#14. Noah is commanded to gather 7 pairs of clean animals OR only 2 of each animal? (Gen 7:2 vs Gen 6:19-20, 7:8, 7:16)
#15. The flood lasts for 40 days and 40 nights OR 150 days? (Gen 7:4, 7:12, 8:6 vs Gen 7:24, 8:3)
#16. The flood starts 7 days after Noah enters the ark OR on the day Noah enters the ark? (Gen 7:7, 10 vs Gen 7:11-13)
#17. The flood is caused by rain OR the waters above and below the earth are unbound? (Gen 7:4, 7:12 vs Gen 7:11, 8:2)
#18. Noah lets out from the ark a series of doves (three) OR a raven once? (Gen 8:8-12 vs Gen 8:7)

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Genesis’ flood narrative—or rather narratives—is the classic example used to illustrate how the Documentary Hypothesis works. There is little doubt that the narrative of Genesis 6:5-9:17 is a composite of two once separate flood stories. In other words, a later redactor has woven together two independent and different traditions of the flood narrative in an attempt to preserve them both. Yet unlike the two creation accounts where both traditions are preserved one after the other (see #1), the J creation (Gen 2:4b-3:24) following directly after P’s creation account (Gen 1:1-2:3), the two flood stories, J’s and P’s, have been skillfully stitched together to produce a single narrative—a narrative, however, that contains a number of inconsistencies and contradictions.

The following reproduction of Genesis 6:5-9:17, a patch-work of both J and P sources, separates the two accounts visually by printing the P account in boldface and the J account in italics. The italic and boldface print is the work of R (the redactor) attempting to harmonize J with P at a few spots. If you read the J narrative separately from beginning to end, then the P narrative from beginning to end, it becomes apparent that each flood story is a whole continuous narrative, each with its own vocabulary and theological emphasis.

Genesis 6:1

5 And Yahweh saw that the evil of humans was great in the earth, and all the inclinations of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil all the day.

6 And Yahweh regretted that he had made humans in the earth, and he was grieved to his heart.

7 And Yahweh said, “I shall wipe out the humans which I have created from the face of the earth, from humans to beast to creeping thing to bird of heavens; for I regret that I have made them.”

8 But Noah found favor in Yahweh’s eyes.

9 These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a righteous man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God.

10 And Noah sired three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

11 And the earth was corrupted before God, and the earth was filled with violence.

12 And God saw the earth, and here it was corrupted, for all the flesh had corrupted its way on the earth.

13 And God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before me, for the earth is filled with violence because of them, and here I am going to destroy them with the earth.

14 Make yourself an ark of gopher wood, make rooms with the ark, and pitch it outside and inside with pitch.

15 And this is how you shall make it: Three hundred cubits the length of the ark, fifty cubits its width, and thirty cubits its height.

16 You shall make a window for the ark, and you shall finish it to a cubit from the top, and you shall make an entrance to the ark in its side. You shall make a lower, second, and third stories for it.

17 And here I am bringing the flood, water over the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life from under the heavens. Everything which is on the land will die.

18 And I shall establish my covenant with you. And you shall come to the ark, you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you.

19 And of all the living, of all flesh, you shall bring two to the ark to keep alive with you, they shall be male and female.

20 Of the birds according to their kind, and of the beasts according to their kind, and of all the creeping things of the earth according to their kind, two of each will come to you to keep alive.

21 And you, take for yourself of all food which will be eaten and gather it to you, and it will be for you and for them for food.”

22 And Noah did according to all that God commanded him—so he did.

Genesis 7:

1 And Yahweh said to Noah, “Come, you and all your household, to the ark, for I have seen you as righteous before me in this generation.

2 Of all the clean beasts, take yourself seven pairs, man and his woman; and of the beasts which are not clean, two, man and his woman.

3 Also of the birds of the heavens seven pairs, male and female, to keep alive seed on the face of the earth.

4 For in seven more days I shall rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and I shall wipe out all the substance that I have made upon the face of the earth.”

5 And Noah did according to all that Yahweh had commanded him.

6 And Noah was six hundred years old, and the flood was on the earth.

7 And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him came to the ark from before the waters of the flood.

8 Of the clean beasts and of the beasts which are not clean, and of the birds and of all those which creep upon the earth,

9 two of each came to Noah to the ark, male and female, as God had commanded Noah.

10 And seven days later the waters of the flood were on the earth.

11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, in the seventeenth day of the month, on this day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of the heavens were opened.

12 And there was rain on the earth, forty days and forty nights.

13 In this very year, Noah and Shem and Ham and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah’s wife and his sons’ three wives with them came to the ark,

14 they and all the living things according to their kind, and all the beasts according to their kind, and all the creeping things that creep on the earth according to their kind, and all the birds according to their kind, and every winged bird.

15 And they came to Noah to the ark, two of each, of all flesh in which is the breath of life.

16 And those which came were male and female, some of all flesh came, as God commanded him. And Yahweh closed it for him.

17 And the flood was on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and the waters multiplied and raised the ark, and it was lifted from the earth.

18 And the waters grew strong and multiplied greatly on the earth, and the ark went on the surface of the waters.

19 And the waters grew very very strong on the earth, and they covered all the high mountains that are under all the heavens.

20 Fifteen cubits above, the waters grew stronger, and they covered the mountains.

21 And all flesh, those that creep on the earth, the birds, the beasts, and the wild animals, and all the swarming things that swarm on the earth, and all the humans expired.

22 Everything that had the breathing spirit of life in its nostrils, everything that was on dry ground, died.

23 And he wiped out all the substance that was on the face of the earth, from human to beast, to creeping thing, and to bird of the heavens, and they were wiped out from the earth, and only Noah and those who were with him in the ark were left.

24 And the waters grew strong on the earth a hundred fifty days.

Genesis 8:

1 And God remembered Noah and all the living, and all the beasts that were with him in the ark, and God passed a wind over the earth and the waters were decreased.

2 And the fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were shut, and the rain was restrained from the heavens.

3 And the waters receded from the earth continually, and the waters were abated at the end of a hundred fifty days.

4 And the ark rested, in the seventh month, in the seventeenth day of the month, on the mountain of Ararat.

5 And the waters continued receding until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first of the month, the tops of the mountains appeared.

6 And it was at the end of forty days, and Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made.

7 And he sent out a raven, and it went back and forth until the waters dried up from the earth.

8 And he sent out a dove from him to see whether the waters had eased from the face of the earth.

9 And the dove did not find a resting place for its foot, and it returned to him to the ark, for the waters were on the face of the earth, and he put out his hand and took it and brought it to him to the ark.

10 And he waited seven more days, and he again sent out a dove from the ark.

11 And the dove came to him at evening time, and here was an olive leaf torn off in its mouth, and Noah knew that the waters had eased from the earth.

12 And he waited seven more days, and he sent out a dove, and it did not return to him ever again.

13 And it was in the six hundred and first year, in the first month, on the first of the first month, the waters dried from the earth. And Noah turned back the covering of the ark and looked, and here the face of the earth had dried.

14 And in the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth dried up.

15 And God spoke to Noah, saying,

16 “Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.

17 All the living things that are with you, of all the flesh, of the birds, and of the beasts, and of all the creeping things that creep on the earth, that go out with you, shall swarm in the earth and be fruitful and multiply in the earth.”

18 And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives went out.

19 All the living things, all the creeping things and all the birds, all that creep on the earth, by their families, they went out of the ark.

20 And Noah built an altar to Yahweh, and he took some of each of the clean beasts and of each of the clean birds, and he offered sacrifices on the altar.

21 And Yahweh smelled the pleasant smell, and Yahweh said to his heart, “I shall not again curse the ground on man’s account, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from their youth, and I shall not again strike all the living as I have done.

22 All the rest of the days of the earth, seed and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.”

Genesis 9:

1 And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.

2 And fear of you and dread of you will be on every living thing of the earth and on every bird of the heavens, in every one that will creep on the earth and in all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand.

3 Every creeping animal that is alive will be yours for food: I’ve given every one to you like a plant of vegetation,

4 except you shall not eat flesh in its life, its blood,

5 and except I shall inquire for your blood, for your lives. I shall inquire for it from the hand of every animal and from the hand of man. I shall inquire for a man’s life from the hand of each man for his brother.

6 One who sheds a human’s blood: by a human his blood will be shed, because he made the human in the image of God.

7 And you, be fruitful and multiply, swarm in the earth and multiply in it.”

8 And God said to Noah and to his sons with him, saying,

9 “And I: here, I am establishing my covenant with you and with your seed after you

10 and with every living thing that is with you, of the birds, of the domestic animals, and of all the wild animals of the earth with you, from all those coming out of the ark to every living thing of the earth.

11 And I shall establish my covenant with you, and all flesh will not be cut off again by the floodwaters, and there will not be a flood again to destroy the earth.”

12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I am giving between me and you and every living being that is with you for eternal generations.

13 I’ve put my rainbow in the clouds, and it will become a covenant sign between me and the earth.

14 And it will be when I bring a cloud over the earth, and the rainbow will appear in the cloud,

15 and I’ll remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living being of all flesh, and the waters will not become a flood to destroy all flesh again.

16 And the rainbow will be in the cloud, and I’ll see it, to remember an eternal covenant between God and every living being of all flesh that is on the earth.”

17 And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I’ve established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

It is clear from the foregoing presentation that Genesis’ supposed flood narrative is in fact a composite of two different textual traditions, each expressing the story in its own terms, language, and emphasis. Contradictions #14-18 are therefore a byproduct of having stitched these two separate flood stories together.

Consistent with what we saw in P’s and J’s creation accounts, here too in their flood narratives P uses the generic Hebrew term elohim, “god,” while J the name Yahweh. Yet not only are there differences between the presentation of P’s God and J’s anthropomorphic Yahweh—who grieves (6:6), personally closes the door of the ark (7:16), and smells Noah’s sacrifice (8:21)—but also in their terminology: J consistently uses the expression “male and female” (6:19, 7:9, 7:16) while P uses “man and his wive” (7:2); J says everything “died” (7:22), while in P everything “expired” (6:17, 7:21); J speaks of the earth with the Hebrew ha’adamah (7:4, 7:23, 8:8, 8:21) while P uses ha’eres (6:11-13, 7:17, etc.), etc.2

P is additionally concerned about issues of age, chronology, and measurements. Only in P are there instructions for building the ark (6:14-16), the term “cubit” used, and dated descriptions of Noah entering the ark (7:13), of the coming of the flood (7:11), and the emergence of dry land (8:14).

Moreover, these dates have specific connections to the Priestly creation account (Gen 1:1-2:3). First, P presents its flood narrative as an undoing of creation: the firmament in the Priestly creation account that originally separated the waters above from those below the earth (1:7) is here opened up so that these waters flood the earth for 150 days, and then are shut back up again (8:2). Second, 8:13 emphasizes that the earth dried on exactly the anniversary of the first day of creation. It is on the New Year that the earth dries. P’s refrain “be fruitful and multiply” (9:1, 7) additionally highlights this “new creation,” and again could have specific relevance for an exilic community attempting to recreate its cult and relationship to its god. We will additionally see that for P, the New Year also has a very important significance: it is the day that the tabernacle and cult are established (Ex 40:1).

J’s flood narrative, on the other hand, is not concerned with such issues, and highlights different ones. For example, 8:21—”I [Yahweh] shall not again curse the ground on man’s account”—alludes to J’s earlier narratives: the creation account (3:17) and the story of Cain (4:11), each of which accentuates the relationship between man (’adam) and the cursed ground (’adamah). Additionally, we see the Yahwist’s concern with proper worship of Yahweh after the flood, that is offering sacrifices (8:20-21)—thus the reasoning behind the gathering into the ark of 7 pairs of clean animals in J’s version; these are for the sacrifices to Yahweh at the end of the flood. Lastly, in J’s account the flood is caused by rain, not the undoing of the firmament as in P, and for forty days and forty nights, also in variance with P’s 150 days.

Finally, the stitching together of these two flood narratives creates some awkward moments with the chronology of the current JP composite account. Besides the more obvious contradictions listed above, there are a number of details narrated twice: the corruption of humanity (6:5 [J]; 6:11-12 [P]), the decision to destroy (6:7 [J]; 6:13 [P]), the commission to enter the ark (7:1-3 [J]; 6:18-21 [P]), entering the ark (7:7 [J]; 7:13 [P]), the coming of the flood (7:10 [J]; 7:11 [P]), the death of all creatures (7:22-23 [J]; 7:20-21 [P]), the end of the flood (8:2b-3a [J]; 8:3b-5 [P]), and the promise that the flood will not recur (8:21b-22 [J]; 9:1-17 [P]).3 Many of these doublets actually jumble the chronology as it now stands in the composite account. Thus, at 7:7, a J text, Noah and the animals enter the ark, and the flood comes (7:10-11), but at 7:13, a P text, Noah and the animals enter the ark again. Additionally, J asserts that the forty-days-forty-nights rainfall starts seven days after Noah has entered the ark (7:7, 10). Thus the flood has already started in the J account and Noah, his family, and the animals have been boarded into the ark seven days prior. In the P narrative (7:8-9, 11, 13), however, which is stitched in between the J material (7:7, 10, 12), the flood has just started, inline with J, but it is “on this day” (7:11, 13), P informs us, Noah, his sons, his sons’ wives, and the animals enter the ark, not seven days prior to the flood as J asserts.

There is also the discrepancy at the end of the flood narrative. Although Noah’s sacrifice to Yahweh in 8:20-22 and the god’s proclamation of an eternal covenant with Noah and the animals in 9:8-17 are not necessarily contradictory, the manner in which Yahweh internally mulls over never to destroy man (8:21), and the god’s direct communication to Noah concerning the very same thing (9:17) does create a narrative tension in this doublet.

It should furthermore be kept in mind that J celebrates the end of the flood and man’s renewed relationship with Yahweh through the medium of sacrifice. P, on the other hand, celebrates the recreation ushered in at the end of the flood, along with man’s renewed relationship to his god through a covenant, the sign of which is the rainbow, reminding the deity not to destroy mankind again by a flood. In fact, this is the first of three major covenants used by P to help periodize the chronological narrative. Thus contrary to J, P has no report of a sacrifice after the flood narrative, especially since for P sacrifices cannot be instituted until the revealing of the ritual law code at Sinai and the sanctification of the Aaronid priesthood (see #199).

We should furthermore not neglect to note that both sources display unmistakable similarities to parallel flood narratives from the Israelites’ earlier Babylonian neighbors, especially that of P. Such influences have long been noted by scholars, the most common of which is the flood narrative found in the Gilgamesh epic. As in the biblical account of the Priestly source, the Babylonian account also singles out a hero—Utnapishtim—to be delivered from the impending cataclysmic flood; both are directed by their respective deities to build an ark with specific dimensions; in both the P account and the account in the Gilgamesh epic, the ark lands on a mountain, mount Ararat and mount Nisir respectively; and both Noah and Utnapishtim send out a series of birds to seek out dry land (in the Gilgamesh epic, Utnapishtim sends out first a raven, then a swallow, and finally a dove). There can be little doubt that the biblical narratives were modeled on their Mesopotamian predecessors.4

Footnotes    

  1. Reproduced from David Carr, Reading the Fractures of Genesis, 60, with some modification.
  2. For a detailed list of terminological and thematic differences between the J and P flood account see Carr, ibid, 52-55.
  3. Campbell & O’Brien, Sources of the Pentateuch (214), following Westermann, Genesis 1-11.
  4. For a nice chart on the similarities and differences between the Israelite and Mesopotamian flood narratives, see Hooke, Middle Eastern Mythology, 134-135. Cf. the account in Atrahasis and Berossus’ account with the hero Xisouthros. See also the Greek version of the flood with its hero Deucalion.

20 thoughts on “#14. Noah is commanded to gather 7 pairs of clean animals OR only 2 of each animal? (Gen 7:2 vs Gen 6:19-20, 7:8, 7:16)
#15. The flood lasts for 40 days and 40 nights OR 150 days? (Gen 7:4, 7:12, 8:6 vs Gen 7:24, 8:3)
#16. The flood starts 7 days after Noah enters the ark OR on the day Noah enters the ark? (Gen 7:7, 10 vs Gen 7:11-13)
#17. The flood is caused by rain OR the waters above and below the earth are unbound? (Gen 7:4, 7:12 vs Gen 7:11, 8:2)
#18. Noah lets out from the ark a series of doves (three) OR a raven once? (Gen 8:8-12 vs Gen 8:7)

  1. It’s not like the author is going to say “the evil of humans was great in the dirt” — the words cannot always be used interchangeably, and presumably P and J had access to the same vocabulary.

    As for the Documentary Hypothesis itself, I think the fact that the story of the flood can be separated into two strands that are mostly complete, internally consistent, and distinct in style and tone is pretty amazing. I don’t think that can be written off as coincidence. The fact that one of the strands matches with the style and theology of Genesis 1 while the other matches with the style and theology of Genesis 2 is strong evidence that originally the text consisted of independent sources that were woven together. I don’t know of any other explanation that is simpler and makes fewer assumptions.

  2. Qimba mischaracterizes Dr. DiMattei words to make his point. Dr. DiMattei did not say J consistently uses the Hebrew ha’adamah to speak of the earth and that P consistently used the Hebrew word ha’eres. Here is Dr. DiMattei’s full quote:

    “J consistently uses the expression ‘male and female’ (6:19, 7:9, 7:16) while P uses ‘man and his wive’ (7:2); J says everything ‘died’ (7:22), while in P everything ‘expired’ (6:17, 7:21); J speaks of the earth with the Hebrew ha’adamah (7:4, 7:23, 8:8, 8:21) while P uses ha’eres (6:11-13, 7:17, etc.), etc.2″

    Footnote 2 says: “For a detailed list of terminological and thematic differences between the J and P flood account see Carr, ibid [Reading the Fractures of Genesis], 52-55.”

    Note Dr. DiMattei merely said that “J speaks of the earth with the Hebrew ha’adamah . . . while P uses ha’eres” and does not here use the word “consistently.” His meaning is even more clear when you check his footnote 2, which is to David Carr’s “Reading the Fractures of Genesis” at pages 52-55. Carr’s book, which is available for viewing at Google Books, has on page 53 a chart which has “Features appearing more often in the non-P strand” next to “Features appearing more often in the P strand.” Carr notes that ha’adamah is featured more in the non-P strand while the P strand uses ’eres, which is essentially what Dr. DiMattei says. Carr has 6:5 in the non-P strand and 6:20 in the P strand. But Carr also notes with an asterick those Bible verses where the feature is used not only in the one strand but in the opposite strand as well. Carr notes both Genesis verses 6:5 and 6:20 with an asterick. So there is no inconsistency here, just an acknowledgment that sometimes the word is used in both strands.

    I’ll admit that Dr. DiMattei could have worded it better but when you look at what he actually wrote and the source he cites it is clear that the inconsistency Qimba states is present is not an inconsistency at all.

  3. #####for the context, see my comments on http://contradictionsinthebible.com/is-lot-abrahams-nephew-or-brother/#comment-5718 , #23)*************

    OK
    in the spirit of reasonableness I went to the Noah account, #14.

    There you could see one of Steve’s ‘rules for reading’ using the Documentary Hypothesis (DH) method. “Consistency”. After using bold and italic fonts to show where the two sources are and to illustrate where both accounts reside in Genesis 6-9, as he put it, “Consistent with what we saw in P’s and J’s creation accounts, here too in their flood narratives…” and then he lists a few examples of terminology and phrases that he says makes the case for the Flood account being two different sources “stitched together” by a redactor. Basically, since as you know (“it’s the texts!”), the DH depends on inconsistency in the texts to come up with all the contradictions that ‘prove things’ like Moses was not the author. Conversely consistency in the texts not only reveals “who” (all the unnamed and undocumented people are who) wrote them but what they intended from their perspective (one that we today mistakenly suppose we can discern apart from DH). Modern thoughts on literal or figurative interpretations not withstanding.

    His phrase: “J consistently uses the expression…” is another example of his “consistency rule”. This rule is how Steve was able to apply the italics and bold fonts to help the readers see how the DH works.

    So I just picked one of his observations, “J speaks of the earth with the Hebrew ha’adamah (7:4, 7:23, 8:8, 8:21) while P uses ha’eres (6:11-13, 7:17, etc.)” and decided to follow this DH logic as I read through the four chapters of the Flood using the bold and italic fonts provided.

    I did so in Hebrew and checked it in English. And visa versa so I could be consistent with my own standards.

    As Steve said, “It is clear from the foregoing presentation that Genesis’ supposed flood narrative is in fact a composite of two different textual traditions, each expressing the story in its own terms, language, and emphasis.”

    ********A footnote: notice the phrase, “Genesis’ supposed flood narrative” that speaks to me of a subjective bias. Namely, as expressed in many other posts and comments by readers too. Broadly stated: Genesis chapters 1-11 are legend, myth, at best gained from Babylonian pagan sources, centuries after the fact…not intended to be taken literally. And “proof” not only of “inconsistencies”/contradictions but evidence that the bible as we have it and understand it is nothing but a fraud.********

    But anyone could follow along like I did, without knowing Hebrew. Simply by looking up the definitions of “earth” being used here in Genesis 6-9. “aretz” can be best translated ‘earth’ in the sense of “the world” being in view. The planet earth. The world. When the focus becomes specific, “aretz” is used to indicate “the land of Israel”. The Promised Land. So “aretz” can be also translated “land” in context with the inheritance of Israel.

    “adamah” on the other hand refers to ground, soil, earth (in the sense of land—dirt). Adam was taken from it as refined “dust” (Genesis 2:7) as his name and the creation account indicates.

    So, with all this in mind, the very first verse listed in Steve’s account utilizing different fonts, Genesis 6:5 says in italics (the script designated to indicate the J account): “5 And Yahweh saw that the evil of humans was great in the earth”.

    Earth here is “aretz” not “adamah”.

    Unfortunately, as Steve postulated, ‘P uses ha’eres’ (properly, in Hebrew: “ha aretz”) to indicate earth. Not ha’adamah. Remember the rule? “J speaks of the earth with the Hebrew ha’adamah”. But here the word is “aretz”.

    Yet, here, ‘right off the bat’ the opposite is true. Remember, this is the first verse listed to prove the consistency of DH.

    So we see in the very first verse, (am I permitted to say,) “inconsistency?”. For me, that is not a good way to prove a point. Here in verse 5, Yahweh uses “aretz” not “adamah”.

    Using this DH system, in verses 6 and 7 this same thematic inconsistency continues as “aretz” is also attributed as belonging to “J”. Then “P” comes in and in verses 11 – 13 “aretz” as per the rule (‘P uses ha’eres’) is to be found six times, twice for each verse. In Genesis 6:17 it is used twice and the second time it is used there it is translated as “land”. So far so good for the “P” document.

    But then three verses later, and still in the “P” section, verse 20, where we find, “of the earth according to their kind” the word that according to the rules of proper DH etiquette should be “earth/aretz” is actually “earth/adamah”. Now we find here in verse 20 that “P” has the same problem that “J” has in Genesis 6: 5-7.

    So 15 verses into a section of 85 verses (Genesis 6-9) that is supposed to be foundational to DH there are real problems with this system of interpretation that has very ‘rigid rules’ (?) that it can’t follow.

    Remember, we haven’t even dealt with the remaining 70 verses where, in some cases, “J” and “P” inhabit the same verse (7: 23; 8:13) and even the same sentence structure (7:4).

    To put it nicely, the placing of two different sources (“J” and “P”) in the same verse or sentence and going back a forth with this approach that happens at least 7 times and doesn’t count all the times when one source switches one with another in consecutive verses…this is contrived at best.

    One thing I have noticed again and again is that no one here who is a “regular” ever mentions these errors that are found throughout this site. Basically they can’t because they depend on Steve for the ‘Hebrew insights’.

    That and the fact that they all share in ideology of this approach that I will call a “fairy tale for the atheist/agnostic/polytheist/pagan at heart.” OOPS! That is not nice…(;~))

  4. Seedy3 wrote: A point I gleaned from this and reading the story line separably, is the promise J presents that YHVH made, was to never kill all life on earth again. But P’s version is more specific and he says that he will not destroy the earth and living creatures by “Flood” again.

    That’s a good observation, and the reason for this difference is found in P’s creation and Flood narratives. P’s conception is that creation (better, creation of order) is a subduing of watery chaos (Genesis 1:6-7), in which water is separated by the “dome” (so NRSV) of the sky. P’s Great Flood is a reversal of this order (Genesis 7:11), in which “all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened,” which contrasts with J’s 40 days and nights of rainfall (7:4, 12). Note, too, that the Hebrew tehohm, “the deep,” appears only in P texts (1:2, 7:11, and 8:2). Thus, P’s promise that God would not again unleash watery chaos (9:11, which also uses the word karath, “cut off,” found in Priestly legislation) in distinction to J’s assurance in 8:21 that Yahweh would “[n]ever again destroy every living creature.”

  5. A point I gleaned from this and reading the story line separably, is the promise J presents that YHVH made, was to never kill all life on earth again. But P’s version is more specific and he says that he will not destroy the earth and living creatures by “Flood” again.

  6. Thank you SO much for this!!
    It is so hard to try and find a good split of the stories for bible study on the flood narratives – this made my life SO MUCH easier!

  7. Steven, thank you for your rapid response. Preservation indeed seems a more likely reason for putting the stories together the way they are now, even when the attempts show so clearly. As you cover quite well and, in my opinion, humorously in other parts, the Priestly source appears to have had little problem “inserting” de novo text to support the importance (and relevance) of the descendants of Aaron including the ridiculously detailed instructions on tabernacles and offerings, but maybe there was considerably more reservation towards deleting or even changing an existing text. And this then leads to the numerous duplications or even triplications (and contradictions).

  8. Naturally the various editors at various times could have done a much better job in “harmonizing” the texts, but I think that two factors may have, highly ironically, kept them from more diligent redacting so that we are now better able to identify the numerous inconsistencies:
    1.the text was considered god’s (YHWH, El, Elohim, El Shaddai, etc) inspired word (not something you like to meddle with at any time, see the various punishments meted out for far less critical offenses like keeping the arc from falling over), so the priests and scribes must literally have been trembling every time they added, changed or deleted a single yod and
    2. many of the individual stories were probably known absolutely verbatim in the often competing oral traditions of Judea and Israel; very limited literacy was partly compensated with remarkable feats of memory; one can only imagine how the tempers would flare upon recognition of notable changes in holy texts

    1. Roland,

      Welcome! It is often assumed by modern critical readers that the redactor was attempting “to harmonize” the various competing traditions that he decided to weave together, and while this seems to be the case in many places, I often wonder if the goal was not harmonization per se, but preservation. This is perhaps best seen in the preservation of the two creation myths in Genesis 1 & 2, where it might be possible to conclude that the redactor placed these two competing accounts side-by-side exactly because they were variant versions! This may not be an acceptable thesis when looking at the compiled crossing of the Red Sea account or that of the Flood narrative(s). As suggested above, it is widely assumed by scholars that P’s rewriting of the event—the Moses’ rod version—was originally meant to replace the older Yahwist version of Yahweh blowing back the waters all night (#120-122). For whatever reason, however, a later redactor not only decided to preserve them both, but to stitch them together into one seemingly flawless narrative. I often wonder if this was a mere scribal exercise!?

      Also, I would even push the date back much further on when these texts became viewed as the unalterable words of Yahweh. When we get to the contradictions of the book of Deuteronomy, particularly his rewriting of the earlier stories from the Yahwist source, we will see that this author consciously chooses to modify, alter, and even contradict this tradition—thus leading us to conclude that even from the perspective of this 7th century BCE author these texts and traditions were not viewed as the unalterable words of Yahweh, nor history!

      Similarly, I’m inclined to think that variations in the telling of these stories in ancient Israel were perhaps viewed in a similar manner to the various ways we might tell and retell the Spiderman story, or modernize the telling of Cinderella or a Shakespeare play. So I think the issues you address are more descriptive of the views of an even later readership, probably starting in the early 3rd century or so when a codified version of the Torah and the Prophets first started to emerge.

  9. Dennis Johnson:
    NOT BUYING IT. I can’t find any translation that calls animals, “man and his woman”, and I looked at every English Bible translation on Bible Gateway. Perhaps this was deliberately changed by someone to make the Bible look stupid? It throws skepticism on the genuineness of the Bible text that you quote. What translation is this???

    The version appears to be that of biblical scholar Richard Elliott Friedman as found in his book Who Wrote The Bible?> so it is hardly “changed by someone to make the Bible look stupid.” Dr. Friedman knows biblical Hebrew, Ugaritic, Aramaic, Phoenician, et al., so he certainly knows proper translation. Why did he use “man and his woman”? Look at Genesis 2:23. The same words translated “man” and “woman” in that passage, ‘is and ‘isto respectively, are used in Genesis 7:2 and are the preferred terms of J. P favors zakar uneqebah for “male” and “female”–see 6:19, 7:9, 16. I, like Steven, am following Carr’s Fractures in Genesis, from page 54.

  10. NOT BUYING IT. I can’t find any translation that calls animals, “man and his woman”, and I looked at every English Bible translation on Bible Gateway. Perhaps this was deliberately changed by someone to make the Bible look stupid? It throws skepticism on the genuineness of the Bible text that you quote. What translation is this???
    The text shows 2 pairs of everything sent into the ark, and 7 pairs in particular of clean animals brought to Noah, “take YOURSELF seven pairs,” (which could be in ADDITION to the regular pairs). It’s just more detailed instructions for certain animals, that’s all. In verse 7:9, to sum it up, the translation you use says: “two of each”, apparently trying to show ONLY two of EVERYTHING. However, MOST translations say they all went in two by two, or in pairs, NOT eliminating the possibility of multiple pairs for some animals.
    The waters above and below began pouring the day they went in, and after 7 days it became a flood. No contradiction here either.
    I’m sure if you look hard enough, you can find some translations that don’t do the grammar quite right, and make some variation of a verb into some contradiction which it is not. Most people reading it would not see these supposed “contradictions.” The real problem is that in most people’s hearts, the Bible contradicts their own desires, which are sometimes sinful.

  11. I am thinking it’s hard to say if they were thinking they were recording History just because of the fact that I am not sure what we call History and what they would have called History would be the same. When we write History we try to be objective. We certainly fail often, but at least we try. It feels to me that they were not even trying. What appears to us as Historical text was in fact more like propaganda for a new law, or justification of a war, or glorification of a king, etc… Did they really take the time to write things for the sole purpose of recording facts? What would be the purpose of that, why spending (scarce) resources on that while there were wars, famines, royal conflicts going on? How often did that happen compared to writings with a propaganda goal? (these are not rhetorical questions, I am really asking).

    I’m not at all a specialist of these things (I’m a Physicist) but after reading all kinds of books on History and not always on religious issues, I have a feeling that they did not really have a concept of History as we mean it, or that maybe those who had one were extremely rare. They would often talk about some war or battle in a way that sounds historical to us, by giving many details such as how many people, where, when, etc… and then suddenly they would drop in a magical event completely unreasonable (to us at least), and that would be absolutely not a problem to them, as long as that magics would explain what they believed was the truth. Proofs not required.

    As to what you say about the author negating his own sources, I’m convinced that happened to. I’d say we should keep in mind that those scribes were different individuals, at different times, with different motives. It sounds quite possible that some of them had a strong respect for the accuracy of reproduction of their sources, much like we would have now, while some others did not care much about accuracy and only wanted to promote an agenda, much like many people still do now. I’m also thinking it’s possible that other scribes had no purpose or feeling at all and were just doing what they were told.

    So when you say they did or did not view these texts as History, I would think in a more “continuous” way where the two notions of (honest) respect of the source/”History” and of (dishonest) promoting of an agenda by modifying the source/”not History” may be difficult to differentiate at some level and there is probably more a kind of continuum between the two, rather than a clear separation, especially taking into account cognitive dissonance.

    I mean that the scribe who deletes something from the source, or modifies it, or adds something, will probably not do so while considering he is changing the text, which would be fraud and therefore he would be a bad person, which his psyche cannot tolerate. Just like people who kill consider they only take revenge and repair a failure of Justice, people who steal think they only took what they deserved but was unjustly refused to them, etc…
    The modifying scribe will probably instead consider he does not change the text but rather corrects it by making it closer to the original, by recovering its true meaning and by preventing opponents from promoting their own agenda based on what he considers as a biased reading dishonestly taken advantage of an ambiguity in the text, or worse, a mistake made by previous scribes that altered the original. Actually we can see that process continuing even now, with people “translating” the Bible (e.g. the “conservative” Bible, the “feminist” Bible, etc…), people who invariably consider they recover the original meaning, never considering they alter it and produce something that is different from the original, assuming that one was History.

    But this is maybe drifting too far from the original subject of the discussion. Anyway, great content, thanks a lot for the posting. I’m learning a lot from your website, and am hoping to read more soon!

  12. I was wondering if those inconsistencies might not simply be due to the scribe being ordered, or forced, to keep both. Even without seeing it as a challenge to keep both, he would be forced to because there would exist two communities around him, both refusing to give up their particular versions, and the scribe would have to keep both simply for local peace and avoiding a split. With the two communities refusing to be considered as a “new” or “different” branch, both claiming authenticity and tradition, there would be no way of solving the conflict but keeping both and doing some kind of negotiation about how to arrange the result. Isn’t it what happened anyway in the New Testament at the Nicene council? In a sense, 4 gospels are exactly that, 4 versions of the same story that have been kept side by side because nobody was ready to give up their versions, all being considered as sacred by their respective communities. Inconsistencies in there are obvious, and yet, they kept the 4 of them.

    I’m thinking that admitting they did not know what exactly happened might not have been such a problem for them. It may have become a fundamental problem for inerrantists much later, because they developed an ideology where their faith required the text to be 100% consistent. But this need not have been a requirement for people to have faith in those times. “I don’t know which one is true so I’m going to tell both” was maybe not a deal-breaker (and it is not for most Christians today as a matter of fact), while erasing something that may be the word of God would be an unacceptable loss.

    In general I would find it risky to apply our conceptions of reason to those times. I have in mind examples, which, I believe, are present both in the New Testament and in the Quran, where some enemies of the prophet deny his miracles by saying “Those are not miracles, those are just magics!”. Where you realize that those people were all considering as a given that magics does exist, same thing for demon possession, magic healing, etc… So rigorous mathematical (or historical) consistency was probably not a concern for most of them ;-)

    1. You bring some good points to the discussion. When we look at the contradictions between the Priestly source (Leviticus) and the Deuteronomist (Deuteronomy) we will see real compromise between the religion and ideology of the Aaronid priests (Leviticus) and those of the Levites (Deuteronomy). Indeed, much like the Nicene council, when the Torah gets canonized in the 5th century BC, these two priestly guilds, Aaronids and Levites, do seek compromise in order to have their competing religious systems and beliefs incorporated as part of the Torah of Moses.

      Your other point about whether the scribes (or audience?) knew what version of the story was real or accurate rests on our (?) assumption that the biblical scribes were recording history! When we get into the contradictions of Deuteronomy and actually see this author negate his own sources (the Yahwist and Elohist texts, which he has in front of him), I will make an argument that the scribes did not view these stories as history. We will see them consciously changing them! Or, it’s “history” informed by faith.

      The larger issues of modern reader’s notions of faith and the indisputable fact that there are thousands of contradictions in the Bible is one that I hope to discuss on many occasions. As you correctly note, many modern readers base their faith on the idea that the texts are divinely inspired/written, etc. If the texts’ own contradictions prove this wrong (which will be the inevitable conclusion drawn here) then these types feel that their faith is threatened, which may or may not be correct. Anyhow, many of my colleagues have faith and also know full-well that these texts were penned by men, and often with ideological agendas in mind. There are other ways to define one’s faith AND be honest to these texts— which is our project here..

  13. Good point about how much I am bringing to the interpretation. I guess my having a degree in Pure Mathematics tends to bring ‘consistency’ very high up the list of ‘automatic’ ways of listening. It does illustrate, however, just how difficult it is to interpret something with no bias, let alone the religious (0r dare I say biblical!) interpretations of the Bible we are used to. You seem to do rather well on this front, if I may say so, Dr DiMattei :-).

    You have to pity the poor public of the Dark and Middle Ages for whom, I believe, it was a sin to even read the Bible (for those few that were literate) as it was deemed necessary for a Priest to provide suitable guidance. I do not think they would have had a good opinion of you back then good sir!

  14. Another excellent post! Thanks. :)

    I’m curious about the different “writers”: Yahwist, Priestly, Elohist & Deuteronomist. Are they considered to be individual people, or are they more like traditions that came and went over different time periods? For example, the Priestly Writer is presumably a collection of writings and editions done by many different people but all conforming to a particular set of concepts etc at a particular time period…
    If so, how are they so distinct, as they appear to be?

    1. Excellent question. It’s hard to say if these sources were individual writers. Most likely they were representative of specific scribal or priestly guilds. This especially holds true for the Deuteronmists, who were Levites, and the Priestly source—a textual tradition that strongly advocated for, and legitimated through its writings, the values and beliefs of the Aaronid priesthood, and thus was written by Aaronid priests (see especially Lev 1-8, which originally existed as a private manual on sacrifices for the Aaronids). More on this can be found in the end sections to the rather lengthy How the Bible was discovered to be a collection of contradictory texts (The Documentary Hypothesis & Modern Challenges to the DH)

      The Yahwist “writer” could have been an individual writer, or even an individual who shaped the traditions (from archival material, stories, poetry, court propaganda) that he himself inherited into the narrative scholars now call the Yahwist. As far as distinguishing features of each, beside the different use of Yahweh and elohim for the Yahwist and Elohist traditions there are also the distinct uses of, for example, visitations of God in a dream in E, but in person in J, etc. For stylistic features unique to the Deuteronomist, read “Style, Vocabulary, and Message” section in the Deuteronomist, and the same for the Priestly Writer (I just added this section :)).

      If you’re following my posts on a daily bases, or even weekly, a good companion text is Richard Friedman’s The Bible with Sources Revealed. He translates the Pentateuch and color-codes each source. The introduction discusses the various different features of these sources. An excellent resource to own.

      1. Steven, what is the rationale for the redactor(s) who put together the JEP material doing such a bad job? I can understand the wish to ‘keep multiple earlier traditions’ and, indeed, write new material intended to supplant older texts as seems to have been the Deuteronomists’ intention, but if you are going to combine two or more texts wouldn’t you make more effort to make it consistent?

        1. Ah, so you think the redaction was done poorly?

          Your question has been asked and reasked by numerous scholars. Once we accept the textual data—that there are contradictions—with the logical conclusion that this was the result of multiple texts and authors, then the more speculative questions start to emerge. Most duplicate stories that we will look at are, well just that duplicates, like the 2 creation accounts, one placed right after the other. There are only 2 places in the Pentateuch that I am aware of where we get a cut-and-paste job, the Flood narrative and the Crossing of the sea of Reeds (red sea) narrative—wait to you see what’s going on there!

          I’m inclined to think that, given that the redactor/editor was attempting to preserve the various different textual traditions, his cut-and-paste job here in the Flood and the Reed sea narratives are quite ingeniously done. It has passed the eyes of most readers who do not even notice these discrepancies and contradictions. So if we’re going to grade him on his job, I’d give him an A+.

          Another thing to think about is that maybe our modern ideas and expectations of narrative coherency, or our demand for it, ought not be imposed upon these ancient scribes. Maybe their goal wasn’t to take away the contradictions. In the flood narrative this could have easily been accomplished by suppressing the mention of 7 pairs of animals, 40 day and 40 nights, etc. So it would seem then that the scribe saved all of both textual traditions. In fact, stitching two traditions together because they both “needed” to be preserved might have been looked at as a scribal test or challenge. How well can you accomplish this? might have been the challenge. It is us after all who assume that the scribe was trying to create a homogeneous narrative without any contradictions, and therefore failed utterly.

          Remember too that these texts were not public documents. So when the story of the flood was recited for a festival, a particular version or adaptation would have been recited.

          Sorry if these answers are not satisfying. Your question is much more speculative in nature … which don’t get me wrong, I enjoy. But in the end we have to speculate about how the redactor saw what he was doing, without imposing too many of our own modern (mis)conceptions. The general public usually has difficulty with these matters because they have been trained into thinking (erroneously) that these texts were unalterable or even seen as divine by the scribes themselves. Indeed, this interpretive framework comes much later and is imposed by a later readership, but the texts themselves indicate that this was not the case. Hope this is helpful.

Leave a Reply