LDS Perspectives on the Bible and Documentary Hypothesis

December 13, 2017: The Documentary Hypothesis with Cory Crawford


Dr. Crawford talks about the reason Julius Wellhausen proposed the first five books of the Old Testament (the Pentateuch or Torah) was a compilation of multiple sources due to the contradictions between the text and itself. Wellhausen in his documentary hypothesis identified four sources: a source that focused on God as Jehovah (J), another that focused on God as Elohim (E), a Priestly source that was aware of both the J and E sources, and the Deuteronomists (D). Though other explanations for the Pentateuch have arisen, no modern scholars adhere to the prior assumption that the Pentateuch consisted of five books written by Moses, himself. It is believed the J, E, P, & D sources were combined into the current Torah format circa 1000-500 B.C.

Though not explicitly discussed in this interview, it is interesting to consider the Book of Mormon narrative that portrays a Torah variant being contained in the brass plates in the custody of Laban. It is also interesting to consider the Book of Mormon explanation for itself as originally an edited compilation of multiple documents, including parallel accounts (e.g., the narrative reported to be in the lost 116 pages versus the narrative contained in the small plates of Nephi).

Dr. Cory Crawford holds a PhD from Harvard in Near Eastern languages and civilizations and currently teaches Classics and World Religions at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. Dr. Crawford wrote “Competing Histories in the Hebrew Bible and in the Latter-day Saint Tradition” in Standing Apart: Mormon Historical Consciousness and the Concept of Apostasy.

Recent related LDS Perspectives podcasts include Dr. Barlow’s An Introduction to Higher Biblical Criticism with Philip Barlow (aired Dec 6, 2017), Julie M. Smith on Mark’s Human Portrait of Jesus (aired Oct 25, 2017), and Benjamin Spackman’s Misunderstanding the Bible. Julie Smith, in particular, gives us insight into the purpose and raw power of the original “gospel” upon which Matthew and Luke built their more well-known narratives. After Christmas, LDS Perspectives will be airing another podcast with Benjamin Spackman, discussing the different creation accounts (and incidentally suggesting why the current Torah/Pentateuch ought to be understood as arising during the Babylonian captivity, after the timeframe when Lehi and his family would have separated from the mainstream Israelite population).

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About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ (of Latter-day Saints) for decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation. Meg is the author of Reluctant Polygamist, laying out the possibility that Joseph taught the acceptability of plural marriage but that Emma was right to assert she had been Joseph's only true wife.