Excerpt 1 - Genesis

Excerpt 2 - Isaiah

Excerpt 3 - Hebrew

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Excerpt 1 - Genesis

In most critical circles today, Genesis through Joshua are thought to be the work of at least four independent sources usually labelled J, E, D and P, written at different times and woven together by later editors. Dating the Old Testament takes the position that the books of Genesis through Deuteronomy are a unified literary work produced during the exodus generation. This excerpt is a portion of the argument for the unity of these books. [Note - In the book, some Hebrew characters appear in this passage. They have been deleted in this excerpt.]


3 Literary Patterns

It is common practice to break down scripture passages into outlines, but we should realize that outlines are a western invention and were generally not in the mind of the Bible authors when they wrote. However, certain structures were intentionally used by Bible authors. These include acrostics (Psalm 119, Prov 31:10-31, Lamentations 1-4 and others), parallelism and chiasms. If it could be demonstrated that these structures were imposed by an author in a passage that supposedly spans multiple sources, that would be an argument for a unified text and a single author. Although in theory a final editor could impose some limited structure on a compilation of sources, a complex pattern that spans sources would render any theory of multiple sources unlikely.

     A chiasm is a structure that reverses and ends back where it starts. In the Bible, a small chiasm is usually lost in translation because it depends on the order of the words in Hebrew. An example is Gen 2:23:


A   To this

B     she will be called

C       woman         

D         because                 

C’      from man

B’     she was taken

A’   this


This example verse is entirely within the proposed J source, and so it does not bear on the issue of single or multiple sources. The following short example does span sources; in fact, it spans the first break between sources that is proposed by the Documentary Hypothesis and also the Tablet Theory (Gen 2:4):


A   the heaven       

B     and the earth 

C       in the creating of them

D         in the day               

C’      of YHWH Elohim making     

B’     earth

A’  and heaven      


This chiasm is short and not quite perfect, because the words YHWH Elohim in the second half of the chiasm do not have a match in the first. So it raises the question: is this chiasm intentional or coincidental? The phrase “earth and heaven” gives a clue that it is intentional. “Heaven and earth” is a common phrase in the Bible, occurring 31 times in some form. However, the reverse “earth and heaven” is rare, and elsewhere just used to indicate something “between earth and heaven” (1 Chron 21:16, Ezek 8:3 and Zech 5:9). The rarity of the phrase implies that it was inverted intentionally to form the chiasm. Also, the contrasting verbs (creating/making) are both infinitive constructs without the preposition “to” a form that accounts for less than 5% of the verbs in the Old Testament.

     Gen 6:8-9 is another short chiasm that spans sources:


A Noah                                                     

  found favor                         

C     in the eyes of YHWH                         

D       These are the generations of Noah                      

E         Noah was a righteous man         

E’         perfect he was             

D’       in his generations                                   

C’     with God                                                             

B’   walked                                          

A’ Noah                                              


The Documentary Hypothesis assigns “Noah found favor in the eyes of YHWH” to J and the rest of this passage to P, thus breaking the chiasm.

     A much longer chiasm dealing with the flood story from Gen 6:10-9:19 is shown below. [This example is taken from Kikawada, Before Abraham Was, p. 104] Notice that this long chiasm starts immediately after the one in the previous example ends.

A  Noah (6:10a)          
B   Shem, Ham and Japheth (6:10b)         
C    Ark to be built (6:14-16)        
D     Flood announced (6:17)       
E      Covenant with Noah (6:18-20)      
F       Food in the Ark (6:21)     
G        Command to enter the Ark (7:1-3)    
H         7 days waiting for flood (7:4-5)   
I            7 days waiting for flood (7:7-10)  
J            Entry to ark (7:11-15) 
K            Yahweh shuts Noah in (7:16)
L              40 days flood (7:17a)    
M                Waters increase (7:17b-18)   
N                  Mountains covered (7:18-20)  
O                   150 days waters prevail (7:21-24) 
P                    God Remembers Noah (8:1)

O'                  150 days waters abate (8:3) 

N'                  Mountain tops become visible (8:4-5)  

M'                Waters abate (8:6)   

L'                40 days (end of) (8:6a)    

K'              Noah opens window of ark (8:6b)     

J'              Raven and dove leave ark (8:7-9)      

I'             7 days waiting for waters to subside (8:10-11)       

H'          7 days waiting for waters to subside (8:12-13)        

G'         Command to leave the ark (8:15-17)         

F'        Food outside the ark (9:1-4)          

E'       Covenant with all flesh (9:8-10)           

D'      No flood in future (9:11-17) 

C'     Ark (9:18a)  

B'    Shem, Ham, Japheth (9:18b)   

A'   Noah (9:19)   


The significance of this chiasm is that it gives evidence for a single coherent design of the entire flood story, unlike the Documentary Hypothesis, which proposes that in this passage there are 24 switches back and forth between the P and J source (see Appendix A for a breakdown). Particularly striking and unlikely to be coincidental is the chiasm in numbers of days: 7-7-40-150-150-40-7-7.