, but in the 1850s the brethren from the church historianâ€™s office reworded it and the eventual publication of the canonized version it had changed. Accordingly Smith, Clayton, Richards and brethren from the church historianâ€™s office were all involved in the process of arriving at compilation of the final scripture, which almost certainly differs substantially from Josephâ€™s words on April 3, 1843. It is possible that when the canonization took place, those on the publication committee of the 1876 edition of the D & C were unaware of the identity of all those involved in producing the published version of the History of the Church, or that substantive additions were made by people other than Joseph.
I am untroubled by this process. The men involved were good men who I believe sought the inspiration of the Lord in the work. Though it seems possible to me that certain parts are misleading depending on what one looks for ( ie, is section 130 reallyâ€items of instruction given by Josephâ€ as the published scripture maintains?) the worth of the Doctrine and Covenants is tremendous and is guaranteed by God. It is the word of God in all senses which have meaning to me.
In view of the fact that published monographs by the churchâ€™s own scholars since 1970 (the information in this comment is based on Lyndon Cookâ€™s The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith), have shown that virtually every book of modern scripture has undergone similar processes, I am somewhat surprised when I encounter reluctance of Latter-day Saints to entertain suggestions made by the source critics of the OT. My own analysis of the Old Testament as compared to modern revelation leads me to believe that accepting conclusions of the source critics can help us understand the Old Testament and modern revelation.
Thanks for your comment. However, I don’t think anyone here thinks it impossible that there are multiple sources in any OT text. The only issue is whether, when faced with an apparent discrepancy in the text, one is better served by looking first for a literary rationale or using the DH and, if we do use the DH, how much confidence we can have in its results given its methodology. The difference between the OT and the D & C is the paper trail and I ask you: How confident would you be in figuring out which parts of 130 were from which source if you had nothing in front of you but D & C 130 itself? And: If you come up against any apparent seam anywhere in the D & C, would you first wonder whether it was a deliberate move from one source or would you assume it was evidence of multiple sources?
Craig, thanks for laying that all out. I’ve often wondered what can be done with the authorship of the D&C. Particularly interesting to me is the process of attribution.
The question as far as pertains to the OT becomes whether this D&C evidence is of comparative or analogical value. Analogy would involve drawing structural correspondences between the D&C process you outlined and the Pentateuchal process, and comparison would not need such correspondences but would, rather, provide a counterpoint from which to view the object of inquiry. I believe your evidence to be, as you correctly show, of considerable comparative value when talking about the Pentateuch.
I disagree with what I hear Julie saying about the literary seams in this text, because she seems to be setting up an analogy. If we were to give her the benefit of the doubt and say she was just asking comparative questions and not implying analogy, the answer to those questions would have to be thus: We might not be at all confident in assigning multiple sources to the D&C, for many reasons. Why? Because it’s fundamentally different literature. D&C 130 does not form part of a larger narrative that exhibits the characteristics of the Pentateuch. The time spans are vastly different. And the list goes on. When one comes across a literary difficulty (seam is not the right word, because seam implies stitching together of sources), there are many ways to posit a solution, and the best solution will be the one that takes into account the evidence available for that text.
The idea that because we can’t find sources in other corpora, we should not look for them in the Pentateuch is one of the naive assumptions made often by people who don’t have training in source criticism and who are looking to discredit it. They take a given text that has a known quantity of sources and show that literary incongruities don’t match the sources, and therefore that such must be the case for the Pentateuch. This is also a problem of comparison vs. analogy. The theory has to fit the text one is working with. The type of literature and its own history of development allows us to look for sources in the Pentateuch. There is, for example, a fundamentally different theory for the compilation and composition of the Deuteronomistic History (1 Sam-2 Kings). And there is a different theory of the composition of the D&C.
You are right, of course, I cannot identify sources in the D & C from the text itself, with a high enough confidence level to make the endeavor useful. I think you are probably right that were I to run across an apparent seam in the D & C wording, looking for a deliberate move by one source rather assuming more than one source would be more useful. But I think jc has a good point, that reading the OT is different. I have a much higher confidence level in the results of source criticism. Your most essential question is, “is one better served by lookiing first for a literary rationale?” As to the D & C, I think the answer is yes, laying emphasis on the word “first”. As to the OT, I think the answer is, one should certainly look for a literary rationale and use the results of that consideration for all the usefulness one can get out of the results. But I don’t think one should assume that the results of the the search for a literary rationale are necessarily better than the results of the methods of source critics. Both can be useful. I suspect this attitude is not really much different than your own. As an example of the usefulness of the search for a literary rationale, my favorite example is the one pointed out by Robert Alter, the story of Judah and Tamar. The insertion of the story does indeed indicate to me a “seam”. But if I just assume its just a patch up job, and because of that assumption I neglect to consider the wonderful commentary the story makes on what has gone on before and on Judah himself, I certainly will have lost out. If the juxtaposition is the result of a masterful redactor, I say, he is indeed masterful. But then I take the two versions of creation. I again see a seam between the story of the seven days of creation and story of the man in the garden. The results of source criticism tell me that the first is from the priestly tradent and the second is from the Yahwist. But the tools of source criticism have allowed further suggestions, as to the identity and date of the priestly tradent and the Yahwist. The suggestion is made that the Yahwist may have written from Solomon’s court, but in any case wrote from the Kingdom of Judah at that time or a little later. I consider the highly symbolic story of the Garden of God, with the river Gihon flowing out of it, with its tree of life and its cherubim guarding the way to God’s presence. The insight due to the results of source criticism — that the Yahwist, in light of who he was and where he wrote, may have been concerned in legitimizing the new temple with its Garden of God setting, its tree of life carving on its interior walls, its cherubim carving on the barrier to the holy of holies, and the Gihon stream flowing out from under the hill on which it was built– aids me in understanding the story. It helps me avoid the imbecility of Isaac Asimov, who in his “Guide to the Bible” made the asinine suggestion that the story was merely an etiological folktale explaining why snakes have no legs.
Similar insights are possible considering the date and identity of the priestly tradent. If I read without the background of source criticism, which after all, begins with those “seams”, I miss much.
I think it not profitable to assume any of the tools that might help me understand scripture should be primary in all circumstances. Sometimes looking for a literary rationale will yield better results. But only sometimes.
Reading the discussion about OT authorship made me think of the article by psychiatrist and physicist Jeffrey Satinover, which starts out: \”In 1988 an obscure paper was publishedâ€“in a prominent, rigorous, indeed premier, scientific journalâ€“with results that may demolish the claims of the \”higher\” critics, and support, rather, the Orthodox Jewish contention as to the nature of the Torah. The paper, by Doron Witztum, Eiyahu Rips and Yoav Rosenberg of the Jerusalem College of Technology and the Hebrew University, is innocuously entitled \”Equidistant Letter Sequences of the Book of Genesis\” and was published in the eminent Journal of the Royal Statistical Society.1 It generated a brief flurry of public attention (and a wave of activity within Orthodox Jewish circles) but was ultimately lost from general view both because of its rather technical nature and because of the sheer outrageousness of its findings, which remain, however, unrefuted as far as I know. The authors, mathematical statisticians, discovered words encoded into the Hebrew text that could not have been accidentalâ€“nor placed there by human hand.\” Satinover\’s entire article may be read here: http://www.meru.org/Codes/satinovr.html