Saturday, June 09, 2007

The Documentary Theory or the Graf-Welhausen Theory (Part 3)...

In Part 1 and Part 2, I briefly described the history and exegetical landscape that led to the formulation of the GWDT. I will offer a sketch of the GWDT in this installment.

Having given a very brief survey of the historical and intellectual development upon which the GWDT was founded, the major premises and conclusions of the GWDT will be presented. The conclusions of the GWDT have far reaching ramifications. This is not simply about the literary development and formation of the Pentateuch as one historical text among many. The development of the entire religion and history of the Hebrew people is at stake. For if the dating of the Pentateuch is quite late, around 500 BC according to the GWDT, then the Pentateuch is a development of Judaism rather than its foundation. Are the Josiac reforms of the seventh century really a so-called pious fraud, as Wellhausen claims[1]? Is the Pentateuch really a compilation of a multitude of unrelated sources that were shaped into a story by countless, faceless redactors? What impact does that have on our notions of the inspiration of Scripture? The GWDT along with other types of criticism are looking to answer important questions about the text such as ‘who is the author?’, ‘what is the date of composition?’, and ‘how is one to explicate the various styles etc. that occur within the Pentateuch?’ to name a few. The Theory consists in the identification of different sources based on several broad categories: the use of different names for God, stylistic and vocabulary differences, and repetitions and doublets. The first and foundational criterion for the GWDT is based on the observation that different names are used for God as discovered by Witter and Astruc[2]. One of the sources exclusively used YHWH (J) when referring to God and the other Elohim (E) until the revelation of the name YHWH to Moses in Exodus 3:14[3]. Obviously, this criterion was only useful for Genesis. When the two sources were separated, it was observed that there were stylistic and vocabulary differences between the E and J and even within the E itself[4]. Based on these criteria, the Elohist was subsequently divided into two sources: the Elohist source and the Priestly (P) source. Due to the fact that Deuteronomy was so different stylistically, this was considered a separate source and named the Deuteronomist. This produced the basic and well known source divisions of J, E, P, and D of the GWDT. The figure below illustrates one conception of the interrelation of the sources.

Figure 1. The Scheme of Pentateuchal Sources Over Time[5]. One can see the obvious complexity of the sources as they are being redacted over a great number of centuries. Stylistic and vocabulary usage are a major, albeit secondary, criteria by which the sources are identified. Once the separation between J and E was made, it was noticed that there were obvious differences in style and word usage between J and E, as stated above. This allowed the exegetes to divide the rest of the Pentateuch according the J, E, P, and D model by correlating these differences with the sources delineated in Genesis. The figure below summarizes the major stylistic and vocabulary differences.

Yahwist (J)

Elohist (E) Priestly (P) Deuteronomist (D)
God is Yahweh God is Elohim God is Elohim God is Yahweh
God walks and talks with us God speaks in dreams, etc. Cultic approach to God Moralistic approach
Stress on blessing Stress on fear of the Lord Stress on law obeyed Stress on Mosaic obedience
Earthy speech about God Refined speech about God Majestic speech about God Speech recalling God’s work
Stresses the leaders Stresses the prophetic Stresses the cultic Stresses fidelity to Jerusalem
Narrative and stories Narrative and warnings Dry lists and schemata Long homiletic speeches
Stress on Judah Stress on Northern Israel Stress on Judah Stress on whole land of Israel
Uses term “Sinai” Uses term “Horeb

Calls natives “Canaanites” Calls natives “Amorites

Uses genealogy lists Loves military imagery

Has many fixed phrases
Table 1. Stylistic and Vocabulary Differences Between Pentateuchal Sources[6].

Furthermore, Table 1 above illustrates the so-called Criterion of Ideology. This criterion uses speech about God i.e., whether it is anthropomorphic or anthropopathic, to further delineate the sources. In other words, speaking about God in a lofty, spiritual way indicates a later, more developed theology such as P; whereas, more anthropomorphic or anthropopathic language is indicative of a different, earlier, and more crude source J. This is a striking example of the Hegelian model of progress that underlies the GWDT. Lastly, one can find multiple examples of doublets and repetitions throughout the Pentateuch. The GWDT considered these textual features to again indicate separate sources[7]. Examples include two stories of creation (Gn 1 and Gn 2), two stories of the flood (Gn 7, 7:31), Abraham sends Hagar away twice (Gn 16 and 21), and the Decalogue being given twice (Ex 20 and Dt 5). In sum, the GWDT is founded upon a characteristic of the Biblical text wherein one finds two different names used for God. These are considered to be different sources. When exegetes separated the passages using the names of God as their criteria, they were able to identify other criteria (style and vocabulary, doublets and repetitions, and the criterion of ideology) within the primary division that allowed them to resolve the rest of the Pentateuch into its putative sources. One quickly notices how subjective and artificial the entire structure of the GWDT is. There are no objective criteria to assess stylistic variations with any certitude. Furthermore, the entire system relies completely on the first division being true for if J and E are not actually different sources then the entire apparatus collapses.
Next time we will forward arguments against the GWDT...

[1] - The so-called "Pious Fraud is Wellhausen's hypothesis that there was a "prophet" that wrote Deuteronomy who was interested in reforming Jewish worship especially relegating it to Jerusalem. This unknown prophet wrote Deuteronomy and hid it within the Temple where he knew that it would be found. Hilkiah the high priest found the law and brought it to king Josiah. The discovery of the law led to a great period of reform (cf. 2 Samuel 22-23). Deuteronomy, then, would have been written in about 622 BC.

[2] Boadt, L., Reading the Old Testament: an Introduction, New York: Paulist Press, 1984, pg. 93; Weiser, 77.

[3] Segal, M.H., The Documentary Theory in the Composition of the Pentateuch, pg. 3.

[4] Boadt, 93.

[5] Reproduced from Boadt, 94.

[6] Reproduced from Boadt, 97.

[7] Robert and Feuillet, 75.

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