Thursday, February 13, 2014

Documentary Hypothesis and the Margins of Scholarship

The Documentary Hypothesis teaches that the Pentateuch arose from four distinct sources known as JEDP (the Jahwist, Elohist, Deuteronomic, and Priestly source). The J document is usually given a 9th century date, the E source is believed to be an 8th century source, whereas D is attributed a 7th century date and P is considered a 6th century source.

"The Documentary Hypothesis claims that the Pentateuch is a composite of four separate, complete, and coherent documents." See

One point that interests me for now is how dogmatic that proponents of this view have been or continue to be. Furthermore, the Documentary Hypothesis is a lesson in how certain scholars get pushed to the margins if they do not follow the status quo. Tremper Longman III and Raymond B. Dillard relate the story of Franz Delitzsch, who apparently was pushed to the margins of scholarship because he did not accept the Documentary Hypothesis. While I understand the need for the scholarly guild to protect academic biblical studies from "loony" and unsupported ideas, it's somewhat disturbing that scholars have made the Documentary Hypothesis (a very speculative endeavor) a touchstone for who can have a voice in the biblical scholarly world and who cannot. That view strikes me as conformist to the utmost degree.

I am reminded of ancient controversies that used force instead of persuasion to shut "heretics" down; and one can't help but think of Martin Werner, whose views on Christ qua angel were intensely criticized by Wilhelm Michaelis. Werner never recovered from the latter's analysis. See

You can believe what you want to believe in academic biblical studies, so long as your view harmonizes with the prevailing orthodoxy.


Anonymous said...

Hi Edgar,

What you describe seems to plague many pursuits in this world. Members of the Intelligent Design community could offer many examples of how vicious folks are in their determination to ensure that they remain marginalized.

You might be interested in checking out a couple of books on JEDP, one conservative, the other liberal, i.e.:

1) Rethinking Genesis: The sources and Authorship of the First Book of the Pentateuch, by Duane Garrett

2) Problem of the Process of Transmission in the Pentateuch, by Rolf Rendtorff

If you want to check them out but can't find them locally, let me know. I'm happy to loan them to you:-)

Thank you for the reference to the article about Werner. I have to admit that I originally thought his argument vis a vis KURIOS as a designation suggesting angelic beings was a bit far-fetched, but maybe there's something to the argument after all. Obviously I have no problem thinking of Christ as an angelic being, but I just didn't think that the argument based on the use of KURIOS was compelling.

I'm going to check Hurtado's writings to see if he interacts with the article.

Anyway, I hope you are well. BTW, you probably know this already, but Dr. Scholls has come out with some nice dress socks for diabetics. Their made with yarn from bamboo, and they are very comfortable. You have to be very careful when you remove them from the packaging, though, as they tend to unravel rather easily, and the manufacturers go way overboard with the little plastic "staples" that hold them together.


Edgar Foster said...

Hi Kaz,

The two sources you mention look interesting. I'll see what I can find in my area, and thanks for the offer. I used to teach Old and New Testament courses, which exposed me to the whole historical-critical method including all the different kinds of Geschichte. But I'm up for learning more about the DH, etc.

As for Werner's argument: I don't buy his entire line of reasoning either. But it seemed like Michaelis was unwilling to accept any of it, then severely criticized Werner, thereby removing his work from any scholarly consideration at all. The work has since been revived to some extent. However, I believe the whole episode demonstrates how careers can be killed and voices in academia can be silenced, if they do not conform to what's in vogue.

Thanks also for the tip on diabetic socks. As you may recall, I used to sell them at one time, but my business partner and I stopped selling socks a few years ago. I still have quite a few left from that time, but they're likely going to wear out one day (unlike the Israelite' sandals). :)

Always good hearing from you, Kaz.