Source and Tradition Critical Reconstructions of the Pentateuch

Old Testament Introduction SMC Bi 521, Spring 2013 Visiting Lecturer: David Battle

Objectives
The student will . . .  Name and describe the classical documentary hypothesis of the Pentateuch.
 Describe the basic sources as identify

by of source critics.

Objectives (Continued)
 Describe the basic assertions of

Tradition Criticism.
 Distinguish the standard source critical

reconstruction of the Old Testament from Noth’s tradition critical reconstruction.

Historical Criticism
 Source Criticism postulates that the

Pentateuch and related books were compiled from earlier documents.
 Tradition Criticism seeks to trace the various

tradition-clusters behind the sources used in the compilation of the Pentateuchal books.

Source Criticism
(old literary criticism)
 Jean Astruc  Conjectures Concerning the Original Memoranda (1753)  Graf-Wellhausen Hypothesis

 Julius

Wellhausen (1844-1918)

Prolegomena zur Geshichte Israels (1878) or Introduction to the History of Israel

Reset the Documentary Hypothesis into a historical reconstruction of the religious development of Israel JEDP in his work.

Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918)
 Reordered the “Sources” of the Pentateuch

and order according to a reconstructed the history of Israelite religion.
    

Early or pre-Israelite people had to be polytheist. Monolatry Henotheism Monotheism Ethical Monotheism Legalism

Graf-Wellhausen Hypothesis
Identifies four source documents in

the Pentateuch.  J or the Yahwist (Jahwe) Source  E or the Elohim Source  P or the Priestly Source  D or the Deteronomist

J or Yahwist Source Indentified
 Uses the name “YHWH” for God.

 Describes God in anthropomorphic terms.
 Sets many of its narratives in Judah.  Moses' father-in-law is Reuel and the Law

was given at Mount Sinai.  Emphasizes the faith of the Patriarchs.  Emphasizes the three-fold promise to Abraham: land, descendants, and blessing.

J or Yahwist Source Reconstructed
 The fullest of the four sources.  Originally a Judean Epic  Dated to the Tenth Century B.C. (ca. 950)

E or Elohim Source Identified
 Uses the title “Elohim” for God.

 Describes God in transcendent terms.
 Narratives occur mostly in Northern Kingdom.  God communicates with mankind through

dreams and visions not person to person.  Shows interest in the prophetic office.  Moses receives his revelation at Mont Horeb.  Moses’ father-in-law is named Jethro.

E or Elohim Source Reconstructed
 Very fragmentary.  Very often attached to J (JE)

 Prophetic emphasis implies that it comes form the

schools of the prophets found in the Northern Kingdom.
 Was a collection of traditions originating in the

kingdom of Israel during the 9th and 8th centuries B.C.

D or Deuteronomist Identified
 Identifies Mount Horeb as place of Moses

revelation.
 Emphasizes the prophetic office.  Core is the Deuteronomic Code.  Deuteronomy 12-26  Emphasizes the Levites.

D or Deuteronomist Reconstructed
 Originated among the Levites in the

northern kingdom.
 Came to prominence during the reforms

of Josiah in 7th century B.C.
 Deuteronomy

12-26  Very concerned with centralized worship.

P or Priestly Source
Identified
 Uses “Elohim” as the divine name along with other titles

like “El” or “El Shadday.”
 God is very remote.  Emphasizes the Covenants: Noahic, Abrahamic, and

Sinaitic.
 Place of Moses’ revelation is Sinai.
 Is very concerned with the sacrifices and rituals holiness.

P or Priestly Source Reconstructed
 Was a compilation of ritual regulations, and

genealogies from the late monarchal and exilic period.
 The Priestly redaction of the Pentateuch was

done during the Exile and return to the land.

Tradition Criticism
Martin Noth (1902-1968)
 Investigated the traditions behind the

sources and the text.
 A History of Pentateuchal Traditions
(1948)

Tradition Criticism
 Noth searched for the Grundlage or common

traditions among the sources.  The common traditions between “E” and “J”  Guidance out of Egypt  Guidance into the promised land  Promises to the Patriarchs  Guidance in the wilderness  Revelation at Sinai  Various tribes brought these traditions with them into an Israelite antiphony.

Deuteronomistic History
 Deuteronomy serves as an introduction to the

Historical Books.
Deuteronomic Code  Deuteronomistic History (DH)

Observations
 Each of these critical reconstructions are very free,

modern abstractions of the History of Israel.
  

They assume that the ancient writers freely reconstructed the history of Israel. Thus, modern reconstructions are based upon conjectured reconstructions. Such reconstructions provide only a nebulous framework from which to discern the original meaning of the text.

Observations
 Both Source and Tradition make valid

assertions.

Source Criticism is correct in seeing a Hexatuech in that many of the major themes introduced in Genesis through Deuteronomy are not resolved until Joshua. Tradition Criticism is correct to note that Deuteronomy is dramatically different from Genesis through Numbers and that it serves as backdrop for the historical books.

Pentateuch
 The Bible is a very complex and subtle work.

 There are many sub themes but they are all

intended to be read together.

Umberto Cassuto (1883-1951) Argued that use of the divine names reflected a theological coherence in their blending or usage.

Concluding Remarks
 Every writer has an agenda in writing.  The interpreter’s job is to understand the

message and agenda of the writer.
 

We have the text. We have some historical background. Reconstructions should help us understand the text as it stands, not to rewrite the text.

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