Origins of religions

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Ancient Pentateuch Studies began in the early 1800’s when researchers developed the theory that the Pentateuch was a composite document rather than the unitary production of a single author;. The first criterion used in identifying and separating the narrative strands was the occurrence of the divine names “Yahweh” and “Elohim” the latter being the general Hebrew term for ‘god’ or “gods’. By this criterion, only two sources could be identified. R Simon (1638-1712) was one of the first to question the sole authorship of the Pentateuch by Moses, and to argue that it is, in fact, a compilation of diverse documents. (Simon Richic: d 1712). After years of laborious efforts, one hypothesis won general critical support, and credit goes to the works of Graf and Wellhausen, that the Pentateuch is a merging of four documents issuing from different places and times, but all much later than Moses. First, there is the narrative source, i.e the Yahwist or (J) which from the story of creation onwards, uses the divine name “Yahweh” Then the Elohistic or (E) which designates God by the common name “Elohim”. The Yahwistic source was committed to writing in Judah in the tenth century, while the Elohistic was in the worth of Israel, a century later (CCB: 1988).


When Northern Israel fell to Assyrix from ground 721BC, the two documents were combined (JE). From the time of King Josiah, the Deuteronomist source or (D) was added hence the (JED). After the Exile, the Priestly source or (P) containing laws and more narratives, entered the compilation which gave us the final form called the (JEDP). This is known as the Documentary Hypothesis or Four-Source Theory of the Pentateuch (O.T:- sources) which extend deep into ancient oral traditions circulating among the ancient peoples of Israel from around 98OBC mainly written under Levitical authorities, influenced by the spirit of Moses;. Hence, they are called the Books of Moses. ( see the CCB, 1988, and Goodnews-Collins BSN: 1995)


  1. THE YAHWIST: From the time of King Solomon, accounts of Israel’s development from the beginning of creation were written: it was called the “Yahwist” because he refers to God by the Hebrew name “Yahweh” (Jehovah) it started its narratives from the account of creation itself rather than from when Moses received Revelation of the Name “Yaweh” (Exod 3:14-15) in style, the Yahwist is visual, anthropormorphic direct and impressive ( i.e describing God in human form) (Gen 3:8) God has a great insight into human nature and problems of man like death, childbirth pains, and man’s hardworks: Please read through the Book of Genesis for the early beginnings of Man).

  2. THE ELOHIST: The Influential tribe of Ephraim, in the North, produced the Elohist tradition which was highly moralist and called “Elohist, after the use of the divine name “Elolim in Northern Israel used often Elohims or God’s Marvelous deeds around the times of Elijah and Elisha (mid 9th century BC) He gave prominence to Northern figures like Joseph, Rachel and Ephraim. The Elohist started with the call of Abraham, and Israel’s Patriarchs. He does not also have the theological depth and literary quality of the Yahwist, rather he emphasises the distance between God and man which is bridged by means of dreams, visions spiritual intermediaries and the Prophets. The Elohist focuses on the love of God for his people despite their many shortcomings. Their covenant with God covered them ( i.e Israel: North and South). The Elohist emphasizes man’s duties towards God (Please see the Decalogue)

J & E COMBINED ( Please see the CCB, 1988)

When the Assyrian army destroyed the Northern Kingdom in 721 BC, the ‘E’ version of Israel’s origins was brought to the Southern Kingdom of Judah. These two traditions were joined together by an unknown editor during the reign of King Hezekiah of Judah. On the whole, the editor gave preference to the Yahwist story.


Deut 5:6-21, is an example of a northern source tradition called the Deuteronomist, or Leviticus law traditions that entered the south from the exiled North from C721BC Scholars called it the deuteronomistic source being the document that formed the heart of the book of Deuteronomy particularly chapter 12-26 leading to king Josiah’s reforms around 621BC (2 Kgs 22:8-23:24.)


The Southern Priestly source (P): which completed the JEDP traditions dates from the years of the Babylonian Exile, extending to the first years of the post-Exilic period (i.e, 550-450 BC) The “P” represents the legal traditions preserved and developed by Judaean Priests of the Temple of Jerusalem. The laws constitute the principal part of the Priestly tradition, particularly concerned with the organization of the Holy Tent of meeting the “Koheu” The source focused on worship, lineage recordings and genealogies; which included Sacrifice, festivities, the individual and functions of Aaron and his descendants. From Huraults translation (1988) we learn that the Holiness Code in Leviticus 17:26 is the nucleus of the priestly tradition: (“Be holy”) the Priestly teaching was observance of the laws, hence, the priest tied the people (closer) to God. In that way they tried to organize the religious life of the people of Israel in Exi1e, cut off as they were from the ritual worship in the Temple. Central to their theology was the concept of God who was graciously dwelling in their midst, the God who had revealed the manner in which he might be served and worshipped. The P’stylistic sty is mostly dry and technical. His masterpiece is the creation story in Gen1:1-2:4. (Hurault CCB, 1988)


The four sources: i.e the Yahwist, The Elohist, the Deuternomist and the Priestly Produced the Pentateuch. Two of these are narrative sources i.e, the Yahwist and the Elohist. The Deuteronomist and priestly are legal sources. The Yahwist and the Priestly sources originated in the South the other two originated from the North.


(a) The constant attack of Northern Israel (or Ephraim) by Assyria (2 Kings 17:3 (1-34) etc )

(b) The Division of Israel from a tribal- Federation to Kingship and the Jeroboam Northern Session or Separation from the South produced the J and E” Sources: the “J” was more Judean, while “E” was highly northern signifying the division of Israel

(c) The destruction of the Northern Kingdom in 721 BC helped in the formation of the central core sources (chapters 12-26) of the Book of Deuteronomy.

(d) Finally, the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 ( or 586BC by Babylon ( i.e Nebuchadnezzar) prompted the Priestly authors to codify the rules and regulations which finally resulted in the Pentateuch by 400 BC.

Genesis is the first book of the Bible; it means “the beginning”, Scholars say the first five books of the Bible from Genesis, were probably written by Moses or the Levites in the Sinai desert around, 1800 BCE: it has, [a] the story of creation, Genesis 1 & 2. [b] The call of the patriarch Abraham around 2,500 BCE, [c] The formation of the twelve tribes of Israel through Jacob, [d] The Egyptian enslavement of the Jews. [e] Moses the Jewish Egyptian prince etc. (See the Holy Bible; New International Version Study Bible)


Exodus means to move or leave: Exodus is the continuation of Genesis. It is the second book of the Bible written around the same time as Genesis. Scholars agree that whoever wrote Genesis has a hand in writing Exodus since there are clear evidences that Exodus is a continuation of Genesis. The Exodus narratives mainly tell the story of how God (YHWH) used Moses, a former Jewish - Egyptian prince to lead the Jews out of Egyptian bondage, on their way to Canaan the Promised Land. (Cecil Roth; Encyclopedia Judiaica: 1970)


Leviticus follows Exodus’, Moses did not enter the Promised Land, rather God chose Joshua to lead theJews into Canaan, the land flowing with milk and honey. Leviticus is a continuation of Exodus; Leviticus means Priesthood or Priestly i.e. family inheritance of priesthood. It is a book probably written by Jewish priests, but some opinions strongly say Moses wrote Leviticus around 1800 BCE. (Cognate 1,400BC) (Wycliffe:1987)


As the name suggests, Richard Levin (1992) remembers that the biblical book of numbers is one of the ancient books on statistics. Before the Jews entered Canaan, God called Moses in the wilderness of Sinai and commanded him to count all Israel.


Deuteronomy has more moral laws from God to the Jews. Genesis to Deuteronomy forms the Jewish Torah (i.e. Law) (Cecil Roth: 1970) Deuteronomy was set on the bank of river Jordan. That was When Moses was preparing the Israelites for entry into Canaan. It was like a rehearsal or reminder of all the moral Laws in the Torah. However, Deuteronomy 34 and Joshua I show that Moses did not enter the Promised Land. Joshua took over from Moses; The laws consist of the covenant Laws received at Sinai. Laws given by God to the Israelites at Sinai and in Canaan were religious and moral codes of conduct.


See Oyekanmi O.A (Ogundu Nnaji, editor) for speculations on Israel borrowing prophecy from the Canaanites and Akkadians (i.e. ancient Mesopotamia). The Hebrew Nabi (i.e spokes-man) also means seer, a prophetic figure who sees into the future, often receiving messages from God directed at the people of Israel.


Jewish prophets were called Nebhim or seers; They are those who can see into the future (Oyekanmi 2002). Prophets in Israel received messages from God and delivered the messages and laws to the Jews.


Numbers 12: 6-7 shows that Moses was higher than a prophet, born from the Levi family line of Amram of Kohath: (Exd 2:1-10) Thus, Moses and his Senior brother Aaron, were Levites, i.e Priests


Joshua took over from Moses and has been classified among the former prophets. The former prophets existed mainly about 600-800 years before Samuel appeared as the last judge and the first major prophet. Numbers 12:6 has a criteria needed for someone to be a prophet

And the Lord came down in the pillar of cloud ... and said”, if there be a prophet among you,, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision and will speak unto him in a dream”

It is important for us to note that Israel had many prophets which included major, minor and apprentice prophets called Sons of the prophets. Oyekanmi (2002): says that prophecy in Israel may have been borrowed from the Canaanites in addition to it been revelations from God (Deut 18:18-22 or 9-22).

JUDGES (Hebrew, “Shophetim”=Leaders):

Biblical Judges functioned between 1,400 BC to 1,100 BC. After Joshua, Caleb became the second Judge and Pseudo Prophet of Israel (i.e Judges 1:1) other judges include Othniel Ehud, Judges 3:27-31; Deborah Judges 4:6, Gideon Judges 6:11-13, etc Abimelech, Judges 9:22-24 (Abimelech was a wicked Judge) Tola, Judges 10:1, Japheth, Judges 11, Samson Judges 14. This study calls Biblical judges’ pseudo prophets since God did not specifically raise them to function as prophets, rather they led Israel immediately after the Exodus when Israel had no kings and prophets. However, while judging Israel, they. were also receiving messages from God. Let’s not forget that Gideon was actually a solider, Deborah was called a prophetess, while Samson was just a young strong, handsome Nazarite.


See Number 12:6, compared to Ezekiel 1:1, Jeremiah 30, Daniel 7:1-end; Daniel 5: 7, 15-end, Daniel 8 and 9 etc. Then Books of 1 and 2 Samuel, also called l and 2 Books of the kings.


After Samson, (Judges 14), Israel had no generally recognized judge, or leader. This was so until the teenage Samuel was called (1Sam.3:1- end,). Samuel became the new chief priest, the last judge and the first generally acclaimed new age prophet. First and second Samuel contain Samuel’s mission and ministry in a united Israel, because about 150 years later (immediately after Solomon) Israel divided into two kingdoms, (North and South) Samuel anointed Saul as first king of Israel.


(2 Samuel 7:2 8); Nathan took over from Samuel, Samuel anointed David as second king, Nathan prophesied to David (e.g.: 1kings 1:10 11) Nathan also helped to crown Solomon king, preventing Adonijah from crowning himself king after very old and helpless David (1 kings 1: 38 53) failed to install a successor


The Old Testament books of first and second kings are called the third and fourth books of the kings. After Nathan appeared in second Samuel, Elijah and Elisha appeared in first and second kings. This was 1,650 years before Jesus was born. Rehoboam had then succeeded his father Solomon as king; soon Jeroboam from the North rebelled against the king, leading to the division of Israel into the Northern kingdom called Israel with 10 tribes, and the south called Judah, with two tribes: only Judah survived till date as present day Israel.


See 1kings l7:17-24, I kings l8:l to 46, Elijah and his miracles appeared mainly in the days of Ahab in the Northern kingdom. Elijah did not write any Bible book, yet he was one of the most fearless prophets to emerge from ancient Israel, see I kings 18:17-41, for his battle against the prophets of Baal.


(I kings 19:15-16) Elisha took over from Elijah at a time when Jezebel was persecuting Elijah and other Sons of the prophets (i.e. apprentice prophets) Elisha inherited great powers of miracles from his master Elijah mainly as a result of his insistence to see Elijah being taken up to Heaven in a chariot of fire (2 kings 2:1, 7-end).


Micaiah was one of the hundreds of sons of the prophets. He successfully prophesied Ahab’s death in Israel’s battle against Syria. Jehoshaphat king of Judah escaped alive from that battle (1 king 22:1 3&)

Note: (The Major Prophets are so called since they had long prophetic writings in the Old Testament)

The latter prophets appeared around 1,200 to 600 BC, Jeremiah probably been the last at about 600 and 590 BC (see NIV study Bible). That was virtually 550 years before Jesus. Jeremiah was still prophesying when Nebuchadnezzar marched into Jerusalem around 600 or 586BCE (2 Kings 24: 1- end) that was shortly after Hezekiah had ruled Judah (2 kings 18:1) Before Hezekiah, Northern Israel had defeated Southern Israel, i.e (Judah) in a tribal war (2 kings 14: 1-end) This was followed by more evil kings and confusion, setting the stage for God’s captivity anger against Israel. (2 king 16:7 records that around 640 or 620 BC Ahaz king of Judah requested Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria to save Judah from Syria. Pileser responded by invading Syria, killing Rezin the Syrian king and carrying Syrra into exile to Kir (2 kings 16:17-10)


Prophet Isaiah, son of Amoz was a contemporary of Ahaz and Hezekiah around 650 BC, that was when early Greek philosophers were philosophy students in Egypt. He prophesied the coming of the. Messiah after captivity (Isaiah 9:6-8) The book of Isaiah has 66 chapters which some opinions say were not entirely written by Isaiah alone, Isaiah prophesied the conquest of Babylon by Cyrus of Medo Persia, that was 200 years before it happened and 530 years before Christ which was Immediately after Cyrus (i.e. Darius) of Persia freed Israel from Babylonia etc. The age of Socrates, and Alexander the great of Greece etc. was just setting in (Ogundu C.O, Ibadan PhD Thesis, 2000)


Jeremiah’s father, Hilkiah, was a priest of Anathoth in Benjamin Jeremiah prophesied during the days of Josiah king of Judah around 610 to 570 BC, this was during the captivity of Judah by Babylon. Jeremiah was not carried into exile, Jeremiah 29:1 has a record of Jeremiah sending a letter to those in exile concerning false prophets. Jeremiah prophesied that Judah will return from exile after seventy years Jer. 25:11,8-1 3, Jer. 29: 10) (see also Watch Tower; By Creation or Evolution? 1985, Pennsylvania).

In Jeremiah 30, God ordered Jeremiah to write down all the prophecies he received from God Jeremiah 1:4 says that God knew Jeremiah before Jeremiah was formed in the womb. Before Judah was exiled around 600 BC, Sargon of Assyria had in c721 BC carried 27,290 Jews into exile from the Northern kingdom (Watch Tower: 1985 outstanding Biblical prophecies) p 209. Jeremiah has 52 chapters.

This book which seriously laments the evacuation of Jerusalem into captivity is attributed to Jeremiah as the author. It has five ‘chapters. (See Ezekiel 19, see also Danny McCain, New Testament Notes; ACTS; Jos; 1996.)


Ezekiel’s very first statement shows that Ezekiel and king Jehoiachim were captives in Babylonia (that was the fifth year of captivity around 595 BC. Ezekiel wrote that he was among the captives by the river of chebar when the Heavens were opened “and I saw visions of God” (Ezekiel 1:1)

Ezekiel primarily explained how sin and false prophets had led Israel into the punishment of exile. Ezekiel also prophesied God’s kindness and the end of Israel’s humiliation in captivity; Not forgetting prophecies against Tyre and Egypt Ezekiel 30:6; Ezekiel 24;15-18 records the death of Ezekiel’s cherished wife (see Ezekiel 37, in the valley of dry bones) Ezekiel has 48 chapters


The book of Daniel (1:1) clearly tells us that in the third year of the reign of Jehoiachim, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came calling; dooms day for Judah (read Jeremiah above) Daniel like Ezekiel was also carried into exile (Dan 1:1-6). They could not get Jeremiah. It was said Jeremiah was thrown into a dry well, so he escaped exile.

Daniel was hermeneutic in that he interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams and the hand writing on Belshazzar’s wall; Surviving the lion’s den, Daniel had a dream of’ the beasts, perhaps connected to - the Apocalypse which means great and remarkable events to come (Daniel 7:1-end, verse 17-18). The four beasts are four future great kings that will arise on earth to fight the saints of the Lord.

Daniel’s other apocalyptic visions include Persia and Greece (Daniel 7, then 8:20-23). By 333 BC 200 years after Daniel, Alexander the great of Macedonia ran into Persian opposition (McCain; 1996); Daniel 8:20-27, 10:20, and I 0;1-end. The Book of Daniel has 12 chapters. The battle between Northern and southern kingdoms of modern times were also prophesied. The fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecies show that after Cyrus freed Israel around 530/520 BC, the power of Greece and Greek philosophy were already rising.


Onyekwelu (2006) Says-that Minor Prophets are so called because their Biblical narratives are shorter accounts compared to the Major Prophets longer writings: They prophesied punishment of Israel and messianic visitations after Israel’s ordeal. Some of the twelve Minor Prophets were exilic prophets: i.e. they prophesied in exile; Pre - Exilic Prophets prophesied before exile e.g. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Hosea, etc. Post Exilic prophets prophesied after the exile. Though still under debate-if there are postcxilic-prophets)

Onyekwelu (2006) says that all Biblical prophets were sent by God; Oyekanmi’s views are a little different and more contentious.

Hosea prophesied in the days of Ahaz and Hezekiah of Judah, (Israel’s southern kingdom,) and in the days of Jeroboam son of Joash in the North around 610 BC, some .10 years before Nebuchadnezzar entered Jerusalem. The major message God gave Hosea was for him to marry a harlot symbolizing Israel as the prostitute married to God (Hosea 1:1-3) Hosea married Gomer the daughter of Diblaim. Jezreel the name of Hosea’s first son was to signify that God will surely end the kingdom of the house of Israel i.e. the North. (Hosea 1:4) Hosea has 14 chapters.


Joel 1: 14-20 gives us a hint of what Joel’s message was all about; Destruction of disobedient Israel was still on the lips of the Minor Prophets. Joel has only 3 chapters After prophesying doom for Israel in chapter 1, chapters 2 and 3 went on to prophesy return from captivity, then punishment for Egypt and Edom (Joel 3:19) Note that the Minor Prophets prophesied in the days of the Greek city states, Shortly before Socrates was born.

Joel 3:6-8 says the Jews were sold to the Grecians by Babylon, aided by the Palestinians; therefore God will also punish the Palestinians after the captivity. (Compare this to the Palestinian struggle as the Palestinians cry-out that Israel has made them slaves in their own land)

The book of Amos tells us that there was earthquake in the days of Amos (Amos 1 :1) Amos 1:3 says God will not turn away the punishment Israel was about to suffer, Uzziah king of Judah and king Jeroboam (Son of Joash) In the North, were on the throne when Amos prophesied. Amos has 9 short chapters.


Obadiah has perhaps the smallest book of prophecy of just chapter 1:1-21. Obadiah prophesied against Edom (Esau) perhaps a symbolic representation of Gentiles fighting against Israel and causing Israel to sin, leading them into the captivity that will engulf all the surrounding peoples in one conflict or the other.


Jonah has four very short chapters. From our Sunday school days the story of Jonah trying to run away from Nineveh is very familiar. God sent Jonah to Nineveh however, Jonah decided to run away. But he ended up in the belly of a fish. Eventually the shark that swallowed Jonah vomited him at Nineveh coast after the ship’s crew had thrown him into the sea. Jonah was compelled to go and prophesy to the sinful Nineveh.


Micah’s 7 short chapters emphasize that there were false prophets. His prophecies were largely directed towards Samaria (the Northern kingdom) and Jerusalem (the southern kingdom). This was in the days of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah (Micah 1:1) However, Micah says that after Israel is punished, that the deliverer will come because the Lord our God is merciful.


Nahum gave us that quotation that “God is jealous” (Nahum 1:1) Nahum also says that God is slow to anger and great in power.(Nahum 1:3) God will revenge against his enemies, this means that those who disobey God, like Nineveh, must be punished. Nahum’s last chapter, chapter 3 verse 1 says, “Woe to the bloody city of lies and robbery, God shall punish them all”.


Habakkuk 1:6 says “God will raise up the Chaldeans (Babylonians) that bitter and nasty nation which shall march through the Land (i.e. Israel) Habakkuk was a prophet that seriously warned that God was sending the dangerous Chaldeans (Mesopotamians) to (i.e. Israel). It has three chapters especially chapter 3(i.e. prayer of Habakkuk) records Habakkuk praying God to have mercy in his wrath.

ZEPHANIAH Greek “Sophoniaks”: Hebrew” Sophoner” = Hidden) BDB, 2007:

Zephaniah son of Cush prophesied in the days of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah very close to 600 BCE when Nebuchadnezzar was dated to have come calling. The summary of Zephaniah’s three chapters of message of doom sounds like this “I will utterly consume all things from off the land says the Lord; I will consume man and beast ---- I will stretch out mine hand toward Judah and upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and will cut off the remnant of Baal from the place (Zephaniah 1:1-4).

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