In 1876, Julius Wellhausen, a German biblical scholar, proposed the idea of source criticism for examining the books of the bible (Also known as the Documentary Hypothesis). By using this technique and examining the Hebrew texts, he broke the Pentateuch into four principle sources. The first was theYahweh or J source (Yahweh is spelled with a J in German), this was the narrative of the Kingdom of Judah. Wellhausen estimated that it was written about 850 BCE, not long after the two kingdoms had divided. The second source is called E for Eloheem, it is the narrative of the northern Kingdom of Israel. Wellhausen estimated that it was joined to the J source around 650 BCE, just shortly before the time of King Josiah. The third source is Josiah's book Deuteronomy, or the D source, written around 621 BCE. The final source is the Priestly source that was added in after the Babylonian exile around 450 BCE.
The idea of four sources for the Pentateuch JED&P has been added to many times in the last hundred and twenty years as scholars explore deeper into the bible and more supporting archeological evidence is discovered. Herman Gunkel, Gerhard von Rad and Rolf Rendtorff have all added to this original idea. Dr. Finklestein has just published a new book (2001) supporting my particular version of the Josiah story. As in all things biblical, there is a raging contoversy about nearly every point raised by Wellhausen, including whether or not to give Wellhausen primacy for the whole idea. But to the modern biblical scholar these arguements are irrelevant. The obviousness of the sources speak for themselves. The real kicker is that individuals pretended to study these writings for more than 2 millennia without seeing this very simple fact embedded within the texts themselves. Faith IS blind!
The sources can be best seen by examining several passages and comparing them. There's nothing tricky in this, nothing devious. Try it for yourself if you don't believe me. The E source is so called because God is referred to as Eloheem which is usually translated as simply "God" in most English bibles. This source treats God as cold, aloof and powerful. The best example of the E source is the very first chapter of Genesis. The second chapter of Genesis starting with verse 4 is part of the J source. God is referred to as Yahweh-El which is usually translated as the "Lord God". In this version he is more involved with the dealings of men and women. He walks around like a regular guy.
You can see these writing styles weaving in and out together in the story of the creation and the story of Noah and the flood. In both cases you can see that there are really two very different stories being told. People have often commented on the contradictory nature of these stories but never on why the editor would allow them to coexist in the first place. Now it appears that both the northern and southern kingdom's traditions were intentionally preserved side by side regardless of differences precisely because they were both viewed as sacred works. The priests in charge of the writing didn't want to loose any of the material. Contradictions didn't matter to them
The chronology of the Pentateuch can be established by comparing it to the historical texts which follow even though they themselves have been heavily edited. We can use the question of priestly qualifications and proper sacrifices as a guide. Exodus chapter 20 is part of the J source. In it, verse 24, it is clear that sacrifices can be made anywhere and in verses 24 and 25 we learn that anyone is allowed to make these sacrifices. This idea is borne out by some of the oldest texts in the whole bible. The so called early source in the Books of Samuel was probably written during the reign of Solomon. This source shows that Samuel was well suited to the priesthood even though he was an Ephraimite (a subtribe of the tribe of Joseph) and that he could offer sacrifices at places outside of Jerusalem, which didn't exist at the time, and still find favor with God just as it indicates in Exodus 20.
In Deuteronomy, the qualifications for the priesthood are reduced to Levitical Priests and places of sacrifice to only one place (to be named later). These changes do not appear to be in place until the reforms of Josiah related in 2nd Kings Chapters 22 & 23.
Finally we find out that priests can only come from a particular subtribe of Levi. More specifically the house of Aaron, the brother of Moses. Yet in the chronological works that follow the Pentateuch we can see that the practice of selecting priests only from the house of Aaron entered the common practice after the exile in Babylon. It is first mentioned in Ezekiel 44 they are referred to as the sons of Zadok who was Aaron's descendant.
This logic contains an assumption that people tend to make rules more restrictive over time which is a pattern we can see in every legislative body in the world today. That is why it is assumed that the least restrictive arrangement comes first (anybody, anyplace).
It is obvious from the text that monotheism was a late arrival in the Hebrew landscape. Abraham had to be told the name of the god he's talking to in order that he knows which god it is. The Israelites are always ready to worship other gods whenever they get in trouble during the wilderness wandering. Throughout the books of Kings we are told time and again how the people (and even many of the kings) are worshipping other gods. The priests of Yahweh may have been monotheists earlier but the people didn't seem to take to the idea until well after the Babylonian exile.
This seems strange to people today who think of monotheism as a very natural idea but the Hebrews had to be hit over the head with it a number of times before it took. During their Egyptian experiences before the Exodus they were certainly exposed to the teachings of the heretic pharaoh Ankenaten who proposed the first truly monotheistic cult in 1300?BCE. Later, during the Babylonian exile they were also exposed to the monotheistic concepts included in the teachings of Zoroaster.
But the most telling evidence that monotheism only entered the Hebrew consciousness after the exile is the introduction of Satan. The claim of monotheism immediately creates the theological problem of Evil (how can a good god be so bad?). The Hebrews solved this by essentially abandoning monotheism almost as soon as they adopted it and introducing an anti-god on whom all bad things could be blamed. The relationship between these two deities has been a problem that has plagued theologians ever since.
Tomorrow in the newspaper you read the following story... President Bush announced today that Chief Justice William Reinquist has made an amazing discovery. In an unused storage closet of the Supreme Court building in Washington DC, Judge Reinquist has discovered a previously unknown document which purports to be the lost second page of the Constitution of the United States. The signatures of Hamilton and the other members of the Constitutional Convention affixed to the document have been authenticated by Dana Bryant a specialist in post revolutionary history and coincidentally the grand-daughter-in-law of Fred Bryant, Mr. Bush's chief of staff.
According to Mr. Bush, the newly expanded Constitution includes a specific Right-to-Life which specifically makes abortion illegal, it mandates that the nation's energy needs take precedence over any environmental considerations and specifically says that "Southern States" need not recount their votes once an original tally has been made. Other passages seem to outlaw the Democratic party and virtually guarantee Mr. Bush two more terms in office if he so desires.
Another strange development is that the founding fathers decided that only the direct descendants of one Thadeus Reinquist, a rural Pennsylvanian turnip farmer and slave holder who died in 1794, are qualified to be Supreme Court justices. By a remarkable coincidence Chief Justice Reinquist and Justice Clarence Thomas are both direct descendants. The other justices have been asked to turn in their resignations by noon tomorrow. "I guess the two of us will just have to make a lot of tough decisions by ourselves until the court catches up", Justice Thomas was quoted as saying...
Would you believe a single word of this if you heard it? Apparently the subjects of King Josiah bought it hook line and sinker when virtually the same story was fed to them. And so does anyone who includes the book of Deuteronomy in the works of Moses.
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This page was last updated on 13-Jan-2001