A Comprehensive List of Contradictions in the Bible, identified verse by verse and explained using the most up-to-date scholarly information about the Bible, its texts, and the men who wrote them.

The Yahwist

The textual tradition known as the Yahwist (J) was so named by academics because of its consistent and unequivocal use of the god of Israel’s name, Yahweh.1 Even though the divine name appears approximately 1,800 times in the Pentateuch alone, the other Pentateuchal sources (Elohist, Deuteronomist, and Priestly) restrain from using it prior to its revelation to Moses in Exodus: at 3:14-15 in the Elohist tradition and at 6:2-8 in the Priestly tradition. Only the Yahwist text, in other words, affirms and acknowledges—in contradiction to the claims of the later Priestly source (#11)—that the name Yahweh was known to and frequently invoked by the patriarchs prior to its revelation. Indeed, it is for this reason that the Yahwist tradition does not narrate a revelation of the divine name. According to this tradition, it was known right from the first generation of mortals (Gen 4:26). This is merely one of dozens of Yahwistic features that will be opposed and negated by later writers, and in so doing leave behind numerous contradictions in the Bible as it now stands.

The Yahwist text opens, in what is now Genesis 2:4b, with a mythic tale of man’s creation from the dust of the earth—not the cosmos’ creation as in P (#1)—and his placement in and later expulsion from a lush and fertile garden. Not incoincidentally, the Yahwist source ends with stories about the spying and future conquest of a lush and fertile land, bearing fruit and “flowing with milk and honey” (Num 13:27)—namely, the land of the southern kingdom of Judah. In other words, the majority of the stories told by the Yahwist focus on Judah, its geography, its political relationships with its ethnic neighbors, its important cultic centers, and its ancestral heroes. It is for this reason that scholars accredit the composition of the Yahwist text to southern Judean scribes. As we will see, many of these stories were written down by the Yahwist to serve a specific purpose: to legitimate and endorse the political and ideological views of the southern kingdom. The Yahwist additionally narrates stories about man’s primeval beginnings as a series of increasingly violent and disobedient acts (Gen 3-11), however now placed within a later Priestly interpretive framework that attempts to diminish and amend the Yahwist’s rather disappointing view of early humanity (chapter 3). Stories about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, which were also heavily commented on by insertions made into the narrative by a later Priestly tradition are also found in the Yahwist source. A few of these stories are now also combined with duplicate stories from the Elohist tradition, which makes its first appearance at Genesis 20, thus providing yet another voice in this now polyphonic redacted text we call the Bible. The Yahwist textual tradition continues into the book of Exodus but quickly disappears and gives way to the much stronger presence of the Elohist and Priestly sources. Finally, the book of Numbers preserves a few stories from the Yahwist tradition that center on the spying of the land of Judah and the conquest of Transjordan—again heavily amended and commented on by later Priestly inserts and variant traditions from the Elohist source.

The Yahwist text itself is most likely a compilation of stories, traditions, and archival material that was shaped into a continuous narrative by a southern Judean scribe or scribes. It is difficult to say when these traditions and stories were shaped into the larger narrative we call the Yahwist, but it could not have been earlier than the 8th century BC. Many of the Yahwist’s stories display knowledge of the geopolitical world as it was in the 9th-8th centuries BC. The final form of the Yahwist text was probably fixed sometime in the 7th century BC and continued to be revised into the exilic and post-exilic periods (6th-5th centuries BC). We must bear in mind that ancient texts are products of their historical circumstances. Stories were written down to preserve tradition, define identity and/or nationality, and explain present religious and political institutions and beliefs by tracing them back to their ancestors. Much of the ancient literature that makes up what later tradition has come to understand and interpret as “the Bible,” had its roots in the scribal activity of the royal courts and temple precincts of the late monarchal (late 8th century and 7th century BC), exilic (598-539 BC), and post-exilic periods. As such it was literature that was never produced for dissemination to the public. In fact there was no such thing as a public readership; it did not exist! Rather, religious and political texts were written to support or legitimate the beliefs or worldviews of its author and its community to other elites and powerful political figures, or to condemn and illegitimate the position of others, as we will see.

In the majority of cases, scribes wrote for a scribal guild or a monarch. As patrons of their kings, one of the responsibilities of the court scribe was to write political propaganda—that is literature that advertised, endorsed, and legitimated the king’s policies and even his ascension to the throne if need be. The Yahwist is no exception to these literary aims. Many of the stories and traditions that were shaped by the Yahwist were used to serve his political agenda. There are stories, for example, that legitimate Israel’s borders as they were in the 9th-8th centuries, or Israel’s possession of certain towns and cultic centers in the 9th-8th centuries, or again Israel’s relationships with its ethnic neighbors as they were in the 9th through 8th centuries BC. This type of political legitimation was done through narratives about ancestors who eponymously stood for ethnic peoples and tribes, such as Ishmael for the Ishmaelites of the Negeb, or Esau for the people of Edom, or then again Judah for the southern kingdom by the same name. In fact, many of the patriarchal narratives in the Yahwist tradition were crafted to legitimate either the possession of a border town, supremacy over an ethnic neighbor, or the reign of the tribe Judah in the south over and against other tribal claimants. So for example, the Yahwist legitimates the tribe of Judah’s ascension to power in the south by presenting ancient narratives that disqualify, for one reason or another, Judah’s older brothers: Reuben, Simeon, and Levi (Gen 34:25-30, 35:21-22, 49:3-7). In fact, one of the central themes of the Yahwist is the undermining of the firstborn son’s birthright. What could possibly be the political agenda of such narratives? Anyone familiar with the narrative legitimating David’s ascension to the northern throne over and against Saul’s own sons in 2 Samuel 2-5, or Solomon’s ascension to the throne of a united Israel over and against his older brothers in 1 Kings 1-2 should recognize the literary procedure here. How do you legitimate and support a new king who has usurped his older brother(s) in gaining the throne? As a loyal patron on the king’s payroll, you write a narrative that 1) disqualifies the older brothers on moral or religious grounds, and 2) legitimates the ascension to the throne of the younger by constructing a theological narrative that has Israel’s god, Yahweh, chose the younger brother over the older. Baruch Halpern has written extensively about this common scribal technique found throughout the ancient Near East.2 Similarly, the Yahwist’s interest falls on the succession and inheritance of the patriarchal blessings. But more than that, the Yahwist narrative was written to legitimate (through archaized stories) the inheritance of Judah as the political and religious ruler of the southern kingdom, and to endorse her policies and points of view.

  1. The divine name for Israel’s god, Yahweh (transliterated as yhwh), is rendered in the majority of English translations as LORD. This practice, which is misleading as well as misrepresentative of the Hebrew text, follows a late Judaic oral practice of substituting the Hebrew adonai (lord) for yhwh in the reading of the Torah, since later Judaism—centuries after these texts were actually composed—conceived the name as sacred and unspeakable. Modern translation practices have regrettably chosen to follow this later oral tradition rather than the actual Hebrew text! Here, we will be as honest to the Hebrew texts as possible. Thus everywhere your English translation has LORD in small caps, the Hebrew manuscript has Yahweh, or more precisely yhwh.
  2. Baruch Halpern, David’s Secret Demons: Messiah, Murderer, Traitor, King (Eerdmans 2001). “The most common technique for justifying the seizure of power is to admit to usurpation, but then explain that a god elected a new king because one’s predecessors were weak, sinful, or corrupt” (102).


  1. a believer in christ
    March 17, 2014    

    hello. where I am currently residing, I live with,a great man and friend who is a yawist. we have conversations in which he is way more educated in the old testament than I am. I myself who is a born again gentile in the lord jesus christ. my question is by your website’s outline of your movent should I consider this yawist man a fellow brother of the faith of christ jesus aka a”christian” or someother belief system? forgive if am ignorant of your message but what I gathered from the above description of a yahist is nothing more than,a old testament scribe or a christian Pharisee? please forgive if iam not very versed. god bless.

  2. Debra
    April 21, 2014    

    I am wondering the same as above commenter.

  3. Sivan
    April 24, 2014    

    I’m not the author of this article, so I can’t speak for him/her, but as a biblical scholar and as someone who just read the above article closely, I can say this in response to the two questions above: The argument made here (and elsewhere) is that the Yahwist was a scribe living and writing around the time of King David’s reign, and likely living in his court. As such, he or she would have been Jewish. Most biblical scholars agree that the Yahwist was writing (and that the entirety of the Old Testament / Hebrew Bible, for that matter, was written and redacted) before the birth of Christ, let alone Christianity.

  4. Steven DiMattei
    April 25, 2014    

    Indeed, thanks Sivan, and welcome. I likewise thought this was pretty self-explanatory from the post.

  5. Juan
    June 14, 2015    

    To put it simply…A Yahwist is one who follows the ancient philosophy of Yahwism, a religion. Or, one who calls God by His name, Yahweh.

    I am a Yahwist, yet not all Yahwists believe in the same philosophy, just as not all Christians believe in the same either. For example, you have Catholics, Baptists, and Methodists who are all considered Christians, but practice a different belief.

    As for myself, being a Yahwist, I believe in the Sacred Trinity…The Father (Yahweh), the Son (Yahoshua), and the Holy Spirit. The Father and the Son are not the same, nor are they one. I understand some Christians do believe they are the same entity. I’m not here to argue this belief, but to make a point below.

    The Yahwists believe that the messiah’s name is Yahoshua. Yahoshua and Jesus Christ are the same man when he is referred to as the son, yet called a different name by Yahwists when he is referred to as the the Father, or God.

    Being a Yahwist, I still consider everyone of different faith with human DNA my brother and sister.

    In book called, “The God Code”, by Greg Braden, he talks about what has been written in our own DNA, “YHVH eternal within our body.” More was written, but I’ll let you read the book if you choose. As for me, this is further proof that Yahweh is the Name of the Creator of all mankind.

    YHVH is the Tetragrammaton (4 consonants) of the ancient Hebrew alphabet pronounced Yah-way, yet spelled, Yahveh or Yahweh.

    FYI…In another example of another religion who changed Yahweh’s/God’s name, the Y became J, the H, V and H remained the same, JHVH, or Jehovah.

    Hopefully, this information will help with answering your question.


  6. Mat
    June 17, 2015    

    Very good article. It says the J text ends with spying on the promise land, however According to Richard E Friedman in The Hidden Book In The Bible, the J text continues past the Torah with parts of Joshua up to the start of 1 Kings. I have not read this anywhere else, but no one has contested it either. Was wondering your thoughts on this…?

  7. Robert M
    June 17, 2015    

    Nobody changed the divine name to JHVH. The sound represented by Hebrew yod maps to Y in English but in most other languages using the Latin alphabet it maps to J.

  8. Juan
    June 17, 2015    

    Correct…The divine name was never changed to JHVH. Yet, the founder of the Jehovah Witnesses used the vowels of “Adonai, ai, o, and a” to insert between the consonants, JHVH, a changed form of the Tetragrammaton, YHVH. Starting from right to left, the “ai =e” was inserted after the “J”…”Je”. The “o” was inserted after the “h”…”JeHo”. And, the “a” was inserted after the “v”…”JeHoVaH”.

  9. Seedy3
    June 20, 2015    

    Juan, The development of the name Jehovah is as you stated, using the vowels for adonai, However it was not C.T Russell or his descendant leaders of the Watchtower. It had actually been in use as far back as the 5th century CE (although this is somewhat debated, as some date it to a more recent date of the 11th century).

  10. nonyabusiness
    September 9, 2015    

    This article is nonsense. First the article says that the YAHwist wrote for political propaganda. Then it stated that the scribes wrote for the kings and not for the people. WHAT AN OXYMORON! People will do and say anything to discredit the Word.

  11. JD1934
    September 10, 2015    

    I am not sure of the previous poster’s confusion. I think the supposed ‘oxymoron’ (sic) are the statements that Y wrote political propaganda to serve the interest of the king and that his/her/their writings were not disseminated to the public. The “public” at this time was not literate and written books were prohibitively expensive for the “99%” of society. The public received their information from the priests, elites, nobility, leaders in general…as is explicitly stated in this article.

    This article states that Y wrote to legitimize the king(s), this writing was given to those in positions of power so that they would “tow the line” and/or have the ammunition to then go to the people and explain why the king and his laws, interpretations, customs, wars, etc were approved by the deity. There is zero discrepency here.

    People will do anything to believe the Word.

  12. Seedy3
    September 10, 2015    

    I think the problem with most people I speak with on this topic, they seem to look at it with a modern day outlook. Most everyone today, at least in the modern industrial nations, can read a write. It would be somewhat difficult to make major changes to the bible in this day and age, but was simple back when much of the Tanakh was written. Almost nobody could read or write then. I see the same issues when being confronted with the topic of who the author was of the Torah, being it is accredited to Moses, it is without a second thought stated that Moses wrote it. But they seldom think that during the supposed time of Moses, Hebrew was not a written language, so if they want to accept that Moses was real, and the exodus was real, then the Torah would have been written in Egyptian, not Hebrew.

    I think your response is well stated, and clarified what nonya’s misunderstanding is.

  13. nonyabusiness
    September 10, 2015    

    I Am (no pun intended), here for anyone who wants to understand the Truth within the words of the Bible:) Forget about who wrote the Bible. Is that the real message? Isn’t the understanding more important than the words? Words are words, they mean nothing without concepts. Who cares whether Moses wrote them or not. Does that make the lessons and concepts of the Bible less true? Do you not understand the the Bible is speaking directly to the ones that don’t understand. The Bible is spirit not carnal words written with pen or ink. What is the spirit behind the words, now that is truth. Truth consists of concepts and ideas not fleshly carnal things. Without an idea or knowledge there would be no flesh. The so called God of the Bible is consciousness. This is the force that created all knowledge. Can you see knowledge? If you can weigh a kilo and prescribe some to yourself, it’s on me free of charge. Now, I have no problem putting YHWH or Allahim (which means power in Hebrew, power meaning all creation. Any idea or concept created good or bad) in Egypt or Babylon. Before creation He stated He was there (not Allahim but YHWH. His son YAHusha is Allahim and for this reason YHWH created Allahim; the first born of flesh worthy to receive His set apart spirit). He gave all knowledge to Assyria, Babylonia, and Egypt. But He did not make Himself known but unto Abraham because unlike the person who wrote the article Abraham had faith. I am not stating anything in the old testament actually happened I wasn’t there. I do know the concepts and understanding as a result of the stories and fables have stood the test of time. The truth is not the words ” thou shalt not kill” those are only words. The truth is DO NOT KILL. Before you describe YHWH as being a blood thirsty God. He created these laws for man not for Himself. Without His ability to kill or eraticate evil death would be a perpetual cycle. But before He ends death there has to be judgment unfortunately judgment can be good or it can be bad. Once evil and death have been judged then and only then can we have true shalom and that would be good in my eyes.

  14. Seedy3
    September 10, 2015    

    Nonya, The problem with “truth” in reference to the bible it becomes very subjective. What may be truth to you may not be truth to another. That is actually why there are over 40,000 versions of Christianity in the world today. That’s not counting the many one person beliefs. This site is not based on subjective truths, but based on what the texts say and why they were written, when they were written. So yes, it is often important to understand the mindset of the persons writing the texts, in order to do that we need to identify the person or persons that wrote the texts and when they wrote them.

  15. nonyabusiness
    September 10, 2015    

    Seedy3 I can appreciate you wanting to stay on topic. I left Christianity 5 years ago. I dont believe truth is subjective. And the message should definitely not be subjective unless a person is a sociopath. That might be what is wrong with the world today too many sociopaths. You and I both know there is nothing Christian about the Bible. These scriptures were written by Hebrews and for Hebrews. Even though the scriptures applies to man as a whole (meaning Hebrews were suppose to be an example to all man. Unfortunately they fell short). Many things Christians stand for is contrary to what is stated in the Bible. For instance YHWH says He does not dwell in man made temples. A temple is any structure made for the specific purpose of worship. And yet there is a Christian church on every corner of every major city and it is a reqirment to go to these churches to be considered a Christian. This is just one of many contradictions within Christianity. I am curious to know how you got your hands on the original J source text or even the so called Elohist text. That is pretty impressive. Any idea how I can get a copy?

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I am a biblical scholar and historian of the early Christian period. But over the past 5 years I have become increasingly interested in the compositional history of the Hebrew Bible, especially the Pentateuch. In January 2013 I started posting 1 contradiction a day, with the aim of working through the entire Bible. Read more . . .

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