Mar 29, 12
Read from March 18 to 29, 2012 — I own a copy, read count: 1
Coming from a conservative evangelical background, the Documentary Hypothesis (DH) had been the boogie man that should be avoided and not looked upon. This book changed all this. I am intrigued and want to read more about the subject matter.
To start out, Dr. Friedman (Ph.D, Harvard) studied with some excellent teachers; G. Ernest Wright and Frank Moore Cross. Therefore, his knowledge of the subject matter is uncanny. Additionally, he is an excellent writer.
The investigation begins with an overview of how Pentateuchal Historical-Critical methodology came about. After this short introduction, he takes the reader through a great detective story (as another reviewer on Goodreads describe it). He starts out the journey in the first chapter by describing the biblical world, 1200-722 B. C. The chapter content may be organized as follows: The pre-Monarchic Israelite world, the rise of the Monarchy, the Davidic kingdom, the Solomonic kingdom, Israel and Judah, Jeroboam's priests, and the fall of Israel. The next two chapters (2 & 3) outline the evidence for the "J" source having come from the kingdom of Judah and the "E" source having come the kingdom of Israel. He also explores the theology and aims of each source.
The next critical time period is 722-587 B. C. A quick gaze at the title gives one an indication of the two events that cast a shadow throughout the chapter. The content may be organized as follows: the ramifications of the fall of Israel, King Hezekiah's reformation, the end of reformation, the rebirth of reformation under King Josiah, and the Babylonian exile. The following three chapters (5, 6, and 7) one reads the reasons for positing a "D" source, its different versions, how it relates to its surrounding history and environment, and the identity of the person(s) Dr. Friedman believes authored the Deuteronomistic source.
The next time period spans from 587 to 400 B. C. This age is very hard to describe because of lack of sources. Both the Bible and archeology say very little regarding this time. Nevertheless, Dr. Friedman gives the reader a great feel for the sense of loss experience by the Israelites, and how the empires in the area fought each other for control of Palestine. He ends the chapter by highlighting the role of Ezra in the formation of the Torah. Chapters 9, 10, 11 and 12 are used to explicate the steps necessary to identify the "P" source; a mistake in critical scholarship, the role of the Tabernacle, the author of "P," and the polemic behind "P."
The book ends with a description of the method the priest, lawgiver, and scribe Ezra might have used in his compilation of the J, E, D, and P sources. The result of all this is "The First Bible" containing the Pentateuch, Joshua, Judges, the books of Samuel, and the books of Kings.
After the investigation is completed, Dr. Friedman returns to viewing the Bible as a unity. This move toward application made me appreciate the journey much more. I'll quote him at length to give an idea of why he moves in this direction:
"And so we have, in a sense, come a full cycle back to dealing with the Bible as a whole. That is perhaps what has been lacking in much of the research on the authors of the Bible thus far. It has often been a tearing-down without a putting-back-together. And that may be, in part, why this sort of analysis so offended the faithful of Christianity and Judaism. For a long time it appeared that the aim of the enterprise was to take the Bible apart and arrive at numerous pieces, none of which was the Bible any longer. Perhaps that was as far as the enterprise could go in its early stages. However, we are now at a point at which our discoveries concerning the Bible's origins can mean an enhanced understanding and appreciation of the Bible in its final, developed form...The question, after all, is not only who wrote the Bible, but who reads it."