Friday, September 7, 2012

Who really wrote the Bible?

Ever heard of the Documentary Hypothesis? I hadn't until about a month ago. My pastor handed me a book called, "The Bible with Sources Revealed." It was written by the same fellow whose "Commentary on the Torah" had been helpful to me earlier. Richard Elliott Friedman is his name and he is a well-known Biblical scholar. I read the introduction and wanted to understand it better, so I purchased a used copy of "Who Wrote the Bible?" It is Dr. Friedman's first offering to the public of his theory, published in 1987.

He did not invent the Documentary Hypothesis; it evolved in the 1700s and 1800s. People studying the Bible noticed certain trends, like some stories appearing two times with different renderings. The Creation story does this, as does the Flood. These scholars surmised that someone might have edited together documents by different authors. Other clues were the way God was called "Elohim" sometimes and "Yahweh" other times. There were other patterns, like how those who used "Elohim" don't mention the Ark and those who wrote "Yahweh" don't talk about the Tabernacle.

At first, learning about this rocked my world in a bad way. Hadn't I always heard that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible? Apparently I wasn't the only one who didn't like hearing that this might not be the case, at least not in the form as the Pentateuch exists today. As I read about the evolution of the hypothesis, I found out that people were excommunicated and put to death for suggesting such things.

But as I continued to read, I saw that Dr. Friedman did not rob me of hope. He states that the editors and authors of the Bible as it stands today put together their works from older records, either oral or written. So far as I understand it, the Documentary Hypothesis is not saying that the Bible is myth, or its writings were invented well after events, but that the Bible as it appears today is a composite. That intrigues me.

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