Koog P. Hong, «Abraham, Genesis 20–22, and the Northern Elohist», Vol. 94 (2013) 321-339
This article addresses the provenance of the Elohistic Abraham section (Genesis 20–22) in order to clarify the divergence between the source and tradition-historical models in pentateuchal criticism. Examining arguments for E’s northern provenance demonstrates that none of them applies directly to E’s Abraham section. The lack of Abraham tradition in early biblical literature further undermines the source model’s assumption of Israel and Judah’s common memory of the past. The southern provenance of Genesis 20–22 is more likely, and the current combination of Abraham and Jacob traditions is probably a result of the Judeans’ revision of Israelite tradition.
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324 KOOG P. HONG
prise both northern and southern traditions. Still, on the surface level,
the two models conflict with each other: E is not equated with what
tradition historians would identify as the northern tradition. In this
regard, the Elohistic Abraham section (Genesis 20-22*) provides the
main divergence 14. This section belongs to E (hence, it is northern)
in the source-critical scheme, but in the block model it is construed
as southern. In other words, according to the tradition-historical
model, before the northern tradition was taken over by Judeans,
northern Israelites remembered their past mainly through the memory
of Jacob, not Abraham.
One might object that discussing E sounds outdated in todayâ€™s
Pentateuchal scholarship. Todayâ€™s emphasis on the late stage, how-
ever, does not minimize the necessity of continually clarifying the
ever-elusive early stage of the composition history of the Pentateuch.
Besides, studies on E, despite widespread skepticism, have not dis-
appeared 15. More importantly, when issues of the northern tradition
are tackled, scholars frequently return, quite uncritically, to the out-
dated Elohistic criteria in identifying the northern tradition 16. Thus,
even if my discussion is on the surface directed against the more
traditional forms of the source model, its implications for all related
branches within the source model must be recognized. So, I ask
again, did northerners remember Abraham as their father?
Not surprisingly, this text has received some attention from scholars. T.D.
ALEXANDER, Abraham in the Negev. A Source-Critical Investigation of Genesis
20:1â€“22:19 (Carlisle, UK 1997); F. ZIMMER, Der Elohist als weisheitlich-pro-
phetische Redaktionsschicht. Eine literarische und theologiegeschichtliche Un-
tersuchung der sogenannten elohistischen Texte im Pentateuch (EuropÃ¤ische
Hochschulschriften 656; Frankfurt am Main 1999). Though very different in
their approaches, both authors reject the northern orientation of the text.
To name some of the major contributions: H.W. WOLFF, â€œElohistic Frag-
ments in the Pentateuchâ€, Interpretation 26 (1972) 158-173; A.W. JENKS, The
Elohist and North Israelite Traditions (Missoula, MT 1977); H.L. GINSBERG,
The Israelian Heritage of Judaism (TSJTSA 24; New York 1982); COOTE, In
Defense; S.E. MCEVENUE, â€œA Return to Sources in Genesis 28,10-22?â€, ZAW
106 (1994) 375-389; ZIMMER, Der Elohist; A. GRAUPNER, Der Elohist. Gegen-
wart und Wirksamkeit des Transzendenten Gottes in der Geschichte
(WMANT 97; Neukirchen-Vluyn 2002); WEISMAN, From Jacob to Israel; J.
GOMES, The Sanctuary of Bethel and the Configuration of Israelite Identity
(BZAW 368; Berlin 2006); YOREH, The First Book of God.
E.g. GOMES, Bethel; YOREH, The First Book of God.
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