Historical Critical Study of Genesis

Literary Sources in
Craig Ho, HKBU
Source in Genesis
Historical Critical Study of Genesis
1. Before J. Wellhausen (威爾浩生)
a. The sources of Genesis were pre-Mosaic. Moses was the
editor of Genesis.
b. Some thought Genesis was composed in the early
monarchy period.
c. What we now called J was the latest material.
d. P. and E. antedated J.
2. Wellhausen’ s documentary hypothesis
a. The Pentateuch (五經) is composed of four distinct
J (Jahweh=Yahweh) - 10/9th cent.
E (Elohim)- 9/8th cent.
D (Deuteronomy)- 7th cent.
P (Priest)- 6/5 cent.
Source in Genesis
1. A redactor (editor) RJE combined J and E.
2. A later redactor RD combined joined the book
Deuteronomy with J and E.
3. Another redactor RP combined P with JED and
finalized the long editorial process.
4. Later minor additions and supplements.
Source in Genesis
Five Criteria for distinguishing the
four sources
1. Different names of the deity (J speaks of Yahweh, the Lord,
E and P of Elohim, God).
2. Duplicate narratives (e.g. different accounts of creation,
Gen 1 and 2; repetition within the flood story, Gen 6-9;
doublets within the patriarchal narratives, cf.12:10-20
with ch. 20)
3. Different vocabularies (J “ cuts” covenants, P “ establishes”
4. Different styles (J and E contain vivid narrative, P is
repetitious and fond of genealogies).
5. Different theologies (according to P, God is remote and
transcendent; in J and E, God is anthropomorphic, etc.)
Source in Genesis
Sources in Genesis
1. The D source cannot be found in Gen. The proportion of
the other sources are:
J - 1/2
E - 1/3
P - 1/6
2. Documentary hypothesis - the sources are lengthy
documents which have been woven together by a series of
editors who did little but weave the sources together.
3. Supplementary hypothesis - the Pentateuch grew like a
snowball from one main source that subsequent editors
have expanded down the centuries, adding extra material.
Source in Genesis
Sources in Genesis ...
4. Fragmentary hypothesis - the Pentateuch was composed a
large number of relatively short sources which were strung
together by an editor or editors to form the long narratives.
(Pre-Wellhausenian approach.)
Source in Genesis
P (The Priestly Source)
1. Of JED and P, P was the most precisely defined, still widely
agreed to be a late documentary source.
2. P occurs in discrete blocks; whole chapters in Gen. 1, 4, 17,
23. Rarely interweaving with other sources (6-9 is unusual).
3. Questions about P
a. All P material from the same source?
b. A document or an editorial (supplement) layer?
c. A late source from exilic times? Could it be earlier?
Some recent views
1. P was just a later editorial addition and never an
independent narrative document. (Cross, Rendtorff)
2. An early date of P has been proposed. (Israeli scholars)
Source in Genesis
New Literary Criticism
1. An approach to Genesis as a piece of literature in its own right.
2. Emphases on literary skill of the author(s) and literary devices
used in the narratives.
a. The Joseph story (Redford, Coats)
b. The Jacob stories (Fokkelmann, Fishbane)
c. The P material (Strus)
d. The Theme of the Pentateuch (Cline)
3. Concentration on the present final form of the text, not its
historical stages - with different sources in mind. Exploration of
the art and meaning of the Genesis stories.
4. Literary devices used
a. dialogue
b. direct speech
c. mimesis (speechless acts)
Source in Genesis
New Literary Criticism ...
d. scenic composition
e. type scenes
f. key words
g. exact repetition and repetition with variation
h. groups of three
i. chiasmus etc.
5. Synchronic approach instead of diachronic, literary
instead of historical interest
Source in Genesis
Evaluation of the documentary hypothesis
1. It may be a good explanation for the formation of the
whole of the Pentateuch.
3. It fails to explain composite stories like the Flood
narrative in which P is the base text and J the
supplement. J also supplemented the Joseph story:
Gen. 39.
4. Recent scholars have difficulties to identify the Joseph
5. Recent scholars tend to detach Deuteronomy from the
Pentateuch and read it as the beginning of the socalled Deuteronomic history (Deut. – 2 Kings)
Source in Genesis