As I pointed out in another place the documentary hypothesis is standard fare in global theological institutions. In the more conservative centres it is shared as information for awareness, but in the progressive centres it is irrefutable scholarly fact!
How did scholars come up with this JEDP formulation from reading the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Old Testament)? J and E strands can be identified, they argue, by names for God; the Jehovist, writing 960-920 B.C.E., uses Yahweh while the Elohist writing about 850 B.C.E., uses Elohim. The book of Deuteronomy is the essential D material, penned in 620 B.C.E., while the Priestly material, dating to the early 6th century B.C.E., is all the material that seeks to give ancient prestige to Israel’s traditions, like the giving of the law at Sinai and the creation accounts.
Why were the documents of the Pentateuch given such a late written date by Wellhausen and company and is uncritical regard for the documentary hypothesis really justified from the world of biblical scholarship in the 21st century?
The late Seventh Day Adventist Archaeologist Sigfried H. Horn, writing in 1968, assists concerning the late dating up to 1914: “Scholars did not yet know that a Hebrew alphabetic script existed before the eighth or ninth century B.C.; therefore they thought that the Pentateuch could not have been produced any earlier than the period of the Hebrew kings.” (“Recent Illumination of the Old Testament”, in Christianity Today, June 21, 1968, Vol. 12, No. 19, p.13)
But if these early scholars could be excused for a late dating of the Pentateuchal material because of a lack of information to the contrary, later scholars do not have that defence.
As Horn goes on to inform, concerning tablets found at Mt. Sinai and later deciphered in 1917 by British Egyptologist, Alan Gardiner, “These inscriptions, written in a pictorial script by Canaanites before the middle of the second millennium B.C., prove that alphabetic writing existed before the time of Moses.” (p. 14.) But Horn is just one of many.
British Assyriologist, A.H. Sayce, writing in 1904, says: “…this supposed late use of writing for literary purposes was merely an assumption, with nothing more solid to rest upon than the critic’s own theories and presuppositions. And as soon as it could be tested by solid fact it crumbled into dust…the art of writing in the ancient East…was of vast antiquity…”(Monument Facts and Higher Critical Fancies, 28)
The esteemed archaeologist William Albright, by no means a conservative, writing in 1958 in The New Century and quoted by Horn declared: “Thanks to modern research we now recognize its [the Bible’s] substantial historicity. The narratives of the patriarchs, of Moses and the exodus, of the conquest of Canaan, of the judges, the monarchy, exile and restoration, have all been confirmed and illustrated to an extent that I should have thought impossible forty years ago.” (“Recent Illumination of the Old Testament”, 14)
One could go on to mention details of strange and dated customs, intimacy with Egyptian geography, archaisms in language that would be puzzles if passed on only by centuries-old oral tradition!
A few examples should be sufficient, and we quote Horn and the British archaeologist, Kenneth Kitchen, fairly fully.
“…let us turn to some concrete examples of illumination and verification of the Old Testament by archaeological discoveries. First, in the patriarchal stories we find several strange accounts of a barren wife who asked her husband to produce a child for her by her maidservant. Sarah did this, and later also Jacob’s two wives, Rachel and Leah. Today we know that this practice was not unusual during the patriarchal age. The laws of that period as well as ancient marriage contracts mention it…In no other period besides the patriarchal age do we find this strange custom.” (Horn, 14. emphasis added)
Horn, after mentioning several other strange biblical customs that find support in the Nuzi tablets concludes thus, “Such evidence shows clearly that these narratives were written soon after the events described had occurred, when these strange customs either still existed or had not yet been forgotten.” (Horn, 14)
Kenneth Kitchen concurs: “Through the impact of the Ancient Orient upon the Old Testament and upon Old Testament studies a new tension is being set up while an older one is being reduced. For the comparative material from the Ancient Near East is tending to agree with the extant structure of the Old Testament documents as actually transmitted to us, rather than with the reconstructions of nineteenth-century Old Testament scholarship—or with its twentieth century prolongation and developments to the present day.
…The valid and close parallels to the social customs of the Patriarchs come from documents of the nineteenth to fifteenth centuries B.C. (agreeing with an early-second-millennium origin for this material in Genesis), and not from Assyro-Babylonian data of the tenth to sixth centuries B.C. (possible period of the supposed ‘J’, ‘E’, sources). Likewise for Genesis 23, the closest parallel comes from the Hittite Laws which passed into oblivion with the fall of the Hittite Empire about 1200 B.C. The covenant forms which appear in Exodus, Deuteronomy and Joshua follow the model of those current in the thirteenth century B.C.—the period of Moses and Joshua—and not those of the first millennium B.C.” (Ancient Orient and the Old Testament, 1966, 25. See also Walter C. Kaiser Jr., The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable & Relevant?, 2001, 84-89.Seminary lecturers and ‘progressive’ clergy persons must broaden and/or update their reading!