lethargic_man: "Happy the person that finds wisdom, and the person that gets understanding."—Prov. 3:13. Icon by Tamara Rigg (limmud)
[personal profile] lethargic_man

I had a lot to blog about this week's sedra, so I've broken it into parts. (This will not be indicative of future posts on this subject, which are generally single-page.)

For a century and a half academic Biblical research has been occupied with the idea of the Documentary Hypothesis—the idea that the Bible as we have it, and specifically the Torah, were put together by a Redactor from a series of different sources composed at different times by different peoples. The late Chief Rabbi Dr Joseph Herman Hertz puts a lot of effort into arguing against this in the commentary to his Pentateuch, which had a lot of influence upon me during my Orthodox days.

Nowadays, I am prepared to accept that the Torah was not always in the form in which we have it nowadays*, but I still reject the Documentary Hypothesis. I went to a session at Limmud once about it. The speaker did not identify sources by name, but by colour. "Can you see how the verses from the green and blue narratives each tell a separate story?" he said. "What are the bits in red?" I asked, when he reached the end of his session without explaining them. "Oh, that's where the green narrative was subsequently altered to agree with the blue," he said.

Which means: These are where the whole theory of separate sources breaks down and you have to come up with even more work for your poor overworked redactor to salvage your theory, rather than admitting that it could possibly be wrong. (I also find difficulty with the whole concept of someone sitting down with a bunch of manuscripts two and a half thousand years ago and going "a verse from here, a verse from there, a verse from here, a verse from there." If people in ancient times did that, they'd have eliminated the parallel passages between Exodus to Numbers and Deuteronomy, and redacted Kings and Chronicles into one, and the four Synoptic Gospels into one too.)

I also don't think the internal evidence from the books is strong enough to support the Documentary Hypothesis as it stands for the first four books of the Torah (Deuteronomy originating separately I can accept), and I think a lot of what keeps the Documentary Hypothesis going is its internal momentum. By contrast, Wikipedia accepts (see the above link) that there are other hypotheses proposed now for how the Torah originated.

* A view which David Weiss Halivni argues, in his book Revelation Restored, that can to an extent accommodated even with Orthodoxy, as there are twelve places in the Torah where letters or words are marked with dots, these dots being ascribed to Ezra the Scribe, who was not sure whether these words were genuine or not. (This brief summary does not do justice to his argument; but I'm not going into it here, as it's off-topic. Go and read the book if you want to know more!)

Anyhow, with all that in mind, I thought it very interesting to see that in many places where the Masoretic Text has the Tetragrammaton, e.g. Gen. 7:1, an identifying mark of the supposed J text:

The LORD said to Noah, Come you and all your house into the ark; for you have I seen righteous before me in this generation. וַיֹּאמֶר ה׳ לְנֹחַ בֹּא־אַתָּה וְכָל־בֵּיתְךָ אֶל־הַתֵּבָה כִּי־אֹתְךָ רָאִיתִי צַדִּיק לְפָנַי בַּדּוֹר הַזֶּה׃
...the Samaritan text has "God", an identifying mark of the E text:
God said to Noah, Come you and all your house into the ark; for you have I seen righteous before me in this generation. וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים אֶל נֹחַ בֹּא־אַתָּה וְכָל־בֵּיתְךָ אֶל־הַתֵּבָה כִּי־אֹתְךָ רָאִיתִי צַדִּיק לְפָנַי בַּדּוֹר הַזֶּה׃

This seems to me to be a major strike against the Documentary Hypothesis. (FWIW, the reverse change may also be found in v. 9.)

Date: 2012-10-14 10:27 am (UTC)
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
From: [personal profile] liv
Yeah, I can easily accept that Tanach was redacted from multiple different historical source documents, but Wellhausen's original J vs E theory doesn't hold water.

Date: 2012-10-14 10:53 am (UTC)
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
From: [personal profile] liv
Partly tribalism, I think; it's sort of a badge of Reform-ness to accept Wellhausen. And similarly, lots of Orthodox people only know about Hertz' polemic against it, so rejecting that is part of their Orthodox identity. Studying the issue further and looking at more modern scholarship doesn't really suit anybody's identity. Like, if it's very important to your self-image that your Judaism is rational, modern, scientific etc, you want a kind of simple story about why Torah isn't really "True". And if it's very important to your identity that you believe in Torah min haShamayim, you don't want to consider anything about Torah as a historical document, so you stick with the easily refutable version.

Date: 2012-10-14 09:51 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
I don't know the history of the documentary hypothesis: was it, or was it seen to be, one of the first suggestion that the Torah was combined from different source texts?

If so, it seems unsurprising that people with widely differing opinions tend to conflate "the Torah was assembled from different source texts at all" and "the Torah was assembled from different source texts in the overly-literal verse-by-verse way that 19-century textual analysis happened to suggest first" in their minds. Which leads to an ideological knee-jerk reaction to defend or attack the particular details of that theory?

Date: 2012-10-14 04:29 pm (UTC)
ext_411969: (Default)
From: [identity profile] aviva-m.livejournal.com
But how to explain parallel stories and inconsistencies like in this week's parsha the two different stories of creation or the two different genealogies (one starting with Cain, one with Seth) coming to almost the same end-point, Lamech the father of Noah, but one with seven and one with ten generations? Surely this means different traditions?


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Lethargic Man (anag.)

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