Religious Studies 211

Humanities 211

Introduction to Hebrew Scripture

Introduction to the Old Testament


The Documentary Hypothesis

I. Definition: The theory (belief) that the Pentateuch as we have it in bibles since the first century c.e. was composed by various authors, and then put together by redactors (editors). Many of the supporters of the documentary hypothesis do believe in divine revelation. Some do not believe in divine revelation. None of them believe in divine dictation.

II. Origin: The theory was originated in the first century c.e. and was been supported by many Jewish Rabbinic scholars until approximately 1000 to 1200 c.e. Then the tradition began to attribute the books to Moses. The modern documentary hypothesis is often attributed to Karl H. Graft (1815-1869) and Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918). Biblical Fundamentalists and Evangelicals often speak of the Graft-Wellhausen Hypothesis or simply of the Wellhausen Hypothesis. The modern theory developed as follows:

1711 ... H. B. Witter, a German pastor, stressed Gen 1:1-2:4 and 2:4-3:24 are parallel accounts of creation with different names of God, Elohim and Yahweh

1753...Jean Astruc, a French physician, posited n Elohim source and a Yahweh source.

1780... J. G. Eichorn, argued from doublets, diversity of style, different vocabulary, to separate the two sources.

1798... K. D. Ilgen subdivided the Elohim source into two documents creating the three document theory.

1805 W.M.L. deWette developed a chronology in which Deuteronomy was written in the last quarter of the seventh century bce.

1853...Hermann Hupfield expanded the theory from Genesis to the entire Pentateuch. He proposed

1. A Yahweh document (J), 2. An Elohim document (E), 3. A second Elohim document characterized by priestly interests and order (P) and Deuteronomy (D)

III. Basic argument. The argument that there are four sources is based on the following observations:

1. Different names of God.

2. Different literary styles.

3. Different vocabulary.

4. Different place names.

5. Different names of major characters

6. Doublets (Repetition of the same story)

7. The story of Moses’ death.

8. References to cities and locations that were not in existence until many centuries after the time of Moses.

9. Stories that differ by reflecting the interests of different tribes of Israel and Judah..

10. Stories that differ on who may offer sacrifice to God.

11. Differences in ethical interpretations

12. Differences of perspective.

13. Differences in theology.


A. J Document

Gen. 2:1- 4:26, 6:1-8, 6:10, 6:12, 7:1-10, 8:6-12, 8:20-22, 9:25-27, 11:1-9, 12:1-3, 16:1-2, 4-14, 19:28, 19:30-38, 21:1-34

1. God’s names YHWH (Yahweh), (Lord or Lord God)

2, Colorful folk narrative and personal style

3. Spontaneous and warm

4. God is immanent.

5. God is anthropomorphic. God walks and talks with humans. .

6. No embarrassment for immoral behavior of major characters.

7. No restriction on who may offer sacrifice.

8. Found in Genesis, Exodus and Numbers

9. Wellhausen’s date - 1050 bce

10. Common date given today - 950 bce

11. Personal name of God, Yahweh used prior to Moses

12. Credit Judah with saving Joseph’s life.

13. Favors the Southern Kingdom , Judah, person of Judah, Southern shrines, locations, etc.

14. Stresses Yahweh’s covenant as an unbroken record of Judah’s history

15. Narrative core of Genesis, Exodus and Numbers

16. Epic and dramatic character

17. Have the story of the three great myths, the Garden of Eden, The flood, and the tower of Babel

18. Always a human perspective

19 Sees history as a series of crises.

20. Stresses role of human leaders

21. Refers to the mountain of the 10 commandments as Sinai

22. Stress the importance and significance of women, especially Eve, Sarah, Hager, Rebekah, Amar, and Potiphar’s wife.

23. Contemporary feminist scholars often argue that J is a woman. .

B. E Document

Gen 15:1-20, 20:1-18, Gen.22:1-19, 22:1-19 Ex 3:9-14

1. God’s name is Elohim (God)

2. God appears as an angel, not directly

3. God appears in dreams

4. Moral justification given for major character’s behavior (

5. No restriction on who may offer sacrifice.

6. Found Genesis, Exodus and Numbers

7. Personal name of God, Yahweh, introduced to Moses.

8. Has the most information concerning the story of Joseph.

9. Support the northern Kingdom, Israel or Samaria.

10. Reuben is the protector of Joseph.

11. Emphasizes northern cities, Bethel and Shechem.

12. Does not appear in the first 11 chapters of Genesis.

13. Alternates with J in the patriarchal accounts and in parts of Exodus and Numbers

14. Contains the narrative account of Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac.

15. Stresses prophetic messages

16. God is transcendent, speech about God is refined, but not majestic.

17. Refers to the mountain of the 10 commandments as Horeb.

C P Document

Gen. 1:1-2:4, 5:1-32, 6:9, 6:11, 6:13-22, 7:11-9, 7:24, 8:13-16, 9:8-17, 9:28, 10:1-32, 11:10-32, 12:4-20, 16:3, 16:15-16, 19:29, 22:20-23:20, Ex. 6:3

1. God’s names is Elohim (God)

2. Crisp, orderly and polished style

3. Clear outline

4. Effective refrains - i.e., “toledoth” generations “These are the generations of...”

5. Economy of words

6. Dry genealogical framework and lists

7. God is transcendent.

8. Only priests may offer sacrifice.

9. Found in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers

10. Personal name of God, Yahweh, introduced to Moses

11. Stress on Southern Kingdom, Judah

12. Stresses cultic teachings

13. Speech about God is very majestic

D D Document

1. Long tedious catalogue of cultic and priestly low.

2. Only the tribe of Levi may offer sacrifice.

3. Found in Deuteronomy.

4. Stress on the importance of custom and tradition.

5. Laws in sermonic form given in expressions such as ,”Hear O Israel,” “remember”, “take heed to yourself,” etc.

6. Develops the Deuteronomic view of the cycle of history. Prosperity > apostasy > oppression > penitence (repentance) > deliverance and prosperity > apostasy

7. Stress on importance of central shrine in Jerusalem

8. Stress on fidelity to Jerusalem

9. Speeches about God recall God’s past work.

10. God is YHWH

11. Contains long sermons.