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The Sources of the Pentateuch

The Pentateuch was not authored out of whole cloth by a second-millennium Moses but is the end product of a complex literary process—written, oral, or both—that did not come to a close until the postexilic period. This… is a virtual scholarly consensus after one and a half centuries of debate” (Peter Enns, The Evolution of Adam, page 23).

A full online review of the history of Pentateuch scholarship have been provided by Dr. John Anderson. See his online resource “The Composition of the Pentateuch in Recent Research: A Teaching and Study Resource (By Me).

Problems with the Traditional View of Mosaic Authorship

  • Moses dies and no one knows where he is buried in Deuteronomy 34.
  • Some statements appear anachronistic in the time of Moses (e.g. Genesis 12:6 and 36:31). It is unlikely that Moses called himself the most humble person in the world (Numbers 12:3).
  • Different names (Elohim/Yahweh, Sinai/Horeb), linguistic and stylistic variation, depictions of the deity (e.g. transcendent, anthropomorphized), doublets (e.g. creation narratives, Abraham/Isaac lying about his wife), and differences in literary details or legal codes.

A Closer Look at the Flood Stories (Genesis 6-8)

  • See Barry Bandstra’s handout on the “Combined Yahwist-Priestly flood story” and notice which divine name (YHWH or Elohim) is used in which section.
  • What did humans do before the flood (6:1-5 and 6:11-12)?
  • How many animals board the ark (6:19-20, 7:9 and 7:2)?
  • What was the mechanism that caused the flood (7:4, 12 and 7:11, 8:2)
  • How long did the flood last (7:12, 17 and 7:24, 8:3-5)?
  • Did Noah send a dove or a raven (8:8-12 and 8:7)?

The Classic Documentary Hypothesis (JEDP)

  • Thomas Hobbes and Baruch Spinoza question Mosaic authorship. Jean Astruc detects two sources behind Genesis and Gottfried Eichhorn applies this to the Pentateuch. Wilhelm Martin Leberecht de Wette dates Deuteronomy to Josiah’s religious reforms in 2 Kings 22-23. Hermann Hupfeld and Karl Heinrich Graf isolate a priestly source.
  • Julius Wellhausen’s Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel argues the Pentateuch was compiled in the Persian period from four older sources. He had an evolutionary, anti-Jewish view of ancient Israelite religion.
  • Yahwist (J): from the southern kingdom of Judah during the Davidic monarchy in the 10th century BCE.
  • Elohist (E): from the northern kingdom of Israel in the 9th century BCE.
  • Deuteronomist (D): a first edition of the book of Deuteronomy may date around the time of its discovery ca. 621 BCE (2 Kings 22:8).
  • Priestly source (P): a post-exilic writer that may be influenced by Ezekiel.

Alternative Models

  • Skepticism about the isolation of literary sources (especially an “E” source).
  • Fragment Hypothesis (Rolf Rendtorff; Erhard Blum): oral stories developed into independent large units of tradition (e.g. Primeval History, Patriarchs, exodus) and later combined in the written text.
  • Supplementary Hypothesis (John Van Seters): a written source (Deuteronomy) was expanded and supplemented by the Yahwist historian and the Priestly writer.




The Covenant and the Torah


  • Torah is often translated “law” but can be defined more broadly as “instruction” or “teaching.” It may denote the Mosaic law, the Pentateuch, or the Hebrew Scriptures.
  • The Torah was the covenant charter for how to live as the people of God. Disobedience could be remedied through repentance and the cultic means of atonement.
  • Torah reveals Yahweh’s righteousness to the nations (Deuteronomy 4:5-8).
  • Leviticus: the Greek title leuitikon means “levitical” or “pertaining to the Levites” (priests), while the Hebrew title vayyiqra means “and he called.” Leviticus focuses on the priestly call to be holy or set apart.
  • Deuteronomy: the Greek title deuteronomion means “second law,” while the Hebrew ‘elleh hadevarim means “these are the words.” Deuteronomy represents itself as Moses’ final speech to the Israelites about to enter the promised land.

ANE Covenants

  • Parity treatises and Suzerainty treatises.
  • Suzerain treatises: title or preamble, historical prologue, stipulations, blessings or curses, witnesses. Example: “Treaty between the Hittites and Egypt.”

ANE Law Codes and Law Forms

  • Cuneiform legal collections from Mesopotamia: Code of Ur-Nammu (2064–2046 BCE), Code of Lipit-Ishtar (1875–1864 BCE), Laws of Eshnunna (1800s BCE), Code of Hammurabi (1792–1750 BCE). We also have the fourteenth century BCE Hittite Laws and the twelfth century BCE Middle Assyrian Laws.
  • Law codes embedded in the Pentateuch: Ethical Decalogue (Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5), Covenant Code (Exodus 20:19-23:33), Ritual Decalogue (Exodus 34:11-26), Deuteronomic Code, Holiness Code (Leviticus 17-26), Priestly Code (portions of Exodus, Numbers, and Leviticus)
  • Casuistic Laws: case law (“if you do x, the consequence will be y”)
  • Apodictic Laws: absolute commands or prohibitions (“thou shall not!”)

The Priestly Cult

  • The holy deity dwells among the people in the portable tabernacle and later the temple, so one must be in a state of ritual purity (i.e. clean) to enter increasingly sacred spaces. In many cases, a prescribed length of time or a ritual washing could remove the condition of being “unclean.”
  • Sacrifices: Burnt offering, Grain or Drink offering, Peace offering, Sin offering, and Guilt offering. The intent could range from offering thanksgiving, showing one’s dedication to God, making restitution for mistreating sacred objects or personal property, or expiating unintentional transgressions.
  • The sin offering cleansed the sin that defiled the sanctuary (cf. Jacob Milgrom) and perhaps the worshiper.
  •  On the “Day of Atonement” (Yom Kippur), sin offerings were made for the priests and people and a ritual scapegoat was driven out to the wilderness.

The Dietary Restrictions

  • Leviticus 11:3-8 and Deuteronomy 14:4-8.
  • Medical or hygienic reasons?
  • Revulsion towards certain types of creatures?
  • Ethical injunctions such as reverence for life or not imitating certain creatures?
  • Boundaries to separate the social body of Israel from other peoples in the land of Canaan? See especially Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Polution and Taboo.

Specifics in the book of Deuteronomy

  • Structure: title or preamble (1:1-5), historical prologue (1:6-4:49), stipulations that are general (i.e. Decalogue) and specific (5-26), blessings or curses (27-28), witnesses (29-33), and epilogue (34-35).
  • The Shema (“hear!”) (6:4-9): commands exclusive monolatry and is the justification for the practice of the Tefillin (phylactery) wrap and the use of Mezuzah (parchment with biblical texts in a case placed on the doorpost). It is also cited in the New Testament (Mark 12:29-30; Romans 3:30; 1 Corinthians 8:6; James 2:19).
  • The centralization of worship as opposed to many altars. One God, one people, and one designated place of worship.
  • Example of changing laws: accused murderers fled to cities of refuge rather than altars to be protected from vengeance.

Christian Approaches to the Old Testament Law

  • Theonomy: enforcing the Mosaic Law in a modern theocracy.
  • Marcionism: viewing the Mosaic Law as completely irrelevant to Christians. Marcion differentiated the God of strict justice from Jesus’ loving heavenly Father.
  • Division between moral, civil, and ritual laws.
  • Salvation-historical approach.


The Exodus from Egypt

Introduction to the Book of Exodus

  • The title is from the Greek word exodos meaning “going out,” while the Hebrew title Ve’elle shemot means “these are the names” from the first verse.
  • Date: 1 Kings 6:1 puts the exodus 480 years before the 4th year of Solomon’s reign in 967 BCE (=1447 BCE), but the store-cities Pithom and Ramses (Exod 1:11) seem to put the story in the reigns of Seti I (1294-1279 BCE) and Ramses II (1279-1213 BCE). Some speculate a link between the Hyksos in Egypt or the Habiru in Canaan.
  • Archaeology: material evidence for a mass exodus of over 600,000 Israelite men (cf. Numbers 1:46; 26:51) has not yet been uncovered, but Pharaoh Merneptah’s Stele (1209 BCE) notes an “Israel” in Canaan. Perhaps a smaller group escaped Egypt to join indigenous Canaanites in rural settlements in the hill country by the Jordan.
  • Oral tradition: “Sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea” (Exodus 15:21).
  • Outline: deliverance from Egypt (ch. 1-18); the covenant at Horeb/Sinai, and the construction of the portable tabernacle where the divine presence will dwell with his people (ch. 19-40)
  • Theology: Yahweh redeems Israel from slavery and establishes a covenant or binding agreement with them. The people ought to respond to unmerited divine election by obedience to the terms of the covenant in the Mosaic law.

Moses’ Birth (Exodus 2:1-10)

  •  Joseph is forgotten and the increasing numbers of Israelites are deemed a threat, so they were enslaved.
  • When the Israelite boys were thrown in the Nile, a mother hid her son in a basket floating among the reeds on the river’s brink. Pharaoh’s daughter found the Hebrew child and named him “Moses.” The biblical text relates the name to the Hebrew verb mashah or “draw out.”
  • Sargon of Agade (2371-2316 BCE): by 1900 CE archaeologists recovered three copies of “The Story of Sargon’s Birth.”

The Call of Moses (Exodus 3:1-4:17)

  • The bush that would not burn up.
  • Objections: who am I, who are you, and what if they do not believe me (cf. the signs of the staff, leprous hand, and water of the Nile to blood)? Moses protests that he is “heavy of mouth and heavy of tongue.”
  • What is meant by Ehyeh asher ehyeh (“I am who I am” or “I will be what I will be”)? The word ‘ehyeh seems to be a play on YHWH.
    • an evasion of Moses’ question to prevent the misuse of God’s name
    • “I am the one who is” (LXX: ego eimi ho ōn) as the eternal, unchanging being
    • the one who causes to be as the creator
    • faithfully present with the people
    • See further Andrea Saner’s article “God and Being in Exodus 3:13-15″
  • Tetragrammaton: four consonants (yod-heh-vav-heh). Jews substituted adonai (lord) rather than pronounce the divine name. The name “Jehovah” is a mistranslation based on the Hebrew consonants and the vowel markers for adonai (אֲדנָי).
  • In the New Testament, Jesus receives the divine name (cf. Philippians 2:6-11).

The Plagues

  • 10 plagues: Nile to blood, frogs, gnats/mosquitoes/lice, flies, death of livestock, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, death of firstborn.
  • Naturalistic explanations or theological polemic: “… on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD” (Exodus 12:12) (see Ziony Zevit “Three Ways to Look at the Ten Plagues“)

Pesach (Passover)

  • The Israelites put a lamb’s blood on their door-posts to be protected from the plague of death on the first-born son. After this, Pharaoh released them from slavery, but later pursued the Israelites and was drowned in the “Sea of Reeds.”
  • The head of the household presides over the retelling of the story on Seder (Passover meal). The youngest child asks four questions beginning with “why is this night different from all other nights?”
  • The feast of unleavened bread (matzah), since they fled Egypt in haste.

The Decalogue

  • Two forms of the Decalogue in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21. It is numbered slightly differently in Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant traditions.
  • Does the golden calf violate the command about worshiping other deities or the command to not make an image of Yahweh (cf. Exodus 32:1-6; 1 Kings 12:25-32)?

The Failure of the First Generation

  • “Numbers” comes from the Greek Arithmoi and relates to the military censuses in chapters 1 and 26; the Hebrew Bemidbar derives from “in the wilderness.”
  • Moses sends twelve spies to scout out the land of Canaan for forty days, but ten report that the inhabitants are too strong and the people refuse to take the land (Numbers 13-14). The inhabitants are compared to the Nephilim (cf. Genesis 6:4).
  • They are punished to wander forty years in the desert, one year for every day the spies scouted the land until the wilderness generation dies off with the exception of Joshua and Caleb.
  • Complaints about the wilderness (11:1-3), starvation (11:4-6), meat (11:18-20), and thirst (20:2-5). Moses sins when dealing with this last complaint, with the result that he will not enter the Promised Land (20:7-12)
  • Miriam and Aaron complain about Moses’ marriage to a foreign woman and see their own status as equivalent to his (12:1-16). Dathan and Abiram complain against Moses and Korah leads a group of Levites to protest Aaron’s priesthood (16:1-17:12).



The Patriarchs and the Matriarchs

The Ancestral History: An Overview

  • Set in the Middle Bronze Age (2200-1500 BCE). In the larger ANE context, Egypt is the superpower and Canaan is under its control.
  • Genre: saga with narratives about the eponymic ancestors.
  • Central Characters: Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Esau and Jacob, Leah and Rachel, Joseph and his brothers.

Abraham and Sarah

  • Abram was raised in a typical polytheistic environment (Joshua 24:2-3) and this may be reflected in the names in his family (e.g. Terah = Yareah or “moon”, Sarai = Sharratu or the moon god Sin’s wife, Milcah = malkatu or Sin’s daughter).
  • The unconditional Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 12:1-3): posterity, land, blessing
  •  The covenant ratification ceremony (15:1-21) and the gift of new names along with the covenant of circumcision (17:1-27).
  • Threats: Pharaoh taking Sarai (12:10-20), Lot’s departure and capture (13:1-18; 14:1-24), Abimelech taking Sarah (20:1-18), Hagar and Ishmael (16:1-16, 21:8-21), the command to sacrifice Isaac (22:1-19).

Isaac and Rebekah

  • Isaac’s name means “laughter” since he was born when Abraham was 100 years old.
  • The Akedah or “binding” of Isaac: Jewish midrashic interpretations and Christian typological interpretations.
  • Isaac marries Rebekah (24:1-67) and there is a similar story about the threat to the marriage from the ruler Abimelech (26:6-11).

Jacob and Esau

  • The Toledot of Isaac (25:19-35:29).
  • There is a pre-birth oracle about the older son serving the younger.
  • Esau is the ancestor of the Edomites: the Hebrew term for “hair” shares the same consonants as the term for Mount “Seir” and the Hebrew term for “reddish” plays on the name for Edom.
  • Jacob may be a shortened version of a Hebrew name ya’qub-alel (“may El protect”), but the text relates it to the term for “heel” (aqeb) and explains it in reference to Jacob grasping Esau’s heal or trying to supplant his older brother since his birth.
  • Stealing Esau’s birthright and deceiving his aged father to steal the blessing. Jacob flees from Esau’s murderous rage and Rebekah dies without a memorial.
  • Jacob sees a staircase to heaven at Bethel (“house of God”) where the Abrahamic covenant is re-affirmed and he makes a bargain with God.
  • Jacob is cheated by his uncle Laban, working for him seven years to marry Leah and another seven to marry Rachel.
  • At the river Yabbok, Jacob wrestles a man (i.e. Canaanite river god, angel, or Yahweh) and is called Israel (from El and the verb sarah or “struggle”).
  • Jacob is reunited with Esau, bows to him seven times, and returns Esau’s blessing (27:36; 33:11).

Joseph and his Brothers

  • Jacob has 6 children with Leah (Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun), 2 with Rachel’s servant Bilhah (Dan, Naphtali), 2 with Leah’s servant Zilpha (Gad, Asher), and 2 with Rachel (Joseph, Benjamin).
  • The Toledot of Jacob (37:2-50:26) is like a novella.
  • It features indirect divine intervention through dreams and providence.
  • Jacob’s favouritism to Joseph who stays at home and wears a coat with long sleeves while his brothers are labourers.
  • Providence is at work even when Joseph is cast in a well, sold into slavery, and imprisoned after a false accusation. Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams causes him to ascend to power in Egypt and rescue his family from a famine that he predicts.
  • The story continues the Abrahamic promise to bless the world, but the ancestral family has settled in Egypt where they will be enslaved.

The Primeval History (Genesis 3-11)

“… these stories describe what we might call the ‘ambivalence’ of human existence… the exchange of human closeness for a hierarchy within humanity (Gen 3:16); the experience of being elevated or demoted, independent of human accomplishment, which leads to deadly violence among brothers [and sisters] (Gen 4:1–16); and finally, the advancement of humankind (Gen 3:22) and humanity’s cultural progress (Gen 3:21;4:17,20–22) through discovering practical knowledge (Gen3:7), while at the same time alienating itself from God (Gen 3:24; 4:11, 14) and experiencing a rise in violence (Gen 4:8, 14–15, 23–24). The episode about the sons of God and human women (Gen 6:1–4) combines the topics already mentioned in the Eden narrative, i.e. humanity’s decrepitude and the (sexual) delineation of the human from the divine realm, a topic picked up again later in the story of the Tower of Babel (Gen 11:1–9). Finally, categorical statements about the predominance of violence as well as about human nature serve as a frame for the extensive narrative of the flood (Gen 6:5–9:17). The irreversible disposition of humankind towards evil and the excess of violence provoke God’s decision to undo his creation (Gen 6:5–7, 11–13) and—after the end of the flood—will evoke the weary statement of God regarding the post-diluvian world (Gen 8:21).” (Jan Christian Gertz, “The Formation of the Primeval History” in The Book of Genesis: Composition, Reception and Interpretation, p. 108)

“Toledot” (account, generation) formula

The formula structures Genesis and is used to introduce ten sections that focus on the named character’s descendants or impact on the subsequent narrative.

  • Toledot of the Heavens and Earth (2:4-4:26)
  • Toledot of Adam (5:1-6:8)
  • Toledot of Noah (6:9-9:29)
  • Toledot of Shem, Ham, and Japheth (10:1-11:9)
  • Toledot of Shem (11:10-26)
  • Toledot of Terah (11:27-25:11)
  • Toledot of Ishmael (25:12-18)
  • Toledot of Isaac (25:19-35:29)
  • Toledot of Esau (36:1-8)
  • Toledot of Esau (36:9-37:1)
  • Toledot of Jacob (37:2-50:26)

The signs of civilization

  • Clothing represents the process of civilization (3:21)
  • Abel is a shepherd and Cain tills the soil (4:2)
  • Cain builds a city (4:17)
  • Jabal oversaw livestock (agriculture) (4:20)
  • Jubal played the lyre and pipe (arts) (4:21)
  • Tubal-Cain made bronze and iron tools (technology) (4:22)

Decline Narratives

  • The first human couple eats the forbidden fruit and is driven out of the Garden (3:6-24).
  • Cain murders his brother and asks if he is his “brother’s keeper” (4:8-9)
  • Lamech is a murderer and polygamist (4:19, 23-24)
  • The blurring of divine-human boundaries (6:1-4), the inclination of human hearts to evil (6:5), and filling the earth with corruption and violence (6:11-13).
  • Making a name for oneself in the tower of Babel (11:1-9)

The “Sons of God”

  • While some interpreters believe the “sons of God” were Seth’s godly descendants of Seth intermarrying with Cain’s wicked line, it is more likely that these are lesser divine beings (cf. Deuteronomy 32:8; Job 1:6; 2:1; Daniel 3:25).
  • The offspring: Nephilim (Genesis 6:4; cf. Numbers 13:33; Deuteronomy 2:10-11)
  • 1 Enoch 1-36 (The Book of Watchers, ca. 225 BCE): based on Genesis 6:1-4, the fallen angels (Watchers) have sexual intercourse with women, producing a species of giants that consume everything in sight. The Watchers are imprisoned in Tartarus until the day of judgment, while the evil spirits that roam the earth are identified with the disembodied spirits of the giants (1 Enoch 15:8-12).
  • The Book of Jubilees (ca. 105 BCE): in its retelling of Genesis and the myth of the Watchers in 1 Enoch, Noah prays that the evil spirits of the giants may be bound in a pit with the Watchers (10:2). Yet the chief of the spirits, Mastema (“enmity”), is permitted to keep some of the spirits in order to test humankind (10:7).

The Flood Narrative

Note: a few flood stories may have been combined in the Genesis account and we will look at this in a later lesson on the Pentateuch sources.

  • In the Mesopotamian Atrahasis epic, the flood was sent so that humans would cease making noise and disturbing the god Enki’s sleep, but the flood was regretted when it was realized that it wiped out the humans who fed the gods by their sacrifices.
  • The biblical narrative describes the flood as a punishment for human wickedness, violence, and corruption.
  • The boundaries separating the waters in the creation narrative have been opened and chaos is unleashed on the land.
  • Noah as a new Adam: Noah and his descendants are divinely commissioned to multiply and fill the earth (9:1, 7), are permitted to eat living creatures (9:2-3), and are prohibited from taking innocent human life or disrespecting life by eating blood (9:4-6).
  • The unconditional promise to never wipe out creation with a flood (9:9-17). The rainbow is a weapon facing towards God as a sign of commitment to the covenant.
  • Noah’s drunkenness, Ham’s sexual transgression, and the curse of Canaan (9:20-27)

The Tower of Babel

  • “Babel” means “confusion” and is the name of Babylon; the story may be a parody of the hubris of the Babylonian Empire.
  • The tower may be modeled on an ancient ziggurats. The tower is small in the sight of Yahweh who has to come down to see it.
  • The desire to make a name for oneself and settle in one place thwarted by the confusion of languages so that they will scatter.


The Yahwist Creation Narrative and the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:4b-25, 3:1-24)

Comparing the Two Creation Narratives

Genesis 1:1-2:4a Genesis 2:4b-25
The transcendence of Elohim The immanence of Yahweh
Formless waters representing chaos Barren, uncultivated land
Ordering creation with a word Shaping creation like a potter
land > animals > humans (male/female) land > man (?) > garden > animals > woman
Image of God Living being (nephesh)


  • The adam (ground-creature) from the adamah (ground)
  • Later the ishah (female) was created from the ish (male)
  • Was the first human androgynous before the division between male and female in Genesis 2:21-23 (cf. Genesis Rabbah 8:1; Jubilees 2:14; Apocalypse of Adam 1:4-5)? Yet adam continues to be used for the male after gender differentiation.


  • Patriarchal reading: the priority of men in the creation order, the ishah created as a “helper”, the deception of Eve by the serpent, and the punishment of pain in childbearing and patriarchal rule (Genesis 2:18-23; 3:1-6, 16; cf. 1 Timothy 2:13-15).
  • Alternative reading: the argument from creation order can be reversed to suggest that the woman is the pinnacle of creation or gender differentiation may not have occurred until God split ha-adam (the ground-creature), God is Israel’s “helper” (Exodus 18:4; Deuteronomy 33:7, 26, 29; Psalms 33:20; 70:5; 115:9-11), equality in creation and united as one flesh,  the man was present with her and ate the forbidden fruit without putting up resistance (Gen 3:6), and patriarchy is a curse.
  • See Phyllis Trible, God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1978).

The Serpent

  • Not yet interpreted as the devil (but see Wisdom of Solomon 2:24; Romans 16:20; Revelation 12:9; 20:2). On the serpent’s identity, see John Day’s “The Serpent in the Garden of Eden and Its Background” (http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/2015/04/day398028.shtml).
  • There is a pun between  arōm or naked in 2:24 and arum or shrewd/crafty in 3:1 (cf. Proverbs 1:1-4).
  • Enmity between humans and wild creatures (Genesis 3:1) reinterpreted as the Protoevangelium announcing Jesus’ victory over Satan (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3.23.7; 5.21.1)

Different Interpretations of Genesis 3

  • The tree of the knowledge of good and evil: an autonomous form of wisdom. Eating from it caused the breakdown of relationships with God, fellow humans, and nature.
  • Did the humans die after eating the forbidden fruit (Genesis 2:17; 3:1-5, 19)? Does the prohibition from eating from the tree of life suggest that the humans were not originally immortal (3:22-24)?
  • The traditional Christian interpretation is that this is the story of the “Fall” and “original sin” when read through the lens of the Apostle Paul (Romans 5:1-21) and especially the bishop Augustine.
  • An ambivalent story about the loss of childlike innocence in the birth of civilization.
  • Chiasm: A1 (God questions the man and he blames the woman), B1 (God questions the woman and she blames the serpent), C1 (the serpent is silent), C2 (the serpent is punished), B2 (the woman is punished), A2 (the man is punished)



The Priestly Creation Narrative in Genesis 1-2:4a

Different Christian Views of the Creation Narratives

Young Earth Creationism: God created the universe in six literal days (yom) and the universe is only about 10000 years old.

Old Earth Creationism: accepts that the universe has existed for billions of years by interpreting the six days as representing longer periods of time, yet still rejects evolution between species.

Gap Creationism (Gap Theory): agrees with young earth creationists on the six literal days, but argues that there was a gap between the first creation of Genesis 1:1 and a second creation in Genesis 1:2 to account for a much older universe.

Theistic Evolution/Evolutionary Creation: God created through the Big Bang and the processes of evolution.

Establishing Order Out of Chaos: The Sea Monster

Why do you think that the Sea symbolizes the forces of chaos?

The Babylonian/Akkadian myth Enuma Elish recounts how gods and goddesses sprung from the primordial Apsu and Tiamat (sweet-water and salt-water oceans respectively). When Apsu plots to kill the younger deities for making too much noise and is slain instead, Marduk arose to slay Tiamat and splits her in half to create the waters above and below. See the cylinder depicting the battle between Marduk and Tiamat online.

In the Ugaritic/Canaanite Baal Cycle, the cloud rider Baal has slain Yam (Sea) and annihilated Nahar (river) and muzzled the dragon (tannin) and slain the foul fanged seven headed Leviathan.

By his power he stilled the Sea; by his understanding he struck down Rahab. (Job 26:12)

You divided the sea by your might; you broke the heads of the dragons in the waters. You crushed the heads of Leviathan; you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness. You cut openings for springs and torrents; you dried up ever-flowing streams. (Psalm 74:13-15)

On that day the Lord with his cruel and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will kill the dragon that is in the sea. (Isaiah 27:1)

What is different about the Genesis account: “The earth was without form [tohu] and void [bohu], and darkness was upon the face of the deep [tehôm]; and the spirit [ruach; or “wind”] of God was moving over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:2)

Ancient Conception of the Cosmos

For the picture, click on http://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/ngier/gre13.htm.

The Pattern in the Days of Creation

Forming the Tohu (formlessness) Filling the Bohu (empty)
Day 1: Light Day 4: Greater and Lesser Lights
Day 2: Waters Above and Below Day 5: Birds and Water Creatures
Day 3: Land and vegetation Day 6: Animals and Humankind

Day 7: Sabbath

Ancient Anthropology

– Humans are created to do the hard labour for the deities and feed them through sacrifice.

– The king alone is created in the divine image, while the image of God is democratized in the Priestly Creation Narrative.

The Image of God (Imago Dei) in Genesis 1:26-27

“So God created humankind [ha‘adam] in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Gen 1:27 NRSV)

– A Uniquely Human Characteristic (reason, empathy, spirituality)?

– Original Righteousness (Protestant Reformers; cf. Rom 8:29-30; 2 Cor 3:18; Col 1:15)?

– Dominion over the created order?

  • “Just as powerful earthly kings, to indicate their claim to dominion, erect an image of themselves in the provinces of their empire where they do not personally appear, so man [and woman] is placed upon earth in God’s image as God’s sovereign emblem. He [and she] is really only God’s representative, summoned to maintain and enforce God’s claim to dominion over the earth.” (Gerhard Von Rad, Genesis, p. 58)

What does Dominion Mean

“…let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” (Gen 1:26)

radah (רָדָה): “rule” is also used in the context of master-servant (Leviticus 25:43), administrator-employee (1 Kings 5:16; 9:23), or international relations (Numbers 24:19; 1 Kings 4:24). Is this a call to harshly subjugate creation or be stewards of it?

Lyn White, Jr. “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological CrisisScience 155 (1967): 1203-7.



The Lord’s Prayer and the Criteria of Authenticity

The “criteria of authenticity” were developed by New Testament scholars to establish a secure bedrock of information about the historical Jesus distinct from later Christian beliefs about him. The idea was that if a certain saying or deed attributed to Jesus could not be attributed to another Jewish or Christian source (double dissimilarity), was attested in different sources or traditional forms (multiple attestation), was translated from Aramaic, or ran counter to the theological agenda of the Christ followers who preserved the tradition (embarrassment), it likely derived from Jesus.

The validity of the criteria has been challenged. Lifting a bunch of sayings out of the literary contexts in which they were found, running each through a battery of tests to prove Jesus said it in isolation from the rest of the data, and recombining isolated sayings in new combinations to produce a novel reconstruction seems questionable as a historical method. I agree that the first step should be to ask how a certain reconstruction of Jesus could produce our diverse literary portraits of him in the Gospel texts as they stand. I am not ready to jettison the criteria entirely: I still think they are a useful tool for discerning older traditions incorporated into the Gospels (e.g. they show signs of translation or editorial activity or are attested in independent sources) and examining how they developed over time. I am aware, however, that the criteria are not purely objective measures that are not impacted by the subjective judgments of the interpreter who wields them.

An example can be found in the work of John Dominic Crossan. There is much I like in his The Historical Jesus – The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant: his thick description of the ancient social context, his attempt to be fair to non-canonical sources, his focus on the anti-Roman imperial dimensions of Jesus’ programme, and his transparent methodology. Crossan has a clear method in relying only on traditions he dates early, though this depends on some of Crossan’s problematic source-critical views and dating of texts, and that are multiply attested. Yet when the “Lord’s Prayer” passes the tests, Crossan writes “Still, despite the fact that the Lord’s prayer must be a very early summary of themes and emphases from Jesus own lifetime, I do not think that such a coordinated prayer was ever taught by him to his followers” (294). Could it be that the petition “your kingdom come” in the prayer suggests that Jesus anticipated the eschatological advent of the kingdom and runs counter to Crossan’s view that a Cynic-like sage was transformed into an apocalyptic prophet? Alternatively, the singly attested parable of the Good Samaritan is accepted into Crossan’s database.

Chris Skinner Reviews Brant Pitre’s “Jesus and the Last Supper”

On the topic of Jesus’ final Passover meal and the Christian Eucharist, Chris Skinner has started a multi-post blog review of Brant Pitre’s monograph Jesus and the Last Supper (cf. also his Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper). Brant Pitre responded to the first post at The Jesus Blog.

The Historical Jesus and the Lord’s Supper

Did the historical Jesus reinterpret certain elements of the Passover meal in reference to his upcoming death? That is, just as the lamb’s blood on the doorposts of the Israelites’ homes protected them from the plague of death and lead to their exodus from slavery, so Jesus’ death protects followers from God’s wrath in the tribulation before the arrival of the kingdom. Alternatively, Jesus’ blood seals a renewed or new covenant relationship between God and the people. Or was the “Eucharist” (from the Greek word eucharisteō or “I give thanks”) a memorial meal repeatedly practiced by Christ followers in commemoration of Jesus’ death and later narrated as a historical event in Jesus’ lifetime in Mark’s Gospel? Further, there are slight differences in the wording of the tradition in Mark/Matthew or Paul/Luke (e.g. “new” covenant; “do this in remembrance of me”). The Didache presents an alternative version of the tradition that does not focus on the symbolism of Jesus’ body and blood, which is interesting in light of other indications of the Didache‘s dependence on Matthew’s Gospel.

While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’  (Mark 14:22-25; cf. Matthew 26:17-30)

Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, ‘Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’  Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.  (Luke 22:16-20, bold words absent in some manuscripts)

For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread,and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ (1 Corinthians 11:23-25)

And concerning the Eucharist, hold Eucharist thus: First concerning the Cup, “We give thanks to thee, our Father, for the Holy Vine of David thy child, which, thou didst make known to us through Jesus thy child; to thee be glory for ever.” And concerning the broken Bread: “We give thee thanks, our Father, for the life and knowledge which thou didst make known to us through Jesus thy Child. To thee be glory for ever. (Didache 9:1-3)

Different Scholarly Views

“On the grounds of multiple attestation (Paul as well as Synoptic tradition) Jesus’ words about the cup, the bread, his body and blood are among the most secure elements of our traditions about Jesus.” – Craig Keener, The Historical Jesus of the Gospels, p. 299

“[J]esus probably did not use the term covenant to explain his death at the last supper… Jesus probably said only ‘ this is my blood’ – a tidy parallel to ‘this is my body’” – Scott McKnight, Jesus and His Death, pp.  308, 310

“But the Didache, a late first century document, shows no awareness of a ritual deriving from the Last Supper, no connection with the Passover meal, and no commemoration of the death of Jesus… What Jesus left behind was the tradition of open eating as a sign of the inclusiveness and equality of life in the kingdom of God. Later, certain Christian groups created the Last Supper ritual…” – John Dominic Crossan, Who is Jesus?, p. 56

“Christian scholarship has traditionally seen here the institution of the Eucharist. We found instead a dramatic story of Jesus celebrating his final Passover with his disciples… Jesus death was seen in this light. As God had redeemed Israel at the Exodus, so he would redeem Israel by establishing his kingdom.” – Maurice Casey, Aramaic Sources of Mark’s Gospel, p. 25