How Many Authors Wrote the First Five Books of the Old Testament?

Did you know the first five books of the Old Testament likely had four different authors? They are all anonymous to us, and many (most?) of the original stories were oral traditions. But the collection we call the Bible is what we’ve got. We may spend a couple of Thursdays on this. it could be interesting. Or it could be dry. We just put it out there.

Here’s the rundown of ”J”. He was likely the first writer, penning much of Genesis and Exodus. 

  • Why do they call the author “J”?. A couple of reasons. One, the name for God in early Judaism was Yahweh. The spelling in Hebrew is YHWH, with no consonants. By the time it got translated into Latin, the “Y” turned into a “J” to spell Jehovah. Plus, the first scholar to come up with the hypothesis of this author came from Germany, where Yahweh is spelled with a J. Yep, it’s that mysterious.
  • What are the characteristics of J? First, most of the stories written by “J” take place in the southern locales of Canaan. Second, and more interesting, “J” writes about Yahweh in anthropomorphic terms — God has several of the characteristics (good and bad) of humans. For example, the Garden of Eden and Flood stories were both likely written by “J.” And in both of those stories, God speaks directly to the characters as if in conversation. Also, God expresses anger in both of these stories.
  • When were the “J” stories written? Probably in the 10th century BCE, during the reign of Solomon.  

Geeez, that used up three bullets pretty quickly. We will talk about at least one of the other authors next week.

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