There is one issue, however, that has recently been discussed here on the boards where he and I do not see eye to eye. And I'm OK that he's wrong. I still love him and wanted to share my views on a couple of interesting points that he raised.
And here I have to part company a bit with Bill. While I agree that it is good to be somewhat skeptical of literary theories that explain the origins of the Pentateuch, we actually do have important empirical evidence to support the Documentary Hypothesis. The foundation of the Documentary Hypothesis rests upon the attestation of unnecessary repetition and doublets or duplicated stories within the book of Genesis. Examples of these doublets would include the two accounts of creation in the first and second chapters of Genesis, and the two accounts of Sarah being taken by a foreign king; etc. (Gen.12 and Gen.20).
We actually have empirical examples that various biblical texts were preserved in duplicate forms such as doubly transmitted psalms and the revision of Samuel-Kings in 1-2 Chronicles. These sources illustrate that independent and separate versions of biblical sources existed in ancient Israel and were the product of scribal tradition. Moreover, using ancient Mesopotamian scribal work as a comparative guide, we actually have important empirical models of Near Eastern texts not only growing with time, but of scribes amalgamating separate sources to produce a new literary work in the manner theorized by source critics for the production of the Pentateuch.
For an introduction to the type of empirical evidence that exists for source criticism in the Hebrew Bible, I would recommend the book Empirical Models for Biblical Criticism edited by Jeffrey Tigay.
As witnessed through the various new models that have come forth in recent years, the issue of biblical critical theory is not simply a matter of parroting the current orthodoxy. The problem is that biblical texts have a number of distinct textual indications that they constitute an amalgamated collection. One would be hard pressed to find any biblical scholars who would deny the fact that there are separate sources, for example, in the book of Genesis. What happens with scholars is not simply a parroting, for example, of the Documentary Hypothesis. Instead, each scholar, especially when they begin their studies, tries to make sense of the evidence, and he or she is only able to do so time and time again by adopting some form of higher criticism to explain theological discrepancies, shifting in genre, and doublets; not to mention vocabulary differences, etc.
Here I also have to take issue with Bill, for in reality, the Documentary Hypothesis is quite demonstrable as a working model for the production of the text; see, for example, Richard Elliot Freedman's The Bible with its Sources Revealed. Though continental scholars have in recent years adopted a supplementary or fragmentary model rather than a “documentary” view, one would be hard pressed to find a single biblical scholar who did not accept the fact that the Pentateuch is an amalgamated work, written by different scribes, with oftentimes differing historical/religious views.
Though there are obviously different points of views on some of the details, the basic model for source criticism in the Hebrew Bible has withstood serious academic scrutiny for over 150 years. If there is a major shake-up, it will be a refinement, not abandonment.
I agree. The Book of Mormon itself is an edited compilation of various sources.
That’s true. There are differences in opinion in how the various biblical sources relate to one another and when, historically, they were produced. However, there are some compelling observations that have just come forth in recent years.
It’s a balancing act. While I would agree that there’s no need to know how the Bible developed historically to draw inspiration from the text, if one wishes to understand the text itself, both a diachronic and a synchronic reading are necessary.
I would simply argue that one cannot truly understand the text and its meaning without recognizing its separate voices. In this sense, both a synchronic and a diachronic reading are necessary. Perhaps I can illustrate this point by sharing the following article. I trust that this will not make Dan uncomfortable, since this has been a widely publicized matter; and I’ve made my own view more than clear. But let’s use this recent event to illustrate how important it is to deal with higher criticism in order to understand the text and its meaning.
In terms of the Pentateuch, we are dealing with a very complicated lengthy work that shows clear signs for being an amalgamated collection, reflective of the empirical evidence for scribal efforts in the ancient Near East. In many ways, reading the Pentateuch is like reading the following essay. It’s an amalgamation of three separate texts that narrate the same event. Here are my questions:
Can you dissect the various sources?
What evidence is there as you read that you’re dealing with three separate versions of these events, rather than a single article written by one person?
In what way can identifying these separate sources help the reader make sense of the present text and its meaning?
If you ignore the fact that there are separate sources in this essay, can you understand the text and its meaning:
The Firing of Dan Peterson
As this “Mormon moment” continues to ratchet up public scrutiny of the LDS Church, Mormon apologists are assessing the best way to shield the faith: Play offense or stick to defense? Last week, the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at Brigham Young University fired Daniel Peterson, who served as editor of the Mormon Studies Review since its founding 23 years ago. The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship is continually striving to align its work with the academy's highest objectives and standards, as befits an organized research unit at Brigham Young University. Our areas of endeavor include the study of LDS scripture and other religious texts and related fields of religious scholarship, including the burgeoning field of Mormon studies.
To better serve these goals, last year we renamed our venerable FARMS Review to Mormon Studies Review.
Peterson, a recognized expert on Islamic and Arabic studies and a weekly columnist for the LDS Church-owned Deseret News, remains employed at BYU and as the editor of the Middle Eastern Texts Initiative. Since it has now been publicly announced, I suppose that I can break the self-imposed public silence that I’ve maintained, with only a couple of minor exceptions, regarding my dismissal as editor of the Mormon Studies Review, published by Brigham Young University’s Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, after founding it and directing it for twenty-three years.
I regard this as an utterly wrongheaded and disastrous decision, and will not pretend to support it, he wrote in an email to Bradford and copied to several of his friends. It’s a betrayal of Elder Maxwell [the late Mormon apostle], who explicitly approved of what we were doing. In 1998, FARMS was brought into BYU under the umbrella of the Maxwell Institute, and the Mormon Studies Review came with it. Review writers responded to critics’ allegations by dissecting their arguments — and motives — sometimes writing scathing and often personal attacks on those who challenged LDS origins.
It was, they believed, the essence of apologetics. It’s scarcely a secret that I haven’t received my dismissal enthusiastically. Thanks to somebody’s leak of two emails, this has already been all over the Web and I’m told it will soon appear, without my participation or involvement, in the mainstream media. We have not yet set a launch date for the new Review, but we will post further developments on our website as they occur.
Edited by David Bokovoy, 01 July 2012 - 03:11 PM.