Friday, September 3, 2010

What's in a letter?


These are all letters that are short for certain hypothetical documents that according to source criticism, redactors have used to form certain documents of the Old Testament (e.g. the Pentateuch) and the New Testament (e.g. the Gospels). Obviously I'm not at the level of a, say, Julius Wellhausen, but still, these hypothetical sources still confuse me at best and annoy me at worst. How do scholars posit such a certainty of these documents when as far as I know, no independent sources apart from the current "redactional" states (i.e. the forms as it is appropriated in the Scriptures) exist? I'm currently in an OT interpretations class, and the lectures have been very stimulating so far, but when it comes to the issue of Documentary Hypothesis, I've never been fully convinced no matter where I hear it (not when I heard it first at Talbot and not now at Duke). Is there something to these conclusions through source-criticism that I'm not getting? I guess I'm not too terribly off-track on some levels because even one Professor here at Duke, Mark Goodacre, rejects "Q."

Anyone else have any thoughts on this? What's your take on source-criticism in general, and these specific sources specifically?


John Anderson said...

One word comes to mind: bunk.

Check my Pentateuch outlines posted on my blog from a while back for a solid state of the question take.

Tell Thea the documentary hypothesis is bunk in my book! Ha!

Mike S. said...

John: I'm glad to hear that one OT scholar agrees with me! And as for telling Dr. Portier-Young that it's "bunk"... I'm not sure! :)

John Anderson said...


That's one of my large critiques of teaching OT intros; many folk teach it as though the documentary hypothesis is orthdoxy. It isn't, and it shouldn't be. In my sense, it has adequately been debunked by the likes of Whybray and Rendtorff. Personally, I find Rendtorff's "blocks of tradition" a more compelling way of discussing things. How it all came together, ultimately, I am a bit more agnostic about, but I do think it makes sense (at least given teh present climate of scholarship) to say it has some association with P/the priesthood.

Mike S. said...

John: Haha! Maybe when (if?) I am officially a "doctor" I will tell her that it's bunk!

As for Rendtorff's theory, is there a book by him (or any others) that you'd recommend regarding this topic?

John Anderson said...

I think the best volume you can read that deals with debunking the DH is Whybray's The Making of the Pentateuch. His own proposal of a single author/compiler is ultimately not convincing, though, but his critique is very fine. I think it is from 1987, so there have obviously been developments since (for which, see the Dozeman/Schmid edited volume A Farewell to the Yahwist, though it is a bit technical). Re: Rendtorff, his volume, I believe translated in 1976, is The Problem of the Process of Transmission of the Pentateuch (can you guess what language the original was in . . . German!!!).

Mike S. said...

John: Thanks for the suggestions, I will definitely add them to my library in the near future.