I finished Julius Wellhausen’s Prolegomena. In this post, I want to comment on two issues. First, I’ll pick out something from today’s reading that stood out to me. Second, I’ll discuss Wellhausen’s date for the Yahwist source (J).
1. In terms of today’s reading—which was actually from Wellhausen’s article on “Israel” in the Encyclopedia Britannica—something from page 508 stood out to me: “The Book of Daniel says nothing about a general resurrection, but speaks in fact only of a resurrection of the martyrs and a punishment of the wicked after death.” I take this to mean that Daniel 12:2 speaks of the resurrection of the Jewish martyrs and their persecutors—not of all humanity. And, indeed, the passage states that many who sleep shall rise. “Many” doesn’t necessarily mean “all.”
2. Regarding the date of the Yahwist, I had often heard that Wellhausen—or at least the Documentary Hypothesis—dated the Yahwist to the time of David or Solomon. Richard Elliott Friedman dates him later, however, specifically between 848-722 B.C.E. For Friedman, it was written before 722 B.C.E.—the time when the Assyrians conquered Northern Israel—because it mentions the dispersion of Simeon and Levi but not of the other tribes. And it was written after 848 B.C.E. because it refers to Edom declaring independence from Judah (Genesis 27:40), which occurred between 848-842 B.C.E.
In my reading of Wellhausen, I could not find a solid date for J. He dated Deuteronomy to the reign of Josiah in the seventh century B.C.E., while also affirming that the Deuteronomist was active in exile. He dated P to Israel’s exilic and post-exilic periods. But I couldn’t find an exact time for J. But I’ll share what I did find.
On page 308, Wellhausen states: “And finally we cannot believe barbarians to have indulged in reflections of the advantages and disadvantages of civilisation. The materials of Genesis ii.iii. can hardly have been imported before the time of Solomon. Where they came from we can scarcely guess; it would be most natural to think of the Phoenicians or the Canaanites generally, and this theory is favoured by Gen. iv. But in JE Babel is regarded as the last home of the primitive human race, Eden and Nod having preceded it; and the Hebrews probably derived the legend in the last instance from Babylon.”
The Yahwist, in the primeval history of Genesis, reflects upon the value of cities and settlement as compared to nomadism. God rejects Cain’s fruit offering—which is from the sedentary occupation of agriculture (not in the sense that farmers sit down, but in that they sow and reap in a certain location where they have settled)—but he accepts Abel’s sheep offering—which reflects Abel’s nomadic lifestyle as a herdsman. Cain is the father of cities and culture. In ancient Near Eastern legends about the flood, culture (i.e., music) is preserved, but such is not the case in the biblical flood story. Consequently, there are biblical scholars who conclude that the primeval history in Genesis romanticizes a nomadic lifestyle at the expense of a sedentary one. Wellhausen’s point is that this sort of reflection would have occurred when there was something with which the Israelites could compare the nomadic lifestyle. For Wellhausen, this sort of situation came about only when Solomon had established Israelite civilization.
I’m not sure what ramifications the origin of the Babel story would have for Wellhausen’s date of J. If Israel derived the Babel story from Babylon, does that make J exilic—since that was the time when Israel had a closer connection with Babylon? I don’t think that Wellhausen dates J to the exile, however, for he holds that J contains a primitive form of worship. Would J have had this if it had come after Deuteronomy, which was pre-exilic and more structured in the area of worship? My understanding is that Wellhausen thinks that Deuteronomy actually interacted with the Book of J! So Wellhausen must have thought that J was pre-exilic.
On page 338, Wellhausen says something else about the date of J: “In the Jehovist the present everywhere shines through, he in no way conceals his own age; we are told that Babylon is the great world-city, that the Assyrian Empire is in existence, with the cities of Nineveh and Calah and Resen; that the Canaanites had once dwelt in Palestine, but had long been absorbed in the Israelites.”
As far as I know, Assyria was not a problem for Israel during the reigns of David and Solomon, nor was Babylon. That came later, so I doubt that Wellhausen is dating J to the time of David and Solomon. Moreover, the Canaanites had not “long been absorbed in the Israelites” during the time of Solomon, as far as Wellhausen is concerned, for my understanding is that Wellhausen believes that the absorption began in the time of King Solomon. So I’d say that Wellhausen dates J to the ninth century, or later in the pre-exilic period.