Question

What is JEDP?

Answer

JEDP, or the Documentary Hypothesis, is a theory that states that the first five books of the Bible, called the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), were not written completely by Moses, but by different authors.

The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible, regarding Genesis, states:

Because this book is part of the unified Pentateuch, establishing its authorship cannot be entirely separated from the composition of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy (see "Introduction to the Pentateuch"). Evidences for Genesis itself suggest that, as is the case with the rest of the Pentateuch, Moses, under the Holy Spirit's inspiration, gave the book its essential substance; therefore, he may correctly be called its author. Later inspired editors modernized and supplemented it in a number of places to form the book as we have it today.

It would be arbitrary to exclude Genesis from the New Testament testimony that Moses authored the Pentateuch. More specifically, our Lord said, "Moses gave you circumcision" (Jn 7:22; see also Ac 15:1), a rite that was uniquely laid out in Genesis 17.

The authorship of Genesis has also been called into question. For the past century, scholars have contended that it is composed of conflicting documents by different writers, usually identified as: J (for the writer or writers who referred to God as Jahweh/Yahweh, "the Lord"), E (for the writer or writers who referred to God as Elohim, "God"), P (for the writer or writers who were concerned with priestly matters) and D (for the writer or writers of Deuteronomy). Although this approach, commonly called the documentary hypothesis, is still widely accepted, few believe any longer that these documents can be used to reconstruct a history of Israel's religion, since all the alleged sources contain both early and late materials. To be sure, many documents were composed in the ancient Near East by combining earlier written sources, and Moses himself may have used them, but no criticism has successfully demonstrated that Moses himself could not have authorized or written from all four perspectives. Moreover, many scholars today question the criteria used for identifying these sources and emphasize instead the unity of the text in hand. For example, the flood story, a veritable textbook example of synthesis, according to the documentary hypothesis, is now conceded to have remarkable integrity.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).