Starting Farewell to the Yahwist

I started A Farewell to the Yahwist?: The Composition of the Pentateuch in Recent European Interpretation, which John Anderson recommended to me a while back.  In this post, I’ll blog about something from each of the essays.

1.  The “Introduction” was written by Thomas B. Dozeman and Konrad Schmid.  What stood out to me here was the concise—yet informative—summary of Erhard Blum’s views on page 4:

“After a thorough literary analysis, [Blum] formulated a proposal on the process of [the Pentateuch’s] composition that focused on two main subsequent, but nearly contemporaneous, compositional layers: a Deuteronomistic one (KD) and a Priestly one (KP).  Before them, the traditions in Genesis, on the one hand, and in Exodus through Numbers/Deuteronomy, on the other, literarily grew independently from each other.  They were, however, conceptually linked; that is, the narrative continuation of Genesis into Exodus was already part of a given intellectual matrix for the literarily still-unconnected traditions.  In a recent contribution Blum has stressed further the literary gap between Genesis and Exodus and has limited the literary extension of KD from Exodus to Numbers/Deuteronomy.  Therefore, KP formulated the first literary connection between Genesis and Exodus.”

So why are there scholars who are saying farewell to the Yahwist, the J source?  I think that Blum’s scenario illustrates at least part of the answer.  Blum distinguishes between Genesis and the rest of the Pentateuch.  He thinks that the two of them grew independently of each other.  He maintains that the Deuteronomistic layer (KD) was an addition to Exodus-Numbers/Deuteronomy, whereas the Priestly layer (KP) was an addition to Genesis.  And he argues that KP connected Genesis with Exodus.  This is different from saying that there’s a J-source that runs from Genesis-Numbers (or, if you believe in the Hexateuch, from Genesis-Joshua), for Blum does not believe that there’s a common thread of authorship running throughout the entire Tetrateuch, or Hexateuch.  Rather, he holds that Genesis was independent from the rest of the Pentateuch, until a priest connected Genesis with Exodus.  In Blum’s scenario, J is totally unnecessary.

And yet, Blum does say that Genesis and Exodus-Numbers/Deuteronomy were conceptually linked.  My understanding of this is that, for Blum, people had a big picture of the narrative in their minds—a narrative of pre-history, patriarchs, Joseph, the Exodus, the Wilderness, and the Conquest—even before these elements of the narrative had been connected together on a literary level.  I’m open to correction on this, but I have encountered a similar view among other scholars I have read: that, in a general sense, each element of the narrative presupposes the entire narrative.

2.  Thomas Christian Romer wrote “The Elusive Yahwist: A Short History of Research”.  I really appreciated this essay because it was clear and answered questions that I had about the views of Von Rad, Gunkel, Noth, etc.  I was slightly puzzled, however, by Romer’s comments on pages 12-13 that, according to Wellhausen, the Jehovist (the combination of J and E) “passed through different hands before coming to its present form”—meaning that there were “at least three different editions of J (J1, J2, J3) and three different editions of E (E1, E2, E3)” (Pages 12-13).  This surprised me because I thought that Wellhausen emphasized authorship rather than viewing the sources as collections of other sources, or as redactions of previous sources; I have read quotes from Wellhausen, for example, that do not place a lot of stock in oral tradition.  So I was somewhat surprised to read that Wellhausen believed in stages of J and E, for I assumed that he saw J and E as authors, not as editors of previous layers.  And yet, I did know that Wellhausen divided up the P-source, and that one of his divisions of that was Q, so it’s not totally shocking to learn that Wellhausen did the same sort of thing to J and E.

Something on page 20 also stood out to me: “…Van Seters attributes the integration of the patriarchal traditions and the exodus to J, but for Van Seters this development took place only at the end of the exilic period.  In the Deuteronomistic History the combination of the two traditions is still lacking.”

Actually, there are places in Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomistic History that mention the patriarchs (see here), but Van Seters probably does not consider those passages to be authentically Deuteronomistic, viewing them instead as later insertions.  Plus, in the Deuteronomistic History (Joshua-II Kings), the references to the patriarchs are very rare—and rarity is a factor that leads many scholars to view certain passages as secondary.

3.  Konrad Schmid wrote “The So-Called Yahwist and the Literary Gap Between Genesis and Exodus”.  On pages 31-33, Schmid presents reasons that he views Genesis and Exodus as originally independent—before the priest connected the two with each other.

The first reason is that Exodus contradicts itself on chronology.  Exodus 12:40-41 says that the Israelites were in Egypt for 430 years, which “stands in contrast to the information in Exod 1:8, which mentions a change in generation after Joseph, and in Exod 2:1…in which Moses is a grandson of Levi on his maternal side—if read in the light of the Genesis tradition (which originally might not be presupposed in Exod 2:1)” (page 32).  For Schmid, P knew of an independent Exodus story that had a long duration for the Israelites in Egypt, and he tried to link that story with Genesis, thereby creating chronological contradictions.  (What’s odd, however, is that, on page 31, Schmid actually attributes Exodus 12:40-41—which has the 430 years—to P.  So was P interacting with a source that had 430 years, or was he creating that source and contradicting himself on genealogy—presenting the Israelites in Egypt for a long time, and for a short time?)

The second reason is that the Joseph story appears implausible when added to the Exodus story.  Although Joseph was renowned in Egypt, a Pharaoh after “the death of Joseph and his generation” arises and does not know Joseph—then he makes nomads into “conscript laborers, a status normally reserved for prisoners of war”.  For Schmid, the Joseph story and the Exodus story were obviously independent narratives that were artificially connected, resulting in an implausible picture.  Schmid disagrees with scholars who think that the Joseph story was specifically composed to connect the patriarchal stories with the Exodus—as a way to show how the Israelites got into Egypt.  As Schmid notes, “The forefathers of Israel dwelt in the land of Canaan in Gen 50, and it is only by means of the one verse (Gen 50:14) that they are brought back to Egypt to set the stage for the Exodus.”  But I think that the notion that the Israelites would dwell in Egypt is in more places than that in the Joseph narrative: Genesis 45-47 talk about the Israelites dwelling in Goshen.  And, as I look at Schmid’s chart on scholarly attributions to P in Genesis 37-Exodus 1, I notice that most of the passages about the Israelites dwelling in Goshen are not attributed to P, so, in my opinion, it seems as if there was a pre-priestly connection between the Joseph story and Exodus.  But Schmid doesn’t appear to think that even P regarded the Joseph story as a possible bridge between the patriarchs and the Exodus, for he holds that P and “texts that presuppose P” connected the Exodus with the patriarchs, and that P had his own way of getting Jacob into Egypt, without the Joseph story (Genesis 37:1-2; 46:6-7; 47:27-28; 49:1a, 29-33; 50:12-13) (pages 46-48).

Third, Schmid states that only one of God’s promises to the patriarchs—Genesis 15:13-16—indicates that the Israelites would dwell in Egypt, whereas the others simply state that Abraham’s descendants would inherit the land.  For Schmid, Genesis 15:13-16 is a post-P text—for it presupposes P’s language.  Schmid also notes parallels in wording between Exodus 1:7—which says that the Israelites multiplied in Egypt—and passages by P (Genesis 1:28; 9:7; 17:2), whereas he does not notice such similarities between Exodus 1:7 and the patriarchal promises.  Schmid takes this opportunity to say farewell to the Yahwist, for he says that “it is more likely that Gen 12:2 and Exod 1:9 were written by different authors than to assume that we have here a Yahwistic bridge between Genesis and Exodus” (page 34).

For this article, I’ll close by saying that Schmid distinguishes between the patriarchal narratives and the Exodus story in terms of theology.  For him, the patriarchal narratives present the patriarchs identifying other gods with YHWH and interacting peacefully with the Canaanites, whereas the Exodus story is intolerant towards other gods and the Canaanites.  But I wonder what Schmid would do with Genesis 24, in which Abraham doesn’t want Isaac to marry a Canaanite woman.

4.  Albert de Pury wrote “The Jacob Story and the Beginning of the Formation of the Pentateuch”.  On pages 71-72, de Pury summarizes his argument.  He says that, in the North, there was a story that tied Israel’s origins to Jacob, but that the northern prophetic tradition disliked this story, and, thus, Hosea 12 promoted Moses as the originator of Israel while highlighting Jacob’s less-than-noble deeds.  The Deuteronomists, in Deuteronomy 26:5-9, expressed their disapproval of the Jacob story by not even naming Jacob.  Later, a P(g) was trying to “situate the founding of Israel’s mission within a history of God’s work in the world, where history of humankind and the history of the regional Abrahamic oikoumene play a major role”, and so he incorporated the structure of the Jacob story for the purpose of genealogical links, but that opened the door for someone later to fill out that structure with the old stories about Jacob’s misdeeds.  De Pury speculates that this filling out could have occurred in the fifth century, as Israelites adopted a “more nationalistic and combative view of Israel’s place in the world”, and thus relished stories in which Jacob despoiled Esau and cheated Laban.

5.  For Jan Christian Gertz’s “The Transition Between the Books of Genesis and Exodus”, I’ll quote the part of the summary, which is from pages 86-87:

“The non-Priestly Joseph novella originally concluded with the reconciliation of the brothers at the grave of their father in the land of Canaan (Gen 50:1-5a, 5b*, 6-7a, 8a, 9-11, 15-21).  At this state of the text’s literary development, there is no connection to the story of the exodus.  P does not offer a parallel version to the Joseph novella as we know it; instead, the succinct narrative focuses on the eisodos of Jacob’s sons to Egypt.  Similarly, the depiction of the exodus in P resumes this narrative strand and embeds it into the encompassing presentation of Israel’s history (Gen 50:12-14a, 22b, 26a; Exod 1:[1-5,] 7, 13-14; 2:23aB-25; 6:2-7:7*).  In this way, P provides the earliest (and almost uninterrupted?) literary transition from the patriarchs and Joseph to Moses.  The connection between the patriarchal stories and the narrative of the exodus was first introduced and conceptually established by P, a literary innovation that won the day in the subsequent traditions.  Once it originated, all succeeding redactors were required to embrace this connection as the historically accurate and theologically intended sequence.  Thus, the transition was embellished as P was integrated with the non-Priestly Joseph novella and the non-Priestly narrative of the Exodus (Gen 50:5b, 22-26; Exod 1:6, 8-10).”

This sounds a lot like Schmid—P has a succinct account of Jacob going to Egypt and resumes that with the Exodus.  Gertz also says that someone later incorporated P with the non-priestly Joseph story and the non-priestly part of the Exodus.  I’m having a hard time understanding the arguments of Schmid and Gertz.  So P did not interact with the Joseph story?  Then why does Gertz say that P made a literary transition between “the patriarchs and Joseph” to Moses?  P obviously thinks that Joseph was important in terms of the Israelites ending up in Egypt!

I’ll continue this tomorrow.  Please remember that I may not be characterizing all of these arguments accurately, for source-criticism can be difficult.

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About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. I study the History of Biblical Interpretation at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, as part of its Ph.D. program. I have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting.
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