The Literature of the Old Testament (1913) [Chapter 4]

[Articles in the Summed Up series are intended to be summaries of chapters of selected theological books. The author(s) will be quoted verbatim for the purposes of ensuring accurate representation]

Character of the Sources: Genesis

(pp.33-47)

A) About the author of the chapter:

George Foot Moore “graduated from Yale College in 1872 and from Union Theological Seminary in 1877, in 1878 Moore was ordained in the Presbyterian ministry and until 1883 was pastor of the Putnam Presbyterian Church, Zanesville, Ohio.

He was Hitchcock professor of the Hebrew language and literature at Andover Theological Seminary, 1883–1902. In 1902 he became professor of theology and in 1904 professor of the history of religion at Harvard University.” [1]

[1] https://www.britannica.com/biography/George-Foot-Moore

B) Chapter Summary:

“For the sake of brevity, it is customary to designate these sources by symbols: J (Jahvist), the source in which God is from the beginning called Jehovah (more exactly, Jahveh); E (Elohist), the closely cognate source in which Elohim (God) is consistently used throughout Genesis; D, Deuteronomy and the kindred narrative in Joshua; P (Priestly), the source in which the interest in the religious institutions predominates.”[1]

“The two sources, J and E, both narrate the story of the patriarchs at some length. J begins with the migration of Abraham from Haran (Gen. 12); the corresponding introduction of Abraham in E is not preserved, and the first passage that can with confidence be attributed to that source is Gen. 20. From that point through Genesis and down to Exod. 24, J and E furnished the author of the Pentateuch most of his narrative. The contents of both were evidently drawn from the same common stock of legend, and they tell in large part the same stories in variant forms, with differences of incident or of localization. Sometimes one is ampler and more detailed, sometimes the other. The author of Genesis in such cases often chose the fuller version, enriching it here and there from the other; in other places the two are combined in more equal measure into one continuous narrative; or, again, as in parts of the story of Joseph, extracts from the two alternate in large blocks.”[2]

“For J the reader will find good examples in Gen. 18-19; 24; 38; 39; and 43-44 (which are nearly solid extracts from that source); with the latter chapters, from the story of Joseph, should be compared Gen. 40-42, chiefly from E. Gen. 22 is also from E.”[3]

See Gen. 18, Genesis 32

“He [i.e. E] is particularly well informed in things Egyptian; he knows, for example, the Egyptian names of the chief personages in the story of Joseph. It is in accord with this tendency that he introduces the name Jehovah only after the call of Moses (Exod. iii. 14 ff.), and for the patriarchal period employs only the appellative, God.”[4]

“The conception of deity [in E] is less naïve than in J: God never appears in tangible bodiliness like a man, but reveals himself in visions or dreams, or makes known his will by a voice out of the unseen. Things objectionable to morals or taste are frequently softened down.”[5]

“… the interventions of God in E often show a disposition to magnify the miracle and to give it a magical character. Thus at the crossing of the Red Sea, in J the waters are driven back by a strong wind, leaving the shallow basin dry; in E the miracle is wrought by Moses with his wand (like the plagues), and this representation is followed by P, in which the waters stand in walls on either hand while the people march between.”[6]

“If the author of E was acquainted with J, as it would be natural to assume, he certainly does not copy him; of literary dependence in a strict sense there is no sign. The two appear, rather, to be parallel narratives, drawing on a common stock of tradition, which had already acquired by repetition, whether oral or written, a comparatively fixed form. This common stock included traditions of different groups of tribes and of holy places in different parts of the land.”[7]

“In the treatment of the common tradition in J and E, respectively, local or national interests appear, from which it is generally inferred that E was written in the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and J in the Southern (Judah).”[8]

“From J come Gen. ii. 4b-iv. 25; vi. 1-8; a part of the composite story of the Flood (vii. 1-5, 7-10, 12, 17b, 22-23; viii. 6-12, 13b, 20-22); the sons of Noah, ix. 18-27, and part of the table of nations (x. 8-19, 21, 24-30); the Tower of Babel (xi. 1-9).”[9]

“The third chief narrative source in the Pentateuch, commonly called the Priestly History (P), is of a different character from those which we have been examining.

A more descriptive title for it would be, Origins of the Religious Institutions of Israel. In the view of the author, these institutions were successively ordained by God at certain epochs in the history of mankind and in connection with certain historical events; these events he narrates as the occasion or ground of the institution, which the subsequent observance recalls and commemorates.

These institutions were not all first revealed to Israel and prescribed for it; on the contrary, the author has a theory of a progressive revelation of God’s will, beginning with the first man and woman, and amplified from age to age by the addition to its contents of fresh ordinances, while at the same time its extension gradually narrows, until, in the Mosaic Law, it is addressed to the chosen people of Israel alone.

The place of each new institution is therefore fixed not only in a chronological system but in the genealogical scheme of races and nations. The genealogies which connect one epoch of revelation with the following one are thus not the bare bones of history, stripped of its flesh and blood, but serve a distinct and characteristic purpose.”[10]

“The diction and style of P are very unlike that of J and E; a favourable example of his manner is Gen. 17. Even in a translation, which necessarily obliterates much, some of the author’s peculiarities can be observed, foremost among them a certain stiffness and a laborious circumstantiality, which will be felt if Gen. xvi. 1-2, 4-8, 11-14 (J) or xvi. 8-21 (E) be compared with c. 17 (P).”[11]

“In the early chapters of Exodus the narrative is chiefly a combination of J and E; the first considerable extract from P is Exod. vi. 2-vii. 13, recalling the covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and announcing its approaching fulfilment, adding, as the signature of the new epoch of the history now opening, the revelation of the name God, Jehovah (Jahveh), which none of the patriarchs had known.

In the story of the plagues all three sources are interwoven; a distinctive feature of P is that Aaron with his wand, under Moses’ direction, brings the plagues to pass.”[12]

 

[1] p.35

[2] pp.35-36

[3] p.36

[4] p.39

[5] Ibid.

[6] p.40

[7] Ibid.

[8] p.41

[9] Ibid.

[10] p.44

[11] pp.46-47

[12] p.47

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