Documentary Hypothesis Details

The Pentateuch was not written by one individual, according to literary scholarship. The Torah was created by weaving together several threads of tradition.

Most critical scholars of the Pentateuch agree on the Documentary Hypothesis, or

Graf-Wellhausen     Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1839765
Author Julius Wellhausen 02 Graf-Wellhausen Public Domain,

Graf-Wellhausen Hypothesis,named after the 19th-century researchers who first proposed it. Julius Wellhausen was a German biblical scholar and orientalist who lived from 17 May 1844 to 7 January 1918. Throughout his career, he progressed from Old Testament research to Islamic studies to New Testament scholarship. Wellhausen contributed to the history of the Pentateuch/composition Torah’s and studied Islam’s formative period. He is credited as one of the originators of the documentary hypothesis for the former.

“To summarise, the Documentary Hypothesis considers the Torah to have been written by a group of four editors.”

significant literary traditions J, E, D, and P are the four traditions.” We can depict their interactions as follows: (Wikipedia)

https://www.cs.umd.edu/~mvz/bible/doc-hyp.pdf page 3


JEPD = TORAH page 4

J (the Jahwist or Jerusalem source) uses the Tetragrammaton as God’s name. This source’s interests indicate it was active in the southern Kingdom of Judah in the time of the divided Kingdom. J is responsible for most of Genesis.

E (the Elohist or Ephraimitic source) uses Elohim (“God”) for the divine name until Exodus 3-6, where the Tetragrammaton is revealed to Moses and to Israel. This source seems to have lived in the northern Kingdom of Israel during the divided Kingdom. E wrote the Aqedah story and other parts of Genesis, and much of Exodus and Numbers.

J and E were joined fairly early, apparently after the fall of the Northern Kingdom in 722 BCE. It is often difficult to separate J and E stories that have merged.

P (the Priestly source) provided the first chapter of Genesis; the book of Leviticus; and other sections with genealogical information, the priesthood, and worship. According to Wellhausen, P was the latest source and the priestly editors put the Torah in its final form sometime after 539 BCE. Recent scholars (for example, James Milgrom) are more likely to see P as containing pre-exilic material.

D (the Deuteronomist) wrote almost all of Deuteronomy (and probably also Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings). Scholars often associate Deuteronomy with the book found by King Josiah in 622 BCE (see 2 Kings 22).

Contemporary critical scholars disagree with Wellhausen and with one another on details and on whether D or P was added last. But they agree that the general approach of the Documentary Hypothesis best explains the doublets, contradictions, differences in terminology and theology, and the geographical and historical interests that we find in various parts of the Torah.

Here are some differences between the four strands of tradition:

stress on Judahstress on northern Israelstress on Judahstress on central shrine
stresses leadersstresses the propheticstresses the culticstresses fidelity to Jerusalem
anthropomorphic speech about Godrefined speech about Godmajestic speech about Godspeech recalling God’s work
God walks and talks with usGod speaks in dreamscultic approach to Godmoralistic approach
God is YHWHGod is Elohim (till Ex 3)God is Elohim (till Ex 3)God is YHWH
uses “Sinai”Sinai is “Horeb”has genealogies and listshas long sermons

For further information about the Documentary Hypothesis and the reasons that scholars accept it, consult the article “Torah (Pentateuch)” in the Anchor Bible Dictionary.

Some of the information above came from the Pdf below. https://islamstrokecristianityhome.files.wordpress.com/2022/05/jdpd.pdf

Image Julius Wellhausen (May 17, 1844 – January 17, 1918), was a German biblical scholar and Orientalist.
He was famous for his critical investigations into Old Testament and is perhaps most well-known for the Documentary hypothesis of the origin of the Pentateuch.

Source: http://www.ot.re.kr/theologen/wellhausen.jpg

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