Case Study of the History of Biblical Creation Narratives
What Is Myth?
What Is History?
Is Genesis 1:1-2:4 Myth?
Is Genesis 1:1-2:4 History?
Is Genesis 1:1-2:4 Both Myth and History?
An Analysis of the Biblical Creation Narrative of Genesis 1:1-25 and Egypt's Possible Influence on the Historical Record
God created the world in just six days, and rested on the seventh, but scholars have not rested at all over the millennia in their investigation of its account in the historical record, particularly Genesis 1:1-25. Given its importance to humankind, it is little wonder that so much attention has been devoted to how the universe was created and what place humanity has in this immense cosmos. Indeed, the creation of the universe and the origin of mankind are the subject of numerous myths around the world, with many sharing some distinct commonalities. According to S.G.F. Brandon, "The creation of the world and the origin of mankind are the themes of many myths. They are found among the primitive peoples of most lands and they can be traced back into remote antiquity."
Creation myths are of two kinds: 1) aetiological myths which concerning the beginnings of things, and stem from primitive speculation about their origins; and 2) ritual myths, which were essentially connected with various periodic ceremonies, particularly at the New Year, designed to ensure the continuation and well-being of the state or even of the world.
To this end, this study will be guided by the following research questions:
Is there a positive/strong Egyptian influence?
Is there another source besides JEPD?
Can we consider Jeroboam the son/scribe of King Solomon as a source?
Can it be positively determined the place and date of authorship?
A critical review of the scholarly and peer-reviewed literature will be followed by a summary of the research and salient findings in the conclusion.
Review and Analysis.
An Overview of JEPD Theory and Its Tenets. The Book of Genesis reports that the Holy Bible was inspired through the Holy Spirit. "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost"; (2 Peter 1:21); also, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness."
Who wrote Genesis, though? The JEPD Theory, or Documentary Hypothesis, is taught in a number of university Bible courses today for this purpose; the technique was developed in the 19th century by Julius Wellhausen, and others, during a period when scholars believed that few people could write in Moses' time. The Documentary Hypothesis maintains that Bible's first five books (as well as Joshua) were actually oral traditions that were subsequently codified a number of centuries after Moses, by at least four or five different authors.
The JEPD acronym is derived from the following sources:
Jehovist source (c.850 B.C.) for passages where the divine name is used, such as Gen 1-2:3; 7:2-3.
Elohist source (c.750 B.C.) where the word Elohim is used for God, such as Genesis 2:4-3:3;
Priestly source (c.450 B.C.) for verses pertaining to the temple, such as Leviticus and Gen 6:19-20; so called because of its cultic interests and regulations for priests, this source is usually dated in the 5th century BC and is regarded as the law upon which Ezra and Nehemiah based their reform, and,
Deuteronomist source (c.622 B.C.) for most of the book of Deuteronomy.
Holiness source (575 B.C.) for Leviticus 17-20 is a variation on the JEPD theory.
In general, the JEPD theory used to teach that the Bible misrepresents itself and the Torah was edited into the form known today around 200 B.C.; however, there is a copy of Exodus and Leviticus contained in the Dead Sea scrolls dated 250 B.C.
Nevertheless, Louis H. Feldman points out that, "Even such ultra-pious Jewish sects as the Essenes and the Dead Sea Sect are said to have had contact with Hellenism. Thus, the Essenes' stress on the ordering of the world, even before creation, and in the divine plans points to analogies with the hymn to Zeus of Cleanthes."
These contradictions cannot be overlooked, but the challenges faced by proponents of the JEPD theory do not stop there.
Indeed, the presence of Greek documents in the Dead Sea caves would indicate that knowledge of Greek had penetrated even the most fanatical religious groups. Most strikingly, a manuscript of the Minor Prophets in Greek has been found in the Dead Sea caves. It is possible, however, that the scroll was brought by a more worldly person, who had decided to join the sect and who presented the scroll to the sect's library so that the leaders of the sect might be able to refute their opponents. In any case, as we can see increasingly as the manuscripts found in the caves are published, the library of the sect contained a wide diversity of views and not merely those of the sect itself. Moreover, the vast majority of Qumran texts are in Hebrew or Aramaic and contain no Greek loanwords.
Certainly, the historical record continues to be revised as new discoveries are made and connections between previously unrelated data emerge, but history has shown time and again that those who subscribe to certain theories, particularly those that are largely based on matters of faith, are not easily convinced otherwise. Nevertheless, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests there is less known about the people who wrote the scrolls that was previously believed. For example, in his essay, "Scroll Origins: An Exchange on the Qumran Hypothesis," Joseph A. Fitzmeyer notes that none of the scrolls or fragments that have been recovered from any of the caves nearby made any mention of the Essenes; in fact, "Essene" was a name that was derived from Greek writers like Philo, who called then Essaioi, and Josephus, who called them either Essenoi or Essaioi, or a Latin writer like Pliny the Elder, who called them Esseni. "The scrolls themselves used 'sons of Zadok' or 'the poor,' designations that do not help us to determine the identity of the people who may have produced them."
There are some scholars who maintain, though, that an analysis of the extant written record can help discern these and other important information about Genesis in general and the creation myth vs. historical debate in particular. For example, Ernest W. Nicholson suggests that the "Documentary Hypothesis," or JEPD, provides the true perspective from which to approach this most difficult of areas in the study of the Old Testament."
According to Michael Fackerell, it is possible that Moses personally wrote all the Torah on parchment as he had more than 40 years to do so; in the alternative, Fackerell suggests that scribes might have done so under his direction. "A few words might have been edited later," he says, "and Moses probably did not write of his own death. Apart from these exceptions though, the Bible writers, all Jewish teachers (Philo, Josephus, etc.), early Christian writers, and those who trust the Bible today believe the Torah (Law):
Was written down in the time of Moses;
Was written by Moses or through scribes under his direction; and,
It is rationale to believe in it as a reliable transmission of God's word communicated through Moses.
"The JEPD theory denies all three points."
According to Bernard J. Holm and James Westfall Thompson, "The boldest conception of ancient Jewish history has come from the fertile mind of Julius Wellhausen (1844- 1918)."
Wellhausen accepted the hypothesis that the Priestly Codex (and related portions of the historical books outside the Pentateuch) was the earliest of the sources; he also maintained that the Mosaic law was in its final form post-exilic, the creation of "Judaism," by which he meant the sect which survived the annihilation of the majority of the Israelites by the great empires of the East. This theory had enjoyed little favor prior to the appearance of Wellhausen first volume of the Geschichle Israels (1878), better known by the title of the reissue as Prolegomena zur Geschichle Israels; the publication of this work by Wellhausen convinced a number of scholars in the new generation this view was viable.
Wellhausen's work served to rewrite the history of ancient Israel, and was based on the "materials" provided by the Old Testament. "The Old Testament does not furnish a history of Israel, though it supplies the materials," he noted. According to Holm and Thompson, Wellhausen was correct in placing more emphasis on the importance of the dating of the Mosaic law, a view that was contrary to the prevailing thought of the day. These authors point out that: "Against the traditional opinion that it was common racial property before the Twelve Tribes entered the Holy Land, Wellhausen believed it was not assembled until Israel was captive in foreign bondage and subject to foreign…
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