How Was the Old Testament Written? – Program 3

By: Dr. Gerald Lrue, Dr. Walter Kaiser, Jr.; ©1989
Are the different styles and differences in the creation accounts in Genesis 1 and 2 proof they were written by different people, perhaps using different myths as sources?

Must Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 Have Been Written by Different Authors?


Tonight, John Ankerberg will investigate the topic: How was the Old Testament written? The Holy Bible is like no other book in all the world. It claims to be the written revelation of the one true God, and gives proof of this claim by presenting infallible evidence. Other religious documents such as the Qur’an may claim to be the very word of God, but they contain no such self-authenticating proofs as does the Bible. Only the Bible validates its claims by prior prophecy and subsequent fulfillment. But professors in American universities are teaching our students the theories of the higher critics who declare that the Bible is merely a product of human origin. The higher critics assert that the Old Testament can be dealt with in a purely literary way, and naturalistic explanations must be found for every account which depicts the supernatural.

In tonight’s program John will examine the theories that the higher critics have put forth denying the Bible is historically accurate. One of these assertions is that Moses could not have written the Pentateuch. Julius Wellhausen, the founder of the documentary theory, has stated, “Writing was virtually unknown in Israel during Moses’ time, and consequently Moses could not have written the Pentateuch.” If the higher critics are correct, then the Bible is in error. Even Jesus Christ Himself was wrong when He taught that Moses was the author of the Pentateuch. The higher critics have also written that the Bible is not historically trustworthy, pointing to the fact that they have never heard of any evidence of a nation revealed in the Bible called the Hittites. What about this? And finally, the higher critics claim they alone are scientific in their assumptions of approaching the Old Testament. But have they really given the Bible the benefit of the doubt in what it states, or have they approached the Bible with an anti-supernatural bias? These questions will be answered tonight as John examines the evidence from archaeology and history. Find out whether the JEDP theory of the higher critics has been demolished by the evidence or whether it still stands. We invite you to join us.


Tonight, John Ankerberg will examine the question, “How was the Old Testament written?” The higher critics state that Moses did not write the book of Genesis, nor any of the first five books of the Bible. Rather, they say, different parts of Genesis were written by unknown Hebrew writers, one of whom referred to God as Yahweh or Jehovah. They have called this writer the “J” author. Other parts of Genesis were written by an unknown writer who referred to God as Elohim. The critics have called this writer the “E” author.

But do the different names for God used in Genesis 1 and 2 prove different authors wrote these two chapters? The answer is no. Moses in Genesis 1 used the name of God that fits perfectly with the content of that chapter. Since he was describing creation in chapter 1, 31 times he used the name Elohim, a name that declares God is the ruler of all nature and the sovereign Lord of the universe. Starting in chapter 2:4, Moses joins the name Elohim with the name Yahweh. He does this eleven times in chapter 2 to declare that the all-powerful Creator of the universe is willing to enter into a personal covenant relationship with man. The name Yahweh always signifies God’s faithfulness and personal care of His covenant people all through the books of Genesis and Exodus. There is no conflict for Moses to use the name Elohim 31 times in Genesis 1 to appropriately describe God as the Almighty Creator; and then in Genesis 2 and 3 to join the Creator’s name Elohim with Yahweh to show God is personal and faithful. This does not show multiple authors. Moses did what any other author would do, he used the name of God that perfectly fits the context.

Another assumption of the higher critics is that Genesis 2 presents a different creation account than Genesis 1, thus supposedly proving two different authors. But is this true? The answer again is no. Recent archaeological evidence shows that Genesis 2 was never intended to be a general creation account. Why? Because in every creation account ever found in ancient civilizations of the Near East, not one of them has ever omitted a description of the formation of the sun, moon, stars and seas. All of these items are mentioned in the creation accounts of the Near East, just as they are mentioned in Genesis 1. But none of these are mentioned in Genesis 2. It is therefore quite obvious that Moses, having completed his overall survey of God creating the world in Genesis 1, goes on to develop in detail in chapter 2 one important feature already mentioned, the existence of man. Genesis 2 provides specific information of God’s personal relationship to the man that He created and the gracious surroundings He provide for that man. Quite clearly, Genesis 2 does not represent a second creation account written by a different author. Once again, the Bible has been vindicated by the archaeological evidence. We invite you to hear tonight’s discussion.

Ankerberg: Welcome! My guests tonight are Dr. Gerald Larue, Professor Emeritus of Archaeology and Biblical Studies at the University of Southern California, and Dr. Walter Kaiser, Academic Dean and Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. Guys, we’re glad that you’re here tonight. We’re talking about, how was the Old Testament Written? And, obviously, many Christians—Evangelical Conservative Christians—believe the traditional ideas that Moses was the author of the Pentateuch; the prophets wrote the prophetic books that have their name attached to it; and so on. Let’s start with Genesis 1 and 2 right off the bat here tonight. Does it show different authors?
Kaiser: No, I don’t think it does show different authors. If you know anything about reading the texts from the Ancient Near East, which I have made part of my lifetime avocation to kind of work in these texts and the primary sources themselves, this is routine. You must have, for the very nature of Hebrew language where you put things in parallelism where you have line A and line B, you must vary it, so you need it. It happens so frequently that once we got into the wealth of literature that began coming from the Ancient Near East, why, we began to see how ridiculous this was.
Now actually it was a French physician, Jean Austruc, in 1753 who had this as his clue called, as you might imagine, Austruc’s Clue. His clue was that the early parts of Genesis must have utilized sources. Sure, it was the inspiration of God. He believed in the Mosaic authorship. He believed that God was the one who inspired it. But there must have been two documents—one which preferred to use the name Elohim, hence the “E” Document, and the other one which used the name “Jehovah” or Yahweh, which therefore became the “J” Document. And this has been passed on, would you believe it, since 1753.
But now, one of the main pillars has collapsed. As a matter of fact, that form or that criteria for pulling out what belongs to the “E” Document and what belongs to the “J” Document just doesn’t work. You have almost every deity in the Ancient Near East has alternate names, and these are routinely used in parallel phrases, one to another. So I would urge that that criteria not be used at all, nor be made a scientific basis. I’m embarrassed that the scientific community would use that. They ought to stop teaching that in their classes because we’ve got such a wealth of material that most people would be run out of town and would be labeled “Fundamentalist” if they used this kind of material. I don’t think they ought to do so at all. I’ll give professional advice, free of charge!
Larue: And the reason for that is not simply the name of God—that’s only one small part of this. The order of creation is completely different. In the so-called “J” story, the early folk tale, we have man created, then he’s lonely and alone so God goes to work and creates a mate for him. What does He do? He creates animals. And I have this vision of poor Adam sitting there naming all these creatures, “Hippopotamus, Giraffe—I don’t like it—Mosquito,…” and so on. And ultimately God finally, in desperation, I suspect, forms the woman. But in the “P” Document, the Genesis 1, the order is quite different. You have animals created and then humans. It’s a different order. You have also scientific problems with the “P” story far more than you do with the Oasis story of….
Ankerberg: But did I hear you slip and say that it doesn’t make any difference that one writer would call God by the name of Yahweh and the other one would say Elohim; that we don’t have to worry about that because that’s not a good criteria for dividing…?
Larue: No. I said that’s only one small criteria. And if you break this down, you have a consistency of the use of Elohim. and a consistency of the use of Yahweh. And so this has a validity.
Ankerberg: Okay. Dr. Kaiser, we’ve got two questions on the board here, and that is that apparently the higher critics don’t like one guy saying two names for God there….
Larue: Oh, more than two…
Ankerberg: I mean, you can’t call God anything except what they’re telling them that he can say it, and as soon as he does, somebody else is starting to write for him. What do you think about that?
Kaiser: Oh, I think that’s bad news. I really don’t understand how you can do that in the modern world. I think there are too many Old Testament scholars who are no longer trained in Hebrew, no longer trained in Sumerian,…
Larue: Yes.
Kaiser: …and in Akkadian and the Ugaritic and Egypto-hieroglyphics. They’ve got to be! We’ve got to control those documents. You can’t live on secondary sources, you’ve got to go to the primary ones themselves. You know, this story reminds me of the problem that really began in the literature where you have Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey were really divided into two different authors, because one is about war and the other is about peace, and you have different kinds of styles and vocabularies. You have discrepancy about a war-like kind of character and then you had a peace-like character.
But the interesting thing is that the whole field of literature got over the problem. And as a matter of fact, they were kind of helped by an English businessman, Heinrich Schliemann who went over and the scholars were writing, “It’s impossible that they had bronze greaves [an anklet.] This is a contradiction!” And Schliemann with no sense except his copy of Homer and a shovel dug down where he sort of, “Let’s see, Troy should be about here.” Now, it’s not as if he found a Trojan Horse with a verse on it, but indeed he did come up with bronze greaves. And he said, when the scholars said there’s no such thing, he said, “You mean, like these?” And they said, “Yes.” And so they just dropped it.
But we in the biblical fields are much more conservative. We track these things out for a long time. And only now, on the European sphere, you have scholars who are jumping off and literally getting out of it. For example, the Israeli scholars: Yehezkel Kaufmann, Umberto Cassuto; you now have Wrentroff and the editor of the prestigious Z.A.W.— Zeitschrift fur die Alttestestamentliche Wissenschaft—who also himself no longer… he said, “J and E, we can’t make that distinction. There is no such thing as P.”
I mean, this is not a Conservative, Fundamental, Orthodox, Evangelical case! This is a scholarly community that’s had its belly full, and said, “Look, we can’t prop the dead horse up any more!” You can prop a dead horse in the back, but the front falls down. You prop the front up, but the back falls down! I have to add that idea here. I’m sorry, John, but I don’t think it will work with the divine names.
Larue: You see, what you’re doing again, Cassuto is a conservative scholar. So is Yehezkel Kaufmann.
Kaiser: It’s really, though, they’re Jewish scholars.
Larue: But what difference does that make?
Kaiser: Well, we’re not talking about Christian scholars here.
Larue: No.
Kaiser: It’s not Christians that are trying to save their Bible.
Larue: No, no. But there are other Jewish scholars who are right on this track. And while they might not say JEDP, they say “sources.” And I get this all the time from Jewish scholars. And in France and in Europe and in Germany, the tendency is to go much farther than this and discard even more.
Ankerberg: Well, let me just come in here just for all the American people that are listening, okay, that don’t know Hebrew and don’t know Greek….
Larue: Yeah, I agree.
Ankerberg: Alright, right now, are you saying that if any of them write a book about their thoughts of God, that if they call Him “Jehovah” or “Lord” or “Adonai,” or they throw in anything that they want, okay, that therefore as soon as they have another name for God, that therefore another person is writing in their place?
Larue: You see, what you’re doing is playing this little simplistic game…
Ankerberg: I’m starting off with the assumption…
Larue: Wait a minute. It’s not simply the name of God. We have also the statement that you reject, where “My name was not known.” We have a lot of these things that we put together, and there is a stylistic thing; there is a linguistic thing. I can do it in Hebrew if you want.
Ankerberg: Alright, let’s take a good illustration on the style. I just wanted to bring that up so the people at home would start to understand where we’re coming from. Now, I’m coming back to Kaiser here. But let’s take an Englishman, okay? If this poor sucker had been a Hebrew writer, he’d have been dead in the water. Now, let me tell you what he did. Okay, everybody knows his name when I give it. But first of all, this guy had the audacity to write very merry, hilarious poems. That was number one. I’ll give you the names of them in a minute. Then he switched gears and wrote lofty, epic poetry, for example, like Paradise Lost, and then scintillating prose in the Areopagitica.
Larue: Yes.
Ankerberg: Alright, now, Milton wrote all three of those different styles. Shoot! If he’d been a Hebrew, he’d have been carved up and had “A, B, C.”
Larue: If he was writing the same thing and saying one thing with one order of creation in one, and another order of creation in another, yes, he would be hung up, because he would be inconsistent. Now….
Ankerberg: But he’s the same writer. You mean, he can’t…?
Larue: Of course! But the thing is, you mean that he would say, “These are both inspired writing?” Wait a minute…
Ankerberg: Just as in Paradise Lost, he could stylize it in one spot and turn around and be very serious in the next part.
Larue: He did not make the claim you’re making, which is “This is inspired. This is God…” You’re making God inconsistent!
Ankerberg: So you’re saying only inspired men couldn’t do it. All the other guys could do it. I’m saying Milton. You’re saying that Milton, if he had done it was okay.
Larue: I’m saying Milton would have said, “I’m writing hilarious poetry now and now I’m writing a different kind of thing.” I write different things too.
Ankerberg: I’m saying he did do that; and the fact is, if he had been a Hebrew writer, you would have carved him up into A, B, C.
Larue: No. No. No. If he had done…
Ankerberg: On the same basis, stylistic writing.
Larue: No, no. You’re jumping things. You’re mixing eggs and oranges and they don’t mix.
Ankerberg: I don’t see where I’m mixing it.
Larue: Well, let’s stick with the Hebrew text. We go back to the document.
Ankerberg: Let’s go back to the Hebrew text. Dr. Kaiser, let’s go back to this thing about the fact we need to get that beth essentia out there again, I think.
Kaiser: Yeah. Gerry, I think you said that I was the one who wasn’t willing to take the Exodus 6:2-3. I’m only following the greatest grammarian that we’ve ever had in Hebrew. Wouldn’t you agree that’s Gesenius?
Larue: Gesenius is it.
Kaiser: Gesenius is sort of…
Larue: He’s the grandfather.
Kaiser: …the “ground floor,” and he’s the grandfather of the whole thing. So I think that point needs to be made clear. But let’s go to your order. And I think that’s fair. I’ve enjoyed this little repartee. But at any rate, I think the order is extremely important. The narrative style of the writer of Genesis, if you take the book on its own terms, first of all, is one in which he traces in simple outline the whole deal, and then comes back to his main point and then traces it out in detail. That happens so frequently in the book. For example, I would argue, he does all of creation, but now it’s man, and now we’re back focusing on man in the Garden of Eden. He takes all the nations, but now it’s back to the Shemites, or the Semites, and now we’re going to go with them.
Then we come to Abraham. Now, Abraham has two children. We go out for a minute, take that child first, but now back to Isaac. And Isaac has two children. We take Esau first, but now back to Jacob. That happens so frequently that it seems to me we ought to give it a real hard look if we’re going to take the book on its own terms. And I would argue that what we have now said are two kinds of descriptions of creation—one in Genesis 1 through 2:4, and then the second one coming in 2:4 and following to make that a much, much more different account. That only works if you have the divine names first of all. Because it is true—Elohim is all in the first chapter, that’s true; and then you have a compound of Jehovah or Yahweh in the second chapter. But if that criteria is chopped out, why then, one of the ways in which I got there is gone.
See, one of my problems with higher criticism, the JEDP theory, is that the “first floor” —it is now agreed pretty universally even by those who still use sources, who are Jewish and Christian scholars who use sources, using our terms in the broadest spectrum here—they agree the “first floor” has been wiped out; that the evolutionary development here is simple too complex, that this happens sociologically. It happens religiously. People don’t argue that way anymore. And also the Hegelian movement, the philosophy. “You have a thesis, opposed by an antithesis, out of which comes a synthesis: That this is the way in which history moved.” They agreed that’s gone too. Now, some of the criteria are coming out too. If you’ve read Near Eastern sources, it just doesn’t happen. You can’t put all of your stock on the fact that there are two, three, four, five, six, eight, ten different names! I’ve seen that in documents. That works for what comes from the sand. So for me to introduce that as a criteria is wrong. Pretty soon we’re getting down with very, very slim pickings. And that was my basis for making a distinction between chapter 1 and chapter 2.
Larue: Now, wait a minute. You’ve translated this from the Hebrew. You know yourself, when you began to translate Genesis 1 you went through, and pretty soon you were swinging, because it was repetitious—“And God said,…” “and God said,…” “and it was night and it was day,” and so on. That was easy. When you…
Kaiser: Swinging? Why would I swing?
Larue: Go on! When you hit Genesis 2:4b, you were into a completely different style. It was as though you moved from Milton into Mark Twain. That difference in style is clear in the Hebrew. That’s the beginning; that’s number one. The second thing you’ve not addressed is the order of creation is different in the second story, completely different… or in the earlier story.
Kaiser: And I’d respond back that let’s take the order first, because that’s more serious. It is true that we focus right in on the garden and we go to man and we are not going through this same routine. And I think the answer is simple: Because he’s already covered that. He presumes chapter 1…
Larue: Wait… wait… wait…
Kaiser: …where he’s talked about the whole of creation…
Larue: No, no, no, no. In chapter 1, animals He created and then man. In chapter 2, man is created, then animals, then woman.
Kaiser: No. I wouldn’t agree to that, because in chapter 2 the animals that he talks about are the animals, hasadeh, of the field.
Larue: Right.
Kaiser: And he is now getting into the domesticated animals. He is now talking about cultivating the earth and the field.
Larue: Okay.
Kaiser: The Hebrew expressions are different…
Larue: So?
Kaiser: …and it’s unfair to leave the impression with the ordinary reader of English that he doesn’t have different expressions. You know, and I know that they are different.
Larue: Okay. So, but the order of creation is different. You have animals created in the first one and then you have man and woman created together. Here you have man created, then animals—domestic or whatever—created for his companionship and then ultimately woman. It’s quite different!
Kaiser: Then I would say it a different way then…
Larue: Okay.
Kaiser: …because I would say: You don’t have two creations. You’ve got one dealing with the creation, and the other dealing with the Garden of Eden setting up farming and domestication of animals and of the cultivation of the fields. To name both “creations” is our label. The text doesn’t label both creations. That’s my point. Hang with the text.
Ankerberg: We’ve got to take a break and we’re going to come back and then let’s ask you for the evidence: Is this apparent in anything else? In Ebla, or Ugarit, or any of the other writings? Does anybody else do that, or are the Hebrews the only ones that do that? So stick with us, we’ll be right back.

Ankerberg: Alright, we’re back, and we’re talking about the Old Testament. When we see different styles of writing, different words, does that automatically jolt your mind to think of different authors? Would you have thought the same way about Milton when he wrote very merry poetry, and then epic poetry, and then straight prose? Would we find that, if he wrote Hebrew literature, would we have had him into A, B, C, writers? We’re also talking about the actual evidence of other cultures at that time. Let me give you an example in terms of the style, because you’re talking about “the style is different.” The Hammurabi Codes, as I understand it, and you guys can correct me if I’m wrong here, they have in the one code, you’ve got both prose and poetry. Now, it’s attributed to one person. Is we’ve got two styles, why not have multiple authors there?
Larue: Very simple. One is a prose introduction to a legal code. There is legal language, and we have that in the book of Leviticus. I mean, there is a style of language when you do legal codes. This is the thing that the form critics have pointed out over and over again.
Ankerberg: But does that prove two authors?
Larue: Not necessarily.
Ankerberg: Well, then why would it in the Genesis record?
Larue: Because we’re not dealing with legal codes, we’re dealing with two different creation stories. And they’re quite different kinds of literature. The first one is obviously liturgical. It’s a repetitious thing. I can see this used in the temple. After all, the Old Testament was temple literature. This is not something everybody had under their arm and running around to their little homes and read in the evening. This is temple literature, and therefore it is associated with a cultus.
Ankerberg: And your main reason for saying that it can’t be one writer is what?
Larue: Is that there is a difference in style. The first is a liturgical style, the other, which I think is much older, is much more of a narrative style. It’s a folk tale.
Ankerberg: And you’re convinced that no one person, if he was given the duty to do that, could have written two different styles about the same account.
Larue: Of course somebody could write two different styles…
Ankerberg: Oh…
Larue: …but not, I would hope, with the kind of contradictions that are here. And also, different patterns of language.
Ankerberg: Alright, Dr. Kaiser, you’re going to have to wrap it up. What do you think?
Kaiser: Well, I think that we do have the “A/B/A” form where you have poetry, narrative poetry, you have poetry, legal materials, poetry back again. The claim that I would make is that within the Genesis material, between chapter 1 and 2 or the whole Pentateuch, we have a wide range of literature, of genre, of literary forms and all of them are being used. There is nothing in inspiration that says because God is speaking, it must come out as systematic theology—point one, point two, point three—that there can’t be a switching in style to meet the particular objective, and that I think we’d have to demonstrate to say God must only use one style and we know there is a divine style. There is no such thing. There is a wide variety and the presence of it in the Ancient Near East with variety in the same document ought to demonstrate the same ought to be true for the biblical documents as well.
Ankerberg: Alright. We’re going to move on next week to: Were there two writers of Isaiah? And what about Daniel? So I hope that you’ll join us.

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