[b-hebrew] Wellhausen

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Fri Jan 11 07:30:34 EST 2008

On Jan 10, 2008 3:07 PM, Brian Roberts wrote:

> Having read "Who Wrote the Bible?", I found it to be a plain-spoken
> explanation of Friedman's take on DH. Was I convinced? No. There still seem
> to be far too many intellectual hoops to jump through in order to accept the
> theory. It was entertaining and stimulating nonetheless.
> You've also presented one scholar's characterization of DH in 1889. It's
> without context.
> When I spoke of DH being passed on from teacher to student as much as in
> peer review, I was referring to the German scholars largely, among whom the
> idea took early, and grew quickly. German theology does not by any stretch
> constitute the prevailing view of all of biblical theology. It may be more
> accurate to state it was the prevailing view of source and form critics.
> Most of the vocal scholars I've read still hold to the ANCIENT (1670)
> suggestion by Spinoza that Ezra wrote the Pentateuch, but has 338 years
> provided proof for this notion? Even the most ardent supporters of DH cannot
> confidently say yes. So, what does that mean about the science behind the
> suggestion? How scientific are the idlest of musings of even the most
> influential of philosophers, after 338 years of never having been proven?
> Spinoza's own ideology is clear, having been derived from his own education
> and naturalist bent.

There are all kinds of issues in the above.  I don't know why a "naturalistic
bent" is a problem.  If you mean by that that the DH presupposes a line of
development where a deity is absent, then this is by no means the only
interpretation of the DH.  My reading of Mishnaic passages even suggests
that up to and including the Mishnaic passages, belief in Mosaic authorship
was not required.  Rabbi Breuer's interpretation of the DH also integrated the
role of a deity.  In general, a theory which allows for naturalistic
will be less prone to depend on things that cannot be proven than theories
who offer divine interpretations and explain some issues because "God made
it that way, and we can't understand why."  I've described the ways I think that
a theory should be analyzed -- including a personal attempt to remove any
flaws you feel may still exist.  It seems you did that for the DH and as such,
I think you are in a better position than others in this list whose approach to
the DH is largely based on preconceived notions and perhaps not even any
work that was authored by a modern proponent of the DH.  I do not know why
this scholar's description of the DH is without context.  You are offering an
interpretation of history, and I'm wondering what is the evidence for this
interpretation of the history of the study of the DH.  It is within this context
that I pointed out this scholars' description of the DH.  What evidence do you
have to show to show that your interpretation -- that the DH slowly diffused
primarily from teacher to student as much as (and originally "if not more than")
peer-review (which I take to mean, by convincing others who read the theory
independently).  If one looks up Prof. Charles Mead, who apparently argued
against this theory, one sees that he apparently even reanalyzed the book of
Romans as a composite to argue that any book can be broken up as a
composite.  The context must be a live discussion in scholarship about the
theory and its viability.  The students who were privy to this discussion
apparently opted to accept it, in light of the arguments pro and con.  This is
a much different picture than that you have presented -- so what evidence do
you have to show to suggest that your historical sketch of the DH scholarship
is correct?  Finally, the arguments for the authorship of the Pentateuch by
Ezra or otherwise by a post-exilic source are varied.  In general, today, one
has to take into account the fact that the spelling of the Torah is definitely
post-exilic, and the language is also different in some subtle ways.  While one
may argue that only the spelling was modernized, such modernization of
spelling rarely happens in modern times without more substantial revisions to
the text itself and so it is hard to expect that in ancient times there was no
such revision to the text and more reason to suspect that it was indeed the
case.  As for your claims of Egyptian origins of certain portions of the
Pentateuch, I doubt I would be convinced, but if it relates to the origin of
Biblical passages, I don't see why it shouldn't be discussed on-list.  It
may even be more pertinent than other discussions of the origins of
certain Pentateuchal passages that have been taking place on the list
recently.  (Your point of view may be that those as yours are better
discussed off-list, in which case I may even agree and respect this
position, but I don't feel inclined to discuss it off-list).

Yitzhak Sapir

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