Khalid Lateef & Co-Authors : Khalid Lateef is a Regional President of Iqbal Research Institute Lahore, (Indian Administered Jammu and Kashmir Branch) located at Trehgam, District Kupwara. He is an Independent researcher of Iqbaliyaat, Hebrew Bible, and Comparative Study of Religions and Iqbal Study in reference with Reunification of Science, History, Archaeology, and Humanities. He can be reached at:

We have the word “God” being used I guess in that translation, right, with a capital G. What else is used? Lord. Those are actually different Hebrew words underneath there. Those two terms are different names of the deity that’s giving the instruction. So there are two designations used for God. Yahweh, which is the sacred Tetragrammaton, it’s written with four letters in Hebrew, they don’t include vowels.
We don’t really know how it’s pronounced; I’m guessing at Yahweh, and that is a proper name for God, and in your translation that would be translated as “LORD” in small caps. So, wherever you see ‘”LORD” in small caps, that’s actually the English translation for Yahweh, the proper name, like almost a personal name for God. And then in other places we have this word Elohim, which actually is the word for “gods,” a sort of generic term for deities in the plural.
However, when it’s used to refer to the God of Israel it’s clearly singular, it always has a singular verb. So that will be appearing in your text as “God” with a capital G. So whenever you see “Lord” or “God” those are actually pointing to different words that are being used in the underlying Hebrew text. Twice God is said to look down on creation. Twice it is said that he is displeased. Twice he decides to destroy all living things. Twice he issues instructions and as we’ve seen they’re contradictory.
We seem to also have a different account of how long the flood lasted; there are more subtle contradictions throughout as well. Sometimes the flood seems to be the result of very heavy rain, but in other descriptions it seems to be a real cosmic upheaval. You’ll remember the description of the world from Genesis 1 as an air bubble essentially that’s formed by separating waters above and waters below.
They’re held back or pressed back by the firmament above. And it’s the windows in the firmament that are opened – those waters are allowed to rush in and dissolve that air bubble. It’s as if we’re back to square one with the deep, right? Just this watery mass again. So it’s creation undoing itself in some of the descriptions, as opposed to just heavy rain. And in keeping with that idea of a kind of a return to chaos, Noah is represented in a way as the beginning of a new creation. Because like Adam and Eve in the first creation story, Noah is told to be fruitful and multiply. He’s also given rule over everything, and that’s now extended to the taking of human life. The Bible contains a lot of repetition and contradiction. And sometimes it occurs in one passage, as in the flood story here, and sometimes it occurs in stories or passages that are separate from one another, for example, the two creation stories.
There are many significant differences between the two creation stories. They different greatly in style. Genesis 1 is formalized, it’s highly structured, it has the seven days and everything’s paired up. It’s beautifully structured, it’s very abstract. Genesis 2 is much more dramatic, much more earthy. The first creation story doesn’t really contain puns and wordplays, it’s a little bit serious. The second creation story is full of them: there are all sorts of little ironies and puns in the Hebrew.
Adam, the earthling made from the earth. Adam is made from adamah. Adam and Eve are naked, arum, which is the same word for clever or shrewd, and the snake is arum, he’s clever and shrewd: there are lots of little puns of this kind. There are also differences in terminology between the two stories. Genesis 1 speaks of male and female, one set of Hebrew terms, but Genesis 2 uses man and woman, a different set of Hebrew terms to describe the genders. So the terms for gender are different in the two stories.
Genesis 1 refers to God, as in your translation “God,” Elohim, the word that’s translated as “God.” He’s remote, he’s transcendent. He creates effortlessly through his word and through his will. But Genesis 2 refers to the deity as a name that’s really a combination, it’s Yahweh Elohim, so you’ll see ‘”Lord God” right? You see that a lot in the Bible as well, Lord God. That tells you both of those words were side by side in the original Hebrew. So in Genesis 2 the deity is Yahweh Elohim. He’s much more down to earth. He forms the human like a potter working with clay.
He talks to himself, he plants a garden, he takes a stroll in the garden in the cool of the evening. He makes clothes for Adam and Eve. He’s spoken of in much more anthropomorphic terms then the God that we encounter in Genesis 1. So what we have in the first few chapters of Genesis are two creation stories that have distinctive styles, distinctive themes, distinctive vocabularies and they’re placed side by side. In Genesis 6 through 9 we seem to have two flood stories with distinctive styles, and themes, and vocabularies, and substantive details, but they’re interwoven instead of being placed side by side. And there are many such doublets in the Bible. At times we have whole books that repeat or go over the same material.
In fact the whole historical saga that’s recorded from Genesis through the end of 2 Kings is rehearsed again in the books of First and Second Chronicles. What are we to make of the repetitions and the contradictions here and throughout the Bible? What are the implications? Suppose you came across a piece of writing that you knew nothing about just lying there on the table. You didn’t know who wrote it, where, when, how, why, and someone says to you, “I want you to draw some conclusions about that piece of writing. I want you to draw some conclusions about its authorship and the way it was compiled or composed.”
And so you pick it up and you start reading and you notice features like this. What might you conclude? Throw it out, what might you conclude? No presuppositions. You pick up the work and you find these features. What might you conclude about its authorship or manner of composition? You might conclude that there are multiple authors. Right? Multiple authorship.
The revisions may have been made, so that you might have different sources that have been revised or put together in different ways. Right? Revisions implying that you’ve got something and then it’s worked over again, additions might be made so now that’s a new source. You might conclude that these features are evidence of multiple authorship; a good deal of revision which points itself to a kind of composite structure, different layers maybe, different sources. Well as early as the Middle Ages there were some scholars who noticed these things in the biblical texts. They noticed that there are contradictions and repetitions and there are anachronisms too, other features that were evidence of multiple authorship, revisions and composite structure.
It could be a bit of a problem if this text has become the basis for a system of religious faith or belief, and your assumptions about it are that its telling a truth that is singular in nature. And also what about the traditional beliefs on the origin of this text? Right, who wrote this text according to traditional beliefs? I’m hearing Moses, I’m hearing God, I’m hearing a bunch of different things, but there are traditional ideas about generally the Mosaic authorship of the Bible, certainly the first five books of the Bible.
So these features of the text which were noticed were a challenge to traditional religious convictions regarding the Mosaic authorship of the first five books of the Bible, and in many ways the perfection of the Bible, as speaking with a unified voice on matters of doctrine or religious theology. So medieval commentators for example began to speak a little bit more openly about some of these features. One of the first things they noticed is that Deuteronomy 34 describes the death and burial of Moses. So they decided it was possible that Moses didn’t write at least that chapter.
Similarly there are some anachronisms that they had to explain. One of the most famous is in Genesis 13:7. It’s in the midst of a story about dividing the land between Lot and – at that time his name was Abram, it later becomes Abraham – but between Lot and Abram. And the narrator in telling this story sort of interjects and turns to us, the readers, and says, “The Canaanites and Perrizites were then dwelling in the land.”
They’re writing from a later point of view. So the narrator breaks and talks to the audience in Genesis 13:7 and says, “That was back in the time when the Canaanites were in the land.” When did Moses live? Who lived in the land in the time of Moses? The Canaanites. I know you haven’t gotten there yet, but when you get to Deuteronomy you’re going to find out he doesn’t make it into the land. So he never makes it in there, he never gets in before the Israelites conquer. He dies – the Canaanites are still in possession. So that line was certainly written not by Moses; it was written by someone at a much later time who’s looking back and referring to the time when the Canaanites were in the land. So these are the kinds of things that people began to notice.
With the rise of rationalism in the modern period, traditional notions of the divine and Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, the Torah, the first five books of Moses, were called into question. The modern critical study of the Bible begins really with Spinoza who in the early seventeenth century suggested that the Bible should be studied and examined like any book: without presuppositions about its divine origin or any other dogmatic claims about its composition or authorship.
But it was a Catholic priest, Richard Simon, who first argued that Moses didn’t write the Torah, and that it contained many anachronisms and errors. Well we’ve run out of time, but I’ll pick up this fascinating story on Wednesday and we’ll learn a little bit more about critical ideas about the composition of the Bible. Please be on the lookout for emails from section leaders with study guides for sections which will be meeting this week; you’ll have a lot of fun with the creation stories.
Bible: Introduction to the Torah, (JSB pp. 1-7); Gen 5-11 Habel,
Norman. Literary Criticism of the Old Testament. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971. pp. 1-42
(1) Gen 1-3.
(2) Boyarin, Daniel. “Behold Israel According to the Flesh” and “Different Eves.” In Carnal Israel. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. pp. 31-46, 77-106.
(3) Pagels, Elaine. Adam, Eve and the Serpent. New York: Random House, 1988. pp. 57-77.
(4) Trible, Phyllis. “Depatriarchalizing in Biblical Interpretation.” In JAAR 41. pp. 30-48.
“Tanakh: The New JPS Translation According to the Traditional Hebrew Text.”
1985 by The Jewish Publication Society. Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1952 (2nd edition, 1971).
Pritchard, James ed. 1958. The Ancient Near East: An Anthology of Texts and Pictures, vol 1, 40-75. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1955. Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, ed. James B. Pritchard, 60-61. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Critical Approaches to the Bible: Introduction to Genesis 12-50.
This series introduces the modern critical study of the Bible, including source theories and Wellhausen’s Documentary Hypothesis, as well as form criticism and tradition criticism. The main characteristics of each biblical source (J, E, P, and D) according to classic source theory are explained. This lecture also raises the question of the historical accuracy of the Bible and the relation of archaeology to the biblical record.
We were talking last time about evidence of the use of different sources in the biblical text, and I mentioned Richard Simon, who was the first to argue that perhaps Moses wasn’t the author of the entire Torah. In the mid-eighteenth century a fellow named Jean Astruc first noticed the use of the name Yahweh in certain stories and passages, and the name Elohim in others. And on this basis, he came, and others came, to identify what have come to be known as the J and E sources. J being pronounced “y” in German, as a “Y,” so Yahweh is spelt with a “J”. So, the J and the E sources. Now Astruc actually happened to maintain the idea of Mosaic authorship. He argued the Moses was drawing from two separate long documents, which he identified as J and E.
They used different names for God, and he was drawing on those in his composition of the Torah. But in the next century his work would be expanded by Germans who identified other sources that made up the Pentateuch especially, the first five books of the Bible especially. And in 1878 we have the classic statement of biblical source theory published by Julius Wellhausen. He wrote a work called The History of Israel, and he presented what is known as the Documentary Hypothesis.
Now you’ve read a little bit about this in your source readings, but it’s the hypothesis that the historical or narrative sections of the Bible – Genesis and stretching on really through 2 Kings – is comprised of four identifiable source documents that have been woven together in some way. And he argued that these documents date to different periods and reflect very different interests and concerns.
These four prior documents, he says, were woven together by somebody or some group of somebodies to form the narrative core of the Bible. Wellhausen argued that these sources therefore do not tell us about the times or situations they purport to describe, so much as they tell us about the beliefs and practices of Israelites in the period in which they were composed. This is going to be an important claim; this is an important predicate of the documentary hypothesis. So, although the sources claim to talk about events from creation, actually, forward,
Wellhausen says, no, they really can only be used to tell us about the beliefs and religion of Israel from the tenth century, which is when he thinks the oldest was written, and forward. Now his work created a sensation. It undermined of course traditional claims about the authorship of God and the work of Moses.
It’s still disputed by conservative groups and Roman Catholic authorities, although Roman Catholic scholars certainly teach it and adopt it. The four sources that were identified by Wellhausen are, as I said, the J source and the E source, but also P, the priestly source, and D, which is primarily the book of Deuteronomy. Now as I said the first two sources are named because of the names of God that they employ, but it goes a little deeper than that. According to J, the knowledge of the proper or personal name, if you will, of God, Yahweh, begins with the first human, with the adam. So already in Genesis 4, adam seems to know this name and refer to God by this name. If we look at other sources such as P and even E, Yahweh’s name is not known to humankind until he chooses to reveal it to Moses, and this happens in the time of the Exodus.
So, in Exodus 6:2-3, which is assigned by source critics to the P source, the Priestly source, God appears to Moses and he tells Moses then that he is Yahweh. He says, “I appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,” the patriarchs before you, “as El Shaddai, but I did not make myself known to them by name, Yahweh.” So, the P source has a different sort of theology, if you will, of God’s name, or the revelation of God’s name. And the same sort of thing happens in Exodus 3:13-16, and that’s assigned to the E source.
Once you’ve identified rough blocks of material according to not just the name of the deity but also their assumptions about when humankind knows the name of the deity, then you can analyze these blocks or chunks of text and begin to identify certain characteristic features: their style, the terminology they use. Source critics were able to come up with a list of what they believed were the main characteristics of the various sources.
So the main characteristics of the J source, which begins with the second creation story, so the J source picks up in Genesis 2:4, second half of verse 4 are: (1) that it uses a personal name Yahweh for God from the time of creation, and that will be in your Bibles as “Lord”; (2) It describes God very anthropomorphically. It’s the J source that has God shut the door of the ark after Noah.
It’s the J source that has God smelling the sacrifice after the Flood, the sacrifice that Noah offers. It’s in the J source that God eats with Abraham and bargains with him. It’s in the J source that God meets with Moses in this mysterious passage and tries to kill him one night; (3) J has a very vivid and concrete earthy style; and, (4) It uses the name Mount Sinai to refer to the place where the Israelites with Moses will conclude the covenant with God. As for the date?
Well source critics felt that a clue to the dating of the J source could be found in the passage in which God promises a grant of national land to the Israelites. The boundaries of the land are given there as the River of Egypt, the Nile, and the Euphrates. It was argued by some that those were basically the borders of the Kingdom of Israel under David and Solomon. Think of 1000 as your date for David, that’s basically when the monarchy begins. So, the beginning of the tenth century.
The argument is that under David and Solomon the empire reached that boundary and so clearly this is a writer from the tenth century who’s seeking to justify Israel’s possession of its kingdom from the River of Egypt to the Euphrates; it’s presenting that kingdom as a fulfilment of a promise of land that God made to Israel’s ancient ancestors.
For that reason, source critics thought J must date to about the tenth century and to the time of perhaps King Solomon. It also seems to reflect the interests of the south. Remember, we talked about the fact briefly that at a certain point in Israel’s history there is a division upon the death of Solomon in the late tenth century.
The kingdom divides into a northern kingdom now called Israel and a southern smaller kingdom called Judah. And the southern interests seem to be reflected in the J document. So, source critics decided this is a Judean document from the tenth century. The E source, which source critics say begins around Genesis 15 is really the most fragmentary. It seems to have been used to supplement the J source rather than being used in a larger form.
So sometimes it seems very difficult to isolate, and there’s a lot of debate over this, but the E source’s characteristics are that (1) it uses Elohim, again it’s a plural form of the word god or gods, but when it’s used with a singular verb it refers to the God of Israel; (2) it has a much less anthropomorphic view of God; (3) God is more remote. There aren’t the direct face-to-face revelations in the E source; most communications from the divine are indirect.
They’ll be through messengers or dreams and; (4) there’s also an emphasis on prophets and prophecy in the E source. Miriam, Moses – they’re both referred to as prophets in the E source; (5) The style is more abstract, a little less picturesque, and; (6) the E source uses a different name for the mountain where the covenant was concluded. It uses the name Horeb. So, you will sometimes see as you are reading the text, they will sometimes refer to Horeb instead of Mount Sinai, or you’ll see the two names used interchangeably. And it’s been the theory of scholars that that’s because it comes from a different source. The E source seems to be concerned primarily with the northern tribes, therefore the northern kingdom. And so, source theorists decided that it was most likely composed in the northern kingdoms about the ninth century.
Then, according to this hypothesis, the J and E sources were combined, primarily J with E being used to supplement it, probably somewhere in the eight century, late eighth century; and that was the backbone of the Pentateuchal narrative. It covers the early history of humankind, of Israel’s early ancestors known as the patriarchs and matriarchs. Their stories are told in Genesis. It contained the story of Moses and the exodus from Egypt in the book of Exodus, and the stories of the wandering in the wilderness that are found in the book of Numbers. The anonymous scribe or editor who combined these sources didn’t care to remove any redundant material or contradictory material, as we’ve already seen. Now there are two other sources according to classical source theory, and these are D and P. D, which is the Deuteronomic source, is essentially the book of Deuteronomy.
The book of Deuteronomy differs from the narrative sources. This is a book of speeches. The book purports to be three speeches delivered by Moses as the Israelites are poised on the east side of the Jordan River…I’m not good with directions; I had to stop and think…the east side of the Jordan River, about to enter the Promised Land. But according to the source theorists it clearly reflects the interests of settled agrarian life. It doesn’t reflect the interests of people who have been wandering around nomadically. It has laws that deal with settled agrarian life. The main characteristic of D, however, which assisted source theorists in fixing its date, is the following: D is the one source in the Bible that clearly insists that one central sanctuary only is acceptable to Yahweh. God cannot be worshiped at makeshift altars. God cannot be worshipped through sacrifices at some local sanctuary; all sacrifices must be offered in the one central sanctuary where “he will cause his name to dwell.” It doesn’t actually ever say Jerusalem, which is why Samaritans think that it’s at Mount Gerizim and that they have the correct temple and that they’re authorized to offer sacrifices.
They [the Israelites] got it wrong when they thought it was Jerusalem; Samaritans think that that [Mt. Gerizim] is where God caused his name to dwell. So, Jerusalem is not actually mentioned in Deuteronomy, that’s a later reading, but the place where God will cause his name to dwell, and only at the temple there, can there be sacrifices. This is a very different perspective from other biblical books. So, you’re going to see in the stories of the patriarchs that they’re wandering all around the land and they’re offering sacrifices.
There are other books too where it’s clear that there are local shrines, local sanctuaries, local priests who are offering sacrifices for people throughout the land. But Deuteronomy insists: one central sanctuary. All of the outlying alters and sacred places must be destroyed. Now centralization of the cult was a key part of the religious reform of a king of Judah in 622.
I’ve marked a couple of dates on the timeline up here: 722 is the fall of the Northern Kingdom, 622 a reform by King Josiah in Judea. We read about this in one of the historical narratives where the temple’s being refurbished. A book is found that says one central sanctuary. King Josiah says: What have we been doing? Get rid of the outlying altars, everything has to be centralized here. So that reform, Josiah’s reform has caused many scholars to associate Deuteronomy, the centralizing book or source, with the late-seventh century, around this time in Judah.
The trouble is D seems to reflect a lot of northern traditions, the interests of tribes who are in the north. Well the Northern Kingdom was destroyed in 722; so, this is the theory: source critics conclude that D is an old source that was originally composed in the north in the eighth century. When the northern kingdom fell, when the Assyrians conquered and many Israelites would have fled to the southern kingdom, Deuteronomy or the D source was brought to Jerusalem, stored in the temple where a hundred years later it was discovered and its centralization was put into force by King Josiah.
P is the Priestly source, and that is found mostly in the books of Leviticus and the non-narrative portions of Numbers. Now the major characteristics of P, the Priestly source, are (1) a great concern with religious institutions, with the sacrificial system, with the Sabbath, with holidays, with rituals like circumcision, the Passover, dietary restrictions (the laws of kashrut) the system of ritual purity and impurity, and also holiness, ethical holiness and cultic or ritual holiness.
P does have some narrative, and you’ve read some of it: Genesis 1, the first creation account, is attributed to P. It’s orderly, it’s systematized, the god is extraordinarily abstract. Because in the P source another characteristic is that; (2) God is transcendent, and even perhaps remote, much more so than in J, for example. Generally, in the P source, God is concealed and revealed only in his kavod. This is a word that’s often translated as “glory,” but what it refers to actually is a light-filled cloud. God seems to be the burning fire inside this light-filled cloud.
He travels before the Israelites in that form, leading them through the wilderness and so on. That seems to be in the P source. P is also; (3) interested in covenants, in censuses, in genealogies. All of those sections very often that link stories, are attributed to the P source. And because P elements often serve that kind of function as a bridge between stories, or very often P sources seem to introduce a story or conclude a story, the source critics felt that priestly writers were probably responsible for the final editing of the Bible, bringing together J and E and D and adding their materials and finally editing the work.