What is the JEDP Theory?

Question: "What is the JEDP Theory?"

In brief, the JEDP theory states that the first five books of the Bible, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, were not written entirely by Moses, who died in 1451 B.C., but also by different authors/compliers after Moses. The theory is based on the fact that different names are used for God in different portions of the Pentateuch, and there are detectable differences in linguistic style. The letters of the JEDP theory stand for the four supposed authors: the author who uses God for God’s name, the author who uses Elohim for God’s name, the author of Deuteronomy, and the likely Priestly author of Leviticus. The JEDP theory goes on to state that the different portions of the Pentateuch were likely compiled in the 4th Century B.C., possibly by Ezra.

So, why are there different names for God in books supposedly written by a single author? For example, Genesis chapter 1 uses the name “Elohim” while Genesis chapter 2 uses the name “Yahweh / God.” Patterns like this occur quite frequently in the Pentateuch. The answer is simple. Moses used God’s names to make a point. In Genesis chapter 1, God is Elohim, the mighty Creator God. In Genesis chapter 2, God is Yahweh, the personal God who created and relates to humanity. This does not point to different authors, but rather a single author using God’s various names to emphasize a point and describe different aspects of His character.

In regard to the different styles, should we not expect an author to have a different style when he is writing history (Genesis), writing legal statutes (Exodus, Deuteronomy), and writing intricate details of the sacrificial system (Leviticus)? The JEDP theory takes the explainable differences in the Pentateuch and invents an elaborate theory that has no basis in reality or history. No J, E, D, or P document has ever been discovered. No ancient Jewish or Christian scholar has even hinted that such documents existed.

The most powerful argument against the JEDP theory is the Bible itself. Jesus, in Mark 12:26, said, " Now about the dead rising—have you not read in the book of Moses, in the account of the bush, how God said to him, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'?". Therefore, Jesus says plainly that Moses wrote the account of the Burning Bush in Exodus 3:1-3. Luke, in Acts 3:22, comments on a passage in Deuteronomy 18:15 and credits Moses as being the author of that passage. Paul, in Romans 10:5, talks about the righteousness Moses describes in Leviticus 18:5. This passage actually starts at Leviticus 18:1 and continues to verse 5. Paul is testifying that Moses is the author of Leviticus. So, we have Jesus showing that Moses was the author of Exodus, Luke (in Acts) showing that Moses wrote Deuteronomy, and Paul saying that Moses was the author of Leviticus. In order for the JEDP theory to be true, Jesus, Luke, and Paul must all be either liars, or in error in their understanding of the Old Testament. Let us put our faith in Jesus and the human authors of Scripture rather than the ridiculous and baseless JEDP theory (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Recommended Resource: Inspiration and Authority of the Bible by Benjamin Warfield.

Related Topics:

What is the documentary hypothesis?

What is the Synoptic Problem?

Why should we study the Old Testament?

What are redaction criticism and higher criticism?

Does the Bible contain errors, contradictions, or discrepancies?

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What is the JEDP Theory?