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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

Composition.

About the process or processes by which the diverse material was combined to form a single literary work there is at present no consensus of opinion. The Documentary Hypothesis (see INTROD.PENT B), which was the dominant theory for about a century, envisaged an interweaving of comprehensive ‘horizontal’ written sources (in Genesis, J, E, and P); but this view has met strong opposition during the last twenty years; and none of the alternative theories that have been proposed has yet found general acceptance. One thorough investigation of the composition of the patriarchal stories (Blum 1984 ), which envisages a gradual process of composition in which the traditions about each of the patriarchs were gradually and independently built up before their combination into larger complexes, has considerable plausibility; on the other hand, the notion of a fragment hypothesis according to which there was no lengthy process of growth but a single act of composition in which a mass of material was collated by a single author, as in the case of the early Greek historians cited above, has undergone something of a revival: see Whybray (1987: 221–42). In this commentary the Documentary Hypothesis is referred to only occasionally. Obvious differences of point of view implied in the material employed have been noted; but no attempt has been made to define or to date these. References to the ‘author’, ‘editor’ etc., are to those responsible for the final shaping of the book.

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