The Bible simultaneously

1) Is a collection of writings with importance to many religious communities

2) Discloses segments of history

3) Reflects social structures of ancient cultures

4) Is a literary work in its own right but

5) Is a blend of different styles, historical periods, and authors

6) Rarely is any portion of it contemporaneous with what it relates

Periodization of Israelite History

Patriarchal period: 1700 - 1500 BCE

Mosaic/Exodus: ca. 1250

Tribal Period: 1150-1050 (Conquest of Canaan, Judges)

United Monarchy: 1050-950 (Saul, David, Solomon)

Divided Kingdoms: 950-721 (Israel and Judah)

Judah alone: 721-587

Babylonian Exile: 586-539

Restoration: 539-333

Greek Period: 333-64 )Maccabees)

Roman Rule: 64 forward

The Formation of the Bible

1. Construction:

The Bible did not exist as a book with chapters until the fourth century C.E. (AD)

Before that, as scrolls (generally one book per scroll): collection of sacred writings

Identified by opening word rather than by chapter (chapter and verse is post 13th century)

Before 1947, earliest Hebrew book in existence dates from the 9th century C.E.

Complete Isaiah scroll found in Dead Sea Scrolls, dates from 150 B.C.E.

Some Psalms and other writings date from 4th and 3rd c. BCE

The Documentary Hypothesis

A. Four strands of tradition found throughout the Torah and Former Prophets sections

1. J: The Yahwist (dated variously 930's to 800's BCE

-----Tells connected story from creation to the entrance to Canaan

-----Calls G-d YHVH

-----Stresses the importance of Judah (a national epic for a young kingdom?)

-----Draws on oral traditions circulating in the south

2. E: The Elohist (ca. 850 BCE)

-----Also an epic narrative covering same ground as J

-----Calls G-d Elohim before Moses

-----Draws on oral traditions from the north

-----Stresses covenant community over nationhood

3. D: The Deuteronomist historian (draws on earlier traditions from 900's; written from 650)

-----Sermonic style emphasizing obedience to covenant

-----A history comprising Deuteronomy - Kings

-----Begins with laws given to Moses, continues with conquest of Canaan

4. P: The Priestly tradition (possibly composed 750's; written down 550 -450)

-----Interested in laws and cultic obligations, genealogies

-----Creation stories to anchor epic accounts

-----Later Exodus, Leviticus

B. Redaction: JEP combined

1. Unclear by whom or when -- P or another later writer?

2. Genealogy, chronology and ritual form framework into which JE narratives are inserted

3. Provides overarching theme

4. Constant repetition of types and themes

-----Jacob tricks his father; he himeself is tricked by Laban

-----Abraham goes to Egypt in a time of famine, as Moses will do later

Methods of Reading the Bible

1. Religious Approach

-----A sacred text with a supernatural author

-----A unitary document with a single author

-----Religious value is primary

2. Historical-Critical Approach

-----Bible is a human creation

-----Attempts to discover origins of religious practices over time

-----Notices gaps, discontinuities, anachronisms in text

-----Source and form criticism: building block theory

-----Looks to history and archaeology

3. The Bible as Literature

-----Emphasizes styles and structures of different writings (poetry, epic, laws)

-----Returns to unitary approach with concept of final editor

-----A literary production creates its own fictive world

4. The Social Science approach

-----Bible as product of different social groups

-----Emphasis on reconstruction of Israel's social institutions (tribes, kingdoms)