Conservative Illustration of Pentateuchal Composition

Conservative Illustration of Pentateuchal Composition October 9, 2014

I recently read an assignment which drew on sources critical of the Documentary Hypothesis. Ironically, the assignment was in fact plagiarized from a number of online sources. And at least one of those sources in turn clearly plagiarized from another.

Here’s a bit of text:

The J, or Jehovahist, document (usually known as the Yahwehist document) supposedly was written around 850 B.C., and was characterized by its use of the divine name YahwehElohim is the divine name that identifies the E, or Elohist, document, purportedly written around 750 B.C.The D, or Deuteronomist, document contained most of the book of Deuteronomy and was supposed to have been written around 620 B.C. The last section to be written was the P, or Priestly, document, which would have contained most of the priestly laws, and allegedly was written around 500 B.C. We are told these documents were then redacted (edited) into one work about 300 years later in 200 B.C. 

This appears essentially verbatim in at least two places online. One is an Apologetics Press article by Eric Lyons. The other is an article by Jacob Gaddala in the Journal of Dispensational Theology. Since both cite Henry Morris, in theory both could have plagiarized from that common source, in which case both the L and G sources would be duplications from the common source M. But in fact, a more likely scenario is that M was used by L, and L was then used by G. The verbatim agreement is not in the triple tradition, but is between G and L. Since L is dated to 2003, and G to 2011, the most likely scenario is that the latter plagiarized from the former. And I believe that it was G that was in turn plagiarized by the source that I recently read, the author of which will remain anonymous.

But seriously, how can anyone think that they can make a case against the use of sources by lifting material out of a source?!


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  • Wow. The irony is rich. I don’t buy the versions of the D.H. in which the redactor used scissors and paste on a micro scale to arrange his sources, but it is undeniable that uncited written sources were used in much of the Primary History.

  • While this sounds like a clever riposte I would have more confidence in a professor who understood and passed on to his students and the wider public the fundamentals of correct logical argument. Here we see the teacher’s comeback is simply the tu quoque fallacy. Not that I for a minute condone plagiarism but is it really best-practice pedagogy to argue from a logically fallacy?

    • Neil, you’re being very inexplicit. I don’t see what you’re getting at with your comment.

      • Kainan

        I think it’s very clear what Neil meant (without necessarily agreeing with him). “Ha ha, you have discerned the use of plagiarism in the assignment text, so you’re obliged to discern the same in the Pentateuch.”

    • arcseconds

      Tu quoque is an appeal to hypocrisy as a form of ad hominem.

      So the charge would only make sense if

      (1) the anti-documentary hypothesis people McGrath mentions were claiming that plagiarism was morally wrong, and

      (2) McGrath was claiming that the plagiarism present in the argument against plagiarism shows the argument to be false.

      I don’t see any evidence for either of these statements, and I think in particular (1) seems like a very odd way to argue against the documentary hypothesis (*), so I don’t think there’s any tu quoque here.


      (*) maybe the argument could be that the Bible is a moral exemplar and therefore couldn’t have unacknowledged sources? I dunno, that seems like a strange argument even for a literalist to make…

  • Clever post, James!

  • Gary

    The Journal of Dispensationalist Theology? Oh my, no wonder conservatives are so messed up.
    Editorial quote, “The Word of God is discounted and mocked in much “scholarship”; consequently, our schools and institutions of higher learning are absent of moral values because there are minimal to no values taught.”
    Articles: Genesis literal, trash evolution and modern physics.
    DH trashed, one author for Pentateuch?
    2 Timothy, whoops, written by Paul?
    If this is scholarship from Tynedale Theological Seminary, any diploma and papers from them should be published by Marvel Comics. Fraud or delusional.

  • dconklin

    QUOTE: “how can anyone think that they can make a case against the use of sources by lifting material out of a source?!”

    It certainly does show dishonesty and high irony!