“In the fall of 2018, the problem of Wellhausen’s teaching and his followers
came to my attention while working on my master’s degree.”
– Heather Schuldt on 10.28.181
When I was around ten or eleven I kept a red notebook filled with my musings on issues related to the Bible and Christianity. It included commentaries on the first epistle of John and the story of Samson and Delilah. It also had my own refutation of the theory of evolution and a case for Young Earth Creationism. This refutation wasn’t born out of years of reading and research. It wasn’t even born out of months of it. I was barely a preteen who had never read a single work in support of the theory of evolution and hardly anything against it. Instead I had my Bible in hand and a host of assumptions about what it said about the origin of the universe and humanity. That notebook is now long gone but I wish I still had it in my possession. To think that I could take on one of the most important scientific theories in history without investing the time and energy needed to properly understand it was the height of hubris. I was no more prepared to take down evolutionary theory than I was to perform open heart surgery. Reading through the pages of that notebook would serve to bring my ego down a few notches.
The moral of the story is that in order to properly refute a position or argument one needs to invest the time and energy getting to know that position or argument as well as possible. It won’t do to tackle weak forms of the argument; one must attack the strongest possible version. Should I desire to take on the arguments of Young Earth Creationism it would do me no good to take on the Young Earth Creationism of fifty years ago. I would need to do my best to read the latest work by their most qualified scientists and scholars. Failure to do so could result in committing any number of logical fallacies.
Unfortunately, not everyone shares this view. There are some who insist that after just a short while they have a good enough grasp of the core arguments of a position to properly refute it. This is precisely what we find in a recent blog post from pop-apologist Heather Schuldt. For those unfamiliar with Schuldt, she is a graduate student studying apologetics at Southern Evangelical Seminary who also runs a blog at ladyapologist.com. Recently she published to that blog a post entitled “Four Ways to Respond to Wellhausen Problems and Astruc Cuttings.” In that post she writes,
In the fall of 2018, the problem of Wellhausen’s teaching and his followers came to my attention while working on my master’s degree.
This is disconcerting. Schuldt published her post on October 28, 2018. The fall semester at SES began in mid-August. Schuldt would have us believe that in the last two months she has done enough reading and research to do away with “Wellhausen Problems and Astruc Cuttings,” her not-so-subtle way of speaking about the Documentary Hypothesis. As we will see in this post, we have significant reason to be skeptical of Schuldt’s knowledge and skill.
We will begin by examining Schuldt’s case for Mosaic authorship. We will continue by considering her critiques of Jean Astruc and Julius Wellhausen. We will finish by investigating her attempt to resolve contradictions found within the Torah, particularly those that are often used as examples of the various sources in the Torah.
SCHULDT’S CASE FOR MOSAIC AUTHORSHIP
Throughout her piece Schuldt refuses to talk about the “Documentary Hypothesis,” preferring instead to refer to the “Wellhausen Hypothesis” and its modern adherents as “neo-Wellhausens.”2 Schuldt claims that neo-Wellhausens “live in the dark” and that one way she and her followers can help those blind souls is to
present all the verses in the text that refer to the Book of Moses, the Law of Moses, and the Book of the Law of Moses; there are many. Chapter after chapter, book after book from Exodus to Deuteronomy, we read that the Lord told Moses to “write down the words of the Lord.” In addition, let us present other biblical and non biblical texts that also refer to the Book of Moses.
We will examine Schuldt’s case for Mosaic authorship, inquiring whether “[c]hapter after chapter” and “book after book from Exodus to Deuteronomy” promote Mosaic authorship for Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
Schuldt’s “Evidence” for Mosaic Authorship
Schuldt produces two kinds of “evidence” in favor of Mosaic authorship. The first kind is that which is found within the Torah which we call “Intra-Pentateuchal.” The second is that which is found without the Torah which we will call “Extra-Pentateuchal.” We begin with Intra-Pentateuchal evidence.
Intra-Pentateuchal Evidence for Mosaic Authorship
In Exodus, we learn that the LORD instructed Moses to “write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua…” (Exodus 17:14). We also learn that Moses wrote down the Book of the Covenant and read it to the assembly just after God gave Moses the Ten Commandments and a multitude of other laws (Ex. 20-23). Moses gave instructions to the Israelites for when they enter the promised land (without Moses). After they entered the promise land, the king of Israel must write for himself on a scroll a copy of “this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests” (Deut. 17:18). At the end of Moses’s life when he was one hundred and twenty years old, a conditional promise of prosperity from the Lord was given to the Israelites if they turn to the Lord with all their heart and soul, keeping the commands and decrees that are “written in this Book of the Law” (Deut. 30:9-10, 31:11). Moses instructed the Levitical priests to read the Book of the Law to Israel at the end of every seven years during the Festival of Tabernacles (Deut. 31:9-13). Just before he died, Moses commanded the Levites to keep the Book of the Law by the side of the ark of the covenant in the holy of holies (Deut. 31:26).
The number of times Moses is commanded to write something down in the Torah is actually very few. We only see it in the following passages: Exodus 17:14, Exodus 34:27, Numbers 17:2-3, and Deuteronomy 31:19. A careful examination of each of these verses reveals that none of them are commands to write anything of major quantitative substance and some have nothing to do with the Torah itself whatsoever. For example, while Schuldt highlights Exodus 17:14, the context reveals that the “this” Moses was to “write as a memorial” were the words, “I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” This hardly constitutes a command to write the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. We also see in Exodus 34:27 Yahweh’s command to Moses to write down the words of the covenant which in context are the words of 34:10-26. Again, this hardly constitutes a command to write each of the books of the Torah.
We do see other instances of Moses writing: Exodus 24:4, Numbers 33:2, Deuteronomy 31:9, and Deuteronomy 31:22. Yet none of these give us any textual warrant to conclude that Moses is therefore the author of the entire Torah. For example, in Exodus 24:4 Moses is said to have written down “all the words of the LORD.” It is clear from the context that those “words” are those which God spoke to Moses in chapters 20-23 (“Then God spoke all these words” – Exodus 20:1). We also see in Numbers 33:2 that “Moses wrote down [Israel’s] starting points, stage by stage, by command of the LORD,” yet this too limits Moses’ writing to the material contained in Numbers 33:3-37. There is no warrant to conclude that Moses wrote the entirety of the Torah based on these examples.
The Book of the Law
In the first four books of the Torah we rarely see any reference to books or scrolls (Hebrew, sēper). The word appears only in Genesis once (Genesis 5:1), Exodus four times (Exodus 17:14, 24:7, 32:32-33), Leviticus zero times, and Numbers twice (Numbers 5:23, 21:14) – a total of seven times across four books. But in Deuteronomy we see that word eleven times, more than all of the other books in the Torah combined. Specifically, the term is typically connected to “the law” (Hebrew, hattôrâ) in many places in the book of Deuteronomy. To what does “the book of the law” (Hebrew, sēper htwrh) refer?
The very first instance of “the book of the law” appears in Deuteronomy 28:58 where Moses warns the people of dire consequences should they “not diligently observe all the words of this law that are written in this book.” The law to which Moses is referring are the various “statutes and ordinances” that Moses was setting before the people that very day (Deuteronomy 4:8). In the text of Deuteronomy, the “statutes and ordinances” make up the middle portion of the book in chapters 12-26 (“These are the statutes and ordinances that you must diligently observe in the land that the LORD, the God of your ancestors, has given you” – 12:1). So when the book of Deuteronomy speaks of the “book of the law” or “the book of this law,” he is referring to those statutes and ordinances laid out for Israel in chapters 12-27. In other words, the phrase is not a reference to the Torah as a whole but to the set of laws and regulations found in the middle portion of the book of Deuteronomy.
As further evidence for this, note the narrative flow in Deuteronomy 31:24-26. The text tells us that after Moses had finished writing down “in a book the words of this law to the very end” (31:24), he then instructs the Levites to place it beside the ark of the covenant “as a witness against you” (31:26). But if the “book of the law” is a reference to the entirety of the Torah, how could this possibly be? The book of Deuteronomy continues for three more chapters! Therefore the phrase cannot possibly be a reference to the Torah (i.e. Genesis through Deuteronomy) here; it must be a reference to the “statues and ordinances” laid out in chapters 12-27 as the context makes abundantly clear.3
Based on the data contained within the Torah, there is no ground to claim Mosaic authorship for the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. It is not the case as Schuldt claims that Mosaic authorship is seen in [c]hapter after chapter, book after book.” Should she seek to support that claim she will need to provide actual evidence. As it stands, she has provided none.
Extra-Pentateuchal Evidence for Mosaic Authorship
We now turn to those texts Schuldt refers to that appear outside the five books of the Torah. She writes,
Many other books in the Bible affirm that Moses is the author of the Book of the Law; also called the Law of Moses or the Book of Moses or the Book of the Law of Moses (Josh. 1:7-8, 8:31, 1 Ki. 2:3, 2 Ki. 14:6, Ezra 6:18, Neh. 13:1, Dan. 9:11-13, Mal. 4:4, Luke 2:22, John 1:17, 1 Cor. 9:9, and Gal. 3:10). Jesus referred to the Law of Moses, the Book of Moses, teachers of the law, and experts of the law numerous times (Matt. 5:17, Mark 12:26, Luke 24:44, John 7:19, 23), saying that Moses even wrote about Jesus (John 5:46). The Quran also happens to affirm Moses as the author of the Torah. Other church Fathers throughout the centuries have affirmed Moses as the author of the Pentateuch. In 1265-1274 AD, Thomas Aquinas affirmed multiple times that Moses wrote Genesis and that Moses wrote Genesis chapter 1 in particular.
We will divide these into four categories: Deuteronomistic History, Post-Exilic, New Testament, and Extrabiblical.
For those unfamiliar with the term, “Deuteronomistic History” is a reference to the “historical” books of the Hebrew Bible. They include the books of Joshua, Judges, 1-2 Samuel, and 1-2 Kings. They are called “Deuteronomistic” because of the affinities they share with the book of Deuteronomy.4 The beginning of the book of Joshua fits in perfectly with the end of Deuteronomy and acts as a sequel to it.
In the Deuteronomistic History we see references to the “book of the law” that we saw in the book of Deuteronomy. For example, Joshua is commanded by Yahweh to “act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you” (Joshua 1:7) and that “[t]his book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth” (Joshua 1:8). As we have already seen in the book of Deuteronomy, the “book of the law” is a reference to those statutes and ordinances laid out in Deuteronomy 12-27. In fact, in Joshua 8:30-31 that Joshua constructed an altar to Yahweh on Mount Ebal “just as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded the Israelites, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, ‘an altar of unhewn stones, on which no iron tool has been used'” (Joshua 8:31). This citation from “the book of the law of Moses” isn’t from any text in Exodus, Leviticus, or Numbers. It is straight from Deuteronomy 27:5!
There are other clues that the Deuteronomistic Historian viewed “the book of the law” to be a reference to a specific set of laws found in Deuteronomy 12-27. For example, in 2 Kings 14 we read of the good but not perfect reign of Amaziah over Israel (2 Kings 14:3). Upon his ascension to the throne, Amaziah kills those who had murdered his father (14:5) but he does not kill their children. Why? Because he was following “what is written in the book of the law of Moses, where the LORD commanded, ‘The parents shall not be put to death for the children, or the children be put to death for the parents; but all shall be put to death for their own sins” (2 Kings 14:6). And where does this law come from? It is from Deuteronomy 24:16 and not from any of the other books of the Torah.
References to “the law of Moses,” “the book of the law,” and “the book of the law of Moses” in the Deuteronomistic History are clearly references not to the Torah of Genesis through Deuteronomy but to the specific set of statutes and ordinances laid out in Deuteronomy 12-27.
There are references to the “law of Moses” in three post-Exilic books: Chronicles (which Schuldt does not discuss), Ezra, and Nehemiah. By “post-Exilic” I mean to say that these are books that were written after the Babylonian exile during the era of Persian dominance and influence in the Levant.5 The authors of these books show clear signs of being acquainted with not just the book of Deuteronomy but the entire Torah of Genesis through Deuteronomy. So we then have the first real sense that “the law of Moses” (2 Chronicles 23:18, 30:16; Ezra 3:2, 7:6; Nehemiah 8:1) is a reference to the entirety of the Torah as we now understand it.
But is this evidence for Mosaic authorship? If we suppose with Schuldt that Moses wrote sometime around the fifteenth century BCE, then about a millennium separates Moses from the writings of Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah. So this cannot be evidence of Mosaic authorship. However, it is evidence that people were treating the Torah as if it had been written by Moses.
Schuldt also references two other post-Exilic works: the book of Daniel (9:11-13) and the book of Malachi (4:4). The book of Malachi likely dates to around the fifth century during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah.6 The book of Daniel is probably the product of the second century BCE.7 Because of their late date they cannot offer us evidence for Mosaic authorship of the Torah. They can only offer us evidence that people were treating the Torah as if it had been written by Moses.
In the New Testament era we see a variety of references to material in the Torah as coming from Moses. The apostle Paul quotes from Leviticus 18:5 and says, “Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that ‘the person who does these things will live by them'” (Romans 10:5). A few verses later he quotes from Deuteronomy 32:21 where “Moses says, ‘I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry'” (Romans 10:19). When quoting from Deuteronomy 25:4 Paul refers to it as “the law of Moses” (1 Corinthians 9:9). Finally, in 2 Corinthians 3:15 Paul laments that “whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds.”
Paul isn’t the only one who understands Moses to have been the author of the Torah. In the Gospels Jesus treats Moses as the author as well. For example, in Mark 7 we read of Jesus’ response to the Pharisees and scribes who were accusing his disciples of acting in ways not in accordance with the law. He then quotes the Torah to them: “For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die'” (Mark 7:10). Yet Moses didn’t “say” these words. They come from Exodus 20:12 and Exodus 20:17 where it is God who says them. Jesus is using “Moses” as shorthand for the Torah. The Lukan narrator is even more explicit with his connection of Moses to the Torah. In a post-Resurrection appearance of Jesus to two disciples traveling to Emmaus, Jesus teaches them about the Messiah from the Hebrew scriptures. “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures” (Luke 24:27). Thus Luke exhibits an understanding of Moses being a reference to texts in the Hebrew scriptures.
But do these texts and others in the New Testament constitute evidence for Mosaic authorship? Not at all. Even assuming the historical Jesus spoke the words referenced above, he lived fifteen hundred years after the time of Moses (following Schuldt’s dating). The same is true for Paul. This cannot constitute evidence for Mosaic authorship.
Schuldt mentions extrabiblical texts that understand Moses to be the author of the Torah. These include the writings of the early church fathers, the Qur’an, and Thomas Aquinas. But it should go without saying that their writings do not constitute evidence for Mosaic authorship. Rather, they are evidence that they believed in Mosaic authorship.
As we saw, references to “the book of the law” and related ideas in the Deuteronomistic History are references to the “statutes and ordinances” laid out in Deuteronomy 12-27 and not the Torah as a whole. References in the post-exilic works, New Testament works, and extrabiblical works do not constitute evidence for Mosaic authorship.
Excursus: Did Moses Write Genesis?
It is quite clear from reading the book of Genesis that it is anonymous. We are not told who wrote it. And nowhere in all of the Torah are we informed that the primeval (Genesis 1-11) and patriarchal histories (Genesis 12-50) were composed by Moses himself. This should be sufficient in and of itself to say with confidence that there is no direct evidence for Mosaic authorship of Genesis. Yet Schuldt and many others continue to affirm it.
There are a number of reasons why Mosaic authorship is highly unlikely. Perhaps one of the strongest reasons is the presence of various anachronisms that appear in the stories of Genesis. Let’s briefly discuss a few.
- In Genesis 14 we read the story of Abram’s nephew’s kidnapping and subsequent rescue by the patriarch. Upon hearing the news of Lot’s kidnapping, Abram leads a small army to find him and bring him back. We are told that Abram “went in pursuit [of Lot] as far as Dan” (14:14). However, the city of Dan did not acquire that name until long after the age of the patriarchs and well after the time of Moses as Judges 18:29 reveals. Prior to the Danites giving the city the name “Dan” it had been known as Laish.
- In Genesis 24 we read the story of Abraham commissioning his servant Eliezer to go to the patriarch’s home country “and get a wife for my son Isaac” (24:4). The servant then “took ten of his master’s camels and departed” (24:10). However, the hard data suggests that the domestication of camels in the Levant did not take place until long after the age of the patriarchs and very likely that of Moses himself.8
- In Genesis 36 we read of Esau’s descendants and are given a list of kings “who reigned in the land of Edom before any king reigned over the Israelites” (36:31). This is problematic for two reasons. First, the phrase “before any king reigned over the Israelites” only makes sense if this had been written after there was already a monarchy in Israel. Second, Edom as a nation-state probably did not even exist before the eighth century BCE.9 Both of these things put together place the writing of the list of kings to well after both the age of the patriarchs and Moses.
More examples could be brought forward.
So how do those who hold to Mosaic authorship handle such anachronisms? Some evangelical scholars recognize these problems and acknowledge that they must stem from later redaction. In his introduction to the book of Genesis for the excellent ESV Study Bible, T. Desmond Alexander notes that such anachronisms are “to be expected in a sacred text preserved for the instruction of later generations. If they were to understand the text, place names and archaic language would have had to be revised.”10 In other words, Moses stands behind the text of the Torah but later editing was required so that readers could understand particular references.
Other scholars follow suit in their assessment. For example, evangelical Old Testament scholar Bruce Waltke notes particular anachronisms and acknowledges that this shows
that the scribes, the official revisers of the text, modernized and supplemented as needed the putative Ur-text of Moses….The historical books as a whole, including Genesis, are probably anonymous in part because they were living texts in the hands of the scribes, who kept the text current for the people of God.11
Thus Waltke asserts that while Moses stands behind the Torah generally and Genesis particularly, “he clearly did not author the extant text in our hands.”12
Alexander’s and Waltke’s attempt to salvage Mosaic authorship of Genesis is not convincing for a variety of reasons. There is no direct evidence that ties Moses to the book of Genesis within the texts themselves nor is there any reason that the texts – complete with anachronistic data – could not have themselves been written long after the time of Moses. Furthermore, evangelical scholars note various sources within the text of Genesis, including the various genealogies (i.e. tôlĕdâ) that are punctuated throughout the book. This has led conservative biblical scholar Andrew Hill to write that scholars should “view someone like Moses as doing mostly the work of a divinely inspired editor rather than the work of an author.”13 Waltke agrees and writes that “[a]s a historian Moses would have used sources.”14 Yet it is just as plausible, if not more so, that Genesis is the work of someone living after Moses and having access to the same sources Moses would have purportedly had.
There is also the issue of Moses’ historicity. Few critical scholars naively trust the reports contained in the Pentateuch about Moses and for good reason.15 Moses appears to be an archetypal leader, one who embodies all the best of what Israel should be. As such he is often the standard by which all leaders are judged (see Deuteronomy 34:10-12). Furthermore, the stories about Moses are at times legendary in nature. Take for example the pericope of Moses’ birth (Exodus 2:1-10) which reads like other ancient stories wherein a child is miraculously rescued from certain destruction and then grows up to become a person of great importance.16 Also telling is that there are no genuine historical markers within the text of the Torah to help us identify exactly when it took place or who the other historical figures in player were. The Pharoah is unnamed almost as if the author did not know which Pharoah was ruling at the time. Interestingly, one historical marker that the text of Exodus does offer is the claim that the Israelites built the cities of Pithom and Rameses. While the location of ancient Pithom is debated among archaeologists with no real consensus in sight, Rameses was most certainly built in the thirteenth century.17 Unfortunately, this detail makes Schuldt’s claim that Moses wrote around 1440 BCE untenable as Moses had yet to be born.
In sum, the case for Mosaic authorship of Genesis is flimsy at best. Even setting aside the issues surrounding Moses’ historicity, the various anachronisms and presence of source material make it very likely that the text was composed (or compiled) after the time of Moses.
SCHULDT ON ASTRUC AND WELLHAUSEN
Given Schuldt’s views on Mosaic authorship it is no wonder she finds fault with the work of Jean Astruc and Julius Wellhausen. Let’s briefly consider her comments on them.
Schuldt on Jean Astruc
A French physician and professor named Jean Astruc (1684-1766) is often called the father of the Documentary Hypothesis because he presented his speculation that the Pentateuch has two sources, neither of which is Moses. In this blog, I am pointing to Astruc as the person responsible for so many of the Wellhausen followers today who continue to cut passages apart verse by verse. Astruc worked with two divine names in the text, YHWH and Elohim, claiming the two divine names give evidence of two authors. By cutting up the Pentateuch verse by verse and placing certain YHWH verses in one document and certain Elohim verses into another document, Astruc claimed he found two authors. Immediately, Astruc’s two source speculation faces a problem because there are a multitude of passages that use both YHWH (Yahweh/Jehova/LORD) and Elohim, and there are a multitude of verses that contain neither.
The way in which Schuldt has crafted these sentences suggest that she is either deliberately omitting or is willfully ignorant of the fact that Astruc was not denying Mosaic authorship. In fact, the work wherein Astruc makes his case for two sources was entitled Conjecture on the Original Documents That Moses Apparently Used in Composing Genesis. What Astruc believed was that Moses used sources to create the book of Genesis. This should not be alarming to Schuldt who also believes Moses used source material. She wrote that “[e]ven if oral tradition and certain lists were carried down from Adam to Moses, it does not mean that Moses didn’t write Genesis.” So if she is ready to back-peddle on one aspect of Mosaic authorship, why is this such a stretch?
Let’s say that Moses did write Genesis as Schuldt claims. Where did he get his information? Given that the events that finish the book of Genesis take place roughly four hundred years before the events of Exodus, how did Moses know about all those details about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? What does it mean for Schuldt that Moses was the author of Genesis? If Moses had no sources then we are left with but two options: he made it all up or the stories were told to him by God. If it is the former then Schuldt has no grounds for believing in the book of Genesis. If it is the latter then we can also dismiss the various source material within Genesis since divine inspiration and dictation render them completely unnecessary and redundant. But if Moses did use sources then he would be less of an author and more of an editor. And if he did use sources then we can attempt to discern what those sources may have looked like. That is what Astruc attempted to do. He wasn’t denying Moses’ role in standing behind the text of Genesis but was seeking to explain exactly what that role was.
Cassuto to the Rescue?
Schuldt believes that the twentieth century Jewish scholar Umberto Moshe David Cassuto effectively did away with Astruc’s hypothesis. She writes,
Finally, in 1941, Umberto Cassuto gave an excellent response to Astruc’s two source speculation in his book, The Documentary Hypothesis and the Composition of the Pentateuch: Eight Lectures by Umberto Cassuto. In his book, Cassuto gave a clear reason why Moses used both divine names, YHWH and Elohim. YHWH is used mainly to refer to the personal deity of Israel. Elohim is used in a general sense for the creator over all people.
While it is true that Cassuto put forward an explanation as to why we read Yahweh in some texts and Elohim in others, Schuldt is absolutely incorrect that he “gave a clear reason why Moses used both divine names.” Not once in Cassuto’s The Documentary Hypothesis does he claim Moses wrote the Pentateuch. Cassuto himself believed that while the Torah itself was a unified whole, it was the product of various source material. He wrote,
It is no daring conjecture, therefore, to suppose that a whole world of traditions was known to the Israelites in olden times, traditions that apparently differed in their origin, nature, and characteristics. Some of them preserved memories of ancient events, and some belonged to the category of folk-lore; some were the product of the Israelite spirit and some contained elements from pagan culture; a number of them was handed down by the general populace and others were subjected to the close study of the exponents of the Wisdom literature; there were stories that were given a poetic and consequently a more fixed form, and others that were narrated in prose that was liable to suffer changes in the course of time; there were simple tales and complex, succinct and detailed, lucid and obscure, unpretentious and most sublime. From all this treasure, the Torah was selected those traditions that appeared suited to its aims, and then proceeded to purify them, to arrange them, to recast their style and phrasing, and generally to give them a new aspect of its own design, until they were welded into a unified whole.18
Later Cassuto wrote that while the Torah is a unity it is a unity “in truth, that does not exclude, as you have heard, a multiplicity and variety of source materials, nor even their reflection in the text before us.”19 So then Cassuto, while denying the fundamentals of the Documentary Hypothesis, does accept the notion of source material standing behind the Torah. But he does not posit Moses as the one who compiled the material.
Schuldt on Wellhausen
On Wellhausen Schuldt writes,
Building onto Astruc’s teaching, Wellhausen came along and proposed two more authors, a priestly author and the mostly Deuteronomic author, introducing his four source speculation, the Documentary Hypothesis, which I will continue to refer to as the Wellhausen Hypothesis. To complicate the matter further, Wellhausen followers play the innocent joker card by claiming redactors (editors) could have changed any number of words at any place in the Pentateuch at any time up to about 400 BC. By leading students into a sea of confusion about origins, development, and editing, students of Wellhausen scholars might walk away confused instead of reading what is actually in the text, namely, that 1.) Moses wrote down the words of the Lord and 2.) No textual contradictions actually exist. Moses wrote down ceremonial laws, cultural laws, moral laws, and regulations for the festivals as he was instructed by the Lord. Wellhausen imagined four authors wrote an imaginary J-document (written by an alleged author who preferred using the term Jehova/YHWH/Yahweh), an imaginary E-document (written by an alleged author who preferred using the term Elohim), a P-document (written by an alleged priestly author/authors), and a D-document (written by an alleged Deuteronomy author). However, Wellhausen followers fail to give credit to Moses as the author of the Pentateuch who wrote it during his lifetime.
The same basic things I stated above regarding Astruc are applicable here. While it is true that Wellhausen rejected Mosaic authorship, we can still ask Schuldt where she thinks the material came from, particularly in Genesis. She has already opened the door to source material (i.e. “oral tradition and certain lists”) being used by the author of Genesis. Why not go a step further and acknowledge that whoever wrote Genesis probably had sources for all the stories? And why not acknowledge that based upon aforementioned data about anachronisms that the text was composed after Moses? Why is she so wedded to Mosaic authorship of Genesis?
Schuldt’s naiveté is also showing here. She laments that “students of Wellhausen scholars,” having become immersed in the Documentary Hypothesis, “might walk away confused instead of reading what is actually in the text.” Does she honestly suppose that biblical scholars haven’t read the Bible? And does she think that those scholars, teaching in an academic setting, do not require their students to read from the Bible? Furthermore, Schuldt blindly trusts that whatever the texts say happened as they say it. She withholds skepticism about the Bible but applies a double portion of it upon the Documentary Hypothesis. Her use of the rather pejorative “imagined” with regards to Wellhausen’s formulation of the hypothesis reveals that she has not seriously considered the issues involved. This is not surprising as she took all of two months to arrive at her position on the topic.
Cassuto to the Rescue Again?
In refutation of Wellhausen Schuldt again runs to Cassuto thinking he affirms Mosaic authorship for the Torah. She writes,
In his book, Cassuto reduced the Wellhausen Hypothesis down to five main flimsy pillars that supposedly hold up the four source speculation.
1.) Divine Names
2.) Language and Style
4.) Duplications and Repetitions
5.) Composite Structure
Cassuto did a very good job in his book explaining why all five pillars fail. He presented a case where the Wellhausen Hypothesis has no real basis to hold it up.
The merits of Cassuto’s arguments are a topic perhaps for another time. All Schuldt has done is listed the names of the lectures that make up Cassuto’s book on the Documentary Hypothesis. I am skeptical she has even read it, especially considering that, as we already discussed above with regard to Astruc, Cassuto does not posit Moses as the author of the Torah and he acknowledges that the Torah is the result of source material being brought together into a “unity.” So then even if Cassuto is able to dismantle the Documentary Hypothesis, he cannot be used as support for Schuldt’s position of Mosaic authorship. Surely if Schuldt had read Cassuto she would have realized that.
Schuldt offers no actual refutation of the Documentary Hypothesis other than to recommend Cassuto’s short work on the subject. That could have been sent out as a tweet, not a long blog post. Furthermore, either Schuldt has not read Cassuto but instead has read some summary of his work in an apologetic volume20 (probable) or she has read him but misunderstood him (less probable) since she somehow believes Cassuto’s rejection of the Documentary Hypothesis is evidence for his belief in Mosaic authorship. It isn’t.
SCHULDT’S RESPONSE TO “WELLHAUSEN PROBLEMS”
In this final section we will examine Schuldt’s response to what she calls “Wellhausen problems.” These are essentially places in the Torah were adherents to the Documentary Hypothesis see evidence of different source material being edited together. She mentions three and we will deal with each in turn.
In the book of Exodus, following Moses’ flight to Egypt after he murdered an Egyptian taskmaster (Exodus 2:11-15a), we are told he settles down in Midian by a well and is met there by the daughters of a priest of Midian (2:15b-16). He assists them with their flock and when the daughters return to their father earlier than expected he asks them, “How is it that you have come back so soon today?” (2:18) They tell him that an “Egyptian” (i.e. Moses) assisted them with drawing water (2:19). This prompts the father to tell them to invite Moses to dinner with them (2:20). Moses joins them and in the course of time marries Zipporah, the daughter of the priest (2:21). The marriage results in a son being born to them, Gershom (2:22). The name of the priest in the narrative is given to us as Reuel (2:18). He appears only one other time as Moses’ father-in-law (Numbers 10:29).
The very next chapter of Exodus opens up with these words: “Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian” (3:1). Jethro’s name appears quite a few times in the book of Exodus (4:18; 18:1-2, 5-6, 9-10, 12). But this leaves us scratching our heads. In 2:18 we were told that the name of Moses’ father-in-law was Reuel. Yet here in 3:1 we are told his name was Jethro. What is going on? Let’s begin with Schuldt’s proposed solution. She writes,
The text presents two names for Zipporah’s father, Reuel and Jethro. Naturally, the conclusion is that Zipporah’s father had at least two names. The conclusion is not that the text has a contradiction. The question should be, “Can Zipporah’s father have two names?” We would have to honestly answer yes, it is possible to have two names. The text tells us that he had at least two names as they were recorded. Furthermore, is it possible to be named after a deceased relative? Yes. We know that a few generations before, one of Esau’s sons was named Reuel (Gen. 36:4, 10, 13, 17). Oddly enough, Wellhausen followers typically apply their own rules. Here, their strange rule must be “a person can only have one name,” which is not what happens in reality. Thus, the Reuel/Jethro issue is not a contradiction.
We can readily see Schuldt’s presupposition of inerrancy at work. If I were to tell you that my only neighbor’s name is Michael and then, a week or so later, I start talking about my neighbor Jim, you wouldn’t naturally come to the conclusion that my neighbor has two names. You would say, “Wait a minute! Didn’t you tell me a week ago that your neighbor’s name was Michael?” It is only if you assume that I cannot possibly be wrong about the matter that you would conclude Michael’s other name is Jim. A reasonable person would notice the contradiction and make inquiry.
A variety of proposals have been made to explain the apparent contradiction beside that which comes from the source critical analysis of the Documentary Hypothesis.21 Among critical scholars, Schuldt’s proposal is not all that common and it is certainly not convincing. The reason for this should be quite apparent. While there are instances of characters who have two names, typically the change from one name to another is permanent and for reasons explained in the text. For example, Jacob has his name changed to Israel following his wrestling with mysterious man at Peniel (Genesis 32:22-32). That story functions as an etiology both for the origin of the name “Israel” as well as why “Israelites do not eat the thigh muscle that is on the hip socket” (32:32).
We do not find any such explanation with regards to the apparent switch from Reuel to Jethro. There is nothing in the context that justifies the switch and nothing about the meaning of their names that might indicate a reason for it. So while it is possible for a character to have two names, this certainly doesn’t explain why we have two different names for Moses’ father-in-law. We should also note that Moses’ father-in-law actually has three names. In Judges 1:16 we are told that Moses’ father-in-law is “Hobab the Kenite” whose descendants are among some of the Judahites who settle in the Negeb with the Amalekites (cf. Judges 4:11). However, in Numbers 10:29 we are told that Hobab is actually Reuel’s son and therefore Moses’ brother-in-law. Does Schuldt believe that Moses’ father-in-law went by three different names? Or does she believe that Hobab is both Moses’ father-in-law and brother-in-law?
Bizarre is Schuldt’s comment regarding the possibility of Reuel being named after a deceased relative. While it is true that Esau had a son by the name of Reuel, I fail to see what bearing this has on the issue. Reuel is described as a priest of Midian and the Midianites trace their ancestry back to Abraham but not through Sarah or Hagar but through Keturah (Genesis 25:2). Esau’s lineage can be traced back to Sarah, not Hagar or Keturah. The connection between the Reuel of Esau’s lineage and the Reuel of Midian’s lineage seems very tenuous. But even if it were the case, it provides no actual explanation for the change in the text from Reuel to Jethro.
So what is the explanation under the Documentary Hypothesis? Before we answer that we need to ask another question: How does one arrive at the four sources hypothesized by the Documentary Hypothesis? This is a question that requires a lengthy explanation that cannot be offered here. To put the matter as succinctly as possible, the existence of the four sources is built not upon specific themes or terminology. Nor is it built upon the Yahweh vs. Elohim distinctions seen in various texts. Rather, the hypothesis stems from observations of narrative and plot found in the various stories of the Torah. It is only after reading the narratives, noting the historical claims they make, and observing the apparent contradictions between many of them that we can begin to tease out other details related to theme, style, and terminology.
[T]he literary analysis of the Pentateuch must begin with and be carried out on the basis of the narrative consistencies and contradictions. We cannot start with the diversity of theme or language and divide the text on these bases. The literary analysis of the Pentateuch is grounded in the basic inability to read the text as a while, and that inability is not manifested in the variety of themes or style. Our reading of the Pentateuch is not undermined by the collocation of disparate themes or by the use of different [terminology]. Instead, what makes the reading of the Pentateuch problematic is its lack of narrative flow and only by addressing this problem first and foremost can we be responding authentically to the text before us.22
Whatever Schuldt may believe about the name of Moses’ father-in-law, it is clear by reading the texts that they are contradictory. As such it undermines the narrative integrity of this particular section and gives us reason to consider whether “Reuel” was part of one tradition regarding Moses and “Jethro” was part of another. And this seems to be the most parsimonious explanation for it. There is no explicit narrative reason why Moses would claim his father-in-law’s name was Reuel and then a very short time later write his name as Jethro. And there is no implicit reason either. Generally speaking, single authors don’t change the name of specific characters without an explanation. We can rule out the notion that a single author stands behind the Reuel/Jethro contradiction.
Under the Documentary Hypothesis, the story of Exodus 2 belongs primarily to the J (Yahwist) source. Richard Elliot Friedman attributes Exodus 2:1-23a to J23 whereas Joel Baden sees only 2:11-23a as belonging to the Yahwist.24 Regardless, the name Reuel is tied into J as is its appearance in Number 10:29, another passage from J. Exodus 3:1 on the other hand belongs to the E (Elohist) source and so Jethro’s appearances is tied to it. In the only other text in Exodus wherein Jethro is mentioned (Exodus 18) the text is almost entirely from E. The narrative continuity of both J and E demonstrate the validity of this view and, consequently, bolster the notion that the differences in the names must be the result of two different traditions regarding Moses’ father-in-law rather than a single author composing the narrative without sources.
We can reject Schuldt’s contrived explanation that has no narrative explanatory power and accept the view that the two names for Moses’ father-in-law found in Exodus 2-3 are the result of the redaction of two independent traditions or sources. And since Schuldt has made no specific case against the Documentary Hypothesis on this point (perhaps because neither Wellhausen in his Prolegomena nor Cassuto in his work mention the phenomenon), there is no need at this juncture to offer a fully fleshed out exegesis that demonstrates the J and E sources present in the passages. Readers should consult the works cited in “NOTES” for more.
Adam and the Animals
We begin this section by quoting Schuldt.
In Genesis 1, an order of creation is presented in six days from the view of someone on earth, ending with the creation of Adam and Eve on the sixth day. Genesis 1 clearly says the animals were made before Adam. In Genesis 2, the chapter begins with a short summary of creation before living things were on earth. It moves into details such as when Adam named the animals (Genesis 2:19). Wellhausen followers claim that Genesis 2 contradicts Genesis 1 because Genesis 1 has Adam being created after the animals whereas they think Genesis 2 has Adam being created before the animals. However, Genesis 2:19 NEVER claims that the animals were made after Adam. Thus, Wellhausen followers read Genesis 2 incorrectly. There is no contradiction between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. Genesis 1 gives us the order of creation whereas Genesis 2 gives us details just after creation.
What she is responding to is the claim that Genesis 1 represents one version of a creation account and Genesis 2 represents another. The reason for this claim is obvious to anyone reading the text of Genesis: the two contradict one another in various ways. For our purposes we will call the story of Genesis 1:1-2:4a “Story A” and the narrative of Genesis 2:4b-2:25 “Story B.”
For example, whereas the creation story of A has the deity creating heaven and earth in six days and resting on the seventh, the story of Genesis B tells us that it all took place in a single day: “In the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens” (2:4b). Whereas Story A features the earth as a “formless void” covered by primordial water (1:2), Story B claims the earth was dry with only a stream that would rise to water the ground (2:4-6). Whereas Story A claims that vegetation sprang from the dry land on the third day before the arrival of humanity on the sixth day (1:11-12; cf. 1:26-31), Story B claims that there was no vegetation until after the arrival of humanity (2:5; cf. 2:8-9). Whereas Story A claims that humanity was formed by divine fiat (1:26-27), Story B claims that a man was formed from ground itself (2:7). Whereas Story A claims that man and woman were created simultaneously (1:27-30), Story B asserts that man was created first (2:7) and woman was created later (2:21-23). Whereas Story A asserts that animal life was created before humanity (1:24-25), Story B asserts that man was created first (2:7) and then the animals (2:19). Whereas Story A asserts that all that God made was “good” and “very good” (1:10, 12, 18, 25, 31), Story B asserts that the singleness of the created man was “not good” (2:18). Whereas Story A ends with the creation of the sabbath (2:2-3), Story B ends with an etiology about marriage and sexuality (2:23-24).
As we have already noted, the existence of sources is inferred by the narratives and “their consistencies and contradictions.” The details mentioned above create narrative problems in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. Story A and Story B simply do not fit together. So we are left with a handful of options. We can read the text and dismiss contradictions out of hand due to a prior commitment to the doctrine of inerrancy as Schuldt does. Or we see two different traditions at work here in Genesis that were preserved for us by a later editor. Let’s consider Schuldt’s solution first.
In essence, Schuldt’s solution proposes not reading the text at all. She asserts that “Genesis 2:19 NEVER claims that the animals were made after Adam.” She is right in-so-far as it never outright says, “And God made the animals after he made Adam.” But in the narrative flow of the passage the view that the animals were created after the man seems to be the one we at which we most naturally arrive. Here are the relevant verses:
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.
In the background we have already seen the creation of man from the dust of the ground (2:7) and the subsequent creation of vegetation from the ground (2:9). The creation of the man did not entail the creation of the woman and so the narrative is left to explain from where the woman came.
The author explains that the deity places man in the garden of Eden to tend to it (2:15). But he is alone, a situation that the deity deems “not good.” So the decision is made to create “a helper” (2:18). Now the story could have proceeded right to 2:21-22 and the creation of the woman but it doesn’t. So we are left to explain why it doesn’t. The intervening verses of 2:19-20 tell us why: the deity creates animals to find a suitable helper for the man (2:20). This is point of Adam’s naming the animals: it is an exercise of authority over them. And so when no suitable partner is found, the deity forms a woman from the rib of the man, and the man names her just as he did the animals (2:23).
So it is the narrative that tells us that we have two creation stories. Many of the details of the two simply do not jive. And since we’ve divided the Genesis accounts into Story A and Story B, it is possible to notice stylistic and thematic differences as well. For example, in Story A we read of how the deity created ʾādām (NRSV, “humankind”) which is cast in a plural sense and coupled with their sexual distinctiveness as zākār ûnĕqēbâ (NRSV, “male and female”). But in Story B ʾādām refers to a specific “man” as it utilizes the definite article. And rather than referring to them as “male and female” as the author of Story A had done, he refers to them as ʾîš (NRSV, “man”) and ʾšh (NRSV, “woman”) (2:23-24).25 This adds to the case that we are looking at two different creation stories.
Story A is no doubt from the P (Priestly) source and Story B is no doubt from J. There are certain themes present in each that correlate to similar passages from P and J. Schuldt may contest the existence of P and J but there is no denying that we have two different stories present in Story A (Genesis 1:1-2:4a) and Story B (Genesis 2:4b-25). Merely hand-waving as Schuldt does over the obvious contradictions between them will not rescue her from the clear-cut problems with Mosaic authorship. Only her presupposition of inerrancy can save her but only if she ignores any evidence demonstrating that such a presupposition is without warrant. Ironic for someone who has claimed to approach the Pentateuch in an unbiased manner.
Joseph, the Midianites, and the Ishmaelites
The final text that Schuldt looks at is found in Genesis 37:18-36. But before we look at that text and her commentary, let’s begin with her opening words on the subject.
I was surprised to find out how a young Wellhausen scholar from Yale University made at least four mistakes when reading the very short story of Joseph being sold and taken to Egypt (Genesis 37:18-36). This Wellhausen scholar from Yale found what he called textual difficulties, but the problem remains with his lack of understanding, as we shall see below, not in the text.
The circumlocution of “young Wellhausen scholar from Yale University” is quite obviously a reference to Joel Baden, professor of Hebrew Bible at Yale. But despite the fact that Schuldt has found problems with Baden’s approach, she never bothers to cite him. She must be referring to Baden’s The Composition of the Pentateuch but it simply does not appear in her “Sources” section. So how does she know what Baden has said on the issue? We are left only to speculate.
In Baden’s book, the sale of Joseph serves as his introduction and it takes up an entire chapter entitled “Case Study I: The Sale of Joseph, Genesis 37:18-36.”26 For the sake of time we cannot discuss in detail Baden’s argument regarding the text here. But we can highlight some of what Baden observes and how he concludes that there are inconsistencies in the narrative that indicate the presence of two sources.
In the story as we have it, Joseph has left to find his brothers per the instruction of his father Israel (Genesis 37:12-14). As he is on his approach the brothers see him and conspire to kill him (37:18). They refer to him as “this dreamer,” an allusion to the various prophetic dreams Joseph had in previous stories (37:19; cf. 37:5-11). Their plan is simple: they would kill him, throw his body into a pit, and claim a wild animal ate him (3:20). Reuben, the firstborn son of Israel, objects (37:21) and tells them not to kill but to just throw him into the pit, allowing Reuben to later rescue Joseph alive (37:22). When Joseph arrives to where his brothers were, they strip him and toss him into the pit (37:23-24).
The eleven brothers sit down to eat and when they look up the see a caravan of Ishmaelites carrying various spices and on their way to Egypt (37:25). Judah then tells his brothers that they should sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites rather than kill him since he was, after all, family (37:26-27). When some Midianites pass by, they take him out of the pit, sell him to the Ishmaelites, and Joseph is taken down to Egypt (37:28). The text then tells us that upon Reuben’s return to the pit he saw that Joseph was gone (37:29). He returns to his brothers in anguish over the turn of events at which time Joseph’s brothers take the robe that had been stripped from Joseph, dip it in the blood of a slaughtered goat, and make their way back to their father (37:30-31). They show Jacob the clothing and the patriarch immediately thinks a wild animal has eaten Joseph (37:33). Jacob goes into mourning, and despite attempts by his family to comfort him, he will not be consoled (37:34-35). The episode ends with the Midianites selling Joseph to the Egyptian official Potiphar (37:36).
Anyone reading the story should notice some difficulties, some minor and one quite major. The major difficulty in the story is the issue of from whom Potiphar purchases Joseph. According to 37:28, the Midianites remove Joseph from the pit and sell him to the Ishmaelites. Yet we are later told in 37:36 that it is the Midianites who sell Joseph to Potiphar. Then in Genesis 39:1 we are informed that Potiphar purchased Joseph from the Ishmaelites. So from whom did Potiphar purchase Joseph? The Ishmaelites (37:28; cf. 39:1) or the Midianites (37:36)? Baden considers this discrepancy in the narrative of the sort “that preclude any straightforward reading of the plot.”27
[T]he problems of this 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 his 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 from the resolution of the narrative continuity of the passage. In the introduction, I noted that there are a number of textual difficulties, some of which may be attributed to authorial choice, but the central problem of the Ishmaelites and Midianites is irresolvable in any straightforward reading of the biblical text.28
In his work, Baden spends nine pages discussing the various proposals that have been proposed in a bid to resolve the inconsistency that is the “central problem” of the text, beginning with the work of ancient interpreters like Philo and Josephus and concluding with more recent ones from W. Lee Humphreys and EJ Revell.29 The lack of consensus on an explanation as seen in the very divergent ways commentators have sought to explain the issue demonstrate that
solutions to the textual problems do not – indeed, apparently cannot – rest on the plain meaning of the passage alone. New narrative elements must be introduced, or selective appeals made to unrelated biblical passages, or novel theories of reading imposed on the text. Insofar as the plain meaning of the text in all of these cases is subordinated to an externally derived hermeneutic, these methods may all be lumped under the term “midrash.”30
By labeling those explanations “midrash” Baden is effectively placing them in the dustbin of hermenuetical history.
What is Schuldt’s response to the Ishmaelite/Midianite issue? Here is what she writes:
[T]his young Wellhausen follower [i.e. Baden] examined an alleged error at great length, an error that he called an “Ishmaelite/Medianite [sic] problem.” He claimed it is an irresolvable difference that occurs. He is confused where the text says the brothers sell Joseph to both the Midianites and Ishmaelites who sold Joseph to Potiphar (verse 25-36). As the text reads, the Midianites lifted Joseph out of the pit and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. The main problem here is that the Wellhausen scholar wanted more details about the transaction than what the text actually gives. He isn’t satisfied with the information given in the story. He speculated as to what else may have happened. He speculated several different scenarios while rejecting what the text actually presents as sufficient for the purpose of the context.
This is a fine example of the towering arrogance of cheap apologetics. She accuses Baden of being “confused where the text says the brothers sell Joseph to both the Midianites and Ishmaelites who sold Joseph to Potiphar (verse 25-36).” But Baden isn’t confused. The confusion is entirely Schuldt’s in thinking she has actually resolved the issue at hand. The text tells two different stories about Joseph’s fate. In one, Joseph is sold to Potiphar by the Ishmaelites and in the other he is sold to Potiphar by the Midianites. What does Schuldt make of this? She refuses to answer.
Schuldt makes other objections to Baden’s analysis of the narrative but since she has not provided specific references to Baden’s work via proper citation it is difficult to fully assess her argument. In fact, this is a clear sign as any that Schuldt has not actually read Baden’s work. In her brief diatribe against Baden she doesn’t begin with the core issue Baden identifies at all! Rather, she tackles the more minor issues that even Baden admits “could plausibly be attributed to authorial style.”31 Those issues only start to matter once the main difficulty surrounding the Ishmaelite/Midian problem is being addressed: “These issues can perhaps be interpreted away on a case-by-case basis, but taken together they present a challenge to any reader.”32
What can we say about Schuldt’s piece? There are perhaps three takeaways.
First, beginning with the presupposition of inerrancy and thereby dismissing contradictions is not what an honest or unbiased way of reading the Bible looks like. Setting aside the fact that “the Bible” does not claim inerrancy for itself, the presence of numerous contradictions throughout Genesis alone is enough to cast doubt upon the doctrine. An unbiased approach would at a minimum admit that there are problematic texts in the Bible including the ones mentioned above.
Second, Schuldt has shown a tendency to dismiss adherents of the Documentary Hypothesis as “confused” or having been duped.33 But what is so very telling is that Schuldt outright admits she has only spent around two months investigating the issue which is hardly enough time to come to a reasonable conclusion on it. The arrogance displayed in her approach is at once nauseating and hilarious.
Third, the belief in Mosaic authorship is simply that: a belief. The data to support the view that Moses wrote Genesis through Deuteronomy is non-existent. We are therefore left to speculate as to how the Pentateuch came together. The notion that it was a single author who penned all the words we find within the Torah such that we cannot discern any previous sources is untenable. The evidence seems to suggest the use of various sources to create the Torah through redaction.
It should go without saying that the Documentary Hypothesis is a hypothesis. We cannot be certain of its truth but we can be relatively certain that the alternative of Mosaic authorship is a pipe dream. It is probable that some other hypothesis, perhaps a modified version of the Documentary Hypothesis, will arise to replace it. Only time will tell. In the mean time, more reading of and wrestling with the biblical texts is required.
Acknowledgements: I am deeply indebted to Twitter user and blogger @bibhistctxt for both the frequent conversations we’ve had lamenting the current state of evangelical apologetics as well as contributions he’s made based upon his very impressive knowledge of the Bible and the history of the Ancient Near East. Also, I stole the title for this post – “The Towering Arrogance of Cheap Apologetics” – from a conversation he and I had on the subject.
1 Heather Schuldt, “Four Ways to Respond to Wellhausen Problems and Astruc Cuttings,” (10.28.18) Ladyapologist.com. Accessed 29 Oct 2018.
2 There is no reason offered for speaking in such terms. She acknowledges that its more traditional name is the “Documentary Hypothesis.” Perhaps she thinks by attaching the hypothesis to the somewhat dated work of Wellhausen she is better able to undermine it. Or she is simply parroting one of her professors at SES or some text she is currently reading for one of her classes.
3 See Joel Baden, The Composition of the Pentateuch: Renewing the Documentary Hypothesis (Yale University Press, 2012), 14-15.
4 For more on this, see Michael D. Coogan, The Old Testament: A Historical and Literary Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures, third edition (OUP, 2014), 196-198.
5 Technically, “post-Exilic” would include the eras of the Greco-Roman period as well. But for our purposes, it is a reference to the era of Persian domination.
6 Coogan, 439.
7 W. Sibley Towner, “Daniel, Book of,” in Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan, editors, The Oxford Companion to the Bible (OUP, 1993), 151.
8 Lidar Sapir-Hen and Erez Ben-Yosef, “The Introduction of Domestic Camels to the Southern Levant: Evidence from the Aravah Valley,” Tel Aviv (vol 40, 2013), 282-283. Accessed 29 October 2018.
9 Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman, The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts (Touchstone, 2001), 40.
10 T. Desmond Alexander, “Introduction to Genesis,” in Lane T. Dennis, executive editor, ESV Study Bible (Crossway, 2010), 39.
11 Bruce Waltke, Genesis: A Commentary (Zondervan, 2001), 28.
12 Ibid. 21-22
13 Andrew E. Hill, “Genesis,” in Andrew E. Hill and John H. Walton, A Survey of the Old Testament, second edition (Zondervan, 2000), 64.
14 Waltke, 24. Waltke thinks that Moses was the author of the J (Yahwist) source and that he also used other materials, including material traditionally attributed to P (Priestly) as well as elements associated with D to create “Ur-Genesis.” See Waltke, 27-28.
15 John H. Hayes, “Moses,” in Metzger and Coogen, 530.
16 For example, in the birth legend of the third millennium BCE Sargon of Akkad we read that not only did his mother, a priestess (cf. Exodus 2:1), give birth to him secretly (cf. Exodus 2:2), she then placed him in a reed basket and placed him in the river (cf. Exodus 2:3). The infant Sargon is discovered by Akki, a gardener in the royal house (cf. Exodus 2:5) and is raised in the royal household (cf. Exodus 2:6-10) and becomes a great ruler. The birth legend of Sargon functions as an apologetic work, demonstrating that Sargon does have the right to rule because he was adopted to be part of the royal house and was chosen by the goddess Ishtar. See Victor H. Matthews and Don C. Benjamin, Old Testament Parallels: Laws and Stories from the Ancient Near East, third edition (Paulist Press, 2006), 89-90.
17 For more see @bibhistctxt, “Israelite Origins: Late Date Exodus,” (10.25.18) Biblicalhistoricalcontext.com. Accessed 30 Oct 2018.
18 Umberto Moshe David Cassuto, The Documentary Hypothesis [E-Book], Israel Abrahams, translator (Vadra Books, 2005), Kindle location 1931-1941.
19 Ibid., Kindle location 1960.
20 For example, in their book Evidence That Demands a Verdict, apologists Josh and Sean McDowell summarize Cassuto’s main arguments against the Documentary Hypothesis, writing that “[a]lthough now several decades old, an analysis by Umberto Cassuto…summarizes arguments against the documentary hypothesis. His arguments remain apropos, capturing many of the scholarly challenges to the documentary hypothesis” (Josh and Sean McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict [Thomas Nelson, 2017], 542. See in particular 542-544 in that volume.
21 See John I. Durham, Exodus, WBC vol. 3 (Zondervan, 1987), 22. After briefly surveying some of the proposed solutions, Durham concludes,
None of these solutions is entirely satisfactory, and we are thus left with an unexplained confusion in the transmission of the name of Moses’ father-in-law…though with no doubt about his priestly role. The name most frequently given to him is Jethro. Indeed, apart from v 18 here, Jethro is the sole name assigned him in the Book of Exodus. (22)
22 Baden, 30.
23 Richard Elliot Friedman, The Bible With Sources Revealed: A New View Into the Five Books of Moses (HarperOne, 2003), 120-121.
24 Baden, 74.
25 For more on this, see Steven DiMattei, Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate: Being Honest to the Text, Its Author, and His Beliefs (Wipf & Stock, 2016), 43-63.
26 Baden, 1-12, 34-44.
27 Ibid., 3.
28 Ibid., 34.
29 Ibid., 4-12.
30 Ibid., 12.
31 Ibid., 3.
33 Case in point, here is Schuldt telling fellow pop-apologist SJ Thomason that Christine Hayes, professor of religious studies at Yale University, has been “fooled by the Wellhausen lie.”
Featured image: Wikimedia Commons.