Reading Noah and the flood through the Source Theory Lens (a)

Previous blog:  God Questions His Creation: The Story of the Flood (d)

 The entire selection of God Questions His Creation: The Story of the Flood is also available as one PDF document rather than a series of blogs. 

What happens if we follow the wisdom of Source Theory and accept a notion that there actually are two distinct flood stories in Genesis that were intertwined by some unknown editor?    We can fairly easily reconstitute the two stories if we simply separate out the verses based upon how they refer to God.  Remember, in the J-Source, God is referred to by His Name, YHWH, which is usually translated into our English Christian Bibles as “the Lord”  or “the Lord God.”  The P-Source usually refers to God by the generic word “God.”   Without doing any other editing or rearranging, we can see one possible way that the Noah story might divide out: 

J-Source –   Genesis 6:5-8; 7:1-9a, 10, 12, 16b-17a, 22-23; 8:2b-3a, 6-13b, 20-22 

P-Source –  Genesis 6:9-22; 7:9b-11, 13-16a, 17b-21, 24; 8:1-2a,3b-5, 13a, 14-19; 19:1-17.

 I have arranged the text of the Revised Standard Version of Genesis 6-9 separating them according to this J-Source/P-Source schema and then placed them in parallel columns so that you can see how the two stories compare with each other.  You can view you this parallel column arrangement at  Reading Noah and the Flood Through the Source Theory Lens – just scroll down through this same text until you come to the two parallel columns of Genesis 6-9 with the J-Source on the left and the P-Source in the right column.  While there is a lot of agreement among Source Theorists about the two sources that contributed to the Flood story, there is not a 100% agreement among Biblical scholars precisely how to separate the text between the J-Source and the P-Source.  I based my editing almost entirely on the text referring to “God” or “the Lord.” Obviously a phrase here or there (especially the transitional phrases between the two sources) could go either way or actually could go both ways.  But you get the big picture of how the Flood story reads as two stories woven together.  

It is also possible that the editor of the text moved some verses around so that the text would flow better in its final edited/woven form.  Two verses that seem possibly out of place when the story is separated into two versions are:   7:16 in the J-Source which seems to fit more naturally after 7:9, and in the P-Source 7:17 seems as if would flow perfectly from the end of 7:11.  You can judge for yourself whether each of the 2 stories flows well when separated along a J/P pattern. 

In general, besides referring to God as “the Lord,” the God of the J-Source is described in anthropomorphic terms – He is a very hands on Creator God, very (physically) active in creation.    The God of the P-Source is more transcendent – distant from His creation and a supreme ruler from on high.    If you follow the two Source Theory, you also realize in the: 

J-Source –  The building of the ark is not described; Noah is instructed to take 7 pair of clean animals in the ark but only 1 pair of unclean animals; Noah is to take his unnamed Sons, wife and daughters-in-law in the ark;  Noah is 600 years old when the flood begins; Noah, et al,  are in the ark 7 days before the flood actually begins; the flood is caused by a rain storm which lasts 40 days,  the waters basically cover the tree tops (but not the mountain tops as they do in the P-Source), and on the 61st day after entering the ark, Noah leaves the ark.  

P-Source –  The building of the ark is given very specific detail; the names of Noah’s sons are provided; two of each kind of animal is to be taken in the ark; food for all is to be put in the ark; a covenant between God and humans will be established (covenants are indicative that the verses come from the hand of the P-Source); that Noah “did as God commanded” is a repeating refrain in the story (in Genesis 1 also a P-Source story there is the repeating refrain “and God saw that it was good”);   exact day of the year and day of the week is provided for the beginning and end of the story (as in Genesis 1 where God creates the world in exactly 7 days); it is the deeps above and below the earth which burst forth with the cataclysmic flood waters – not just a rainstorm, but the waters of Genesis 1 which were contained by God so the dry earth could come into existence are suddenly let loose again; the flood occurs on the very day Noah enters the ark, not 7 days later as in the J-Source; the flood waters rise above the mountain tops; the flood waters increase for 150 days; Noah, et al, are in the ark a total of 340 days

Next:  Reading Noah and the flood through the Source Theory Lens (b)

4 thoughts on “Reading Noah and the flood through the Source Theory Lens (a)

  1. Pingback: God Questions His Creation: The Story of the Flood (d) « Fr. Ted’s Blog

  2. Pingback: Reading Noah and the flood through the Source Theory Lens (b) « Fr. Ted’s Blog

  3. Pingback: The River From Eden Yields the Four Gospels – Fr. Ted's Blog

  4. Pingback: The River From Eden Yields the Four Gospels – CHRIST THE MORNING STAR

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