Re: JEDP: another heresy?

From: Janice Matchett <>
Date: Tue Dec 06 2005 - 09:31:05 EST

At 06:51 AM 12/6/2005, Chris Barden wrote:
>Hello all,
>I've been wondering lately what the status of the JEDP documentary
>hypothesis should be in light of its "evolutionary" character. It
>is cited approvingly in plenty of Bible commentaries and is
>lambasted by Answers in Genesis (see
> so my
>assumption is to treat it with some plausibility. But I don't really
>know much about it, so I thought I would ask experts on the list if
>it is a firm explanation of "textual origins" or something weaker. ~ Chris

### In a nutshell:

Composing the Old Testament

The JEDP Theory in a Nutshell James Patrick Holding


Maybe you have heard of the "JEDP" theory, or else, have heard of
theories that Moses did not write the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus,
Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy), and that it was written later in
Israel's history.

What does JEDP stand for? J is supposed to be Jawhist (or Yahwist), a
writer who had a thing for the name "Yahweh" and viewed God as very
personal E is supposed to be Elohimist, a writer who had a thing for
the name "Elohim" and viewed God as somewhat distant D is supposed to
be Deuteronomist, a writer who composed Deuteronomy and maybe did a
few tweaks here and there P is supposed to be Priestly, a writer who
took the works of J, E and D and mashed them together into what we
have now, adding his own touches

The JEDP theory has a lot of mutations, with some people adding other
letters, and offering a variety of ideas about when each writer did
their work, though all agree that little if any of the first five
books of the Bible were written by Moses.

What's wrong with this theory?

It started with certain ideas that further research has shown to be
false. In particular, the idea that the books of the Bible could be
divided by the use of the two names for God, Yahweh and Elohim, has
been found to have reasonable cause that a single author allows. But
it was one of the original criteria for divinding parts of the
Pentateuch into J and E sections, and now, theorists will either
ignore the later research, or else continue to change the theory to
keep it alive. One way they do this is by turning "P" into a genie
who edited and changed the text at various places for no discernible
reason (other than, maybe, to confuse modern JEDP theorists into
thinking there was a problem for their theory). For another example,
certain features of the text that were once taken as proof for JEDP
are now known to simply reflect normal writing practice for ancient
people, and thus work with an idea of just one author writing. JEDP
also did not conceive of the idea of such things as scribes writing
on behalf of others, or of later writers making minor updates to
texts to keep them from becoming anachronistic.

Today many scholars still hold to JEDP because they do not know what
else to put in its place, and they don't consider Mosaic authorship an option.

For further and more detailed reading:

Specific Case Studies on some texts said to support JEDP:
<>Gen. 12:10-20, 20:1-18, and
26:1-11 <>Gen. 15 and 17
<>Gen. 21:14-21
<>Gen. 37
<>Exod. 17:2-7, Num.
20:2-13 <>Num. 16
<>1 Samuel 16-18

General Studies
<>The Making of the Old
Testament [Off Site] -- includes pertinent commentary showing the
internal unity of items like the Flood story
<>A Brief Case for Moses
as author of the Pentateuch [Off Site]
<>More on what "Mosaic
authorship" means [Off Site]
<>Was the Pentateuch
adulterated by later additions? [Off Site]
<>Satire of JEDP
principles used on the works of A. A. Milne (Winnie the Pooh) [Off Site]

Book Reviews
<>The Pentateuch as
Narrative by John Sailhamer
<>Review of The Hidden
Book in the Bible by Richard Elliott Freidman
<>Who Wrote the
Bible? by Friedman

~ Janice
Received on Tue Dec 6 09:34:14 2005

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