What does it means to say that the Bible is more of an "anthology" than a book and how that affects the way we need to read it? Discuss the Documentary Hypothesis of the origin of the Pentateuch...

What does it means to say that the Bible is more of an "anthology" than a book and how that affects the way we need to read it?

Discuss the Documentary Hypothesis of the origin of the Pentateuch in its classic form, and show how that theory explains the fact that Genesis 1-2 contains two different accounts of creation.

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caledon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

An anthology is basically a collection of works. There are various definitions that assign further specifications, such as the works being from different authors, or on the same subject. The importance and relevance of this claim, as applied to the Bible, is at least twofold; it challenges the divine source and authority of the Bible, and it complicates the context in which it is interpreted.

In terms of secular history, the Bible is, and must, be an anthology. It not only contains elements of the Jewish Tanakh, written hundreds of years before the books of the New Testament, but the works that now compose the Christian Bible were chosen gradually, and in some cases politically, from a broad range of material over the course of nearly 400 years.

Thus, the fact that different parts of the Bible must necessarily have been authored by different people qualifies it as an anthology. One challenge to this point is the belief that the writings and choices that led to the current Bible were all directly facilitated by God; thus God is the sole author and there was no "selection" of works involved in the process.

Those who choose to interpret the Bible as a human creation must necessarily take into account factors such as the regional and temporal uses of language at the time of authorship, the absence of "original" texts and the existence of variants, and the apparent contradictions within and between texts.

This is also an important question as a matter of faith; for example, the book of Deuteronomy calls for death as a punishment for a number of crimes, many of which are not punished by death in our current legal system. We may even consider a death sentence to be wrong. Does this mean that man's justice goes against God's will? That largely depends on whether one considers the Bible to be authored by God and completely literal. 

Regarding the Documentary Hypothesis:

The Pentateuch is another name for the first five books of the Bible, most prominently the creation of the world in Genesis and Moses's work in Egypt in Exodus. The Documentary Hypothesis states that these five books were originally separate and stand-alone works, which were later compiled and edited into a single narrative by a separate "redactor" or editor, who made changes so that the books were tied to each other, thus creating the Pentateuch as we know it. This suspicion was first roused when inconsistencies were documented in the text, particularly those which contradicted the traditional view that Moses was the author.

Eventually characterizations of writing styles led to the tentative identification of different authors. This is the explanation for the two creation narratives in Genesis; the first, and most familiar narrative, was the work of one author, and the second narrative the work of another. This also explains the use of different Hebrew words for God, and the different materials used to create humans. The Documentary Hypothesis is still viewed with skepticism by some, and would be greatly bolstered if an "original" single-author text of any of the five books was discovered.