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Science & Religion

Hebrew Scriptures


1. Contents

The Hebrew scriptures are grouped under three headings.

The Torah (Guidance), the Nebi'im (Prophets) and the Ketuvim (Writings).

Using the initials of these three sections the scriptures are called the Tanak (or Tanach).

Torah ("Law")

Bereshit - Genesis: Adam to Abraham, Isaac to Joseph in Egypt

Shemot - Exodus: The escape from Egypt to the covenant at Sinai

VaYikra - Leviticus: The religious and civil laws of the Israelites

BaMidbar - Numbers: The departure from Sinai to the plains of Moab

Devarim - Deuteronomy: Last addresses of Moses

Nevi'im (Prophets)

Yehoshua -Joshua: The conquest of Canaan and the division of the land

Shoftim - Judges: "Deliverers" in crisis times, (shows the need for a king?)

Shmuel A,B - 1,2 Samuel: Samuel and the rise of the monarchy, Saul and David

Melachim A,B -1,2 Kings: Solomon and the kings to the Babylonian exile (562 BCE)

Yisheyah - Isaiah: Salvation is from G-d, by grace: the Messiah will come

Yermiyah - Jeremiah: Judgement against Judah from Babylon then restoration

Yechezchial - Ezekiel: Don't blame others for your troubles but G-d will be there

Treisar - The Twelve (Minor Prophets)


Hoshea - Hosea: G-d's love for a irresponsible nation


Yoel - Joel: The need for repentance, G-d is faithful


Amos - Amos: The goodness of G-d to an unworthy nation


Ovadiyah - Obadiah: Edom's unbrotherly action will be punished


Yonah - Jonah: G-d's salvation not for one nation only


Michah - Micah: G-d's complaint, judgement followed by restoration


Nachum - Nahum: The downfall of Nineveh


Chabakuk - Habakkuk: G-d will punish the punishers, only those with faith will survive


Tzefaniyah - Zephaniah: The day of YHVH will consume all, yet a remnant will be saved


Chaggi - Haggai: Rebuild the ruins, what comes after will be better


Zechariyah - Zechariah: If the nation will be humble before G-d, it will be glorious


Malachi - Malachi: Israel hasn't honoured G-d, G-d will send his messenger

Ketuvim (Writings)

Tehilim - Psalms: Hymns, group and individual laments, and songs of thanksgiving

Mishlei - Proverbs: the words of the wise (in eight parts)

Eyov - Job: Poetic dialogue of the afflictions of a righteous man

Megilot (read at festivals)


Shir HaShirim - Song of Songs: The purity of human love


Ruth - Ruth: Traces the ancestry of David to Ruth (a Moabite)


Eichah - Lamentations: Tears for the destruction of the theocracy


Keholet - Ecclesiastes: The quintessence of piety (or scepticism)


Esther - Esther: The origin of the feast of Purim

Daniyel - Daniel: The G-d of Israel is greater than the idols of the heathen

Ezra - Ezra: The restoration from Babylon to Jerusalem

Nechemiyah - Nehemiah: More ofthe restoration from Babylon to Jerusalem

Divrei Yamim A,B - 1,2 Chronicles: A second history from Adam to Nehemiah (432 BCE)

A. General formation of Tanach

1. Torah codified probably by 400 BCE (probably in Babylon).

2. Prophets seem to have taken shape by 200 BCE

3. Writings had a final form by Council of Jamnia in 90 ACE.

B. The Text has changed only minutely and inconsequentially from Qumran (200 BCE ~ 70 ACE) to the Massoretes (~800 ACE).

Major streams of tradition are the Hebrew and various versions in Greek, Latin, Syriac, Armenian etc.

C. Three forces have changed the views on the text.

1. Modern historical criticism from Van Ranke.

2. Emergences of the scientific view that appeared to challenge basic assumptions about the cosmos and man.

3. Recent discoveries in the Ancient Near East.



2. Literary Genre

The Tanach has:

1. songs - Ex 15, Judges 4, Psalms 45.

2. Narratives -

a. historical memoirs (2 Sam 9 - 20)

b. short stories - Ruth and Jonah

c. historical chronologies - Kings

d. Folk tales - Samson

e. Aetiological narratives - Gen 12 - 36?

3. Laws - Deuteronomy and Leviticus.

4. Wisdom Material - Proverbs and Job.



3. Some Theories on the Structure of the Torah/Pentateuch

A. Jean Astruc (1753) noticed that the two creation stories used two different names for deity.

Astruc later noted that there may be two sources A-source (Yahweh) and B-source (Elohim).



B. Wellhausen developed a hypothesis to explain the discrepancies and duplications in Torah.

1. Different names for deity.

2. Duplicate sources - creation stories

3. Discrepancies - number of animals in the ark, how Joseph got out of the well, etc.

4. Phrases suggesting later composition -Gen. 12:6.



Wellhausen's Documentary Hypothesis (JEDP)

1. J-source dates to 9th-8th c. and associated with cultic centers in Judah.

View of Man: Free-will

Name for G-d: Yahweh

Historical view: History of a people

Writing Style: Incisive and bold


2. E-source dates to 8th-7th c. and associated with cultic centers in the north.

View of Man: Less man centered

Name for G-d: Elohim

Historical view: History of events

Writing Style:


3. Two sources merged by 650 BCE into JE.

4. D-source (621 BCE) associated with the reforms of Josiah.

5. P-source composed 6th-5th c. and emphasizes cultic matters and adds commentary.

View of Man: G-d in history

Name for G-d: Elohim or El Shaddai

Historical view:

Writing Style: Interested in geneology & G-d and society


6. Sources fused into one text by 4th c. BCE



4. Historicity of the Patriarchial Narrative

Evidence for the Patriarchs in historical context of the Middle Bronze Age

1. Chronology

a. 1 K 14:25-27 - King Shishak's invasion

b. 1 K 6:1 - 480 yrs from the exodus

c. Ex 12:40 - 430 yrs in Egypt

2. Personal Names [Look at ANET., p.553, 328]

a. Egyptian Servant List: Menahem, Issachar?, Asher, Jacob.

b. Abraham:

Kassite Period (17th c.): Abi-ia, Abi-e-pir

Amarna Letters (14th c.) Abi-melki

Ugarit (14th-13th c.) Abi-ra-mi

Assyrian (1st m.) Abi-ra-me

Phoenician (1st m.) Ahi-raam

c. Jacob

Nuzi (18th c.) Ia-ah-qu-ub-el

Hyksos (17th c.) Ia-qob-el

d. Benjamin

Mari (15th c.) Ben-ia-mi-na

3. Customs [Look at ANET., p. 219-220]

a. Gift of maidservant to master: and ANET., p 169.

b. Sale of birth right: Gen 25:31-34 and ANET., 219

4. Mode of Life

a. Abraham a merchant/nomad

b. Time frame reflects period of less sedentary occupation.

1. Comparison to Tale of Sinuhe

2. Execration Texts


Contact: Peter Eyland