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Bible Articles and Lessons: P-Q

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P source, problems

According to the Documentary Hypothesis (DH), the P source is responsible for more of the Pentateuch than any other source. Based upon my own very rough calculations, critical scholars assign to P about 20% of Gen, about 50% of Exo, about 95% of Lev, and about 70% of Num. Mainstream DH thought is that P was not written until the return from exile, although some follow Richard Elliot Friedman and date the bulk of the P source to Hezekiah's time. Therefore, evidence from P that relates to time periods before Hezekiah and are not explainable by critical scholars except as complete fabrications (or even completely unexplainable) would serve to demonstrate that the supposed P source was in fact written when it claims to have been written: during the time of Moses. I intend to point out several things that in fact do serve as such forms of evidence.

One complicating matter is this differing opinion by critical scholars about when to date the P source, whether it was c 710 BC or c 450 BC. As the latter date is the far more prevalent one among critical scholars it is the one that I will focus most upon, but in any case virtually all of my points relate to the earlier date as well. At the same time, this complicating matter of different dates for P is actually helpful, as the scholars in both sub-camps here are quite adept at pointing out some of the failings of the other. All in all, the post-exilic date supported by most critical scholars is far more absurd that the earlier date proposed by Friedman. Friedman's approach removes some, but not all, of the problems that I present below.

I will begin by citing a list given by Josh McDowell in Volume 2 of "Evidence that Demands a Verdict." He notes that there are several features present in P but absent from the post-exilic period. I have omitted some that I think are "stretches" on his part but the remainder are: tabernacle, ark, ten commandments [I take this to refer to the tablets], Urim and Thummim, cities of refuge, and the test of adultery by ordeal. He also lists leprosy and Nazirites as two features present in P and in the pre-exilic period, but absent from the post-exilic period. Finally, he lists several features absent from P yet prominent in the post-exilic period: the divine name "Yahweh Sabaoth" [LORD of hosts], singing and music as central in worship, scribes, designation of the central sanctuary as the "temple", mention of legislation concerning the post-exilic industrial revolution, and the city of Jerusalem. I will take up some of these issues, plus some others, in more detail.

Looking at the cities of refuge makes for an interesting consideration. During both the Hezekiah-period and the post-exilic period most of the cities were outside the areas controlled by the Israelites. Whichever date is given for P by critical scholars, it seems that there would be no point whatsoever in dealing with the cities of refuge in this level of detail. The only sensible explanation is that these sections of the Pentateuch were written by Moses prior to the entry into Canaan.

Of course the most important city during the Hezekiah period and the post-exilic period was Jerusalem. To put it bluntly, Jerusalem was the Holy City of All Time, the place where Yahweh Elohim, the One True God, Yahweh Sabaoth, chose to "dwell" in His Temple. Under Hezekiah and following the return from exile there was much enthusiasm about Jerusalem. So what does the P source say about Jerusalem, as part of what the DH claims is its effort to justify the exclusiveness of the Aaronic priesthood to the people? NOTHING. This is eminently explainable if the Pentateuch really were written by Moses, as God had not yet revealed Jerusalem as the place where His name would finally dwell, and in any case He first established Shiloh before rejecting it (see Psa 78:60 and related refs that deal with this). But as the DH claims that the author(s) of the P source was making up things left and right to justify the exclusiveness of the Aaron priesthood, it makes no sense for this source not to have included something about Jerusalem. The only two refs in the Pentateuch that I can think of that relate to Jerusalem are the mention of Melchizedek King-Priest of Salem in Gen 14, and the "sacrifice" of Isaac upon Mount Moriah in Gen 22. According to critical scholars, these come from the J or the E source, and in any case are extremely obscure about pointing forward to Jerusalem as the future center of worship. Surely other places mentioned in Genesis, such as Shechem, Bethel, Hebron, and Beersheba are far more prominent. And besides, as we shall see when we get to the two postings about problems with the DH theory about Deuteronomy, the Shechem/Mt Ebal/Mt Gerizim location is mentioned far more prominently than Jerusalem is. As for locations within Canaan mentioned by the P source, these are confined to the purchase by Abraham of the cave of Machpelah in Gen 23 and the renaming of Jacob to Israel in Gen 35 at Bethel. And interestingly, in the mention of Hebron in Gen 23:2), the ancient name of Kirjath-Arba is used along with a note that "(that is, Hebron)." It does not seem sensible that the P source, writing hundreds of years after the name of Kirjath-Arba had been replaced, would have used that name, unless it was to expressly deceive the post-exilic and later audiences.

One of the differences between the Temple worship services of the divided kingdom and post-exilic periods when compared to the tabernacle period concerned the use of singing and musical instruments. Since according to the DH the entire purpose of writing the P source was to provide a supposedly ancient justification for the Temple worship services, it seems inexplicable that the author(s) of the P source would make absolutely no mention whatsoever of this aspect of worship. At best in the P source there are a couple of mentions of spontaneous songs, but nothing like the organized singing and music of the later Temple periods. Remember that the Temple singers were Levites (1Ch 23:5-6), and were an important part of the Temple worship service. Also related to this is the issue of the Nethinim, or temple servants. As I understand it there is some debate about exactly who they were and what their key functions were, but the fact is that they played some kind of key role in keeping the Temple up and running.

Another interesting item concerns one that I would never have thought of, but which makes an interesting point: the dedication dates for the Tabernacle, Solomon's Temple, and Zerubbabel's temple. Gleason Archer points out that the Tabernacle was dedicated on the first day of the first month, or Nisan (Exo 40:2), that Solomon's Temple was dedicated sometime in the month of Ethanim, the seventh month (1Ki 8:2), and that Zerubbabel's Temple was dedicated on the 3rd of Adar, or 12th month (Ezr 6:15). Part and parcel of the standard form of the DH about the P source is that the Tabernacle was only a device created by the author(s) of the P source to justify the Temple worship services. If this is so, then it is highly suspect that the P source author would invent a date for the dedication of the Tabernacle that was different from the dedication date of the rebuilt Temple. This matter does not constitute rock-solid proof, but it remains awkward for critical scholars to explain nonetheless.

The last item that I wish to discuss here concerns the citation by Amos of certain material only contained in the P source sections of the Pentateuch. According to all critical scholars, the P source was not written until at least the time of Hezekiah, and more probably not until the time of the return from exile. As Amos predates Hezekiah, his citations of P source material are not accounted for by the DH.

My list of applicable references is drawn from Gleason Archer. He points out that in Amo 2:11,12 we read of Amos castigating the Israelites for giving the Nazirites wine to drink. This passage implies a knowledge of Num 6:1-21. Also, in Amo 4:5, Amos speaks concerning those who offer a sacrifice of that which is leavened. This refers back to Lev 2:11, which is part of the P source material according to the DH. Amo 4:5 also speaks of a free-will offering in a manner that hearkens back to Lev 7:16-19; 22:18; and Num 15:3. Amo 5:21 speaks of solemn assemblies in a way that presupposes the existence of Lev 23:36 and Num 29:35, and several phrases concerning various offerings in Amo 5:22 all relate back to P source material.

The DH response to these references places them in a catch-22. If they argue that the P source made up the legislation about various offerings and things like the Nazirites, then the Amos references are unexplainable. But if they argue that the P source was drawing upon long-existing practices, then where does all the evidence for a late (Hezekiah's day or later) P source come from? What good would it do for the P source to refer back to long-existing practices if the goal was to provide justification for a new way of doing things? And if the practices were already pre-existing, then where did they come from and upon what basis did previous generations follow them? Take the issue of the Nazirites as an example. Clearly the practice of Naziriteship predated Amos, and if we may refer back to Samson it certainly predated Amos by quite a bit. If the practice didn't come from Moses then where did it come from? The easiest answer to these questions is to accept the claim of the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. These last couple of issues are not by themselves ironclad proof of Mosaic authorship. But as I just stated, they fit with the claim of Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch far better than they fit with the Documentary Hypothesis. (DB)

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