Reviews - What do customers think about The Documentary Hypothesis?
Presuppositional Pro-Zion Propaganda May 12, 2008
Umberto Cassuto's series of eight lectures were delivered before a Hebrew speaking audience and were designed with the intent of defending the "integrity" of the first five books of the Bible, otherwise known as the Torah and the Pentateuch. From the very start Cassuto's bias and subjectivity are more than obvious: Berman's introduction unequivocally asserts Cassuto's lifelong adherence to Zionism. This aspect of Cassuto's background makes his work on the subject of the Documentary Hypothesis little more than a defense of geo-political land claims, ie., the State of Israel. It is rabid jingoism rather than an intellectually honest desire for truth that is Cassuto's motivation.
From page to page Cassuto's elitism and bias shows through. At first he says that the subject must be approached with no presuppositions and then goes on to presuppose the "exactness" of the Hebrew literature, the very thing that is in question. Cassuto is quick to admit that the Documentary Hypothesis contains many "varied aspects" but just as quickly dismisses the need to examine them. He also dismisses wholesale the necessity of employing the modern analytical method which he simultaneously claims has been perfected. Cassuto writes off all modern scholarship (except his own of course) with little to no argument as support for his cavalier dismissals. Based on these logically fallacious tactics a case could be made in the defense of any claim regardless of how ridiculous it may be.
Cassuto also fails immediately by making the false case that the foundation of the Documentary Hypothesis is the divergence in the names of God used throughout the course of the Torah. He was correct to assert that the divergence of the names of God was the first evidence of multiple sources to be discovered. But his assertion that the divine names divergence is "the ultimate foundation of the documentary hypothesis" is quite inaccurate. It is a facet yes, but not the foundation upon which all else rests as though all else would crumble if the divergence were to give way. Cassuto also attempts to assault the Documentary Hypothesis by asserting it's relevence to Homeric criticism. What he accomplishes is not much more than creating a red herring. The similarities between Higher Criticism and Homeric criticism in research, scholars and era reveal not much more than the zeitgeist from which they sprang. Such straw-men and shoddy scholarship abound throughout the course of Cassuto's tiny volume.
And the basis upon which his eight lectures rests is upon a much larger volume of work that is linguistically inaccessible to most readers. To assert that his tiny summation is somehow capable of destroying the "edifice" of the Documentary Hypothesis is not much more than sophomoric posturing.
As it stands the Documentary Hypothesis is as strong today as it has ever been. The work of Richard Friedman on the subject has been consistent and is summated in depth in his comprehensive and definitive work on the subject called Who Wrote the Bible. If Cassuto were alive today he would find that the conclusions of the megalithic edifice of the Documentary Hypothesis are also supported by archaeological evidence such as the wealth provided by Israel Finkelstein his book The Bible Unearthed.
In the end Cassuto's work is a fine, antiquated example of one man's desperate attempt to defend the alleged integrity of the traditions of the Torah's authorship. The attempt is predicated upon the desire to find legitimacy for the geo-political land claims of a nationalistic movement. The attempt is also predicated upon red herrings, straw-men and the elite and casual dismissal of centuries of objective scholarship. As an obsolete antique the book is fine, but as an objective search for truth it is quite useless.
The death of the "documentary hypothesis" Oct 8, 2007
This series of lectures was originally published as "Torath HaTeudoth" by Magnes Press (The Hebrew University, Jerusalem) in 1941. The first English edition, a translation by Israel Abraham, was published in 1961. This edition, published 2006, is a reissue of the first English translation by Israel Abraham (1961), together with a new introduction by Joshua Berman.
These lectures, delivered by Rabbi Umberto Cassuto (1883-1951), summarize his indepth research, spanning no less than 25 years, into the Graf-Wellhausen "documentary hypothesis". Unfortunately, Cassuto died before he could see all his major commentaries through to completion and publication. The unfinished nature of Cassuto's work makes this makes the present series of lectures all the more crucial in understanding his thinking.
According to the "documentary hypothesis", the 5 Books of Moses were compiled from 5 independent source documents, each independently presenting its own version of the entire history of Israel from the Creation to Moses. This hypothesis suggests that each document was characterized by its own theology, politics, language, and style.
The "documentary hypothesis" rests on 5 pillars:
1. the use of different names for the Deity; 2. variations of language and style; 3. contradictions and divergences of view; 4. duplications and repetitions; 5. signs of composite structure in the sections. (p.17)
In these lectures, Cassuto systematically and with precision demolished these five pillars. For this reason, it is hard to see why scholars cited in the media still trot out the alleged findings of this unscientific and fallacious speculation dubbed in grandiose fashion "the documentary hypothesis", when in reality it is has no more substance than "the emperor's new clothes".
A gentle but potent act of demolition Aug 4, 2007
A short series of lectures to teachers, given over 50 years ago, the book crystallises Cassuto's scholarly work on Genesis.
Mildly and politely he butchers the documentary hypothesis. His exposure of parallel historical developments in studies on Homer is telling, the simple but potent critiques of overreading Hebrew idiom are especially revealing, given that the lectures were themselves given in Hebrew, and he displays the hollow unravelling of 'composite passages' by showing the nonsensical narratives that result from a strict dissection by 'author'.
Critics who think the hypothesis retains any credibility who haven't read at least this popular introduction really have their heads in the sand.
Yet it would be a mistake to consider this a critical or negative book. Whilst he doesn't here formulate an alternative, his affection for the warmth and captivating charm of Genesis is infectious. Despite his mistrust in a Mosaic authorship, his awe for its majesty and distinctive characteristics from contemporary literature is also evident.
A highly recommended and surprisingly easy read.
Cassuto Destroys the Documentary Hypothesis Apr 16, 2006
This review is based on the Magnes Press edition of this book which is difficult to find; I hope there is little change in this new edition. In any case, it's wonderful that this treasure is now easily available. In a series of eight lectures Cassuto destroys the Documentary Hypothesis, the theory that the text of the Pentateuch was edited from four independent source-documents. Cassuto describes the development of the theory, and the evidence on which it is based: the use of different names for God in the Pentateuch, variations of its language and style, apparent contradictions and divergences, duplications and repetitions and signs of composite structure in the text. Cassuto argues that these pieces of evidence, individually and cumulatively, do not render the Documentary Hypothesis probable. Cassuto provides simpler explanations of the evidence. These explanations also fit in better with our background knowledge, including knowledge of the style of ancient near eastern texts. For example, Cassuto points out that the different divine names are used consistently in different contexts. This is best explained by the divine names having different meanings (but the same reference). Further literature of the ancient near east evinces similar context-sensitive usage of different divine names. If the Documentary Hypothesis is not true, we would find precisely the usage of divine names that we do find. Cassuto defends his claims with numerous sources, his extensive knowledge of ancient literature and Biblical Hebrew. In contrast, the proponents of the Documentary Hypothesis resort to circular reasoning and outlandish explanations of the text, as Cassuto shows. Cassuto's understanding of the details and rules of Biblical Hebrew is profound, and there is much to learn here that I have not found elsewhere. This includes five rules used in the Bible to determine which first person pronoun is to be used, how the Bible decides to use descending or ascending order in compound numerals, and the difference between expressions such as "karath berith" and "heqim berith". The beauty of Cassuto's style of writing is matched only by the clarity of his exposition. Cassuto's opinion on the origin of the text does not appear to be religious. Rather, he believes that the Pentateuch selected and refined ancient traditions; Cassuto compares this to Dante who transforms material derived from many sources into a unique harmony. Whether or not one believes in the divine origin of the Pentateuch, however, Cassuto's book is an unanswerable attack on the Documentary Hypothesis and a powerful defense of the unity of the text. I strongly recommend Cassuto's book along with Kitchen's "On the Reliability of the Old Testament".
You cannot do without this book Feb 26, 2006
I used this work in a paper a couple of years ago but I had to borrow it from a university library. I got my copy of the new reprint last week and read it in one sitting yesterday. It reminded me of things I forgot after turning in the paper.
When I read the part about how the supporters of the hypothesis falsified their data, I was flabbergasted. Since I wrote my paper two scientists have had to withdraw major papers because they falsified their data. In one case women died because of the scientist's lies.
Luckily the hypothesis is not a matter of life and death. It's also incompatible with scientific method. Fuhgeddaboudit.