Though Bible scholars live in an age of unprecedented discovery, they stand in the shadow of nineteenth-century higher criticism. There was a time when the label “conservative” meant the rejection of that higher criticism, but now the conservative mind often latches onto higher criticism even though archaeology has rendered it untenable. My conservative critics, some of whom are on the faculties of Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish seminaries, find fault not because my writings run counter to any particular religious tenet, but because I am not devoted to JEDP: the badge of interconfessional academic respectability.
All of my Bible professors were conservative higher critics with a positive appreciation—and in some instances, with a profound knowledge—of the archaeological discoveries bearing on the Bible. I was trained simultaneously in higher criticism and biblical archaeology without at first realizing that the two points of view were mutually exclusive. By this I mean that a commitment to any hypothetical source-structure like JEDP is out of keeping with what I consider the only tenable position for a critical scholar: to go wherever the evidence leads him.
When I speak of a “commitment” to JEDP, I mean it in the deepest sense of the word. I have heard professors of Old Testament refer to the integrity of JEDP as their “conviction.” They are willing to countenance modifications in detail. They permit you to subdivide (D1, D2, D3, and so forth) or combine (JE) or add a new document designated by another capital letter; but they will not tolerate any questioning of the basic JEDP structure. I am at a loss to explain this kind of “conviction” ...1
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