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More about the Documentary Hypothesis

and more about the Rapture

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Question #1:  Dear Dr Luginbill.  Could you advise me of some good material on the 'Documentary Hypothesis' theory as I need to respond to some people who are using this to discredit the authority of the first five books of the Bible. Books I could purchase or online papers etc would be helpful.

Response #1:  On the documentary hypothesis, let me say first that apologetics is not my field. I think that Harrison (see below) summed up the theory well as "an arbitrary instrument for subjective exercise". Like many of the theories of literary interpretation that are presently sweeping through the humanities (to the disgust of old-line philologists like myself), it really is a case of the emperor having no clothes. Once one admits that reality, the thing is seen for the absurdity it is. But, of course, "J-E-D-P" has been for several centuries and is now an enjoyable game to play for scholars who have no sense of the authority of scripture. In my classical research, this same sort of thing has been going on even longer (indeed, Graf-Wellhausen got this idea from Classical circles). "Who wrote Homer" was the first of these questions, and after centuries of pointless exercises the answer has come: "Homer, or someone else with that same name". The thing is, the text itself shows that someone wrote the text or we wouldn't have the text. If a skeptic wants to say that the historical Moses didn't write the Pentateuch, this is really rather silly when one thinks about it, because skeptical secularists don't really believe in the historical Moses anyway! And the answer to all the J-E-D-P analysis is the same as with Homer: "Moses wrote it, or somebody else whom we might as well call Moses (even if that person were an "editor" who put the other stuff together)". Of course, I certainly believe that it was Moses who wrote the Pentateuch. Scripture bears sufficient testimony to that truth. But one has to believe the biblical testimony in the first place to believe that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible in the second place.

On the other hand, it requires even more faith to believe the documentary hypothesis than it does to believe the Bible. One has to believe that a small group of scholars working from nothing more than the biblical text have been able to decipher correctly the strains of different editorial hands in a highly complex document put together over a thousand years far in the distant past. That would be hard enough in general, but to believe that they have correctly done so merely on the basis of the use of divine names is really an exercise in faith. For, of course, there really are no pure portions that are only "E" or "J". In practice, the theories and definitions used in this theory have been pre-fitted to the end in mind with sole purpose of proving the point of theory (i.e., the reasoning behind it is circular in the extreme). And of course one also has to ask "which documentary hypothesis", because it is not as if there has not been a cottage industry in these studies for many years with every new scholar who indulges in such things putting in his or her own "twist". So while the d.h. has been and continues to shift, the biblical position that Moses is the author has always remained the same.

Combating this theory is a lot like combating evolution. You are generally trying to attack "scientific faith", and that always meets resistance. Never mind that science is always in flux, and what we think we know today will inevitably alter to some degree tomorrow. Never mind that the d.h. and evolution are not really science at all, but theories that are prepackaged to answer questions in ways acceptable to the "scientific faith", theories which cannot really be tested since they deal with past and unrepeatable events. And because they have been invented to fit a set of facts, they are by definition acceptable and unassailable - at least for those who never wish to challenge the underlying theory upon which they are based. That is where I would attack. The underlying theory of evolution rests upon the possibility of inter-species mutation which, mathematically, biologically, experientially, and empirically cannot be proved to be possible. Since it defies the everyday logic of what might be possible, then surely it ought to be proved possible before we give it credence. But instead the theory is advanced and it is assumed to be possible (that is a little like loaning your life-savings without any collateral to a stranger you just met who won't give you his name). Once a person has given in to this faith in a theory, there is little chance that he/she will have a change of mind until the unlikelihood of the theoretical construct being possible in the first place is understood/recognized.

The same goes for the d.h. Read the first five books. They have a natural consistency, flow, and internal integrity which is greater and more obvious than many modern works of literature. They do not seem in any way to be the result of many different strains of input over many centuries that were somehow patched together by an editor (let alone a series of editors). And it is difficult to understand how it would be that we have no single trace of such a process. All we have is a theory, unsubstantiated in any way. Prima facie, like evolution, a certain threshold of possibility of this particular product coming about through this theorized process should have to reached before one is even allowed to mention such a ridiculous idea. For once the theory is given credence (academic standing or whatever), then we find the fool on the throne, and it is extremely difficult to get him off again. Like evolution, once the theory is accepted as possible, the burden of proof unfairly shifts to those who wish to challenge its supremacy, even though the theory has never been any where close to being proved as even possible in the first place.

Well, on to some bibliography - your real question! Having suffered through this far I hope these titles will be of some use (you may already have some of them, and if not they are in print, I believe):

        E.J. Young, An Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids 1964)
        R.K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids 1969)

        LaSor, Hubbard, Bush, Old Testament Survey (Grand Rapids 1982)

All three of these books take on the issue from a conservative point of view (i.e., debunking it to one degree or another). Of these three, Young is the most detailed and gives the most space specifically to this issue. Harrison is best on a purely literary analysis. LHB do a very nice job giving the alternate point of view (i.e., internal evidence for the unity of the books, etc.). There is plenty out there on the d.h., but these are some of the best sources of which I am aware of "ammunition" against it.

I have also written a couple of things on the topic:

            The so-called documentary hypothesis

            The relationship between the books of Kings and Chronicles

Hope this helps.

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #2: 

Dear Dr Luginbill,

Thank you for your wonderful studies on the Book Revelation. Ever since I became a Christian, I have a keen interest in the Book Revelation, and it felt like discovering a gold mine, when I discovered your sight on the Internet. I just need some clarity on the following: In your opinion, when is the Big Rapture going to take place? Some people say that it is going to take place before the Tribulation starts, but I do not agree. As you say in your studies, I believe that the believers, who are chosen to live until it happens, will go through the Tribulation and that it will be a great testing for them.

Response #2:

I appreciate your enthusiasm for the Word of God, and I am always thrilled to hear when my fellow brothers and sisters in Jesus find these materials helpful.

On the rapture, I agree with you entirely. The Church is not resurrected until Jesus returns at the end of the Tribulation. That is when "we who remain" are transformed and rise to be with Him (1Thes.4:13-17; cf. 1Cor.15:50-57). Used of the end times, the Greek word parousia (used in 1Thes.4:15, the "proof text" for rapture adherents) always refers to the one and only return of Christ following His ascension into heaven after His resurrection, and scripture gives no indication of another prior "brief" return for the purpose of a pre (or mid) tribulational rapture. Rather than rehearse the whole argument for you here (since you already believe what I also believe to be the clear, scriptural truth), I invite you to look at the following links which lay out in great detail the reasoning behind rejecting a pre-trib rapture:

            Tribulational Security (i.e., why belief in a pre-trib rapture gives a false sense of security; in Peter #27)

            The Resurrection (explains the timing of all of the echelons of the resurrection; in Peter #20)

            Pre- or Post-Tribulation "rapture"?

            Faith and the Pre-Tribulational "Rapture"

            Pre-, post-, or mid-Tribulation Rapture?

           The Rapture

            A View of the Rapture

As you can see, there is a lot available at Ichthys.com on this subject, but if these materials do not answer all your questions, please do feel free to write me back any time and I will try to answer whatever questions you may have.

Thanks again for your encouraging words.

In our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ whose return we breathlessly await.

Bob Luginbill

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