Two writer disagree on The
Tracing the Bible's Authors
The Documentary Hypothesis
Tracing the Bible's Authors
Brian De Kretser
(Investigator 152, 2013
have been for centuries, trying to find out who actually
wrote the Bible.
five books known as the Pentateuch [Greek-meaning 5 scrolls]
or Torah [Hebrew-meaning instructions] are supposed to have been
written by Moses, the book of Lamentations by the prophet Jeremiah, and
half the Psalms by King David.
have proved that many writings in the Pentateuch were of
things unknown in Moses' time or took place long afterwards. This
includes places described and language used. For example the 36 Ebonite
kings named in Genesis lived long after Moses was dead. The proof
produced by investigators and their books from the 3rd century have
been condemned by the early church fathers. As late as the 15th century
investigators were attacked, their works placed in the Catholic index,
the authors excommunicated or imprisoned.
stories were told twice with variations, for example:
The world creation story.
The naming of Abraham's son Isaac.
Abraham's claim to a foreign king that his wife
Sarah was his sister.
Isaac's son Jacob going to Mesopotamia.
The revelation to Jacob at Beth-El.
God's changing of Jacob's name to Israel.
Moses getting water out of a rock.
evidence that the five books of Moses were composed by
combining four sources into one continuous story of the Israelite
documents associated with the divine name Yahweh/Jehovah is called J
documents associated with the deity as God/Elohim is called E [Elohist]
documents associated with legal matters and priests is the largest and
is called P [Priestly]
documents in Deuteronomy is called D [Deuteronomist]
documents combining most of the earlier stories about 200 years
later is called R [The Redactor.]
J and E
were the oldest versions of the Biblical stories. D came next
and showed developments in a later period. P was the Priestly version
of the story and the latest of all. P referred to many matters that
were unknown in the earlier portions such as the Book of the Prophets.
The last P document reflected the latest stage of the Israelite
religion base on priestly sacrifices, ritual and law.
Wellhausen [1844-1918] says that J and E reflected the way of
life of the nature/fertility stage Israel's religion, the stories and
laws of D in Deuteronomy reflected the spiritual/ethical stage, and P
reflected the priestly/legal stage.
of the combination of the source documents is called the
Documentary Hypothesis and became known in English speaking countries
through the work of William Robertson Smith, professor of the Old
Testament and editor of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. He was put on
trial before the church, charged with heresy, and expelled from his
chair. New methods of linguistic analysis have now made it possible to
establish relative chronology of the Bible and to describe
characteristics of the Biblical Hebrew in various periods.
Yahweh would chat to selected persons and give instructions. In
Exodus God speaks the 10 commandments out loud to the Israelites from
Heaven. Then Moses climbed into the mountains alone to receive the 10
commandments carved in stone.
came down and found that the people had made a golden calf,
worshiping it, he dashed the tablets with the 10 commandments to
Tabernacle was located [during the time of Samuel a judge and
prophet] and, according to the Bible, housed the ark containing the
tablets which Moses had smashed (was Super Glue available in Samuel's
later Samuel appointed Israel's first king, King Saul. Israel
developed a political structure in which the king was kept in check by
tribal leaders, chief priests and prophets.
and David, who married Saul's daughter, became rivals. David
was supported by the priests of Shiloh whom Saul had massacred except
for Abiathar who escaped.
reigned until his death in battle against the Philistines. The
kingdom was split between Saul's son Ishball who ruled northern Israel,
and David who ruled Judah in the south, but both kingdoms worshiped the
same God, Yahweh. Ishball was assassinated and David became king over
the whole country.
stands out as a major figure in the Hebrew Bible. He was
successful militarily and rule from Egypt's border to Mesopotamia with
Jerusalem his religious and political centre.
Davidic dynasty was the longest lasting of that era — hence the
messiah tradition in Judaism and Christianity, the belief in a future
ruler descended from David.
appointed two chief priests in Jerusalem, one from the north
Abiathar (who escaped Saul's massacre) and from the south, Zadoc. David
had many wives from regions of political importance to strengthen his
oldest son and heir, Amnon, raped his half-sister Tamar.
Tamar's full brother Absalom killed Amnon in revenge and later rebelled
against David. But David's army was the stronger and Absalom was
sons in line for succession were Adonijah and Solomon. After
David's death Solomon executed Adonijah and his general Joab, and
expelled the high priest Abiathar from Jerusalem.
was famous for his wisdom and maintained the empire through
skill rather than war. The Bible states he had 700 wives (the daughters
of other kings) and 300 concubines [a sex maniac no doubt]. He amassed
enormous wealth, great quantities of gold and silver. The holy of
holies, an inner sanctum of the temple had a magnificent throne
platform for Yahweh invisibly enthroned there. Under it was the most
sacred object, the ark, the golden box containing the tablets of the 10
tale continues full of death, destruction, murder, lies and
sadistic kings — more like a horror story than the word of God:
the Bible pictures Solomon as a great king his domestic and
foreign policies alienated the north. Under his son King Rehoboam the
northern tribes broke away, were called "Israel" and were ruled by
Rehoboam, while King Jeroboam ruled Judah in the south. The two nations
had a common language, traditions and religion.
J, E, P and D
writers known as J (who came from Judah) and E (who came from
Israel) lived at this time. E's stories referred to the creator as God;
J referred to the creator as Yahweh.
source was found hidden within E and contains stories about
priests, religious laws and rituals and became known as P (priestly
source). The fourth source who wrote Deuteronomy was called D.
flood story combines two stories, one by P and one by J.
measurements of the ark made of gopher wood, pitch applied
inside and outside, in cubits [an ancient unit of linear measure, the
length of a forearm]:
300 cubits (500-550 feet). Width = 50 cubits (80-90 feet).
Height = 30 cubits (45-55 feet). The ark had a window, 20-22 inches
square, and an entrance in its side.
would house approximately 100,000 insects, 40,000 to 50,000
mammals, 2000 to 3000 reptiles, and Dinosaurs such as Supersaurus (130
feet long) and Diplodocus (90 feet tall) — about 25 to 35 of these
extra large species.
to P, Noah took two of each kind of all birds, beasts and
creeping things into the ark plus his own family, his three sons and
were on the earth 150 days. Then Noah sent out a raven to
check if the flood was over. Noah was 600 years old at the time of the
flood. In the story by J, Noah had to take 7 of each, bird, beast and
crawling things. The flood lasted 40 days. Noah sent out a dove to
check if the flood was over. J was not interested in the measurements
of the ark. And so on with the fairy tales. .
5 identified groups of writers of the Bible:
E was written
approximately 100 years before P, and P was written about
200 years before R.
unknown to this date. Were male Israelite Shiloh priests, claimed
descendents of Moses. These writers calls their god God/Elohim. E was
one of the oldest, written between 922 and 722 b.c.
unknown to this date. They were from Judah. The writers called their
god- Yahweh. They claimed descent from David's line. Was written
between 848 and 722 b.c.
Writers identified as Baruch son of Neriyah, a scribe, with tbe help of
Jeremiah a Shiloh priest. They are credited with writing 8 books of the
Bible — Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel 1 & 2, Kings 1 & 2,
unknown, writers were of the Aaronid priests claiming descent from
Aaron, written well before 587b.c. by writers who knew both the E and J
Identified as Ezra an Aaronid priest who combined stories from J and E.
He may have had helpers.
In the New
Testament St. Paul played a great part. His [partially
pseudonymous] authorship accounts for over half the books of the New
gospels were written by unknown authors between 170 and 180
a.d. The authors contradicting themselves in numerous places. The New
and Old Testament at present estimate approximately 150,000 variant
readings. So much for the "Infallible word of God" What a joke.
It is full
of recycled myths from other older religions.
gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John — not the real names of the
authors, were chosen by the Bishop of Lyons — Irenaeus [120-200 a.d.]
dozens of other gospels of that time. They were written: Luke —170a.d.;
Matthew — 180a.d. All others were
by the church as they were in contradiction of the false dogma
formulated by the dishonest early church fathers.
summary: The Bible had 66 books, written by 42 independent authors,
representing 22 occupations living in 7 different countries, during an
elapsed time-span of approximately 750 to 800 years. The mythology used
a cast of approximately 3000 characters in almost as many events that
occurred in approximately 1500 to 6000 locations.
The Crucifiction of truth — Tony Bushby
Deceptions and myths of the
Bible — Lloyd M. Graham
The great lie — Michael Kalopoulos
Suns of God — Acharya S.
The Jesus puzzle — Earl Doherty
The non-existence of God — Nicholas Everitt.
God the failed hypothesis — Victor Stenger.
THE DOCUMENTARY HYPOTHESIS
in Investigator 152 made multiple dubious claims.
answer the easy ones first, and the Documentary Hypothesis
Did 36 Edomite kings named in Genesis live long after
Moses wrote Genesis?
Genesis 36:15-30 lists Edomite clan-leaders, and
36:31-39 lists eight "kings". The Bible identifies them as offspring of
Esau's sons, and Esau lived about 300 years before Moses wrote Genesis.
Esau already led 400 men in his lifetime (Genesis 32:6) and these could
in 300 years have generated a sizeable population along with clan
leaders and kings.
of Israel, however, came after Moses wrote Genesis. What then
do we make of the phrase "kings who reigned in the land of Edom before
any kings reigned over the Israelites"? (36:31) The previous chapter
foretold that Jacob's descendants (i.e. the Israelites) would include
kings. (35:11) Therefore although 36:31 seems anachronistic, it was
instead a restatement of the earlier prediction.
Some Bible stories are told twice with variations.
Telling a story twice would not make it false. De
Kretser, however, seems to refer to different stories with similar
details such as the two occasions when Abraham passed his wife off as
his sister. That, however, is just something Abraham did twice. Every
person's life contains repetition. I've visited Israel twice. I've also
been to Darwin and thereby copied my father who, years earlier, also
went to Darwin. Note also that the so-called "second creation story"
(Genesis 2) is not a second creation story but is the story of the
Garden in Eden and its inhabitants. Regarding this, see the "Genesis
and Human Origins" debate in #109 - #114 particularly #110.
Were the two stone tablets with inscribed Ten
Commandments, which Moses smashed, repaired with "Super Glue"?
The smashed tablets were replaced with two new
stone tablets. (Exodus 34:1)
Was Solomon a "sex maniac"?
Solomon's 700 wives and 300 concubines were
probably accumulated for political alliances and prestige. There's no
record of Solomon having thousands of children — his sex-life appears
Does "death and destruction" in the Bible make it "more
like a horror story than the word of God?"
The Bible reports evil to encourage people to
avoid it, but also teaches which standards are right and good. The
Bible initiated a 4000-year program to "bless all the nations of the
earth" (Genesis 18:18) and make the world a better place. Through the
Bible's influence we have modern science and medicine, pensions,
prosperity, fairer laws, justice based on witnesses, and the values of
freedom, equality, and mercy. Evils previously common but against the
Bible and now illegal include sacrificing people on altars, mutilating
children for careers as beggars, burning widows to death, buggering
prisoners of war and castrating them, making teenage girls prostitutes
in temples, infanticide, forcing people to fight and kill in
amphitheatres, determining guilt of accused people by torture. (See
#152) The real horror is when people reject the Bible!
Did Noah's Ark house dinosaurs and 100,000 insects?
No — only animals and birds from the area where
Noah lived, scores of species, not thousands. See the Noah's Ark debate
in #134, #135, #138, #139, #145.
Were the four gospels written by unknown authors between
170 and 180 AD?
See my article "The New Testament Canon" (#127)
which summarizes standard history showing that Clement, Papias and
Polycarp were quoting New Testament books around 100 AD, and Tatian,
Marcion and Irenaeus did so about 50 years later. Tatian's "Diatessaron"
(160 AD) combined the four Gospels into one book. A John Rylands
with words from Johns Gospel is dated 120-150 AD. The Gospels were
completed in the 1st century exactly as the Bible teaches!
Do 150,000 variant readings of the New Testament (NT) make
it a "joke".
No. Variant readings prove that 1st-centrury
originals existed and enable "textual critics" to establish the
original wording. Most variations are spelling variations. See the
"Transmission of Scripture" debate in #96 to #102.
Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, create the NT and destroy
No. How the NT Canon was established and how to
check that the correct books were included is explained in #127.
Irenaeus lacked the power and communications to destroy rival gospels.
The Roman State tried to eradicate Christianity and its Scriptures in
the "Great Persecution" of 303 AD when Scriptures were burned and
Christians imprisoned or killed. If the State failed to eradicate the
Scriptures how could one man do it?
Is the Bible including the NT a "fairy tale"?
No. Year after year more and more is getting
confirmed with geographical locations being identified, people proved
historical, alleged contradictions cleared up, miracles explained,
prophecies shown to be true, and ethics and morals revealed to be
writes: "There is evidence that the five books of Moses were
composed by combining four sources…J [Yahwist], E [Elohist], P
[Priestly], D [Deuteronomist]."
It is true
that by 1900 AD Bible-criticizing theologians accepted the
"Documentary Hypothesis" which teaches that the five books or
"Pentateuch" were not authored by Moses but were created about 450 BC
by combining four independent sources — J (c.900 BC), E (c.800 BC), D,
(c.600 BC), and P (c.500 BC).
theologian Karl H Graf (1815-1869) argued that the Pentateuch
was written after the Jewish Exile in Babylon. Julius Wellhausen
(1844-1918) accepted this dating and added that the Pentateuch began
with oral traditions that evolved over time. Around 500 BC a "redactor"
whom Wellhausen labels "R" composed the Pentateuch by combining four
versions of this "hypothesis" had floated around since 1651
when political philosopher Thomas Hobbes wrote Leviathan
wherein he mentioned the idea of multiple authors. Over the next 200
years various theologians elaborated.
published The Composition of the Hexateuch and the
historical books of the Old Testament (1877) in which he set out
the four-source hypothesis. In 1886 Wellhausen published Prolegomena
to the History of Israel in which he assumed a secular,
non-supernatural standpoint to trace the origin and development of
Israel's religion. He didn't contribute much that was new, but sifted
and combined the previous century's scholarship into a coherent
other hypotheses of the Pentateuch's origin existed but the
Graf-Wellhausen version soon dominated. However, it had critics from
the start. One critic, Wilhelm Möller, wrote in 1903:
immovably convinced of the Graf-Wellhausen hypothesis, so long as I
allowed it alone to have an effect on me. But after my attention was
once directed to its weaknesses (first by Köhler in Erlangen),
after I had studied with some thoroughness the scientific literature on
the other side, this hypothesis seemed to me more and more monstrous.
By discussions on the subject in the Theological Societies at Erlangen
and Halle, in the Tholuck Institute at Halle, and in the Theological
Seminary at Wittenberg…my own view was confirmed and elucidated…"
Most academic 20th century theologians accepted Graf-Wellhausen as a
framework but made numerous specific changes.
A minority such as
Umberto Cassuto (1883-1951), professor of Hebrew and
literature in the University of Florence, challenged the consensus.
Documentary Hypothesis and the Composition of the Pentateuch (Hebrew,
Torat HaTeudot, 1941; English translation, 1961) was one of the first
mainstream works to offer a detailed critique of Wellhausen… Cassuto
proposed the Pentateuch was written down as a single, entirely coherent
and unified text in the 10th century BC and not thereafter altered in
any meaningful way.
In the 1970s
Wellhausen's edifice began to crack. In 1974 Rolf
Rendtorff (b.1925), Emeritus Professor of Old Testament in Heidelberg
(Germany), addressed the International Organization for the Study of
the Old Testament (Edinburgh), and questioned the century-long
scholarly support of Wellhausen.
scholarly works critical in part of Wellhausen:
R. 1977 The
Problem of the Transmission of the Pentateuch
(1975) Abraham in History and Tradition
(1987) The Making of the Pentateuch: A Methodological Study
(1992) Prologue to History: The Yahwist as Historian in Genesis
In the 1980s three basic models for the Pentateuch's composition were
The "documentary hypothesis" viewed the Pentateuch
as originally consisting of separate but complete books.
The "fragmentary" hypothesis assumed many
fragmentary works and editions.
The "supplementary" hypothesis saw a single
original book edited with later additions and deletions.
these models proliferated until Wellhausen's model no
longer dominated the debate. Some scholars abandoned one or several of
J, E, P or D, or argued that whole ancient communities edited rather
than one or several "redactors". Others argued for different dates and
even for a single author!
"The verities enshrined in older introductions have
disappeared, and in their place scholars are confronted by competing
theories which are discouragingly numerous, exceedingly complex…"
Many if not most
books are "spliced together" from multiple sources.
writing a history of the Vietnam War might, for example,
consult 1000 references and interview 100 eye-witness participants and
"splice" summaries of everything together. Tatian a 2nd-century Syrian
bishop spliced and recombined the four Gospels between 150 and 160AD to
write the Diatessaron, a single biography of Jesus.
hypothetical "redactor", however, did something much more
difficult. He supposedly spliced and recombined centuries-old sacred
documents, and got whole communities of believers to reject their own
sacred originals so thoroughly that no copies remain and adopt his new
version. After that everyone forgot the "redactor" although he had
revised their religion. That's like Christianity discarding the Gospels
to accept Tatian's Diatessaron and forgetting Mathew, Mark,
Luke, John, and Tatian!
Reinman (Biblical Archaeology Review (May/June 2008)
possible that these mythical redactors who allegedly managed to pull
off one of the most colossal hoaxes in the history of the world were
not careful enough to avoid the red flags that drew the attention of
the critics? If the first creation story is followed by a second
creation story that contradicts the first, why didn't the redactor fix
it? …After all, these people were brilliant. They supposedly put
together a masterpiece…"
(1926-2009) was a German theologian and university
professor. In 1988 she renounced the "historical critical method" and
requested that her previous work be destroyed. Subsequently she
Biblical Criticism Tested (1998)
Many critiques of
Wellhausen can be found by searching on "graf
documentary hypothesis" in Google.
or Opinion? (1999)
Criticism of the Bible: Methodology or Ideology? (2001)
Bible or biblical Criticism? (2007)
One webpage says:
computer-based study at Hebrew University in Israel concluded that a
single author most likely wrote the Pentateuch. However, others have
rejected this study for a number of reasons, including the fact that a
single later editor can rewrite a text in a uniform voice."
Of course if the
text has a "uniform voice" then the evidence for a "redactor" based on
different "voices" is gone!
Wellhausen is still popular in university theology, not
because the hypothesis is proved but because of disagreement on
To assess the
Bible's reliableness don't trust dubious hypotheses or
conspiracy theorists, instead consider the hundreds of biblical points
already scientifically confirmed!
Möller, W. 1903 Are
The Critics Right? Historical &
Critical Considerations Against The Graf-Wellhausen Hypothesis,
Second Edition, Religious Tract Society, p. xvi
Smith, C. A Critical
Assessment of the Graf-Wellhausen Documentary
Hypothesis (2002) http://vintage.aomin.org/JEDP.html
Bible defenders versus skeptics
and atheists on this