Documentary Hypothesis, Reaction Paper Example

The Documentary Theory of the Pentateuch aims to prove that there are inconsistencies in the authorship of the first five books of the bible, therefore contradicting the Christian belief that the first part of the Torah was handed down from God to Moses (Archer 2007). In order to understand why this theory is incorrect, we must first explore the four documents of the documentary hypothesis; the ultimate goal of this analysis will be to demonstrate that alternative authorship of these documents do not adequately account for known historical facts and Christian teachings.

One of the major inconsistencies that supporters of the documentary theory discuss in their criticisms is that there is a difference in the vocabulary used to refer to “God” in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. In Genesis 1, God was mostly called Elohim; in Genesis 2, He was referred to as Jehovah or Yahweh. Jean Astruc resolved this problem in his “Conjectures Concerning the Original Memoranda Which It Appears Moses Used to Compose the Book of Genesis” (Astruc 1753). Astruc explains that Moses used two different sources that gave two different accounts of creation; these two sources preferred to call God by either Elohim or Jehovah.

Astruc’s idea contradicts the theory the four documents were written over time by an author other than Moses. Supporters of the theory believe that “J” was authored by an unknown author in the Southern kingdom of Judah in 850 B.C., “E” was authored by an unknown author in the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 750 B.C., “D” was believed to have been written under the guidance of the high priest Hilkiah and sponsored by King Joseph in 621 B.C., and “P” was thought to have been written around 570 B.C. A significant problem with this theory is that supporters assume all of these documents that contribute to Pentateuch were written over several hundred years. Christianity teaches us that God looked to Moses to record the first five books of the bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy ( n.d.). A majority of this religious history existed before Moses’ own time, so to write a faithful account of what had transpired at the time of creation, he may have required the input of others who were able to rely this information effectively. This would support Astruc’s idea that calling God either Elohim or Jehovah doesn’t provide evidence that the Pentateuch’s authorship is other than Moses; rather, it reflects the use of several sources in his journey to record the word of God.

Additional arguments against the Documentary Theory of the Pentateuch point out inconsistencies regarding the messages that God delivered to Moses in order for him to be able to write the first five books. Supporters of the theory have claimed that “The author of Genesis 36:31 obviously knew about kings in Israel which took place well after Moses, so Moses could not have written this”. However, this claim is not easily proven; when examining Christian teachings, we learn that Moses was aware of many prophecies. In particular, he was aware that this had been predicted about Israel when the Lord told Abraham (Genesis 17:6) and Jacob (Genesis 35:11) that Israel would have kings. In addition, Moses himself prophesied this in in Deuteronomy 17:14–20. Therefore, Moses already knew that kings would rule Israel and he would have been able to record this knowledge in Genesis (Mortenson and Hodge 2011).

Although there are countless arguments against the validity of Documentary Theory of the Pentateuch, this reaction paper was only able to discuss a few in depth. Ultimately, people who oppose the idea of Moses being a primary author of the first five books of the bible do not have enough evidence to contradict Christian teachings; their arguments are neither historically nor chronologically accurate.


Gleason Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Moody Publishers, 2007), Chapter 6.

Jean Astruc, Conjectures Concerning the Original Memoranda which it Appears Moses Used to Compose the Book of Genesis, (1753).

Terry Mortenson and Bodie Hodge, “Did Moses Write Genesis”, Answers in Genesis, 2011.

Unknown, “Did Moses Write the Bible”, Bible Questions Answered, n.d.