[b-hebrew] Wellhausen JEPD Theory re Patriarchal Narratives

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Sun Dec 23 08:39:14 EST 2007

On Dec 23, 2007 8:26 AM,  wrote:
> > Your previous statement on the subject: "It is nice to see that many
> > people on this
> > b-Hebrew list do not accept the majority view of today's secular
> > academic scholars
> > that the Patriarchal narratives are a myth created by multiple
> > southern Hebrew authors
> > in the mid-1st millennium BCE," was more reasonable.  Take out
> > "southern", "mid-",
> > "secular", and replace "are a myth" by "were", and you have an
> > accurate statement.
> > ................
> > Yitzhak Sapir
> Dear Yitzhak,
> Thus, the accurate statement should be, according to you:
> "The Patriarchal narratives were created by multiple Hebrew authors in
> the 1st millennium BCE."

The correct statement which I feel Jim Stinehart would have been justified
posting is:
"It is nice to see that many people on this b-Hebrew list do not accept the
majority view of today's academic scholars that the Patriarchal narratives were
created by multiple Hebrew authors in the 1st millennium BCE."

> What really troubles me in this "accurate" -- and correct? --
> according to you claim, is the term "created". Why not just to say
> "were written down»?

Because that is not the view of the today's academic scholars.

> My proposal does not reflect my opinion on the subject, but it is
> still looks sufficiently reasonable for me and potentially amendable
> for corrections, in the case of new discoveries, to be passed by
> without too much objections.

The issue is not "new discoveries."  The issue is current discoveries.
It's not that evidence is lacking.  It's that there is evidence to the

> It is just because the authoritative majority of learned Jewish
> "academics" of this early epoch, to which even the Documentary
> Hypothesis is obliged to assign the "creation" of the narratives in
> question, were deeply religious people, for whom "the spirit" and "the
> letter" were not yet divorced, or worse still, for whom "the spirit"
> was nonexistent and only "the letter" was real, as to many of us, that
> we can be absolutely sure that these academics(whom I admire for their
> scientific and spiritual perseverance in the time when all books were
> written and when wars were destroying libraries forever) have written
> down something known to even children for many centuries with the most
> great accuracy. Oral precedes written and the written, in its
> beginnings, faithfully reproduces the oral (see, for example, the
> articles of Frank Polak, of the Tel Aviv University).

Let me respond to this by saying that it took me quite a while to figure
out what you're trying to say here.  It seems to suggest that the texts
were written down and copied accurately, and that the written tradition
faithfully reproduces the oral received tradition.   You quote Frank Polak
on the subject, and it seems one main article of his that deals with oral
vs written is available here:
But if you read Polak's essay you'll see that even he accepts the Documentary
Hypothesis, and that his theory is about discerning which elements were written
earlier in the 1st millennium and which later.  (You'll note that this
issue is one
of the comments I made to Jim Stinehart).  Furthermore, when he discusses
"oral," he explicitly claims that "this thesis is not intended to mean that this
corpus itself was oral." (p 102, p. 44 in the pdf).  I'll also point
out that the
discussion which concludes that late 9th century BCE Mesha stele must
indicate that certain sources must have been composed prior to the Mesha
stele is probably to be challenged on various grounds including: 1) Moabite
literary development must be distinguished from Samarian and Judean literary
development, 2) his central thesis that simpler constructions date earlier needs
to be tested against attested evidence, and if attested evidence indicates that
already the earliest attestation is complex, then the basic conclusion must be
that perhaps simpler and complex constructions can coexist.  Finally, Frank
Polak's position on the issue must be considered the most conservative end
of the academic spectrum.

> This said, personally, I do believe ? for historical, psychological,
> and, yes, spiritual reasons outlined above (which does not mean
> ?fundamentalist? and even "religious", as this word is spelled out by
> unbelievers, -- your original unfortunate, discriminatory terms which
> have the potential to destroy the very climate of the academic
> objectivity that you are so much promoting) -- that the Patriarchal
> Narratives were written down much earlier than the 1st Millennium BC.

You may want to go back to the message to which I responded where the
original poster used terms much harsher than "fundamentalist."
however, has a specific meaning and it was also the self-adopted name of
a particular group of people, historically.  As such, it refers to a person who
adheres strongly to a set of basic beliefs such as the infallibility
of the Bible
and Mosaic authorship.  Primarly, the fundamentalist movement rejected the
Documentary Hypothesis along these lines.  I don't see any problem then in
using "fundamentalist" in this context, and I think it is very
appropriate.  Your
personal conclusions are yours, but I stand by my original statement that given
what we know today, the archaeological evidence does not support an earlier
date.  Again, I recommend the book by Finkelstein and Mazar.

Yitzhak Sapir

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