Sunday, 29 August 2010

Flood Story Part 1

Just Wondering: Does anyone know how to read little foxling's dead blog? Apparently he wrote extensively about the DH and I would love to read some of his material.

Read these first!:

DH Explained Part 1

DH Explained Part 2

We discussed in the last post some of the passages in Genesis which use the name Elohim exclusively. Among them we listed the first chapter of Bereishit - the creation story, and the first commandment to Noach (Genesis 7:13-22)

Let us begin by enumerating the passages in the flood story which use the name YHWH and the passages which use the name Elohim.

3 Elohim Passages, 3 YHWH passages, and one uncertain

YHWH: 6:1-8 God gets mad at mankind and decides to destroy them

Elohim: 6:9-32 Begins with the declaration "these are the generations of Noach" and continues with God's message to Noach. uses the name Elohim. Makes no distinction between pure and impure animals; we will pursue that in just a bit.

YHWH: 7:1-8 Second commandment to Noach; a distinction is made between "pure animals" and "impure animals" the name YHWH is used.

Uncertain: 7:9-8:15 The story of the flood. This large section rarely mentions God and we can only hypothesize about it based on our observations in more explicit sections. God is only mentioned 4 times, 3 as Elohim and once as YHWH.

Elohim: 8:16-20 God tells Noach to leave the ark; the name Elohim is used.

YHWH: 8:21-22 Noach brings a sacrifice and God is pleased; the name YHWH is used.

Elohim: 9:1-17 God's final covenant with Noach; the name Elohim is used.

If I haven't scared you off by that tedious list, it's time to examine some features of the flood story and see if they fit with our hypothesis. We will be looking at three things

1. The divine names
2. Phrases and words
3. Repetitions and/or contradictions.

We will be especially looking out for the "cluster effect" - do our three types of evidence cluster together? (AKA convergence of evidence) In other words will the divine name Elohim be found with the same sorts of words and phrases and YHWH will be found with the same sorts of words and phrases AND will these clusters of names and phrases correspond to passages that seem to contradict or repeat things - when faced with a repetition will one "version" have Elohim and "it's phrases" and will the other have YHWH and it's phrases. Let's take a look.

A. Vocabulary

The passages using the divine name Elohim differ in language and style from the ones using the name YHWH:

To list a few:

  1. In the first chapter of Genesis (which always uses the name Elohim) constantly uses the phrase "animals; plants; birds - according to their kind" (e.g. 1:21) the flood story also uses this terminology in reference to animals. (6:21) Interestingly enough in a passage using the name Elohim.
  2. Also notice the phrase "Btzelem Elokim" - "in the form of God", which itself uses the name Elohim; is used thrice in the first chapter of Genesis (1:26-27) (but not in the creation of man in Genesis 2) and again here (9:7) Both times used in an "Elohist" passage. YHWH never creates man "Btzelem Elokim".
  3. Once again the phrases "be fruitful and multiply" and "I will establish my covenant" are used only in proximity to the name Elohim just like in G1, and G35. (Here 6:18, 9:1, 9:7, 9:9, and 9:11)
  4. Referring to life as "all flesh" is always in passages using the name Elohim; (6:12, 13, 17, 19 etc.) this occurs only in the Elohim parts of the flood story. YHWH uses the rare word "Yekum" (7:4) and the phrase "all life" (8:21) to refer to the same idea.
  5. Referring to animals as "the animals of the earth"; this occurs both in the first creation story (G1:25, 30) and in one of the Elohim parts of the flood story (G9:2, 10) Incidentally the second creation story using the name YHWH uses the phrase "animals of the field" which never appears in (our) Elohim sections.
  6. The verb "LeShakhet" to destroy is always in close proximity to Elohim (e.g. 6:13, 8:15) (as opposed to the name YHWH which uses the verb -"Mechia" - wiping out. e.g. 7:4 )
  7. The phrase "you, your children, and your children's wives" is always in close proximity to Elohim e.g. 6:18 (as opposed to YHWH which says "you and your house") (For some reason a random verse with this phrase is ascribed to J by the DH'ers, 7:7, I have no idea why!)
  8. The phrase "because the heart of man is evil from his youth" is employed twice (G6:5 and G8:21) both times by YHWH.
  9. The word "Mabul" - deluge or flood - is never used with the name YHWH only in proximity to the name Elohim.

B. Contradictions/Repetitions:

The two commands to Noach seem superfluous both essentially saying the same thing twice. With the one exception of pure and impure animals. This is our classic parallel - with two accounts similar but different + the linguistic features above.

The theme of the 7 of each species of kosher animals is never in proximity to the name Elohim. In God's first command (Elohim) to Noach no special difference is made for pure and impure animals. It merely says to bring two of each of everything. However in the second command (YHWH) 7 pure animals are to be brought. The theme of "pure animals" is continued after Noach leaves the ark and Noach makes animal sacrifices. His sacrifices are offered to YHWH.

Can traditional explanations explain these "two versions" of the flood story? Yes and they can explain how it's all really one story. However very few traditional explanations (at least ones I have seen, I would love to be pointed to new ones) take note of the distinguishing linguistic features immediately apparent in similar but different accounts.

In our next post we will examine the large passage telling the actual story of the flood 7:9-8:15. Stay tuned...


Undercover Kofer said...

Shilton: I greatly appreciate these postings and I hope you will persevere and allow me to post this DH for 'Dummies' on my page. Thanks, UK.

david a. said...

>>>> (For some reason a random verse with this phrase is ascribed to J by the DH'ers, 7:7, I have no idea why!)


Nice work, But don’t sweat it, if some points don’t fit like a T.

IMHO, I think the proponents of the THE DH shot themselves in the foot by trying to ascribe every single passage to a particular source. Remember, each source likely developed over time and was copied and tampered with and also maculated in other ways. So I won’t worry too much if the partitioning doesn’t fit exactly. As far as I’m concerned it’s the concept of multiple-authorship and documentary evolution time that matters. The details aren’t that important.

Shilton HaSechel said...

Yeah I'm exceedingly skeptical of the supposed ability of the DH'ers to identify every verse and I won't even try doing that. My main objective right now is to delineate the P source.

I think I'm gonna skip the rest of the flood narrative - way too complicated and way too much conjecture.

AW said...

I agree that the details of which postulated author to ascribe which posuk are far less important than outlining the large themes, the patterns observed, the possible political and ecclesiastical motives or contrasting viewpoints the different authors may have held...all this supplemented, of course, by a number of salient illustrations featuring specific pesukim and passages.

Though intellectual honesty requires that we distinguish between fascinating theory and "settled science," I think that every deeply honest religionist must concede that some of the observations and insights of the DH and other non-traditional Bible analysis are (even if disturbing to religion) fascinating. By the same token I think it honest for skeptics to remain just that--skeptics--and even while appreciating the DH's observations and speculations, continuing to question some of the contentions, even primary premises, of its over-confident proponents.

Shilton HaSechel said...

I just like words. Words (wrongly or rightly) just seem so impartial, so scientific.

AW said...

I think I detected a bit of humor there. :)

But on a serious note... Yes, word analysis can be interesting and illuminating. I try to bear in mind, however, that creative minds can posit all sorts of reasons for various words being used or not used in given contexts or patterns. So although the bare fact that certain words are used in specific Bible passages may be "impartial and scientific," how we conceptualize and interpret why those words are used in those passages...that is rather less than scientific, and more a matter of creative play of the subjective intellect.

And though some conceptualizations seem more accurate and intelligent than others, there yet remains much room for intelligent disagreement on many aspects of Bible criticism, including many claims of the DH's proponents.

david a. said...

Its more than that. The source P, is in itself comprised of many additions and hence many authors. When you find time, as another intellectual exercise take the source P, and try to pinpoint such additions.

Here is a superb example. God's instructions to build the mishkan are considered by the DH-ers as all P. IMHO the writers of the P source themselves had a dispute as to whether there existed an incense altar or not. see and read Exodus 25:1-30:10 carefully.

Shilton HaSechel said...

I think the DH'ers explain that by considering fragments not so much as authors but as "schools", there is a J school, an E school and a P school.

Even if P was written by more than one person it is fairly clear that (assuming our criteria our correct) that it has its own distinctive style. Whether that style reflects one author or several authors with similar literary style is probably impossible to ever know.

david a. said...

>>>> I think the DH'ers explain that by considering fragments not so much as authors but as "schools", there is a J school, an E school and a P school.

I know, but what I don't get is why some DH-ers are still squabbling over the "dating" of P. To me P developed over hundreds of years, so what's their problem?

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