Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Documentary Hypothesis Confirmed!

In the September/October issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Jeffrey Tigay, Professor of Hebrew and Semitic Languages and Literature at University of Pennsylvania, confirms the Documentary Hypothesis. This was a letter to the editor in response to Yosef Reinman's letter in the May/June issue in which Reinman stated "The very idea [of the DH] is amazing. Never in the history of the world has a book been spliced together from multiple documents by the kind of elaborate surgery that the critics perform on the Bible text."

Tigay's reply, "I wonder how hard Rabbi Reinman looked before concluding that no book was ever composed this way. In fact, there are several examples, from ancient to modern times, of exactly this process. As Biblical scholars have known since the late 19th century, the second-century Syrian bishop Tatian composed the Diotessoron, a single running biography of Jesus, by splicing together the four Gospels using exactly the same techniques supposed by the Documentary Hypothesis. In the same way, in the version of the Torah used by the Samaritans, the two separate versions of Moses’ appointment of subordinate judges found in Exodus 18 and Deuteronomy 1 were spliced together in a single narrative. So were the two Mt. Sinai narratives from Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. The Temple Scroll from Qumran was composed by splicing together passages from Deuteronomy and other books of the Bible plus several extrabiblical works. In modern times, the Hebrew writers Hayim Nachrnan Bialik and Yehoshua Hana Rawnitzki composed their classic anthology of Jewish legends (Sefer Ha-Aggadah) by using very similar techniques. In the 1980s I edited a volume, Empirical Models for Biblical Criticism, in which several colleagues and I presented these and other examples of such methods. The book was reprinted in 2005 by Wipf and Stock Publishers of Eugene, Oregon. There, readers will see that the methods of composition supposed by the Documentary Hypothesis are very far from being outlandish and unparalleled in the history of the world."

OK, so these examples don't really "confirm" the DH, but they are certainly more than an adequate refutation of Reinman's assertion. (Perhaps Reinman will respond in a future issue. If so, expect him to use a "moving target" rebuttal.)

By the way, Tigay was also the author of the marvelous JPS Commentary on Deuteronomy, so stay away from this if you can't handle an historical/critical approach to Torah.

28 comments:

Baal Habos said...

Tigay's examples prove that there are composites. Nevertheless, the believers can clain that in no case has something been deconstructed (Higher Criticism?) and then found to be true after the fact. I'm not really sure if what I'm saying is true but the examples you bring don't support it. In other words, it's not as if someone studied the Diotessoron, decided that it was based on 4 texts and then the texts were subsequently found.


I'm not saying that debunks the DH, on the contrary, I believe in it very strongly.

I found the original Reinman post online, but I cant find Tigay.

Frum Heretic said...

The way that Reinman raised his objection to the DH is perfectly answered by Tigay, but as I stated it doesn't prove the DH.

BTW, DH believers have a major advantage over anti-evolutionists who are constantly finding their moving targets falsified. It is quite unlikely - for a number of reasons - that any ancient Torah source material will ever be found.

Baal Habos said...

>The way that Reinman raised his objection to the DH is perfectly answered by Tigay, but as I stated it doesn't prove the DH.

Understood. I'm being their "moving target",just like they do with the KP.

> It is quite unlikely - for a number of reasons - that any ancient Torah source material will ever be found.

Meaning because ancient documents crumble? Maybe one day there will be another Qumran.

Frum Heretic said...

Meaning because ancient documents crumble? Maybe one day there will be another Qumran.

Well that's one reason. But equally important is that the professional scribal class dedicated themselves to only the most important religious documents. Once the textus receptus was established, there would be no one to perpetuate the transmission of the source documents. And any heretical sects that maintained separate documents would have succumbed to religio/politico pressure and quickly disappeared (just look at the absolute power that Ezra & Nehemiah had in this regards to establish the status quo.) So all we have today are the Samaritans who - while there is debate as to when they were established - have some small but significant differences in their Torah, and the evidence left by Qumran which was way after even the latest DH estimates of the final redaction.

jewish philosopher said...

The Documentary Hypothesis merely rediscovers what the ancient rabbis always knew: God’s has two character traits – the trait of mercy and the trait of justice. Mercy is represented by the name YHVH while justice is represented by Elohim (see Midrash Braishis Rabbah 73:3). And of course Deuteronomy is written in a different style because it is a speech given by Moses, not God speaking. What's the big deal? Maybe for Christians like Wellhausen this was all a revelation, however every 10 year old yeshiva student should know this.

Frum Heretic said...

As for YHVH/Elohim, if one claims that this represents merely a Mercy/Justice division, then one has to be consistent with every appearance of the terms. And I don't believe that it washes except by using the most convoluted justifications.

Regardless, the DH has gone way beyond Wellhausen, but even he had a much more sophisticated theory than you are implying.

Holy Hyrax said...

Regarding the Yhvh/elohim question, I wrote a post about egyptian dieties that touches on this a bit. (2nd quoted paragraph)

http://holyhyrax.blogspot.com/search/label/Egyptians

Frum Heretic said...

Interesting stuff, but it seems to be a bit of a stretch to take the Egyptian composite and extend this to YHVH/Elohim.

My take is that most DH scholars don't acknowledge the assertions of the traditional Orthodox view regarding "aspects" of God, but OTOH the rachamim/din division cannot be consistently applied in every case and requires stretching & kvetching to do so. (But even that is a major oversimplification in how the two names are traditionally understood.) And, as been pointed out to me by people much more knowledgeable of the DH, the names of God also correlate with other textual differences.

jewish philosopher said...

DH is just a lot of vague hunches, about which no two Bible critics agree. The original basis for it, however, is what I wrote above.

Holy Hyrax said...

I'm not sure if its such a stretch. Could be, this was something widely employed by all ancient men when relating to their Gods.

>And, as been pointed out to me by people much more knowledgeable of the DH, the names of God also correlate with other textual differences.

Ya, except where it doesn't, then there is a bit of kvetching a bit as well :)

Anonymous said...

One thing that leaves me slightly sceptical about this whole DH thing is that a scholar employed by a prominent university (Kenneth Kitchen) can still say that there's no solid evidence for it. You might disagree with him, but he's a highly regarded scholar, who knows what he is talking about. His book takes the minimalist position to threads, and can probably just about fit in with a liberal Orthodox version of events.

Frum Heretic said...

Kenneth Kitchen is also an evangelical Christian who believes that the New Testament is the word of God. Does he also know "what he is talking about" in this case?

Frum Heretic said...

>And, as been pointed out to me by people much more knowledgeable of the DH, the names of God also correlate with other textual differences.

Holy Hyrax replied:Ya, except where it doesn't, then there is a bit of kvetching a bit as well :)

Yep, I do not disagree. There is certainly plenty of DH kvetching.

Anonymous said...

However Kitchen doesn't argue his case based on resorting to the bible being the 'word of God'. He argues using traditional academic methods. I challenge you to find one place in OROT where he makes an argument based on his religious beliefs.

Frum Heretic said...

Of course he is not going to argue his case on religious grounds. But an evangelical Christian nevertheless has a major vested interest in attempting to disprove the DH.

Let's be honest here. You are quoting a minority scholarly opinion (and it's a tiny minority) because it jives with your point of view. You didn't arrive at your point of view because of Kitchen anymore than you believe in the truth of the New Testament based on Kitchen.

jewish philosopher said...

I'm sorry, but DH is just nonsense.

Anonymous said...

The truth is not decided in by whether he is a majority or not-if he is right, and I find that he argues his case well-I haven't seen any substantial rejoinders, then he is right. Of course I found Kitchen because I wanted to confirm my point of view, but if I have other reasons for believing in the accuracy of the Old Testament, then it is not illogical or even intellectually dishonest to give more credence to views which I believe to be in accord with the TOTALITY of the evidence, whether in the realms of religious experience, Jewish history or other reasons to believe n the veracity of Judaism.

Baal Habos said...

Anonymous,
>but if I have other reasons for believing in the accuracy of the Old Testament, then it is not illogical or even intellectually dishonest to give more credence to views which I believe to be in accord with the TOTALITY of the evidence

That's very well said. In my case, it's the opposite. The DH had nothing to do with the onset of my skepticism. And so, what I read of the DH makes lot's of sense on it's own and it also supports the model I already believe in, a natural one.

Nevertheless, I have been trying to get my hands on Kitchen just to see what he has to say.

Baal Habos said...

Frum H, can you get rid of that word ver. It's a real pain.

Frum Heretic said...

The DH had nothing to do with the onset of my skepticism. And so, what I read of the DH makes lot's of sense on it's own and it also supports the model I already believe in, a natural one.

Birds of a feather! (Except possibly those last two words, as I am not a naturalist. On a theist-atheist continuum, I'm on the theistic side of agnosticism!)

Frum Heretic said...

Anonymous: it is not illogical or even intellectually dishonest to give more credence to views which I believe to be in accord with the TOTALITY of the evidence

So what do you do about the mabul story as described in the Torah? Since the TOTALITY of evidence says that such an event did not happen (as described), do you then rely on moshol and allegory? (Please note that I am truly curious about how individuals deal with this problem, and am not just being argumentative here.)

Baal Habos said...

FH,
> as I am not a naturalist

But you are a naturalist with respect to the formation of the Bible, I assume.

Frum Heretic said...

Baal (I can't just refer to you by your "first name") Habos - "Never assume the obvious is true" (Safire).

But in this case it is. Although I do not discount - uh, shall we say - revelatory aspects to parts of it.

Baal Habos said...

> Although I do not discount - uh, shall we say - revelatory aspects to parts of it.

It would be nice, but do you have any evidence for it?

Frum Heretic said...

"Do you have any evidence for it?"

Nothing that would hold up in a court with James Randi as the judge...

Baal Habos said...

>Nothing that would hold up in a court with James Randi as the judge...

Ok, do you have a smoking gun?

Frum Heretic said...

A smoking gun IS conclusive proof!

J. said...

Hi this is the anonymous who made the comments about the totality of the evidence. I have the same belief in the mabul as Marc Shapiro does, which is to say, I interpret it allegorically.