Within the spectrum of Old Testament scholarship, the majority of non-evangelical scholars are advocates of the Documentary Hypothesis. This theory states that the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) was not written completely by Moses but by different post-Mosaic authors. The theory suggests that these authors are determined by the usage of different Hebrew words within the specific books of the Pentateuch. The suggested authors are the Jehovist, the Elohist, the Priestly, and the Deuteronomist, which is why the Documentary Hypothesis is also refered to as the JEDP theory. Thus, the supposed authors are known as the Jehovist, the Elohist, the Priestly, and the Deuteronomist. Since Moses’ death is dated around 1451 B.C., it is important to mention that this view proposes that the last parts of the Pentateuch were completed in the 5th century B.C., meaning that the composition of the Torah took nearly 1,000 years! This theory, and I want to emphasize that this is a theory, is quite influential within Old Testament scholarship.
Perhaps the best response to this view has been proposed by Dr. Duane Garrett of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in his Rethinking Genesis. I find myself turning to this quite often when studying transmission theory and the study of Genesis (and the Pentateuch).
Garrett’s work is convincing for a number of reasons, but that is not my point here. I was actually thinking about how the majority of scholars all agree that the Pentateuch had some editors. Moses obviously did not write that he was the most humble man on the face of the earth (Num. 12:3), nor did he write about his own death (Deut. 34). Clearly there was an editor(s) that supplied clarifying information of the narratives. In Rethinking Genesis, Garrett provides a compelling summary of how this editing took place and how it does not destroy the overall authorship of Genesis (and the Pentateuch) as being attributed to Moses. The Pentateuch had editing.
Furthermore, Luke writes that he had a collection of sources and that he investigated them and then edited those things into his gospel (cf. Luke 1:2-3). The past two years have provided a rich source of depth in my understanding of Luke’s theology. I’m convinced more than ever that Luke was a master historian and a master theologian. He has very specific reasons for writing what he writes, and I have to assume that he made his report about the life of Jesus for a specific reason. Thus, he added the same material as the other Synoptics for a reason and left out specifics for others.
I can see that evangelical cholarship is very strong on emphasizing the inspiration of the biblical writers. Peter writes that the authors of the Scriptures “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21). Evangelicals spend countless hours, in contrast to lower criticism and anti-supernatural hermeneutics, making the point that the authors were divinely inspired. God was at work through the biblical authors (By the way, I know of zero evangelicals who believe in the “dictation” theory).
So here’s my point. I think we need to also recognize and even make sure to teach that not only did the Holy Spirit inspire biblical authors, He guided the process of editing and compiling. This is clear in the Old Testament because many “books” that were sources for the Pentateuch were “grandfathered” and included into the specific books (e.g., “the book of the generations of Adam” in Gen. 5:1). This does not, in any way, negate the inspiration of Scripture by the Holy Spirit and does not destroy the trustworthiness of the Bible. Rather, it is how God chose to have the Scriptures composed and how He providentially gave His Word to man.
Luke is a pastor-theologian living in northern California, serving as a co-lead pastor with his life, Dawn, at the Red Bluff Vineyard. Father of five amazing kids, when Luke isn’t hanging with his family, reading or writing theology, he moonlights as a fly fishing guide for Confluence Outfitters. He blogs regularly at LukeGeraty.com and regularly contributes to his YouTube channel.