Who has written the Pentateuch:The Watchtower and the Documentary's theory

by chasson 17 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • chasson

    In the french's version of Awake April 22, 2004, there is an article called " Who has written the Pentateuch ?"

    Here is my comments concerning this article in French:

    edited to make link clickable ~ Scully

  • Narkissos

    I found Charles Chasson's article quite interesting.

    The Awake! writers seem to have followed many fundamentalist semi-scholars in interpreting the recent collapse of the documentary theory as a confirmation of their belief (i.e. Moses as the author of Pentateuch) when actually it resulted in making the whole Torah younger by several centuries.

    But I have not seen the original Awake! article. Could someone post it for discussion?

  • City Fan
    City Fan


    Do you have any web links or books I could read about this 'collapse'.


    (And I've just lent my 'Who wrote the bible' by Friedman to an ex-JW friend!)

  • chasson

    Hi city Fan,

    It seems that in english, the book of Blenkinsopp called "The Pentateuch" is a reference concerning the recent collapse of the documentary theory. This collapse has started in the seventies.



  • Room 215
    Room 215

    Farkel's thread ``Down to this day" is relevant here:


  • Narkissos

    City Fan:

    Most of the scholars involved are listed here (for further research):


  • City Fan
    City Fan

    Chasson, Narkissos

    Thanks, I'll have a look at those!


  • Narkissos

    To put things as simply as possible, the shift in perspective came with the increased realization that old written documents were almost never handed down without being rewritten (no, or very little "cut and paste" back then). Of course this rewriting could be more or less careful, consistent, etc. (the less consistent the rewriting, the clearer the pre-history of the text)

    As a result, it is generally impossible to retrieve older (oral or even written) "documents" by jigsawing the extant text, on a horizontal plane as it were, as if we could separate an original piece of J from an original piece of P, both being just put aside unchanged. In many cases they cannot even be dug out as strata in the infrastructure of the text, according to a vertical, archaeological metaphor. They are rather woven into the very fabric of the text (to recall Derrida's textual/textile pun).

    The result of this analysis is that most of the Torah is not a patchwork of recent and old texts, but a globally recent (post-exilic) text including some pretty old threads (traditions or other written stories which are lost as such).

  • Leolaia

    What analogy could be made to the second and third century gospel harmonies such as the Diatessaron? In this instance, there can be no doubt that these are based on actual written documents because the original documents (or rather, various recensions of the documents) have survived. Yet there is a strong element of rewriting in the case of multiple tradition, with phrases taken from one source or another in order to produce a new text that contains elements of each. But when it comes to stories or logia that are found only in a single source, the harmonizer tends to "cut and paste" these relatively unchanged for the sake of inclusiveness (while omitting those stories that conflict with the prejudices of the redactor). I could envision a similar situation faced by the post-exilic redactor of the Pentateuch when faced several related but distinct national epics of primeval, patriarchal, and salvation history. In comparing the two situations, the frequent number of doublets in the Pentateuch suggests to me that the redactor was less interested in harmonizing conflicting stories than in letting them stand as separate, distinct episodes in the text. I agree that "cutting up the text" cannot restore the Ur-text of the underlying source documents, but I believe that it does produce blocks of text where the probability is very high that the current text reflects one source document more than the others. The language and style between J and P, in particular, is so distinct that I have no doubt that they represent originally separate literary traditions, though the original form of those traditions may be irrecoverable. I think the main flaw of earlier documentary theory is that it was too deterministic and did not approach the question from a probabilistic point of view, as well as relegating the role of redaction and rewriting to glosses and ignoring the pre-textual role of oral tradition (which I think explains quite nicely the J1 and J2 "strands" within the purported J document).

  • Narkissos

    Leolaia, the parallel with the writing and rewriting is very interesting indeed.

    The word rewriting can cover a variety of literary acts, from the plain copy of a text with a few introductory, explanatory or transitional comments (what we used to call "redactional") to the complete remodeling of a tradition. Many factors come into the picture, such as the degree of sacralization of the text/tradition, the understanding and skills of the rewriter, his ideological agreement or disagreement (sometimes embarrassment) with his sources.

    Many extant texts, such as the Flood story as it now stands, bear the mark of a difficult struggle with contradictory sources. Many doublets IMO show successive kinds of rewritings -- some rewriters feeling free to modify the story and adapt it to another context and others feeling obliged to rearrange the material superficially because of the necessity of the mega-history (cf. pre- and post-Flood, pre- and post-Conquest, pre- and post-Monarchy doublets). We may call the former "authors" and the latter "editors", but there is no clear border between these categories.

    Nobody, I think, would seriously say that the Pentateuch is a completely fresh post-Exilic invention. There were textual constraints (which includes both oral and written material) upstream of the post-Exilic writing. Nobody would say that the post-Exilic (re-)writing is the work of one source either. There is a huge difference between "J" and "P" as to form and content. However, this may well have occurred within the frame of post-Exilic (or at least post-Deuteronomistic) Judaism. What seems to have collapsed in present scholarship is the certainty that "'J' is older" (not to mention "E", which seems to be almost forgotten as a distinct "document").

    I'm still curious to see what the 4.22.04 issue Awake! makes of this ongoing debate. Can somebody please post the article? Or has it been discussed earlier on JWD?

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