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The Documentary Hypothesis

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Question:  Dear Robert, Thank you for your help. But I am still wondering what the relationship between Chronicler's and Deuteronomistic historian's account of Josiah's reform? Is the Temple in the Chronicler's story different from the Temple in the Deuteronomistic Historian's view? Thank you again. God bless you.

Response:  Yes, the temple is the same. This is the "first temple" (i.e., Solomon's temple, as opposed to the one rebuilt after the Babylonian captivity). The accounts in the two books are also very similar, as we have discussed. I do, however, feel compelled to say something about your phrasing of the question. You should know that the term "Deuteronomistic Historian" is, in general, only employed by those who accept the so-called "documentary hypothesis", a seriously flawed and incorrect academic attempt to discern "layers of composition" in the Pentateuch and following historical books of the Bible. This sort of thing started in Classical literature with F. Wolf's work on Homer and rose to such a fever pitch during the 19th century that one wag could comment only half in jest that "now we understand that not a single passage of classical literature was actually written by its original author". To put the question another way, the answer to "who wrote Homer" is "Homer, or someone else by that name". In other words, once the sickness of "delirium delens" takes over, one is no longer able to accept anything as original.

This sort of thing ruined scholarship in my particular area of Thucydides for the better part of a century. Happily, since WWII, things have turned around and people have come to see that there are other ways to look at texts. It takes no sublime literary talent to see that there is a unity to Thucydidean thought (or Platonic systematics or Homeric style etc.) that is a far stronger argument for originality and unity of a text than the statistical frequency of, say, divine names. All one has to do is to actually read the Pentateuch, for example, to see that there is stylistic unity and homogeneity throughout. Put another way, from a purely literary point of view, these books are so unified in terms of style and structure that the burden of proof is certainly upon those who feel they were cut and paste jobs to prove it (in which area the "documentary hypothesis" is prima facie inadequate).

Now in Classics, I can slough this sort of thing off - anyone who is looking at Thucydides "the wrong way" I can just ignore, and the effort to define strata has really fallen out of favor for the reasons mentioned (i.e., there either aren't any such genuinely discernable strata, or they are largely unimportant, or impossible to truly discern, all true composition having taken place in the mind and under the control of a single author with a definite purpose). What is true in Classical literature is even doubly so in the Bible where these authors (Moses, in the case of the Pentateuch, for instance) operated under divine inspiration. But while these strange ideas of source criticism have largely fallen out of favor in secular literary studies, they have become almost a cult unto themselves in biblical literature. Not that I am greatly concerned per se, but I do find them dangerous in one respect. That is, individuals without your obvious intellectual background can be relatively easily influenced into thinking there is actually something vital, valuable and true in such theories (especially since their scholarly acceptance is wide - though not among those who are truly following God). Like all clever lies in this area, the main danger in the "documentary hypothesis" resides in its ability to undermine the uninitiated believer's confidence in the Bible as a book whose production has been superintended by God and which is His message to His children, His very words and the basis of virtually everything we believe. Knock out this confidence, and faith itself is vulnerable.

Please see also the following links:

More about the Documentary Hypothesis

The Relationship between the Books of Kings and Chronicles

Read Your Bible: Protection against Cults

The Canonicity of Hebrews

Keep the faith!

Yours in Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill


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