Monday, June 05, 2006

On Documentary Hypothesis

Documentary Hypothesis has been the topic of conversation on some major blogs of late. So when the following quote caught my eye I thought it should be posted.
...The academic study of the Bible has raised major methodological questions, not least about whether the Bible - and even the single book of Genesis - is in fact a coherent and integral whole. The so-called documentary hypothesis argues that what we call the Bible is in fact a latter-day compilation of disparate materials, written by different authors at different times, having different outlooks and intentions, even employing different concepts of and names or God. But even granting that the material compiled in Genesis came, to begin with, from different sources, one must still consider what intention or idea of wholeness governed the act of compilation that produced the present text. Must one assume that the redactor was some pious fool who slavishly stitched together all the available disparate stories without rhyme or reason, heedless of the contradictions between them? Or should we not rather give the redactor the benefit of the doubt and assume that he knew precisely what he was about? Could he perhaps have deliberately juxtaposed contradictory stories to enable us to discover certain contradictory aspects of the world thereby made plain? True, finding a coherent interpretation of the whole does not guarantee that one has found the biblical author's (or redactor's) own intention. But it should give pause to those who claim that the text could have no such unity. Besides, knowing the historical origins or sources of the text is not substitute for learning its meaning; to discover the meaning, a text must be studied in its own terms.
Leon R. Kass The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis. p. 13-14.

This book was given to me by a good friend and I found the above quote to be rather astute for a non-religious insight. I do not know the author, though a guest for a Shabbos lunch knew quite a lot about Kass (the guest's brother apparently works with Kass and speaks quite highly about him). I'm quite interested in what Kass has to say about
Bereshit, I'm sure I'll blog about it in the future.

1 comment:

ADDeRabbi said...

robert alter has written extensively on the need to treat the bible as a unified text