J, E, P, D

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Introduction to the Old Testament

Briefly describe some of the major characteristics of J, E, P, D.

       Wellhausen hypothesized that each portion of the Pentateuch was contrived by

four different authors at four different times, namely, J, E, P, and D. The J part of JEDP

refers to the section of Genesis where God is referred to by the Hebrew name Yahweh

(spelled Jahve by German scholars). Presumably around the time of Solomon’s reign,

someone in Judah composed the Yahwist account, which glorified David and Solomon’s

reign and talked of a very immanent God that walks and talks with his creations.

       Shortly after Solomon’s reign, the Nation of Israel divided into the northern and

southern kingdom known as Israel and Judah respectively. They now needed an account

that did not praise the former monarchy so much. This resulted in the Northern

Kingdom’s (Israel’s) account where Elohim was used as the name for God. This one

emphasized the covenant of Moses, not the monarchy. It also portrayed God as being far

less personal with mankind, one that speaks to his creations through dreams and

messengers and is a distant god to be feared, not one that mankind walks and talks with.

       After Israel was occupied by the Assyrians, the deported Israelis escaped south

and combined their Yahwe to the Elohist. In reaction to the manuscript’s stress on a

promised land, a new group of priests tried to make some reforms. The result was the

book of Deuteronomy. According to its legal traditions and sermons, only through

obedience to the covenant would God’s mercy grant them the promised land.

       Once the entire nation was in exile, some priests seemed to have scrounged up

enough new cultic traditions, legal traditions, stories, and laws to form a fourth source
(the P), which essentially completed the earlier accounts of J and E. The focus of this

account to restore faith in the people even all seemed to have been lost. Here, god is

transcendent and unfathomable to all his creations.

How does the Priestly source differ from the Yahwist and Elohist?
What is distinctive about the Priestly source? What are its major
themes? How are they developed?

       P is thought to be distinctly different from J and E chronologically because it

seems to have been written to help the people keep their faith in God even after

everything seemed to have been lost, which leads many to believe it was added at the

time of their exile from the Promised Land.

       Once Y and E had been completed, there a great deal of strength that could still

add to the work. For one thing, God’s people had just been exiled from their own nation

by their enemies. In despair, the Israelis needed hope, and with some modification their

conception of God would provide it. The author of P thus takes the fragments of Y and E

and makes them flow in such a way that that future generations can appreciate that no

matter what happens, God is acting out of love for his people.

       The P author accomplishes this unique flow using genealogical lists, place names,

laws, more divine presence, the revelation of the divine name, and the importance of

God’s blessing upon mankind. The genealogical lists were meant to bridge the time gaps

between stories with the names of each generation. The addition of place names make

the stories more real and personal. The new laws were aimed at future generations so

that the documents of the past could speak to people of the future. With emphasis on the

divine presence, believers were to feel God’s presence just as those like Moses and the
high priests did. The concept of blessing is emphasized because even when God’s people

fall from their own evils and mistakes, they still have been blessed: Adam and Noah with

fertility and dominion, Abraham with the promise of land, and Moses with the covenant.

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