4 More Critiques of the JEDP Theory/Documentary Hypothesis
By Luke Lancaster
See this article for a description of the JEDP theory and see this article for the previous two critiques I listed of the JEDP theory. Here's four more that I've compiled from various sources.
1. JEDP theorists often look upon the Bible with radical skepticism - that is - through an agnostic (liberal) lens. The first main issue with wearing such a lens is that it takes the Bible out of its original environment. They attempt to analyze the Bible as if it were a secular book to dissect, and that is a problem, for it removes the Bible from its intended context. The Bible was intended to be read in the background of the liturgy, just as a fish needs to live in water. Take the fish out of water and put it under a microscope, then you’ll have a warped understanding of the fish. For such theorists, anything supernatural (i.e. miraculous), where God intervenes in the world, is absolutely impossible. But if God did something miraculous, then that should at least be considered, rather than exempted from the possibilities. See this explained in Hahn and Wiker’s book, “The Decline and Fall of Sacred Scripture: How the Bible Became a Secular Book.”
The second issue with such a lens is that the JEDP theory seems to be just a fruit of denying the inspiration of Scripture. For their agnostic lens would naturally assume that the Pentateuch was a mythological book that was invented by later centuries. JEDP theorists have no faith, and they seemingly justify their lack of faith by claiming that the Pentateuch had multiple sources that were invented. If the stories were invented by later generations, then this encourages such scholars to deny the inspiration of the Pentateuch.
The third issue with their agnostic lens is that it makes their theory more subjective, rather than objective. This can be seen in their secular opinions about worldly power -which they transfer onto the biblical text. The logic for them is, if everything in the world is about power, then surely the Pentateuch originated that way as well. Notice how this takes place in the supposed P source, for theorists claim that this source was just the Jewish priests attempting to control people. Not only is this anti-faith but anti-Catholic, for Catholicism has priests. The liberal Protestant JEDP theorists have let their bias against Catholicism affect their theories. This undercuts their JEDP theory. If Catholics find weight in the JEDP theory, then they need to take the atheistic goggles off.
Finally, an agnostic lens naturally leads one to ignore the central focus of the Pentateuch. That central focus is the covenant between God and man. God’s loving covenants with mankind detail God’s search for man and man’s response to that search. God sought out Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses to be in relationship with them. This led to men living in communion with God. Such a covenantal backdrop should enlighten readers of the five books of Moses in understanding God’s historic relationship with the nation of Israel, and it should encourage them in their relationship with God. Yet JEDP theorists have no interest in that. They read the text as a secular book and that misses the point of the text.
2. When JEDP theorists argue for different sources in the Pentateuch, they overlook other possibilities. They bring up the differing names used for God, such as Yahweh or Elohim, or the differing names used for the mountain that Moses spoke with God, such as Sinai vs. Horeb, and conclude that there are different sources. Yet these names might not have been from different sources, rather, the biblical author may have varied which name he or she chose. Multiple names were potentially utilized because of the context in which the name was used and the specific intention of the author. Some variation does not necessarily lead to multiple sources. To divide up new sources over this might lead somebody to divide up writings that were originally authored by one person.
A few scholars have argued just that. The Jewish scholar Umberto Cassuto argued that there was a reason for the switching of Divine names in his book, “The Documentary Hypothesis.” Old Testament scholar G. Charles Aalders argued that the differing names is not a good argument for multiple sources, for the Greek translation of the Pentateuch (LXX) sometimes uses the opposite name that the Hebrew uses, or it lists both names. This can be seen here. The LXX version of the Pentateuch was written much earlier than the Hebrew Masoretic texts, yet JEDP theorists seem to ignore it. Such theorists are elevating the Hebrew (MT) over the Greek (LXX). This implies that JEDP theorists are at least sometimes creating source divisions when there were none to begin with. Such a failure by JEDP theorists to reckon with the LXX Greek translation greatly undercuts their arguments about different sources. See Aalders’s book, “A Short Introduction to the Pentateuch.”
3. This speculative JEDP theory has been concocted in the minds of scholars, and because of this, it easily leads to eisegesis – reading one’s own ideas into the text. For instance, this theory assumes that Israel’s religion started like how Protestants envision the beginning of Christianity. They say that it was without priests and ceremonies, and only later was corrupted by the priesthood, sacrifices, and Temple. Such an assumption sounds like the mindset of the original, liberal Protestant JEDP theorists! They seem to be projecting their liberal Protestant religious beliefs onto the text, rather than a true explanation of those texts. For to them, Christ’s true religion was simple and lay-led, and only later on became corrupted with Catholicism’s priesthood, sacrifices, and ceremonies. This is eisegesis. Not only that, but the eisegesis isn’t even true. Christ’s original religious members called their worship a sacrifice, and her leaders were compared to priests (such as Moses and Aaron). Because of this, Catholics need to be wary of this when considering the JEDP theory, for it only exists in the imaginations of scholars.
4. The JEDP theory relies on circular reasoning according to Dr. Michael Heiser. To give an example of this, consider how the theorists attempt to divide the story of Noah's ark from Genesis 6-9 into two stories. They say that there has to be two stories because of the different vocabulary, most notable of which are the two Divine names used: Yahweh and Elohim. The J source used the name of Yahweh, and the P source used the name of Elohim. The P source focused on priestly things (ex. sacrifice), dates, numbers, and measurements, whereas J did not. Yet, as Dr. Michael Heiser has shown in this blog post of his, J focuses on dates and numbers (Gen 7:3-4, 10, 12, 17; 8:6, 12) and priestly things (Gen 7:2; 8:20). That is a contradiction, for if J exists because it does not mention those things, then how can one say that it exists as a separate source? The P source was created to account for the emphasis on dates, numbers, and priestly things. Such JEDP theorists would explain this away by claiming that a redactor synthesized J and P together, but that is circular reasoning. It assumes what one needs to prove.