Documentary Hypothesis

Discussion about the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, Talmud, Dead Sea Scrolls, archaeology, etc.
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StephenGoranson
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Documentary Hypothesis

Post by StephenGoranson »

The Documentary Hypothesis, that the Torah was composed over considerable time by a cumulation of parts, has been described in many variations.
It is still called Documentary Hypothesis--even by most of us here--whether or not we subscribe to any version of it as, in whole or part, demonstrated.

A different view is that Moses wrote it, all at once.

A different view is that it was written in Alexandria, all at once.
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Secret Alias
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Re: Documentary Hypothesis

Post by Secret Alias »

It is also worth noting that there is the notion of Tetrateuch, Pentateuch, Hexateuch i.e. that the definition of 'Torah' expanded over time.
StephenGoranson
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Re: Documentary Hypothesis

Post by StephenGoranson »

Yes, uses of "torah" expanded over time.
And some other books of TaNaK (that is, Torah and Prophets and Writings sections of the Hebrew Bible) are also composite, and some are attested in various forms in texts found at Qumran, and some in a process, before eventual canonization, that began long before the time of Alexander the Great.
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neilgodfrey
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Re: Documentary Hypothesis

Post by neilgodfrey »

Before one embraces or discards a hypothesis it is a good idea to first of all learn how the hypothesis originated and evolved, and to understand what its key elements are. If one cannot explain it knowledgeably, and present its reasoning and evidence fairly and completely then one needs to do some more homework before jumping either the pro or con bandwagon.

Here is a post setting out how a fundamentalist has claimed the DH is bunk without doing his homework. One also finds here a defence of the DH against such misrepresentation:

Rendsburg on Genesis and Gilgamesh: Misunderstanding and Misrepresenting the Documentary Hypothesis (Part 1)

Again, another post addressing the DH and lamenting the way so many biblical scholars are not encouraged to read the sources of the ideas they are meant to engage with:

So It’s True: Today’s Biblical Scholars Really Never Have Read Wellhausen

Here is a synopsis of whose shoulders the DH rests upon. It looks at the evolution of the DH from Wellhausen through von Rad, Noth and others.

Who wrote the Bible? Rise of the Documentary Hypothesis

I don't think a single author did write the Pentateuch or the Primary History but a few scholars (including Jewish ones, in case some people find such details relevant) have proposed such a scenario. But the ones worth reading are those that demonstrate a clear-eyed knowledge and understanding of what it is that they are arguing against. Here is one such account of the DH. It sets the origin of the DH in the context of contemporary classical studies on Homer.

Did a Single Author Write Genesis – II Kings? (Demise of the Documentary Hypothesis?)

Disquiet with the DH has been lurking in scholarly publications since the 1970s but it took some time before these criticisms to be noticed and taken seriously by a few of the more courageous academics:

Who wrote the Bible? (2) Challenging the Documentary Hypothesis

and

Collapse of the Documentary Hypothesis (1) & Comparing the Bible with Classical Greek Literature

A fundamental problem with the DH, despite all its carefully constructed insights, is that it rests on circularity. It begins by assuming that source texts are very old and then finds reasons in the texts to support that view, and then claims those discovered reasons for its ancient provenance are evidence of its age. That is circular.

Today one will often read in the literature of critical scholarship that there is no consensus about the origins of our OT biblical books. Much of the reason is that evidence that is independent of the texts has been surfacing for some time, and with independent evidence one has controls by which to make judgements about the age of texts. Circularity can be avoided. It has been suggested that had the Elephantine documents been discovered earlier and had time to register more thoroughly on the collective consciousness of biblical scholars, Wellhausen's DH would never have got off the launch pad.

What I think would be a profitable discussion here would be a sharing of insights into the actual foundations, the arguments and evidence underpinning the DH. I would love a serious and informed conversation that avoided character assassinations and flippant one-liners that misrepresent the ideas they are ridiculing.

I would suggest that no-one be allowed to contribute who has not first read Wellhausen -- or is at least genuinely seeking a clarification and/or demonstrating a certain knowledge of what Wellhausen has argued.
Last edited by neilgodfrey on Sun Oct 23, 2022 11:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
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neilgodfrey
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Re: Documentary Hypothesis

Post by neilgodfrey »

Norhing like a suggestion that we demonstrate that we know what we are talking about -- and that we've actually read Wellhausen -- before discussing the DH to bring the conversation to a halt! :D

Here is focus on just one point that goes to the reason for the disruption to the academic consensus in recent years.

Wellhausen assumed that because the codes discussing priests and cultic laws could only have come about after a unified and powerful priesthood administering the Temple cult existed, and because the books of Ezra and Nehemiah inform us that such a priesthood first existed in the Persian era, that it follows that the Law codes or Priestly additions to the Pentateuchal writings and other biblical works must have been made in the Persian era. It was only from Persian times that we find a priesthood with full power to execute Yahweh's laws from the Temple. Before that time, in the time of the kings of Israel and Judah, Yahweh priests were often sidelined and did not have the domination to control things -- and probably applied a kind of pre-Law syncretism that allowed worship of gods other than or alongside Yahweh.

It is a reasonable argument. It makes sense. Only one problem. It is all based on a naive reading of books like Ezra and Nehemiah and the story of King Josiah (who reigned with priests "discovered" the book of Deuteronomy in the temple). It assumes that these biblical stories have a kernel of truth. But there are no independent controls, no external witnesses to verify whether they contain genuine history.

Archaeologists have been hard at work for some decades now and what they have learned of Jewish and Samaritan worship in the Persian era (and earlier) actually leads to the conclusion that a priest-dominated Temple cult with a large corpus of historical literature is far from being a likely situation. The archaeological evidence suggests that there simply was not the economic or infrastructure facilities to support such a system and active scribes. The population of Judea or Jehud and Jerusalem was simply too small. The economic and institutional supports for introducing and leading a new temple cult that had any authority or leadership of diaspora groups were simply not there in the Persian era. Nor was the economy of sufficient size to support schools of scribes and literary copying and production.

And there is no evidence at all that any diaspora groups of Judeans or of Samaritans knew of any notion of Moses, a priestly code of laws as we find in the Pentateuch, no knowledge of any of the biblical stories or myths associated with the feasts. Nothing that indicates any knowledge at all of things biblical.

The archaeological evidence in the Persian era supports the existence of Judeans and Samaritans who worshiped Yahweh but they did so along with other gods. They did not observe the sabbath as a rest day and we cannot even be sure that their "sabbath" was a day in weekly cycle.

If the Pentateuch along with other books of the Primary History did exist, they were kept among a few priests who had no influence or say in their profession, no influence over the general beliefs and practices of Jews and Israelites. There is simply no evidence that they even existed, but to be charitable, we can say they existed but were sidelined and of no account. Not according to the evidence of archaeology.

We may one day discover new evidence that proves Judeans did generally have a knowledge of Moses etc, but until that day, we have to go with what the evidence tell us.

The evidence in the stones and other texts tells us that the biblical works familiar to us only became widely known after Alexander's conquests. The real major flourishing of the literary culture and popular attachment to biblical ideas is really only evident from the time of the Qumran scrolls and the Hasmoneans.
rgprice
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Re: Documentary Hypothesis

Post by rgprice »

This is where I think its extremely important to understand the art of forgery used in ancient religious literature. Almost all religious literature of the Hellenistic and Roman eras, was written in a way that was intentionally designed to make the literature appear older than it really was. This is true of the Sibylline literature and Orphic literature and just about any kind of religious texts of this period. Certainly we should be aware that the writer(s) of the Jewish scripture were intentionally attempting to make their works appear to have originated from an earlier time. It would have been important for them at the time the works were written for the works to appear as if they were older than they really were. And certainly, that fact has contributed to on-going misunderstanding of their provenance to this day, because the original writers wanted the provenance to be misinterpreted.
StephenGoranson
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Re: Documentary Hypothesis

Post by StephenGoranson »

neilgodfrey wrote, above, in part:

"I would suggest that no-one be allowed to contribute who has not first read Wellhausen...."

To stipulate, on this Forum that you don't own, that a poster, whose reading history you do not know, must, in effect, first pass your test, is, if I may say so, a peculiar invitation.
StephenGoranson
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Re: Documentary Hypothesis

Post by StephenGoranson »

In other words, though I am interested in the history of scholarship, and Wellhausen indeed figures in that, this thread is (intended as being) about current views of the composition of the Torah, whether portions were joined and edited over considerable time.

Otherwise, should I counter your "rule" by insisting that any discussion of Persian time include Yehud coins?
Or that nobody should invoke archaeology without relevant dig experience? etcetera
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neilgodfrey
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Re: Documentary Hypothesis

Post by neilgodfrey »

StephenGoranson wrote: Tue Oct 25, 2022 8:10 am
Otherwise, should I counter your "rule" by insisting that any discussion of Persian time include Yehud coins?
By all means do. Yes. They are relevant. It is useful to be up to date with the evidence.

StephenGoranson wrote: Tue Oct 25, 2022 8:10 amOr that nobody should invoke archaeology without relevant dig experience? etcetera
No no. But what I would like you to do, Stephen, is demonstrate that you have read some of the relevant archaeologist reports. You know, like what historians do. Historians analyze those reports and incorporate them into their discussions. Same was what they do in relation to coins found from the era.

I take it, then, that you have never bothered to compare the DH against the primary evidence, then. And certainly you have never read Wellhausen. And that all your knowledge of the DH comes from those biblical scholars who have never examined it in the light of primary evidence or have dismissed such analyses on unprofessional grounds.
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