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  #16  
Old Jun 12, '08, 7:35 am
Contarini Contarini is offline
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Default Re: JEDP theory (multiple authors of Pentatuche)

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Originally Posted by Fidelis View Post
Yup, that's another one of my big gripes.

Can anyone tell me how the Documentary Hypothesis (or any other critical scholarship method) is helpful in any way to the average Catholic who picks up a New American Bible to try to live and learn their Faith better? To the ivory tower academic exegete, yeah maybe. But to your Mom, or your little sister or to Joe Sixpack in the pew, what is the benefit?
All truth is helpful, because we were all made to know and love the truth.

Here's a specific example: in Genesis 30 we are given one picture of Jacob--as a clever schemer who is trying to get the better of his father-in-law. In the next chapter, Jacob suddenly starts speaking in a very lofty, pious tone about his trust in God and the way God has protected him from Laban. As the text stands, it looks very much as if Jacob is a hypocrite, who uses pious language as a cover for his own craftiness. But it so happens that God is referred to as "YHWH" in chap. 30 and as "Elohim" in chap. 31--one of the basic indicators usually taken to mean that we are dealing with two different sources originally. This sheds a whole new light on the matter. We are dealing with two different traditions about Jacob, one emphasizing his craftiness, the other his trust in God. It's not that Jacob shifts gears suddenly from one mode to the other, but that the ancient Hebrews (under divine inspiration) saw him in two somewhat different and complementary ways.

I don't claim that this is earth-shaking. But it helped me at least understand a bit better what God was telling me in Genesis about the character of Jacob. Given the importance of the figure of Jacob for the overall Biblical story, I don't think this is altogether to be sneezed at.

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  #17  
Old Jun 12, '08, 7:40 am
Contarini Contarini is offline
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Default Re: JEDP theory (multiple authors of Pentatuche)

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For example, let's look at the two creation accounts of Genesis 1 & 2. The JEDP camp says they must have been written by different people because they use a different name for God and they describe the same event twice. Then, at a later date, some redactor came across both texts, couldn't decide which one was better, and so just awkwardly threw them both in. To me, this seems like an exegetical shortcut. Even if JEDP is correct and there are two (or more) sources, we still need a more satisfactory answer as to why both texts are put together beyond "The redactor couldn't decide". Even if the human redactor was clueless (which I find hard to believe), we know that the Holy Spirit is not clueless. Thus there must be a reason that both passages are included. There must be a reason that God is referred to by one name in Genesis 1 and by another in Genesis 2. In exploring these questions, we end up with a far more satisfying biblical exegesis.
This is a really good point, and it's one that more recent Biblical critics have made. The emphasis on "source documents" which could lead (as you note) to the inference that the redactor's work is of little value is a real weakness in traditional historical criticism, and has been frequently noted by scholars. Brevard Childs (himself extremely skilled in traditional historical-critical methods, as his commentary on Exodus shows) is particular famous for pointing this out and insisting on the need to look at the final, canonical shape of the text and treat it with respect.

On the whole, the historical criticism that I've read does a pretty good job of recognizing that the "redactor" is the real author of the text as we have it and thus needs to be given due credit, and that the stories are not simply dumped together haphazardly but are woven together in a very artful and meaningful way. And, of course, from the standpoint of Jewish or Christian faith this is not simply a work of human art but of divine inspiration.

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  #18  
Old Jun 12, '08, 8:00 am
Teflon93 Teflon93 is offline
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Default Re: JEDP theory (multiple authors of Pentatuche)

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Does the Pope refers to the JEDP theory there? If you are speaking of reductionistic theories in general, you need to show that JEDP is intrinsically reductionistic.
He was referring to the whole literary deconstruction approach, of which JEDP is the best-known.

Quote:

The JEDP theory has taken on all sorts of permutations. You make a valid point that the traditional characterization of the "priestly" source has been shaped by a certain kind of liberal Protestantism (which was both anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic). And this is a serious point to bear in mind. However, that does not discredit the hypothesis, if there is evidence for it apart from Mr. Wellhausen's prejudices. And most scholars over the past 150 years have thought that there is. What needs to be challenged is the implicit devaluation of this "priestly source." I read an excellent article on Chronicles (which is usually identified with the same tradition that produced the "priestly source") in the Catholic Biblical Quarterly last year which took some good steps in that direction.
True, but if the hypothesis began with a false premise, it will not fit the evidence very well. In statistical analysis, the best "buckets" in which to categorize such things are those which do not overlap. Thus, the hypothetical P author would be concerned only with "priestly" things, which would not overlap with any other author's text. The reference to a "redactor" of course indicates this isn't so---the text has been jumbled together at least. The question then becomes, are the so-called J,E,D,P texts significantly different from one another?

Anachronistically reading in an anti-Catholic bias for modern ideological purposes isn't the best way to formulate such buckets, and indicates that the original formulator may have begun with a conclusion and worked backward rather than objectively contemplating a text. Literary critics of course do this quite often, but for historical or theological inquiry it should be avoided.

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Exactly. Here we are in full agreement. The value of the JEDP theory can be evaluated on its own right.

I'm not wedded to it, but most of those scholars in recent years who have moved away from it have either moved in the direction of a more radical skepticism about the historicity of the OT or have turned away from an interest in questions of historicity altogether. Some form of JEDP still seems like the most reasonable way to talk about the Pentateuch as a historical source. But of course that's highly provisional.

Edwin

I should also stipulate that I find the theory fascinating, and enjoy following the literature on it as a layman, but I am very skeptical that it is true.

The best proof would be to have some linguists generate a series of phony 1st century texts, have a separate redactor anthologize them, and see if another group of scholars could accurately parse the texts. As a control, perhaps a single author text could be provided as well and see if the JEDP approach produces a false positive there.
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  #19  
Old Jun 12, '08, 8:11 am
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Default Re: JEDP theory (multiple authors of Pentatuche)

The Toledoths of Genesis

For those biblical scholars who have had the unfortunate experience of having the JEPD theory of the Documentary Hypothesis jammed down their throats the past forty years in Catholic biblical scholarship, and as long since the time of Julius Wellhausen in the late 1800s, this will be a real treat. This article will show what an absolute sham Catholic biblical scholarship has been since the 1960s; how innocent Catholics have been deceived by these pseudo-scholars; and why Catholic students all over the world have lost the faith. After you read this article, if you own Raymond Brown's "New Jerome Biblical Commentary," it may come in handy this winter when you need kindling for the fireplace. I hear that liberal biblical scholarship burns especially well. I can just hear those pages crackling now!

more...
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  #20  
Old Jun 12, '08, 8:36 am
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Default Re: JEDP theory (multiple authors of Pentatuche)

It has to be true. Why else would there be two creation stories and two flood stories (the two flood stories are merged into one). In one creation story man is created first and in the other man is created last. In one flood story Noah is commanded to bring 2 of each animal no matter what and in another he is commanded to bring 7 of each of the nice animals and 2 of the bad ones like snakes I guess.
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  #21  
Old Jun 12, '08, 8:43 am
Fidelis Fidelis is offline
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Default Re: JEDP theory (multiple authors of Pentatuche)

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Originally Posted by Contarini View Post
All truth is helpful, because we were all made to know and love the truth.

Here's a specific example: in Genesis 30 we are given one picture of Jacob--as a clever schemer who is trying to get the better of his father-in-law. In the next chapter, Jacob suddenly starts speaking in a very lofty, pious tone about his trust in God and the way God has protected him from Laban. As the text stands, it looks very much as if Jacob is a hypocrite, who uses pious language as a cover for his own craftiness. But it so happens that God is referred to as "YHWH" in chap. 30 and as "Elohim" in chap. 31--one of the basic indicators usually taken to mean that we are dealing with two different sources originally. This sheds a whole new light on the matter. We are dealing with two different traditions about Jacob, one emphasizing his craftiness, the other his trust in God. It's not that Jacob shifts gears suddenly from one mode to the other, but that the ancient Hebrews (under divine inspiration) saw him in two somewhat different and complementary ways.

I don't claim that this is earth-shaking. But it helped me at least understand a bit better what God was telling me in Genesis about the character of Jacob. Given the importance of the figure of Jacob for the overall Biblical story, I don't think this is altogether to be sneezed at.

Edwin
Thanks Edwin; this is an interesting analysis. However, it kind of makes my point that holding the JEDP premise (like any premise, admittedly) forces one into a certain interpretation (even a limitedly helpful one).

Somewhat building upon Joe's pos above, consider for a second: if you discount the JEDP premise and instead assume that these accounts were from a common source, what interpretation (or interpretations) could you arrive at? Several legitimate ones, of course, including the possibility that a single author (Moses, let's say) presented both versions to make the same point you have arrived at with the JEDP premise (for example, a single author could have purposely switched from a YHWH to Elohim designation to show Jacob's growing familiarity with God). My point is that much of the same fruit can be gotten out of a non-JEDP premise as from a JEDP premise -- with the added benefit of not tending to (at least partially) de-supernaturalize the text for the average reader which, like it or not/admit it or not, is what in fact often happens when they run across the Documentary Hypothesis as presented in places like the NAB footnotes.
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  #22  
Old Jun 12, '08, 8:55 am
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Default Re: JEDP theory (multiple authors of Pentatuche)

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Originally Posted by wjp984 View Post
It has to be true. Why else would there be two creation stories and two flood stories (the two flood stories are merged into one). In one creation story man is created first and in the other man is created last. In one flood story Noah is commanded to bring 2 of each animal no matter what and in another he is commanded to bring 7 of each of the nice animals and 2 of the bad ones like snakes I guess.
I like Scott Hahn's explanation of the two creation accounts. He likens it to the Temple. The first creation account is like taking a look at the whole Temple - a macrocosm. The second creation account then zeros in on the "Holy of Holies" (i.e. the Garden of Eden) - a microcosm. The use of the more generic Elohim in the first, broader creation account is contrasted with the more intimate Yahweh in the second, more personal creation account. Hence the change in the name used for God in both texts.

It's like looking at a map of a state that has one of those boxes off to the side that gives you a closer look at an individual city. The city is on the map twice, but for two different purposes: one is to give you an idea of where it fits into the whole, the other is to give you a better look at the details close up.

Really, this sort of thinking works whether or not you subscribe to JEDP. Even if there are two different sources for the two different passages, what is the reason they were put together and both included in Scripture?

I think Edwin made some good points. JEDP can certainly be helpful, but we need to take an honest look at its limitations. And I still believe that it makes a poor starting point for primary and secondary school students to learn about the Bible.
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  #23  
Old Jun 12, '08, 8:59 am
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Default Re: JEDP theory (multiple authors of Pentatuche)

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I think Edwin made some good points. JEDP can certainly be helpful, but we need to take an honest look at its limitations. And I still believe that it makes a poor starting point for primary and secondary school students to learn about the Bible.
I agree entirely!
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  #24  
Old Jun 12, '08, 9:27 am
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Default Re: JEDP theory (multiple authors of Pentatuche)

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That is remarkable!
Amazing!
This shows how corrupt
the JEDP theory was.
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  #25  
Old Jun 12, '08, 9:35 am
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Default Re: JEDP theory (multiple authors of Pentatuche)

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I think Edwin made some good points. JEDP can certainly be helpful, but we need to take an honest look at its limitations. And I still believe that it makes a poor starting point for primary and secondary school students to learn about the Bible.
Just as bad, it was covered in RCIA.

I personally have no problem with the theory, if it is true. I do believe it is irrelevant, except in cases where one assumes it must be true in an effort to deny the direct influence of God on the Holy Scripture. This attitude reduces the Bible to no more than another book of mythology.

I know that among some, there is an anti-divine bias that makes such theories necessary. I have not problem with it, as I do not hold to a verbal plenary theory, but even on these forums I have been told that God did not really speak to the patriarchs and prophets or old but rather that was an anthropomorphic device. Sheesh!
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Old Jun 12, '08, 9:45 am
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Default Re: JEDP theory (multiple authors of Pentatuche)

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It has to be true. Why else would there be two creation stories and two flood stories (the two flood stories are merged into one). In one creation story man is created first and in the other man is created last. In one flood story Noah is commanded to bring 2 of each animal no matter what and in another he is commanded to bring 7 of each of the nice animals and 2 of the bad ones like snakes I guess.
Why would Beowulf be so repetitive?

It's not a non sequitur---oral traditions committed eventually to written form tend to show such traits. If Moses were sitting at his word processor hammering out the Pentateuch, your question would be on the mark.
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Old Jun 12, '08, 9:46 am
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Default Re: JEDP theory (multiple authors of Pentatuche)

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That is remarkable!
Amazing!
This shows how corrupt
the JEDP theory was.

Here's another one to run the table -

THE AUTHORS OF THE GOSPELS
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  #28  
Old Jun 12, '08, 10:22 am
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He was referring to the whole literary deconstruction approach, of which JEDP is the best-known.
I'm not quite sure what you mean by "literary deconstruction approach." That phrase has one meaning in postmodern scholarship, but I'm sure that's not what you or the Pope are talking about.

I need to read the Pope's book. . . .


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True, but if the hypothesis began with a false premise, it will not fit the evidence very well.
Right. And that's why we need to distinguish between genuine premises and ideas that may have influenced Wellhausen. If the hypothesis rests on an assumption that material emphasizing ritual and the priesthood is going to be late and in some way decadent, then the hypothesis needs to be questioned. I'm not an expert on this field, but I've sometimes wondered whether there's really any good reason to distinguish between "E" and "P." I wonder if the idea that there was a distinctive "priestly source" may not have come from Wellhausen's biases.

But at the end of the day this theory has been used in a bunch of different ways by a bunch of different scholars over the years. It's been knocked into many different forms. And it's helped explain a lot of things. You can't simply dismiss it based on an ad hominem criticism of its primary formulator. It's not just Wellhausen's theory any more. Many of Wellhausen's ideas may have been wrong without the basic "documentary hypothesis" being incorrect.

Quote:
In statistical analysis, the best "buckets" in which to categorize such things are those which do not overlap. Thus, the hypothetical P author would be concerned only with "priestly" things, which would not overlap with any other author's text. The reference to a "redactor" of course indicates this isn't so---the text has been jumbled together at least.
I'm not sure that this is a good approach here. We are talking about hypothetical documents dealing with many of the same events. We would expect them to overlap.

Quote:
The question then becomes, are the so-called J,E,D,P texts significantly different from one another?
And I'm not sure. I'm pretty sure that there are at least two sources--the creation story being the most obvious example. Whether there are four, or the more numerous sources posited by many critics (this is in fact how the JEDP theory began to fall apart--people were positing so many subdivisions that the whole construct became unwieldy and many scholars lost interest and turned to other approaches), is another matter.

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The best proof would be to have some linguists generate a series of phony 1st century texts, have a separate redactor anthologize them, and see if another group of scholars could accurately parse the texts. As a control, perhaps a single author text could be provided as well and see if the JEDP approach produces a false positive there.
Fair enough. I do find Mark Shea's application of source criticism to the Lord of the Rings very entertaining. But it's worth noting that this is effective in part because Tolkien's work really was formed in a manner somewhat analogous to that posited by source critics. But, incredibly, it was all done by one person. We can trace this process in the many volumes edited by Christopher Tolkien as The History of Middle-Earth. Tolkien created a number of different stories and myths and versions of the same myth, and spent his whole life harmonizing and adding to them. There really are "sources" behind LotR. There really are bits of poetry and myth that were taken over from older works, and so on. It's just that this weird and marvelous man spent his life doing what usually it takes a whole civilization to do.

Like most attacks on historical criticism, Shea's satire is a warning against overly cynical, reductionistic, and confident reconstructions. I can enjoy and appreciate it without thinking that the method is thereby discredited.

Edwin
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Old Jun 12, '08, 10:31 am
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Default Re: JEDP theory (multiple authors of Pentatuche)

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Just as bad, it was covered in RCIA.

I personally have no problem with the theory, if it is true. I do believe it is irrelevant, except in cases where one assumes it must be true in an effort to deny the direct influence of God on the Holy Scripture. This attitude reduces the Bible to no more than another book of mythology.
Yes, RCIA would be another bad forum to introduce this theory!

You make an interesting point. For believers, whether the Pentateuch was taken from multiple sources or written completely by Moses doesn't really change our faith. Regardless of how the books came to be, it is the books as they are now that are considered both inspired and inerrant. But for non-believers, JEDP seems to be cherished as crown jewel in their argument against the divine origins of the Bible and Christianity in general. The whole JEDP theory seems much more important to the skeptics than to the Christians.
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Old Jun 12, '08, 10:51 am
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Default Re: JEDP theory (multiple authors of Pentatuche)

Pope Leo XIII railed against 'higher criticism' to maintain the Scripture's inerrancy: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/le...s-deus_en.html

I assume most people equate a documentary origin of the Torah to mean that it is errant.
The Documentary Hype has been picked apart by scholars and we still have problems figuring out which sections come from which sources.
I do not think the Catholic Magisterium is entirely hip on the subject. But a good way to critique the current theory is by reading a fine Jewish response:
"The Documentary Hypothesis and the Composition of the Pentateuch" by Umberto Cassuto is a good place to start.
He maintains that the modern JEPD theories work to find different sources in the Torah. But...they completely ignore the way people wrote in the Ancient Near East. So Cassuto compares Torah with other writings from the time and attempts to provide an alternative explanation.
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