Friday, 27 August 2010

DH Explained Part II: The "Elohist"

Continuing from here

We started with a hypothesis based on various contradictions between when and who was privy to God's name YHWH. The hypothesis so far is:

The accounts in Genesis where God eschews the name YHWH but instead tends to use the terminology EL-Shaddai and Elohim, represents a distinct literary unit, different in some way from AT LEAST the parts of Genesis where God is called either by himself or by the patriarch YHWH. This "literary unit" asserts that the patriarchs did not call God YHWH.

Once again this is but a hypothesis to explain the problem mentioned in the last post. A hypothesis needs evidence and that is what we are doing - examining the evidence (if any). In short: does Genesis and other parts of the Torah support our initial theory?

Let us start with Elohim. The hypothesis states that our "E author" eschews the name YHWH until God makes this "new" name known to Moshe. What passages in Genesis use the name Elohim without YHWH almost exclusively? (There are some passages where the names are alternated those will be dealt with later)

The most obvious "Elohist" passages are:

1) Genesis 1: The first creation account

2) Genesis 6:9-32 God's first commandment to Noach

3) Genesis 17 The Covenant of Circumcision (mentioned in last post; features El Shaddai)

4) Genesis 20 Avraham, Sarah, and Avimelech (this one is problematic because there is one mention of YHWH at the end)

5) Genesis 21:1-20 Hagar's second exile in the desert

6) Genesis 28:1-9 Yitzchak sends Yaakov to Padan Aram (El Shaddai is mentioned)

7) Genesis 35:9-15 Yaakov's revelation (mentioned in last; features El Shaddai)

8) Genesis 40-41 Yosef and Pharaoh (perhaps not conclusive because speaking to Egyptians, Yosef would use the more generic Elohim)

9) Genesis 48 Yaakov blesses Yosef (Yaakov quotes El Shaddai's blessing to him from 7.)

These are passages where the name YHWH is not mentioned at all (Except for once in 4.) These passages also comprise distinct "stories" with a clear beginning and end making it easy to "isolate" them for the purposes of our study.

Now let us make some observations here:

A. Couplets

Notice I put the word "first" and "second" in bold. I did this three times. 1. First Creation 2. First Commandment to Noach and 3. Second Exile of Hagar. These 3 stories are unique in that they have parallels. The first creation has a second creation (Genesis 2) and the first commandment to Noach has a second commandment to Noach (Genesis 7) and the second exile of Hagar vs. the first exile of Hagar (Genesis 16) (We could discuss the two Avimelech accounts also but I don't think they are very conclusive)

Isn't it interesting that these three similar yet different "couplets" have the conspicuous feature of using YHWH in one "couplet" and Elohim in the other. This is either a remarkable coincidence or an indication that PERHAPS that the usage of Elohim or YHWH indicates something more than just random changing of names (we will examine hopefully traditional explanations fort this clear phenomenon). It's not just that some passages say Elohim and other say YHWH but that similar yet different passages often follow this pattern. Interesting.

B. Fruitful and Multiply

We have two more instances of El Shaddai being associated with the blessings of "being fruitful and multiplying". (These instances are patriarchs quoting what El Shaddai told them previously, so Yitzchak in G28 repeats the blessing of Avraham, and Yaakov repeats his blessing to Yosef)

So far the following passages use this terminology: G28, G35, G48, (these 3 also all mention becoming a קהל גויים"a congregation of nations" G17 only says "I will make you very fruitful". To these we can add Genesis 1 which makes frequent use of the "fruitful and multiply" terminology (and provides Judaism with it's best mitzva) It is a remarkable coincidence that every time (so far) the Torah uses the litany of פרה ורבה it just HAPPENS to use the name Elohim or El Shaddai. Very interesting.

C. Another Couplet?

Item number 6) above where Yiztchak sends Yaakov to Padan Aram is preceded by the whole Yaakov and Eisav incident. In that incident the name YHWH was frequently used. In that account Yaakov literally flees for his life (on Rivka's advice) from his vengeful brother Eisav. Then for some reason Rivka starts complaining to Yitzchak that Eisav marrried a bunch of shiksas. So Yiztchak tells Yaakov to go to his uncle. I think we can say with some confidence that these represent similar but different accounts of why Yaakov left. Note the YHWHs in the first and the El Shaddai in the second. Extremely Interesting.

To Be Continued.....


Lisa said...

"Isn't it interesting that these three similar yet different 'couplets' have the conspicuous feature of using YHWH in one 'couplet' and Elohim in the other. This is either a remarkable coincidence or an indication that PERHAPS that the usage of Elohim or YHWH indicates something more than just random changing of names"

Silly strawman. No one ever claimed that it was just random changing of names. Well, maybe Christians did, but what did they know? We always saw that as clearly intentional.

"It is a remarkable coincidence that every time (so far) the Torah uses the litany of פרה ורבה it just HAPPENS to use the name Elohim or El Shaddai. Very interesting."

Again, it isn't just happenstance. It's intentional. You choose to ignore the actual significance, because of the implications. Instead, you choose to believe some cockamamie story about a patchwork Torah.

And the last paragraph is actually kind of hilarious. You've never gotten something done by misrepresenting the reasons you want it? The story makes it clear that Yitzchak loves Eisav, and is unlikely to believe that he's actually a danger to Yaakov. So Rivka uses a different method of getting Yitzchak to send Yaakov away. That's a normal way for people to behave.

I'll give you an interesting example. I went to public school through my freshman year in high school. Before I started high school, my parents talked to me about going to a local Orthodox day school, because they thought the smaller school would be better for me, socially and academically. I was horrified by the idea, and told them in no uncertain terms that there was no way they were sending me to a religious school.

At the end of my freshman year, I had to make my schedule for the first semester of sophomore year. And there was a public speaking class, which was absolutely mandatory. I was almost pathologically shy at the time, and I would rather have died than had to speak in front of people. But I was a finagler. So I looked to see how I could get out of taking speech. And trust me, I tried everything. Looked for any loophole I could find. There just weren't any.

So I went to my parents and said, "You know... I've been thinking about what you said last year about that Orthodox day school. It might actually be a good place for me after all." And I never did have to take speech.

If someone was writing my story, then using your logic, you'd probably conclude that the story about me not wanting to take speech and the story about me suggesting that I transfer schools for social and academic reasons were written by two different people.

Shilton HaSechel said...

I'm just explaining what the DH says I'm not supporting it at this point. I made that clear in my first post and said explicitly here

"we will examine hopefully traditional explanations for this clear phenomenon"

In short calm down

>Again, it isn't just happenstance. It's intentional.

That may be so. But any explanation needs to explain when and why Elohim is sometimes used and when and why YHWH is sometimes used. The DH's explanation is that it represents different authors. The traditional explanation would have to come up with something different. By all means present a comprehensive system and I will be all ears.

>you choose to believe some cockamamie story about a patchwork Torah.

You should be taking a particular interest in this endeavor as it will clearly show the baseless and weak foundations (in your not very humble opinion) of the DH. I urge you to keep following this so that you can show how "cockamanie" the DH really is.

You can't reject or accept the DH before you know what it says, (maybe you do) I'm just presenting the idea. Your - let's call it "viciousness" - is rather misplaced.

>And the last paragraph is actually kind of hilarious.

Thank you. Your explanation is interesting. I however do not see why Yitzchak NEEDS to tell Yaakov to go. Yaakov already knows he has to go 'cuz Eisav wants to kill him, why does Rivka feel it necessary to get Yiztchak to SEND OFF Yaakov?

AW said...

Overall, SH, thanks for another well-explained and moderately stated installment of your introduction to the DH.

While I think some of the earlier critical comment's wording was unfortunate and gratuitiously hostile, and while the DH--and certainly the overall field of non-traditional Bible textual analysis--has, in my opinion, much to teach us, on the specific point of Rivkah, Yaakov, Yitzchok, and their interaction on the matter of Yaakov leaving, I find the traditional approach more than adequate.

After all, the entire story of the stolen blessings had as its premise that Yitzchok had tremendous spiritual and practical power over his sons' destinies. Another theme of the story was the (perhaps necessary) deception that both Rivkah and Yaakov perpetrated against Yitzchok. Of course, it was also a very patriarchal society, where father's wishes were respected--and the story explicitly states that Esav contained even his homicidal rage, and planned only to kill Yaakov when his father died. It's a reasonable follow-through, then, both that they wanted Yitzchok's "blessing" for Yaakov to leave, and that Rivkah used some excuse to elicit it.

On any complex and emotionally charged issue, where both sides have some good arguments, there is a danger of so clearly seeing one's own side's strengths that the legitimacy of some of the other side's arguments become obscured. The traditional vs. DH-like secular understanding of the Bible seems to be one of those cases where both religious people and critics of religion are very tempted to dismiss out of hand the other's position, and therefore not even process their intelligent and reasonable points.

So far, I think SH is doing a good job of presenting the DH in a fairly unbiased way. And I--as one who sees some great insights and discoveries of the DH, as well as some of its proponents' over-reachings--hope that (after presenting the DH) he will look for both its valid points and its questionable ones and share some of his thoughts looking critically and appreciatively at both sides of the equation.

Shilton HaSechel said...

I think that is pretty valid argument - that it was just a matter of getting Yitzchak's blessing.

However, it must be noted that for the DH it is crucial to split this story up. Perhaps this "splitting" is more a product of the DH than evidence for the DH. If that is so it should've been left till later. We will have to see.

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