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Composition of the Pentateuch and the Church's perspectives of Scripture

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On 2/18/2023 at 10:35 AM, Nevo said:

A good hypothesis has explanatory force, and the hypothetical Q source still offers that, even if questions remain about its social location, theology, precise wording, and extent.

I don't dispute it, and Weaks doesn't take his case to disprove Q. Neither do I. We just can't be very sure about what it says. 

But I do worry about our reconstructions of other derived sources...which is rather relevant for the Pentateuchal debate. We can posit the existence of P, non-P, D, etc., But I think we can't say much about their character or derive portraits of the theologies of their authors muche beyond individual proof-texts, and I think that is a temptation in academic Bible studies.

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I wanted to add a little bit more to the original discussion about the Documentary Hypothesis.

First, we live in a time where documents abound. The Book of Mormon is fascinating in a sense because we have at least partial copies of every edition produced. We have enough copies of the first printed edition to be able to determine that some of the orthographic errors in it were corrected even during the printing process. And from this we have created a critical edition which shows every known variant (and we have researchers like Skousen who are willing to pass judgment on most of these variants to assert which reading is more 'original'). The D&C is even more fascinating because the texts in it are often constructed from multiple earlier sources - the texts are at times redacted. And a variety of changes are made for different reasons. We can see in the historical record of these texts how change in texts occurs, and what the before and after actually look like. This kind of history allows us to accept quite a bit of the evidences that are put forward in the criticism used by the Documentary Hypothesis. That changes could and would be made seems eminently reasonable.

That being said, much of the original documentary hypothesis is gone. The prioritization of specific vocabulary as the most important indicator of a textual strand has taken a back seat to a more nuanced view reflecting a more narrative approach to the text. Texts are aligned with other texts that share the same historical narratives. Narrative has taken a larger role than the other (still important) categories of vocabulary, style, or theology. This is a natural development as our own way of understanding texts has changed (improved?) over the decades since the DH was first offered. A second important point (and this is again related to narrative) is that we are now more concerned with the narratives of the text than we are with the development of Israelite religion. Wellhousen was interested in describing the historical development (evolution) of the religion - but the text is really incapable of providing that to us. Current treatments of the DH tend to ignore the historical aspect of the original DH entirely and focus on the literary questions. A third issue relates to that second issue. In largely abandoning the historical question that Wellhousen was committed to, we have stopped being overly worried about trying to date the sources (in anything but a relative fashion). We are less concerned about when the stages were written and more concerned about when they were added. One of the more recent treatments that I like describes it like this (p. 247): "if all four were written within twenty years of each other, the literary evidence would not change." A fourth issue is this - with the growth of the original DH, there was this increasing effort to identify textual strands within the different sources - to create hypothetical sources to the hypothetical sources. This is seen less and less - current work is satisfied with discussing how the current text came to be, and is less interested in creating an endless stream of sources (this is partly due to the shift towards narrative - when you break things into small enough pieces, there is no narrative left - only sometimes interesting facts and phrases). And with all of this too, we stop worrying about an endless stream of redactors. This, of course, means we aren't dealing with the DH at all - rather with a more grounded approach to the text that works primarily through narrative and tends to agree in many places with the earlier DH. But, it remains deeply indebted to the DH. I am certainly comfortable with at least some of the scholarship I encounter (not that my stamp of approval means a whole lot).

A couple of other recommendations (other than the one I linked above) I have for those interested in this topic (these are not for beginners) -

The Formation of the Pentateuch (One of the things that really made me get a copy of this one was its introduction, which details the three main schools of study - European, American and Israeli - and their different approaches to and use of the classical DH).

Paradigm Change in Pentateuchal Research (There is a lot of stuff here - I don't think anyone would agree with most of these different contributions - which is part of what makes this volume interesting - sometimes books that we argue with are really more educational than those we don't - or can't).

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