Torah Sources

For something a bit different from my usual style, I thought I would share a useful chart. Scholars generally agree that the Torah (or Pentateuch or Books of Moses) were written primarily by four different sources over the years of its development. Generally no scholars still think that Moses wrote the entire Torah as both Christian and Jewish tradition says, although some might theorize that Moses was one of these four sources. From my understanding, that there are four sources with these general characteristics is agreed upon, but there is some debates about the dates, ranging forward from about 1200 BCE to about 500 BCE in estimates I’ve seen (this chart is on the later end).

Yahwist (J) Elohist (E) Deuteronomic (D) Priestly (P)
Main genre narrative narrative social laws cultic laws
Before Moses, God is called Yahweh (LORD) Elohim (God) Yahweh (LORD) or Yahweh Your God Elohim (God)
Father of 12 tribes Israel Jacob
Mountain Sinai Horeb
Those in the land Canaanites Amorites
Moses’ father-in-law ReuelHobab Jethro
In Genesis, the main focus is on Abraham and Sarah; Isaac and Rebekah Jacob, Leah and Rachel
Most events linked to them occur at Beersheba Bethel and Shechem
God is antropomorphic distant transcendent
God communicates directly through dreams/angels through Moses through the cult of priesthood
Literary style vivid, lively, engaging less direct long speeches; repeated phrases lists; schemata
Emphasis on leaders the people Jerusalem priests
Place for sacrificial worship many many argues for Jerusalem only assumes Jerusalem only
Who is allowed to offer sacrifice many many Levites only The House of Aaron only
Source of the tradition South North North South
Date ca. 950 BCE ca. 850 BCE ca. 650 BCE ca. 550 BCE

Ryan Robinson

It is easiest to identify Ryan as both theologian and tech guy. By day, Ryan is a Technical Consultant work with PeaceWorks Technology Solutions. There, he works on websites, CRMs, and SharePoint implementations. Along with blogging here, Ryan is a founding member of the MennoNerds blogging network and a contributor to the book A Living Alternative.