The Composition of the Pentateuch

The Composition of the Pentateuch: Renewing the Documentary Hypothesis

Joel S. Baden
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    The Composition of the Pentateuch
    Book Description:

    For well over two centuries the question of the composition of the Pentateuch has been among the most central and hotly debated issues in the field of biblical studies. In this book, Joel Baden presents a fresh and comprehensive argument for the Documentary Hypothesis. Critically engaging both older and more recent scholarship, he fundamentally revises and reorients the classical model of the formation of the Pentateuch. Interweaving historical and methodological chapters with detailed textual case studies, Baden provides a critical introduction to the history of Pentateuchal scholarship, discussions on the most pressing issues in the current debate, and a practical model for the study of the biblical text.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15264-7
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction The Sale Of Joseph, Genesis 37:18–36
    (pp. 1-12)

    18They saw him from afar, and before he came close to them they conspired to kill him.19They said to one another, “Here comes that dreamer!20Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; and we can say, ‘A savage beast devoured him.’ We shall see what comes of his dreams!”21But when Reuben heard it, he tried to save him from them. He said, “Let us not take his life.”22And Reuben went on, “Shed no blood! Cast him into that pit out in the wilderness, but do not touch him yourselves”—intending...

  5. Chapter 1 The Documentary Hypothesis
    (pp. 13-33)

    The critical study of the composition of the Pentateuch begins, in practical terms, and began, in terms of the history of scholarship, with the attempt to read the pentateuchal narrative from beginning to end as a unified whole. The nearly immediate consequence of such an attempt is and was the recognition that the canonical text, when read as a human literary product rather than as a divinely inspired work, presents insurmountable literary problems; indeed, any attempt to read the Pentateuch as a unified whole, or even many of its individual pieces, is difficult, if not impossible. The traditional ascription of...

  6. Case Study I The Sale of Joseph, Genesis 37:18–36
    (pp. 34-44)

    The text of Genesis 37:18–36 and its textual difficulties were presented in the introduction and do not require repeating here. It should be recalled, however, that the problems of the passage do not stem from any verbal or terminological confusion; for instance, the divine name makes no appearance in this chapter, and the interchange of “Jacob” and “Israel” creates no difficulties. Rather, the textual issues of this chapter derive entirely from the confused, contradictory narrative—that is, the plot and the historical claims of the story—and any resolution of these issues must in turn derive first and foremost...

  7. Chapter 2 Continuity: The J Source
    (pp. 45-81)

    The J source has long been considered one of the most secure elements of the Documentary Hypothesis—a coherent, continuous, virtually complete account of Israel’s history from creation through the death of Moses. It is therefore unsurprising that attacks against the Documentary Hypothesis in the past thirty years or so have centered on the denial of the existence of J. This denial was announced most influentially and stridently by Rolf Rendtorff in his seminal workThe Problem of the Process of Transmission in the Pentateuchand has been taken up in much of the scholarship that followed him, culminating in...

  8. Case Study II A Complaint in the Wilderness, Numbers 11
    (pp. 82-102)

    ¹The people took to complaining bitterly before the Lord. The Lord heard and was incensed: a fire of the Lord broke out against them, ravaging the outskirts of the camp. ²The people cried out to Moses. Moses prayed to the Lord, and the fire died down. ³That place was named Taberah, because a fire of the Lord had broken out against them. ⁴The riffraff in their midst felt a gluttonous craving; and then the Israelites wept and said, “If only we had meat to eat! ⁵We remember the fish that we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers, the...

  9. Chapter 3 Coherence: The E Source
    (pp. 103-128)

    In the preceding case study of Numbers 11, we saw that the story of the prophesying elders, readily separable from the story of the people’s desire for meat with which it has been intertwined, belongs to a larger narrative arc stretching from the theophany at Horeb in Exodus 19 to the episode of Dathan and Abiram in Numbers 16. This overarching narrative is identifiable on the basis of its unique historical claims: the location, purpose, and function of the Tent of Meeting; the role of Joshua; the means of communication between Yahweh and Moses; the existence of Miriam; and the...

  10. Chapter 4 Complementarity: The D Source
    (pp. 129-148)

    Uniquely among the pentateuchal sources, the D document is found in the canonical text in almost a single uninterrupted block, contained entirely within the book of Deuteronomy. For this reason, D is generally not subject to the same source-critical analyses as the other three pentateuchal documents; it does not require a fine-toothed comb to extricate D from its canonical setting. Nevertheless, some questions about D remain, particularly regarding its scope: namely, in Deuteronomy is the D source proper to be restricted to the deuteronomic laws alone, or to some or all of the framework around the laws? And in Genesis–...

  11. Case Study III The Revolt in the Wilderness, Numbers 16
    (pp. 149-168)

    ¹Now Korah, son of Izhar son of Kohath son of Levi, betook himself, along with Dathan and Abiram sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—descendants of Reuben—²to rise up against Moses, together with two hundred and fifty Israelites, chieftains of the community, chosen in the assembly, men of repute. ³They combined against Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! For all the community are holy, all of them, and the Lord is in their midst. Why then do you raise yourselves above the Lord’s congregation?” ⁴When Moses heard this, he fell on...

  12. Chapter 5 Completeness: The P Source
    (pp. 169-192)

    Amid all the various theories regarding the composition of the Pentateuch, the identification of the priestly writings, in terms of historical claims, stylistic tendencies, and scope, has remained almost entirely consistent from early scholarship to the present. Despite this widespread agreement on which texts are to be designated as priestly, however, the nature of P, as broadly defined, has remained an ongoing point of dispute. Two issues in particular are at the heart of the discussion of P: whether P is a redactional layer or a source, and whether P was written as a response to the nonpriestly text.


  13. Case Study IV The Israelites at the Sea, Exodus 14
    (pp. 193-213)

    ¹The Lord said to Moses: ²“Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp before Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, before Baal-zephon; you shall encamp facing it, by the sea. ³Pharaoh will say of the Israelites, ‘They are astray in the land; the wilderness has closed in on them.’ ⁴Then I will stiffen Pharaoh’s heart and he will pursue them, that I may gain glory through Pharaoh and all his host; and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” And they did so. ⁵When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his...

  14. Chapter 6 Compilation: The Combining of the Sources
    (pp. 214-229)

    The preceding chapters have argued for, and the case studies have demonstrated, the literary grounds for the hypothesis that the canonical Pentateuch is the product of the combination of four originally independent documents. At this point it is appropriate to address the question of how these documents were brought together into the Pentateuch we now have. The question is, decidedly, “how,” rather than when, where, why, or by whom. For it is only the literary evidence that the Documentary Hypothesis takes up, and the literary evidence can answer only the question of how the sources were combined. This is not...

  15. Case Study V Jacob Returns to Bethel, Genesis 35
    (pp. 230-245)

    ¹God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and remain there; and build an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.” ²So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Rid yourselves of the alien gods in your midst, purify yourselves, and change your clothes. ³Come, let us go up to Bethel, and I will build an altar there to the God who answered me when I was in distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.” ⁴They gave to Jacob all...

  16. Conclusion Renewing The Documentary Hypothesis
    (pp. 246-250)

    In the preceding pages I have presented, both in theory and in practice, the argument for the Documentary Hypothesis. The hypothesis, in its most basic form, postulates four originally independent documents that have been combined into the single text of the canonical Pentateuch. Yet it will be noted that the methods I have used in this book to argue for the hypothesis, and the conclusions that derive from them, differ in some considerable ways from the classical source theory of Julius Wellhausen and his successors. Identifying the differences from the classical theory will perhaps clarify the unique claims espoused in...

  17. Notes
    (pp. 251-326)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 327-348)
  19. Index of Modern Authors
    (pp. 349-356)
  20. Index of Biblical Citations
    (pp. 357-378)