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Another Good Critique of JEDP

Thursday, November 13, 2008 • 9:40 am


As I noted in one of the comment threads yesterday, there are many good resources out there to equip non-seminary trained parishioners to defend against attacks on the historical veracity of the Old Testament launched by those who hold to 19th century German academic Julius Wellhausen’s hypothetical and isogetical reconstruction of Old Testament sources. It is important to do so because, as the article explains, Wellhausen’s theory undermines the integrity of the Pentateuch, the “authors” purported to have created it, and the uniform witness of both the Old Testament and the New with regard to recorded historical events and Mosaic authorship. In fact, since acceptance or rejection of the Documentary Hypothesis says so much about a person’s view of scripture,  I would encourage all search committees to work in a question or two about Wellhausen when interviewing prospective clergy. In any case, this is a very good and thorough critiqueon the popular level by Doug Beaumont of Southern Evangelical Seminary:

The twentieth century has essentially seen the downfall of the Documentary Hypothesis in scholarly circles, although it continues unabated in educational institutions and in popular literature. Archer writes concerning the “structure erected by the documentary theory,” that, “Almost every supporting pillar has been shaken and shattered by a generation of scholars who were brought up on the Graf-Wellhausen system.” Sadly, this has done little to sway the general acceptance of the theory. Elsewhere Archer concludes that, “For want of a better theory, therefore, most non conservative institutions continue to teach the Wellhausian theory . . . as if nothing had happened in Old Testament scholarship since 1880.” Loath to accept religious assumptions (i.e. that the Biblical text means what it says), Documentary Hypothesis supporters cling religiously to their own. This attitude is exemplified in the statement by British scholar H. H. Rowley: That it [the Graf- Wellhausian theory] is widely rejected in whole or in part is doubtless true, but there is no view in its place that would not be more widely and emphatically rejected . . . The Graf-Wellhausen view is only a working hypothesis, which can be abandoned with alacrity when a more satisfying view is found, but which cannot with profit be abandoned until then.

In other words, scholars committed to the presuppositions of the Documentary Hypothesis are unwilling to surrender this already discredited view until a better one comes along that allows those presuppositions to remain intact. A critique of these presuppositions will do much to determine whether or not this reluctance to admit defeat is justified.

Word Usage, Subject Matter, and Style

There are many varied reasons for rejecting the divisions based on titles of deity, word usage, etc. The very idea that a single author is incapable of writing on more than one subject, using more than one style, or employing different modes of writing in different genres is preposterous and easily demonstrated to be false. Common sense dictates that one author may vary his style or word choice for several reasons such as emphasis, amplification of important points, literary genre distinctiveness, avoidance of repetition, etc. Further, if this assumption were true, the very authors of the Documentary Hypothesis would not be able to comment on this phenomenon themselves, for they themselves would have to write on different topics in order to dos so. Finally, the critics here are not even willing to consistently apply their own rules (e.g. Genesis 24).

Another area in which Documentary critics find reason for their division is parallelisms and doublets. Examples include the creation accounts in Genesis, the flood narratives, the naming of Isaac, etc. These occurrences that seem to repeat other themes or stories are, according to the critic, a “clumsy combination of diverse traditions of the same event.” A thorough discussion of each of these is beyond the scope of this paper, but suffice it to say that several reasons can be given for these occurrences. They could simply be similar stories (many are not so unusual that one would not expect similarities), they could be purposefully written to show similarities with another event for emphasis or remembrance, for even unusual events can repeat in history. O.T. Allis also notes three major traits of Hebrew prose that could be mistaken for doublets: (1) The use of the word “and” to join subordinate or interdependent ideas could be mistaken for “pasting together” divergent accounts. (2) The repetition of important events for emphasis could be mistaken for copying. (3) Poetic Parallelism can make a text appear repetitious. All of these considerations and many others can explain the Hebrew writings much better than multiplying anonymous authors and artificially dividing the texts.

The criteria of names itself is highly suspect. It makes more sense to see the various names of God used as methods of conveying different aspects or sense of His working in history. The name Elohim is usually used when referencing God as the “Almighty Creator” and “Lord of the Universe,” hence its use in the Genesis creation account. Yahweh, on the other hand, is the “Covenant Maker” and this name is used in the Genesis relationship accounts. This use in Semitic times was unknown at the time of Astruc and Eichorn’s writings. Archer comments that, “the Semitic and Egyptian data were virtually unknown; otherwise it is impossible that any theory of source division based on divine names could ever have arisen. . . . it is hard to see how anyone could take seriously the terms Yahwist or Elohist any longer.”

There is also the issue of “misplaced” names between the “J” and “E” sources. Much like misplaced strata in the fossil record provides serious challenge to evolutionary theory, the “wrong” title for God is found in several places in the Pentateuch. As well, the very source that Documentary theorists use for their analysis has over 180 “name discrepancies” between the Majority Text (MT) and the LXX. This casts considerable doubt on the accuracy of their claim.

Perhaps one of the most clear refutations of the artificial division of the Pentateuch is the Documentary view’s own downward spiral into disintegration. Analogous to the effects of continuously inbreeding animals, the JEPD theory has corrupted itself by its own standards.

First, some of the most vociferous attacks against JEPD have come from within the Higher Criticism camp. The Documentary Hypothesis is itself the product of several failed views. It’s earliest version in 1783 quickly gave way to the Fragmentary Hypothesis in 1800. This view claimed that there were at least 38 fragments of documents that were put together by an unknown redactor about 500 years after Moses’ death. This view was later challenged by the Supplementary Theory of 1823-1830. After dealing the “death blow” to the Fragmentary Hypothesis with his work on the unity of Genesis, Heinrich Ewald proposed that there was one basic document “E” with additional material “J” added at a later date. Fifteen years later, the same Ewald rejected his own theory in favor of the Crystallization Theory. Now, he claimed, the Pentateuch was composed by five different authors over a period of about 700 years. It was not until 1853 that Hupfeld / Graf / Kuenen / Wellhausen began to develop what is now known as the Documentary Hypothesis. All this in just 80 years!

Second, today’s version of the Documentary Hypothesis is itself under continual attack from within. Using the methodology of his predecessors, Rudolph Smend discovered two parts to “J” (“J1” and “J2”) in 1912. In 1922 an alleged “L” document was discovered within “J” by Otto Eissfeldt. Not to be outdone, Julius Morgenstern added “K” in 1927 similar to the “S1” and “S2” documents of Robert Pfeiffer in “J” and “E” in his Introduction to the Old Testament. These “divisions within divisions” provide the Documentary method with its own reductio ad absurdum - there is no criteria for when this parceling off of Scripture will end.

Josh McDowell’s quote of renowned scholar Cyrus Gordon sums up the blind adherence of JEPD theorists well when he states:
They are willing to countenance modifications in detail. They will permit you to subdivide (D1, D2, D3, and so forth) or combine (JE) or add a new document designated by another capital letter but they will not tolerate any questioning of the basic JEPD structure . . . I am at a loss to explain this kind of ‘conviction’ on any grounds other that intellectual laziness or inability to reapprise.

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Comments:

Fr. Matt,

Exactly what is your view.  In the other thread you spent a good number of words refuting Fr. Handy and denying or affirming all or parts of others views.  However, I could not put together a complete picture of your view point.

BillB

[1] Posted by BillB on 11-13-2008 at 12:21 PM • top

BillB,

I am waiting for NRA to conclude his argument before responding in full…but so far it does not look like I will need to say much as he has merely restated JEDP and I have already addressed the reasons that theory is so wanting philosophically, logically, and exegetically…the article linked above does a very good job of summing up the argument in fact…did you read it? But I will respond as soon as he is finished.

My view is in agreement with the OT and the NT revealed witness that Moses authored the Pentateuch. There were of course later editors and copyist glosses to modernize names etc…but Moses is the author

[2] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 11-13-2008 at 12:28 PM • top

Matt, can I suggest that perhaps you mean to say “eisegetical”?  I keep seeing you use this word “isogetical,” but I think it does not exist.  Perhaps you are meaning to spell phonetically or are coining a new word, but it suggests an ignorance of the Greek etymology that could give some readers reason to doubt your command of the subject matter and whether you should be as assured of your opinions as you apparently are.

[3] Posted by Occasional Reader on 11-13-2008 at 12:48 PM • top

Isogetical means, I think, based on current events.

[4] Posted by Bo on 11-13-2008 at 01:06 PM • top

Hi Occassional Reader…thanks for the correction…although I was not ignorant of the spelling. As I am sure you know it is not an English word but grk and the grk prefix eis (into) in eisogesis is, as far as I know, pronounced with a long “I” sound which is why I left off the e…our readership is primarily English speaking and not greek and I thought I would anglicize it…probably a bad decision if it gives the impression you describe. I recognize that it is always spelled differently.

2. I am not a scholar, neither in grk nor hebrew, nor do I pretend to be. I do know a few things about exegesis and more importantly I know logic well enough to spot a really bad argument. JEPD qualifies as a really bad argument and I do not think you need a Phd in Old Testament recognize its deficiencies since they lie primarily on the premise and the method

[5] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 11-13-2008 at 01:06 PM • top

Matt,
Others have used the term, with the meaning of ‘based on current events’...

http://www.amazon.com/review/R1TYBKOV1T6AJX

[6] Posted by Bo on 11-13-2008 at 01:10 PM • top

Like I said, it was probably a bad idea

[7] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 11-13-2008 at 01:14 PM • top

Disappointing.

I was educated by Jewish professors two of whom were themselves trained by Cyrus Gordon (for whom I did a couple indexing jobs that paid pretty well). They made it clear they did not care for JEDP. (Fair enough.)

At my doctoral defense they asked, “Did you views change at all in the course of your dissertation research?” To their mild surprise I said, “Yes - I now think JEDP makes quite a bit of sense. The more I had to deal with these texts in their minute details, scrutinizing the language, noticing the narrative breaks and joins and so on - the more the evidence seems to fit JEDP”. They did not ridicule me but listened with surprised respect or respectful surprise. “Interesting”.

I understand where “Moses wrote the Torah” convictions come from - I used to hold that view myself. “The New Testament says it! Jesus says it! It has to be true - or else the whole thing falls apart”.

Either that or we are misinterpreting (a) just what the New Testament is really trying to say on this matter or (b) the evidence for/against the Documentary Hypothesis or (c) the reasoning behind the “Moses *had* to have written it” argumentation. Over the years I have concluded that I was wrong about (c) then (b) then (a).

If people want to believe Moses wrote it all - no biggie. Go ahead. I happen to disagree. If people retort - as they will especially on this website I peruse it enough - “then you don’t believe the Bible! you don’t believe the words of our Lord!” then there is not much I can say except gently and kindly as I can that they are mistaken.

There is some irony here - which is that my doctoral research is on the history of biblical Hebrew and how that calls into question “liberal” attempts to date the Pentateuchal sources very late. Putting it simply, “You can’t have you cake and eat it too. You can’t rejoice when a sword is used to refute ‘challenges’ to what you believe and then gripe when that same sword calls into question some of your own positions”.

Let me ask a few quick and dirty questions:

What is the Hebrew word for “peace”?
When do you think Moses wrote the Pentateuch?
(Again) What is the Hebrew word for “peace”?

The idea that later editors would “update” names strikes me as absurd and special pleading. Why are ancient terms “proof” of the Bible’s antiquity and historicity? but more modern terms (read - anything later than 10th c B.C. in this context) have been “updated”? Come on guys - you can’t exploit evidence when it helps you then explain it away when it doesn’t. Eat your cake.

With respect to Prof Beaumont whom I am sure is a better scholar than I am (heck he has tenure somewhere - I am just a poor pastor and adjunct) some of what he writes above is straw-man argumentation that misrepresents how most scholars truly understand JEDP (or at least the Documentary Hypothesis in broad outline). I wonder what would happen if Prof Beaumont tried to float some of this at SBL (which happens to be… this weekend in Boston). Good luck. Scholars familiar with source criticism will know better.

I understand that some of the reasoning behind Wellhausen’s infamous theory is deeply flawed. And no I do not accept all the specifics. (P is pre-exilic thank you. So is the whole Pentateuch. Although the anti-chronological scholars have produced powerful scholarship against the views of Hurvitz and others - including me. Even if they are wrong they are still excellent scholars.) But evidence and rethinking my assumptions has compelled me to conclude that well yeah JEDP works at least in broad outline - that we have multiple “sources” of some kind that have been worked together into a (please note!) canonical whole. (And it is the whole which ultimately is what God wants us to have and through which God exercises his authority over his people the Church. I am pretty fanatic about the significance of the canon.)

So far as I can tell not much of the Pentateuch was composed before say 10th century B.C. (Even that is pushing it - Gezer Tablet and all.) Why? Because analogically - and this is *my* reason not what most would cite - I do not see how Shakespeare could write in 20th century English.

You can disagree Matt and that is fine. I consider myself in the “conservative/orthodox Anglican” camp. But within that camp I often encounter what I call “uncritical” orthodoxy. I believe we can be both orthodox *and* critical (that is, work with and accept a large part of biblical/theological scholarship). That some have used scholarship to deny authentic Christian teaching (and mission since I believe all theology is ultimately missiological) does not obligate me to throw out the baby with their bathwater.

[8] Posted by Rick in South Louisiana on 11-13-2008 at 01:14 PM • top

Sure Rick, although let me suggest that you may be engaging in some misrepresentation yourself in this para:

I understand where “Moses wrote the Torah” convictions come from - I used to hold that view myself. “The New Testament says it! Jesus says it! It has to be true - or else the whole thing falls apart”.

Either that or we are misinterpreting (a) just what the New Testament is really trying to say on this matter or (b) the evidence for/against the Documentary Hypothesis or (c) the reasoning behind the “Moses *had* to have written it” argumentation. Over the years I have concluded that I was wrong about (c) then (b) then (a).

It’s not that people just shoot back those answers Rick. People genuinely believe them and there is, I think, I good deal of basis for that belief. But just for now, if in fact Jesus did hold to Mosaic authorship and I think you will agree that it is untenable to assume otherwise and if, in fact, he did affirm that the Flood occurred and Noah existed (which seems very difficult to deny) then

Now, this does bring up the question of how much Jesus knew. I think we see in scripture certainly some places where Jesus remains truly ignorant of a subject in his humanity. He really does not know the time or the hour. He does not know “who touched me” but the interesting thing about all of these is that when he does not know something he is quite clear about it. To have Jesus going along with the conventional wisdom regarding mosaic authorship and the historicity of the floods when all the while these things are myths and fairy tales would implicate not Jesus in his humanity but God in a falsehood, who while knowing the truth of the matter permitted the Son to further the falsehood. 

Further:

If people want to believe Moses wrote it all - no biggie. Go ahead. I happen to disagree. If people retort - as they will especially on this website I peruse it enough - “then you don’t believe the Bible! you don’t believe the words of our Lord!” then there is not much I can say except gently and kindly as I can that they are mistaken.


The last part of this para is more misrepresentation. Not sure why the idea of updating place names seems absurd to you. It seems perfectly reasonable to do that if you are republishing or copying a text for use by people who no longer call the place by the ancient name. It seems infinitely more reasonable than turning sections into sources and creating communities wholecloth to account for them on the basis of a contemporized name.

As for multiple sources worked together into a whole…I do not think that those who assert Moses as author would disagree…

[9] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 11-13-2008 at 01:38 PM • top

Sorry, did not finish that middle paragraph above. Should read:

“It’s not that people just shoot back those answers Rick. People genuinely believe them and there is, I think, I good deal of basis for that belief. But just for now, if in fact Jesus did hold to Mosaic authorship and I think you will agree that it is untenable to assume otherwise and if, in fact, he did affirm that the Flood occurred and Noah existed (which seems very difficult to deny) then the assertion that these things did not occur puts Jesus, the Truth, in the position, technically speaking, of furthering a notion that is untrue.”

[10] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 11-13-2008 at 01:49 PM • top

Bo, the more I think about it, the more I like “isogetical” as a description of Wellhausen…his views were certainly, “based on current events” namely the general rejection by German scholars of the possibility of historical knowledge of divine intervention in human history and the subsequent vain attempts to reconstruct and make sense of the account sans the notion of revelation and miracle.

[11] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 11-13-2008 at 01:58 PM • top

Speakly purely and honestly in the role of a lay scholar and not in the same role or capacity or scholarship as either biblical or pastoral scholars, I have to remark that from a pew-sitting commonsense perspective, everything I have read regarding DH leads me to note the similarity between it and perceiving patterns in a snow storm. Nothing about it is particularily compelling to me, but I recognize instantly the constant and overriding urge to reconcile apparent differences in the textual sources by seeking to categorize the similarities and differences. Thus grouped, they present what appears to be compelling evidence for the hypothesis(ses). But just as in a blizzard, where the visual ground is obscured and perceived patterns in the swirling snow give the impression of objects not there, that which we do not know obscures and gives false impressions of the evidence in hand. If the underlying assumption is that there must be a reason (other than personal choices by a single writer) for the differences, and if there is no compelling or veridical evidence to counter that reason, they can be built up and provide an apparently solid object. The solutions to hand provide no relief for this: either travel back in time and question Moses (or the purported collective writers)directly. Or travel forward in time and inquire of the Lord Himself in His return. Everything else is purely speculation. If we rely on “scientific” evidence, we must be sure beyond a reasonable doubt that the evidence is in fact true, and not interpreted as true, but in fact ambiguous. Hypothetical constructs should always be treated as balloons: attention-getting, pretty and not very weighty when all is said and done. Unfortunately many become fixated on the color and beauty of the hypothesis, and refuse to remain as skeptical as necessary to require rigorous proofs. Scholars are in particular prone to this, operating as we/they do in information-rich, idea-rich environments, surrounded by others who drink as deeply from those same wineskins. Whilt it is always sad to witness the demise of a perfectly conceived hypothesis by hard reality or intransigent skepticism, it is a necessary function to retain an effective foundation to which one can tie those beautiful hypotheses.

[12] Posted by masternav on 11-13-2008 at 02:08 PM • top

Nice try but no. I was afraid that #a and #c might not be entirely clear to some.

When Jesus says “Moses” is he making an assertion about authorship? You assume he is, and therefore to question Mosaic authorship is - presto poof qed - questioning Jesus.

That makes sense. Really. But no. Because there are other ways to interpret what Jesus means when he refers to “Moses”. Is it about authorship? Or the authority of these texts and how to interpret them? “God has given us these books under the umbrella heading ‘Moses’. Please interpret them that way.”

Once again one notices the appeal to reasoning rather than conclusion based on evidence. “Oh! But if Moses did not write these things personally… and Jesus refers to them as Moses… then Jesus is furthering a notion that is untrue”. Our modern Western notions of “true/truth” (here focusing on “who wrote this and when exactly?”) mean we cannot consider other ways to interpret how Jesus refers to the Hebrew Bible.

You say “people really believe this, they don’t pull it out of thin air”. Well duh - you think I don’t know that? Did you actually read what I wrote? Of course they sincerely believe this. Of course it is reasoned out (which I think is precisely part of the problem but let’s skip that for a minute).

***Everything Jesus says is true (as we modern Western folk understand that). Jesus refers to “Moses”. Therefore Moses had to have written all this stuff. Otherwise Jesus was passing on something not “true”. And therefore we cannot trust anything else with absolute certainty. QED.***

I don’t think I misrepresent. No offense - but I think I understand the mosaic authorship arguments quite well thank you. Reading your response just confirms this. Let me say it again, “This is exactly what I used to believe and argue.” I get it. Really.

Names. Let me be more specific then. Look at the Egyptian personal names in Genesis 41-50. Check the scholarship on how to interpret those Egyptian personal names. (In other words, this is the Hebrew form of what name in ancient Egyptian?) Then go check *when* those Egyptian personal names were used - and when they could not have been used (for reasons of grammar and historical development). (Answer - most of those names could not have been used in ancient Egypt before at least 1100 B.C. or so. Hmm.) Why and how would an ancient writer have “updated” those names? Why and how would an ancient writer have updated any personal or place name? I have no problems whatsoever with the idea of Mosaic material being reworked/rewritten. Really. Although I don’t see how or why that would have worked. (Why has some material been “modernized” more than others? To me this is one of the biggest problems. Why is Genesis 14 so apparently ancient - but not Genesis 11? Why “modernize” some place and personal names - but not others? And why do we use the ancient stuff to support our notions of biblical antiquity/historicity and then explain away the stuff that does not fit that pattern? Eat your cake.)

What David Handy+ has been saying. I don’t buy this “all or nothing” argumentation. Which is precisely what it is. Reasoning. Rather than drawing conclusions from the hard evidence on the ground from within the text (which yes indeed includes how Jesus refers to the Hebrew Bible). What kind of Bible has God actually given us? Rather than what kind of Bible do we reason God should have given us?

[13] Posted by Rick in South Louisiana on 11-13-2008 at 02:19 PM • top

Thanks Masternav,

A man came to one of our bible studies a few years ago who was very disruptive. He told me that he could destroy our faith in five minutes. I told him to wait until the study was over and I would be happy to speak with him.

He proceeded to spin this very creative and imaginative tale involving Mary Magdalen and the disciples in an intricate plot to steal Jesus’ body…Mary seduced the guards while the disciples stole the body.

I asked him why he favored this explanation that has NO evidence to support it and involves speculative flights of fancy over the one that is provided in first century sources. Why, I asked, create this story when we have a ready explanation provided in scripture?  “Well because it just can’t be true…no one rises from the dead.”

And there you have it. In order to create yarns like the this man’s story, the Da Vince Code, the swoon theory etc…you need first to dismiss the evidence of the sources themselves. That gives you the freedom and the impetus to begin building sky castles.

That, I think, though of course on a much more thorough level is what has happened to OT scholarship. The texts own internal witness has been dismissed driving the need to find an alternative and necessarily speculative explanation that involves the creation of communities and authors whole-cloth.

Notice the intricate interplay NRA describes between the Deuteronomist community and its rivals and the polemical intent he confidently asserts lies behind the construction of the text…where does that come from? Do we have any evidence at all that there ever was a Deuternomist community? No more than evidence than that Mary seduced the Roman guards.

But again, once you dismiss the scriptural witness that sort of speculation is really all you have to go on.

what surprises me is the confidence with which these imagined communities are forwarded.

[14] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 11-13-2008 at 02:21 PM • top

Uh, is JEDP the stuff taught in the first year of EFM?  Or am I confusing it with something else?  Oh, I thought isogetical meant “explaining tough subjects while wearing really nice gloves hawked by Dan Marino.”  Guess I was wrong.

[15] Posted by Widening Gyre on 11-13-2008 at 02:41 PM • top

“Nice try but no.I was afraid that #a and #c might not be entirely clear to some.”

heh…wasn’t it you complaining of condescension and snarkyness in the other thread? ; - )

“When Jesus says “Moses” is he making an assertion about authorship? You assume he is…”

No, I assume he is employing conventional speech. He was not asserting Moses as the author, he was assuming it…like every first century Jew.

“and therefore to question Mosaic authorship is - presto poof qed - questioning Jesus.”

No, you did not read my response carefully.

“That makes sense. Really. But no. Because there are other ways to interpret what Jesus means when he refers to “Moses”. Is it about authorship? Or the authority of these texts and how to interpret them? “God has given us these books under the umbrella heading ‘Moses’. Please interpret them that way.”

This suggestion, given what we know about the first century is far more untenable than my suggestion above. It sets Jesus into the mold of the 21st century NT scholar…“I really don’t believe that Moses wrote this nor do I expect that my hearers believe that either…but I using this terminology as a way of referring to Moses’ authority not his authorship because we all know that these texts were not written by Moses…”
If that is your argument, then it is very difficult to make given the general assumption of first century Palestinian Jewish Rabbis.

“Once again one notices the appeal to reasoning rather than conclusion based on evidence. “Oh! But if Moses did not write these things personally… and Jesus refers to them as Moses… then Jesus is furthering a notion that is untrue”. Our modern Western notions of “true/truth” (here focusing on “who wrote this and when exactly?”) mean we cannot consider other ways to interpret how Jesus refers to the Hebrew Bible.”

1. I agree that certain canons and norms of speech and literature were different in the first century. But I do not think that those different norms are sufficient to contain the data. To say that when Jesus refers to the flood as an historical event or Moses as the giver of the Law he really had in mind something entirely different or knew something else to be true requires a great deal of speculation on your part. And it stretches the notion of truth to the point that it bends into falsehood… 

2. Again, I think it is a stretch to assume that Jesus had any other understanding of the Penteteuch than that of a normal first century Rabbi given that he used their conventional speech and terminology and that he was more than willing to upset both when he disagreed.

“You say “people really believe this, they don’t pull it out of thin air”. Well duh - you think I don’t know that?”

heh, more condescension professor ; )

“Did you actually read what I wrote? Of course they sincerely believe this. Of course it is reasoned out (which I think is precisely part of the problem but let’s skip that for a minute).”

Yes I read what you wrote…you suggested those who say such things do so out of a sense of reactionary zeal rather than deliberative thought but if, like you, they would only think things through rationally, like you have, then they may be willing to see the light, as you have.

“I don’t think I misrepresent. No offense - but I think I understand the mosaic authorship arguments quite well thank you.”

I did not suggest otherwise. I suggested that your articulation of those arguments was a misrepresentation. 

“Reading your response just confirms this. Let me say it again, “This is exactly what I used to believe and argue.” I get it. Really.”

I don’t doubt it. Really.

“Names. Let me be more specific then. Look at the Egyptian personal names in Genesis 41-50. Check the scholarship on how to interpret those Egyptian personal names. (In other words, this is the Hebrew form of what name in ancient Egyptian?) Then go check *when* those Egyptian personal names were used - and when they could not have been used (for reasons of grammar and historical development). (Answer - most of those names could not have been used in ancient Egypt before at least 1100 B.C. or so. Hmm.) Why and how would an ancient writer have “updated” those names? Why and how would an ancient writer have updated any personal or place name?”

1. I’ll tell you what…since you have the data, apparently, at the tip of your fingers, why don’t you just give it along with your argument or give a reference.

2. I’m not sure why an ancient copyist would not update names and why it would be impossible for him to know how…Egypt and Judah/Israel were not utterly disconnected—they was quite alot of coming and going between the two—and a knowledgeable copyist might want to update the names to make the names more relevant to his readers.

3. Don’t be too confident with your “could not have"s. Many a confident conclusion of that sort has been shown to be baseless in light of later discoveries

“I have no problems whatsoever with the idea of Mosaic material being reworked/rewritten. Really.”

Good, we can agree on something.

“Although I don’t see how or why that would have worked.”

strange it seems quite simple to me.

“(Why has some material been “modernized” more than others?”

Mystery lost to the ages…perhaps certain sections were more relevant than others to ancient readers.

“To me this is one of the biggest problems.”

Really? This is one of your biggest problems. Seriously? It’s not that difficult. Gosh off the top of my head I can think of three reasons that could have happened. 1. Different copyists for different editions pieced together into one by a later copyist? 2. There was something relevant to one copyists audience about one section of scripture that was not relevant about another? 3. Just plain Human inconsistency?

But there is no reason to create or assume wholly different sources because you cannot figure out why someone might have modernized a name.

“And why do we use the ancient stuff to support our notions of biblical antiquity/historicity and then explain away the stuff that does not fit that pattern? Eat your cake.)”

Could you clarify that with an illustration or two? If I am understanding you rightly here, then you may be misinterpreting. Once you have come to the conclusion that Moses was the basic author or you decide that JEDP makes most sense, there are outlying issues that need to be dealt with that are troublesome but do not overturn the whole enterprise. Place names are one of those. They are easily explained within the scope of an assumption of Mosaic authorship and for that reason they are not sufficient to call the entire position into question.

“What David Handy+ has been saying. I don’t buy this “all or nothing” argumentation. Which is precisely what it is. Reasoning. Rather than drawing conclusions from the hard evidence on the ground from within the text (which yes indeed includes how Jesus refers to the Hebrew Bible). What kind of Bible has God actually given us? Rather than what kind of Bible do we reason God should have given us?”

I do agree with this.

[16] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 11-13-2008 at 03:00 PM • top

There are biblical scholars who reject the basic historicity of the Pentateuch and endorse the JEDP documentary hypothesis.

There are biblical scholars who accept the basic historicity of the Pentateuch and reject the JEDP documentary hypothesis.

However,

There are also biblical scholars who accept the basic historicity of the Pentateuch and acept the JEDP documentary hypothesis.

There are even biblical scholars who reject the basic historicity of the Pentateuch and reject the JEDP documentary hypothesis.

And I think that about covers all the bases.

I fail to see why multiple literary sources is acceptable for Kings/Chronicles (acknowledged explicitly by the authors of both texts, and evident by comparison), for the synoptic gospels (not mentioned, but universally acknowledged, and evident by comparison), for the Psalms (there are several duplicates that clearly go back to one or more originals), for the end of Jeremiah & 2 Kings 24-25 (as a comparison will demonstrate), for the end of 2 Chronicles and the beginning of Ezra (again, just compare) but postulating multiple sources for the Pentateuch is heresy.

There are scholars who continue to provide careful arguments for the documentary origins of the Pentateuch (Richard Friedman) as there are scholars who have provided careful criticism of the hypothesis(Umberto Cassuto).  There are scholars who have defended the two-source theory of the synoptic gospels (B. H. Streeter), as well as scholars who have provided careful criticism of the theory (W. H. Farmer).

In all of these cases, the arguments used to make the case are based on careful literary comparison of the documents.  Scholars may or may not have biases against miracle, revelation, or the historical accuracy of the documents.  Such biases one way or the another are entirely irrelevant to the question of sources. The reason why the standard positions have survived for so long is that they address and provide solutions for observable phenomena that are clearly evident.  The reason why challenging positions have so far not been successful in overturning the standard positions is that the criticisms have not provided alternative explanations that have as effectively explained the phenomenon.

Certainly, one is entitled to criticize the current theories, but it is not enough to point out such things as that writers often use more than one name, or that they can write in different styles.  A competing theory has to be able to explain the existing phenomena as well as the theory being criticized.  So, for example, if like Farmer, one wishes to challenge Markan priority and argue for Matthean priority instead, then one has to provided a suitable argument as to why Mark would want to shorten Matthew’s text.  To use Occam’s razor, it makes more sense that Matthew would add the Sermon on the Mount to a document that didn’t have it, than that he would remove it from a document that already had it.

Similarly, if Moses sometimes used one divine name and sometimes another, and sometimes used the kind of stylistic and vocabulary differences that really do exist between those sections that scholars have distinguished by the hypothetical sources, and if he used them in combination—so Moses always wrote with the peculiar vocabulary associated with “J” when he decided to use “Yahweh,” and always wrote with the peculiar vocabulary associated with “E” when he used “Elohim,”  and always used the peculiar stylistic regularities associated with “P” when he wrote legal material and chronologies, and deliberately switched to the kind of exhortatory material associated with “D” when he wrote Deuteronomy, then Occam’s razor demands that one not only claim that Moses did so, but also offer a reasonable explanation as to why he did so in the peculiar manner he did so in each specific instance, and in such a manner that provides a simpler and more elegant explanation than the postulation of multiple sources.  One’s alternative solution has to show the same kind of detailed careful work as the hypothesis one is rejecting.

Not being an Old Testament scholar, not only don’t I have a horse in this race, but I don’t know enough to argue the position one way or another, but what I’m seeing in this discussion is the use of dogmatic objections to object to literary claims.  This, it seems to me, is a category mistake.  Textual arguments have to be met with equally capable alternative textual hypotheses. I’m seeing the literary arguments brushed aside as heretical rather than addressed.

[17] Posted by William Witt on 11-13-2008 at 03:01 PM • top

Hi Dr. Witt, thanks for entering the thread.

I do disagree with you. I think there is a dogmatic bone to pick here but, setting that aside for a moment, my objections to JEDP are not merely dogmatic. There are underlying assumptions to the “textual” arguments that are not “textual” at all but “philosophical” for lack of a better word. If you look at the earlier thread of which this is a continuation, you will I think see what I mean:
http://www.standfirminfaith.com/index.php/site/index

[18] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 11-13-2008 at 03:10 PM • top

Also Dr. Witt,

I think the reason no “alternative” explanation has been offered and you see only the critiques of JEDP…is that I think Mosaic authorship is seem is the established classical primary explanation and JEDP the challenging one. As such all we need to do is show how Mosaic authorship fits the facts better than JEDP and how JEDP is based on faulty premises…

[19] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 11-13-2008 at 03:20 PM • top

Bo, thanks for the link to the linguistic evidence.  I do not think, however, that an Amazon.com book reviewer’s misspelling of the word and his mistaken definition will quite serve to establish either (1) that “isogesis” [sic] is actually a word in the English language or (2) that its meaning is “based on current events.” 

Rather, Matt was correct earlier when he pointed out that the specialized neologism “eisegesis” uses the Greek preposition eis in contrast to the word “exegesis,” the latter meaning “to lead or reason meaning out of a text” which is constituent of it and the former meaning “to read into” a text meaning which is not intrinsic to it. That “reading into” could come from current events, to be sure, but it could equally well come from anything else: from a priori theological convictions to Aristotelian philosophy, from Marxist materialism to Freudian psychology.

Given Matt’s knowledge of the word’s derivation, his decision to “anglicize” the word with “iso-” is a little curious given that “eisegesis” has only ever been an English word, unlike its more original counterpart, “exegesis,” which does truly derive from the Greek exegeomai.  The “iso-” prefix, thus, not only obscures the preposition eis but, just as significantly, effaces the Greek letter eta following the preposition upon which the verb (Greek hegeomai) depends for its meaning. Perhaps Matt was privileging phonetic pronunciation over the word’s derivation after the manner of some ideologically postmodern English teachers who decry the hegemony wink of “standard usage” with its implicit racism and classism.  Maybe he just misspelled it.

(I would have left this alone were it not for the specious justification of “isogesis.”)

[20] Posted by Occasional Reader on 11-13-2008 at 03:24 PM • top

Not being an Old Testament scholar, not only don’t I have a horse in this race, but I don’t know enough to argue the position one way or another, but what I’m seeing in this discussion is the use of dogmatic objections to object to literary claims.

I’m reading this as the “union card needed” argument which does seem at odd with Jesus’ position about the professional theologians of His day and later Paul’s charge. I guess we have reinvented the man made hierarchy of who is to consider what about God, I wonder if He was consulted?

[21] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 11-13-2008 at 03:34 PM • top

Matt,

I am aware of the claim that Wellhausen’s theory was based on Hegelian philosophy and anti-supernaturalist biases, but the same biases were shared by many of the nineteenth century NT scholars who first postulated the two-source theory of synoptic authorship.  The literary and stylistic arguments stand on their own, and have to be addressed as such.  That the literary arguments have to be distinguished from anti-supernaturalist biases has been recognized for at least a century.  Many of the most adamant defenders of the historicity of Mosaic revelation in the last century have also endorsed some variation of Wellhausen’s theory, e.g., Walther Eichrodt, John Bright, Brevard Childs.

While endorsing Wellhausen’s basic theory, scholars have also recognized that some of Wellhausen’s assumptions need to be corrected.  For example, the date of a source can not be identified with the historical origin of the source.  So, if J or E were compiled in the 10 century BC that does not imply that the historical material contained in them originated in the 10th century BC.  If P was compiled after the exile that does not mean that the Mosaic legal material did not exist before the exile—anymore than the authorship of the Chronicles sometime after the return of Israel from exile means that the material in Chronicles originated after the exile.  Indeed, Chronicles clearly is dependent on Samuel and Kings, which all scholars acknowledge draw on sources going back to the time of David.

[22] Posted by William Witt on 11-13-2008 at 03:34 PM • top

Hi Occassional Reader

Interesting.

I was not justifying myself. I was explaining the reason I spelled the word the way I did. I am generally a horrible speller and have no trouble admitting it as you may know if you were more than an “Occasional Reader”. I also said very clearly that I know eisogesis is never spelled the way that I spelled it way. I suppose you might say I was “priveleging the phonetic use”. I would say that I was just freakin typing and decided to do it that way for the reason I described…there was no long deliberative process. 

You are free, of course, to call me a liar I suppose as you imply in your last sentence but I think that’s being a bit smallish. I’m not sure how you’d know and I am not sure why I would lie about misspelling a word.

My guess is that, and I gather this is from the earlier Inerrancy thread last year, you are not happy with these threads because you tend to agree with NRA on these sorts of things and do not like to see your position assailed, so you make this little nit picky post hoping to embarrass me…its amusing in some ways and sad in others.

Interesting…

[23] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 11-13-2008 at 03:37 PM • top

I’m reading this as the “union card needed” argument which does seem at odd with Jesus’ position about the professional theologians of His day and later Paul’s charge. I guess we have reinvented the man made hierarchy of who is to consider what about God, I wonder if He was consulted?

Well, you can read my remark that way if you wish.  My intention was to acknowledge that there is a real difference between the learning that is demanded of real scholars in a field and those of us who are amateurs.  Competent biblical scholars know the original languages well, know the cultural and historical background, are trained in exegesis, and know the history of their own discipline well enough not to re-invent the wheel.  I do not pretend to this kind of expertise in biblical study.  I am privileged to work with some who have it.

My own area of expertise is systematic and historical theology.  I know a little bit more about this area than do my colleagues, and I can spot careless misreadings of Thomas Aquinas or Richard Hooker better than the average layperson.

That does not mean that untrained lay people cannot profit from reading the Bible for themselves, or, for that matter, reading Thomas Aquinas or Richard Hooker.  I would encourage it.

[24] Posted by William Witt on 11-13-2008 at 03:43 PM • top

Thank you, William Witt #17, for the sanest post on this or any related threads. Why Pentateuchal source criticism should be in a category unto itself is truly mystifying.

I might also point out that, generally speaking, the biblical conservative can only hope that biblical writers used “sources,” for it is the best conceivable insurance that they could speak truthfully of events in which they were not participants.

[25] Posted by Occasional Reader on 11-13-2008 at 03:43 PM • top

Dr. Witt, yes, in the thread I referenced above, I noted that I am somewhat more sympathetic to those who maintain Mosaic revelation and historicity of various events and find a way to reconcile that with some aspects of the documentary hypothesis.

I do, however, still think that those who deny the historicity of the events recorded in the Pentateuch and deny Mosaic authorship of the core of the Pentateuch run afoul of the texts own witness and, as I noted above, the witness of the NT as well. 

I admit and agree that there are shades here.

I do not think it possible to reject events like the parting of the sea or the giving of the Law on Sinai without undermining a good deal of biblical revelation…that I suppose is my dogmatic issue.

[26] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 11-13-2008 at 03:45 PM • top

Occassional Reader

the “biblical conservatives” on “these and related threads”
do and never have denied that biblical writers used sources. What an odd thing.

[27] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 11-13-2008 at 03:47 PM • top

Dr Witt - Well, I’ll have to consult Scripture on the subject then make up my mind of which is of greater importance.

[28] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 11-13-2008 at 03:59 PM • top

Matt (#23), you are absolutely right.  Both of my posts on “isogesis” were very “smallish.”  I truly knew that when I was doing it, and did it anyway in a Romans 7-ish kind of way. I am not proud of that.

I will be frank with you.  Your manner of engaging these kinds of arguments, to my observation, is so frequently oozing with a bravado and self-confidence that in my judgment is incommensurate with your command of the matter under discussion (sometimes more so, sometimes less so), that I find myself reacting to you and others who argue this way in “smallish” ways.  Don’t get me wrong.  You are my kind of thinking man’s priest; you have a heart for what matters; you have a dogged passion to defend the truth.  Would that your tribe increase.  I truly mean that.  I also agree with you more than you might think—the gist your conclusions, that is, though less often the substance of the argument. 

But as a matter of perverse personal amusement I sometimes wonder what it takes to have Matt Kennedy say “I am wrong” or “my knowledge of this field is limited” or “I am beyond my depth.”  My observation is that this is not easy for you to do so.  It is actually not easy for any of us who believe we are debating matters of ultimate or near ultimate importance (and who may have too much pride with respect to our learning or rhetorical powers).  So this was my way today to see if I could get you to say, “I was wrong; that’s right, it is really spelled this way . . . silly me.  Noted . . . ”  And, to your credit, you almost did that.  Almost.  But when you went on to explain why, though knowing the proper spelling and derivation of the word “eisegesis”  you had chosen deliberately to spell it differently, well . . . so close but yet so far.  It seemed prima facie implausible to me that someone would do that knowing that they were obscuring the meaning of the word. But perhaps.  I was going to let that speak for itself and leave it alone.  Then when Bo offered (an admittedly amusing) appeal to the Amazon.com reviewer, I was still going to let that go.  But when you came back and explained that you rather favored that meaning of “isogesis” [sic] (“based on current events”) as it pertained to German higher criticism and I could detect no irony in your post, I lost my self control and determined that (1) SF readers should not be left with the impression that this is actually a word that exists in the English language and that it really means “based on current events,” and (2) Matt should not be able back off his earlier acknowledgment of the mistake and defend himself this way.  “It’s just not right,” I said to myself.  So, with some admitted playfulness, I weighed in again on an issue so trivial that I am embarrassed to have done so, even though what I said about the words was altogether true and even possibly informative, until the bit about postmodern English teachers, which I just threw in for fun (they do exist, though).

So, I apologize to you and to the rest of the SF readers.  I shouldn’t behave that way, and it only compounds the sin to justify it to myself or others.  I believe that blogs could be a place where we not only sharpen one another’s thinking but also participate in each other’s sanctification.  The best way for us to cooperate in that process is to be more humble, to admit when we are wrong (morally or factually), and to engage each other so as to “outdo one another in showing honor.”  I failed to do that and ask for forgiveness.

[29] Posted by Occasional Reader on 11-13-2008 at 04:29 PM • top

Fascinating. I was not aware that anyone but fundamentalists rejected source criticism. Perhaps I will have to rethink that, but I somehow managed to complete four degrees in theology without hearing about any credible alternative theory to source criticism which is supported by the consensus of biblical scholars. I would have a very hard time putting the two creation stories down to “parallelism.”

[30] Posted by Chazzy on 11-13-2008 at 04:33 PM • top

Posted this on the wrong thread:

Thinking about the importance of Moses in Jesus’ own words, here is a comparison of the prophets and instruments of God in the Scriptures (let me know if any are missing) by the number of times Jesus speaks of them in the Gospels: Moses 20 times, Abraham 19, John the Baptist 17, Jonah 13 , David 10, Elias 7, Solomon 6, Noe(Noah)4, Zacharias 1, and ‘the prophets’ 42, Adam 0, Cain 0, Enoch 0, Aaron 0,  Ezra, Ezekiel, Habakkuk, Haggai, Hosea, Isaiah, JeremiahJoel, Joseph 0, Joshua, Levi, Malachi, Melchizedek 0, Micah, Nahum, Obediah 0,  Zephaniah.

[31] Posted by Floridian on 11-13-2008 at 04:40 PM • top

In conservative Jewish congregations there are always available in the pews copies of the Torah and Ha-Torah with the Hebrew on the top, an English translation underneath, and rabbinical notes under that.  Usually included are articles on Torah, explaining various issues of Biblical scholarship.  The copy I have (date early 1990s) has such an article on source theory, and claims that it has been thoroughly discredited, and that Jewish scholars consider it to have been part of the German anti-Jewish sentiment prevalent in Europe.  We usually assume that Wellhausen and others were looking for non-supernatural explanations, anti-Christian.  However, I find it persuasive that the agenda behind it was anti-Jewish.  For this reason, I disagree with Wm Witt (whose contributions I usually applaud) that literary arguments need to be matched with literary rebuttal.  A modern example would be the attempt of many to claim the Holocaust didn’t exist.  That can be rebutted by historical evidence.  However, those making the claim are not interested in evidence, they only want to belittle Judaism.  The false accusations against Pius XII is another example, the target there being the RCC.  The TEC agenda, the liberal agenda, are further examples; if it doesn’t further their agenda, they are not interested.  I think it is a good exercise to debate the issues, but the “why this?” needs to be held in mind as well.  Also we should keep in mind that there were continued oral sources and Talmudic sources.  Hence Paul gives information about Enoch that is not given in the OT. These traditions continued side by side, and could have influenced such items as names. 
Literary criticism. I believe there is a 2 Isaiahs theory based on style, yet Jesus quotes from “Isaiah #1” and then from “that same Isaiah” quoting from a later chapter attributed now to “Isaiah #2.”  Do we rely on our dissecting of literary style or on the word of Jesus?

[32] Posted by ann r on 11-13-2008 at 04:44 PM • top

Matt (#27), noting your radical rearrangement of my words (#25), I wondered if you might think that I am distinguishing myself from “biblical conservatives.”  Not at all.  As a biblical conservative (by which in this context I meant someone who holds to a high view of the historicity of the text), I remember the first time it occurred to me that the strong evidence for sources behind certain biblical texts was a matter in which I ought to rejoice, and I do.  It is foundational to the apologetic defense of the historicity of Scripture.  I don’t think anything that I said implied that anyone on these threads denied the existence of sources; no such implication was intended.

[33] Posted by Occasional Reader on 11-13-2008 at 05:11 PM • top

No, Occasional Reader, I was making no assertions regarding your orthodoxy. I rearranged your words because you seemed to imply that the “biblical Christians”(your words not mine) on this board do not believe that the biblical writers used sources…and I was assuring you that we do

[34] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 11-13-2008 at 05:16 PM • top

Occassional Reader,
Thank you for that…I think. And of course there is no need to apologize. You are of course free to have any opinion of me you like.

I am surprised that you have never seen me admit my mistakes before. I’ve posted an entire feature article with the title: “I was wrong” and had to retract and admit error countless times…really countless. The first two years of my writing and theorizing at Stand Firm about the ABC and the future of the communion was undone after Tanzania and all my thoughts about where the communion was headed were shown to be simply wrong-headed and based almost entirely on wishful thinking.

As for this particular thread, believe me, I would have admitted misspelling the stinking word had it been an unintentional mistake. It wasn’t. I just decided to spell it that way for the reasons above…a decision, I now regret…but I am gathering you still think I am lying about that. I am not. In the old days I suppose we’d have to have pistols at dawn, but since those days are gone…well you’ll just have to think me a liar and I’ll just have to know that I am not.

It was and is no big deal…the only reason I offered an explanation was because you noted the misspelling in a sort of snide way to my mind. And, by the way…to set your mind at rest, my last response to Bo about the word Isogesis was not a serious post.

As for my knowledge not being consistent with my “confidence”, well that is for readers to judge as you, apparently, have. I do think, having reviewed the earlier inerrancy thread that you have misjudge me. In the course of my back and forth with NRA, I mistakenly wrote that the Church received the canon at Nicea rather than Rome (I think it was the Council of Rome anyway…may have made another mistake). And you suggested (in a fashion similar to that you used above with the spelling issue) that the mistake undercut my credibility to such an extent that my entire argument was somehow called into question.

If I were writing a paper or engaging in a formal debate…well maybe you would have a point…but a blog-debate, at least the way I approach it in general, is less formal and so there will be incidental mistakes of fact and burps etc…I generally do not call people on those. But if that is the way you roll, so be it.

In general I try to study well enough before I post things (I am speaking of feature articles here) and find that when someone like NRA and I go at it it is almost always because we disagree about foundational premises…the nature of scripture for example…so he may think I am “wrong” and I him, but the fact is we are usually just arguing from different core principles.

When I comment, as opposed to posting, I do go a little more free-wheeling and that is generally when I mistate facts and make mistakes etc…as I think most blog commenters do which is why you may find the venue less satisfying.

In any case, if you would like to feel the satisfaction of having me admit I am wrong, all you have to do is look through the archives and you’ll be readily fulfilled.

[35] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 11-13-2008 at 05:17 PM • top

Matt wrote:
“My view is in agreement with the OT and the NT revealed witness that Moses authored the Pentateuch. There were of course later editors and copyist glosses to modernize names etc…but Moses is the author”

Thank you for that. I am so tired of the mental calisentics people go through to twist the Bible to fit their way of thinking. It hurts. I have great respect for much of what you write, and so this is very affirming, so logical, and comforting. It is so seldom one hears an Episcopalian (inside, outside, or around) make what should be an evident point to any Christian. Jesus apparently thought Moses wrote it. Thanks…

[36] Posted by FrVan on 11-13-2008 at 05:39 PM • top

Fascinating. I was not aware that anyone but fundamentalists rejected source criticism. Perhaps I will have to rethink that, but I somehow managed to complete four degrees in theology without hearing about any credible alternative theory to source criticism which is supported by the consensus of biblical scholars. I would have a very hard time putting the two creation stories down to “parallelism.”

I find that quite extraordinary and not a little disappointing. Four degrees and yet not once were you exposed to the common conservative evangelical position on these things? Tragic. I would be complaining about the quality of your education in that it was hardly sufficiently comprehensive.

Perhaps a couple of examples of the arguments would help?
In their recent OT Survey, Lasor Hubbard and Bush argue for Mosaic authorship on the basis that the biblical accounts themselves (ie the later OT and NT) and streams of tradition concur on this assessment (so p9 of the 1996 edition, Eerdmans). The conclusion drawn:

Hence Moses’ role in the production fo teh Pentatecuh must be affirmed as highly formative although it is unlikely that Moses wrote the Pentateuch as it exists in its final form.

The argue that the “core” of the work derives from Moses.

one more example will help.
Sailhamer in “The Pentateuch as Narrative” (1992, Zondervan) also notes that the NT and Jewishg traditino arttribute authorship to Moses. Moreover, he claims,

the account of these events and persons exhibits all the traits of historical trsutworthiness

It is also abundantly clear from reading him that he does not doubt Mosaic authorship.

Of course, none of this is knock-down conclusive (not least since I have only cited the closing conclusions. But it should stand to demonstrate that the position that Matt (and I) hold is neither extreme nor non-academic.

As LaSor et al note, the thrust towards JEPD flowed from great scepticism about the historicity of the narratives and, of course, that is where proponents of JEPD always end up. What we woudl then be essentially saying is that the great Biblical Theological moments of the Pentateuch - the promises to Abram, the foreshadowing of Calvary in Gen 22, the movement to Egypt, the Exodus from Egypt and in particular the Passover, the conquest of the Land etc - are not historically rooted.

It is, in a sense, the same as Schweitzer’s demythologisation of the NT - we end up with a religion based not on historical facts but on religious assertions. No wonder that so many of our churches end up eventually with no solid trust in God - who ultimately trusts a good idea with no reality behind it?
Rather, faith in God is grounded on His real activity in history. It demonstrates that He is real and shows His nature.

I find it somewhat distressing that so many would be arguing against this, if not explicitly then as a consequence of their position.

[37] Posted by David Ould on 11-13-2008 at 06:11 PM • top

I do not think it possible to reject events like the parting of the sea or the giving of the Law on Sinai without undermining a good deal of biblical revelation…that I suppose is my dogmatic issue.

You’ll get no quarrel with me there.  Walther Eichrodt began his Theology of the Old Testament by stating that everything hinges on the historicity of the divine revelation to Moses—and chided Von Rad for seeming to cast this into question.  But IMHO this is so well attested in so many ways throughout the Old Testament that it demands more faith to deny it than to accept it. 

A modern example would be the attempt of many to claim the Holocaust didn’t exist.  That can be rebutted by historical evidence.  However, those making the claim are not interested in evidence, they only want to belittle Judaism.

The claim that literary sources lie behind the Pentateuch is not the same kind of claim that the Holocaust did or did not exist.  There are no living eyewitnesses, and no historical artifacts, so it is not a historical claim that can be verified or discredited in that sense.  All we have are the texts.  So any argument is going to have to be textual.

Whatever might be said of Wellhausen, those making the claim today certainly have no intent to belittle Judaism.  They are, of course, interested in evidence, because to come up with an alternative explanation would make one’s career. 

I had an Old Testament professor when I did my master’s degree who completely rejected the documentary hypothesis.  He also believed that there was nothing in the Old Testament that was historical at all before Omri (who could be verified by extra-biblical references).  He did not even believe that David was a historical figure, so certainly not Moses.  So accepting or not accepting the theory says little about one’s orthodoxy or commitment to the historicity of divine revelation.  As I mentioned above, Eichrodt strongly defended the basic historicity of the account (and accepted JEDP).  My OT prof rejected JEDP and believed little or nothing of OT history.

But the theory has not been discredited.  It is still the dominant position in Old Testament studies.

[38] Posted by William Witt on 11-13-2008 at 06:33 PM • top

Mr. Ould, I’m quite willing to believe that the consensus of scholarly opinion has overthrown J E P & D and moved on to some new theory, but if that is the case, I want to see articles from the JBL and journals of similar high repute stating what the new consensus is—not niche publications from the alternative universe of Eerdmans and Zondervan.

[39] Posted by Chazzy on 11-13-2008 at 07:11 PM • top

Dr. Witt,

Thank you for your post #38, you actually engaged in the discussion instead of summarizing four possible positions then scolding “A competing theory has to be able to explain the existing phenomena,” when the answer from Matt+, Sarah and others on the other thread was ‘no there does not (with Plato and LOTR examples).’ (Ironically, I did offer a competing theory of one author accurately recording different oral traditions) Then saying we were being “dogmatic objections to object to literary claims.”

You have the position (I think) at TESM that the PhD in Church History friend I took David Hardy+‘s St Augustine claims (not a Augustine scholar, he did early Church Biblical commentaries, but I was in for a lecture anyways, but hey I didn’t pay $500 a credit either). He’s a bureaucrat currently and notes the differences but truly notes how the positive rewards in academia are exactly opposite what Christ commands. I apologize if I came off too harsh (one before you was acting typical in the double standard) also I give to you to think about, but mostly because I actually have the most respect for you (others with letters after their name often seem determined to boast in something other than Christ crucified).

[40] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 11-13-2008 at 07:18 PM • top

No wonder that so many of our churches end up eventually with no solid trust in God - who ultimately trusts a good idea with no reality behind it?

As I have read this thread, I have wondered - are we to believe that we, in the last however many years, have learned something about our faith that makes the faith of generations of Christians and Jews wrong? That God let his people stay in ignorant error all this time until now? If not, does this learned research really matter outside of academe? And if so, what foundation is there for our faith?

[41] Posted by oscewicee on 11-13-2008 at 07:25 PM • top

I don’t intend to participate in the debate on this thread, since I’ve already said plenty about the topic on the related, earlier thread about the Documentary Hypothesis.

I just want to say a big THANKS to Rick+, Dr. Witt, and Chazzy for their contributions here.  It’s gratifying to know that I’m not as alone as it often seems here at SF in standing up for the legitimacy of mainstream biblical scholarship and its rightful place within the orthodox Anglican camp.  I’m keenly aware that Matt and others perceive it generally as a Trojan Horse that should be kept out.  That’s too bad, but it’s reality and I can live with it.

But I can’t resist teasing Rick in Lousiana, William Witt, and Chazzy a little bit.  Where were you guys when I needed you to cover my back on the other JEDP thread??

Amicably and gratefully,
David Handy+

[42] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 11-13-2008 at 07:49 PM • top

I’ll take #42 as David Handy+ usual kissing butt and trying to associate his name with other people (based on past behavior) but will extend the courtesy to Rick+, Dr. Witt, and Chazzy of letting you be individuals unless you want your name associated to whatever NRA+ is saying at the moment, then please speak up and we can peg your name to his argument and hold you to account for the same, if you so desire.

[43] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 11-13-2008 at 07:56 PM • top

Matt, thanks for your reply.  I feel that I understand your modus operandi better and will strive toward greater charity.  As an “occasional reader” (which is usually an apt descriptor) it is quite certain that I don’t have the big picture which would allow me make generalizations about anyone’s general posting tendencies.

[44] Posted by Occasional Reader on 11-13-2008 at 08:02 PM • top

[43] Hosea6:6

That was way beyond the pale.  David Handy despite his errors is still a Christian brother, and he didn’t deserve that.

carl

[45] Posted by carl on 11-13-2008 at 08:03 PM • top

That was way beyond the pale.  David Handy despite his errors is still a Christian brother, and he didn’t deserve that.

David Hardy+, I maybe frustrated by repeatedly tying your name to other people, but I accept my Christian brother’s rebuke and apologize and ask for your forgiveness.

Carl, bless you and thank you for holding me to the standard we are called to live.

[46] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 11-13-2008 at 08:17 PM • top

not niche publications from the alternative universe of Eerdmans and Zondervan.

Chazzy, what makes you describe LaSor et al and Sailhamer’s works as “niche publications”? Ditto for “alternative universe” with respect to Eerdmans and Zondervan?

[47] Posted by David Ould on 11-13-2008 at 08:48 PM • top

I like the way this discussion has now spread to TWO threads!

I find myself sort of surprised and delighted by Rick in South Louisiana’s comments.

When I first began reading his comments on the other thread, I wasn’t sure what to make of him. But over here, he seems to be offering some rather good ideas. I particularly like his emphatic statement that all of the Pentateuch is pre-exilic. I wish more Biblical scholars were as scrupulous when it comes to dating Biblical texts—particularly the Hebrew Scriptures.

I also think that Rick does a first-rate job of explaining how one can hold to a rather broad and general acceptance of JEDP within the context of orthodox Christianity.

I think that it would be good if people would carefully define some terms on here. And, at the same time, try to be as clear as possible about their own hermeneutical and/or theological biases.

For example: what, exactly, are people referring to when they speak of “sources?” In my opinion, the term has become weighted down with all sorts of unnecessary and distracting baggage. In the context of this particular discussion, people should try to carefully define exactly what they mean when they employ the term. For SOME people (not all, but some) the use of the word “sources” seems to explicitly imply a refutation of Mosaic authorship. For other people, the term seems to carry no such connotations, and it is used in a much more benign (and, in my opinion, a more correct and precise)way… Just for the record, I do not personally think that multiple “sources,” in and of themselves, necessarily suggest that Moses was NOT the primary author of the Torah.

The imprecise and promiscuous way that this particular word has been used in this discussion sort of reminds me of the way that some people incorrectly conflate “Biblical inerrancy” with “fundamentalism” (a VERY loaded word!) and/or with the idea that the Bible is “literally true.”

[48] Posted by bluenarrative on 11-13-2008 at 08:58 PM • top

As I have stated on the other thread, I think that the JEDP hypothesis has been much abused and is largely used as a vehicle to advance pernicious theological notions. The foundational hypothesis has also been used (and abused) to advance some INCREDIBLY INEPT AND LAME pseudo-SCHOLARSHIP… Having said this, I must also say that this does NOT mean that I do not see any value to source criticism. It does not mean that I think that ALL source criticism represents shoddy scholarship.

Like Rick in South Louisiana, I suppose that I would have to concede that, in some very broad and very general way, there is probably SOME value to the JEDP hypothesis. I am not sure whether or not Rick and I would agree on exactly how much value there may be to using JEDP as a hermeneutical tool. I am pretty sure that Rick finds much more value in using this hypothesis as an organizing principle than I do.

But nothing that Rick has written on this thread strikes me as being either theologically pernicious, or intellectually untenable. I see nothing shoddy about his thinking, even though I disagree with him on the particulars.

It is always a pleasure for me to encounter a first-rate intellect and a reputable scholar. I wish we had many, many, many more such minds on the orthodox side.

BTW, not that it matters much, but when I was at Columbia, Union, and JTS the majority of my professors preferred the spelling “isogesis” to “eisogesis.” I am not sure if this is an “officially” acceptable variation on the spelling of this Greek word, but it always seemed to me to be a better and more accessible way of using this word in an English context.

[49] Posted by bluenarrative on 11-13-2008 at 08:59 PM • top

I ask your pardon in advance, Hosea6:6 but I must point out that what you offered David+ was a conditional apology. What Satan and those who have been seduced by him wish is for those of us sinners who wish to stand united in Christ’s love to take shots at each other and thus become weaker.

[50] Posted by Bob Livingston on 11-13-2008 at 09:01 PM • top

I’ve been playing catchup on this thread and the earlier ones on the same topic but don’t remember seeing any reference to Herman Wouk’s extensive note (pp.312-320) at the end of his book, “This is my God”, to his comment on p. 189 in chapter 14 that “Wellhausen’s crude fantasy of historic evolution in Israel…is no longer taken seriously.”  In less than 9 pages, published first in 1959 (Doubleday), he has laid out in clear prose the reasons why this is so.  There are many reasons why I treasure this book and recommend it so highly at every opportunity.  I would be interested if others have read it and especially this note.

[51] Posted by Robert F. Montgomery on 11-13-2008 at 09:08 PM • top

bluenarrative…I do think it would help to define some terms.

Speaking for myself, I do not think the recognition of various sources for the Pentateuch constitutes an outright rejection of Mosaic authorship.

Not only did Moses necessarily use “sources” for the Genesis accounts and the Patriarch stories but I do not doubt the final version of the Pentateuch was put together from various “source material”...the point I think that is necessary to affirm is that these later materials originated with Moses even though they will have gone through editing etc…

I also think it important to affirm as I suggested above, that the historical events that are described in the Pentateuch “happened” in the realm of public history…they were witnessed events that Moses recorded and were preserved and passed down.

So, hopefully that helps define what I mean, at least, by “sources” and their relationship to the text.

We may also come up against a methodological disagreement…or I am getting hints of it. I do not think it my task to “prove” mosaic authorship. I think that since that seems to be the operating assumption within the texts themselves and the external (to the Pentateuch) references too them elsewhere, I think it sufficient to simply show how JEDP (in its classic form…articulated here by NRA) fails as an explanation for the text and to show how Mosaic authorship functions successfully. JEDP is the challenging hypothesis in this situation so it must “prove” itself.

So far, I suggest, it has not…

[52] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 11-13-2008 at 09:13 PM • top

Hi Bob Livingston,

Thank you for hold me to account. I don’t think I’m offering a “conditional apology.” Rather a “differential apology” maybe?

Let me explain and please feel free as a lover of Jesus to help me be a better disciple if I’m wrong. Basically, I don’t see I did anything wrong, I think in my own brain that I am correct, but I trust Carl (maybe odd for SFIF addicted people, since Carl and I can get into it on some issues, but through out discourse, I might disagree with his position, but he has gained my highest level of respect for his love for Jesus and His Word), so when he rebukes me, I blank check accept I must be blind to a sin and should first apologize then work with the Spirit to sanctify me.

The example that comes to mind is a <u>Focus on the Family</u> testimony of the former LAPD chief when busting down the door on the man hunt for an armed fugitive, they said freeze, but the guy ducked under the counter, before he pulled the trigger on his drawn/aimed gun, his partner said, “wait!” Well it was the wrong door and the guy was cooking potatoes, when they busted open his door a potato slipped out of his hand and by reflex the guy went after it, he didn’t know why, but it was seen by narrator as a “flippant” move as if reaching for a weapon, but his partner had more information than he had and said “wait.” That is how I feel now, justified but I trust my brother has more information than I do, so I’ll trust my brother in Christ and act accordingly.

[53] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 11-13-2008 at 09:17 PM • top

Dr.Witt,

re-reading the above, it occurred to me that you may think that when I mentioned “philosophical” problems with JEDP above, that you thought I was referring to the “naturalistic” presuppositions during the time Wellhausen articulated his version of the documentary hypothesis. I was not…although I consider it a problem.

I was referring rather to the tendency to equate difference with dichotomy; tension with contradiction; differences in genre with differences in author/sources etc…and on the “positive” side, the imagined conflicts in communities (Priests against levites for example) that we have no evidence for beyond the created categories of the JEDP theory…these “logical leaps” seem warranted by the Theory but unwarranted by the text itself…which is why I keep mentioning eisogesis in relationship to the JEDP theory.

[54] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 11-13-2008 at 09:28 PM • top

I think the point was that you felt the need to revisit your criticism as you were making your apology.

Everyone, really.  Please behave BETTER than you must.  We can all justify rude and incivil discourse but we are different and called to a higher standard.

[55] Posted by Fidela on 11-13-2008 at 09:34 PM • top

But I can’t resist teasing Rick in Lousiana, William Witt, and Chazzy a little bit.  Where were you guys when I needed you to cover my back on the other JEDP thread??

As far as we could tell, you didn’t need anyone’s help!

[56] Posted by Roland on 11-13-2008 at 09:45 PM • top

Thanks Fr. Matt for #52.  I was starting to wonder again if I was just another Episcopalian and not an orthodox Anglican.  I hold the same understanding of the Pentateuch as you do as to authorship and historicity.

[57] Posted by BillB on 11-13-2008 at 09:51 PM • top

#55 If you were addressing me, I should inform you that your answer breeds resistance or than compliance.

If you wished to speak, best to state your point completely than attempt to tag-onto someone elses, for it seems an attempt of ganging up in which case you’d be going in the typical judgmental so-called “Christan” (like in youth group) that actually pushed me away for Christ and onto the street, where at least I was accepted, instead of the what I how those who claimed to know Jesus acted.

[58] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 11-13-2008 at 09:53 PM • top

Father Kennedy, I did not have you in mind when I issued a sort of general plea that people clearly define their terms and also clearly reveal their theological/hermeneutical biases.

I think that you have done a splendid job of shedding light on a particular area of Biblical scholarship (source criticism, and especially the JEDP hypothesis) that has for too long been shaded in darkness—and has, in my humble opinion, grown rather obviously MOLDY in that darkness.

I have no particular problem with the basic idea of source criticism. But I think that everybody must concede that source criticism—coupled with shoddy scholarship—has given shelter to a lot of decidedly pernicious ideas.

I am delighted to see SF grappling with—and confronting—some of the more awful ideas embedded within the subtext and the presuppositions that undergird so much source criticism.

I was particularly pleased tonight to see some mention of the implicit anti-semitism in Wellhausen’s thinking.

Thank you, Father Kennedy, for addressing these things as well as you have!

[59] Posted by bluenarrative on 11-13-2008 at 09:57 PM • top

I’m sorry my comment does not come across as a sincere plea for kindness.  Now you appear to be scolding me for suggesting that these conversations often result in rudeness.  Perhaps we should all just step back and assume the best of one another. 

Most of the time I don’t post at all because I don’t want to be a target.  Trust me, I work very hard to not give offense in my life but having already sent a private plea for civility to one of the staffers, your comment made me gasp.  Then, your reply to Bob Livingston indicated you didn’t understand his mild rebuke, so I stuck my nose in.  Clearly, I have done the thing I never wanted to do and offended you. 

The thing is, we know very little about one another on these blogs.  It now appears you are more sensitive than I would have thought from your comments, and younger, too.  I apologize for offending you and withdraw my comment.  I will go back to lurking and allow others to correct. 

As one who comes here looking for energetic orthodox discourse, it’s hard when the lack of charity rivals what I have seen on other blogs.

[60] Posted by Fidela on 11-13-2008 at 10:09 PM • top

Carl (#45) Don’t you think it might be a bit excessive to refer to Father Handy’s opinions as “errors?” There is nothing in any of Father Handy’s comments that suggests that he is in “error,” dogmatically or in any essential matter of faith.

I may disagree with father Handy on some of his particular ideas regarding JEDP, but he is—in every way—a solidly orthodox Christian. Using source criticism as a hermeneutical tool does NOT necessarily mean that one is a revisionist or that one is necessarily,in any essential way, beyond the pale of orthodoxy.

Personally, I think it would be much better if on SF we reserved the word “error” for those who are in SERIOUS error about essential matters of faith.

I do NOT entirely agree with Father Handy, Chazzy, Rick in South Louisiana, or William Witt, on the subject of the JEDP hypothesis. But they are ALL good people who I am delighted to call my brothers in Christ, and they have all made comments on this thread that I have found to valuable and thought-provoking. And THAT is a very good thing, in my humble opinion.

[61] Posted by bluenarrative on 11-13-2008 at 10:11 PM • top

I failed to ask your forgiveness, Hosea.  I hope I may receive it.  Sincere blessings to you, brother.

[62] Posted by Fidela on 11-13-2008 at 10:12 PM • top

The OT can be read in many ways, on many levels. Traditionally, we read it not just in a literal sense, but also - and more importantly - in typological, moral, and anagogical senses. No reading trumps or invalidates the others. No one reading - or all readings combined, for that matter - can exhaust our reading of a scriptural text.

I don’t see any reason why we can’t apply various kinds of literary critical methods as well, as long as we don’t imagine that they trump established readings. Does anyone imagine that form criticism invalidates source criticism? (Well, I suppose you can find at least one postmodern scholar who believes anything you can imagine, but it’s neither necessary nor common.) We should apply whatever tools are at our disposal without imagining that the latest tool provides the final word.

In the Orthodox Church we don’t bother to deny that we interpret the OT through eisegesis. Instead, we defend our particular eisegesis as being in accord with the Fathers of the Church. Instead of simply letting the text speak for itself, we come to it with a key that has been bequeathed to us, and we see what doors that key will open. And that key is Christ.

Other readings of the OT can be interesting, informative, and even true. But they are only useful insofar as they we find Christ in them.

[63] Posted by Roland on 11-13-2008 at 10:13 PM • top

Fidela - I check your profile, it list occupation as “Missionary” in “Williamsburg, VA.” You jumped into another conversation without whom you were addressing and “piling-on” to another rebuke, so how loving were you? After I responded in humility to one, then you post? Can you please show me in Scripture to where piling on after one bows one’s head is acceptable?

You are now in debt to me! YOUR behavior is like most Christians that pushed me out of youth group an to “those people your mother warned you about” to become my people.

I’m willing to bow to Carl as a proven brother in Christ, I’m willing to submit to Bob because he was bold enough to make a charge, I am not willing for you and will in turn rebuke you as self-righteous because you were not bold but piling on after another took the initiative, I wrote #58 before I read your profile, if you are a “missionary” then please in the Name of Jesus the Christ, learn a different tactic. I know William & Mary students are the cream of the crop and no where near the streets of DC, but I can not tell you just how much you came off like yet-another-self-righteous-Christian who has tried to lead me away from Jesus by correction without relationship and without even addressing whom you were referring, the charity you request needs to start with you before you get my respect to hear you.

[64] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 11-13-2008 at 10:26 PM • top

#64 Was written as you wrote #62 and I did not see it ... as a fallen sinner, how can I refuse to forgive you? Of course I release you! May the Lord enable both of us with folk we meet in person to be as easy as it’s online for the Cross is that BIG.

[65] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 11-13-2008 at 10:29 PM • top

I am relieved to receive your forgiveness, Hosea.  I posted too quickly after having read a number of sharp comments—none of the others was from you, I want to make clear.  I’ve learned a lot from our exchange. But I must assure you I am not a student at William and Mary!  I wish I were that young!  I am currently make my home in Williamsburg and do not pretend to any sophistication.  I appreciate your reminder to live my calling and will do so.  Peace.

[66] Posted by Fidela on 11-13-2008 at 10:38 PM • top

Hosea (#46),

Don’t worry.  I forgive your crass remark.  No offense taken.

And carl,
Thanks.  Despite my manifest “errors,” I’m glad that you can still recognize me as your brother in Christ.  And I am certainly happy to do the same and to gladly call you, and Hosea, and many others here at SF my brothers in Christ too.

But as in most families, a little siblng rivalry is fairly normal (grin).

David Handy+

[67] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 11-13-2008 at 10:39 PM • top

Fidela,

Do you realize that I’m only a short distance away in Newport News?  Only a half hour or so from Williamsburg.  We should get together sometime, if you still want to talk that is.

David Handy+

[68] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 11-13-2008 at 10:43 PM • top

I recall we were to finish our conversation about women’s ordination.  I have to tell you, though, that I’m still unconvinced!  But fascinated.  I find the discussion invigorating.  I’ll send a message.

[69] Posted by Fidela on 11-13-2008 at 10:50 PM • top

All.

I am just coming in from a day’s labors chained to a desk in the bowels of a cold, corporate capitalist client, splitting lumps of marketing coal with my bare hands, and am disturbed to be reading down this thread and seeing some rude and personal comments.

Before I issue warnings and/or send an email to the Commenatrix for clean up, I’m going to finish the thread and see if something has happened after the comments that I’ve just read.  But I’m beginning by asking that everyone get the thread back on track to discuss the fascinating ideas, rather than the persons.  What I have been able to participate in has been very enjoyable over the past several days, although of course, anyone enjoying ideas will feel strongly when one thinks the idea is perfectly wrong, or perfectly right.

[70] Posted by Sarah on 11-13-2008 at 10:54 PM • top

Ah, folks. The presence of great charity here is evidenced by the willingness of those commenting to expose their arguments to those of others, and to continue to engage even when they have been snarked at in the course of an opposing argument. If you have ever been to a real academic argument, or seen one, or heard one, you would be amazed at how wonderfully polite even the harshest of those participating here are. I have moderated threads on other topics, and participated in others. Surely we must all strive for perfection in full knowledge of our imperfection, but I must thank all here for the education I receive almost without fail, and also for the high level of decorum I find.

As to the topic of this thread, I am more intuitive than logical. However, when I was exposed to JEDP in high school (at VES in Lynchburg), it felt contrived to me, and distinctly 19th century materialist in motivation. I had no arguments or reasons to call on to further my understanding pro or con. I now feel I understand the arguments much better thanks to you folks, and (as is so often the case, perhaps mistakenly) find that I trust that earlier intuition even more strongly than I did before.

[71] Posted by ears2hear on 11-13-2008 at 11:05 PM • top

Well, here it is.  I wish to be honored to be on the list with Matt Kenedy and David Ould.  They are correct.  Ipsit dixit.  QED It’s late, I’m going to my straw bed.  +<(;-)—-+

[72] Posted by PROPHET MICAIAH on 11-13-2008 at 11:11 PM • top

[61] bluenarrative

Don’t you think it might be a bit excessive to refer to Father Handy’s opinions as “errors?”

No, I don’t think its excessive at all.  In fact, it’s about the gentlest word I could use to describe them. 

carl

[73] Posted by carl on 11-14-2008 at 12:38 AM • top

bluenarrative,

I have to agree with Carl here. I think this issue is that important. I recognize as I noted above that there are some who take forms or derivations of the documentary hypothesis while maintaining Moses’ authorship and the historical validity of the accounts written in the Pentateuch…but those who accept JEDP in the form in which NRA+ seems to have done…deny these things and that involves, I believe, a denial of the truthfulness of special revelation on a number of levels…so the issue, to my mind, is not simply one of accepting or rejecting a theory but goes to the core of what we believe about the nature of scripture.

Now, having said that I’d like to make a distinction that might help…I think Fr. Handy is in error. I do not think he is a “heretic”. He thinks he is setting scripture (as interpreted by the Church…a caveat with which I also disagree) above all other norms. I am arguing that the theory he holds belies his basically orthodox confession, not that his confession is heresy…I hope I am making sense here. I suppose I would set this very important disagreement on the level of perhaps the disagreement between Arminians and Calvinists…which can become incredibly heated and most certainly both sides hold one another to be in error and yet at the end of the day—in most cases—they recognize that the other is a believer. A Calvinist certainly would not want an Arminian pastor and vice-versa but they for the most part recognize the spiritual unity that exists.

So having said all that, I think Fr. Handy is in serious error with regard to his understanding of the nature of scripture as he does me…but of course I do not think he is a “heretic” and regard him as a brother.

[74] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 11-14-2008 at 04:58 AM • top

[74] Matt

I suppose I would set this very important disagreement on the level of perhaps the disagreement between Arminians and Calvinists

To my mind, the errors of the Arminian are much more benign than the errors intrinsic to NRAs position.  The Arminian lets his philosophical attachment to libertarian free will drive his exegesis, but he is still fundamentally bounded by Scripture.  DH seems bounded by nothing.  He will appeal to Scripture here, Tradition there, Reason anywhere, and scholarship everywhere, until scholarship rejects something he considers an essential of the faith, in which case he might return to the Scripture or tradition or reason as he sees fit.  He exists in three dimensions simultaneously without ever living in any of them.

David is for lack of a better expression arbitrarily orthodox.  Yesterday, he denied that any man can ever know what truly happened in the Exodus, and yet he will affirm the 10 commandments.  But upon what basis does he does do so?  The distinctions are entirely arbitrary.  If he denies knowledge of what happened on Mt Sinai, then he can’t affirm the content of any Law given on Mount Sinai.  If the Pentateuch is simply a compilation of source material produced by competing factions of men, then so is the contents.  And now the principle has been established for all of Scripture. Once this caustic is let loose on Scripture, it cannot help but dissolve all of it.

This is pure poison.  It kills confidence in the only source of knowledge we have about God. It delivers Scripture into the hands of radical skeptics who approach Scripture with cold materialist eyes.  DH thinks he can define the acceptable range of scholarship.  He can’t.  The people to whom he teaches his ideas will follow the logic through to its natural conclusions.  They will rationally conclude that if Scripture is ahistorical and error-prone, then the foundations of the Christian faith are a lie.  His students will not stop at the boundaries he thinks to arbitrarily erect.  They will follow the same road as TEC and all the rest of liberalism.  At the end of this road, there is only skepticism and doubt for his spiritual progeny.  And that is a terrible legacy for a Minister of the Word to bear.

carl

[75] Posted by carl on 11-14-2008 at 08:46 AM • top

Carl, your last post neatly captures the problem with modernist approaches to scripture.  Brilliantly put- and I say that as a die-hard anti-Calvinist Arminian grin

[76] Posted by Nevin on 11-14-2008 at 09:18 AM • top

That was quite persuasive Carl

[77] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 11-14-2008 at 09:45 AM • top

“But the theory has not been discredited.  It is still the dominant position in Old Testament studies.

After a nights rest, I got what really bugged me about the professionals, this is an appeal to popularity, thus an invalid argument.

I’d add to the desire for dealing with issues point by point that is the argument the tobacco lobby makes about nicotine, which still has not been proven to cause cancer. The NIH did statistical corollary studies to show use nicotine was hazardous to people’s health. Since the state of the seminaries and denominations that accepts these innovations declined, to the point that Mainline should be SBC, Assemblies of God and Church of Christ and not PECUSA, PCUSA, UMA & ELCA - I might ask if the intellectuals would do soul searching or if might be better to let “market forces” work and continue to look towards schools that do not share these innovations but a more classic approach.

[78] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 11-14-2008 at 09:56 AM • top

[76] Nevin

.. and I say that as a die-hard anti-Calvinist Arminian

Fear not.  Sanctification must yet work its work in you.  wink

carl

[79] Posted by carl on 11-14-2008 at 10:09 AM • top

Bravo, Carl.  As Scripture claims about itself, and as the Jesus, The Living Word said to the Pharisees in John 5:38-47, we are not to search through and pick over Scripture with suspicion and superiority, like food critics, and write about and debate it, examining the text this way and that to see what we will accept and reject, what tastes and seems *good to us* and what we do not like or want to follow, but rather we are to take it as what is *good for us*, heals as medicine, excises and circumcises cancerous lumps of sin as surgery does, builds us up as nourishment does…as a gift from the Great Physican Father Provider God Himself. 

We are to do as the angel said, “Eat this book,” to read, mark and inwardly digest so that we become its contents incarnate, living word with every part of our triune beings, spirit, soul (mind/thoughts, will, emotions) and body.

When this whole thing blew up in 2003, my son-in-law was in medical school taking gross anatomy and had to sign an oath to treat every part of the cadaver with respect they would wish for themselves or their own family, the respect due to a human life, one given for the benefit of their educations.  There were to be no jokes, no fat fights, no disposing of any part except by the proper means.  Violators would be expelled forthwith…  I remember thinking that the Word of God should be treated with no less respect. 

About that same time, amid all the heated arguments over the inerrancy and authority of Scripture, I was excited to read Bishop Duncan’s essay on his journey from sceptic and critic of Scripture to being thankful for the voices, kinship and friendship of the apostles who were inspired by God to write, and for the Voice and companionship of God in His Word.

[80] Posted by Theodora on 11-14-2008 at 10:19 AM • top

Link to Bishop Duncan’s essay please…

Thanks!

[81] Posted by Bo on 11-14-2008 at 10:41 AM • top

A personal note to David Handy
(ahem, and with apologies)
David

All my bags are packed.  I’m ready to go.  I’m sitting here upon this board.  I hate to make this post to say goodbye.  But dawn is breaking.  It’s early morn.  The wife is waiting, she’s blowing the horn.  How can I see this webpage from the sky?  I’m leaving on a jet plane.  Don’t know when I’ll be back again.  Oh, Dave, I hate to go.

carl wink

Seriously Dave.  Out of pocket until a week from Sunday.  Just so you know why I will suddenly disappear.

[82] Posted by carl on 11-14-2008 at 10:43 AM • top

Hey, Bo…That was 5 years and two computer crashes ago…but I’ll try to find it for you.  I may have it in a box with all the Gagnon, etc. treatises from that year….
If anyone has it, please send a link to both of us. 
Thanks!

[83] Posted by Theodora on 11-14-2008 at 10:59 AM • top

carl (#82),

A personal reply (my apologies to all as well).

Thanks, carl.  How thoughtful of you.  I just got back from my doctor’s appointment, earlier than expected, booted up and there was your message at the top.

I won’t try to reply in kind with the modified lyrics of some old pop tune, though as I recall in the Glan Campbell song, he didn’t know when he’d be back again and at least you do, on Christ the King Sunday (if you Calvinists recognize any such thing).

Too bad.  I was just getting around to finally trying to answer your persistent questions on the other JEDP thread about what I really think about the historical reliability of the Pentateuch.  But it will all be on record when you get back.  And Matt and others can hold my feet to the fire in your absence.

However, I will say this, again with apologies to the whole list for what is essentially a personal message.  You, carl, are my favorite sparring partner here at SF.  As I said before, my “nemesis.”  And an esteemed nemesis at that.

David Handy+
Ex-Presbyterian, “3-D” Christian
Lover of Luther, Wesley, and Newman (more than Calvin)
But like you, lover of Jesus Christ most of all

[84] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 11-14-2008 at 11:01 AM • top

Just found this - a trip down memory lane…from August, 2003:
“Bishop Duncan stated: “You cannot imagine my grief … Understand what has been stolen from us: unity with the one holy catholic and apostolic church ecumenically; unity with our brothers and sisters in the Anglican Communion across the globe; unity with the faith once delivered to the saints.”

Bishop Griswold dismissed concerns of schism or ruptured communion. A Primates’ Meeting to discuss this issue could only be called by the Archbishop of Canterbury, he observed.”
Sidney Anglican, August 23, 2003

[85] Posted by Theodora on 11-14-2008 at 11:05 AM • top

Fr Handy,

I think you mean “John Denver”—he wrote “Leavin on a Jet Plane”

[86] Posted by Fidela on 11-14-2008 at 11:15 AM • top

Carl & Matt+,

I don’t think that JEDP is the cause of NRA+‘s relative view of Scripture;  rather, his view of Scripture relative to our own is the cause of his partial acceptance of JEDP.  I do agree that this basis is poison to the Church and to the Christian. 

As for the charge of his being “arbitrarily orthodox,” I would have to disagree.  For one, all orthodoxy depends NOT on the acceptance of Christian doctrine, but entirely on that which is external to you and I - the Holy Spirit.  Orthodoxy is based on the Holy Spirit’s intervention, period;  therefore orthodoxy cannot be arbitrary.  To assert otherwise is to embrace Arminian presuppositions.  For another, he cites his acceptance of supernatural events in Scripture based on supernatural events he has witnessed himself.  This is different criteria than any of us Reformed-types use, but I accept it as valid criteria. 

The reason I won’t follow NRA+ is that I don’t think that turning the clock back to 1980, while making scapegoats out of Infant Baptism and Covenant Theology for what happened to TEC after 1980, is the direction that the AC needs to take.  But even if I could agree with 98% of his theology, I still wouldn’t follow him, as he’s probably going to end up (per the speculations of his own close friends) in Rome.  I’ve nothing against him if he did that;  it just throws a monkey wrench into a would-be leader’s proposals.  Sort of like if McCain had said, “Well, if things don’t work out in the White House after a couple of years, I will retire mid-term and go back to the Senate.”  People would have to be wrong in the head, to support a leader like that.

[87] Posted by J Eppinga on 11-14-2008 at 12:53 PM • top

Fidela (#86),

I stand corrected, sister.  I obviously don’t claim any infallibility for myself.  BTW, I think I’ve figured out who you are, as a missionary in Williamsburg, and if I’m right, I’m delighted to see you posting here.

With all best wishes,
David Handy+

[88] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 11-14-2008 at 01:00 PM • top

Moot (#87),

Thanks, brother.  You are quite right.  I find the JEDP theory plausible and useful mostly because I’ve accepted the validity of pursuing the whole historical critical method, and not vice versa.  I began to accept that method during my first year in seminary at Yale, and what drove me in that direction was mostly my research on the four gospels, and the very complicated relationships between them.  But as a NT guy, it was my study of the complex interrelationships among the Synoptic Gospels that came first.  My interest in the OT came later.

Now as for my future destiny (will he go over to Rome or won’t he?), if you’ll recall those earlier posts where I confessed that some of the poeple who know me best have been predicting for years that I’d eventually become an RC (most notably, my beloved mentor, the former Bishop of Albany, Dan Herzog), I’ve also said that I am now (perhaps ironically) LESS likely to swim the Tiber and submit to the papal allegiance than I was five years ago.  Perhaps I will someday follow +Herzog, or +Steenson, or Martial Artist, or my beloved hero John Henry Newman, into the Roman obedience.  But actually, the rapid emergence of this new orthodox Anglican province in the making, i.e., the whole Common Cause/FCA movement and the wider “New Reformation,” has ironically served to motivate me to stay and fight for the future of orthodox Anglicanism.  I am more hopeful about the future of Anglicanism than I’ve been in years.  I truly believe “the future is as bright as the promises of God” (William Carey).

I firmly and fervently believe that a glorious new day is dawning for Christianity in the western/global north world.  The Christendom era is over.  The post-Christendom era is just beginning.  And wonder of wonders, it seems that the Lord, in his inscrutable wisdom, has chosen to let us Anglicans be the point of the spear, the leaders in that great new reforming of the whole Church. 

How exciting!  I don’t want to miss it.  But I don’t blame you, Moot, for hanging back.

Amicably,
David Handy+

[89] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 11-14-2008 at 01:20 PM • top

So far as I can tell not much of the Pentateuch was composed before say 10th century B.C. (Even that is pushing it - Gezer Tablet and all.) Why? Because analogically - and this is *my* reason not what most would cite - I do not see how Shakespeare could write in 20th century English.

bluenarrative or someone else well-versed in Hebrew, could you please comment on this?  This seems like the strongest and most textually rooted of the arguments for JEPD offered thus far.

[90] Posted by Firinnteine on 11-14-2008 at 04:59 PM • top

Matt+ et al.,

I share your skepticism about the philosophical underpinnings of the documentary hypothesis.  It might be wise to distinguish “authority” from “authorship,” since the latter means something different for us than it did at least in the New Testament era (Paul probably didn’t pen most of his letters with his own hand, and some of them could even be collaborative efforts—which in no way undermines the fact that they bear the full intentional apostolic authority of Paul). 

With that distinction made, your arguments about a substantially Mosaic authorship/authority/derivation for the Torah make a lot of sense.  When Matt says (I paraphrase here), “Look, Jesus thought Moses himself was the man behind these books, not some warring communities centuries later who may or may not have been talking about actual historical events” ... that seems to carry a lot of weight.

However, some of the defenders of JEPD here have asked what Jesus meant when He said things like that… and I don’t think that question has been adequately answered yet. 

Consider Jude, verses 14-15, where he quotes a prophecy purportedly from “Enoch, the seventh from Adam.”  The quotation that follows is from a book, known to most of the early Church Fathers and also to us—included in the canon by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, but pretty much nobody else (it didn’t make it into the RC or EO “apocrypha”).  Most scholars consider it dates from somewhere in the “intertestamental” period.  i.e., it probably wasn’t written before the flood.

Now there are several logically possible options here:

1) Enoch actually wrote that book, or at least those particular quoted verses actually derive from a prophecy delivered by Enoch.
2) Enoch did not write the book, and Jude is erroneous, calling into question either God’s truthfulness or Jude’s canonicity.
3) Enoch did not write the book, and Jude/the Holy Spirit inspiring him meant something else in attributing the saying to Enoch.

If we accept the teaching and consensus of the Church, Logical Possibility 2 is unacceptable (although apparently Jude’s canonicity has been questioned on this basis).  Logical Possibility 1 seems unlikely to me, to put it mildly, although I will gladly consider any good argument for it. 

But if Logical Possibility 3 is the case, that might suggest that Jesus/the human writers of the Gospels/the Holy Spirit inspiring them meant something else by references to Moses as well.

For the record, I agree (and disagree with Fr. Handy) that (e.g.) the story of the Exodus must be basically historic, or much of the symbolism and theology of both the Old and New Testaments collapses—it is the fundamental act of God’s salvation underlying Old Testament thought, parallel to (and fulfilled in) Jesus’ resurrection in the New Testament. 

But I think there are questions about the specific argument, from Jesus’ words in the Gospels to Mosaic authorship, that need to be addressed.

Thoughts? grin

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

[91] Posted by Firinnteine on 11-14-2008 at 05:20 PM • top

Thank you NRA+,

I wish I shared your optimism about the AC, but sometimes a box full of horse manure is not evidence that there is a pony lurking somewhere in the house.  I think it’s time for all of us to ask, corporately and individually, what makes us so different than TEC, and whether leaving TEC is ‘enough.’  I think you and I agree that leaving TEC is not enough. 

Second, I can recall one time in my life when I second-guessed the speculations of close friends, and that time is full of painful memories.  Friends and parents sometimes know us better than we ourselves. 

‘Nuff said.  wink

‘Pleasant weekend, Fr Handy… and a blessed Lord’s Day. 

- Moot

[92] Posted by J Eppinga on 11-14-2008 at 05:22 PM • top

Now as for my future destiny (will he go over to Rome or won’t he?), if you’ll recall those earlier posts where I confessed that some of the poeple who know me best have been predicting for years that I’d eventually become an RC (most notably, my beloved mentor, the former Bishop of Albany, Dan Herzog), I’ve also said that I am now (perhaps ironically) LESS likely to swim the Tiber and submit to the papal allegiance than I was five years ago.

While actually being under Church authority might be good for you and certainly restrain the wildest of your arguments, I’d urge you especially extreme caution less you end up back on this side of the Tiber via excommunication.

All theologians are licensed and will respect their bishop less they loose their privilege and your wild assertions about St. Augustine, would get you in trouble quicker than your Biblical critique (there you’d just be another liberal Catholic). There would be many times you’d have to say “the official position of the Catholic Church is ___,” without adding your own opinion, at least if you desire to remain in good graces. There would be a document you should know as well as Scripture but show more respect than Scripture for it seems that is the line my liberal college professors will not cross.

In any case you’d come in at the bottom and need to pay your dues. As a protestant, they view your theological aspirins with some suspicion (yet right now, you could get a teaching job at CUA without much trouble, I think if you swam they’d be more suspect than if you merely agreed to sign the paper that you’d not teach anything against the stated position of the Catholic Church).

It’d be very different and your behavior here would only be acceptable towards Protestants, when challenging Rome, which can be done, but not with the methods you’ve used here.

I’d urge you to really consider that move before you made it, our other friends from SFIF who’ve swam the Tiber were very different than you and did not exercise their freedom of expression as much or in the same ways as you have, David.

[93] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 11-14-2008 at 05:34 PM • top

My laptop won’t download the original thread to the end so I can post this, so I’ll put my points to D. Handy here.  Re the flood, it seems the flood story is nearly universal: Egypt (of course), Babylon, Persia, Greek, Hindu, Chinese, Polynesian, Mexican, Peruvian, Greenland, American tribal.  Medical/public health knowledge presented in Leviticus is not discovered independently by the scientific community until late 19th early 20th century.  A great deal of scientific information is given in the OT which corresponds to the most recent understandings of the universe. 
The Hebrew text is apparently full of codes. coded prophesies, and an amazing numerical tapestry, since Hebrew letters are numbers as well.  Pi is embedded where it would be appropriate.  The totals of words/numbers in Genesis 1 adding up to 7 is remarkable.  A prophesy of the coming of the Messiah can be found in the genealogy of Noah.  Then there are the equally spaced letters:  Torah spelled out every 49th letter in the first two books of the Torah, and spelled out in reverse in the 4th and 5th books of the Torah, making a hidden framework for the 3rd book,with “God” being found every eighth letter in Leviticus.  There are too many of these internal features of construction to be a product of coincidence.    Every single letter of the OT seems to have been carefully chosen for its place in the text.

[94] Posted by ann r on 11-18-2008 at 04:55 PM • top

[comment spam deleted]

[95] Posted by emerson on 11-21-2009 at 02:48 AM • top

Emerson, this points to at least one benefit of reading Brueggemann. I am doing a slow fisk of his Theology over at Elder Oyster’s.

[96] Posted by Br_er Rabbit on 11-21-2009 at 07:17 AM • top

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