Monday, October 20, 2008

Exodus 6:3

This is one of those verses that "proves" the Documentary Hypothesis concerning the origin of the Pentateuch. This verse says, "And I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El Shaddai; and my name Yhwh I did not make known to them." Hence every use of Yhwh in Genesis must be anachronistic.

This strikes me as a pretty literalistic reading of the text; far beyond the kind of literalism evangelicals are often charged with. The name Yhwh appears approximately 144 times in Genesis. Now either the writer of Exodus 6:3 was unaware of that fact, or he means something other than "pronounced" by "made known to." It has been commonly observed that though Yhwh is frequently used in Genesis, it is never explained there. It is not until Exodus 3 that some explanation is given of the meaning of God's name. Hence, the simple reading of the passage is "I did not explain my name to the patriarchs. They primarily knew me as El Shaddai."

Now this, by itself, does not prove the Documentary Hypothesis is incorrect. But it does suggest that such approaches to understanding the Old Testament as that promoted by the Documentary Hypothesis seem unwilling to deal with the Biblical text on its own terms. Rather, the scholars seek to create different terms for a basis on which to read the Old testament text. The Old Testament on its own terms is a dangerous body of literature. It always calls into question our assumptions about God and man, the world and our life in it. It is when we try to read the Bible on our terms that we tame it, and we no longer hear its corrective voice.

1 comment:

Nicholas T. Batzig said...

Thanks for this! I will pass it along. Very helpful!