The Genesis Origins Stories and Their Sources: Slide Show 3 from Denis Lamoureux

Today we continue Denis Lamoureux’s series of brief slide shows on his popular book I Love Jesus & I Accept Evolution. In the previous two slide shows, Lamoureux covered chapters 1 and 2 and chapter 3. In chapter 4 of his book, Lamoureux covers the biblical accounts of origins.

But before launching into that, Lamoureux wants to set up that discussion by talking about something he does not address in his book: the ancient sources behind these accounts, which Lamoureux considers part of a divinely “ordained and sustained ancient literary process.”

Today’s slide show is here, and along with it Lamoureux has provided 4 handouts that lay out these sources more clearly in the creation and flood accounts of Genesis (here, here, here, and here).

Lamoureux is associate professor of science and religion at St. Joseph’s College in the University of Alberta. He holds three earned doctoral degrees—dentistry, theology, and biology–which uniquely qualifies him to speak to the issue of human origins and Christian faith. He gets the science, he gets the hermeneutics, and he articulates both clearly for non-specialists (full bio here).

I Love Jesus & I Accept Evolution is a great introduction to his view of origins called “evolutionary creation.” For those of you who are beyond the beginner’s stage, you can read his much thicker book Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution.

  • jesuswithoutbaggage

    Wow Denis! I have accepted some form of documentary hypothesis for several decades, but I do not recall that I have ever seen the flood accounts reconstituted from the sources like this. It is impressive!

    Regarding the propriety of the conflation of the sources, we have harmonies of the Gospels today. Most of them are in parallel columns, but I have also read at least one merged account, though I do not remember the editor (redactor) or title. If we do it, the ancients certainly could do the same thing. In fact, I doubt that the ancients would likely have circulated a harmony in two columns.

    Thanks for another great lesson!

    • Denis O. Lamoureux

      Thanks for the kind comments.
      What is amazing is that I did a Masters in Genesis 1-11 at a very good evangelical school and I was told source theory was “liberal” and “irrational.” It was nearly 20 years later that an OT prof at my denominational college made an off-the-cuff remark about sources in the Flood Account. I challenged him with the traditional evangelical rhetoric. And then he schooled me and straightened me out. I was writing my book Evolutionary Creation at the time and stopped and spent the next 6-7 months doing the sources in Hebrew. Needless to say I was shocked with what I discovered . . . and I’m more than a little upset at my former professors. Everything I posted here was known in the mid-80s when I was in graduate school.
      Let me offer a parallel. I went to dental school in the mid-70s. Could you imagine professors coming in and saying, “Well, there is this theory that there are veins and arteries. But those who believe that are ‘irrational’ and ‘liberal.’” Could you imagine that ever happening? Well a similar thing happened to me in theology. A dental school education that won’t teach about veins and arteries would be deemed incompetent. Same goes for a theological school education that doesn’t teach about sources.

  • Loren Haas

    I recently completed a study at my church using Peter Enns “Genesis for Normal People”. One of the most surprising lessons for the group was the ANE predecessors of the Creation and Flood stories. So the question I got was, “Why didn’t someone teach us this before?” My answer was much like yours, that it does not jive with the traditional evangelical view, so it is not brought up, minimized or even vilified. I am hoping that some lights came on, and as you suggest that they study the evidence, learn from scholarly viewpoints and use these to come to their own conclusions.

  • Art

    This is good and easy to understand – even for me! Many moons ago I read Josh MacDowell’s More Evidence that Demands a Verdict. Although the book is almost 40 years old, it presented an understandable rebuttal to the JEDP hypothesis you outlined. My question to you is: does MacDowell’s synthesis of the arguments provide a plausible alternative, or, is it wrong, or, has the entire question been refocused in the last 40 years? Just wondering if I should blow the dust off the cover of his book and try rereading it. After all, I have all of your other books to read now, and I only have so much time :-)

    • Denis O. Lamoureux

      Dear Art,
      Your a man of my generation! When I became a Christian first the apologetics book I bought was Josh’s _Evidence Demands a Verdict_. And that’s where I began to believe sources supposedly did not exist. So yes, he’s wrong. He’s also wrong on evolution. In fact, I know his ghost writer (Glenn Morton) on origins. Kinda bothers me that Josh put his name on Glenn’s work.

  • Bev Mitchell


    This is a very important ‘footnote’ post. I hope your readers/listeners will do what you say and read, think and experience for themselves.

    Of course, being an interpretive exercise, there will not be exact agreement between all interpreters as to which verses belong where. For example, there are some differences between your assignments of J and P and those of Friedman (see: “The Bible with Sources Revealed: A New View into the Five Books of Moses” Richard Elliott Friedman, Harper One 2003. Your readers should not be put off by this kind of scholarly discussion – the larger point still stands, and each interpreter has to make up his or own mind on both the big and the smaller points.

    BTW, Friedman provides a colour coded interpretation of sources arranged as in the Torah. This allows us to work through the entire Torah by following each of the hypothesized sources.

    Thanks for this series.

    • Denis O. Lamoureux

      Dear Bev,
      There are little quibbles over parts of verses on whether they are P or J. But overall are views of what is the P flood and what is the J flood are pretty close.
      A difference between Friedman and me is that I use the structuralism of P, while he doesn’t seem to.

  • norman

    What would be the theological motivation of a scribe or priest (or group) to create a synthesis of the P and J accounts? These questions must be asked.

    I think Denis makes an excellent presentation on a discussion that is long overdue. I read some of Friedman’s work and I think Denis presents a little more coherent case. The Documentary Hypothesis theory IMHO has been under examination for decades and I would recommend a good resource for a counter interpretation is Umberto Cassuto’s little book called the “Documentary Hypothesis”. This subject requires an open investigative mind and one not prone to jump on any one position and lock oneself in concrete. I recommend developing an ongoing synthesis if one is truly interested in this discussion. I would state that one of the points that Cassuto makes regarding early Genesis is the fact that the writers were using word counts which is an interesting approach to literary construction. Henri Blocher and others have also pointed out the word count structure of early Genesis as well. As an example Elohim is used 35 times or 5X7 in Gen 1-2:3 alone while YHWH and Elohim are used in a combination of 35 times in Gen 2-4. This totality of reaching 70 in combination appears to be a design feature as it’s also played out with other key Hebrew words in the first 4 chapters. It makes one step back and take a second look at the J & P construction and ask the question about how did they essentially copy and past from the 2 sources and end up with their exact word counts they were shooting for. It doesn’t rule it out but it makes one step back and look at their methodology of construction. Lots of good exploration in these subjects.

    • Denis O. Lamoureux

      Can you help me out with the numbers. I only count 20 combinations of YHWH and Elohim, not 35.

      • norman


        My bad for trying to write without my notes or material while at work, something us aging Baby Boomers need to realize concerning our memory limitations. I essentially am following Cassuto and Blocher following Cassuto. However the details escaped me as I haven’t reviewed their works for at least a couple of years and I misrepresented the details as they presented them.

        Here is the specific quote from Cassuto’s “Commentary on Genesis 1-6:8” found on page 14, which Henri Blocher footnotes also in his book “In the Beginning: the opening Chapters of Genesis” page 33.
        Cassuto: pg 14
        “Each of the three nouns that occur in the first verse and express the basic concepts of the section, viz God {Elohim} heavens (samayim}, earth {eres}, are repeated in the section a given number of times that is a multiple of seven: thus the name of God occurs thirty-five times, that is, five times seven (on the fact that the Divine Name, in one of its forms, occurs seventy times in the first four chapters, see below); earth is found twenty-one times, that is, three times seven; similarly heavens (or firmament raqia) appears twenty-one times.”

        Blocher’s footnote #40:pg 33
        Cassuto, p.14, points out that Gn. 1:1 contains seven words, 1:2 contains twice seven words and the seventh paragraph (2:1-3) seven times five. Earth recurs thrice seven times, Elohim (God) seven times five times. We would add the the names of God occur seventy times in Gn. 1-4, a proof of their unity: forty times it is Elohim, twenty times Yahweh Elohim and ten times Yahveh.”

        The point I was intending to make was Blocher’s concerning the unity of those four chapters. They both delve into this issue more extensively regarding word count as a Hebrew literary device. This goes to the point of copying and pasting in modern word processing parlance and making the J & P work under that arrangement. Doesn’t mean it can’t, it just adds another dimension to the evaluation.

        • Hashavyahu

          To have any merit at all, this would need to be backed up statistically. It reminds me of the thoroughly refuted bible code theories of yesteryear. It is actually not terribly difficult to *find* these kinds of meaningless patterns in any literature if you have the time and desire to do so. The refuters of the bible code found them in Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Also not to be overlooked is the fact that the verse, paragraph, and chapter divisions were all added long after the composition of the documents themselves.

          • norman


            This is not based upon bible code like theories. It’s a well understood recognition of the examination of literary construction by Hebrew authors. Just as the Chiastic structure of many Hebrew literary pieces (Genesis in particular) has been recognized; word counts correlating with Hebrew numerological emphasis has also been recognized. It’s purely a literary construction device that can be used to analyze the organizational outline of some Hebrew literature. People can indeed make too much of it as they can with just about anything they don’t fully grasp. It’s a lost art as far as I can tell but we find evidence of it in the Book of Daniel as well which supports the idea it was a scribal and priestly trained methodology passed along.

            Also this has nothing to do with our modern verse and paragraph applications but is based upon Hebrew words and their organization. I repeat it has no similarity at all to the mystical Bible Code theories.

            Umberto Cassuto was a well renowned Jewish Genesis scholar half a century ago who helped shed light on it and I mentioned Henri Blocher whom I’m sure Denis and Pete are familiar with also points it out. This is not quackery in any sense except perhaps by someone who attempts to overly exploit it somehow.

            You noticed I only pointed it out to bring bearing upon the construction of the first four chapters of Genesis which goes to its organization foundation. Just as we delve into the Chiastic structure for the same purpose. It is what it is and scholars will deal with it accordingly.

          • Hashavyahu

            I’m glad you brought up chiasms. Mania for chiasms is another form of exegetical quackery. Cf. Wright, David. “The Fallacies of Chiasmus: A Critique of Structures Proposed for the Covenant Collection (Exodus 20:23-23:19).” Zeitschrift für altorientalische und biblische Rechtsgeschichte 10. (2004): 143-168, where he deals with this problem from a broader perspective before narrowing in on the covenant code. Chiasms, like non-existent numerical patterns, are extremely easy to impose on a text.

          • norman


            Actually Chiasms can be more problomatic than word counts would be my counter. As I said anything can be carried too far but ignoring the reality of the organizational process doesn’t really make sense unless one doesn’t want to address the full dimension of an examination.

            Concerning Chiasms I would have you take that issue up with Bruce Waltke in his Genesis Commentary. Again I well recognize that Chiasms have their limitations and can be imposed. However the preponderance of the evidence says one shouldn’t ignore these issues without serious scholarly investigation from various points of view.

            By the way when I reference someone like Cassuto doesn’t mean I buy into their total outlook on scripture. He was hardly a mystic quack though.

  • rvs

    I love the argument toward the end about basing theology on the Scripture, not the evangelical tradition. But this argument is not a sola scriptura type of argument, as far as I can tell–at least not a conventional one, given the positing of proto-texts?

    Also, I am curious about any strong push-backs against the idea of spiritual inerrancy, which is a compelling concept in this book.

    • Denis O. Lamoureux

      Hi rsv,
      Help me out on your comment. I’m not sure what you mean by “any strong push-backs.” My experience is that evangelicals definitely believe the Bible reveal spiritual Truths.

      • rvs

        I am attracted to the concept of spiritual inerrancy–I find it to be useful as I read through evangelical statements of faith, some of which seem to stress a kind of hyper-literal-philological inerrancy (i.e., they give me the impression that inerrancy is a highly technical term). I’m curious about whether or not people in such inerrancy communities have seen your work as undermining real inerrancy, or really real inerrancy (aka super-duper inerrancy).

        The King James Bible is spiritually inerrant–that feels good to say. Liberating. I find it to be the most beautiful translation, but I’m told that it’s wobbly because of the unicorn reference, among many other things.

        Hypothetical scenario: if I say gleefully to a kind evangelical fundamentalist that I find the KJV Bible to be spiritually inerrant, will he/she be likely to accept my comment as the sort of thing “solid” Christians say (I’ve come to distrust that term “solid”), or will I probably get a strange look?

        Caveat: I’m not up to speed in the world of evangelical theology, but reading Peter’s blog is helping. A lot. I have found some of these code words/ shibboleths like “inerrancy” to be intriguing. I have been asked “Do you believe in inerrancy?” in some interesting contexts. I say yes, but some of the conversations leave me remembering that great line from The Princess Bride: “I don’t think that word means what you think it means.”

  • Nancy Rosenzweig

    I assume that evangelicals oppose the notion that Genesis had multiple sources because of the traditional belief that Moses authored the first five books of the Bible. But where does that belief come from – it’s an ancient assumption, but is it based on any assertions in scripture itself? The name Moses is associated with the laws written in those books, but why did people believe that he wrote the narratives of these five books as well?

    • Scott Coulter

      Not all evangelicals accept Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch.
      I had probably the most conservative teacher in my evangelical college at the time teach my Pentateuch class a little less than a decade ago. He taught Mosaic authorship, but I know not all (= at least one) the OT profs at my school did (though at that time the majority of Bib Lit and Religion profs would have believed in Mosaic authorship, whether they were OT scholars or not).
      Anyway, the conservative textbook we used was Herbert Wolf’s An Intro to the OT Pentateuch (Moody Press, 1991). Most of the arguments presented in that book and in class for Mosaic authorship consisted of point-by-point arguments that the arguments against Mosaic authorship are not ironclad, together with a “give the tradition the benefit of the doubt” argument. It was argued that Moses could have authored the Pentateuch (that he would have been literate, contra the assumption of J. Wellhausen), that there are references internal to the Pentateuch saying that Moses wrote down the law, and that biblical references outside the Pentateuch (including Jesus) refer to the Torah as the books of Moses. There may have been other arguments, but I think these were the primary ones.

      As I recall, most of the arguments for traditional views of authorship, in most of my biblical literature classes in college, were some version of: 1)give the tradition the benefit of the doubt, 2)here’s the evidence for how old the tradition that X wrote Y is, 3)here’s the counterargument for other views of authorship, 4)here’s why we don’t have to accept those counterarguments.

      • Nancy Rosenzweig

        Thanks, Scott. I suspected the evidence for Mosaic authorship was rather indirect. It might also be logical to assume that Moses was divinely inspired to write about events that purportedly would have happened several hundred years before his birth, considering his particular relationship with God. That might have contributed to this traditional belief as well.

        • Calminian

          Actually there’s a 3rd view you may not be familiar with, and that’s the ‘tablet theory.’ Henry Morris touched in it in his Genesis commentary, and many creationists have expounded further. If you google the term you should come across a lot of hits.

          In brief, the text of Genesis shows evidence of multiple authors, but not in the sense of JEDP. Many creationists believe that Moses compiled Genesis from preexisting documents rather than receiving the account via direct revelation, which would really be odd for a narrative like that. Moses directly admitted that the Israelites knew their history prior to him writing/compiling Genesis.

          Deut. 32:7 “Remember the days of old, Consider the years of many generations. Ask your father, and he will show you; Your elders, and they will tell you:

          Given what we know about the history of writing today, it makes perfect sense that the components of Genesis were passed down from Generation to Generation perhaps even starting with Adam. Moses did not receive the narrative direct from God, but rather pieced it together under God’s inspiration. This fits much better with how we generally understand inspiration to work.

          This in essence would erase all non-concordist arguments, as it would imply that instead of Genesis borrowing from a particular culture, that rather these cultures are corrupted ideas based in misinterpretations of our true history.

  • James

    At my evangelical seminary in the mid-seventies we studied source criticism of the Pentateuch (and Deuteronomistic History to follow) and were challenged to make up our own minds. My provisional conclusion at that time was: 1. These scholars are onto something interesting 2. I wish they could agree. Entering the ministry I have found narrative studies of the traditional texts in canonical context more edifying than teasing out the hidden strands of “ancient literary process.” Science has tended to break down reality into its constituent parts for analysis. But we are also learning systems and relations hold it all together.

    • norman


      I think in the bigger picture that is correct. However so many tend to think that the scriptures somehow just flowed down from God mysteriously and therefore human processes don’t really get analyzed much at all. I believe someone needs to perform the scrutiny of the process which I believe will shed light on the author’s motivation. When we can discern patterns of motivation it then can enhance our cultural background examination to help us frame context from their human perspective. That then allows us to possibly see if there are ongoing “Holy Spirit” guidance concepts that are perpetuated throughout time.

      A good example is that the NT sees its time as the fulfillment of the Messiah prophecy and it’s an interesting investigation to look back at particularly Genesis and see if there is indeed much there regarding a coming Messiah. If it turns out that Gen 3:15 was indeed written with Messiah in mind then that affects the way we interpret Pauls’ analysis (Midrash) of Genesis. Then Paul would not necessarily be inventing his own interpretive method as some critical scholars today infer but was actually following a “mysterious” Holy Spirit understanding that had been propagated within Judaism scribal and priestly writers for centuries. That could have profound effects upon today’s investigation of Paul.

      Small swings in methodological inquiry therefore can have huge effects upon how we pursue, interpret and view the OT, 2nd T and NT times. We discern these things better if we can break the examination down into their constituent components that feed that process. We then need scholars like Denis and Pete translating what happened into a narrative that can be comprehended by our modern culture. That effective translation is the really challenging part of their work IMHO. The reason being; is how one brings the uninitiated up to speed with all of the various Protestant Heritages conflating the effort. It takes one that is comfortable wearing both the Heritage and investigative hat and synthesizes those two sometimes opposing forces. Some will wear both hats better than others. :)

      • James

        I believe you are right, Norman. Divine Inspiration (however we define it) is found in both atomistic and holistic analysis.

    • Denis O. Lamoureux

      Hi James,
      Did your profs at seminary give you the reassembled J and P material to assist you?
      Mine didn’t.

  • Tom Jensen

    thank you very much for sharing. I will use this as inspiration in our Bible study group.
    God bless

  • Wayne

    I really enjoyed this presentation. Rather than trying to present the entire DH (in all its complexity), I thought it was excellent the way Denis focused on these two (uncontroversial) sources (IMO). From this point, the student can continue to pursue the idea or not, but can never again dismiss it out of hand. Thanks for sharing!

  • Muzi Cindi

    Dr. Enns – I love the post and the comments. I read this site because Evangelicalism is my background; However, a few years ago I doubted and embraced atheism. It was the liberal scholars of the Jesus Seminar who brought me back and taught me most of what is contained here. My question is: how does the material here differ from the material in liberalism?

  • Calminian

    What I’d like to know is why do certain theologians believe Genesis was written during ANE cultural times? It would seem Genesis predates these cultures in which we’re trying to force fit it. There’s certainly indications within the text of Genesis and the Torah that the hebrews already had their history recorded prior to Moses being born. We also know from archeological finds that writing existed long before Moses and even before Abraham. Yet there’s a constant effort to force Genesis (particularly chapters 1-11) into ANE ancient cosmologies—solid domes, geocentrism, etc.

    I think these guys may be guilty of they very error they’re trying to correct—imposing a culture onto the text, instead of letting the Bible express its own cultural aspects.

    I think Lamoureux perhaps struggles with what many other christians struggle with today, and that’s unbelief. I don’t doubt he loves Jesus, he just doesn’t trust the same revelation Jesus trusted in. He’s missing the blessing of trusting the whole Bible.

    That’s my take anyway after looking over his and Paul Seely’s theses. I personally used to believe in alternative theories about Genesis, going from theory to theory. Finally I just gave in and trusted Genesis as written, and what a blessing! You guys don’t know what you’re missing. The world does make sense when you trust God and reason from His knowledge base rather than man’s.

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