Who wrote Genesis

UZH News

The divergent discussion on the history of literature, law and theology of the Pentateuch has its roots in fundamental upheavals in Old Testament science, which have changed their face in the last generation of research.

Total theological paradigms in the headwind

There are various reasons for these changes: First, archeology has produced a multitude of new findings that are decisive for the historical picture of the religion and literature of ancient Israel.

Second, Old Testament science has become (itself) more critical of overall theological paradigms that influence historical work in a theological landscape that has become pluralistic.

And thirdly, the preliminary literary reconstruction of Old Testament texts has broken away from traditional but untenable paradigms in many areas and has opened up new perspectives. In this new situation of Old Testament science as a whole, Pentateuch research is also reorienting itself.

Classical research in Israel with a lot of support

For its most recent phases, it can be stated that it is practiced with very different principles, methods and results in the three most important scientific cultures that research the Pentateuch, namely in North America, Israel and Europe - probably mainly due to different scientific and historical influences.

In Israel, the “newer document hypothesis” in its classic form continues to enjoy high recognition. Above all, the Pentateuch research carried out at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem sees the future in the refinement, not the approval of the elaboration of the sources "J", "E" and "P" for the reconstruction of the history of the Pentateuch's origins.

The so-called priestly written texts under the siglum "P" enjoy great interest. They are researched particularly intensively.

Skeptical view from Europe

Unlike in Israel, the European discussion has moved a long way away from the “newer document hypothesis”. More and more the conviction has taken hold that the Pentateuch essentially consists of thematic blocks ("Prehistory", "Father's History", "Moses-Exodus-History") and less from continuous sources ("Yahwist", "Elohist", "Priesthood ») Has been compiled.

In particular, the two presumably oldest sources - "J" and "E" - are viewed with great skepticism in European research, while the differences between "priestly" ("P") and "non-priestly" parts of the text are still comparatively large There is consensus.

Language barriers in the USA

The North American Pentateuch discussion, on the other hand, like the one in Israel, still depends heavily on the model of the “newer document hypothesis”. However, it has allowed itself to be influenced by European developments in various areas, even if language barriers often prevent German or French-language contributions from Europe from being adequately received in the USA.

In addition, numerous non-historically oriented approaches to biblical literature are cultivated in North America, which do not or do not focus on the question of the origin of the Pentateuch, for example. This noticeably divergent situation in Pentateuch research calls for scientific reflection.

How can it be explained that the same subject is approached and interpreted so differently in three highly developed academic cultures? With all the divergences, can convergences of the scientific principles, methods and results also be recognized? How are the three different cultures to be related to one another? How can they benefit from each other?

Research is growing together

The conference, which was held in Zurich, set itself the goal of intensifying international discussions and thus bringing the scientific cultures in Israel, Europe and the USA closer together through discourse.

It was not about finding or even formulating a new “one size fits all” solution. Rather, the main interest was to clearly perceive the differences in requirements, methods and results of research in the different scientific cultures and to approach future work with an awareness of international diversity.

Despite all the differences in detail and in general, numerous points of contact and connectivity between different researchers have become visible. The international Pentateuch research is growing together and follow-up events have already been considered.