Tuesday, 10 August 2010

the documentary hypothesis

of how and when the first books of the bible
the pentateuch
were written
which posits four distinct sources/ writers
and a final editor, or two
of different age
and place
and agenda
and literary quality
and that those different sources account for the
contradictions and double statements

J, Jahwist source

The oldest source, concerned with narratives, making up half of Genesis and half of Exodus, plus fragments of Numbers. J describes a human-like God, called Yahweh (or rather YHWH) throughout, and has a special interest in the territory of the Kingdom of Judah and individuals connected with its history. J has an eloquent style. Originally composed c. 950 BCE.[4]

E, Elohist source

E parallels J, often duplicating the narratives. Makes up a third of Genesis and half of Exodus, plus fragments of Numbers. E describes a human-like God initially called Elohim, and Yahwehburning bush, at which Elohim reveals himself as Yahweh. E focuses on the Kingdom of Israel and on the Shiloh priesthood, has a moderately eloquent style. Originally composed c. 850 BCE.[4] subsequent to the incident of the

D, Deuteronomist source

D in the Pentateuch is restricted to the book of Deuteronomy, although it continues into the subsequent books of Joshua, Judges and Kings. It takes the form of a series of sermons about the Law, as well as recapitulating the narrative of Exodus and Numbers. Its distinctive term for God is YHWH Elohainu, traditionally translated in English as "The Lord our God." Originally composed c. 650–621 BCE.[4]

P, Priestly source

P is preoccupied with lists (especially genealogies), dates, numbers and laws. P describes a distant and unmerciful God, referred to as Elohim. P partly duplicates J and E, but alters details to stress the importance of the priesthood. P consists of about a fifth of Genesis, substantial portions of Exodus and Numbers, and almost all of Leviticus. According to Wellhausen, P has a low level of literary style. Composed c. 600–400 BCE.[4]

R, Redactor

The first redaction of the Torah (Rd1) combined J and E to create JE, c 750 BCE. A second redactor combined JE with D and P to put the work into its final form c 400 BCE.

this hypothesis held for a hundred or so years
till the 90s

for it has proved to be a perennial
permanent in fact
very difficult task for historians to

assess the actual source
contemporary pressures
and inspirations
for the writing and the editing
and has thus far proved
in fact
an impossible job
for this view, the DH, reigned
with general acceptance
for most of the 20th century but is now
slowly dissolving into desuetude
scholars now doubt the dates
the entire notion of four different writers
doubt every one of the writers
doubt the dates
doubt everything
and so
classically, for the post-modern era
the certainties have collapsed
and now no-one can say much for sure
where before they could
and all the recent works are near unreadable
not for the faint-hearted
in the marvelous words of one scholar
but, i have to wonder
weren't we better off when there was a working hypothesis?
a version of history many or most could agree with?
even though it was wrong?
because now we have no certainty or certainties
no solid mental ground to stand on
and perhaps a diverse range of different views
now we can no longer say anything at all
and there may not be for centuries
another hypothesis many or most can agree with
and looking at history
one can confidently ask if
there will ever be a theory as solid as that one

as popularly believed in
so that the DH may be the best we ever got
the golden age of biblical scholarship
when we actually had something to believe in
something we could believe in
where now its chaos
where now everything is utterly disputable
and there are a whole host of competing theories
each with its own advocates
its own agenda
institutional investment
career investment
while me i like the DH because it
fits my mindset that
the priestly source be the dull one
the least well-written one
the Vatican-style self-agendaed self-interested one
my longheld fraser-esque idea
or was it mcluhan-esque idea
in ancient israel
the scribes were always at war with the prophets
and in this rationale
the yahwehist would be
the prophet
and the priestly the
powerseeking scumbag dryitout
scribe type

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