The documentary hypothesis – What is it?

The documentary hypothesis suggests that the first five books of the Old Testament were originally independent accounts that were later edited or redacted by a later editor or editors. Those who support the documentary hypothesis theory generally suggest four specific sources represented by the letters JEDP. Because of this, the documentary hypothesis is often also referred to as the JEDP theory.

The J source refers to an alleged Yahwist source that was written in the kingdom of Judah by approximately 950 BC.

The E source refers to an alleged Elohist source that was written in the kingdom of Israel (northern kingdom) by approximately 850 BC.

The D source refers to an alleged Deuteronomist source that was written in Jerusalem by approximately 600 BC.

The P source refers to an alleged Priestly source that was completed in Babylon by Jewish priests in approximately 500 BC.

These allegations completely contrast the biblical claim that the first five books were authored by Moses by approximately 1400 BC. For the documentary hypothesis to be true, Moses could not have authored the books nor could they have been completed anywhere near the time period spoken of in the books themselves.

However, the Jewish tradition referred to Moses as the author of these writings. This tradition was so strong that Jesus Himself referred to it in Mark 12:26, saying, "And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, 'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'?"

In Romans 10:5, the apostle Paul, a Jewish rabbi himself, referred to the authorship of Moses of Leviticus when he said, "For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them."

Further, in Acts 3:22 the apostle Peter's message, recorded by Luke, states, "Moses said, 'The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you.'" Three witnesses (four including Luke) claimed that Moses was the author of the first five books of the Old Testament or the Torah.

Then what of the documentary hypothesis? Increasingly, Hebrew scholars have shown literary patterns that overlap the alleged portions divided into JEDP in such a way as to show that the evidence for the unity of the books of Moses is much greater than the evidence to show their disunity. Further, there are no clear examples of a text that includes early sources that prove JEDP as separate sources.

Instead, the option that finds the most evidence is the traditional understanding that Moses wrote the books of the Torah during the time in which they were noted (approximately 1400 BC). While someone else (likely Joshua) may have completed the final chapter that includes the account of the death of Moses, the evidence favors a unified writing that has served as the basis of the Jewish faith for generations.

Related Truth:

JEDP Theory - What is it?

What is the Synoptic Problem?

The Q Gospel – What is it? If there was a Q Gospel would that make the Synoptic Gospels less valid?

Were there different authors of the books of the Bible? Who were the authors?

The Dead Sea Scrolls - What are they and why do they matter?

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