Genesis' Three Documents! by Dr. J.W.Bernard
Every student of Scripture must have a starting point and ending for his understanding. I have chosen to begin with the obvious divisions of the Five Books of Moses. These divisions are called the Elohim-documents (two) and Yahweh-document (one). In this analysis of Genesis we will see that it is divided by repetitions, divergence in language and names for God. These documents have been skillfully braided together into one text we call, the Pentateuch.
There are three independent writers in Genesis. Two used Elohim as a proper name to designate the Divine Being. Whereas one used Yahweh as the proper name of God. On reading Genesis 28, one will notice that the explanation given concerning the origin of the name of "Beth-El" was altogether different from the explanation given in the 35th chapter of the same book. In the former account the narrative says that Bethel got its name when Jacob was preparing to go on a trip to Mesopotamia. In the other account we are told that Bethel got its name when Jacob returned from Mesopotamia after a long stay. It was on his return (not on his going) that God appeared unto him; "So Jacob named the place where God had spoken with him Bethel, that is House of God."
There is a division in the Elohim-document. The two documents are called "First Elohist" and "Second Elohist." The "First Elohist" section gives an account of Jacob being sent to Mesopotamia by his father that he may take a wife from his own kindred. Jacob leaves home in quite a peaceable manner and is gone for many years. He returns to his native land and helps his brother Esau to bury the aged Isaac. After the burial Esau goes to Seir or Edom, leaving Jacob in Canaan. However, according to the "Second Elohist" this is not true at all. Jacob fled to Mesopotamia at the suggestion of his mother, his father having had nothing to do with his departure. Rebecca sent Jacob away, not to take a wife but in order to escape the vengeance of Esau, who was out to kill Jacob for having cheated him out of the "birthright." After many years' in Mesopotamia Jacob returns to Canaan. He finds Esau already settled in Seir and to his great astonishment he learns that Esau is advancing against him with an armed guard. Being a diplomat, Jacob sends Esau rich gifts in order to make up for having ticked him out of Isaac's blessing.
No one should let this fact escape the student: Genesis 32:24-29 and Genesis 35:9-11 had to have come from two different sources. Both accounts use the name Elohim but give two different accounts for changing the name of Jacob to Israel. These three documents that are divided into two Elohim sections and one Yahweh section can be seen to stretch themselves into all five books of Moses. They are divergent in language, style and point of view. The sincere student will see that the oldest Elohim-record is characterized by deep human interests, charm of literary style and delights to linger over tribal memories that cluster around the little village shrines of the North, particularly Bethel and Shechem. The other Elohim-document possesses a distinctly "priestly cast" together with a rigid and formal style which makes it both dry and uninteresting; it is full of precise statistics and genealogical tables, inflexible ideas, and stereotyped expressions. It is devoid of human interest; and instead of speaking of the old shrines it purposely passes them by in utter silence as though they had never existed. The concept of God is loftier and more advanced, which accounts for the lack of picturesque words and a dull literary style. It speaks of institutions and customs that are unknown to the "First Elohist" section. This is the reason that scholarship calls the older of the two Elohim documents by a separate name. The older is called "Elohistic Narrative" where as the First Elohist-document is designated the "Priestly Document."
At this point, I began to look for more books about the priestly system of worship with an elaborate Jewish ritual. This system did not fit in with the early days of Israel and the first temple. The "Priestly Document" looked as though it was the writing of Ezekiel who lived in far off Babylon. It has been offered to today's students that the ideas in the Priestly Document were borrowed and dated later than Ezekiel. However, this was a product of the age of Ezekiel -- and not of Moses as people had supposed. In fact, you will find in my three books on the History of the Jews that Ezekiel is the true father of Hebrew sacerdotal law. He is the father of Judaism and sketched out for them the plan of ritual reform in the year BC 571, seven centuries after Moses.
It might be added that the resemblance between portions of the Book of Leviticus and parts of Ezekiel is so remarkably close that many scholars at first believed Ezekiel was the real author of this long-supposed Mosaic Book. However, now it is definitely known that Leviticus is not the work of Ezekiel. Yet, it embodies Ezekiel's spirit and essential teachings, differing only in details. Ezekiel was both a priest and a prophet... but foremost a priest. This has caused a vast amount of uneasiness in orthodox circles. For the documents themselves show that the very core of the Pentateuch was written in the age of the Babylonian Exile, hundreds of years after Moses. This priestly system was not the product of primitive Hebrews under Moses. This was the product of a much later period of refinement.
One more thing about the Pentateuch: For centuries, both Christians and Jews believed that the Book of Joshua was the work of a separate author-- perhaps some man of inferior rank to Moses. However, due to the investigations of many theologians, the book of Joshua is now definitely known to be composed of the same documents that appear in the Pentateuch. The over all conclusion is that the same men who were responsible for the authorship of the Five-Books of Moses must have also written the Book of Joshua.
Continue with an analysis of the Literary and Historical sides.