Completing Farewell to the Yahwist

I finished up A Farewell to the Yahwist?: The Composition of the Pentateuch in Recent European Interpretation.  I’ll do in this post what I did in my last write-up on this book: blog about something that caught my attention in the essays—in this case, each of the five remaining ones.  When appropriate, I’ll also refer to previous essays in the book—the ones that I blogged about yesterday.

Some of the essays in this book were easy, whereas others were quite complicated and difficult.  Source criticism can be a beast!  Consequently, I may have made some mistakes in defining certain positions.  I like for people to consult my blog for information, but, if you’re really interested in what the scholars in this book have to say, it would probably be a good idea for you to wrestle with their writings yourself—unless (unlike me) you’re a genius and reading source criticism is a breeze for you, in which case you won’t have to wrestle!  But I am writing these posts because I have found that blogging helps me to read better.  Plus, there’s the off-chance that someone who visits my blog can help me to understand what these essays are about!

In any case, here we go!

1.  Erhard Blum wrote “The Literary Connection Between the Books of Genesis and Exodus and the End of the Book of Joshua.”  I’ll start with some things that he says on page 106, which summarize his argument:

“…the redactional/compositional stratum of Josh 24 is already based on the Pentateuch, including the bulk of the Priestly material.”

“Let us bring our discussion to an end with two far-reaching conclusions following from our analysis.  (1) The stratum of Josh 24, which aimed at forming some sort of a ‘Hexateuch’ (or more precisely the ‘book of the Torah of God’ mentioned in 24:26), was composed after the completion of that huge pentateuchal work, a work that comprised the pre-Priestly traditions as well as the main of the Priestly material.  (2) It seems that the Priestly editor(s)/author(s) was (were) the first to bring together into one continuous literary opus the three major traditions of the Pentateuch: the primeval history, the narratives of the patriarchs, and the exodus narrative.”

Joshua 24 obviously assumes that the patriarchal stories are linked with the Exodus and some of the wilderness stories, so I can see why Blum thinks that Joshua 24 was post-priestly.  Blum also points out that Joshua 24 contains elements that appear elsewhere in the Pentateuch: the bones of Joseph (Joshua 24:32; Exodus 13:19) and Jacob buying land from Shechem (Joshua 24:32; Genesis 35)—as if Joshua 24 is a “key component in the compositional-editorial fabric that goes back to the narrative in the patriarchs” (page 98), and thus closes a Hexateuch.  But I’m curious as to what Blum would do with the absence of Sinai in Joshua 24—which leads some scholars to conclude that Joshua 24 was composed before the completion of the entire Pentateuch. But Blum does believe in post-priestly interpolations—such as Aaron in Exodus 4-5, or Genesis 15, or Exodus 4:1-17 (which is based on the plagues).

On to another topic: Blum reviews some reasons that scholars have treated the call of Moses in Exodus 3-4:18 as an interpolation.  First, there is tension within Exodus 4:18-19—as God in v 19 says that those who sought Moses’ life are dead, and yet Moses in v 18 wants to see his kinsmen in Egypt.  Is the generation alive or dead?  But, according to Blum, v 19 does smoothly follow Exodus 2:23, which talks about the death of the king of Egypt.  Second, Moses’ father-in-law is called “Reuel” in Exodus 2:18, but “Jethro”/”Jether” in Exodus 3:1-4:18.  So Blum sees Exodus 3-4:18 as an interpolation, but, unlike some scholars, he doesn’t believe that Exodus 3 was inserted to connect the Exodus with the patriarchs, for the only thing that Exodus 3 mentions about the patriarchs is their names.  Why does Blum believe that someone decided to insert Exodus 3:1-4:18?  Blum appears to separate Exodus 3 from Exodus 4:1-18—seeing the former as an addition to a pre-priestly narrative, and the latter as post-priestly.  For Blum, Exodus 4:1-18 (and v 30, which is part of this “redactional stratum”) serves to lessen the Israelites’ unbelief, by presenting them as having faith in response to Moses’ signs.  Blum sees a parallel to this in the patriarchal narrative, which leads him to “discern some links with our tradition [in Exodus 4:1-18] in the book of Genesis” (page 95): Abraham is a man of faith in the post-priestly Genesis 15, and that lessens or redresses Abraham’s laughter at God’s promise in the priestly Genesis 17.

2.  Thomas B. Dozeman wrote “The Commission of Moses and the Book of Genesis”.  I want to talk about two issues in this essay: Dozeman’s characterization of Blum’s position, and the debate over whether Exodus 4:1-9 is based on P.

First of all, what follows is Dozeman’s summaries of Blum, on pages 108-109 and 126, respectively:

“Erhard Blum supported the thesis of Rendtorff, arguing that the call of Moses in Exod 3:1-4:18 is a key text in the D-Komposition (KD), a postexilic literary composition linking the patriarchal stories with the salvation from Egypt.  The priestly version of the commission of Moses (Exod 6:2-7:7) represents the later P-Komposition (KP), according to Blum, thus affirming the pre-Priestly authorship [of] Exod 3:1-4:18.”

“Erhard Blum notes the literary problems that result from the identification of a pre-Priestly and a post-Priestly composition of Exod 3:1-6.  The most notable is the lack of narrative logic in the pre-Priestly version of the story, with the absence of any identification of the Deity to Moses.  The reaction of Moses to the Deity in verse 6b makes no sense, according to Blum, with the absence of the divine address (v. 4b) or the self-introduction (v. 6a).  Moses could not know that the Deity was speaking to him.  And, in view of this, Blum argues against the identification of a separate author for Exod 3:4b, 6a, attributing the whole of Exod 3:1-6 to the pre-Priestly KD.”

After I had racked my brain trying to understand Blum’s arguments in this book, I was slightly taken aback at Dozeman’s characterization of Blum.  Dozeman says that Blum views Exodus 3:1-4:18 as part of the post-exilic (but pre-priestly) D-Komposition that linked the patriarchal narrative with the Exodus, whereas Blum in his article states that Exodus 4:1-18 was post-priestly, as well as denies that Exodus 3 plays any role in connecting the patriarchal narratives with the Exodus.  Perhaps Blum changed his views on these issues!  Blum also views God’s self-identification in Exodus 3:4b, 6a—in which God refers to the patriarchs—as integral to that chapter, rather than a later addition, and for good reason: We the reader need the deity speaking to Moses to be identified for the story to make sense to us.  But I have a question: If Blum believes that Exodus 3 refers to the patriarchs, then how can he say in his own essay that “the entire interpolated story in Exod 3 with its abundant divine rhetoric is either not familiar with the narrative cycle of the ancestors or ignores it” (page 96)?

Here’s one more characterization of Blum by Dozeman: “Thus, the question arises whether the sudden appearance of Aaron in the wilderness is evidence of post-Priestly authorship to expand the role of Aaron from priest to prophetic teacher and to include him in the initial confrontation with Pharaoh (e.g., Valentin, Blum, Schmid, Otto, and Gertz).”  That must be why Blum believes that Aaron was secondary in parts of the Exodus story.

Second, is Exodus 4:1-9 a post-priestly writing that is based on P?  One side says “yes”, for the order of the plagues in Exodus 4:1-9 and P’s story of the plagues is similar; the theme of faith in Exodus 4:1-9 is in such late passages as Genesis 15 and Joshua 24; and Exodus 4:1-18 appears to reinterpret the priestly plagues story—as it reinterprets an underworld snake (Exodus 7:8-13) as merely a local creature (Exodus 4:2-4).  Others, by contrast, suggest that P is reinterpreting Exodus 4:1-9, noting clear differences between Exodus 4:1-9 and P’s plague story: Exodus 4:1-9 says that the signs are for the elders, whereas P says they’re for Pharaoh (and it focuses on Aaron, which P would do); Exodus 4:1-9 has the sign of leprosy, which P’s plague story lacks; Exodus 4:1-9 presents Moses’ staff becoming a snake rather than P’s water-serpent (Exodus 7:8-13); and Exodus 4:1-9 calls Moses’ deeds signs, whereas P calls them wonders.  The idea here appears to be that Exodus 4:1-9 does not draw from the language or the plot of P’s plague story, and that P seems to have borrowed from Exodus 4:1-9 and made its elements more dramatic.  Another point: Dozeman himself notes that the plague of the water turning into blood is not only in P, but is also “the first plague in the pre-Priestly history”, and so Dozeman wonders why Exodus 4:1-9 cannot be based on a “pre-Priestly version of the plague cycle” (page 120).

I’ll close this particular item by detailing some of Konrad Schmid’s reasons for viewing Exodus 3:1-4:18 as post-priestly.  First, Exodus 3 presupposes the crying of the Israelites, which is in P’s Exodus 2:23b.  Second, Exodus 6 appears to be unaware of Exodus 3-4—showing that Exodus 6 (P) was not modeling its call of Moses on Exodus 3-4, for Exodus 3-4 did not exist yet, being post-priestly.  Moreover, Exodus 3-4 seems to know of Exodus 6.  Exodus 3-4 changes the location of the call of Moses from Egypt to the holy mountain, and “the narrative account of the Israelite people not listening to Moses in Exod 6 is stated as a problem by Moses in Exod 3, even though he has not yet talked to the Israelites” (page 40).  For Schmid, Exodus 3-4 came after P’s Exodus 6 and is thus post-priestly.

3.  I liked Christoph Levin’s “The Yahwist and the Redactional Link Between Genesis and Exodus”.  I was a little thrown by Levin’s article at first, for he appeared to be saying that European scholarship thinks that P came first, and that other things were later attached to P.  But I think that his point is not that European scholars see P as the very first source, but rather that they believe that P organized the different stories into a larger narrative, or that the stories were organized with P as the framework.  (I’m open to correction on this.)  Levin’s argument is that the call of Moses in Exodus 3 resembles call stories in the patriarchal narrative (Genesis 12, 16, 18, 28, 32), in language and plot.  Levin concludes that the editor J’s hand is on all of these stories, so he’s not about to say farewell to the Yahwist!

4.  John Van Seters wrote “The Report of the Yahwist’s Demise Has Been Greatly Exaggerated”.  My regular readers know that I have blogged a lot through Van Seters’ books.  Some of you may be aware of his spiel: that J wrote the base narrative in the Tetrateuch, which P supplemented (and J also supplemented narratives).  This particular viewpoint definitely colors Van Seters’ approach to the European scholars.  Against Schmid, who thinks that P was unaware of the Joseph story, Van Seters points out examples of P being inexplicable without the context of the Joseph story!  Van Seters also notes parallels between the patriarchal narratives and the rest of the Pentateuch—especially regarding the promise that Israel would be populous.  For Van Seters, that means that the hand of J is evident throughout the Pentateuch—and so Van Seters rejects attempts to pronounce J’s death on account of an alleged separation between Genesis and the rest of the Pentateuch.  Moreover, Van Seters asks why some are so eager to get rid of J on account of debates on J’s date, when the same people believe in P, whose date is also debated.  This was a good chapter (in my eyes) because Van Seters expressed some of the same thoughts that I had as I read the European scholars in this book—only he did so from the standpoint of actually understanding what the scholars were saying!

5.  David Carr wrote “What Is Required to Identify Pre-Priestly Narrative Connections Between Genesis and Exodus?  Some General Reflections and Specific Cases”.

I want to note where David Carr agrees with the European scholars.  He says that “most essays share the judgment that texts such as Gen 46:1-5, the non-P bridge between Genesis and Exodus (e.g., Gen 50:24-25; Exod 1:6, 8-9), and Exod 3:1-4:8 are later additions to their contexts, whether they are pre- or post-P insertions” (page 180).  Carr agrees that insertions such as Genesis 46:1-5 and Exodus 3:1-4:18 united the patriarchal and Moses traditions—although he says that the unity was fostered by a “late pre-Priestly author/editor” late in the pre-exilic or exilic period, whereas the European scholars think that P linked the two traditions.

But Carr does not appear to think that a couple of links here and there are the only things connecting the Exodus with the patriarchal narratives.  On pages 165-166, he notes non-priestly themes in Genesis that also appear in Exodus: travel to or from the Promised Land, God seeing or hearing of great evil, God hearing a cry, God descending, God communicating to the righteous, God providing instructions for escape, the salvation of the righteous, and salvation by water.  These are not P explicitly coordinating different periods, or a late explicit appeal to a variety of traditions (as occurs in Genesis 15), or “strings of connected texts such as the notices about Joseph’s bones (Gen 33:19; 50:25-26; Exod 13:19; Josh 24:32)” (page 165).  Rather, these are elements that are integral to the story, and they appear in non-priestly parts of Genesis, and also in Exodus.  This is a reason why that Carr maintains that “non-Priestly pentateuchal narratives connect the ancestral stories to the exodus” (page 167).

Moreover, Carr does not believe that Genesis 50:14 was a link between the Joseph story and Exodus.  For one, he thinks that the Joseph story could end with the sons of Jacob in Egypt, without being literarily connected with the Exodus, as the author of the Joseph stories assumed “a knowledge on the part of his readers of the subsequent Exodus from Egypt” (page 175).  An issue that puzzled me as I read Schmid and Gertz is this: Do they maintain that the Joseph story before the insertion of Genesis 50:14 held that the Israelite brothers went to Egypt to settle there?  As Carr notes, they make the point that, without Genesis 50:14, the end of the Joseph story places the brothers in Canaan, burying their father, meaning that they don’t need an Exodus to get back to Canaan.  But there are other indications in the Joseph story that the Israelites were to settle in Egypt: the non-priestly parts about Goshen, for example.

Carr also thinks that attributing Genesis 50:14a to P (as Gertz does) is problematic, for that means that Genesis 50:12-14a is all P, and that P focuses on all of the brothers, before he radically shifts to Joseph, which is awkward.  According to Carr, that is why many source critics have attributed 50:12-13 to P, and v 14a to a non-priestly author.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. 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. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also 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.
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