JEDP Documentary criticism

Discussion in 'OT Historical Books' started by Stephen L Smith, Oct 23, 2008.

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  1. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Puritan Board Junior

    I was wondering if anyone on the list had a good knowledge of the JEDP theory/ documentary criticism re the books of Moses?

    My brother is encountering this at the Northern Seminary in Chicago (not sure how evangelical this seminary is). Any thoughts or web links would be appreciated.

  2. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    Stephen, I have a paper on JEDP that I wrote while in seminary. I just looked for an electronic copy to post, but I cannot find one. I might be able to scan in a copy later, if you're interested in that sort of thing.

    Basically, the theory is based upon a few faulty 19th century presuppositions (e.g., naturalism, the Hegelian dialectic). However, my theory has always been once the genie is out of the bottle, it's difficult to get it back in again. Most of the ideas behind JEDP are completely bogus and outdated, but because this is the kool-aid that liberal profs were fed when they went to school, they pass it along to their students.

    Here is the bibliography to the paper I wrote, if any of these sources might help your brother. As you can see, most good conservative introductory works on the OT will analyze the theory and then proceed to dissect it:

    T.D. Alexander, "Authorship of the Pentateuch" in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch, ed. by T.D. Alexander and David W. Baker, 61-72. Downers Grove, InterVarsity, 2003.

    Oswald Allis, The Five Books of Moses. Philadelphia: Reformed and Presbyterian, 1964.

    Gleason Archer, New International Encyclopedia of Biblical Difficulties. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982.

    Gleason Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, rev. ed. Chicago, Moody: 1974.

    Umberto Cassuto, The Documentary Hypothesis and the Composition of the Pentateuch. Trans. by Israel Abrahams. Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1961.

    Raymond Dillard and Tremper Longman III, An Introduction to the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994.

    R.K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969.

    K.A. Kitchen. Ancient Orient and Old Testament. Chicago: InterVarsity, 1966.

    R.C. Sproul, The Consequences of Ideas. Wheaton: Crossway, 2000.

    G.J. Wenham, "Genesis: An Authorship Study and Current Pentateuchal Criticism." Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 42 (1988): 3-18.

    Edward J. Young, An Introduction to the Old Testament, rev. ed. London: Tyndale Press, 1960.

    In particular, I found Wenham's article to be particularly insightful (your brother should be able to get access to this fairly easily through the seminary; if not, send me a PM and I'll be glad to mail a copy of it). He analyzes a statistical computer model applied to the "different" components of the Documentary Hypothesis (something not really available before the latter 20th century) and observes:

    He also writes, concerning a book that utilized the statistical study method, entitled Genesis: An Authorship Study:

    Hope that helps. This online article also appears to be helpful.
  3. Ivan

    Ivan Pastor

    It's an American Baptist seminary.
  4. Wannabee

    Wannabee Obi Wan Kenobi

    Generally, in an unsophisticated nutshell, it comes down the audacious pride of man exalting himself to stand in judgment over that which our sovereign, just and merciful God has provided to judge His image bearers, the Holy Scriptures.
  5. Prufrock

    Prufrock Arbitrary Moderation


    I'm not advocating a position here, but you've called out as proud and, in turn, sinful, a whole range of scholarship, in which there are many godly people involved. While it is true that most scholars don't hold to any source criticism in the way of Wellhausen and others anymore, nevertheless similar concepts still exist.

    And before you blanket-ly sweep aside the whole field as audacious pride--is that necessarily, or must that be true? I mean, Luke himself at the beginning of his gospel says, "I used sources to put this together." He diligently inquired, investigated, etc., to get the finished product. Does this deny inspiration, inerrancy, or anything of the sort? Not at all. So why is it so strange to say the book of Exodus as we have it was put together from various sources and traditions by a redactor? This does not have to say that it was not done so by the providence, care and sovereignty of Christ the King, by the agency of his spirit so as to leave a canon for his church. And if we do recognize sources, then it seems strange to say it is proud and sinful for someone to observe that they think they have found evidence of the sources, especially if in so doing they are able to help explain the flow, structure and meaning of the scripture as we have it. After all, what more can you ask of an exegete than to explain the meaning and flow of a passage as we have it?

    Am I saying that you should care about source or tradition criticism and redactors and all that? No, not necessarily. Am I saying that it for sure will lead to something good and important? Not at all. But I am saying, maybe we shouldn't, in a blanket judgment, put the "witch" label on something which may involve godly men and practice, and high reverence for the word of God, as well as ungodly men and practice. The field itself is neutral--it's how and what we do with it. People within confessional bounds can and do engage in this work in humility--let's not make them feel like they have to be on the defensive. If we do call our churchmen out on this, I think it would have to be on scholarly grounds (unless, of course, they obviously venture into anti-confessional territory).

    Or does everyone disagree?
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2008
  6. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    I'm surprised that any seminaries are left that still preach this drivel. The tide of scholarly opinion has long left behind this fossil in favor of more holistic readings of the text. This is because scholars are finally starting to realize that no positive theology comes when you atomize the text like this, and even if there was a redactor, he wasn't a mindless one. The question is becoming very passe.
  7. Grymir

    Grymir Puritan Board Graduate

    I thought this died the death it deserves years ago.

    Stephen, it boils down to that the JEDP say that Mosses didn't write the books that bear his name, but that people compiled stories together from different camps in Israel much later. I'll post some more later on after I get some coffee in me.
  8. Wannabee

    Wannabee Obi Wan Kenobi

    Dear Paul,

    I understand your caution and appreciate your attempt to maintain grace. My first question is, "Have you studied this?" If you have, and maintain your thoughts, then I would caution you to go through some good theological journals that have focused on this. I've not studied it for a few years. But I remember enough to know to watch out for it. Much of this has to do with studying the truth so that you recognize the lie (hath God surely said...). "A Survey of Old Testament Introduction" is a good basic source that shows much of the falicy of source criticism (Chapter 8). Here's a sample
    When men attempt to dissect God's Word and give varying authors to portions of Scripture that Scripture claims as authored by one man we are on tenuous ground. Ultimately such pursuits question the divine authority of Scripture because they question the ultimate Source. Furthermore, God's Word has too much depth and too much to teach us for us to spend time in pursuits that tend to undermine both its perspicuity and verity.

    As for relating to Luke, it simply does not stand. Luke was inspired by God to write Luke and Acts based on his divinely orchestrated research into what happened. Furthermore, these detractors are not claiming that Moses compiled it from varying sources. They are claiming that Moses is not the source and that there are many authors, contrary to the claims of Scripture itself. It may be argued that Samuel, Kings and Chronicles were written by various authors and therefore subject to the same scrutiny. While it may be true that they have multi-authors, it is equally true that Scripture makes no claims in this regard and that there were many books that chronicled the lives of the Kings of Judah and Israel, yet only these survive as scriptural. Such pursuits also lead to the division of Isaiah, bringing it's authenticity into question. Ultimately these men make a name for themselves and get their reward.

    Even in such a statement, I am not blanketing the character of these men. Some were/are proud and arrogant, and perhaps some were simply misguided. Many were/are not Christians. Many are/were self proclaimed experts who saw their academic prowess as superior to the simplicity of God's Word. Be very cautious. Many scholars in Christian circles do not even claim to be Christians. And many who do are goats or, worse yet, wolves.

    I am, however, stating that these pursuits lead man to stand over his Judge in a manner that is detrimental to His walk with the Lord Jesus, and has had a detrimental affect on many who, after reading such philosophy, struggle to accept the authority of Scripture. Even something as seemingly benign as textual criticism has caused many people to struggle in resting in the verity and sufficiency of God's Word. Shall the self-proclaimed authority of man undermine man's perception of God's authority? If these scholars are/were godly men, then they should step away from pursuing "sciences" that fail to submit to God but rather serve to distract from the centrality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. How can such a pursuit possibly magnify one's perception of God's glory?
  9. Prufrock

    Prufrock Arbitrary Moderation


    Thank you for your response. Yes, I have studied this, and this is a part of what I am going to school to study. I still must disagree with some of what you have said, however.

    First, allow me to state that yes, it is true that no one seriously holds to Wellhausen's hypothesis. To show that Wellhausen, or that J and E, etc are probably not actual documents does not, however, demonstrate that there is no collation of various traditions (or, even written sources for that matter, though fewer hold this).

    Secondly, yes, there are passages in the Pentateuch that talk about Moses writing something: whether it be "the covenant," the "book of the law," etc. Of course, Moses wrote something. Perhaps there is much in the Pentateuch that Moses himself wrote. But that doesn't mean that what Moses wrote is everything we have in the Pentateuch. The texts themselves make no claim that these are the work of Moses' hand, and so for someone to ask that question is not absurd. Tradition assigns these five books to Moses, and nothing more than tradition. This should be quite evident, especially since the Pentateuch itself speaks of Moses writing things down in a book, or reading the same book to the congregation--the narrative of the Pentateuch refers to books which Moses wrote, which must be before the Pentateuch was composed. And the obvious items of things such as Moses death, etc., force us all to admit that there has indeed been at least some editing and collation. This isn't a bad thing.

    Regarding your response to my comment on Luke--I hold that it is indeed exactly the same, since I just said above that the Pentateuch does not claim authorship my Moses. Luke was an inspired narrator, redactor and composer. It's not so hard to say that someone did the same for the first five books of scripture.

    Finally, as you have said, all things must be done to edification. As an aside, who besides a very small cadre of scholars should even know or think of issues, anyway? I don't think many people should be brought to doubts regarding the authority of the scriptures on account of these issues, simply because most people should not even know that they are issues. If this is what their pastors are talking about, their pastors aren't doing their job, but are simply showing off their knowledge. However, even if God-fearing men totally abandon this field, then there are still the nonChristians doing this, and the doubts of scripture will still just as easily be brought to the people.

    Anyway, I hope that I have written clearly and sensibly enough. Grace and peace.
  10. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritan Board Doctor

    I was taught JEDP at PTS by a Professor who basically told us that it was ridiculous but he was still required to teach it. Many of the students missed the first part of the statement and quote JEDP as gospel.
  11. Prufrock

    Prufrock Arbitrary Moderation

    If you are looking for books on the subject, I think that a starting place is many of the books in the Westminster Old Testament library.

    Yes, no one really holds that there was J document, and an E document, or a P document anymore. As some have said here, it's generally thought ridiculous. However, that doesn't mean the concept of redaction and collation is ridiculous (just to keep up with my previous post).
  12. Wannabee

    Wannabee Obi Wan Kenobi

    You have. And your "tone" of graciousness is appreciated. Perhaps your statements are, at least partially, in regard to how Moses received information. Of course, we cannot know. Did he receive verbal tradition handed down since Adam and preserved by the Spirit of God? Did he receive direct revelation that he wrote down? As to the authorship of the Law, you have some points. However, to pursue this too far and develop these theories has little, if any, value. Jesus, John and Luke refer to the Torah as Moses' writings (John 1:45, 5:46; Acts 26:22). While my comment may reveal me as somewhat of a simpleton, that's good enough for me. The only reason I bother to study such things as source criticism/analysis, or the literary analytical approach, as some call it, is because I am charged with protecting God's flock. Frankly, I wish I didn't have to spend any time at all on such.

    Here's a brief evolutionary list of this "science." Just like evolution, though it's been clearly debunked as a "not-science", there are those who still attempt to propose its validity and present it as fact. Interestingly, such erudite pursuits don't develop in churches, but in institutes of "higher education."

    • Major presuppositions are:
      • Proposes that the OT material can be divided into various documents by diverse authors
      • Development of Israel’s religion into an evolutionary religious framework.
    • Survey of names:
      • Jean Astruc (1753): “Divine name criterion” (Ex. 6:3 as evidence)
      • J.G. Eichhorn (1780): “Father of OT Criticism”; saw 2 documents, E/J - Saw additional criteria (diversities of literary style, unique words, repetition)
      • A. Geddes (1792): “Fragmentary hypothesis” (Solomonic redaction; Hexateuch)
      • W. DeWette (1807): “Document D” – Deuteronomy a propaganda piece
      • W. Vatke (1835): “Evolution of Israel’s Religion” - Torah the product of the Hebrew state rather than basis or foundation of such
      • Supplementary Theory (E first; Ewald, Bleek, Delitzsch (1823-52), E=Grundschrift)
      • Crystallization Theory (Ewald; Pentateuch supplemented later, layers of editing)
      • H. Hupfeld (1853): “Copernican revolution,” E into historical (2) & legal (1,P) (PEJD)
      • K. Graf (1866): Divided P into historical/legal, so P(h), E, J, D, P(l); assigned dates
      • A. Kuenen (1869): Unity of P; since P(l) late, now JEDP.
      • J. Wellhausen (1876) “Systematic theologian of JEDP” – restated with skill; Darwin/Hegel

      This “development” sees movement from animism/pantheism gradually to monotheism; OT then developed from many documents over much time; i.e., not given by God.

    May God bless your studies and enrich you in Christ.
  13. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder



    Wow. That's simply incredible.
  14. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    It was part of an atomising trend in literary criticism generally, I think. But the division of supposed sources and influences is often merely bad literary criticism. If it is agenda driven, or circular (e.g., this text couldn't be authentic because such concepts didn't exist until later) then it is also tendentious and destructive.
  15. Grymir

    Grymir Puritan Board Graduate

    Hi Stephen! I've had some coffee, and Obi Wan's post #8 about says it all.

    And don't worry, your brother, armed with his Bible and a little common sense, will make nonsense of all of this theory. It will be like studying a relic of the past. I can see it now...

    Now playing in a theatre near you...Indiana Jones #145, The Search For The Lost Liberal. Join Indiana as he goes on a quest to find the lost JEDP therory so that he can save mankind from God.
  16. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    I cannot see how this can possibly be inferred from Luke 1:1-4.
  17. Prufrock

    Prufrock Arbitrary Moderation

    He says that he looked into it, he investigated: that means he heard the stories or the traditions from others--these were his sources. He didn't just sit there and have it all come to him by agency of the spirit apart from external means, or remember it from having seen it. He had sources. This doesn't mean written sources, but it doesn't exclude them either. He learned things, and put them together into one combined narrative.
  18. Grymir

    Grymir Puritan Board Graduate

    I just checked the beginning of Luke. It doesn't say he used sources, stories, nor traditions. It says he had perfect understanding.

    hmmm :popcorn:
  19. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    But in comparison to these so-called sources, he asserts that the writing of his gospel was on the basis of "having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first."
  20. Prufrock

    Prufrock Arbitrary Moderation

    Just as the last thing I want to say on this topic, in response:

    This is one of those few places where I think King James' translators missed the boat, and gave an erroneous connotation to their translation. "Having had a perfect understanding from the beginning" is quite loose. The word which they translate "having had a perfect understanding," quite literally means, "followed after," as in Mark 15:16, which is one of the three other places in the NT where this word is used, 1 Tim. 4.16 and 2 Tim. 3.10 being the others). Quite literally, Luke is saying that he has followed closely after all those things in the Lord's life starting from the very beginning.

    He followed after them; he searched them out; he inquired into them. This is the self-attested explanation of his gospel.

  21. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritan Board Doctor

    Some of the students here at PTS ain't exactly the brightest.
  22. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    And how reassuring that many of them will be "shepherding" congregations and leading presbyteries one day...
  23. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    You may be interested to consult Moulton and Milligan, Vocabulary of the Greek Testament (1980 rpt.), pp. 485, 486, where the author confesses to having asserted a false conclusion in print, and expresses thankfulness to later criticism in setting him straight. Regrettably, the earlier mistake has become the norm, while the corrected position has been neglected.
  24. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritan Board Doctor

    In all seriousness it is something that really keeps me up at night.
  25. DMcFadden

    DMcFadden Puritan Board Doctor

    The seminary was established as a conservative alternative to liberal seminaries. A number of evangelicals are alums (e.g., Carl F.H. Henry, Dan Fuller, and Ken Taylor). The last president was a friend of mine. He got in no end of trouble by being a staunch advocate for evangelicalism, for openly supporting the American Baptist Evangelicals renewal group within the ABC, and for getting rid of a female prof for heterodoxy. He left the presidency of the school a year or two ago to return to the pastorate as a Christian and Missionary Alliance pastor (he couldn't hack the ABC any longer). When he was prez of Northern, his wife was on staff in an Evangelical Free Church as a Children's ministry person. He claimed that there were no ABC congregations within driving distance worth attending! :lol:
  26. Prufrock

    Prufrock Arbitrary Moderation

    Rev. Winzer, I am unfamiliar with the work. What is the false conclusion the author asserted?
  27. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    That he had found a good example for the word carrying the sense of "to investigate," but on second consideration he found it was not so. He shows numerous examples where the primary sense of the word is to indicate "familiarity," and specifically shows how this sense provides proper understanding of passages such as 1 Tim. 4:6; 2 Tim. 3:10.
  28. Prufrock

    Prufrock Arbitrary Moderation

    Thank you, Rev. Winzer; I shall have to search out this work and consider his argument. Although I have to admit that it will take a lot to convince me against works like Liddell, Scott & Jones, and the other big lexicons of the last two centuries, and all the German commentators of the 1800s. But hey, hopefully this will bring something new the table. Thanks.
  29. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Puritan Board Junior

    Thanks all for your helpful comments.

    Found helpful information on the Internet too.
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