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Dating Old Testament (Part 2 of 7)

A lot of us have heard of biblical terms like Pentateuch, Torah, textual criticism, documentary hypothesis, but we probably don’t understand what they clearly mean.  In our next conversation with Colby Townsend, we’ll define these terms and get more acquainted with Old Testament scholarship.  We will start off with how scholars determined the different authors of the Torah, and dating Old Testament events.

Colby:  So someone like Jean Astruc, actually wasn’t trying to create a new academic method for explaining why Moses didn’t write the Bible or something like that. He was actually somewhat of an apologist as well. He was trying to defend the Bible against the more critical work. So, for him, as he explained himself, the solution for him was to actually take the first part of Genesis, and to separate it into two columns. This is where you get the different sources. So, he started to notice the different use of the Divine Name.

So you have YAHWEH, as I pronounce it, most likely in Hebrew, and you have Elohim. He noticed that in Genesis 1, it is just Elohim. In Genesis 2, at least after verse four and on, it’s just Yahweh. I should note too, that often, in Christian circles, that name is just thrown around as either that pronunciation, similar to that or Jehovah, but it’s a very delicate name within Judaism, Hashem, or Adonai. Hashem is the name, usually what’s most commonly used. Bu Jean Astruc notices that the names are used completely differently. So he separates it into two columns. That’s where you first get the approach, to have what I think what he called was P–well, he didn’t call it that yet. He basically just called it the two…

GT:  It was J for Yahweh or Jehovah.

Colby:  Yes, but, early on, the other one was called E. You’re right. It wasn’t until much later, maybe even Wellhausen in the late 19th century, that it then becomes J and E, but E is no longer Genesis 1, P is.  Then you have J, E, P, D. But it’s a long development to get to the actual documentary hypothesis.

Check out our conversation….

Dating Old Testament (Part 2 of 7)
We continue to get acquainted with scholarly terminology of the Old Testament and discuss when it was likely written.

426:  Intro to InIntro to Documentary Hypothesis


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Intro to Documentary Hypothesis (Part 1 of 7)

I’m excited to introduce Colby Townsend.  We’re going to jump into Old Testament scholarship and discuss how the Old Testament was put together.  Most scholars believe the Documentary Hypothesis is the best explanation. Colby recently graduated from Utah State University, and is headed to a Ph.D. program at Indiana University.  Over the next few weeks we’ll talk about how Joseph Smith may have been influenced by the Documentary Hypothesis as he translated the Book of Mormon.   Colby’s thesis won the Best Thesis Award this year at the Mormon History Association.  But first, we’ll introduce some terms used by biblical scholars.

GT:  I love to talk to regular people and say, “Have you ever heard of the Documentary Hypothesis?” They always say, “No, what’s that?”

Colby:  Right.

GT:  I know, in the scholarly world, everybody knows what that is. But for a lot of my listeners, we’re not scholars and so we talk to people like you, because you’re the experts. Can you give us a little bit of background? What is the Documentary Hypothesis? And then we’ll talk about your paper that talks about how it relates to the Book of Mormon. So that’s going to be really interesting. So, tell us about the Documentary Hypothesis.

Colby:  There are a handful of different terms that different people will be slightly familiar with, if they’re not too familiar with the Documentary Hypothesis right at the beginning.

Colby:  So, a lot of the time, people are going to be talking about historical criticism. So, when were texts written? Who were they written by? Those kinds methods and the tools that scholars use to be able to identify that kind of information. That’s historical criticism. I’m trying to remember exactly what it was in your post…. Sometimes people will use documentary hypothesis as an interchangeable phrase with historical criticism if we’re trying to understand different parts of it. [For example,] when was, text ‘X’ written in the Hebrew Bible? So, it’s important, because a lot of people will be familiar, probably even more so, with the phrase higher criticism. The purpose for that phrase, and the reason that it came about was that there was lower criticism and higher criticism. Lower criticism was the study of languages, philology, the way that Northwest Semitic languages all relate to each other. Part of the lower criticism is also textual criticism.

Colby:  Textual Criticism itself is finding all of the different manuscripts of a single given text. So if we wanted to engage with textual criticism of the Torah, the five books of Moses, we would gather together all of the manuscripts from Qumran, from the medieval [ages,] as far back as we could go, which before Qumran, the oldest manuscripts for the textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible that we had only went back to about 1000 CE.

GT:  So Qumran is probably a better word, most people would probably [be more familiar with is] the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Colby:  Yes, thank you. So with the Dead Sea Scrolls, it shifted us back more than 1000 years in history as far as the textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible goes, because we didn’t have any complete Hebrew manuscripts of the individual books of the Hebrew Bible that dated really very much further back from that.

We’ll learn other terms and get introduced to the documentary hypothesis.  Check out our conversation….

Intro to Documentary Hypothesis (Part 1 of 7)
Colby Townsend’s thesis on the Documentary Hypothesis and Book of Mormon won the Best Thesis Award at this year’s Mormon History Association.

You might want to check out our previous conversation about the Documentary Hypothesis and the Adam-God Theory!

384: Documentary Hypothesis & Adam-God (Patrick-Shaffer)

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Did Pres. McKay Support Evolution?

President McKay was an educator before he was called to be an apostle and future church president.  Was he more open to evolution than other LDS leaders?  Ben Spackman will answer that question.

Ben:  When people bring up Mormon Doctrine, or Man, His Origin and Destiny, I tend to point to President McKay because President McKay on several occasions was very friendly to evolution….Then in 1965, in general conference, David O. McKay quotes him on that point. Now he doesn’t read him at all, but he says, “Here’s a scientist I’ve been reading who talks about a man’s conscience.” So, if you follow that thread, if you get below the tip of that iceberg, that’s a very pro-evolution interpretation of Genesis. David O. McKay clearly doesn’t think that Genesis in any way prohibits evolution. … There was an article that was published in the official Church magazine by a BYU (I think) botany professor, someone who dealt with DNA and other things….This article as it was printed in the Church magazine, has a little black box at the front that says, “This article was read and approved by the editor of the magazine.” If you flip back to the front, the editor is President David O. McKay. Now we have data from his son who was on one of the church committees or something. This article got taken to President McKay by his son to say, “We’re going to run this. Do you want to read it first?” He read the whole thing word for word and said, “This is fantastic work. Run it. I want this box in front.” The box also said, “It is not presented as a position of church doctrine.” So, David O. McKay was very comfortable saying, “Here’s evolution. We’re going to put this in the Church magazine. We’re going to respond to these questions. We’re going to address Genesis. I don’t want to impose it on people as some kind of official doctrine, because it’s not.” But, he was certainly enthusiastic about it.

Check out our conversation….


Pres. McKay may have been the prophet most supportive of evolution.
Pres. McKay may have been the prophet most supportive of evolution.

Check out our previous conversations with Ben!

246: Misreading Genesis

245: Does the Bible Supports a Flat Earth?

244: Did Man Evolve From Apes?

243: Did Joseph Fielding Smith Win the Evolution Battle?

242: Evolution & Bible: Irreconcilable Differences?