Meaning &
Message of the
Old Testament

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• General Objectives
• Course Requirements
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• The Bible
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July 2002

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* 8-13 Prelims Week

August 2002

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* 26 National Heroes Day
28-29 SU Founders Day

September 2002

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October 2002

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* 7-11 Finals Week

Dear Students,

Kindly take time to visit this site regularly as notes, readings, illustrations and pointers to exams and quizzes will be placed here soon. Thanks!

- Callum Tabada
Instructor, Rel. 11 Class

QUICK SCHEDULE - (Updated Sunday, July 7)

July 8 & 10 (Mon. & Wed.): Class Discussion
click here to read the articles from the P5.00 handout)
read below for the article from God's Liberating Acts, pp.38-41)

JUly 12 (Friday): Prelim Exam

Friday, July 5 discussion: How does God make himself known to us?

(The article below is also for July 8-10 discussion)

The Pentateuch and the Documentary Hypothesis

Jewish tradition considered the first five books of the Old Testament (Pentateuch) to be the most important part of the Scriptures. The Hebrew name for it is torah which can be translated as "law" or "instruction." The authorship of the Pentatuech is usually attributed to Moses. This was the dominant view of the synagogue and the early Christian church. However, J.A. Soggin concludes that:

...whereas the Pentateuch does not have any internal elements which prove the truth of the tradition which attributes its redaction to Moses, there are many which prove incompatible with such an attribution. The Pentateuch was not composed in a single draft, it is a product of a redactional process which proves to be extremely complex. Thus anyone who wishes nevertheless to maintain the traditional view that it was written by Moses would equally have to postulate a long and intricate work of redaction of such a scope that in the end it would no longer be possible to recognize clearly what did in fact go back to Moses. (1976:83).

If the Pentateuch was not written by Moses, who then was the author? To answer this question, we have to think first of the "community of faith" or covenant community which was formed through God's call of Abraham and God's deliverance of Israel from Egyptian slavery. In between the time when Abraham was called and the time when the Exodus event happened, members of the community of faith had accumulated a body of precious beliefs and practices were called oral traditions, which later were reduced into writing. Several strands of traditions, according to biblical scholars, were interwoven together to form the first five books or the Pentateuch.

It was J. Wellhausen, a German biblical scholar, who constructed a system which arranged the sources of traditions into chronological order known as the Documentary Hypothesis (Soggin, 1976:84-87). Essentially, the Documentary Hypothesis holds that although the substance of the Israelite faith was Mosaic, the present written form of the literature is later in date. What follows are the four sources of tradition.

The earlies source is the Yahwist tradition (the symbol of which is J) taken from the German word Jahveh because Yahweh is the given name for God, even in the period before the revelation of that name to Moses (Ex. 3:6). The J source was written approximately 950 B.C. by an unknown writer who can simply be designated as Yahwist. People and places mentioned in this source or strand are on the whole from Judah (Southern Kingdom). So it is believed that this tradition originated from Judah.

The second strand of trand of tradition is the Eloshist (symbol is E) because the name for God used by the writer is Elohim. This tradition could be dated about two centuries later than J. The E tradition is less primitive and it makes use of intermediaries between God and people through dreams and angels. The people and places are predominantly in the Northern Kingdom. Thus the E tradition originated from that place. It is believed, however, that when Israel fell in 722 B.C. the materials were probably transferred to Judah and were combined with the J tradition. Thus, we have the J + E tradition.

The third source is the Deuteronomist tradition (symbol is D). The materials of this source are identical with the greater part of the book of Deuteronomy. This book was discovered at the beginning of King Josiah's reform in 621 B.C. (II Kings 22:23). However, this tradition contains a good deal of earlier meterials.

The last source is the Priestly tradition (symbol is P) which was written at the end of the Babylonian exile (586-538 B.C.) by a group of Priests. The materials in this source form the final framework of the materials collected in the J and E sources. It has very little narrative materials. The greater part is made up of the ritual laws contained in the second part of the book of Exodus, in Leviticus, and in the first part of the book of Numbers.

The chart (below) would help us visualize the formation of the Pentateuch. Note that the broken lines signify oral traditions and the solid lines the transmission of the tradition in written form. All the four traditions have parallel developments out of the ancient period, although each was subject to a special development in the circle that preserved it. Like several streams flowing into one irver, these traditions were joined and unified in the Priestly edition-thus the Pentateuch was formed.

God's Liberating Acts, by Melanio Aoanan, pp.38-41

(Please click here to view the chart/diagram indicating the Formation of the Pentateuch) opens in a separate window

Email me in case of any questions or clarifications:
or you can ask me directly in class during class hours :)

Last updated: Sunday, July 7, 2002