Re: JEDP: another heresy?

From: Dr. David Campbell <>
Date: Tue Dec 06 2005 - 13:01:44 EST

> I've been wondering lately what the status of the JEDP documentary
> hypothesis should be in light of its "evolutionary" character.

Quotation marks are appropriate from the standpoint of biological
evolution. The evolutionary component relies on unjustified
assumptions about social and philosophical evolution, similar to
Marxism, Naziism, eugenics, and other undesirable social models.
Ironically, there is also a strong similarity to Answers in Genesis in
that the JEDP model and creation science both proceed largely by
setting up a model based on the modeler's preconceptions and
discarding all facts that don't fit. My religion professor, in
talking about his own work, said that the parts you like are the
authentic ones and the parts you don't were written by the redactor.

It is true that there is almost certainly some degree of revision and
editing of Biblical books between the original writing and the
versions now available. It is generally implausible that there has
been such large-scale cut and paste as is typically proposed by JEPD-
type models. The lack of consistency between individual models or
consistent standards by one worker detracts from credibility as well.
For example, many versions are not merely JEDP but have J1, J2, X,
etc. as well. Kitchen's On the Reliability of the Old Testament
(Eerdmans) provides an up to date presentation of archaeological and
literary evidence supporting identification of OT books as largely
composed as single units in the time range suggested by a fairly
literal reading. Specifically on the Pentateuch, it was probably
fairly close to its current form at least by the united monarchy, and
most of the basic material (law code, tabernacle description,
historical records) probably dates from Moses' day.

It should, however, be born in mind that the evidence cited by Kitchen
does not demonstrate the theological reliability but rather the
historical reliability. The Old Testament appears historically
reliable based on close similarities with contemporary records in
surrounding cultures. This doesn't tell us whether the Israelites
were right in giving credit to YHWH or the Moabites were right in
giving credit to Chemosh, but it does tell us that standard JEDP
claims that people couldn't have thought in a particular way before a
certain time are wrong.

Dr. David Campbell
425 Scientific Collections Building
Department of Biological Sciences
Biodiversity and Systematics
University of Alabama, Box 870345
Tuscaloosa AL 35487-0345  USA
Received on Tue Dec 6 13:04:52 2005

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