For Tom of Tomndebb OT Formation

Hi Tom,

Are you too busy to think/write about OT strand formation?
Want to wait until after the holidays?

I’ve been looking at my third grade social studies text’s
time line and think it is probably as valid as any other.
It might be a good place to start - to accept this as a
given in an OT Biblical discussion.


1800 Abraham comes to Cannan

1260 Moses leads the Hebrews from Egypt
|The period of Judges
1050 Wars with the Philistines begin

1020 Saul is King
1000 David is King
David conquers Jerusalem

961 Soloman is King

922 The Kindgom is divided into Israel and Judah
722 Assyrians conquer Israel
586 Babylonians conquer Judah
The Babylonian Captivity

539 Cyrus the Persian conquers Babylon
|Palestine ruled by Persia
322 Alexander the Great conquers Palestine
My third grade text is:
Allyn and Bacon, Inc. The Human Adventure: Four World Views.
Pub. 1971 and in (sadly) out of print. I’m trying to find a
teacher’s manual for it since third graders don’t usually
get a lot of footnotes/sources in their texts.

So even if you don’t want to start this now, save or remind
me to reprint this later if you agree with these
approximate dates.

Oh, I’m gonna keep using these #%@&* codes 'til I get 'em right.

I think that more recent attempts at chronologies differ from yours by perhaps ten years at a few of the earlier points. However, I’m at work at the moment, and don’t have references handy.

I actually don’t have any recent chronologies. I had to let my Biblical Archaeology Review lapse (with a few others) when I began indulging in the hobby of child-rearing. I do have some textual references that I use for constructing general sequences. (Think Pert or Gantt chart rather than calendar.)

OTOH, I’ll have more time to try this sort of thing over the weekend (unless my wife reminds me of plans of which I was previously unaware).

Is there a specific goal for this question? I have vague memories of earlier discussions, but I would be better able to put together coherent text if I knew where we wanted to arrive.


Is there a specific goal for this question? Well, sort of… I’ve been
working on the formation process for a while, think I have all the corners
glued down, but when I step back to see the whole picture it usually looks
more like Picasso than da Vinci. I think this info might be helpful to
other people, too.

In an earlier post you kindly offered to give your rendering of the J, P, E
(&?) strands that go into making the first 5-6 books of the OT. I was
trying to think of ways to establish “givens” so you wouldn’t have to
construct something/everything from ground zero.

I picked this chronology because it is simple and basic and probably as
accurate as we need for this purpose. If you agree then that’s one thing
out of the way.

Gantt chart would be helpful.

Is there anything else we could establish as a given?

Finally, is the board just too rough right now do something like this?

Thank you.

The board’s never too rough. (You just have to wear higher hip boots sometimes.)

OK. I remember the discussion, now. I think I can work this out over the weekend–barring marital obligations. (Then PM and Moriah get to fill in my gaps and Dex gets a week to correct it. I don’t remember how much interest Polycarp, Euty, and a few others have in Redaktionegeschichte, but they’re all welcome to cover my errors.)

(Of course, if you have any talent as a user of computer services, you will wait until it’s a 300 post thread, then come back to say “But that isn’t what I wanted.”)


LOL - I’ll print this on a “Post-it” so I won’t forget when the time comes!

You called my name and summoned me, O master!

The outline of history of the OT is basically good enough for general knowledge.

As far as the timeline for the theorized documentary strands that were woven to make up the Torah (and a few of the following historical books), here is an excerpt from THE INTERNATIONAL STANDARD BIBLE ENCYCLOPEDIA
James Orr, M.A., D.D. General Editor
Copyright, 1939, by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (now in public domain)…

Here is a more simplified link:


I have here a small book (74 pages) entitled Adam’s Rib, written by Robert Graves and illustrated by wood engravings made by James Metcalf and ©1955 by Trianon Press of Great Britain. It makes an interesting argument: That the reason the first four chapters of Genesis are so mixed up is because the Hebrews got the story from a series of pictures that were read in the wrong order:

The book goes on to say that these pictures were arranged in a series of rows, one atop the other, that were to have been read thusly:

And so on to the end. This sequence is called boustro-phedon, which means, “as the ox ploughs.”

But the Hebrews read right to left exclusively:


And that’s how the sequence got out of order: Light before the Sun; plants before the Sun; Cain “knowing” his wife, even though he, Adam and Eve were the only people on Earth; Cain worrying others would kill him even though there WERE no others.

The authors also postulate that a picture depicting a rival killing another with a knife in the heart was mis-interpreted as God creating Eve from one of Adam’s ribs, hence the title of this book. this process of mis-interpretation is called “iconotropy.”

Have any of you heard any of this before? And this book I’m holding is available at the Public Library, so maybe it’s fairly easy to find. And I’m treating it carefully because it’s a First Edition and 44 years old!

Just tryin’ to help.


Sorry about the italics screw-up.



Never heard of the book Adam’s Rib (though I liked the movie :slight_smile: ).

From what you described, I can say that it is not anywhere near what current mainstream consensus is on the formation of the creation story.

There are much simpler parallels and analogous creation stories from other Ancient Near East cultures that can explain where the Hebrews got their creation story from. And using Occam’s razor, the complicated turn of events described in that book should be discounted.

Light was created before light sources simply because the ancient Hebrews did not understand the science behind light.


Important in these discussions to remember that when it comes to the events preceding about 600 BC, we just don’t know for sure. There have been many theories and explanations put forth, some with hidden biases (for instance, during the 1800s, several of the most famous writers involved in developing the soi-disant Documentary theory had the not-so-hidden agenda of “proving” that all Israelite writings were “borrowed” from other cultures because the Jews couldn’t have invented anything new.)

Most scholars today agree that the earliest writers (called J and E, based on the Name they use fo God) were combined to form a JE-document. Friedman’s book, WHO WROTE THE BIBLE, is probably the best lay-persons version: he postulates that the J and E had a common narrative thread in ancient times but applied different interpretations – for instance, stressing the role of the Aaronite priests compared to the other priestly families. These different emphases led to different versions of the same story – thus, both J and E have versions of Joseph (IIRC, I’m doing this from a London hotel and away from my resources), with Levi or Reuben playing a role somewhat better than the other brothers, respectively. Same story, different details.

Friedman postulates that the JE document was put together after the destruction of the northern kingdom (700s BC), when the remnants of the northern kingdom tried to integrate into the southern kingdom. The combined document was a way of saying, we have a common ancestry and tradition. This would explain why there was so much duplication – both versions were included.

The Deuteronomist document (D) is most interesting – Friedman posits that most of it was written before the Babylonians destroyed Judea, but that it was then edited (by the same hand) after Jerusalem was destroyed. Friedman puts forth Jeremiah as a likely candidate for D-author.

The P document is a separate strand, but presumably combined with JE document sometime prior to around 600s BC. Friedman puts forth the suggestion that Ezra (or his scribe Baruch) is a likely candidate for redactor, around 550 BC.

Note that an additional complexity is that a given document strand might have been edited by “followers” of the school – hence, some analysts split the Deuteronomist document into D1 and D2 (and perhaps others).

That help? I did this from memory, so I expect Tom and Moriah to have at it.

Also, please note, that there is a traditionalist school that continues to maintain a common author (either written or dictated by God, presumably to Moses) with only minor or no emendation. The people who hold to this view (I presume CMKeller?, inter alia) have answers to all the arguments of the Documentary theorists, and those answers can be quite compelling.


(It occasionally looks more like Jackson Pollock.)

I am not going to produce what I attempted. There are substantial sections (e.g., most of Deuteronomy) which are attributed to a single author and in looking over my schematic, I figured that I could type in the more fragmented parts with simply a bit more effort.

However, This is what I came up with for simply the first 15 chapters of Genesis:
P: Gn 1:1 - 2:4a
J: Gn 2:4b - 4:26
P: Gn 5:1 - 5:28
J: Gn 5:29
P: Gn 5:30 - 5:32
J: Gn 6:1 - 6:8
P: Gn 6:9 - 6:22
J: Gn 7:1 - 7:5
P: Gn 7:6 -
J: Gn 7:7 - 7:10
P: Gn 7:11
J: Gn 7:12
P: Gn 7:13 - 7:16a
J: Gn 7:16b
P: Gn 7:17a
J: Gn 7:17b
P: Gn 7:18 - 7:21
J: Gn 7:22 - 7:23
P: Gn 7:24 - 8:2a
J: Gn 8:2b - 8:3a
P: Gn 8:3b - 8:5
J: Gn 8:6 - 8:12
P: Gn 8:13a
J: Gn 8:13b
P: Gn 8:14 - 8:19
J: Gn 8:20 - 8:22
P: Gn 9:1 - 9:17
J: Gn 9:18 - 9:27
P: Gn 9:28 - 10:7
J: Gn 10:8 - 10:19
P: Gn 10:20
J: Gn 10:21
P: Gn 10:22 - 10:23
J: Gn 10:24 - 10:30
P: Gn 10:31 - 10:32
J: Gn 11:1 - 11:9
P: Gn 11:10 - 11:27
J: Gn 11:28 - 11:30
P: Gn 11:31 - 11:32
J: Gn 12:1 - 12:4a
P: Gn 12:4b - 12:5
J: Gn 12:6 - 13:5
P: Gn 13:6
J: Gn 13:7 - 13:11a
P: Gn 13:11b - 13:12a
J: Gn 13:12b - 13:18
*: Gn 14:1 - 14:24 (special insertion of older material)
E/J: Gn 15:1 - 15:26 (mixed reviews as to E or J as the source)

I’m afraid that I do not have the energy to complete even Genesis, much less the remaining five books.
I am continuing to look for an on-line presentation of this material. Unfortunately, 95% of the sites that address the issue are fundy cranks that are attacking this literary reconstruction.

([rant]The “fundy crank” comment refers to the specific sites I have found. I have no problem with or disdain for a Christian or Jew who takes the position that the Mosaic authorship is established in tradition and that any discrepancies that are found are simply misperceptions or minor adjustments to the text that we cannot understand at this distant remove. I do not agree with that position, but the position may be valid. My problem with the “fundy cranks” is that every one of them claims that the “higher criticism” approach is merely an attempt to remove God and Divine Revelation from the bible, perpetrated by unbelievers. That calumny is simply not true. If you run the list of names in the citation that Moriah provided, you cannot find an unbeliever among them. These were men who truly believed that they were studying the Word of God, but discovered questions in it regarding how it came to be organized in the way that we find it, today.[/rant])

Until I can find an actual on-line schema, you can try the Encyclopædia Britannica:,5716,119704+1,00.html
(If the link fails, search for “pentateuch” or search for “biblical literature” then select “Old Testament Literature” from the index on that article.)
The EB’s article is fairly detailed while remaining (mostly) clear and it does present a broader outline of the sources and applications of J, E, P, and D (plus H!).

My schematic is found in The Men and the Message of the Old Testament by Peter F. Ellis.

The resource I rely on most heavily is Introduction to the Old Testament by Otto Eissfeldt.

The resource that I have seen most frequently referenced by other people is The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, Metzger, Bruce M. ed.

The source that Moriah posted is a pretty good synopsis of the road we took to get to our current understanding. (As any attempt to sketch a complex subject, briefly, it may fail to give enough detail in some areas while assuming too much knowledge on the part of the reader on the other–do you want it brief or complete? There is no brief and complete.)

I am going to continue to try to find an online schematic of the JEPD outline. I don’t know how much luck I will have.


Whew! The EB link worked (at least for me ;)). (It did take quite a while to load, but it came up.)

Friedman lists his own suggestion for authorship in the appendix to his book, WHO WROTE THE BIBLE.

Whilst there is some consensus on much of the authorship, there is far from unanimity. There is also the notion that an ultimate Redactor added bits and pieces of transition here and there – taking a traditional story and inserting it at some spot, and giving it a few lines of introduction.

There was a recent book, THE STORY OF J, I think, which took the position that J was female and one of the world’s greatest poets… but then seemed to assign everything the author viewed as great poetry to J.

So a schemata of which parts were written by whom is mostly guess work. One can’t even use the J or E names of God as an indicator, since sentences that seem most logically ascribed to E sometimes use the J-name.

My own speculation on this is as follows:

I cannot satisfactorily juxtapose in my mind the ideas of (Mosaic) law evolving through the period of the two kingdoms, the Exile, and shortly afterwards, and the respect paid by Jewish people to the Torah since. Such information as we have about the Persian and Hellenistic period indicates respect at the not-one-jot-or-tittle level or nearly so. This does not “fit” with the scholarly speculations about J, E, P, D, and their redactors, friends, and relations.

My own hunch is something of the following sort: Moses began the process with teachings regarding YHWH and the right relationship of the Hebrew people, individually and collectively, with Him. Moses’ teachings included moral-imperative, ritualistic, and behavioral strands. As the Hebrew people became a settled agro-pastoral community in Judges times, it was supplemented by additional legislation considered as derivative from what Moses had taught and therefore incorporated with it. Strands of this were preserved in Judea, the area around Shechem, and probably Shiloh. The latter was taken to Jerusalem when that fell to the Israelites about 1000 BC. As the prophetic tradition became a separate function from the priestly, a version focusing on ethical conduct but incorporating parts of the others evolved for their use. Each strand had varying emphases from the others. These gave rise to three distinct textual Torahs which were regarded as facets of one Law, similarly to what most Christians see with the four gospels. These strands eventually became the J, E, P, and D traditions. Towards the end of the Kingdoms and continuing thereafter, attempts were made to produce a “Harmony of the Torahs” analogous to the “Harmony of the Gospels” that used to be quite common in Christian use. This interfoliation of the four strands was adopted after the Exile as the finalized text.

Though it may sound like I’m regurgitating the 4-document hypothesis, there is a distinct difference. What I’m suggesting is the preservation of four honored and respected Torahs, all considered as derivative from Moses, and the successful attempt to unite them into one. The distinction between this and the oral-tradition complete flexibility of the other theory is to me significant.

Yikes, Tom, That schematic is going to pop the rivets on the edges as well as the corners… And it is too much work, too.

Moriah, Dex, Polycarp and the EB all point to a body of material (or several bodies of material) fluid enough at some point or at several points in time to be joined together or with other materials.

That sound fair?

And Dex, is it Friedman or Freedman, David Noel?

I once asked someone, “So who was Cain’s wife?”

He replied, in perfect seriousness, “One of his sisters.”



I’ll take your word on the spelling, jois, I’m in London on a business trip, and don’t have access to my sources (spelling ain’t one of my best traits.)

And I dont’ disagree with you Polycarp. One of the joys of Freedman’s approach is the focus on the similarity of the seemingly diverse texts, implying an original (Mosaic, if you want) that received different treatment over the centuries by different political factions (north and south) and then were again unified.

One of the reasons why I like this set up is that someone now can give you a nice crack on the noggen for asking that question to begin with…

Anything prior to Abraham sotry was an effort to explain what went on before Abraham was chosen. Someone adapted those tales from Ur (a lot easier to spell than Mesopotamia) in light of what the descendants of Abraham had learned about their God.

The pre-logical minds that heard those stories didn’t care about where the wives came from, or the water, or the wood, or the animals; but the outcome, the fulfilling of the contract.

::Ice for Jag1::

<q>One of the joys of Freedman’s approach is the focus on the similarity of the seemingly diverse texts, implying an original (Mosaic, if you want) that received different treatment over the centuries by different political factions (north and south) and then were again unified.</q> So,this makes the diagram a topological wonder rather than a straight Venn or any other model.

Excuse me, Jab1, I must have just heard a WWRAW (?)commercial.

Oh, I’m gonna keep using these #%@&* codes 'til I get 'em right.