Answering the Documentary Hypothesis

by Matt Slick

It is not my intention to attack the character of those who advocate the Documentary Hypothesis. But the Bible says in Rom. 1:18-21 that men suppress the truth of God's word in their unrighteousness.  This is what is happening here.  They are suppressing the truth.  They are devising elaborate methods to deny the inspiration and authenticity of the Bible, particularly the Pentateuch. Nevertheless, there are several issues worth examining when answering their claims.

1. Presuppositions:

By far, the majority of those holding to the JEDP theory presuppose that the miraculous cannot happen.  Therefore, they must conclude beforehand that the Pentateuch is not inspired, and Moses could not have written it.  They must find another explanation for the Mosaic authorship of the first five books of the Bible.

Such a presupposition does not allow a proper examination of the documents and will result in inaccurate conclusions.

2. The Critics are claiming a great deal.

The Pentateuch was written centuries ago in a different language, in a different culture, and a different land.  The critics are claiming that "they are able to decide exactly what a writer could or could not say, and on this basis to determine what part of the document belongs or does not belong to him."1 In other words, the critics are basing their argument on their own ability to read a document that is 3000 years old, divide it up into word usage groups, and assert hidden divisions and separate authors.  And not only this, but they are claiming they can do it on a consistent basis.  This is hardly an exact science and is open to a wide range of error--depending upon the presuppositions and purposes of the critic.

3. Writing Styles change within Writers

What writer writes with a consistent style?  Yes, there are styles to writers, but the subject matter affects the content.  A technical work is different from a narrative or historical piece.  The Pentateuch has components of all of these. Therefore, different styles are expected.

Additionally, what the writer has in mind can easily cause him to use a different concentration of words.  Should the intention change so would the word usage.  Did Moses sit down at one sitting and write everything out?  Of course not. Upon reflection, reading, prayer, etc., his focus and purpose within sections of Scripture can change as he moves to a new subject.

4. One writer can produce different analysis results

WordPerfect has a Grammar Analyzer for readability.  I ran both the paper explaining the Documentary Hypothesis and this paper refuting it through the analyzer.  The results are interesting.

Analysis Explaining JEDP Answering JEDP
Flesch-Kincaid grade level 13.64 10.35
Passive voice (% of finite verb phrases) 9% 9%
Sentence Complexity (100 = very complex) 60 43
Vocabulary Complexity (100 = very complex) 38 22

We could conclude that though there are similarities, there must be two authors due to definite differences.  After all, the first paper has both more complex sentences and more verb complexity than the second as well as being 13th-grade level.  The funny thing is I wrote this in two sittings: One before church and the other after church on the same day.

5. A look at the actual analysis

In the back of Oswald T. Allis' book, pages 291-293, is a breakdown of the JEDP analysis of the Pentateuch.  I chose a small section dealing with Genesis 1-7 and supplied the verses (NASB version), so you can see for yourself if these divisions are warranted.


Text of Genesis

2:4b- 4:26    
  5:1-28 v. 28, "And Lamech lived one hundred and eighty-two years, and became the father of a son."
5:29   v. 29, "Now he called his name Noah, saying, 'This one shall give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the Lord has cursed.'"
  5:30-32 v. 30, "Then Lamech lived five hundred and ninety-five years after he became the father of Noah, and he had other sons and daughters."
7:1-5   v. 5, "And Noah did according to all that the Lord had commanded him."
  7:6 v. 6, "Now Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of water came upon the earth."
7:7-10   v. 7, "Then Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons' wives with him entered the ark because of the water of the flood."
  7:11 v. 11, "In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened."
7:12   v. 12, "And the rain fell upon the earth for forty days and forty nights."
  7:13-16a v. 16a, "And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, entered as God had commanded him. . ."
7:16b   v. 16b, ". . . and the Lord closed it behind him."
  7:17a v. 17a, "Then the flood came upon the earth for forty days"
7:17b   v. 17b, "and the water increased and lifted up the ark, so that it rose above the earth."
  7:18-21 v. 18, "And the water prevailed and increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark floated on the surface of the water. 19 And the water prevailed more and more upon the earth, so that all the high mountains everywhere under the heavens were covered. 20 The water prevailed fifteen cubits higher, and the mountains were covered. 21And all flesh that moved on the earth perished, birds and cattle and beasts and every swarming thing that swarms upon the earth, and all mankind,"
7:22-23   v. 22-23, "of all that was on the dry land, all in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, died. Thus He blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky, and they were blotted out from the earth; and only Noah was left, together with those that were with him in the ark."
  7:24 v. 24, "And the water prevailed upon the earth one hundred and fifty days."

As you can see, the first seven chapters of Genesis are chopped up into bite-size pieces.  In some places, sentences are cut in half and attributed to different sources.   I cannot see any reason to divide the sections of scripture up the way they have.

6. Jesus attributed the 5 books to Moses

Whether or not a biblical critic wants to take Jesus' word for anything is up to the individual.  But no less a person than Jesus authenticated the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch.  Jesus divided the Old Testament into three sections in Luke 24:44: Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms. Also, he attributed all the individual JEDP defined sections of the Pentateuch to Moses.

In Mark 10:4-8, Jesus quoted Gen. 2:24, which would be J--as coming from Moses.  Mark 7:10, Jesus quoted the Ten Commandments, which fall into the E category--as coming from Moses.  In Mark 10:3, Jesus refers to Deut. 24:1f, which would be D--as being from Moses.  In Matt. 8:4, Jesus quoted Lev. 14, which would be equivalent to P--as coming from Moses.

This is a brief look at the Documentary Hypothesis.  In my opinion, it is a fabrication based on false presuppositions and inaccurate analysis.  It contradicts what Jesus said, and it is an unreliable way to analyze a document that is thousands of years old.


  • 1. Allis, Oswald T. The Five Books of Moses. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1949. p. 70.

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.