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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or from a distance instead of Jâ€™s direct revelation 34. R. Gnuse, for in-
stance, argues that the dream report was Eâ€™s distinct motif; he also sim-
ply presumes its northern orientation 35. It is difficult to prove, however,
that the motif was available exclusively to the northern Israelites. That
a supernatural being reveals itself in dreams is one of the most common
ideas in ancient civilizations. Not incidentally, at the heart of southern
historiography one finds Solomonâ€™s famous dream report (1 Kgs 3,4-
15). Eâ€™s more developed theological view by itself does not point to a
northern origin, either; it does so only when it is interpreted in an evo-
lutionary perspective that posits the more developed evidence as the
later evidence. As I discuss below, this is largely rejected today.
3. Prophetic Quality Provides Inconclusive Evidence
The fact that Abraham is called nÄbÃ®â€™ in Gen 20,7 has been re-
peatedly used, despite occasional objections36, as a critical piece of
evidence of this sectionâ€™s northern origin 37. While early source crit-
ics had limited interest in this aspect, the equation of â€œpropheticâ€
(or levitical) with Elohistic has become increasingly popular, and
more so among nonspecialists, specifically in the field of prophetic
literature 38. Yet this point is not critically supported, either.
J. WELLHAUSEN, Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel. With a
Reprint of the Article Israel from the Encyclopaedia Britannica (New York
1957) 361 [German original: Berlin 1878]; SKINNER, Genesis, lii; G. VON
RAD, Genesis. A Commentary (OTL; Philadelphia, PA 1972) 26-27 [German
original: GÃ¶ttingen 1961].
R. GNUSE, â€œDreams and Their Theological Significance in the Biblical
Traditionâ€, CurTM 8 (1981) 166-171; ID., â€œDreams in the Night-Scholarly
Mirage or Theophanic Formula? The Dream Report as a Motif of the So-
Called Elohist Traditionâ€, BZ 39 (1995) 28-53; ID., â€œNorthern Prophetic Tra-
ditions in the Books of Samuel and Kings as Precursor to the Elohistâ€, ZAW
122 (2010) 380. For a critique of using dream theophany as a source criterion,
sec M. LICHTENSTEIN, â€œDream-Theophany and the E Documentâ€, JANESCU
2 (1969) 45-54.
E.g. GUNKEL, Genesis, lxxviii; C. WESTERMANN, Genesis 12-36. A
Commentary (Minneapolis, MN 1985) 324 [German original: Neukirchen-
WELLHAUSEN, Prolegomena, 361; SKINNER, Genesis, 315; VON RAD,
Genesis, 27, 228-229; JENKS, Elohist, 104.
E.g. R.R. WILSON, â€œEarly Israelite Prophecyâ€, Interpreting the Prophets
(eds. J.L. MAYS â€“ P.J. ACHTEMEIER) (Philadelphia, PA 1987) 9.
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