DH-38 We Don’t Know

DH-38 We Don’t Know June 4, 2014

Another remarkable characteristic of the Documentarians is their unwillingness to simply admit, “We just don’t know.”  What I have been trying to do in this series of blogs is explore the reasons for the problems and ultimate failure of the hypothesis, and thereby explain why I find the hypothesis unconvincing.  In my opinion the Documentary Hypothesis has been a century and a half-long exercise in academic futility.  Scholars are further from consensus now regarding the details of the Documentary Hypothesis than at any time in the past.  The amount of possible insight the theory provides is in inverse proportion to the amount of effort has been expanded to study it.  In my opinion, the most fruitful approach is to accept the text as we have it, and try to understand it as it is.

We have a situation where numerous scholars, all equally intelligent and well trained, using precisely the same assumptions and methodologies, arrive at radically different conclusions.  While they all agree that the Pentateuch was composed from a number of different sources (a conclusion I accept as well), they cannot agree as to the number of sources, which passages belongs to which source, the foundational ideology of the sources, nor the date or location of the sources.  Pragmatically speaking, the theory has failed.  The only logical and rational response to this obvious state of affairs is to abandon the theory.  This is why I reject the Documentary Hypothesis.  Progress on this matter can only occur when we begin to treat the claims and theories of the Documentarians with just as much skepticism as they treat the text of the Pentateuch.

On the other hand, I believe that source criticism is a useful methodological tool as long was we carefully remember its strict limitations.  I believe the claims of the Documentarians far transcend the limits of what the methodology can bear.  The problem is not only that we do not know the sources of the Pentateuch, it is that we cannot know.


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