Models for the Composition of the Pentateuch
I. At the beginning of my career in the 1960s
· J—10th century; Solomonic; an interpretation of the responsibilities of a people living under an empire.
· E—9th century; northern kingdom; somewhat fragmentary; traces of the beginnings of the prophetic movement.
· These “epic sources” were possibly alternate developments of an old oral epic tradition. They were combined into JE following the fall of the northern kingdom.
· D, or at least Ur Deuteronomium, connected with the reform of Josiah in the 7th century
· P—exilic or post exilic. Debate about whether P was a separate source that was combined with JE to form the Tetrateuch or whether P was the final redaction of the Pentateuch
Deuteronomistic history was a
· The Pentateuch was created by adding Deuteronomy to the Tetrateuch and moving the death of Moses to the end of Deuteronomy from the end of Numbers. The remnant of the Deuteronomistic History became the Former Prophets.
II. Challenges to this consensus.
· Reactions to the mechanical assignment of verses (or half verses) to sources. Recognition that the source hypothesis carries little conviction after Exodus 3, when Yahweh begins to appear in all of the sources. More emphasis on the flexible development of tradition.
Questioning of the date of J and
of the existence of E (Van Seters and Schmid dated J to the exile; the
existence of E was challenged by Volz and Rudolph already in the 1930s). Challenge to the notion of a Davidic-Solomonic
empire. Is a comprehensive history such
as J conceivable in the 10th century? What would the eighth century prophets have
known of the traditions in Genesis? The
· More interest in the world of the text than the world behind the text as the proper sphere for exegesis.
III. Current North American positions
· The position outlined in I above more or less maintained by some. The most radical form of this position is by Richard Friedman who has identified specific people as J, E, D (Jeremiah and Baruch), the Deuteronomistic History (two editions written by the same person), and P (written during reign of Hezekiah). The sources were woven together by R, identified by Friedman as Ezra. The recent introduction of Collins, while cognizant of the current problems with the documentary hypothesis, maintains the standard JEDP position.
· While there are debates about dating and other issues, there is still more or less unity on the identity and message of D and P. Most date P to exilic or post-exilic times (but see Friedman and many Israelis), but there is sharp disagreement on whether P is a source or a redaction. Great uncertainty about J and E. Van Seters has dated J to the exile.
· Various kinds of the final form hypothesis (synchronic readings) that presume that the reconstruction of earlier stages is either impossible, unnecessary, or theologically suspect. Canonical criticism, rhetorical and narratological criticism, feminism, etc. Childs, Alter, Fretheim, Brueggemann, Trible, many others
Except for David Carr and a few
others, ignorance of and/or repudiation of current developments in
IV. Current European Models
 Many Europeans follow the thesis of Frei that the Pentateuch was accepted by the Persians as the law of the realm for dealing with Israelite issues. This would account for Ezra being sent by Artaxerxes to govern Yehud according to the law that was in his hand.
 The primeval history can be read as a unit by itself without reference to the patriarchs or the Exodus. Humans are farmers in these chapters whereas they are half nomads in the patriarchal accounts. Gen 12:1-4a is a bridge text composed as part of the exilic historical work.
 Exod 20:22-23:33. The oldest parts of this law code go back to pre state times.