Periodical Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 143:570 (Apr 1986)
Article: Periodical Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Periodical Reviews

“The Documentary Hypothesis in Trouble,” Joseph Blenkinsopp, Bible Review 1 (Winter 1985): 22-32.

The author speaks of “the current widespread disillusionment with the documentary hypothesis” (p. 25) and concludes that “the critical study of the sources of the Pentateuch…seems to have lost its sense of direction in recent years” (p. 26). Before biblical inerrantists and other miscellaneous theological conservatives blow the victory trumpet and begin the celebration, however, he also declares, “To obviate any possible misunderstanding, let me emphasize that there is no question of a return to a pre-critical reading of the biblical text” (p. 26).

The article begins with a brief historical survey of the historical and literary criticism of the Pentateuch that produced the documentary hypothesis popularized by Julius Wellhausen in his Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel (1883). Among the sidebars provided with the article is one on Wellhausen and his views. Dividing the Pentateuch into four literary sources, however, soon led to recognition by critical scholars “that all four strands of the Pentateuch—J, E, P and D—are themselves composites”(p. 25).

The author confesses that “the attempt to break them down into their components…has led increasingly to frustration” (p. 25). It also led to the reductio ad absurdum of dividing a single verse of Scripture into a half dozen or more sources, even breaking into the middle of clauses and phrases. Little wonder that, to quote Blenkinsopp, “the net result is that the earlier consensus, which never was absolute, has suffered erosion” (p. 25).

Blenkinsopp believes, however, that “no paradigm capable of replacing the classical documentary hypothesis of J, E, P and D has yet emerged” (p. 25). As a result he continues to work with it even as he points

out the inconsistencies and contradictions apparent when it is applied to a specific portion of Scripture. Furthermore he insists that “the task for scholarship today is a more careful evaluation of the arguments on which the documentary hypothesis is based” (p. 25). Why not instead admit that the theory is wrong and abandon it?

The underlying premise of the documentary hypothesis is that the use of different names for God identifies different documents, even though the development of the hypothesis has moved far beyond that premise. Perhaps another explanation for the use of different divine names is needed, which in turn would permit Blenkinsopp and others to forsake the documentary view.

“Joachim of Fiore’s Breakthrough to Chiliasm,...

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