Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Who Wrote the Bible - Part II - This Post Brought to You by the Letters J and E

J and E exist largely in the first four books of the Bible (though significantly less in Leviticus and Numbers). The names of course derive from the way each source refers to God J/Yahweh and Elohim.

F. is quick to point out that the differences go far beyond the name used for God. F. identifies J with Judah (the south) and E with Israel (the north) demonstrating the connection that the sources have with each geographic location. For instance in the birth narratives of the twelve tribes Elohim is used in reference to the ten tribes while Yahweh is used in reference to the south (Gen 29:32-30:24a; of course 24b has Yahweh, but I am sure he explains that in the article he references :)). F. goes on to look at the Golden Calf story in Exodus (Ex 32) as a definitive case for understanding the E source. With respect to the Levitical priests in Shiloh and their relationship to Moses he states here simply that they “therefore possibly descended from Moses.” This is important because of the way it elevates Moses in the story of the Golden Calf and implicates Aaron. This story then is also a stab at the golden calves set up by Jeroboam when he established his own religious system apart from these priests (see last post). This criticism of Jeroboam in this story (where the singular golden calf made by Aaron is referred to in the plural) is further strengthened by its connection to Jeroboam’s explicit statement regarding the golden calves he established. He says to the people, “Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you out of Egypt” (1 Kgs 12:28 cf. Aaron Ex 32:4, 8). It is then the Levites who come to the rescue at the bequest of Moses. Joshua is also saved from implication because he is a northern hero coming from the tribe of Ephraim. In this account then E in addition to attaching the south is also attacking the religious system of the north while still keeping his hope in it.
If E associates with Moses then the Numbers 12 story of God reprimanding Aaron for criticizing Moses also fits. On the other hand J accounts often have the people complaining to Moses. F. also points out the Ark and its political significance for David and Solomon is never mentioned in E while the Tabernacle and its association with Shiloh is never mentioned in J. The J creation account also has the Garden of Eden protected by Cherubim which would have been important for Judah and not Israel. Again in the Exodus account J has God saving the people while in the E account Moses is the one sent (Ex 3:8, 10).
With respect to their commonalities F. is clear that he believes the two writers produced versions. They were “drawing upon a common treasury of history and tradition because Israel and Judah had once been one united people.” With the Assyrian exile of Israel a number of refugees from the north would have flooded south and brought with them their texts. Instead of rejecting one version F. holds that the newly combined people of the south would not have allowed one story to be told without the other and so both aspects of the versions were combined. Combining the two then averts the tension between which one would have been viewed as authoritative.

1 comment:

Richard said...

I love the title of the post - straight out of Sesame St!