Carr on the Non-P Source

For my write-up today of David Carr’s Reading the Fractures of Genesis: Historical and Literary Approaches, I will talk some about Carr’s discussion about the non-P source.

On pages 290-291, Carr defines his hypothesis: “I have advocated a ‘fragment’ hypothesis for the precursors of the proto-Genesis composition (the primeval history, Jacob, and Joseph stories, and Jacob-Joseph composition), a combined ‘redaction’/’supplement’ hypothesis for both the development of the Northern Jacob-Joseph story by Judean revisers and the later modification of the proto-Genesis composition, and a modified ‘source’ hypothesis for the final composition of this non-P material with P by the Rp author/redactor.”

We saw yesterday that Carr believes that a priestly redactor combined P with non-P, and that resembles source criticism—the view that different sources were combined.  In this post, we will see that Carr’s scenario also includes a “fragmentary” sort of hypothesis—a notion that independent fragments were brought together—and a “supplementary” hypothesis—the idea that additions were made to sources.

Carr does not believe in the Documentary Hypothesis, which posits the existence of a Northern E source and a Southern J source.  My impression is that this is because there are times in which the alleged “E” source appears to presume material that’s in J, plus it is not easy to separate the two because they are so intertwined, whereas “P and non-P materials occur in big blocks and interweaving of them is the exception” (page 147).  While Carr is open to the possibility that the non-P writer drew from different oral tradition circles—some that prefer “Yahweh,” and others that use “Elohim”—he does not think that there is evidence for full “E” and “J” sources.

At the same time, Carr does interact with the same sort of data to which Richard Elliott Friedman appeals in his defense of the Documentary Hypothesis, Who Wrote the Bible? (Carr does not interact with Friedman, probably because others have made the same sorts of observations), and he also responds to other arguments by advocates of the Documentary Hypothesis For example, like Friedman, Carr sees some stories in Genesis that focus on Northern cities, sanctuaries, or ancestors, whereas there are other stories that have a more Southern focus.  Carr accounts for much of that data by saying that the Jacob and Joseph stories had a Northern provenance and were later redacted in Judah, after 722.

Moreover, on pages 220-226, Carr attempts to refute the notion that there was a tenth century J-source.  Proponents of this view say that J does not mention or imply the division between North and South, so it must have been written before that took place.  Julius Wellhausen said that JE talks about sacrifice in different locations, and so it was obviously before the time of Josiah’s reform of cult centralization.  On the issue of the absence of a division between North and South in proto-Genesis, Carr states that the material perhaps supported an idealized portrait of Israelite unity, or did not discuss the division because it was irrelevant to its stories (whereas the division was relevant to the story that the Deuteronomistic Historian was telling).  Regarding the different altars, Carr notes that the patriarchs call on the name of the LORD at the altars—which could mean prayer—and that is consistent with the notion that one can only sacrifice at the central sanctuary.

That brings us to the question of date.  For Carr, the non-P proto-Genesis has different layers—from Northern Israel, from Judah, etc.  But Carr maintains that proto-Genesis was probably written in the exilic period.  That was the time when God’s promise to Abraham appears in prophetic books, as Ezekiel 33:23-29 is critical of the promise, whereas Isaiah 40-55 upholds it.  Moreover, like John Van Seters, Carr argues that the application of royal aspects to Abraham and his seed—such as the notion that Abraham would have a great name and the nations would be blessed by him (see Psalm 72:17, where this is applied to the king)—makes particular sense after the monarchy has collapsed.  Carr argues that the person responsible for proto-Genesis was once a member of the “Judean governmental elite” (page 232).

But, for Carr, the person responsible for proto-Genesis did not write all of it.  The primeval history, for instance, went through different stages.  At one point, it was primarily an etiology for how things came to be as they were (an Israelite Atrahasis, if you will), but it became attached to the stories of the patriarchs, as connective elements were added to it.  Moreover, while there are thematic parallels between the primeval narrative and the Abraham stories, Carr thinks this is because the person writing the Abraham stories relied on the primeval narrative.  And here is another interesting point that Carr makes: the non-P primeval narrative emerged from a priestly context, even though it is non-P!  Carr’s justification for this is that the Garden of Eden resembles elements of the Temple, and that the non-P primeval narrative has an interest in sacrifice (i.e., God’s acceptance of Abel’s sacrifice and rejection of Cain’s offering, and the concern that Noah bring enough clean animals onto the Ark so he could sacrifice).

There were also what Carr calls “semi-Deuteronomistic” additions.  Carr does not attribute these to a Deuteronomistic School, per se, but he says that Deuteronomistic theology was influential in the post-exilic period, and so it’s no surprise that there were additions reflecting aspects of that ideology.  Carr draws an analogy when he says that, “In the present day a Southern politician, whether liberal or conservative, will often use the conservative, evangelical language of the Bible belt to articulate her or his beliefs” (page 158).  Like Van Seters, Carr notes differences between the semi-Deuteronomistic additions to Genesis and Deuteronomistic ideology.  (Van Seters would not call them semi-Deuteronomistic additions, however, but would probably say that J was imitating Deuteronomistic language.) For example, the addition in Genesis 22 highlights the obedience of Abraham, but it does so in order to highlight that Abraham’s offspring would be blessed on account of their ancestor’s righteousness, whereas the Deuteronomist largely ignores the patriarchs and focuses instead on Israelite obedience as the means to safeguard Israel’s possession of the land.  The additions, consequently, are semi-Deuteronomistic and were influenced by Deuteronomistic ideology, but they were not from the Deuteronomistic School.  On page 176, Carr observes that Nehemiah clashed with priests and endorsed Deuteronomistic ideas, such as the rights of Levites (Nehemiah 13:10-14; cf. 12:44-47) and opposition towards Israelite intermarriage with non-Israelites (Nehemiah 13:4-9, 23-29).  Carr states that “returnee leaders like Nehemiah were probably those responsible for transmitting the primary history and adding further semi-Deuteronomistic elements to it.”

So Carr believes that, in the case of non-P proto-Genesis, writings from different writers were brought together, and additions were made.  At this point, I’d like to turn to Carr’s discussion on the Northern version of the Joseph story, for I found it intriguing.  Carr argues that the Joseph story was contending that all twelve tribes should be under the North, and yet it did not support the Northern king reigning as an authoritarian, but rather advocated a brotherly solidarity.  Solomon enslaved fellow Israelites, and the Northern Joseph story challenges that when it presents Joseph enslaving the Egyptians, while refusing to enslave his brothers.  Egypt is a looming factor in the Joseph story—as the nation that brings Joseph power—perhaps because Jeroboam fled to Egypt, which sponsored his rise to power in Israel.  And why is Benjamin the brother of Joseph?  According to Carr, Benjamin was disputed territory between the North and the South, and so the Northern Joseph story sought to connect Benjamin with Joseph, the North.  This story went South and was accepted because it had positive things to say about Judah.

That’s all for now.  Tomorrow, I’ll talk about Carr’s discussion about reading the final form of the text.  Stay tuned!

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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