Sevens in the opening of Genesis

(Christy Hemphill) #21

I think “versions” of the DH is key. I am no expert, but my general sense is current OT scholars think the idea of everything fitting beautifully into J, E, D, or P based on certain linguistic markers is an overreach and it is not the key that unlocks everything and the premise to which all exegesis must bow.

That seems to reflect what I’ve read.

(Christy Hemphill) #22

What I think is most interesting in current scholarship is trying to understand how orality in the biblical cultures affected the recording and transmission of texts. We tend to import all of our assumptions about what texts are for and why and how they are created onto Scripture and that is not really warranted. The Lost World of Scripture touched on this some. When I see scholars dealing with orality issues, I feel like they have gotten out of their echo chamber and ivory tower and are actually listening to inter-disciplinary insights. One of the weaknesses of the DH, I think, is that I don’t think its proponents always accurately reflect the hows and whys of text creation and preservation in the ancient world. It’s more than just oral traditions being recorded at some point and then redacted over time. How written texts were viewed and how they functioned in predominantly oral societies matter when we are talking about source criticism and biblical interpretation.


Some evangelicals and others don’t like it but there have been various datings of parts of Genesis saying that the whole book did not reach its final from until after the Exile in Babylon and the priestlt editors re-worked older stories. Genesis 1 is a nicely constructed celebration of various aspects of creation set within a 7 day scheme to give reason for the Sabbath Law and the keeping of it.

If you really read it we have picture at the centre of creation with the sun, moon and starts moving about dome like heaven. Light comes first and then the starts etc
Unless we want to dump astronomic observations, space probes and space telescopes like Hubble, it is clear we live in a truely vast universe and far from being the centre of the universe. Light comes from the stars,of which our own sun is just one among the uncounted billions.

Best to treat Genesis 1 (and 2 etc) as great symbolic stories with added spiritual meaning.

(Don Huebner) #24

The DH is helpful in allowing one to understand, for instance, that there are two origins narratives in Genesis. The best book on the topic, which is quite readable, is Friedman’s “Who Wrote the Bible?” The Genesis topics of main interest to the Biologos crowd are the creation narratives and the flood narrative. Fortunately, the DH argues that these are both the product of just two authors, J and P, and the editor. Questions about E and D are thus moot. The Europeans are biblical minimalists, and argue the whole OT was written in post-Exilic times. The arguments against this position are many and quite convincing. Conservative evangelical scholars such as John Walton provide good, insightful books without using the DH. However, I feel they lose significant insight by ignoring it. Opponents in the U.S. such as Wenham use literary arguments - but these always look to be quite weak.

The real test for the DH appears to be the flood narrative, which is a complex interweaving of text from both J and P by the editor. As with the two creation narratives, J and P had different theological reasons for their separate versions. The poor editor then had to combine them into a somewhat coherent tale. The resulting calendar is a mess to follow, which is further complicated by the editor’s own decision to add to it.

The bottom line is the DH is an example of progressive revelation, and as such is in line with the 1978 Chicago Statement on Inerrancy. it is thus not automatically to be avoided by evangelicals - although the more conservative members view it that way.

(Don Huebner) #25

The DH claims Gen 2-3 was written by J first at the time of the unified monarchy, and Gen 1 was written by P in early post-exilic times. A literary analysis of Gen 2-3 shows many of the features of oral folklore and myth telling. This includes an emphasis on etiology and the use of earlier mythical elements that have been modified to a monolatrous view. A careful analysis of Gen 2-3 also shows it is logically impossible - another common property of oral tales. It thus appears that the J narrative pre-dates the oral-literacy transition in the early Iron Age Israelite world. In contrast, P wrote Gen. 1 a half millennium later after this transition. It can actually be viewed as an anti-polytheistic argument that counters the Enuma Elish which the exiles would have been familiar with in Babylon. Interestingly, Gen 1 has the literary structure of an asymmetric Freitag triangle - which indicates it probably originated in written form.

(Jay Johnson) #26

Thanks for the tip. And while I’ve got you on the line …

The summary/review that I referenced previously also mentioned “the existence of two different linguistic registers” in the Pentateuchal narratives. He says “the ‘intricate elaborate style,’ pervasive in P, characterizes the written work of learned scribes trained in official bureaucracy,” but a “voiced, lean, brisk style corresponds to most narratives about the Patriarchs and in Exodus” that “preserves an underlying oral-epic substratum.”

Does this sound accurate to you?

(Don Huebner) #27

Yes, the Priestly writings seem to stick out with their emphasis on order and detail. As I noted, the Yahwist writes in a simple folkloric style which appears to be based on earlier oral tales. Both Friedman and Bloom feel that if one pulls out all of the J material and puts it together, it represents the earliest lengthy story ever compiled. Incidentally, cultural anthropologists view the Genesis story of the multi-generation development of the Hebrew tribe as a standard tribal oral narrative typical of pre-literate peoples - and not representative of how the people actually grew with time.

(Christy Hemphill) #28

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