Doublets in the Hebrew Bible

From The Bible with Sources Revealed by Richard Elliot Friedman, p. 27-30

J, the Yawhist source

E, the Elohist source

D, the Deuteronomist source

P, the Priestly source

  1. Creation. Gen  1:1-2:3  (P)  and  Gen  2:4b-25  (J).
  2. Genealogy from Adam.  Gen  4:17-26  (J) and  5:1-28,30-32  (Book of  Records).
  3. The Flood (click here for an interactive view). Gen 6:5-8;  7:1-5, 7, 10, 12, 16b-20, 22-23; 8:2b-3a, 6, 8-12, 13b, 20-22 (J) and  6:9-22;  7:8-9, 11, 13-16a, 21, 24; 8:1 – 2a, 3b – 5, 7, 13a, 14 – 19; 9:1- 17 (P).
  4. Genealogy from  Shem. Gen  10:21-31  (J and  P)  and  11:10-2 (Book  of  Records).
  5. Abraham’s migration.  Gen 12:1-43 (J) and 12:4b – 5  (P).
  6. Wife/sister.  Gen 12:10-20  (J)  and  20:1-18  (E)  and  2 6 : 6 – 1 4  (J). (Triplet)
  7. Abraham and Lot separate.  Gen  13 : 5 , 7 – 11a, 12b – 14  (J) and 13:6, 11b – 12 a  (P).
  8. The Abrahamic covenant.  Gen 15  (J,  E,  and  R)  and  17  (P).
  9. Hagar and Ishmael.  Gen  16:1-2,4-14  (J)  and  16:3,15-16  (P) and  21:8-19  (E).  (Triplet)
  10. Prophecy of Isaac’s birth.  Gen  17:16-19  (P)  and  18:10-14  (J).
  11. Naming of Beer-sheba.  Gen  21:22-31  (E)  and  26:15-33  (J).
  12. Jacob, Esau, and the departure to the east.  Gen  26:34-35;  27:46; 28:1-9  (P)   and  27:1—45;  28:10  (J).
  13. Jacob at Beth-El.  Gen  28:10,113,13-16,19  (J) and 28:11b – 12 , 1 7 – 1 8 , 2 0 – 2 2  (E)  and  35:9-15  (P).  (Triplet)
  14. Jacob’s twelve sons.  Gen  29:32-35;  30:1-24;  35:16-20  (JE)  and Gen  35:23-26  (P).
  15. Jacob’s name changed to Israel.  G e n  32:25-33  (E)  and  35:9-10  (P).
  16. Joseph sold into Egypt.  Gen  37:2b,3b,5-11,19-20,23,25b-27, 28b,31-35;  39:1  (J)  and  37:33,4,12-18,21-22,24,253,283,29-30  (E).
  17. YHWH commissions Moses.  Exod  3:2-4a,5,7-8,19-22;  4:1 9 – 20a (J) and  3:1,4b,6,9-18;  4:1 – 1 8 , 2 ob – 21a , 2 2 – 2 3  (E)   and  6:2-12  (P). (Triplet)
  18. Moses,  Pharaoh,  and  the  plagues.  Exod  5:3-6:1;  7 : 1 4 – 1 8 , 2ob – 21 , 23-29;  8:3b-11a, 16-28;  9:1-7,13-34;  1 0 : 1 – 1 9 , 2 1 – 2 6 , 2 8 – 2 9 ; 11:1-8  (E)  and  7:6-13,19-203,22;  8:1-33,12-15;  9:8-12  (P).
  19. The  Passover.  Exod  12:1-20,28,40-50  (P)  and  12:21-27,29-36, 3 7 b – 3 9  (E).
  20. The  Red  Sea.  Exod  13:21-22;  14:53,6,93,10b,13-14,19b,20b, 21b,24,27b,30-31 (J) and  14:1-4,8,9b, 103,10c,  15-18,213,21c, 22-23,26-273,  2 8 – 2 9  (P).
  21. Manna  and  quail  in  the  wilderness.  Exod  16:2-3,6-353  (P)  and Num  11:4-34  (E).
  22. Water  from  a  rock  at  Meribah.  Exod  17:2-7  (E)  and Num  20:2-13  (P).
  23. Theophany  at  Sinai/Horeb.  Exod  19:1; 24:15b-18a  (P)  and I9:2b-9,16b-17,19;  20:18-21  (E)  and  19:1o – 16a, 18,20-25  (J) (Triplet)
  24. The  Ten  Commandments.  Exod  20:1-17  (R)   and  34:10-28  (J) and  Deut  5:6-18  (D).  (Triplet)
  25. Kid  in  mother’s  milk.  Exod  23:19  (Covenant  Code)  and  34:26  (J) and  Deut  14:21  (D).  (Triplet)
  26. Forbidden  animals.  Leviticus  11  (P)  and  Deuteronomy  14  (D).
  27. Centralization  of  sacrifice.  Leviticus  17  and  Deuteronomy  12.
  28. Holidays.  Leviticus  23  (P)  and  Numbers  2 8 – 2 9  (R)   and Deut  16:1-17  P) –  (Triplet)
  29. The  spies.  Num 13:1-16,21,25-26,32;  14:13,2-3,5-10,26-29  (P) and  13:17-20,22-24,27-31,33;  14:1b, 4,11-25,39-45  (J).
  30. Heresy  at  Peor.  Num  25:1-5  (J) and  25:6-19  (P).
  31. Appointment  of  Joshua.  Num  27:12-23  (P)  and Deut  31:14-15,23  (E).

Above  all,  the  strongest  evidence  establishing  the  Documentary  Hypothesis  is that  several  different  lines  of  evidence  converge.  There  are  more  than  thirty cases  of  doublets:  stories  or  laws  that  are repeated  in  the  Torah,  sometimes identically,  more  often  with  some  differences  of  detail.  The existence  of  so many  overlapping  texts  is  noteworthy  itself.  But  their  mere  existence  is  not the strongest  argument.  One  could  respond,  after all,  that  this  is  just  a  matter  of  style  or  narrative strategy.  Similarly,  there  are  hundreds  of  apparent contradictions  in  the  text,  but  one  could  respond  that  we  can  take  them  one by  one  and  find  some  explanation  for  each  contradiction.  And,  similarly, there  is  the  matter  of  the  texts  that  consistently  call  the  deity  God  while other  texts  consistently  call  God  by  the  name  Y H W H ,  to  which  one  could respond  that  this  is  simply  like calling  someone  sometimes  by  his  name and  sometimes  by  his  title.  The  powerful  argument  is  not  any  one  of  these matters.  It is that  all these  matters  converge. When  we  separate  the  doublets, this  also  results  in  the  resolution  of nearly  all the  contradictions.  And  when we  separate  the  doublets,  the  name  of  God  divides  consistently  in  all  but three  out  of  more  than  two  thousand  occurrences.  And  when  we  separate the  doublets,  the  terminology  of each  source  remains  consistent  within  that source.  (I  listed  twenty-four  examples  of  such  terms,  which  are  consistent through  nearly  four  hundred  occurrences,  above,  in  the  Terminology  section.)  And  when  we  separate  the  sources,  this  produces  continuous  narratives  that  flow  with  only  a  rare  break.  And  when  we  separate  the  sources, this  fits  with  the  linguistic  evidence,  where  the  Hebrew  of  each  source  fits consistently  with  what  we  know  of  the  Hebrew  in  each  period.  And  so  on for  each  of  the  six  categories  that  precede  this  section.  The  name  of  God and  the  doublets  were  the  starting-points  of  the  investigation  into  the  formation  of the  Bible.  But they were  not,  and  are  not,  major  arguments  or  evidence  in themselves.  The  most  compelling  argument  for  the  hypothesis  is  that  this  hypothesis  best  accounts  for  the  fact  that  all  this  evidence  of  so many  kinds  comes  together  so  consistently.  To  this  day,  no  one  known  to me  who  challenged  the  hypothesis  has  ever  addressed  this  fact.

Thus,  I  did  not  list  the  doublets  as  one  of  the  primary  arguments  for the  hypothesis  above.  The  primary  argument  is  rather  that  so  many  double stories  could  line  up  with  so  many  other  categories  of  evidence,  composed of  hundreds  of  points  of  data.  With  that  larger  argument  in  mind,  we  can now  take  account  of the  doublets  and  add  them  to the  picture  in  this  collection  of  evidence.

I  have  seen  it  claimed  that  such  doublets  are  a  common  phenomenon in  ancient  Near  Eastern  literature.  That  is  false.  No  such  phenomenon exists.  Doublets  are  not  common  in  Near  Eastern  prose  because  there  is  no Near  Eastern  prose,  in  the  form  of  either  history-writing  or  long  fiction, prior  to  these  biblical  texts.  It  is  not  even  common  in  Near  Eastern  poetry. The  poetic  text  that  comes  closest  to  the  qualities  of the  biblical  text that  we are  discussing  here  is  the  Epic  of  Gilgamesh,  and  the  Epic  of  Gilgamesh  is  a composite  of  several  sources.  It  is  a  demonstration  of  composition  by  combining  sources  in  the  ancient  Near  East,  not  a refutation  of  it!

I have  also seen  the  claim  that  the  scholar  just  chooses  the  evidence  to fit  his  or  her  arrangement:  for example,  that  the  scholar  assigns  every verse  that  has  the  word  “congregation”  in  it  to  P  and  then  says  that  the recurrence  of  this  word  in  P  is  proof  of  the  hypothesis.  This  argument should  be  seen  to  be  false  in  the  light  of  all  the  evidence  presented  here. No  scholar  is  clever  enough  to  make  all  of  these  terms  line  up  within  the sources—and  to  make  it all  come  out  consistent  with  the  other  signs  of the  sources.  In  the  text  of  the  Torah  that  appears  in  the  next  section  of  this book,  one  can  observe  each  of  the  doublets  with  the  sources  identified.  One  can  then  observe  all  the  characteristic  terms,  the  resolution  of  the contradictions,  the separation  of  the  words  that  are  used  to  identify  the deity,  the  continuity  of  each  story  within  the  doublet,  and  all  the  other  categories  of  evidence.  The  combined  weight  of  the  evidence  that  one  will observe  there,  together  with  the  evidence  that  is  collected  here  in  this  section,  should  make  it  clear  why  this  explanation  of  the  biblical  origins  has been  so  compelling  for  more  than  a century.  And,  whether  one  agrees  with this  explanation,  questions  it,  or  challenges  it,  one  will  have  in  front  of  him or  her  the  evidence  to  address.  It  is  amazing  that  at  this  point,  when  such a  mass  of  evidence  is  available,  some  writers  still  discuss  this  at  so  low  a level  as,  for  example,  arguing  about  whether  “different  names  of  God”  constitutes  proof  or  not,  or  whether  doublets  prove  multiple  authorship,  or whether  a  beautiful  literary  structure  (for  example,  a  chiasm)  is  evidence for  a  single  author.  Or  some  just  say  that  “the  hypothesis  was  disproved long  ago”  or  “nobody  accepts  it  anymore.” Here,  rather,  is  the  evidence,  for  anyone  to  see,  evaluate,  acknowledge, or  refute.


2 thoughts on “Doublets in the Hebrew Bible

  1. Pingback: The Greatest Retcon Ever Told | chromosome two

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