Monday, June 30, 2008

There has been some renewed discussion, primarily on Hirhurim and the blog of XGH, about the documentary hypothesis. A lot of gibberish about bias in academia and religious folk being forced beyond their better interest into believing the nonsense its religion spews. So let us cut to the quick and bring some of the arguments in favor of the Documentary Hypothesis. I’m not a biblical scholar so I probably won’t be able to help much past this summary of arguments that I put together based on Friedman’s book “The Bible with Sources Revealed.” Littlefoxling has done a lot more work on this so see his blog for more info. Also there is a post by Bruce at using the Bayes Theorem arguing in favor of the Documentary Hypothesis here and here. Apparently the Great and mysterious, Mis-Nagid had done a lot of work with the Documentary Hypothesis but his blog is defunct. So without further ado…

  1. Linguistics- The language of the Torah is varied. Certain sections can be dated by styles of language that were used at different times. This can help to divide the Torah into sections by the style of the language that they use. The dates of these styles of linguistics are confirmed by texts other then the Torah such as the Dead Sea Scrolls and other documents discovered by archeology.
  2. Terminology- Specific words and phrases are used disproportionately in certain sections of text. See here and here for examples. There are many others. These words and phrases help us to divide the text into separate documents.
  3. Consistent Content-
    1. Revelation of the name YHWH- The name YHWH was used earlier in the text and then suddenly revealed to Moshe in Exodus 6:2,3. Also certain names of God are used almost exclusively in certain sections of the Torah. These sections can be divided into separate sources.
    2. Sacred Objects- The Mishkan is dealt with far more in certain sections and never in others. In some sections it is the staff of Moshe Rabeynu that performs miracles but in other's it is Aaron's. There are more examples.
    3. Priestly Leadership- The Priests are the leaders of the people in certain sections. Prophets are the main men in other sections. In certain sections only descendants of Aaron are considered priests but in others all Levites are considered priests.
    4. Numbers- Certain sections of the Torah are more concerned with numbers (age, then others.
  4. Narrative flow- The Torah is very choppy and it repeats and contradicts itself. When divided into separate texts, each text has a better flow then when they remain as they are found in current text.
  5. Connections to other parts of the Bible- Certain parts of the Torah seem to match the worldview and message of certain prophets as well as usage of terminologies and linguistics. Certain parts line up with the book of Yirmeyahu, others line up with Yehezqel, Hoshea and the "Court History" sections of the neviim rishonim (early prophets), especially Shmuel Bais, respectively.
  6. Relationship to other sections and history- There are many, many examples of this. Certain sections of the Torah refer to geographical areas that were of particular interest to the south (Yehuda) and other sections speak about those of particular interest to the north (Yisrael.) Certain sections are of interest to the time of Hezkiyahu especially in regards to the division between Kohanim and Leviim, that according to Divrei HaYamim 31:2, were instituted by Hezkiyahu, and the centralization of the avodah at Har HaBayis. Other sections of the Torah seem to be connected to the glorious, revolutionary reign of Yoshiyahu. Certain sections of the Torah follow another group of passages, in sequence and differences are significant and point to a message with which certain sections of the Torah are concerned.
  7. Convergence- A threefold strand is not quickly broken (Kohelet 4:12) and one with hundreds of connections all the more so. There are many doublets and hundreds of apparent contradictions, that different Rishonim have picked up on and answered according to the best of their knowledge and based on the assumptions that they bring to their commentary on the Torah. But when you divide the text into these separate sections not only do they have a better narrative flow, but their world view and message are coherent, there are almost no contradictions and all the rest of the arguments listed above fit together snugly when the Torah is divided into certain sections.

For more information, you’re going to have to actually study the stuff yourself. Now go learn!