Re: Genesis in cuneiform on tablets

From: Peter Ruest (
Date: Mon Oct 14 2002 - 00:51:04 EDT

  • Next message: Peter Ruest: "Re: Genesis in cuneiform on tablets"

    Jim Eisele wrote:
    > What is at stake here? If we accept Genesis as accurate, the
    > genealogies must have had a source pre-(what, 1500 BC?)
    > The Bible can be just as accurate (or inaccurate) no matter
    > how it was transmitted.

    I agree that, theoretically, the manner of transmission is not decisive.
    Practically, however, it may have serious consequences.

    If we accept Wiseman's model of clay tablets, the originals of different
    parts of Genesis must have been written between perhaps 3600 and 1500
    B.C. The 3600 date assumes Adam's death shortly after 3600 B.C., based
    on the flood in 2900 B.C. (cf. Carol Ann Hill's paper in the last PSCF)
    and a gapless genealogy in Gen.5. The 1500 date represents my preferred
    dating of the exodus in the 15th century B.C.

    What is at stake here? There are different possibilities for the origin
    of Genesis. I consider the first possibility to be the most probable.

    (1) There was a long written transmission of increasing amounts of
    Genesis long before Moses. The most reasonable assumption is that
    Gen.1-36 was written in cuneiform (and its precursor scripts) on clay
    tablets, and Gen.37-50 possibly in hieroglyphics on papyrus. The
    collection of tablets would have been transmitted through the line of
    descent of the patriarchs from Adam through Noah, Abraham, Jacob, to
    Moses. Occasionally, the tablets would have had to be copied and
    translated into newer languages and scripts.

    (2) All of Genesis was revealed to Moses directly by God. This is very
    unlikely, as this method of inspiration would be in contrast to most of
    the rest of the bible, particularly historical sections. Furthermore,
    there is no indication for this in the text itself. In Exodus to
    Deuteronomy, Moses repeatedly reported that God ordered him to write all
    this into a book. We never find this in Genesis.

    (3) The transmission of the text, as we have it today, was exclusively
    oral for up to 3000 years, and then written down by Moses. This sounds
    unbelievable, as writing was known at least since 3300 B.C., and used
    extensively since not many centuries later.

    (4) The view accepted by most scholars is the source-critical JEPD view
    which divides the text of Genesis to Deuteronomy into many fragments
    (some of them just fractions of a sentence) attributed to mainly 4
    sources: J (Yahwist (in German, Yahweh is Jahwe), 850 B.C.), E (Elohist,
    850 B.C.), P (priestly writer, 550-450 B.C.), and D (deuteronomist, 620
    B.C.). The dates are those given by V.P. Hamilton, "The Book of Genesis
    Chapters 1-17" (Eerdmans, 1990). In order to produce the final text we
    have, lots of redactors are assumed to have selected, copied, shuffled,
    reworked and modified the texts available to them. This fragmentation of
    the text into assumed sources began in 1753 (Astruc), was mainly
    formulated by Wellhausen around 1880, and modified in many ways since.
    Gen.1:1-2:4a is attributed to P; thus P must be dated in or after the
    Babylonian captivity, where P is assumed to have used the Babylonian
    creation myths. But many scholars, including Jewish and conservative
    evangelical ones, reject JEPD. Most if not all arguments for the JEPD
    views have been countered and largely refuted.

    The implications of the JEPD view are very serious. Belief in the
    reliability of the bible in general (not only historically, but also
    theologically), and in its divine inspiration in particular, is
    virtually made impossible. In fact, Wellhausen confessed having
    destroyed his own faith by his work, becoming a rationalist, and he
    certainly was not the only one. I know that there are many evangelical
    scholars who accept JEPD in principle, but not wholesale, and with many
    modifications, e.g. suggesting much earlier cores for some of the 4
    sources. They insist that many incongruencies of the text cannot be
    rationalized in any other way. But other evangelical scholars are of the
    conviction that JEPD must be rejected as a whole, even though there may
    remain various problems and difficulties with the text.


    Dr. Peter Ruest, CH-3148 Lanzenhaeusern, Switzerland
    <> - Biochemistry - Creation and evolution
    "..the work which God created to evolve it" (Genesis 2:3)

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