An intelligent engineering student decided to discourage the faith of several young Christians. And they decided, because they were concerned about him, to ask him to meet with their campus pastor. He agreed. He was glad to vent, to a trained minister, his contempt for the Bible. He stated emphatically that the Scriptures had been fraudulently pieced together from pre-existing, often contradictory material.Later the pastor reported his astonishment that this otherwise well-educated young man actually believed that the secretive documents, “J” “E” “P” “D” and “Q”, are in the possession of the scholars who talk about them.
The student, like many thousands of others, had taken some religion courses at the university. In these courses, professors advocated matter-of-factly the theory that, throughout Israel’s history and into the time of the early church, sacred documents had been assembled and reassembled to form a final product, the books we now have in our Bibles.
Some of these professors are so confident in their presumptions that they give the false impression that the theoretical “documents” “redactors” and “editors” they speak of are historically-and even visually identified.
The interesting truth is: The theory was born in a time when little factual evidence of the Bible’s past was known. Then after the theory became popular, unfolding facts-recovered by archeologists, linguists and historians-were ignored and suppressed.
The first scholarly introductions to the Bible that questioned its historical reliability were written in 1780 and 1806. At that time, “not a single script or language of the pre-Christian orient had been deciphered, and not a single scientific excavation had been undertaken,” writes Larry L. Walker of Mid-America Baptist Seminary.
So these introductions’ explanations about how the Bible came into existence were pure speculations that could not be tested by fact.
Even after major archeological excavations were underway and Egyptian, Akkadian, Phoenician, and Old South Arabic languages had been deciphered, Julius Wellhausen chose to ignore what was being learned, when he wrote his classic, Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel. In this volume, he poplarized theoretical writers he called the “Jehovist” (“J” who wrote about a god called Jehovah), the “Elohist” (“E” who wrote about another god called Elohim), and the authors of the “Priestly Code” (“P” who made up stories about their forefathers and wrote laws they claimed came from God).
Later theorists would add the “Deuteronimist” (“D” who wrote the version of things contained in Deuteronomy) and “Q” (a supposed source for materials contained in the Gospels).
Wellhausen and his theological descendants ignored the fact that it was a common practice in ancient documents of the Near East to use dual names for God. So the Old Testament speaks of Jehovah-Elohim; and the presence of these dual names simply does not indicate two different gods and two different sources for books of the Old Testament.
The structure of Genesis and Deuteronomy is-even in terms of their repetitive accounts in key places-similar to documents from the periods of history in which the believing church claims they were written.
And concerning the New Testament, it is remarkable-whether there is a “Q” document or not-when historians can study accounts of the words and deeds of a powerful ancient figure like Jesus that were written between no more than twenty to fifty years of his life.
By BOB GARRINGER