DH-39 Scholarly Consensus?

DH-39 Scholarly Consensus? June 6, 2014

The claim is often made by supporters of the Documentary Hypothesis that there is scholarly consensus on the validity of the theory.  This claim is exaggerated.  Neal Rappleye sent me the following quotations from  Carol A. Redmount, “Bitter Lives: Israel in and out of Egypt,” in The Oxford History of the Biblical World, ed. Michael D. Coogan (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 79–121.

“Among those who accept [the Documentary Hypothesis], however, major areas of dispute persist, including disagreements over the Exodus account. Scholars have differed about which passages belong to which hypothesized source, about whether Exodus and Sinai traditions were originally separate, and, if so, to which, if either, the Moses story belonged. But there are also areas of substantial agreement, such as the dating of the D (Deuteronomic) source to the seventh century BCE and the placement of the Deuteronomic History (the books of Deuteronomy through 2 Kings) at the end of the present Exodus narrative, where it preempted an earlier conclusion to the saga.” (pp. 82–83, brackets mine)

“Except for those conservatives who insist on Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch… scholars of all critical schools agree that the Exodus account as it stands today is a composite, a literary construct, carefully composed and edited to achieve historical and theological coherence, and that this composite is made up of smaller units that have been transmitted and redacted over centuries. Ironically, despite—or possibly because of—our expanded analytical base and broader understanding, these is less agreement than ever as to the history, development, and character of the Exodus account, and biblical scholarship in general is in ferment.” (p. 84)

“Innumerable analyses undertaken from many perspectives during the past century and a half, underscore that the original Exodus account, what its content and its time and place of composition, was something vastly different from the complex Exodus saga we know today. But this original version lies beyond our reach. The growing dissonance of scholarly opinion underscores the impossibility of tracing the details of the Exodus narrative’s intricate evolution. Occasionally, however, partial outlines of the saga’s long development can be sketched.” (p. 84)


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