What is it?
The early chapters of Genesis refer to both Elohim (God) and Yahweh (Lord). After God creates man in chapter 1, the Lord-God creates man in chapter 2. So in the 1800s, many scholars decided that this was the result of two separate creation stories being merged into one. This was called the documentary hypothesis. This is now so well accepted that modern scholars, when discussing Genesis, will routinely say "there are of course two creation accounts".
The first problem
This is a textbook example of rejecting Occam's razor: "Plurality must never be posited without necessity." They posited a plurality of sources when they only needed one. There is a much simpler explanation, as we shall see.
The second problem
Eventually some original source documents were found: Genesis 1-11 appears to be based on Gilgamesh, with the earlier chapters strongly influenced by the Enuma Elish, Adapa, etc. They all tell a single story with two stages in creation: first the higher gods create lower gods, then the lower gods create humans. The lower gods appear to be human rulers like Gilgamesh: lords of cities, but like gods.
So that explains Genesis. God creates a human to "have dominion", that is, to be a lord. This lord is "in the image of God": that is, he is a lord-god. This lord-god then arranges for lower humans to serve him. So there was only one creation story and the documentary hypothesis was wrong.
The third problem
In hindsight this was not just an alternative explanation (thus satisfying Occam's Razor) but it should have been the obvious one, the only one to consider. Not spotting the overwhelming evidence casts doubt on the scholars' abilities.
"Elohim" is a plural so we can easily have two gods. "Adam" is a generic term for mankind, and "create" just means to organise (I'll blog on these later). So the text should be plain: The gods organise some people to be lords, and makes them in the image of gods. These lord-gods then organise some people to serve them.
And if the scholars missed that, just reading later should show there are two classes of God. This "lord-god" walks in the garden and does not know where Adam is. The name Yahweh is easily explained as a title: each city or tribe was dedicated to a particular junior god, so its ruler would act in that god's name. Each junior god was subservient to the higher god or the council, the elohim. This kind of polytheism is well known as the backdrop to the Old Testament. So any scholar should recognise the two levels of gods in the creation story.
In fact, even if we had never read Genesis we can guess this is how creation happened. In every society through history there has always been two levels of divine authority, not one:
- The high abstract level (logic, gods, constitution, or whatever principles a leader appeals to in order to justify his power)
- The rulers (humans who claim authority to rule)
The fourth problem
Let's say that by some remarkable lapse the scholars missed all that. Don't they read early Christian texts? Marcion, the one who first put together a New Testament canon, was so appalled at the Old Testament God that he compiled a list of differences between him and the God of Jesus. The "learned" Christians (the Greek for learned was "gnostic") wouldn't go so far as to condemn this lesser god, but shared the conclusion there is obviously a higher and lower god here (the lower one being the "skilled worker", or in Greek "demiuge"). Other thinkers, including Plato, had the same conclusion: the highest God is logic, and there is a lower, worker god or demiurge. The gnostics were clear that these gods are essentially spirits that can inhabit men.
The modern scholars should have known this. Don't they read what early Christians wrote? There has to be a two stage creation: God -> god-like lord man -> lowly man
The fifth problem
When the source material was discovered we could perhaps still argue that the "real" document was missing. But that is no longer plausible.
The documentary hypothesis was suggested about two hundred years ago, long before the flood of discoveries at Ebla, Mari, Ashurbanipal, Qumran, Nag Hammadi, etc. We now have whole libraries of ancient documents: thousands of tablets and scrolls. We can reconstruct practically every detail of Genesis 1-11 from its ancient sources. There are no lnger any gaps. And it is no longer plausible that major collections of documents (the imaginary J and E sources) should have been available in 600 BC and later but not show up in any library anywhere.
The documentary hypothesis has no support in the real world.
The sixth problem
This raises the credibility question. Even after being proven wrong in every possible way, the scholars will not admit it. They still cling to the "two creation stories" theory despite all the evidence.
The seventh problem
Finally, and most damning, they build other theories on the back of the documentary hypothesis. It is the poster child for the Bible record being unreliable. It becomes support for the documents being jumbled oral history (despite the actual sources materials showing otherwise), leaving the "scholars" free to use random coincidences and the vaguest of parallels as the basis for anything they want to imagine: but don't get me started on that!
So let's summarise:
- The scholars ignore the text,
- They ignore the evidence of every society through history,
- they ignore what the early believers saw the test
- they flagrantly abuse Occam's Razor,
- they imagine source material for which there is zero evidence
- the original source material turns up, and they don't care: they prefer the imaginary one
- and they continue to build scholarly houses of cards on this imaginary foundation.
The real problem is of course the Bible Goggles. The scholars are determined to think that God is supernatural, a divine single being just as the supernatural believers said. As long as they wear the goggles that is all they see.
If this was the only egregious case I would give them the benefit of the doubt. After all, they are the experts and I am just a lowly Bible reader. But I find this again and again. As this blog develops I will give many other examples.
So as I write this blog I am not worried about what the professional say. If they disagree with my conclusions then I am probably on the right track.