Here’s another draft blog post that’s been sitting, 90% unfinished, in my drafts for a long time. Time to clean out my drafts!
If you’ve been around the church for any amount of time, one thing you learn is that thought Christians claim to draw their beliefs from the Bible, there are a fair amount of ideas that have found their way into Christian circles that come from anywhere but the Bible.
Case in point - Spiritual Warfare. 90% of what is taught under the label of”spiritual warfare” is unashamed pagan practice that is blindly brought into the church. I recently witnessed a man lead a small assembly of believers to manifest Christ’s power in their lives by rebuking the demon of “lack of tithing” (as if demons are behind everything bad that happens everywhere). I don’t know where he learned about that specific demon, but it definitely wasn’t the scriptures.
The list of “nutty ideas imported into the Church/Christianity” gets a whole lot longer than that. Another nutty idea that has gotten a lot of traction in academic circles is the Documentary Hypothesis.
The Documentary Hypothesis, in a nutshell, what happens when you apply empirical naturalism (foundational rejection of the possibility of the supernatural) to the concept of the writing of the scriptures. The Documentary Hypothesis is a relatively popular (and idiotic) idea that the Old Testament was written and assembled by 4 groups of editors (and none of those groups included Moses, Isaiah, or anyone else mentioned in the OT). They were known as the Yahwist, Elohimist, Priestly and Deuteronomist groups, and each camp basically wrote part of the Old Testament. The Yahwists wrote first, and you can tell what they wrote because they used the name “Yahweh” in their writing. The Elohimists added to what the Yahwists wrote and added all the stuff about “Elohim” (who may have been another name for “Yahweh”, though some think that “Elohim” was a different deity altogether). The Deuteronomists added to the documents written by the first 2 groups (adding the law), and the Priests added to the documents last (adding all the priestly stuff). Where this ends up is in having the scriptures change, sometimes tremendously, over their history of development. An example would be that when the Documentary Hypothesis applied to Genesis 22 (the binding of Isaac), the original story (as told by the Yahwists) is that Abraham simply dragged Isaac away and killed him. The Elohimists came along and, not liking how this senseless murder made Yahweh appear, changed the ending of the story so that Isaac was spared by their kindly Elohim at the last minute (although Yahweh and Elohim are the same God, remember…even though they act in utterly contrary ways to each other).
The whole process ignores the claims of scripture unto it’s own divine source (which the authors obviously made up to “sanctify” their writing) and is a blatant attack against the inspiration of scripture. At the end of the day, if the scriptures were written just like every other myth, they’re neither divine nor authoritative, hence how certain circles embrace postmodern reader-response theory where the “authority” of the biblical text lies not in the text or the divine author, but rather in the interpretive community (which doesn’t actually make the text authoritative, but rather only suggests that a bunch of people form a social consensus to treat their understanding, whether rational or completely irrational, as authoritative for their group). In essence, the Bible isn’t actually true, but we’ll all agree to treat it like it is because, well, we want to.
I am unapologetic to call it idiotic because it’s a theory that claims to do 2 impossible things:
First, it basically says that we have the 4th edition of the Old Testament, but through sheer textual study we can peel away all the changes and recover the 3rd, 2nd and 1st editions (as well as unpack the motivations behind the editing of the editors). Try that with ANY textbook in it’s 4th edition. Any takers? Of course not. To think that one could possibly unpack the edits and changes made by authors in a different culture and era, simply from studying the most recent edition, is simply unfathomable…no, idiotic.
Second, it attempts to psycho analyze and make judgments about religious motivation regarding whole councils of individuals, from thousands of years ago, based on selections of writing that was composed by a council of individuals, not one specific individual. To show how utterly idiotic this is, one needs to simply think about how little one could know about documents like the London Baptist Confession (any of them), or a papal encyclical, or any council written documents without actually knowing anything specific about the individuals involved (like how many there were, or what their personal history was). Heck, just study your own church doctrinal statement and see, from your studying your church’s statement alone, how accurate you can get to knowing who wrote it, or how many were involved, or what their underlying motivations were. It’s an idea that could only be described as idiotic. If you don’t know how many authors there were, let alone anything about them, you’re not going to be doing much more than playing golf in a blizzard.
Good luck, because luck is all you have (and no possibly way of confirming your hypotheses). There’s neither science nor even reason behind such an endeavor…only sheer hubris and blind faith in the extent of one’s own rational powers. The Documentary Hypothesis is the stain on the carpet of reason remaining after a night of self-worship and guzzling oneself senseless from the keg of hubris.
Just my thoughts, for what they’re worth. I toss this up for the few people that have asked about the JEPD theory.
Until Text Next,
Lyndon “The Armchair Biblical Inspirationalist” Unger