John Van Seters, «Dating the Yahwist’s History: Principles and Perspectives.», Vol. 96 (2015) 1-25
In order to date the Yahwist, understood as the history of Israelite origins in Genesis to Numbers, comparison is made between J and the treatment of the patriarchs and the exodus-wilderness traditions in the pre-exilic prophets and Ezekiel, all of which prove to be earlier than J. By contrast, Second Isaiah reveals a close verbal association with J’s treatments of creation, the Abraham story and the exodus from Egypt. This suggests that they were contemporaries in Babylon in the late exilic period, which is confirmed by clear allusions in both authors to Babylonian sources dealing with the time of Nabonidus.
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Dating the Yahwist’s History:
Principles and Perspectives
Establishing the date of composition of an ancient literary work
is fundamental to understanding what an author is trying to say, and
this is nowhere more important than in the critical interpretation of
the Pentateuch in general and of the Yahwist’s history in particular.
Before we can do this it is necessary to explain what I mean by the
term Yahwist in this discussion, because this designation has
come to mean many different things over the last two centuries
of scholarship. In the classical Wellhausen documentary hypothesis 1,
there are originally three independent sources in Genesis to Numbers,
two non-priestly sources, the Yahwist (J) and the Elohist (E), who
used the term “Elohim” (God) in place of “YHWH ” to designate the
deity, and a Priestly (P) source. These were interwoven into each
other by “redactors”, and this was added to Deuteronomy (D), as a
separate source. J was viewed as the oldest, dated to the time of
Solomon or a little later, then E, and D was added at the end of the
monarchy, with P in the post-exilic period. Some scholars increased
the number of sources 2, while others questioned the existence of a
self-contained E source, and this reduces the basic number of
sources to three, J, P, and D (as well as a few isolated additions) 3.
Furthermore, alongside of the “documentary hypothesis” with
its redactors, there was the “supplementary hypothesis” in which
the oldest source J received additions directly from E to form JE 4,
J. WELLHAUSEN, Prolegomena zur Geschichte Israels (Berlin 51899);
English translation: Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel (Edinburgh
1885); ID., Die Composition des Hexateuch und der historishen Bücher des
Alten Testaments (Berlin 31899).
R.H. PFEIFFER, Introduction to the Old Testament (New York – London
1941) 129-209; O. EISSFELDT, The Old Testament. An Introduction (New York
1965) 166-170; G. FOHRER, Introduction to the Old Testament (Nashville,
TN 1968) 159-165.
P. VOLZ – W. RUDOLPH, Der Elohist als Erzähler – ein Irrweg der Penta-
teuchkritik? (BZAW 63; Berlin 1933); S. MOWINCKEL, Erwägungen zur Penta-
teuch Quellenfrage (Trondheim 1964) 59-118.
Wellhausen, in Prolegomena and Die Composition, preferred to discuss
JE as a single entity, and Gerhard von Rad, in G. VON RAD, Das formgeschicht-
BIBLICA 96.1 (2015) 1-25