Documentary Hypothesis: Indications of Multiple Authorship

I’m part of a very awesome FB group, Mormons Talk | OT Bible Scholarship (Old Testament / LDS / Mormon)

In it, we are using college level textbooks to discuss the OT. The main text is John Collins’ an Introduction to the Hebrew Bible, though we are referencing others. We are now in chapter 2, and I have written on the concept of multiple authors for the Pentateuch/Torah/5 Books of Moses. Here’s what I’ve written. You’ll want to read the comments at the FB site, as there are some interesting points in there, as well.

Indications of Multiple Authorship

For many Christians, the idea of multiple authorship of the Pentateuch/Torah is heresy. Yet, it is clearly illustrated, as they now exist, the first five books of the Bible were not written by Moses but by later writers. And while there are many theories that scholars now have to argue against the Documentary Hypothesis, the idea of multiple authors isn’t questioned.

Internal evidence begins with verses that easily demonstrate that portions were written long after Moses’ time. At the end of Deuteronomy, it talks about the death of Moses – something that would be very difficult for Moses to write about. The Pentateuch notes that during the time of Genesis, “Canaanites still dwelt in the land.” Why make such a statement, if Moses is writing this? Of Course, the Canaanites are still in the land! Only later, in King David’s time, do we see an end to the Canaanites.

Scholars began to note that there was special use of the two major names of God: El Elyon and Yahweh/Jehovah. Rarely are they used together in the Torah, but they still create conflict in scripture. God said to Moses that he appeared to Abraham as El Shaddai (God of the Mountain), but never as Yahweh. However, in Gen 4, people are calling upon the name of Yahweh during the time of Enoch, and the name is used frequently in regards to Abraham’s time, as well.

Therefore, we can presume that Exodus 6:3 comes from another source that was not aware of the name Yahweh being used at the time of Abraham and before.

Richard E Friedman, in Who Wrote the Bible?, explains that El was the chief God of the Palestine region, ruling over the council of gods. “The God of Israel was Yahweh. He, too, was male, patriarchal, a ruler, and not identified with any one force in nature.” We will see that early Hebrews saw Yahweh as a member of El’s council, assigned Israel as his kingdom to rule over. Later, the Jews would combine El and Yahweh into one god and remove God’s consort and the divine council.
Doublets and triplets are noted in the scripture – where events and sayings are said twice or even three times. We have Moses receiving the Ten Commandments on both Mt Sinai and Mt Horeb. Moses twice goes to Meribah and brings water out of a rock – in one version, the angel of the Lord stands upon the rock Moses is to strike, while in the other version, Moses is disobedient to God and ends up losing his right to enter into the Promised Land (Nephi only notes the first version in the Book of Mormon).

The story of Noah’s Flood is the perfect example of a doublet that was combined. We have Noah commanded in one story to build the ark, because a flood is coming. In one story, he brings in animals two by two, while in the other, 7 clean animals are brought in (clean/unclean only occurs in the Mosaic law, and shows a later story line development). One story gives 40 days and nights for the flood, while the other floods for almost a year. One has a dove, the other a raven. One story consistently calls God, Elohim, while the other consistently calls him Yahweh.

So, we end up with scholars, such as Wellhausen, suggesting 4 major writers for the Pentateuch. Friedman writes, “There was evidence that the Five Books of Moses had been composed by combining four different source documents into one continuous history. For working purposes, the four documents were identified by alphabetic symbols. The document that was associated with the divine name Yahweh/Jehovh was called J. The document that was identified as referring to the deity as God (in Hebrew Elohim) was called E. The third document, by far the largest, included most of the legal sections and concentrated a great deal on matters having to do with priests, and so it was called P. And the source that was found only in the book of Deuteronomy was called D.”

Friedman suggests that J and E were two rival priestly authors. King David had two priests, Abiathar from the lineage of Moses and keepers of the tabernacle in Shiloh (northern kingdom), and Zadok, who descended from Aaron. When Solomon became king, Abiathar had supported Solomon’s brother, so the new king sent him into exile back to the Northern Kingdom, and created laws that benefited Judah and the southern kingdom, while creating bigger burdens on the north. This political division likely created the sources for J (southern kingdom of Judah) and E (northern kingdom of 10 tribes).

In Genesis 1 and 2, we get two different creation stories. Genesis 1 calls God, Elohim 35 times. Genesis 2 calls God, Yahweh 11 times. They get the orders of things different. Genesis 1 has plants, animals then man and woman. Genesis 2 has man, plants, animals, then woman. While most now think Genesis 1 was a P document, Friedman suggests it was inspired by E, while Genesis 2 is agreed to be by J. Later, Friedman notes that P is clearly influenced by the E source on its writings.

We also see this in the story of Joseph, who was sold into Egypt. For J, Judah is the hero of the story, stopping his brothers from slaying Joseph and later offering himself as a slave in the stead of Benjamin. Judah gets the birthright and kingship. Meanwhile, E has Reuben stop the slaying, and Joseph is the hero – receiving the birthright and a double portion (Ephraim and Manasseh) for his inheritance.

Friedman also gives this interesting concept that divides E and J: “In E, Moses’ faithful assistant is Joshua. Joshua leads the people in the battle against the Amalekites; he serves as watchman inside the Tent of Meeting (Tabernacle) whenever Moses is not meeting with the deity there; he is the only Israelite who is not involved in the golden calf incident; and he seeks to prevent the misuse of prophecy. In J, on the other hand, Joshua plays no role. Why the special treatment of Joshua in E but not in J? Joshua was a northern hero. He is identified as coming from the tribe of Ephraim….”

E never mentions the ark of the covenant, seeing it as made of gold, and therefore, against the 10 commandments. J’s version of the 10 commandments states that things of molten gold are prohibited, and so both the ark and cherubim of the Mercy Seat are allowed, being plated with gold. However, the Tabernacle IS important to E, as it dwells in the northern kingdom in the city of Shiloh. For E, the Tabernacle represents the presence of God.

Meanwhile, J never mentions the Tabernacle. The ark represents God’s presence. It goes before Israel into battle and while the Tabernacle remains in Shiloh, the ark is carried to Jerusalem by David (whom J celebrates).

The Deuteronomists lived during the time of King Josiah. During his reign, the temple priests “found” the book of the law, while renovating the temple. This book, Deuteronomy, charged Israel with removing all altars and places of worship, including any altars to Yahweh, outside the Temple. So, while Hezekiah removed altars to other gods, leaving any high places (Bamoth) dedicated to Yahweh, Josiah removes everything. Josiah’s reforms will include changing the Temple, as well. No longer will it have God’s consort, Asherah within it (represented by the Tree of Life). No angels, no visions, etc. It is now a place for animal sacrifice, and not much more. Temple centric worship is possibly one of the major issues brought up by the prophets of Jeremiah’s day. Lehi would go against the Deuteronomists, by building altars in the wilderness, as will the Rechabites, whom Jeremiah praised.One of Lehi’s major visions, that of the Tree of Life, has the Tree representing the love of God, which is shown to be the mother of Jesus. The Nephites understood the importance of God’s wife, his Asherah, in the creation of Life and religion.

These are just a few examples of the religious/political divisions that occured in Israel. They were written into their earliest memories, as each side had its heroes and villains, holy laws and beliefs. And this understanding is important for us to understand conflicting scriptures, and conflicts between the various factions in Israel, as it shared with us its story(ies).

38 thoughts on “Documentary Hypothesis: Indications of Multiple Authorship

  1. You do realize believing in this theory questions the Book of Mormon by critics? To not mention how this theory isn’t an attack on Mormonism is troublesome. This is the second post by you in a row that an unbeliever would embrace.

  2. Jettboy, can you explain in more detail how believing in multiple authors for the first 5 books of the OT is an attack on Mormonism? Is it because that idea runs contrary to church’s understanding of what the Book of Moses is in the pearl of great price? This is an honest question because I personally think the multiple authors thing makes sense, let alone all of the evidence that supports this idea.

  3. One can study the scriptures spiritually and intellectually. I don’t see them conflicting with each other unless one forgets to study with the aid of the Holy Ghost.

    Some topics are way to complex for me to fully grasp their relevance in my personal life. The composition history of the Old Testament is one of them. I am grateful to have the record in my Canon of scripture, but am even MORE grateful that I have other scripture to back it up and add to my knowledge of the Savior. The Book of Mormon, especially, is very dear to my heart. It connects the Old Testament to the Savior of the New, and is proof of the Restoration claims in the last days – which brought with it the D&C and Pearl of Great Price. It truly is the keystone of our religion.

  4. Jettboy I am also not seeing how the documentary hypothesis is a problem re the Book of Mormon. Would you mind explaining?

  5. No I will not do the anti-Mormon work of repeating their arguments. Not to mention that is against the policy of this blog. I will say it has to do with Isaiah and the Book of Mormon and leave it at that.

  6. The Old Testament can be very confusing because there is evidence of multiple points of view without the benefit of one or two organizing intellects as in the Book of Mormon. “As far as it is translated correctly” could be broadened to ‘As far as the motivation was not self (or locale) serving.’ I believe there is great virtue in the Bible, but it comes from a variety of sources, some of them less reputable than others. I go with the idea that an important reason God sent Lehi and his family out of Jerusalem in possession of the Brass Plates was to preserve a relatively early and uncontaminated record.

  7. ” I go with the idea that an important reason God sent Lehi and his family out of Jerusalem in possession of the Brass Plates was to preserve a relatively early and uncontaminated record.”

    Agree with you. I never thought of it in this way, but it makes sense.

    “It has to do with Isaiah and the Book of Mormon and leave it at that.”

    I read it somewhere that makes the point how, in the Book of Mormon, Isaiah is referred to as “the words of Isaiah” and not “the Book of Isaiah”. I think that is an interesting perspective, one seldom explored.

  8. I don’t see this post as against the policies of M*. There is room for people to speculate about the authorship of the OT. Joseph Smith did a lot of speculating himself.

    Having said that, I personally don’t buy this statement: “Yet, it is clearly illustrated, as they now exist, the first five books of the Bible were not written by Moses but by later writers. And while there are many theories that scholars now have to argue against the Documentary Hypothesis, the idea of multiple authors isn’t questioned.”

    Modern intellectuals love to make claims like this, and every time I actually explore the scholarship it turns out that such ideas are definitely questioned by lots of people. I am always suspicious of scholars who claim “consensus” on any such issue and claim the consensus is not questioned. New information always comes out, and the supposed consensus is replaced by a new consensus a few years later.

    Just as an example, check out this article, which definitely questions the consensus (as described by Rame) for various reasons:

    Meanwhile, the supporters of the supposed existing consensus always make statements like: “well, if you knew more about the scholarship, you would realize that any scholarship that does not agree with what I believe the consensus to be is ignorant/not taken seriously/fringe, etc, etc.”

    I can’t even count how many times I have seen such statements from scholars, including many times on this very blog.

    It very well may be that there are multiple authors of the Pentateuch. As a faithful latter-day Saint, I have no problem with that idea. Let me put this is caps so there is no doubt: I HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH THE IDEA THERE ARE MULTIPLE AUTHORS OF THE OLD TESTAMENT BOOKS GENERALLY ATTRIBUTED TO MOSES. IT MAY VERY WELL BE TRUE.

    But I see the argumentum ad verecundiam fallacy as real and something that writers need to avoid when making such claims. Biblical scholarship is changing all the time. Have some humility, avoid appeals to authority, and accept that the supposed consensus may change in the coming decades. Meanwhile, I think the documentary hypothesis is interesting and worth knowing about. So thanks for this post Rame.

  9. Despite the tone from many respondents, I found this a great discussion on this issue:

    Here are some statements reflecting my own thoughts:

    ” Incredulity about miracles and holiness drives a lot of the higher criticism I’ve seen or read. The premises drive the conclusions.”

    Yes, I totally agree with this. Have read higher criticism and come away with the same impression. That there are some conservatives that are using it now doesn’t take away from the *vast* number of unbelieving uses.

    “Worth is in the eye of the beholder. I can read Hebrew and Greek, and I find it aids my interpretation of obscure passages of the Bible. I have no problem with higher criticism as an intellectual endeavor. If you want to spend your life deconstructing holy writ only to write erudite and obscurantist articles and books that 0.000000001% of the population will read, go for it.”

    I can do none of that and *still* feel my understanding of scripture is perfectly fine and of great worth. My own interest is more historical than textual (although HC seems to touch on both) criticism.

    ” . . . what I’m saying is that the scholarly consensus, as far as I can tell, has specific details that are inconsistent with things that Mormons do believe. We believe in one Isaiah or, at minimum, that the Isaiah chapters in the Book of Mormon were already written before c. 600 BC. We believe that Moses wrote the book of Moses, which doesn’t resemble what I understand the scholarly consensus would predict as some kind of Genesis ur-text. We believe Adam and Eve existed. Joseph appeared to believe that Paul wrote his letters and that the resurrection and Christ’s claim to sonship weren’t a later elaboration foisted onto pre-existing traditions. If I recall, he also seemed to think that Jonah and Job were real, or at least one of them was. What we believe and what Joseph believed aren’t a straitjacket, sure, and I may be wrong about some of these specific conflicts, but there are real conflicts. Real conflicts require a more sensitive and nuanced approach than just plowing ahead to do whatever it takes to reconcile Mormonism with the scholarly consensus. Sometimes it requires an admission that we’re at an impasse and don’t have a way forward at the moment. Suspended judgment is ok. My impression—impression only, not necessarily a general indictment—is that Mormon advocates for the dochypo and HC are not careful enough with the conflicts for me to trust them. They are dismissive and impatient.

    I don’t buy the Eighth Article of Faith argument. Its main assumption is false—a belief in the dochypo is not incompatible with a “literal” reading of the Bible, since one could believe that God directed the process of redaction and so on to bring the text into precisely the form he wanted. Your example of the Book of Mormon would be one example of something like that—we don’t claim its infallible but we do believe that the editing process is part of its inspired workmanship, which is different from the ‘literalist’ fundamentalist belief you abjure about the inspired text that is infallible if you could but recover the autographs. The formal structure of this argument is also false. It’s a variation of “John will marry a girl. Suzy is a girl. Therefore John will marry Suzy.” The fact that Joseph Smith believed there were problems with the Bible doesn’t mean that one specific account of *what* the problems in the Bible are and *how* they came to be is accurate. It could be, but the Eighth Article of Faith doesn’t tell us one way or the other.”

    I could quote that whole post of his this was taken from. My point is, I don’t really trust Higher Criticism in general or Documentary Hypothesis specifically. Great ideas as a theory perhaps, but very little physical evidence.

  10. Jettboy,

    The classic documentary hypothesis primarily concerns the Pentateuch, not the prophetic books. So one can accept multiple authorship of the Five Books of Moses without accepting the idea that there were multiple authors of Isaiah. The evidence of multiple authors in part of the Pentateuch is far strong in my opinion than with Isaiah where he primary arguments are stylistic differences and prophecy pointing to future events (which critics see as signs of age).

    I think the Book of Moses is a greater challenge to the notion of a documentary hypothesis however. It implies that at least some of the stories in the Bible date back to first hand recollections that were written down from the time of Adam and onward. It is certainly possible, however, that multiple prebiblical sources were put together by a later redactor even if some of sources were of ancient and prophetic vintage.

  11. Isaiah is a different issue than the DH, Jettboy. This suggests you are speaking from fear and ignorance, rather than a position of knowledge and understanding.
    Regarding Isaiah, the general consensus is two or three authors, with Isaiah writing about the first 40 or so chapters. This means the BoM quotes from chapters thought to be from Deutero-Isaiah, written after the Diaspora. Wordpeints confirm a second Isaiah, however all chapters quoted in the BoM belong to Isaiah, so there is no conflict, IMO.

    Now, the multiple authors of the Torah help us understand conflicts and nuances in the five books of the Bible. In fact, I’ve written elsewhere that the BoM promotes the idea. The Brass plates may very well have been the E/P source from the Northern kingdom. It stresses the greatness of Abraham, Joseph, and Moses. It denigrates David and Solomon. The Tent of Meeting/Tabernacle of Lehi over J’s ark of the covenant (which E/P and BoM do not mention), wilderness worship on altars vs centralized temple worship.
    As for the book of Moses, Joseph received a revelation that expanded upon Genesis. It shows us that Moses is a historical person, who received revelation based on his current understanding. The details of Creation is not as important as the stories showing God’s relationship with mankind (Moses 1:39).

    Geoff, I have no problem with those who reject these theories. But it is better that they hear these theories from believers than from atheists. I can teach an old earth and evolution in ways that people can actually strengthen their faith in Christ. As it is, I believe in inoculation for our members, something the Church is slowly warming up to.

  12. Oh, and for those wanting to see the best and in depth evidence for multiple authors, I recommend Richard E Friedman’s “Who Wrote the Bible?” It’s an easy read and help you understand political conflicts in the OT.

  13. Hi Jettboy,

    Not sure what you are trying to say.

    I’ve posted about this stuff as discussed by LDS Perspectives. What I’ve gleaned is that the Old Testament as we currently have it is the product of multiple sources similar to, but arguably inferior to, the Brass Plates. The Deuteronomists had removed reference to Christ from the texts. The fact that the creation narrative bears unusual similarity to Babylonian creation myths suggests that the Old Testament we have arose circa 500 BC.

    This actually points to the beauty of the source Book of Mormon as more authentic than the Old Testament. The Book of Mormon is filled with Christ as Savior of all mankind, which has been removed from the Old Testament. The Book of Mormon is filled with the human family as one, the family of Adam. The Book of Mormon is filled with the desire we have to save our brothers, even when apostasy crosses generations and hundreds of years.

  14. As to the Book of Moses, I see that as Joseph Smith attempting to recover truths that were lost with the manuscript pages lent to Harris. Joseph was obsessed with the creation narrative (or God was obsessed with getting Joseph to restore ever more correct doctrine related to the creation narrative).

  15. Rame, I don’t want to threadjack your post, but I would like to put it on record that I don’t buy the “multiple Isaiahs” theory that is all the rage among Biblical scholars. The Book of Mormon quotes from the following chapters of Isaiah:

    Isaiah 2 2 Nephi 12
    Isaiah 3 2 Nephi 13
    Isaiah 4 2 Nephi 14
    Isaiah 5 2 Nephi 15
    Isaiah 6 2 Nephi 1
    Isaiah 7 2 Nephi 17
    Isaiah 8 2 Nephi 18
    Isaiah 9 2 Nephi 19
    Isaiah 10 2 Nephi 20
    Isaiah 11 2 Nephi 21
    Isaiah 12 2 Nephi 22
    Isaiah 13 2 Nephi 23
    Isaiah 14 2 Nephi 24
    Isaiah 48 1 Nephi 20
    Isaiah 49 1 Nephi 21
    Isaiah 50 2 Nephi 7
    Isaiah 51 2 Nephi 8
    Isaiah 52 3 Nephi 20
    Isaiah 53 Mosiah 14
    Isaiah 54 3 Nephi 22

    The brass plates with Isaiah’s writings were recovered sometime around 600 BC, and the people of Lehi fled to the Americas. How would they have access the the supposedly later writings of the later Isaiahs if they were in the Americas?

    Personal opinion: the Book of Mormon proves that there was only one Isaiah who wrote sometime before 600 BC.

  16. For readers who care about the multiple Isaiahs issue, FAIR Mormon does a good job addressing this issue:

    It is of course possible that Nephi only had access to the first 40 chapters of Isaiah on the brass plates and that the other chapters in the BoM were received via revelation. The BoM quotes Malachi, which was written around 400 BC, and the Nephites did not have access to those prophetic writings, so the Malachi quotations were from prophecy.

    However, my personal opinion after reading Isaiah and reading a lot of books about Isaiah is that there was one author and that the Nephites had access to all 66 chapters in the brass plates. I simply don’t buy the multiple Isaiahs theory.

  17. Sorry for conflating the Documentary Hypothesis and the Isaiah Hypothesis, but they cannot be separated so easily. They come from the same movements, with mostly the same assumptions, having nearly the same evidence, making similar conclusions. Higher Criticism of the New Testament is similarly in the same category as these two. That there are some differences in evidence (NT relies more on Historical Criticism) doesn’t mean differences in methodology.

  18. I see no issue with Isaiah authorship. wordprints demonstrate Isaiah in BoM all comes from first Isaiah.

    There are some scholars who negatively respond to miracles. However, most do not figure miracles into their conclusions, as you cannot prove nor disprove them through scientific method. The DH does not deal with miracles, so Jettboy’s concern on this is a non sequitur strawman.

    I agree with Meg on this. We can see how different groups intentionally left out things they didn’t like. This would include early belief in a Messiah. As it is, such teachings were restored by Lehi, Nephi and Jacob, as these things were revealed to them a little at a time.

  19. I really like this thread! A few thoughts:

    * The Old Testament is a magnificent and enormous library, combining several genres and coming from multiple cultures over the course of centuries. Not only does it lack the overall, edited polish of the Book of Mormon, it goes strongly the other way, presenting an anarchic mishmash. The world of Job is far different from that of Judges, and that’s extremely different from Daniel. Read the history in 1 Kings and the parallel material in 2 Chronicles, and you’ll see how much tone and emphasis alone clearly change over time.

    Latter-day Saints often say we *now* have the fullness of the gospel, but then balk at the idea that scriptures from times and places without that much light have less pristine clarity! Of course the Old Testament is not the Book of Mormon. It doesn’t have to be. We need the Book of Mormon for a reason.

    * The Joseph Smith Translation, of which the Book of Moses is a part, is not necessarily a restoration of an original text. Joseph Smith never said that. It may well be a new or modified version of that historical episode crafted especially for our day. Maybe we need to be more comfortable with the truth that records of these ancient events are obviously stylized dramas, not textbook transcripts. The temple pretty clearly teaches that, I think.

    * I have no real problem or preference about Isaiah authorship, though I’ll say that it’s odd that he gets singled out for this kind of division among the prophets, and he’s the one the Book of Mormon lauds the most. Where’s second Ezekiel or third Jeremiah? Nope, just Isaiah gets this treatment. That doesn’t prove that the “multiple Isaiah” theory is bunk meant to distract us from truth, but the convenience can’t be overlooked.

    * Of course the language in the Book of Mormon contains revealed Biblical wording! Anti-Mormons love to point out all the New Testament phrasing that can’t be coincidence. However, what they fail to do is to delve deep enough into that–these phrasings are often grouped in a way and interwoven into the Book of Mormon text in a way that subtly comments on the new text’s themes. For example, consider the famous Ether 12, which is a sophisticated commentary on Hebrews. The order and usage of the Biblical text doesn’t look like mere plagiarism at all, but is a nuanced exegesis of the topic of faith, shedding more light on the subject and the Biblical source itself. The frequent usage of Biblical phrases in the Book of Mormon make it *more* likely to be true, not less! (For more on this, see here:

  20. Wow! I love this thread. Geoff and Huston made some great points. I think we as Latter-day Saints need to grow up a bit and learn that everything isn’t as simple as we thought it was when were 19 year old missionaries handing out BOM’s. Thoughtful and mature people have thoughtful and mature perspectives. We do not have to agree, and civil arguments are a joy to behold.

  21. I also think it’s necessary to differentiate between the DH and the idea that the 5 books of Moses are the product of multiple authors, redactors, and editors.
    I think it’s pretty clear that the 5 books of Moses, as they currently stand in the Bible show the effects of several hands in molding the state of the text.

    However, the DH often goes far beyond that. William Hamblin has a good series of essays on his (pretty much dead at this point) blog:

    I’ll quote a few excerpts, mainly because I mostly agree with him, but he knows a lot more than I do on the subject:

    “It is very important to realize that there is absolutely no empirical textual evidence to support any aspect of the Documentary Hypothesis. That is to say, no ancient manuscripts or textual fragments have been found which divide any portion of the Pentateuch into the alleged JEDP documents. This is precisely why it is called the Documentary Hypothesis. And it is precisely why there are so many variant interpretations. On the one hand, this is not necessarily evidence against the hypothesis, since it (conveniently?) claims that all the hypothetical editorializing and redaction of the text was completed by the second century BC, precisely when we get the earliest actual manuscript evidence. On the other hand, however, lack of empirical evidence either way renders the entire theory unverifiable. . .”

    “The reality is that there is no such thing as the Documentary Hypothesis. Rather, there are many different, and sometimes contradictory versions of the theory. Hence, we should more properly speak of the Documentary Hypotheses. I’ll discuss the details of the differences in some of the theories later, but at this point it is only necessary to recognize that the various hypotheses differ in claims regarding the number of different sources, the dates of the sources, and which texts which should be attributed to which source. And scholarly disagreement over the issues is often fundamental and irreconcilable.”

    “Consensus on multiple sources for the Pentateuch does not imply consensus on the JEDP [i.e., the DH] theory . . . to demonstrate that the JEDP hypothesis is inadequate does not require that I propose an alternative theory. Indeed, it is quite possible that there is no unified theory that adequately explains the data. To anticipate my conclusion, I believe it is epistemologically inherently unknowable. The proper answer is not only “we don’t know,” but indeed “we cannot know.” That is a perfectly legitimate response to these issues.”

    “The Bible itself—both explicitly and implicitly—tells us that it had many authors, who wrote over the course of a number of centuries, living in Egypt, Israel or Babylon. These writings were gathered together, organized, and transcribed by later tradents and editors, who are generally anonymous. In the broadest terms this is precisely what the Documentarians claim. On this point, all scholars agree, whether fundamentalists, evangelical, moderates, liberals, secularists or atheists. As we shall see, however, the problem arises when Documentarians begin to claim they can identify specific “hidden” authors, texts, passages, editors, redactors, fragments, dates or places for the composition of specific sections or even small fragments of various biblical books based solely on literary analysis.”

  22. I agree not all scholars agree on the specifics of DH, but do agree on multiple authors for the Pentateuch. I disagree with some of the later timelines given.
    The key is to not fear these things. We do need to learn of and from these ideas. They can help us better understand the political conflicts occurring in scripture, and explain conflicts in scripture.
    One group says Moses spoke face to face with God, while another group insists no one can see God. Their different views can be a source of learning for us. It can also help us understand the political dynamics in Lehis Jerusalem and in Mosiahs Zarahemla.
    BTW, Bill Hamblin is a great LDS scholar, but I agree with only part of his thoughts on the DH. Much can be deciphered. Another LDS scholar, John Sorensen, proposed that the Brass Plates may be the E source from the North Kingdom, and his ideas helped convince me to accept the DH.

  23. Good summary of the DH and overview of the textual evidence supporting multiple authorship of the Pentateuch. Before I learned about the DH, the Pentateuch (and the OT generally) came across as a hot mess of details so confusing it was easier to just stay away. But with the DH as a framework, the OT has come alive in a way I never imagined possible.

    For those trying to reconcile multiple authorship of Isaiah with BoM quotations, I recommend Spencer’s “The Vision of All”. He discusses the possibility that Deutero-Isaiah operated in the late 7th century, ~100 years after Proto-Isaiah, but a contemporary of Lehi and so accessible to him and Nephi. I’m not entirely convinced that the theology of Deutero-Isaiah fits the final years of Jerusalem’s independence better than the Babylonian captivity, but I do find it a more likely setting than Proto-Isaiah’s lifetime.

  24. Geoff B, do you have (or are you aware of) any criteria for assessing if a consensus exists? You point out that there are people who question the DH and multiple authorship, but that alone is not sufficient to disprove that a consensus exists. I’m less familiar with Biblical scholarship, but there are many examples of widely accepted scientific theories that are questioned by a minority.

  25. Ryan, my point is that many scholars have weaponized the use of the word “consensus” to try to shout down anybody who does not accept certain ideas that are considered “mainstream.” Yes, I am aware that very often a consensus does exist on certain issues, and sometimes the consensus should be taken seriously, but my experience is that some of the most interesting scholarship takes place outside of the mainstream. And if scholars try to snuff out scholarship outside of the consensus, they are very often preventing new discoveries that advance knowledge. I would never call myself an expert on Biblical scholarship, but I have had many unfortunate interactions with academics who claim a consensus on one issue or another, and when I actually do my own research, the consensus seems bogus or at the very least forced. And very often people have an ideological reason for claiming that certain ideas are not “mainstream.” I am mostly speaking out against this tendency to try to shut down certain ideas because “most scholars believe something else.”

  26. I authored the Interpreter Isaiah article, and I’m working on another one that goes into greater depth on some of the other critical scholarly lines of thinking that support the theory. Having spent most of my reading time over the past few years reading critical scholarship — much of it focused on this specific issue — I can say I honestly see why critical scholars hold their theories, but a reasonable person operating from different sets of assumptions can definitely disagree without compromising one’s intellectual integrity. I have full confidence that the Isaiah chapters in the BoM were included in some form in the writings that Lehi’s family had on the brass plates. The book of Isaiah as we now have it shows a lot of evidence of interpolation and redaction over time, but the scholarly theories that have arisen in response are wildly divergent and largely based on a system of what I would call “acceptable parameters of conjecture.”
    As far as the Pentateuch is concerned, I am comfortable with some form of the DH and I am absolutely a believer in the truth claims of the Restoration. It’s okay to retain some sense of mystery about the nature of scripture and its production.

  27. Geoff B, I can’t agree more on the weaponization of “consensus”. The meaning of the word is perniciously shifting (and in some circles has completely shifted) from “things most people accept as legit” to “what you’d better accept as legit if you know what’s good for you”.

  28. And I agree with Geoff that consensus can be weaponized. However, in this instance I feel members should be aware of such issues, if for no other reason than to inoculate them.

  29. I admit I can’t argue with that, either. The question then becomes how to do that without getting way out in the weeds. You couldn’t, for example, bring up this kind of thing in a Gospel Doctrine class. If two or three people in such a setting start doing a deep high priest kolob-dive into docuhypo zaniness, the rest of the class is going to eyeroll themselves out of the room (spiritually if not physically). In a forum like this and elsewhere in the bloggernacle the ideas can get kicked around, and only those who are actually interested are involved. Can “innoculation” travel outside that arena effectively?

  30. Inoculation occurs slowly in the Church. Which isn’t necessarily bad. If the prophets rushed from one idea to the next. Pres Oaks said the Proclamation on the family took a year of prayer, discussion and work. Pres Kimball’s priesthood revelation took years of preparation.
    The Church has done a list of inoculation topics over the last few years, including: polygamy, seer stones, MMM, garments, etc. It’s a good first step. Pres Nelson spoke in General Conf recently about the Creation, where his point was that God created, not that the Earth is young or there is no evolution.
    Little movements away from earlier statements by JFS and others, such as these mentioned, are a good start.

  31. Re: kolob-diving, I recall on the ol’ mission we had a habit of warning each other that we were getting too deep in the weeds of a discussion topic. One of us would start slowly inching the bottom of our tie higher and higher up our shirt. To most folks, it just looked like an adjustment, but the short tie was the cue to get back on topic.

  32. “The question then becomes how to do that without getting way out in the weeds. You couldn’t, for example, bring up this kind of thing in a Gospel Doctrine class.” Oh I think you could. I mean, you couldn’t exhaustively cover the subject in a single class (or multiple ones, realistically), but we’ve been talking about the early chapters of Genesis in Sunday School for weeks now. It seems fairly easy to me to spend a couple of minutes outlining what the OP discusses each week.

  33. Jack, there are options. One, you could give out a handout on DH. Second, you could briefly speak on it for 2 minutes (as it is not the basis for Gospel Doctrine classes anyway), and then tell those interested in it that you can provide resources, or talk to them about it later.
    Most members do not have a problem with it, as long as they know such things were inspired by Moses (oral tradition) even though how we have it now may have been written by several others.

  34. Absolutely. I love that handout idea! You could even put references on it for those interested. And the handout would allow you to spread out discussion of the theory over the course of weeks, which I think is important. You don’t want to take a significant portion of any one lesson, and the DH has incredibly useful explanatory power for all kinds of things. It would be really helpful to be able to reference it across weeks as you teach. And think of all the spiritual lessons you could illustrate with it! I think it would be wonderful.

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