Week 11: The Pentateuch, JEDP, and Creation Stories

April 17-23 2016: The Documentary Hypothesis (Pentateuch)

How did the Pentateuch achieve its final shape? What’s this “JEDP” you hear so much about? What revisions have been rung on the Documentary Hypothesis in 140 years? Here is a beginning list of “Big Ideas and Essential Questions” relating to the Pentateuch.



Read Bandstra’s Prologue to the Torah and Chapter 1 Genesis 1-11: The Primeval Story. Or, in Stanley or your Introduction of choice, read on the Torah/Pentateuch, Wellhausen’s Documentary Hypothesis (and any subsequent critical theories of pentateuchal composition history), and on Genesis 1-11.

Recommended Reading:


View or listen to the two-part lecture, “The Documentary Hypothesis”:

“Make” of the Week

Pick one of the following options for this week’s “make,” sharing it on your blog, remembering to tag your post with our tag, “ootle17.” (Garrett students: Remember that your work is assessed according to the course rubric. You may need to add analysis or other elements that will allow you to include each element of the rubric. Remember too that you must have commented, thoughtfully and substantively, to at least three [3] other OOTLE-ers on the Royal Theology or on the Documentary Hypothesis by Sunday evening.)

Make Option 01: (Modified from Stanley, Exercise 32:) “Most of the stories in Genesis 1-11 are not mentioned anywhere else in the Hebrew Bible. This suggests that they were either not well known, or were created later than most of the other biblical materials. The Hebrew Bible also contains references to the origins of the unierse that differ substantially from the Genesis sotries.

“Read the following passages and make a list of the things that they say happened at the time when God created the universe. When you are done, go back over the list and mark which items seem to agree with the Genesis 1-2 creation stories, and which ones differ. Then see if you can construct an alternate story of the creation from the events that do not appear in the Genesis creation stories."

  • Isa 51:9
  • Job 9:4-14
  • Job 26:7-14
  • Job 38:1-11
  • Psalms 8:1-9
  • Psalms 74:12-17
  • Psalms 89:8-10
  • Psalms 104:1-9
  • Psalms 136:1-9
  • Proverbs 8:22-31

Make Option 02: The Divine Council

In Genesis 1-11, God occasionally addresses the first-person plural (“we/us”). Bandstra describes as the likeliest explanation the institution of the “Divine Council” (biblical “benê elohim” or “divine beings”).

First, collect the passages in Genesis 1-11 where God does so.

Then, read the following passages. Describe the features of the Divine Council in the Hebrew Bible. To what human institutions does it appear to correspond, and how? Who appear to be its members, and what are their job descriptions?

  • 1 Kings 22:19-22
  • Deut 32:8-9
  • Psalm 82
  • Isaiah 6:8
  • Job 1:6
  • Job 2:1
  • Psalm 29:1-2
  • Job 38:7
  • Psalm 89:6-7

Finally, revisit the “we/us” passages from Genesis 1-11, imagining this Divine Council present and directly addressed by God. Does anything change for you when you imagine God addressing this council? How or how not?

Activity of the Week: Improve This Course (“Hack the Syllabus”)

What should change for OOTLE18?

Your feedback on OOTLE16 helps us improve the experience for next year's class. Last week, you gave us ideas about how to better incorporate engagement with systemic evil, racism, and injustice. At the end of the course, you will write an evaluation of the course as a whole.

This week, let's give you a chance to re-write the syllabus for OOTLE18. Go to this Google Doc and “Hack the Syllabus,”, revising it to make this course even better for next year’s group.

You may edit directly, and your edits will appear as "suggested edits." Or, you may write Comments.

NOTE: You may access the Google Doc even if you are not logged into your Google account. So, if you would like to remain anonymous, simply be sure that you are NOT logged into your Garrett Google account.

OOTLE17 Office Hours

This Tuesday, I am afraid that I am committed to a meeting introducing the student body to the new IT strategic plan. So, "Office Hours" will resume next week. As always, please reach me via email if you would like to schedule a phone call or meeting for some other time!