I have been reading the part of Georg Fohrer’s Introduction to the Old Testament that gives his view of the development and sources of the Pentateuch or Torah.
To clarify Fohrer’s form of the Documentary Hypothesis, let me summarize it as I understand it to this point. First, there grew up a basic oral narrative cycle concerned with Yahweh worship and affirming that this God had given Israel land. We may call this fundamental national epic G for groundwork. A second version of G came about with the Joseph and Balaam stories added along with other material. Fohrer called
Then in the court at Jerusalem, during the divided-kingdom period, a pro-monarchy author using G2 and other lore, lists and songs wrote the Yahwist account of Israel’s origins. This was J.
There were two reactions to this. In the Northern Kingdom Levites opposed to the northern monarchy, also using G2, wrote parallel accounts (the narrative in this stratum is continuous but it is not clear that the whole existed as a single document) drawing upon northern traditions, law collections and prophetic critiques of the government and priesthood. This was E.
In the far south there were nomads who passed on traditions that had not gone through the writing process of G2–in other words, they adhered to the original G. They produced a parallel work emphasizing suspicion of civilization, cities, and settled agriculture. This appears to have been a literary source, even though it stands upon only oral tradition. This was N.
To complete Fohrer’s view of the documents, I will briefly recount his view of the other source strata. The scroll of the law found in the Temple in Josiah’s reign (2 Kings 22:8) was proto-Deuteronomy, a form of Deuteronomy to which several things have been added to make our present Book of Deuteronomy.
Proto-Deuteronomy was a revision and expansion of the Covenant Code (an E document). It came into existence in the Northern Kingdom before its fall. Then refugees brought it to Jerusalem. Perhaps Hezekiah’s scribes were revising it at the time of Hezekiah’s political downfall. So they deposited it in the Temple after 701 BCE. Perhaps dissident scribes revised it even more during the reign of Manasseh with a view to using it as a reform program. Anyway, that is how it was used by Josiah.
A whole school of theology developed in Jerusalem which we call the Deuteronomistic school. The Book of Deuteronomy went through a further process of revision and expansion by scribes of this school. It is a major achievement because it manages a synthesis between the concerns of the prophets, the concerns of the priests and the concerns of religious nationalists. This is the D stratum.
A huge part of the Pentateuch consists of priestly material, the whole of Leviticus; much of Exodus and Numbers; and some of Genesis. Contrary to the more recent work of several Jewish scholars (Kauffman, Knohl, Milgrom), Fohrer dated this material to the period after the Babylonian exile. With the Temple in ruins and having been transported to a pagan and alien country, some priests turned to scribal activity preparing for the day they would restore the Temple. This was P.
Priestly scribes wrote it in exile and also combined it with J,N,E and D in time for Ezra to bring it back to the Jerusalem community as a law for the Jews authorized by the King of Persia (Ezra 7:6 and Nehemiah 8-9).
This is the view Fohrer came to. I disagree with some of it. I don’t think you can take something like G–which must have existed, since it just means the coordinated oral tradition before the written documents–and define it exactly or assume it was also a written document. G is too nebulous for that.
Also I think P existed before the exile. Some of the P material certainly did. The blessing of Aaron has been found on the pre-exilic silver scrolls (see here). And I think Jeremiah 4:23 shows that Jeremiah knew P’s creation story. Moreover, Israel Knohl has made a strong case for P representing the thought world of the priests of the first temple.
I doubt the existence of N as a document. However, the anti-civilization theme is there in the Torah and does clash with J’s ideology and probably comes from a point of view represented by people who had some influence in Jerusalem. For instance, Nathan came to the position that God travels around in a tent and can’t be put in a house (2 Samuel 7:5-7). This would jive with the N world-view. Also the whole point of the Feast of Tabernacles seems to be that Israel should acknowledge that living in tents is necessary, at least symbolically, in order to get close to God.
Although not all of Fohrer’s positions hold up, some of his insights will stick with me. That the earliest narrative traditions were about the claim of land is something that makes sense. This morphs into the stance of most Israelite religion that the people hold the land as tenets of God. Also I appreciate his understanding of proto-Deuteronomy and its relation to Josiah’s reform for its unusual clarity. And now that I have seen the “Nomadic” part of the Pentateuchal traditions, I won’t be able to unsee it.