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This letter is in response to Sources of the Pentateuch: So Many Theories, So Little Consensus by Alan J. Hauser.

Before considering who and what the sources of the Pentateuch were, isn't it a more reasonable approach to consider who and what the sources of the Tanakh were?

Isn't it reasonable to suspect that before a single line of Genesis was written, someone—possibly a court historian hired by Solomon (as the late Stefan Heym has so engagingly proposed in his novel, The King David Report) to legitimize his ascension to David's throne—had written the original version of the book of Samuel?

And, isn't it reasonable to suspect that before a single line of Samuel was written, someone—possibly David with Abiathar acting as scribe—had written the now long-lost Book of Jashar?

And, isn't it reasonable to suspect that before a single line of the Book of Jashar had been written, someone—possibly Israel's first king, Saul—had dictated the Decalogue to a scribe of his own?

Looking at the chronological list of possible authors and the time and place in which they worked, as well as at what they may have written and their motives for having written it, makes it easier to envision the writing of the entire Hebrew Bible, of which the Pentateuch is but a part.

As for the identity of the Yahwist, "J," isn't it possible that the Yahwist may have been trained in the art of writing by Solomon's Court Historian? Isn't it reasonable—on the basis of the Yahwist's puns on Rehoboam's name—to consider the possibility that the Yahwist was writing during the early years of Rehoboam's reign with the object of bringing about a reconciliation of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah? And, not only that, isn't it possible that the Yahwist also wrote all of the material attributed to the Elohist, "E," in an effort to demonstrate fairness to the tribal elders of both kingdoms? Isn't it possible that the differences between the two tellings of a story might reflect differences of opinion about property/territorial rights—issues that could not be unilaterally resolved? Mightn't it have been a way of saying "We hear you, let's talk."?

Mightn't J's invention of Moses have provided an opportunity to talk about the contributions of Israel's first king, Saul? To test this idea, try reading Exodus 18, replacing the name "Moses" with "Saul."

As for whether the Priestly Source, "P," came before the Deuteronomist, "D," isn't it possible that in an effort to make a practical peace between the Jerusalem priesthood and the priests fleeing the recently conquered kingdom of Israel, King Hezekiah may have issued a royal decree (hence not "priestly" in origin)? Mightn't P actually involve three authors: Hezekiah, Ezekiel, and Ezra?

And, as for the Redactor, mightn't there have been considerable redaction as the Tanakh evolved? If J and E were one and the same, there would be no need for redaction there. Wouldn't the authors have wanted their individual contributions to seem as inconspicuous as possible?

Isn't it likely that whoever controlled the purse strings in the kingdom or theocracy had control of the writing of the Book at the time and that that was necessarily reflected in what was being written at the time? After all, scribes were expensive folk and one wouldn't have to look far to see who their likely clients were!

Wouldn't it also make much more sense to give some thought as to what the history of the region really was at the time of the alleged exodus? Hadn't Egypt controlled Canaan from slightly after 1550 BCE (despite a few attempts by Canaanites to rebel) until 1141 BCE, when Rameses VI withdrew Egyptian troops to quell a civil war at home? Wouldn't the relatively peaceful revolt that George Mendenhall and James Kennedy posited have had to occur sometime between 1141 BCE and around 1025 BCE, when Saul was chosen king?

And, what about what was happening in Midian? Hadn't the Midianites torn down Hathor's stone temple after the departure of the Egyptian troops in 1141 BCE? And hadn't they then erected a red and yellow cloth tent supported by wooden poles mounted in shallow holes gouged in the stone floor? And, wasn't it there that the Midianites began the worship of a hitherto unknown desert warrior god, Yahweh? And, wasn't it from there that the worship of Yahweh migrated to Canaan during the period, 1141 BCE to 1025 BCE?

One reason for the lack of a consensus on the sources of the Pentateuch is that evangelicals and fundamentalists consider the Bible to be the divinely inspired "Word of God," a belief that they ultimately base on 2 Timothy 3:16-17, which reads "All Scripture is divinely inspired, and useful in the teaching, in the reproof, in correcting faults, and in teaching uprightness so that the man of God will be adequate, and equipped for any good work." But 2 Timothy is a forgery. It wasn't written by Paul, although it earnestly pretends to be, since it reflects issues that didn't arise until decades after Paul's death.

Building a consensus of people with mutually exclusive objectives is neither likely nor anywhere nearly as important as trying to see how much history lies (or might lie) behind the allegories of which much of the Tanakh is composed.

Fred Glynn, San Francisco

Citation: Alan J. Hauser, " Considering the Hauser article," SBL Forum , n.p. [cited Sept 2007]. Online:


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