The most popular view today, and perhaps for all of Christian history, Christians and even some Jews have believed that Moses wrote Genesis through Deuteronomy. But What if there were more authors to these books and none were Moses? This theory is called the JEPD Theory. Here is a LONG excerpt from https://www.usu.edu/ :
A) J, or Jahweh (Yahweh, YHWH)
The name given today to one such “author” of the Bible, that is, one of the voices or, better, schools of thought visible in the Pentateuch, is J. So called because this text refers to God as Jahweh (or Yahweh), J carries with it a unique outlook on the divine. The name Jahweh—JHWH in ancient Hebrew, a language which was originally written using consonants only—derives from the Hebrew verb “to be,” and implies something along the lines of “he causes to exist” or “he always exists.” Jahweh is the name revealed to Moses when he encounters God at the burning bush in Exodus (3:2).
J also stands for “Judean,” since its author looks at life and culture from the perspective of the southern half of the Holy Lands, Judea (or Judah). The prominence of places in Judea is a clear feature of J’s style. J also displays overtones of bias against those Hebrews who lived in Israel proper, the northern counterpart to Judea in Palestine.
Though scholars dispute its chronology, J appears to be the oldest of the sources of the Bible, dating back possibly as far as the tenth century (ca. 900 BCE). Some evidence suggests a date of composition around the time of Solomon who is usually seen to have reigned from 940-900 BCE. But if so, later hands have intruded upon J and reworked it, adding prophesies of things to come centuries down the road, events the author—or authors—of J simply couldn’t have foreseen. All in all, J is both old and very old, having undergone revision several times before being written down in the form we have it.
The vision of God in J is fairly simple. He tends to appear, speak and leave, with relatively few discussions, explanations or angels in attendance. Also, he is called by several names, among others, “God of my father” (Genesis 32:9)—”father” here refers to Abraham—a patriotic, family-oriented designation attesting well to J’s primitivity.
This stands in stark contrast to other authors preserved in the Bible, whose complex theologies and attention to the international scene leave an impression of cosmopolitan sophistication. J, to the contrary, exhibits language much less elaborate, at least by comparison, reveling in puns and exciting narratives, hardly the tone typical of priests or bureaucrats. Inhabiting what one scholar calls an “uncluttered world,” J is in many ways the Herodotus of Hebrew culture.
As such, J provides some of the best reading in the Bible. Many of the most well-known and best beloved biblical stories come from J—Adam and Eve, Joseph, Moses, Exodus, the Burning Bush, to name but a few—or at least one version of those stories goes back to J, since Joseph’s and Moses’ histories, in particular, are retold several times in the Bible, each time somewhat differently.
Finally, if any general theme emerges from J, it is that the Hebrews will someday triumph in glory over all other peoples, clear evidence that the author of J did not know about the Fall of Israel in 722 BCE to the Assyrians, much less the far more disastrous Babylonian Captivity that followed a century later. And like its counterparts in Greek culture, J also presumes that study of the past leads to the explanation of things in the author’s world. So, for instance, the story of the Tower of Babel serves to explain why there were different languages in the ancient world. Likewise, the remains of Sodom and Gomorrah explicate the topography of the Holy Lands. This optimism, especially the view that history teaches important and comprehensible lessons, combined with a ready zeal to tell a good tale, characterizes the authorship of J and distinguishes it from other sources that contributed to the Hebrew Bible.
B) E, or Elohist
E, also called the “Elohist,” has a voice quite distinct from J but equal in clarity and probably close in age, too. E stands for Elohim, the name for God most often used by this author. Elohim is a variation on the Semitic root *el– meaning “god,” a word-base seen in place names like Beth-el, “House of God,” and the Arabic name for the principal deity in Islam, Allah. E also refers to Ephraim, another name for Israel where the text most likely originated.
In E, manifestations of God tend to be more complicated than in J. In addition to operating through angels and dreams as channels of communication, God discourses with humans more often and at greater length. However, that E involves sophisticated features such as these doesn’t necessarily imply that it’s later than J—linear evolution involving steady progress forward isn’t the only, or even the best, model for history of this sort—besides, at various junctures, J seems to be responding to E, as if the author of J had E in mind when he wrote. The truth is E and J were most likely contemporaneous in both composition and development. What distinguishes them is not time but perspective, that is, different views of God, history and especially geography, in this case, north versus south.
But the northerners—commonly referred to as “Israelites” in contrast to their southern brethren known as “Judeans”—were ultimately the losers in the greater concourse of events in the ancient Near East. As the Assyrians rose to supremacy and perpetrated their infamous savagery across the known world, Israel which was closer to them than Judea caught the brunt of their wrath first. Conquered, despoiled and displaced, the northern Hebrews lost their homeland, heritage and ultimately their claim on history, too. This is because in the confusion following the northerners’ fall the version of the past they embraced, their take on what-really-happened, had to be entrusted to their sibling rivals in Judea, and as the Bible’s poor relative, its first lost tribe, the Israelites’ vision of history fared poorly in the quilting process that formed the Pentateuch. E, in the end, got considerably less press and stage time than J.
Nevertheless, ancient and important histories find a home in E. In particular, it includes evidence of the cultural exchange between the Hebrews and their close relatives and neighbors, the Canaanites whose main cities lay nearer Israel than Judea and thus made a greater impact on northern as opposed to southern Hebrew culture. For instance, the name of the principal Canaanite deity is El (“God”), a name used for God in the Bible several times, especially in those parts of Genesis which derive from E.
However, in the Canaanite religious tradition as early as 1200 BCE, El was displaced by another god, his son Ba’al (“Lord”) who stole center stage from his father and eventually became the principal deity of the Canaanites. That timing coincides remarkably well with the use of El as a name for the Hebrew God in E. In other words, El was what the central god was called in early Canaanite culture, a world which the northern Hebrews shared intimately with their immediate neighbors, and so “El” was used as the name of their principal god, too.
This would seem to confirm the antiquity of E’s text, whose author would probably not have employed this name after the thirteenth century BCE when El was beginning to be displaced by Ba’al and was losing visibility in the local religion. Of course, as some scholars note, the use of the name El could also be a later fabrication added into certain Hebrew texts to give them the false ring of being genuinely ancient, in the same way that using “thou” and “thee” can make modern English seem archaic. But “El” is so pervasive and deeply entrenched as a name used by E that the evidence seems to point toward its authenticity, and thus the genuine antiquity of E.
C) P, or Priestly tradition
If E and J can be hard to discriminate at times, among the easier voices to identify in the Pentateuch is P, which stands for “the priestly tradition” and whose author views history from the vantage point of the cultic sector of Hebrew society. As can be expected of one trained in the Temple, P describes ritual in detail, but rarely explains the reasons behind the practice. This part of the Bible is responsible, for instance, for the injunction to circumcise male babies, but nothing in biblical text ever says why it’s necessary to do so. It is clearly not a rite of passage since it’s performed on infants and never associated with the bar mitzvah, the Jewish ritual inducting a teenage male into manhood. Instead, whatever purpose circumcision was seen to serve—and there must have been one originally—it’s left unstated, perhaps because the author himself didn’t know, inasmuch as he was a functionary and not a formulator of policy, without any direct insight into the reasoning underlying the regulations he recorded and enforced.
This is seen even more clearly in the litany of laws found in Leviticus, that complex “forest of detail” designed to ensure the purity of Hebrew society through a multitude of dietary, sexual and other restrictions. One scholar calls them a “jungle of lists and rules.” While many of these laws may seem at first glance haphazard—why can one eat locusts but not lobsters?—close investigation reveals a significant pattern in what is and isn’t permitted.
According to one scholar, the principle guiding this code of behavior is the ancient Israelites’ perception that the world is divided into “realms of existence“: land, sea and sky. As the by-products of God’s creation, these divisions were seen to be inviolate and thus should never be confused. So, when God says “Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear” (Genesis 1:9), it seems very clear that it is His will for these divisions to remain unbreached.
Logic dictates, then, that those creatures which appear to span different realms must live in defiance of God’s discrimination and should not be ingested since they behave contrary to holy creation. Lobsters, for instance, have no scales or fins, few of the sorts of things most sea creatures do and are obviously designed for moving though water. Instead, lobsters sport legs which are clearly an apparatus designed for life on land. Thus, endowed with a body type which apparently transgresses God’s natural boundaries, they were pronounced abominations (Lev. 11:9-13). Likewise, many birds of prey walk on legs but can fly too, and because of that are also forbidden fruit (Lev. 11:13-19).
The same logic extends into other spheres of life. A taboo against straddling “realms of existence” helps explain the commandment not to wear garments made of wool mixed with linen and to sow a field with different types of seed (Lev. 19:19). These activities involve the blending of things which are ostensibly discrete in nature as well.
A similar code of conduct governs sexual behavior. A holy man cannot, for instance, have sex with a woman who is menstruating (Lev. 15:19), since that would entail the mixing of blood and semen, fluids which according to P’s logic should never commingle. Nor can a high priest marry a widow, divorced woman or prostitute (Lev. 21:14), because in doing so he would cause his seed to be joined in the same organ with that of other men, and the structure of God’s divisible universe seems to suggest different men’s semen ought not to mix. From the same logic comes the injunction against male homosexuality (Lev. 18:22, 20:13). It’s interesting to note that Leviticus includes no such injunction against same-sex activity amidst women, presumably because behavior of this sort does not, at least on the surface, involve the conjunction of immiscible fluids.
P, however, underlies more than Leviticus and its myriad laws. According to many scholars, it’s responsible for nothing less than the opening lines of the Bible—”In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth”—and the subsequent verses running through Genesis 2:3, up to “And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it.” The stress on the holiness of the Sabbath is paralleled later at some length in Leviticus 23, a stretch of text which is clearly P’s handiwork.
P also, no doubt, provided the original stories of the Great Flood and God’s subsequent covenant with Noah (Gen. 9), also the later covenant with Abraham (Gen. 17) as well as the construction of the desert tabernacle in direct symmetry with the architecture of the so-called “First Temple” in Jerusalem (Ex. 25-27). Also from P comes God’s promise issued on Mount Sinai of an enduring priesthood who will oversee the performance of rituals, thus ensuring the purity of the Hebrew people once they arrive in the promised land (Ex. 28-30).
Finally, among P’s many contributions to the Bible must be the protracted genealogies which add some tedious reading to the Pentateuch—as one Biblical scholar has been heard to say, “Priests can be pretty boring!”—and include with that the gruesome descriptions of pustulous wounds found in Leviticus 13. Who cares about white hairs inside a boil, except a priest dedicated to maintaining the purity of society at large! Thus, focused on regulations and conduct and the proper way to assess and deal with “imperfections” of the body, be it personal or politic, it seems safe to assume that the author of P lived in a world where the Temple and its officiators were firmly entrenched as part of the Hebrew community.
More than that, however, it’s also reasonable to suppose that the need to write down so many laws in such meticulous detail presumes a challenge of some sort to the authority of the priesthood. For that reason, many scholars look again to the Babylonian Captivity, when the Hebrews were cut away from their Temple and its rituals, for in this age the very existence of the priests was threatened. It is not unnatural to expect them to counter this threat by laying down the letter of the law.
Thus, P is conventionally dated to some time after Cyrus’ restoration of the Hebrews to Jerusalem in the 530’s BCE, more often in the next century, making it one of the more recent voices in the Pentateuch, much later than J and E. Indeed, it seems to pull from and meld both those early texts—which presupposes both had already been set down—for instance, P refers to God as Elohim until the appellation JHWH is revealed to Moses, after which it uses that name.
That assumption rested comfortably in the minds of many scholars of the modern age, until a small silver scroll was discovered on which was inscribed the famous Priestly Blessing from Numbers (6:24-26)—it begins “May the Lord bless you and keep you . . .”—this prayer clearly came from P. It was also obvious that this scroll had been engraved before 600 BCE—the style of the writing on it guaranteed so much—which meant that at least this much of P belonged to an age preceding the Babylonian Captivity. Suddenly, confining the composition of P to a single century was not as simple as some had once asserted.
The inescapable conclusion was that, like the other texts which were woven together to create the Pentateuch, P underwent considerable evolution. If some parts were much older than it was previously supposed, the same, no doubt, was also true of P’s essential thrust, the importance of determining and following God’s specific laws. Thus, P and the Temple Priesthood had far deeper roots in the scriptures than it had seemed at first glance. Or to put it in more biblical terms, “And on the eighth day, God created bureaucracy.”
D) D, or the Deuteronomist
The last and latest of the sources underlying the Pentateuch is D, a text seen almost exclusively in Deuteronomy—few scholars today, for instance, would situate any of D in Genesis—it is, instead, the work of a compiler assembling different histories but speaking with a clear purpose and perspective, that is, the view from the ruins of a state under siege. Over and over, D stresses that the sins of the Hebrews will stir God’s wrath and land them one day in bondage. Framed as prophesies from former Biblical greats like Samuel, Joshua and even Moses, the words of D revolve around the errors of the past and the hope of future redemption.
D’s voice is also one of the best educated and most eloquent in the Bible, as one might expect of an author who could look back over centuries of scripture and forge a style that met the demands of a Hebrew readership still deeply entrenched in its own history and culture but at the same time more sophisticated and wiser about the world at large. Fully articulated speeches, such as Moses’ which opens Deuteronomy, for the first time find a home in the Bible. The haranguing orator with fond dreams of improving his people through the beauty of the spoken word is a type evidenced in many an urbanized and advanced civilization, but certainly nowhere better than in D.
Another theme which resonates throughout Deuteronomy, revealing a different dream its author cherished fondly, is the primary importance of the First Temple in ancient Jewish life. The notion that Jerusalem should serve not only as the center of religious life for all Hebrew people but as the only valid site to worship God is, in effect, a denunciation of other religious practices. Indeed, modern archaeological research has confirmed that there were ceremonies being held in honor of Jahweh outside Jerusalem at this time (see below). And because other evidence suggests that the notion of the First Temple’s exclusive priority developed fairly late in the evolution of Hebrew theology, D is uniquely datable.
At 2 Kings 22, the Old Testament recounts the unexpected discovery of an ancient law text dug up accidentally when workers were refurbishing the Temple. According to the Bible, this long-lost legal code was brought to Josiah, the King of Judea at the time (r. ca. 640-625 BCE). When he read it, he was aghast to see commandments forbidding certain religious practices, rituals which had once been employed by the Israelites, the Judeans’ erstwhile brethren whose state the Assyrians had obliterated a century before. And along with the prediction and explication of Israel’s demise came the promise of a new path to salvation, one—rest assured!—God approved of more certainly. It foretold that, as long as Josiah avoided the mistakes of his long-lost northern kin: “. . . thou shalt be gathered into thy grave in peace, and thine eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place.” (2 Kings 23:20). The Judeans, the southern Hebrews, did indeed witness a modest if short-lived prosperity during Josiah’s reign, so it must have looked as if the times confirmed the divine protection this buried book had proffered.
Though riddled with invented history, this story probably stems from a real historical event, the writing of Deuteronomy which was disguised as the book’s “discovery and publication” and recorded as such in Second Kings. The tale it told of sin and salvation surely resonated among the later Hebrews, especially those who had survived Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of 586 which gave the work new life—and perhaps a few new words as well—along with a position of prominence in biblical scripture, its fourth-place finish in the Pentateuch sweepstakes. If this is so, as with none of the other texts which have been quilted together to create the first five books of the Old Testament, we can set D in a particular time and place in the past, indeed put it into the hands of a specific type of personality with distinct views and goals, making it unprecedentedly “historical.”
Evidence to support this?
Well, first we have the usage of Different names for God. Yes, they show different characteristics of God, but this is evidence that supports the JEPD Theory, but it doesn’t entirely prove it.
Other evidence is that there are stories that appear either to contradict itself, or be repetitive and change a couple things the second time. Examples are:
- Genesis 1 and 2 contradict each other in the order of creation as well as a different name of God. Humans, in Gen. 1, were made after all animals and plants. But in Genesis 2, Humans were made before Animals and Plants. Genesis 1 says Man and Woman humans were made simultaneously, whereas Genesis 2 says Man was made before Woman.
- The Pentateuch seems divided on what to eat. After the Flood, God says Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you Genesis 9:3….but in Deuteronomy 14:7-8 and Leviticus 11:2-4 it says that there are certain meats you can eat.
How many animals on Noah’s Ark?
Of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark. Genesis 6:19Of clean beasts, and of beasts that are not clean, and of fowls, and of every thing that creepeth upon the earth, There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah. Genesis 7:8-9
Every beast after his kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind, and every fowl after his kind, every bird of every sort. And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life. Genesis 7:14-15
Of every clean beast thou shalt take thee by sevens, the male and his female. Genesis 7:2
- Genesis 7:7-10 contradicts Genesis 7:11-13. The first passage says Noah entered the ark 7 days before the flood came but the second passage says it was on the same day.
These are only 4 out of many contradicting things in the Pentateuch. If the JEPD Theory is true, and most likely is, then the different Authors’ (Y, E, P, and D) writings would have been mashed together to make the Pentateuch.
What does this mean now?
These findings do impact a Christian, Jew,and even a Muslim, since all three religions use the Pentateuch. I would say that this means that the whole Pentateuch was not literal history (100% factual) and was meant, for the ancient people, a way to explain many things. An example is the Tower of Babel, which to them explained the existence of different languages.
If the Penteteuch isnt 100% history, does this impact Christ or any central beliefs to Christianity? Yes and no. It does affect it but not in a lethal way. It means that Christ was using ancient Jewish knowledge to explain various things to them. Often He said Moses wrote things. Does this mean he is lying? No! Should Jesus have corrected them and tell then that Moses was the writer but 4+ other writers wrote the Penteteuch? Absolutely not!! It would have distracted Jews from the Message by filling their minds with facts that aren’t necessary for the central message. If trying to figure out who wrote what and the evidence for it is distracting to the message, then give up and focus on the message. The message is more important than who the author is.
I hope this helps in some way. Remember, this does not mean the rest of the Bible is automatically false.