Documents, Tablets, and the Historicity of Genesis -- By: Curt Sewell
BSP 7:1 (Winter 1994) p. 23
Documents, Tablets, and the Historicity of Genesis
Many pastors, writers, and even seminary professors rely on the “JEDP Documentary Hypothesis” to explain how the book of Genesis was originally written, (See Bible & Spade, Spring 1993, page 34.) This concept says that for many centuries the stories were passed down orally, usually with embellishments or deletions, and were not committed to writing until much later than the events they describe. Naturally, this idea does not inspire confidence in the literal accuracy of the account. It is favored by theologians of a liberal bent.
In contrast, the “Tablet Theory” suggests that portions of Genesis were originally written on clay tablets by men who personally experienced the events described. The tablets were later compiled by Moses. Since the original writers were said to be eye-witnesses, their accounts should be historically accurate.
This article briefly describes the development and implications of these two theories.
Why Religious Liberalism?
Why did so many theologians become critical of Biblical truth? Do they have any scientific basis for their doubts? Not really. Doubting criticism started on a large scale with G.W.F. Hegel (1770–1831), a German philosopher who taught that religion, like the rest of civilization, developed gradually. He said that primitive “cave-men” began a polytheistic worship of the things around them. Later, he said, higher concepts such as a supreme God evolved in people’s minds.
A quasi-scientific basis for retreat from Biblical authority took root when, in 1830, Charles Lyell published Principles of Geology, which first described the so-called “Geologic Column.” Here the age of a rock stratum was supposedly given by the types of fossils which it contains. This idea set the stage for Charles Darwin’s publication, in 1859, of his famous Origin of Species. His organic evolution theory captured the imagination of most scientists.
There is no real technical basis for not believing the Bible as it was written. Nowhere does the Biblical text mention anything that implies evolution, nor is there any Biblical incident that’s been absolutely proven wrong. The only reason to doubt the clear text of the Bible is an attempt to compromise with secularism, and its rejection of God. But most evolutionary scientists object just as much to theistic evolution as they do to miraculous creation. And most theologians don’t really understand the philosophical principles of evolution — they don’t realize that you cannot attribute a
BSP 7:1 (Winter 1994) p. 24
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