I’m continuing my series on John Van Seters’ discussion of Exodus 19-20 in Life of Moses. Yesterday, I talked about Van Seters’ division of sources for those chapters. In this post, I’ll quote Van Seters’ summary of the traditional Documentary Hypothesis’ characterization of J and E in Exodus 19-20, as well as his critique of that approach. On page 250, Van Seters states the following:
“The major source-critical problem lies in an effort to find two parallel strands, J and E, in [19:]10-20. Thus in J (vs. 11-13a, 15, 18, 20) the mountain is sealed off as sacred, and Yahweh descends on it while Moses alone ascends to the deity. The theophany is volcanic in nature. In E (vs. 10, 13b-14, 16-17, 19) God dwells on the mountain, and the people are allowed to approach it while Moses remains with the people. The theophany is that of a storm. As Wilhelm Rudolph has seen, however, there are problems with this division. The divine names cannot be used as a criterion for separating sources in Exodus 19. Since Yahweh calls to Moses from the mountain (v. 3b J or Dtr), this implies that he dwells there, as in E. In v. 9a (J) Yahweh states that the people will witness his speaking with Moses, and this happens in v. 19 (E). The theophany imagery is also mixed where the ‘anan appears in both sources, and the imagery in 20:18 (E) is a mixture of storm and volcanic phenomena.”
I’ll add to this that it’s odd that E presents the Israelites as having more access to God than J does, considering that E highlights mediators between humans and God—angels, prophets. I agree with R.N. Whybray that trying to identify sources through their alleged characteristics is not reliable, for it’s not consistently applied.