This is how he did it…

File:Documentary Hypothesis Sources Distribution English.png

…the Redactor, I mean. This is how he braided his source materials together to form the Five Books of Moses as we have them. It is a revealing chart, especially if we remove Leviticus and its Priestly material. We begin to get a better sense of what was important in the storytelling.

Let’s list the actual documents that the Redactor used: 1) the JE Bible, 2) the P Bible, and the 3) Deuteronomistic History.

Now things get complicated: we have to remember that these materials were thoroughly edited not once but twice: by RJE, who combined in the J and E Sources, and by the Redactor, who combined the  JE Bible with the other two sources. Thus, the relationship between J and E in the chart was determined by RJE, while the relationship between JE and P was determined by the Redactor.

What can we say about these relationships? In the first place, the older materials (E, J, and P) are mainly extant in just three of the five Mosaic books: Genesis, Exodus, and Numbers. If we look at Genesis, J predominates: the E source doesn’t even appear until chapter 20! But, notably, the Redactor chose to start Genesis with P’s grand creation hymn.

In Exodus, on the other hand, E predominates (or at least until chapter 35, when P takes over).

And in Numbers, we see that E and R (the Redactor’s own work) predominate (once again, not taking into account the preponderance of P).

What does this tell us about the two editors who shaped the Five Books?

1) The first editor, RJE, favored J in the first third of the story, E in the second third, and apparently E in the final third (if the remnants of the JE Bible in Numbers are representative). That means that the Abraham and Jacob cycles are based on J’s point of view, but that the Joseph cycle, the Exodus, and the wandering in the wilderness are based on E’s perspective.

2) The second editor, R, left the JE Bible relatively intact until the arrival at Mt. Sinai, then used the P Bible and his own work to shape the wandering (and let’s not forget Deuteronomy, which is entirely D’s material).

Stay tuned, folks; there is more to come on this subject…    RT

ChartThe distribution of the sources of the first four books of the bible, according to the documentary hypothesis. WikiCmns; Public Domain.


  1. June 7, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    And to think that for six thousand years millions of people who spent their lives studying the five books of Moses never once noticed that they weren’t written by Moses,

    • June 7, 2013 at 6:59 pm

      MB: you raise a serious point: the tensions between traditional belief and the hypotheses of modern research…something that deserves its own post! RT

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