Documentary JEDP Hypothesis/Theory, and Nephilim

Herein is a combo consideration of the effect that the Documentary Hypothesis a.k.a. the JEDP Theory has on Nephilology. I will be considering two examples, one from Jaeyoung Jeon and the other from Deane Galbraith.

Jaeyoung Jeon wrote, “The Scout Narrative (Numbers 13) as a Territorial Claim in the Persian Period,” JBL, 139, no. 2 (2020): 255–274.

Jeon writes in terms of the Documentary Hypothesis a.k.a. the JEDP Theory so that, on his view with that (pseudo) hermeneutic, “The narrative of the scouts in Num 13–14…has three different versions, by priestly, nonpriestly, and Deuteronomistic scribes.”
The hypothesis/theory has some merit in that the Torah contains more than the writings of Moses himself, but it has been taken much too far with claims that we can determine that have of a verse belongs in a different strand than the other half.

For example, not the utter specificity of Jeon writing, “the scout narrative in Num 13–14 can be separated into two major strands: the nonpriestly strand (13:17b–20, 22–24, 27, 28, 30, 31; 14:1b, 4, [11–25], 39–45) and the priestly strand (13:1–17a, 21, 25, 26, 32, 33; 14:1a, 2–3, 5–10, 26–38).”

I often ponder if scholars are still appealing to such a hypothesis/theory because they are simply not just reading text for what they state.

For example, Jeon writes:

“In this [nonpriestly] strand, the scouts reach no farther than the Valley of Eshcol and bring fruits collected from there with the report of the fertility of the land as well as the military superiority of the peoples of the land…Moses dispatches twelve scouts…They bring only a negative report that it is a land that swallows its people.”

Yet, this fails to distinguish that which Numbers 13 does distinguish which is that indeed, “Moses dispatches twelve scouts” but it was not the twelve who “bring only a negative report that it is a land that swallows its people” since that was stated with a subsequent “evil report” by ten of them (sans Caleb and Joshua) which followed the original report.

He also has it that “The nonpriestly strand of the scout narrative in Num 13–14…Caleb’s speech to the people abruptly intervenes, without any introduction of the person of Caleb, and breaks the logical sequence of events.” Yet, it seems that what he may mean by “introduction” may be subjective since, in fact, 13:6 specified not only from what he pertained but whose son he was, “from the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh.”

Jeon notes, “Caleb quiets the people (העם את כלב ויהס) in Num 13:30; the people’s rebellious complaints appear only in Num 14:1–4” but this is a pseudo-standard imposition upon the author to the effect that any narrative is to include any and all details.

In Numbers 13 it is enough to say that “Caleb quiets the people” as implying that they—itinerate wilderness tent dwellers—would be facing five “strong” nations populating large fortified cities. Numbers 14 provides their specific complaints.

Lastly, despite the fact that his paper literally dissects verses, I found it odd that he wrote in terms of that “The people of the land in verse 28 are either generally designated as a ‘mighty people’ (גדול עם) or specified as the sons of giants (ענקים בני), which reflects the language of Num 13:28.”

To refer to ענקים בני, which is bene Anakim as sons of giants is virtually incoherent since no English version has Anakim as giants. And if someone were to argue that they were giants because they were described as being “tall” then they would be making an anachronistic error in that something about unusual height is not what the old usage of giants was.

The vague, subjective, generic, and multi-usage English word giant comes from the Greek gigantes (sometimes gigas) that means “earth-born” and implies nothing about height at all.

For unknown reasons, the Septuagint/LXX rendered (not even translated) Nephilim and also Rephaim and also gibborim all as gigantes—and it is never a good idea to render more than one word (especially such different words with such different meanings) with only one word—but never Anakim (although I grant that Anakim are a Rephaim subgroups but yet, the issue of rendering the word Anakim as such still stands).

Deane Galbraith (University of Otago) wrote, “Interpellation, not Interpolation: Reconsidering Textual Disunity in Numbers 13–14 as Variant Articulations of a Single Ideology,” The Bible & Critical Theory, Vol 10, No. 1, 2014.

Galbraith references, “Source–and redaction–critical approaches…indicative of multiple sources, redactional layers, supplements, or interpolations within the text” and that a “dominant diachronic ‘solution’ involves dividing Numbers 13–14 into two major compositional layers, sometimes adding an incomplete third layer” such as “the Yahwist, ‘J’, or Jehovist, ‘JE’, in the classical documentary hypothesis.”

It seems that commonsense solutions are often bypassed (perhaps because they would not make for journal papers) in favor of elaborate elucidations that result in puzzle-piece mozaics.

For example, Galbraith writes, “Was it Moses who sent the spies (13:1–3, 16–20, 30; 14:11–19, 36, 39, 41–43, 44) or Moses and Aaron (13:26; 14:2, 5, 26)? Did Yahweh command the spy expedition (Num 13:1– 2) or was it the idea of the people (Deut 1:22)?”

Even without looking at the texts (which I most certainly have done) one can discern the simple solution that if Moses and Aaron  sent them out then Moses sent them: it is a pseudo-standard that implies that an author must always include any and all details in any and all narrative.

Likewise with whether it was Yahweh’s idea or the peoples: as with various other issues, such as having an Israelite king, God commands and/or allows that which the people want even if it was not His perfect will but His permissive will. Thus, a commonsense solution is that it was their idea and then He commanded it—granting that this may be an argument from silence.

Galbraith also asks, “who were the inhabitants of the land? Giants called Anakim and their offspring (Num 13:22, 28b; 33)? Or ordinary humans?”

He actually never defined what he means by giants within his paper—unless one counts referring to Anakim as such counts as a definition. Yet, if such is viewed as a definition then it would be sadly lacking since that word is and has been a multi-purpose term.

Biblically viewing it, in a commonsensical manner, Anakim are ordinary humans so there is no “Or” about it: that was a false dichotomy.

Now, “Giants called Anakim” biblically means “Rephaim called Anakim” which is quite accurate—again, since Anakim are a Rephaim subgroup, and Rephaim were all ordinary humans.

Now, if by “Giants called Anakim” he means something vague about being unusually tall then, sure Anakim were “tall” (Deuteronomy 2:10) but, of course, that is subjective to the average Israelite male who in those days was 5.0-5.3 ft.

Yet, Galbraith write that “The majority of the spies bring back a negative report concerning the prospects for conquering the land, even claiming that terrible giants live there” so that it was “a story about the fear of giants.”

Certainly, it was proverbially/rhetorically asked, “Who can stand before the sons of Anak?” (Deuteronomy 9:2) but just because they were infamously formidable does not mean that they were other than ordinary humans.

Yet, his characterization seems to stem from, as he cited it, “(Num 13:22, 28b; 33)” which reads, “They went up into the Negeb and came to Hebron. Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the descendants of Anak, were there. (Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.)…And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there…And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”

Yet, this is correlating part of the narrative with part of the original report with part of the evil report.

Indeed, the narrative notes that “the descendants of Anak” were said to live in Hebron.

The original report has it that they “saw the descendants of Anak there” which is a verse that continues by noting that they also saw Amalekites, Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites, and Canaanites.

The evil report has it that “there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.” These assertions are utterly unsupported by even one other single verse in the whole entire Bible.

Thus, Galbraith mashed together a reliable narrative, a reliable report and a report stated my unfaithful, disloyal, contradictory, embellishing spies whom God rebuked.

He does go on to touch upon about this last point, “the spies surreptitiously spread an evil rumour among ‘the sons of Israel’ (Num 13:32–33), their act contrasts with Joshua and Caleb’s open and public address before ‘the whole assembly of the sons of Israel’ (14:7).”

Note that these “the spies” refers to ten of the twelve. As for the supposed problem, I must not be scholarly enough to comprehend the contrast between “the sons of Israel” and “the whole assembly of the sons of Israel.”

Galbraith notes, “in Num 14:9, Caleb directly counters the spies’ rumour that the land eats its inhabitants (13:32) with a claim that the people of the land will be lahmenu [lehem] (‘our food’), one military metaphor countered with another.”

This also touches upon one of the spies contradiction since the original report had it that, “the land…floweth with milk and honey” (13:27, as does 14:8) but the ten claimed that it was “a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof” (13:32).

Galbraith also notes, “Numbers 13–14 makes use of the motif of the autochthonous [indigenous] giant, which is almost certainly influenced by Hellenic traditions, and which appears elsewhere only in late supplements (eg. Deut 1–3). Moreover, the giant motif also notably increases in Jewish pseudepigraphic and apocalyptic literature from the third century BCE onwards.”

Well, motifs such as Nephilim notably increase millennia after the Torah was written, the era of pseudepigraphic and apocalyptic texts but keep in mind that by giants he is specifically referring to Anakim which seems to denote one of the problems with employing an English word that should be ignored or else defined with each usage.

Thus, I am unaware of any influence that Hellenic traditions would have on increasing supposed references to Anakim.

I am certain that he has switched his usage of giants from Anakim to something vague about unusual height in this case but, he did not elucidate as much.

FYI: “BCE” is an anti-Christian scholarly manner whereby to refer to “BC.”

For details on Nephilology, see my various books about that subject.


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