Thursday, June 29, 2017

JEDP questioned. . .

For the past century, most Old Testament scholarship has been dominated one major theory, Documentary Hypothesis, which is best known for the idea that the Old Testament is in reality an amalgamation of four editors, namely the Yahwist, the Elohist, Deuteronomist and the Priestly -- usually know simply as JEDP.  Inherent in this theory is the idea is that the oldest parts of ld Testament (J) were compiled during an early period of Hebrew polytheism, later combined with other accounts (E). Much later, under the influence of the Israelite prophets and their strict monotheistic preaching, the sacred books were edited to remove embarrassing material dated to the earlier time and redact the text to adopt the theology of the late kingdom period, the D documents. Finally, after the period of the Exile, and under the influence of the priestly revival under Ezra, the liturgical elements of the Old Testament (such as the Book of Leviticus) were added in the so-called P accretions. The end result is an Old Testament that is seen as an incoherent mishmash of different theologies, even different names of God, that dates to a much later time than the material itself presents.

If the central theory that the bulk of the OT material is post-exilic is allowed, then that material is legend and myth more than real history and its portrayal of figures like Moses or David to be literally made up and not factual or historical.  The conventional wisdom of this theory is that pre-exilic Israel was not monotheistic and was functionally incapable of such complex prose such as Genesis or Psalms represent.  According to the Documentary Hypothesis theory, this literary culture was not Israels but was borrowed from other cultures more advanced, from the culture of Mesopotamia.  

When a set of ostraca was discovered in the Negev, the assumptions underlying the Documentary Hypothesis theory were called into question. Ostraca are simply shards of pottery used to jot down notes -- essentially scrap paper.  These ostraca were unearthed at Tel Arad, a fortress city in southern Judea on the border of the Negev. Although Tel Arad predates ancient Israel, it was used as a fortress during the reigns of David and Solomon. It was expanded and eventually used even in the Roman period when it was finally abandoned. Many artifacts recovered from Tel Arad, including these ostraca, date from 850-600 BC, during the time of Elijah and Elisha, as well as Isaiah and Jeremiah.

Though discovered in the 1960s, they were largely unreadable until modern technology creating imaging software allowed archaeologists to more accurately reconstruct the text of the ostraca. What was found conflicts with the basic assumptions of the Documentary Hypothesis.  Reconstructed Hebrew letters revealed a surprising level of literacy among the Israelites of the period. While most of the ostraca were about military subjects, others preserved priestly details proving a level of literacy even for the average ordinary Israelite.  If a culture had literacy so deeply embedded to such a common level, it casts doubt on the need for or the reality of literary borrowing by the Israelites from the Babylonians.  It gives evidence of an independent literary tradition that adds credence to the text of the OT as real history.

Source: The Times of Israel, "New look at ancient shards suggests Bible even older than thought", Tamar Pileggi (Apr 12, 20016).

Once again Dr. Paul Maier is proven correct.  The more we excavate and find archeological clues to the past, the better the history of the Bible looks in comparison.


Carl Vehse said...

Here's the link to The Times of Israel April 13, 2016, article, "New look at ancient shards suggests Bible even older than thought," by Tamar Pileggi and AP, April 12, 2016.

The article reports on archaeological findings published in "Algorithmic handwriting analysis of Judah’s military correspondence sheds light on composition of biblical texts" by Shira Faigenbaum-Golovin, Arie Shaus, Barak Sober, David Levin, Nadav Na’aman, Benjamin Sass, Eli Turkel, Eli Piasetzky, and Israel Finkelstein, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, vol. 113 no. 17, April, 2016, 4664–4669.

Another news article reporting on the archaeological findings is "Parts of Bible Were Written in First Temple Period, Say Archaeologists" by Ariel David, Apr 11, 2016.

Ted Badje said...

It is great to see archeology refute the presupposition of modern scholars. In my public high school, the History teacher often talked about JEDP.

Anonymous said...

Published on Apr 18, 2017

This presentation by Gioacchino Michael Cascione, author of “Repetition in the Bible,” refutes the claims of the Documentary Hypothesis by demonstrating the presence of three Hebraic meters in the Pentateuch as identified by renowned Hebrew scholar Umberto Cassuto. Hebraic meter in the text compared to color coding of the JEPD sources proves the Pentateuch was written by one author, who says his name is Moses. See also “JEPD Refuted with Repetition in the Bible in 3 Minutes” and “JEPD Refuted in 7 Minutes with Repetition in the Bible,” and an even longer version titled “Repetition in the Bible vs JEPD, the Documentary Hypothesis.”

“Repetition in the Bible” is available at Amazon, Northwestern Publishing, and For more information on eBooks, and “In Search of the Biblical Order,” also by Cascione, visit RedeemerPress.Org or contact