The editor formally known as 'P'

For those of us who aren't aware, 'P' (which stands for priestly) is a member of the Documentary Hypothesis. He is seen as the last source (or next to last source) in a line of four editors who compiled the Pentateuch (Genesis -- Deuteronomy). Supposedly, this source was composed and edited circa 550-400 BCE while in exile during the Babylonian captivity. 'P' is said to see God as a 'distant and unmerciful' god and uses 'Elohim' for God's name. Also, 'P' is supposed to be saying that God didn't create the cosmos ex nihilo, i.e., from nothing, because Genesis 1.2 states, 'The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters.'. This (supposedly) indicates that there was something already here (the deep waters) when God started the Genesis project.

Some of you are going, 'Wait. What?' I know. I have some issues with this, too. Here are a few things that I want to point out.

First, concerning the author/editor of the Pentateuch:
Deuteronomy is pretty clear that Moses wrote and compiled the Pentateuch -- 'When Moses had finished writing this entire body of instruction in a book...' (Deut. 31.24). Also, 2Chronicles states, '...Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the Lord that was written by Moses' (34.14). In the New Testament, Jesus made several statements that leads one to believe that Moses wrote the Pentateuch (e.g., Matt. 5.17; 19.8; Mark 12.26; etc.) Over and over we read things like 'Moses said' or 'the Law of Moses' or 'Moses wrote'. For centuries both Jews and Christians believed that Moses was the writer of the Pentateuch. Some have concluded that while Moses was using some other material in some places, he still wrote or edited the Pentateuch.

It may come as no surprise (it didn't to me) that the Documentary Hypothesis started in the Enlightenment. Thomas Hobbes started the debate that Moses couldn't be the author and gave a bunch of 'proof texts'. This was then taken on by a lot of other people. (The list is too lengthy to mention here. If you are truly interested, you can read the link provided at the top.) Needless to say, it came to be accepted by some that there were probably at least four different original source documents to the Pentateuch -- J, E, D, and P -- with P being the latest. There are still scores of people -- theologians, scholars, and laity -- who don't feel the 'evidence' is quite that solid. This leads me to the next point.

Second, concerning P's use of 'Elohim':
If we were Jews, living in exile in Babylon, we would have to ask why we're there. Over and over again in 'The Law of Moses' we would have been warned of the consequences of our actions if we did not follow the covenant. Specifically, we were warned that if we followed other gods, we would be driven from the land. So, if I was a priest, living in exile in Babylon, knowing that we were driven from the land for following other gods, and was writing about how the God of Israel created the world, what name would I give God? YHWH. Without question. I mean, think about it. We are in exile for worshiping 'Elohim' -- 'godS'. I most certainly would not write a opening for our Scriptures that had any reference to Elohim! That would be scandalous. And it might further our exile if I didn't give YHWH glory for what YHWH had done. Especially if this addition 'forced' others to continue in that idolatry. Does that make any sense? (So why was Elohim used? I don't know.)

Thirdly, concerning the cosmos not being created ex nihilo:
Verse two does state most clearly that the 'earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters'. However, instead of saying that this proves that something was already here and that God just retooled it for God's own purposes; what if we see it as the first part of the creation process. I mean, one of the ways of translating verse one is, 'When God was creating the heavens and the earth; the earth...'. To me, this gives the impression that this is what God started with. Furthermore, again, the New Testament is quite clear that God created the cosmos from nothing:
John 1.3 (NLT): God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.

1Cor. 8.6 (NLT):
But we know that there is only one God, the Father, who created everything, and we live for him. And there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom God made everything and through whom we have been given life.

Col. 1.16 (NLT):
for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him.

Hebrews 11.3 (NLT):
By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.

From these verses, as well as several hundred years of traditional understanding of these verses, we see that God created everything including the deep water in Genesis 1.2. In fact, another way of translating the phrase is, 'When God began creating the heavens and the earth, the earth...'

Thirdly, concerning God was 'distant':
This is unfounded, imo. Look at the text and see where God is very much active in a 'hands on' kind of way. They text uses three different ways of referring to the creation of the cosmos: God created, God said, and God made. Each of these are different words in Hebrew and, if we focus on 'made', we see that God was very much involved in creation. The word made gives the impression of taking existing material and forming something -- like cutting down a tree and making a table. The Psalmist poetically declared that God placed the stars in their places by 'the work of [God's] fingers' (Ps 8.3). We also have God 'blessing' aquatic and human life with sexual intercourse and 'telling' the humans what they and the rest of the animal kingdom were to eat (btw, it was only a vegetarian diet).

Lastly, I want to say that I enjoy the challenge of new ideas. It is always important to question why we believe what we believe. And, it doesn't really bother me that there were probably different editors (redactors) of the Hebrew Scriptures (just like there were of the Christian Scriptures). What bothers me is when we start with a premise or our own ideas and thoughts and read that into the text. This is called eisegesis. Our job as students of the Bible and followers of Jesus is to engage in exegesis, i.e., of digging out what the text is actually saying and have that challenge our thoughts and ideas.

Peace be with you.

+ OD

Comments

Popular Posts