A brief note about the Documentary Hypothesis...

A while back I wrote a piece that referred to some issues I had with the ole JEDP theory--the Documentary Hypothesis...

It seems like I am not the only one. In researching the data for the AE class I am teaching on "how we got our OT", I ran across some scholarly articles that displayed an interesting pattern. I have put the abstracts and the dates below, in chronological order. See if YOU see the same striking progression I saw...

Author: Larsson, Gerhard

Title: The Documentary Hypothesis and the Chronological Structure of the Old Testament.

Journal: Z fur die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft

Year: 1985

Volume: 97(3); pages: 316-333

Surveys criticism of the documentary hypothesis and notes the more recent, synthesizing approach. This includes studies of pericopes as units and studies of internal connections between narratives to find common structural elements. A closer study is also made of the feasibility of using the chronological dates to shed light on the structural design and internal connections of the Pentateuch.


Author: Schmidt, Ludwig

Title: Jakob erschleicht sich den vaterlichen Segen (Jacob Obtains Surreptitiously the Paternal Blessing).

Journal: Z fur die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft

Year: 1988

Volume: 100(2), pages: 159-183

Despite the debate about the Documentary Hypothesis, proposes to divide Gen 27:1-45 into two documents attributable to J and E. E is a revision of J, and the Jehovist, who combined J though he occasionally retained only the longer of the two versions. From 27:36 it can be concluded that 25:29-34 also belongs to E. J and E are also discovered in Gen 32:4-9, 14a and 32:14b-22 respectively.



Author: Tengstrom, Sven

Title: Exegetisk metod och dateringsproblem i pentateukforskningen (Exegetical Method and the Problem of Dating the Pentateuch in Recent Research)

Journal: Svensk Exegetisk Arsbok

Year: 1989

Volume: 54, pages: 207-225

Recently scholars (Van Seters, Schmid, Rendtorff, Rose, Lemche) have challenged both the documentary hypothesis of the Pentateuch's composition and even the presuppositions supporting literary-critical analysis itself. Likewise thus the dates of the Pentateuchal material come into question. But these studies are not informed by modern structural and linguistic approaches. An approach to exegesis so informed leads to dating the Yahwist's work far earlier than is usually done, well back into the premonarchical period. (Swedish)


Author: van Dyk, P. J.

Title: Current Trends in Pentateuch Criticism.

Journal: Old Testament Essays,

Year: 1990

Volume: 3(2), pages: 191-202.

It is now accepted that the documentary hypothesis is hampered with serious difficulties. Redaction history and tradition history are now considered more fitting points of departure than literary criticism in explaining the origin of the Pentateuch. There is a preference for the view that much of the Yahwistic material was written later than originally thought, implying a much longer period of oral and written transmission of many of the Pentateuchal narratives. The way literary criticism and tradition history were applied in the past is largely invalidated by current folklore research which should be used as a corrective as well as to devise a new theory on how the Pentateuch originated.


Author: Rendtorff, Rolf.

Title: The Paradigm Is Changing: Hopes - and Fears.

Journal: Biblical Interpretation,

Year: 1993

Volume: 1(1), pages: 34-53.

Wellhausen's Documentary Hypothesis has come to an end. Other major scholarly views of the 20th cent., e.g., Gunkel's concentration on the smaller units, and Noth's and von Rad's Israelite amphictyony are cratering. Nothing substantial, however, has replaced these views. Several contemporary scholars advocate "fearful" concepts: Israelite religion was little different from Canaanite religion; one can write a history of Israel without using the Hebrew Bible; more and more OT texts are exilic and postexilic, and their historical allusions are not reliable. Still, a "hopeful" aspect of present work is the tendency to deal with the text as it is.

When I couple this pattern with the recent works I have read...

I personally am convinced by these arguments that Rendsburg's conclusion is on target:
"The evidence presented here points to the following conclusion: there is much more uniformity and much less fragmentation in the book of Genesis than generally assumed. The standard division of Genesis into J, E, and P strands should be discarded. This method of source criticism is a method of an earlier age, predominantly of the 19th century. If new approaches to the text, such as literary criticism of the type advanced here, deem the Documentary Hypothesis unreasonable and invalid, then source critics will have to rethink earlier conclusions and start anew." (p. 105)

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