Some Quick Thoughts About the Documentary Hypothesis…


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


5 thoughts on “Some Quick Thoughts About the Documentary Hypothesis…

  1. Pingback: Some Quick Thoughts About the Documentary Hypothesis… |

  2. That is just dog-gone ridiculous!!! I know I am behind on following-up on my postings but in the brief moments I am spared I am compelled to answer your Commentaries!!! (I have decided “Commentaries” is a more dignified term for what you accomplish) … wanted to share this true story: was talking to Kevin he used to watch all the “History” channel stuff esp. bout the Bible he says to me “oh Mary didn’t have any children. Joseph was older so he already had the half-siblings” I says to him “wait a minute here, Our Christ was the Son of God and Man, therefore she very well could have gone on to have step-siblings with Joseph, her husband.” He was struck speechless. I was blunt with him and said the best way to learn about the Bible is to study it with a trustworthy, accurate teacher, none are perfect yet there are good ones, even a few on t.v. if necessary”. Just my note for the day. I believe you prayed for me Blessings to you and your family. +++ Marie
    p.s. I wonder why the site picked a potato as my logo??? LOL I do need potassium, though. tee-hee PRAISE GOD FOR THE GIFT OF HUMOUR +++

  3. Cannot resist mentioning as far as I know there is no confirmation either way in The Bible regarding Mary having further children yet I do so love where John constantly stated ”the Apostle Christ loved the most” to a point where it got on Peter’s nerves. The Bible is also about human nature. I also Love how when Our Lord told John his life would be long Peter basically said ”then what about me?” and Our Lord said very acerbically ”What does it matter to you?? And this same Peter was indeed The Christs’ half-brother. Our Lord gave charge, upon The Cross, to John to take care of his Mother. Not to his siblings. To Peter, He gave the huge task of building The Church. Nowhere in His Words is the denomination mentioned. I personally interpret this to mean: The Christian Church. +++ Marjy


    Were denominations created so the could teach the apostles doctrine? No they were not.

    Acts 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.(NKJV)

    The Roman Catholic denomination was established so it could teach the doctrine of popes, cardinals, the doctrine of the Roman Catholic denomination.

    The Lutheran denomination was formed so they could teach the doctrine of Martin Luther.

    The Baptist denominations were brought into existence so they could teach the doctrine of John Calvin and that of Baptist preachers.

    Denominations were formed so they could teach doctrines contrary the doctrine of the apostles.

    Can you name one denomination that teaches the terms for pardon that the apostle Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost?(Acts 2:22-41 ……40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them,)(NKJV)

    Peter did not preach. .1 Salvation by good works. 2. Salvation by Law keeping. 3. Salvation by grace alone. Salvation by faith only. 5. Salvation by saying the Sinner’s Prayer.

    Peter preached. 1. Faith; John 3:16. 2. Confession; Romans 10:9. 3. Repentance; Acts 2:38. 4. Water Baptism; Acts 2:38.
    Peter preached the apostles doctrine.

    Denominations were created to teach and preach the doctrines of men.

    Mark 7:5-13……”making the word of God of no effect through your traditions which you have handed down. And many such things you do.”(NKJV)

    Denominations were created to teach the traditions of men.

    If all believers in Christ taught the apostles doctrine, found in the New Testament Scriptures, there would be no denominations.

    YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY CHRISTIAN BLOG. Google search>>>>steve finnell a christian view

    • Thanks for sharing your, er, thoughts Steve.

      I’ll just say that you’re, well, REALLY confused about church history. The Catholics aren’t a “denomination” at all, the Lutherans overtly didn’t worship or follow Luther (the name was given to them) and the Baptists became a denomination to “so they could teach the doctrine of John Calvin and that of Baptist preachers.”

      What? The Baptists BECAME a denomination so that they could follow the Baptist preachers (how were there Baptists BEFORE there were Baptists?)

      I’d advise my readers against reading someone who is clearly and obviously ignorant of church history on such a basic level.

      You also wrote the following:

      “Peter preached. 1. Faith; John 3:16. 2. Confession; Romans 10:9. 3. Repentance; Acts 2:38. 4. Water Baptism; Acts 2:38.”

      John 3:16 was Jesus talking, not Peter.
      Romans 10:9 was Paul talking, not Peter.
      Acts 2:38 was Peter talking, and in that passage he says:

      “(38) And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (39) For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

      Acts 2:39 is talking about salvation by faith alone through grace alone. Everyone who is saved is “everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself”.

      In 1 Peter, Peter talks a whole lot about salvation by faith alone through grace alone:

      “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (4) to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, (5) who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” – 1 Peter 1:3-5

      “And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, (18) knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, (19) but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. (20) He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you (21) who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” – 1 Peter 1:17-21

      Steve, you’re simply ignorant of the scriptures.

      I would advise my readers against searching out and reading someone who is so obviously driven by an agenda that doesn’t include fidelity to the text of scripture.

      If you want to come back and fight Steve, bring your own get well card. I don’t hold back on people like you.

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