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Documentary Hypothesis and the LDS Position

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What is the LDS Position on the Documentary Hypothesis? For those not familiar with what I am talking about, the Documentary Hypothesis (or better known as the J, D, E, P theory) is the idea that the pentatuech (first five books of Moses as contained in the modern English Bible) are editorial reflections of the original manuscripts that are now lost.

There is verifiable support to suggest that Genesis - Deuteronomy are not from the original penned hand of Moses, but a mixture of Rabbinical Priests.

Here is the breakdown of the J, D, E, P.

J = Jawhist source, purported to be written c. 950 BC in the southern kingdom of Judah. (Yahweh begins with a J in Wellhausen's Native German Tongue).

E = Eloist, source, written c. 850 BC in the northern kingdom Israel.

D = Deuteronomist, source written c. 621 BC in Jersualem during the period of religious reform.

P = Priestly, source written c. 450 BC by Aaronid priests.

I am getting back into the study of the Documentary Hypothesis and am wondering what the LDS Take on this is.

Thank you,

Timothy

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Unless you have the original Greek Bible than you have a version that has been tampered with by kings, scholars, pastors, etc. Even the King James version, which is the version chosen by our leaders, is incomplete and imperfect. The eight Article of Faith says "We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly." Joseph Smith was in the midst of translating the Bible when he was killed and, therefore, unable to complete the translation. This is the reason for the use of the KJV in the church today.

So, STS, in answer to your question, find me a version of the Holy Bible that isn't an editorial or abridgement, or that hasn't been altered in some way.

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Unless you have the original Greek Bible than you have a version that has been tampered with by kings, scholars, pastors, etc. Even the King James version, which is the version chosen by our leaders, is incomplete and imperfect. The eight Article of Faith says "We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly." Joseph Smith was in the midst of translating the Bible when he was killed and, therefore, unable to complete the translation. This is the reason for the use of the KJV in the church today.

So, STS, in answer to your question, find me a version of the Holy Bible that isn't an editorial or abridgement, or that hasn't been altered in some way.

The question is specific. While I understand the general consensus of the Eighth article of faith, I am not discussing the Bible overall, but the Documentary Hypothesis specifically. This is in reference to the Pentetuech (first five books of Moses). This is also discussing the assimilation of the first five books prior to any conception of an english bible.

Please be a bit more specific in your response and not subject to a more generalized answer that diverts attention from the initial posting.

Thank you.

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As far as I can tell, this is one of the freshest and new criticisms of BoM historicity that I've seen in years. The words and concepts are too big for my dilletantish brain, but for those wanting a brief primer, Here's Dr. Fishbane on Isaiah (not in the BoM, just a brief overview of DeuteroIsaiah, and TritoIsaiah): Here

What is the LDS Position on the Documentary Hypothesis?

Hi Seattle,

A paper by the Maxwell Institute is found Here

And, another LDS apologetic look at it: Here

Hope this helps.

LM

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Please be a bit more specific in your response and not subject to a more generalized answer that diverts attention from the initial posting.

To which I refer to my previous post. If the Bible has been altered then that would also mean that the 5 books of Moses were altered. I thought I was specific enough. I apologize if you didn't understand me.

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To which I refer to my previous post. If the Bible has been altered then that would also mean that the 5 books of Moses were altered. I thought I was specific enough. I apologize if you didn't understand me.

First I would like to say look at the Dead Sea Scrolls. They have, I believe almost the whole old testament. And the ones that they have are still in exact translation with the King James today (Besides a few words that have been changed due to language translation). Also for the New Testament I believe they have almost 1000 copies that dates before Julius Caesar (Actually they date about 30 years after Christs death, maybe even closer) and they match each other. So really I don't believe they have changed. The bible was written over 3 Continents, in 2 languages, and written by men of every class. You can't just "change" a little here and there. It then would not make sense at all. The Bible references itself too much.

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First I would like to say look at the Dead Sea Scrolls. They have, I believe almost the whole old testament. And the ones that they have are still in exact translation with the King James today (Besides a few words that have been changed due to language translation). Also for the New Testament I believe they have almost 1000 copies that dates before Julius Caesar (Actually they date about 30 years after Christs death, maybe even closer) and they match each other. So really I don't believe they have changed. The bible was written over 3 Continents, in 2 languages, and written by men of every class. You can't just "change" a little here and there. It then would not make sense at all. The Bible references itself too much.

Pls correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Julius Caesar die in something like 46BC? The New Testament was written to document the life of Christ, who was born around 1 BC (just to make a reference point). Also, if we go only 30 years after Christ's death, wouldn't that eliminate Revelations and some of the other letters? I thought that Revelations was written around 100 BC on the island of Patmos by John the Revelator, which would put that about 40 years past your contention...

Having the ability to read and write and speak another language, and having employed myself for many years as a translator, just let me point out that the argument that they all 'match' even if done at different times and by different people is not possible. I would translate the same phrase different at times just to break up the monotony, or because I was in a different mood, or because I wanted to get done. Translation is not an exact science! I totally understand why errors crept in. I believe that some was due to conniving and evil men that wanted to change doctrine, but for the most part I think it was the little mistakes, the little differences in a mood on that day, that led to errors creeping in.

To the original poster, I'd be interested in learning more about the Documentary Hypothesis. I must admit this is the first time I've heard of it...

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First I would like to say look at the Dead Sea Scrolls. They have, I believe almost the whole old testament. And the ones that they have are still in exact translation with the King James today (Besides a few words that have been changed due to language translation).

I'm going to have to ask you for a source there. Your claims conflict quite substantially with the information given out by Professor Donald Parry, who has worked on the DSS Translation team since 1994.

The Scrolls vary significantly in some areas with our Bible, particularly within the Isaiah portions. The Scrolls also contain many writings which the authors considered to be scripture, but which we do not have in our Bible. Plus, the DSS date between 200BC and 70AD - 600 years or more after the original writings.

Also for the New Testament I believe they have almost 1000 copies that dates before Julius Caesar (Actually they date about 30 years after Christs death, maybe even closer) and they match each other.

Again, I gotta ask you for your source. The last I heard, we do not have any original manuscripts for any of the books of the Bible. The earliest NT manuscripts we have date between A.D. 150 and A.D. 300. Thats 100-250 years after the originals.

You can't just "change" a little here and there. It then would not make sense at all. The Bible references itself too much.

I think you should do a bit more research and thinking about this notion. Like sixpactr, I've worked in the translation industry too, although I only speak English. But yes, even I could sometimes tell where one translator stopped and another one started, just by looking at the text.

LM

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I have to join my neighbor to the North (Federal Way here) in asking if LDS scholars have specifically addressed the JEDP theory. It's not a new one--I learned of it back in the 1990s. BTW, my rather elderly Old Testament professor didn't think to highly of it. He said his recollection was that while Moses was somewhat older than him, he did remember that Moses seemed to spend a lot of time writing by candle light, late into the night, in his tent. :-)

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According the LDS doctrine, for example the Book of Mormon, scriptures can be “abridged” from the original. We also know from the Book of Mormon that the official or if you will “canon” or temple scripture of the Jewish people was removed from the Holy of Holies of the temple just prior to the era of captivity and lost to a person named Nephi.

There is evidence from the ancient “Damascus” near the Dead Sea, where in our time the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, that anciently there were classes or levels of the scripture scrolls. That the highest valued copy was kept at the temple and that special copies were made by select scribes that were then used at scriptoriums where copies of the scriptures were made by various levels of scribes for various levels of the public. If this is the case then the only scriptorium level document ever found is the Isaiah scroll of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The main difference within the LDS covenant is that we do not rely on past scriptures for authority but instead follow the ancient covenant type where prophets are G-d’s Suzerain Vassal and as such are both proctor and divine representatives of sacred covenants as was Moses, Abraham, Isaiah and other prophets that wrote the original scriptures.

The Traveler

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What is the LDS Position on the Documentary Hypothesis?

By way of disclosure, I'm not LDS. However, I have found a talk given at the Mawell Institute at BYU. The speaker's bottom line is that the Book of Mormon supports the traditional view that Moses wrote the Penteteuch.

Maxwell Institute

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Unless you have the original Greek Bible than you have a version that has been tampered with by kings, scholars, pastors, etc. Even the King James version, which is the version chosen by our leaders, is incomplete and imperfect. The eight Article of Faith says "We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly." Joseph Smith was in the midst of translating the Bible when he was killed and, therefore, unable to complete the translation. This is the reason for the use of the KJV in the church today.

So, STS, in answer to your question, find me a version of the Holy Bible that isn't an editorial or abridgement, or that hasn't been altered in some way.

The documentary hypothesis applied to the Old Testament which was not originally in Greek.

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What is the LDS Position on the Documentary Hypothesis? For those not familiar with what I am talking about, the Documentary Hypothesis (or better known as the J, D, E, P theory) is the idea that the pentatuech (first five books of Moses as contained in the modern English Bible) are editorial reflections of the original manuscripts that are now lost.

There is verifiable support to suggest that Genesis - Deuteronomy are not from the original penned hand of Moses, but a mixture of Rabbinical Priests.

Here is the breakdown of the J, D, E, P.

J = Jawhist source, purported to be written c. 950 BC in the southern kingdom of Judah. (Yahweh begins with a J in Wellhausen's Native German Tongue).

E = Eloist, source, written c. 850 BC in the northern kingdom Israel.

D = Deuteronomist, source written c. 621 BC in Jersualem during the period of religious reform.

P = Priestly, source written c. 450 BC by Aaronid priests.

I am getting back into the study of the Documentary Hypothesis and am wondering what the LDS Take on this is.

Thank you,

Timothy

Well - I'm LDS and I officially accept the documentary hypothesis... though the Church does not have any official position on the matter - as far as I know. As Mormon, one of our primary obligations is to truth, so if the hypothesis is true, we'll have to accept it sooner or later.

It you are really interested in the rather complex relationship of Mormons and the Bible, I highly recommend:

Amazon.com: Mormons and the Bible: The Place of the Latter-day Saints in American Religion (Religion in America): Books: Philip L. Barlow

Erudite, readable and informative.

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Well - I'm LDS and I officially accept the documentary hypothesis... though the Church does not have any official position on the matter - as far as I know. As Mormon, one of our primary obligations is to truth, so if the hypothesis is true, we'll have to accept it sooner or later.

It you are really interested in the rather complex relationship of Mormons and the Bible, I highly recommend:

Amazon.com: Mormons and the Bible: The Place of the Latter-day Saints in American Religion (Religion in America): Books: Philip L. Barlow

Erudite, readable and informative.

I have always held to the authenticity of the Documentary Hypothesis. It makes sense when you read in Genesis the various accounts. For example, in the account of Noah and the Flood, there is actually two different versions of God commanding Noah to take animals into the ship. One says for Noah to take them in by 7 and the other says for Noah to take them in two by two male and female.

There is also two different Creation accounts. The detailed version and then the more summarized version.

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By way of disclosure, I'm not LDS. However, I have found a talk given at the Mawell Institute at BYU. The speaker's bottom line is that the Book of Mormon supports the traditional view that Moses wrote the Penteteuch.

Maxwell Institute

I never said that Moses did not originally write the first five books of Moses, however, what I am saying that what he originally wrote and what we have today are most likely different. The Old testament as we have it today (especially dealing with Genesis to Deuteronomy) have definite influences and writings from five different sources. That is what the documentary hypothesis states and is easily proven.

Let us not forget that the Old Testament of most English translations are based on the Masoretic Text (which if one studies out); a weaker rendering of the Old Testament all together and was produced by 2nd century Rabbinical Jews.

The LXX or the Septuigant is a more accurate rendering of the Old Testament than the Masoretic Text, when it concerns the Old Testament.

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Well - I'm LDS and I officially accept the documentary hypothesis... though the Church does not have any official position on the matter - as far as I know. As Mormon, one of our primary obligations is to truth, so if the hypothesis is true, we'll have to accept it sooner or later.

Snow, have you read George Potter's views regarding the Documentary Hypothesis when applied to the Book of Mormon?

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I never said that Moses did not originally write the first five books of Moses, however, what I am saying that what he originally wrote and what we have today are most likely different. The Old testament as we have it today (especially dealing with Genesis to Deuteronomy) have definite influences and writings from five different sources. That is what the documentary hypothesis states and is easily proven.

While the documentary theory continues to torment theology students, there are several sources of strong disagreement, from a broad range of sources. In a five minute internet search I found a couple of evangelical criticisms, and one rather longish Catholic one. So, while it would not destroy my faith to find out the theory was valid, I remain highly skeptical of it, and find the claim that it is easily proven to be overstated.

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A range of LDS attitudes to the DH exist. The most comprehensive treatment by an LDS scholar is Kevin Barney's Reflections on the Documentary Hypothesis, which was originally published in Dialogue, and can now be found online. Barney surveys the range of LDS discussion up to that point in time, showing a spectrum, and then gives his own interesting take. It's essential reading. One of the best and most important things Barney has done. Previous LDS highlights include John Sorenson's "The Brass Plates and Biblical Scholarship" essay noting that the Book of Mormon shows characteristics of the "E" source of the DH. Such observations were re-enforced by Steve St. Clair's interesting paper (no longer online, alas) comparing the Book of Mormon to the Northern Kingdom Traditions. I believe it was Gordon Thomasson who wrote a paper arguing that the Book of Abraham shows characteristics of an J source. (This was in the original Nibley Festschrift, and can be found in the BYU Library.) Also, of note, is Noel Reynolds essay in By Study and By Faith, arguing that the Book of Mormon presupposes something like the Book of Moses, rather then the Masoretic Hebrew Genesis. We certainly should not suppose that the current Hebrew MT exactly resembles what Nephi knew from the Brass plates.

Potter's essay is interesting, though Barney's approach is much more detailed.

This spring should see the FARMS publication of Ben McGuire's FAIR essay, showing that the allusions to the David story in the account of Nephi and Laban all point to single side of the two spliced sources in the current Hebrew. Eventually, Ben McGuire will publish his studies that indicate that the Book of Mormon exclusively uses a "proto-Deuteronomy," rather than the version in the much later Hebrew MT.

Plus, in addition to the 1998 volume on Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, and comments I made in my 2002 Occasional Paper chapter on Isaiah, linked earlier in this thread, I noticed that Margaret Barker subsequently produced an essay showing that Isaiah 53 seems to be based on Hezekiah's bout with the plague, which would make that particular chapter available for the Brass Plates. On her website, see

"The Original Context of the Fourth Servant Song."

LDS writers have tended to be conservative in their approach, more so actually than our own scriptures, which do describe both layers of editing and generations of editors in scriptures, some inspired, and some not. Nibley started pointing much of this out in his discussion of Isaiah in Since Cumorah. Other's have made other studies since.

Kevin Christensen

Pittsburgh, PA

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LDS scholar Kevin Barney, wrote an article on the DH a few years back. You can read it here: B

A very good book on the topic is "Who Wrote the Bible?" by Richard Friedman. He explains the different variations and how they were combined later.

Key points of interest on the DH, which I accept as basically correct, is that our earliest versions of the bible as we have it were written by E and J, probably in the period after Solomon's death. E's version was written in the northern Kingdom and supported the priests of Moses (versus the priests of Aaron that were supported by J, P, and D). The Bible, for instance has Moses going twice to the same place to get water from a rock. In the J version, God is angry with Moses and takes away his blessing to go into Canaan. In the E version, an angel stands above the rock to show Moses where to strike the rock.

Interestingly, the Brass Plates of Laban supported the E tradition very well, including the positive experience Moses had in getting water from a rock. It has been suggested that the Brass Plates of Laban may have been the E version of the scriptures that were used to combine the scriptures into one - something that occurred prior to the destruction of Judah.

We see many northern kingdom-type events coming into the Book of Mormon/Nephite tradition: altars in the wilderness, a priesthood separate from the Aaronic Priesthood involved in the temple, angelic ministrations, Tree of Life (Deuteronomists had removed angelic visitations and the Tree of Life from the temple), pro-Moses, little or no mention of Aaron, strong Messianic movement, quoting prophets that prophesied to the Northern Kingdom (Isaiah, Nahom/Neum) and prophets unknown in today's Bible with an E-type message.

So, the DH may actually be indirect evidence of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and the Brass Plates of Laban, since the Book of Mormon supports E, and shows additional version of scripture being guarded by the descendants of Joseph and the Northern Kingdom.

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