Assumed author of those parts of the Hexateuch characterized by the use of the Hebrew word "Elohim" (= "God"). The term is employed by the critical school to designate one (or two) of the component parts of the Hexateuch. Jean Astruc (d. 1766), in his "Conjectures sur les Mémoires Originaux" (Brussels, 1753), was the first to call attention to the occurrence in Genesis and in Ex. i. and ii. of two names for the Deity, "Elohim" and "Yhwh," and to base upon this fact a theory concerning the composite character of the first Mosaic book. His hypothesis was developed by Johannes Gottfried Eichhorn ("Einleitung in das Alte Testament," 1780-83), and again elaborated by Karl David Ilgen ("Die Urkunden des Jerusalemischen Tempelarchivs," 1798), who coined the term "Elohist," applying it to two sources in which the Deity was consistently designated by "Elohim," distinct from a third in which "Yhwh" was used. This theory was adopted by Hupfeld ("Die Quellen der Genesis," 1853), whose acceptance of "Elohist" as a recognized term was followed by almost all subsequent writers on the Hexateuch from the critical point of view, though the connotation of the term was not definitely fixed at first. In earlier Hexateuchal analysis "Elohist" appears for the "Grundschrift" attributed to the first Elohist, and subsequently called the "Priestly Code" (Riehm, "Die Gesetzgebung Mosis im Lande Moab," 1854; Nöldeke, "Untersuchungen zur Kritik des Alten Testaments," 1869; Dillmann, "Hexateuch Kommentar," 1875); but after Graf (taking up the suggestions of De Wette, Ed. Reuss, Wilhelm Vatke, and J. F. George), Julius Wellhausen and Kuenen, the symbol E (Elohist) has come to designate certain historical portions of the Hexateuch, while the so-called "Grundschrift is referred to by the symbol P (Priestly Code).

Peculiarities of E.

In the views of the critical school E forms part of the "prophetic strata" (Kuenen) of the Hexateuch, which, known collectively as JE, are held to be derived from two originally independent histories, with only occasional references to legal matters; the symbol J (= Jahvist) applying to passages in which the name "Yhwh" is predominant. The work of E has not been preserved as extensively as that of J; in many parts of JE only fragments of E are extant, while J on the whole presents a well-connected narrative. It is a moot point whether E originally contained the story of Creation; but it seems certain that a goodly portion of the Elohistic patriarchal history has been lost, the first large section from E being Gen. xx., which clearly supposes some preceding account of Abraham's career. In the biography of Moses, E again is used very sparsely. It is apparent from Ex. xxxiii. 6-11 that E must have given an account of the events at Horeb, though Josh. xxiv., which seems to be a summary of E, makes no allusion to them. E names Aaron and Miriam along with Moses, and to a certain extent assigns to the two former the position of opponents. Joshua in E is preeminently the servant of Moses. As such he commands the military forces, and is also Moses' house-mate (Ex. xvii., xxiv.). It is clear that E regards Moses as the priest of the oracle and Joshua as his predestined successor. Aaron plays a subsidiary part throughout. Whether E regards Moses as the lawgiver depends upon whether the Book of the Covenant (Ex. xx.-xxiv.) formed a part of E or not. The more recent critics incline to the opinion that it did not (see Holzinger, "Der Hexateuch," pp. 176-177, Leipsic, 1893).

Linguistic Characteristics.

The use of "Elohim" for "God" is the most notable characteristic of E. "Adonai" and "El" occur occasionally (Gen. xx. 4, xxx. 20, xxxv. 7, xliii. 14). "Yhwh" was unknown before Moses (Ex. vi.). E loves such combinations as "Elohe abi," "Elohe abika," and also employs "ha-Elohim" and "Elohim" as a nomen proprium even after, according to its own theory, "Yhwh" had been revealed as the proper appellation (comp. Gen. xxxi. 5, 29, 42; xlvi. 1, 3; Ex. xviii. 4). The aboriginal population of Canaan is designated as "Emori" (Gen. xlviii. 22; Num. xiii. 29). "Kena'ani" never occurs in E (see E. Meyer in Stade's "Zeitschrift," i. 139). "Horeb" is the name for the "mountain of God" (Ex. iii. 1, xviii. 5). Jacob, not Israel, stands for the third patriarch; "Jethro" and "Jether" for Moses' father-in-law. "Ha-ish Mosheh" is peculiar to E. Other linguistic peculiarities are: the use of "amah" (maid) where J has "shifḥah"; "ba'al" in its various significations; "gadol" and"ḳaṭon" in the meaning "older" and "younger" respectively; "dibber" with the preposition ב (to talk against: Num. xii. 1, 8; xxi. 5, 7); "dabar" as object of dispute (Ex. xviii. 16-19, 26; xxii. 8); "dor dor" (Ex. iii. 15); "derek nashim" where J has "oraḥ nashim"; "hennah" (hither); "zud" (to act arrogantly); "ḥizzaḳ leb"; "hokiaḥ" and "nokaḥ" as a judicial procedure; "yeled" (boy, child); "lebab"; "luḥat ha-eben"; "mush"; "maḥaneh" for temporary camp; "maẓa'" (to meet, to encounter); "nizme zahab"; "nokri" for stranger; "nissah"; "niẓẓel" (to take away and injure); "natan" (to allow); "ha'aleh" (to bring the people out [of Egypt]); "paga'" (to meet one); "hitpallel"; "panim el panim"; "paḥad Yiẓḥaḳ." Other expressions in addition to these have been urged as distinctive of E's vocabulary. For a complete list see Holzinger, l.c. pp. 183-190. Certain grammatical peculiarities are also ascribed to E, e.g., the infinitives "halok"; "de'ah"; "redah" ( for ); "re'oh"; full forms of the suffixes, e.g., "kullanah" (Gen. xlii. 36); "lebaddanah" (Gen. xxi. 29). The style of E is loose, disjointed; such forms as "wayehi ba'et ha-hi'" (Gen. xxi. 22), "wa-yehi aḥar (aḥare) ha-debarim ha-elleh" (often), indicate this. E also indulges in long formulas of address. The name of the person addressed is repeated (Gen. xxii. 11, xlvi. 2; Ex. iii. 4). Stereotyped introductions of dreams occur rather frequently ("ba-ḥalomi wehinneh"; Gen. xl. 9, 16; xli. 17, 22). E compared with J is prosaic; but he introduces poetic quotations (Ex. xv.; Num. xxi. 14, 27). Secondary details mark his descriptions; for example, he uses names of no particular consequence to the narrative (Gen. xv. 2, xxxv. 8; Ex. i. 15); likewise learned glosses (e.g., in Gen. xxxi. 20, 24, "the Aramean"; in Ex. i. 11, "Pithom and Rameses"); and fragments of Egyptian speech ("Abrek," "Ẓotnat Pa'neaḥ," Gen. xli. 43, 45). Chronological schemes are affected by E: "three days," (Gen. xl. 12-19; Josh. i. 11, ix. 16; Ex. iii. 18, v. 3, viii. 23, x. 22, xv. 22). E also displays a certain theological bias, in illustration of which may be noted the consistency with which "Yhwh" is avoided before "Moses."

General Characteristics of E.

The work of E is popular in character. It takes no exception to the popular notion that the localities involved in the patriarchal biographies are places of worship. "Ha-maḳom" is one of E's special terms for such sacred places (Gen. xxviii. 11). God is without hesitation anthropomorphized (Ex. xxv. 1, 9-11; xxxi. 18; xxxii. 16; xxxiii. 7-11; Num. xii. 8; Ex. iv. 17-20; vii. 17; ix. 22; x. 12; xiv. 16; xvii, 5, 9; Num. xx. 8, 11). E speaks of matters pertaining to the cultus in a very naive way (sacrificial meals with non-Israelites: Gen. xxxi. 54; Ex. xviii. 12, xxiv. 11). "Maẓebot" are very frequently mentioned as though legitimate. Idols are known, and Rachel steals those of her father. Holy trees are recognized (Gen. xxxv. 4; Josh. xxiv. 26). The "neḥushtan" (brazen serpent) is connected with Moses (Num. xxi. 4-9). E maintains a sympathetic attitude toward popular religion. Still the making of the golden calf is clearly reproved (Ex. xxxii.). Human sacrifice is condemned (Gen. xxii.). Notwithstanding these leanings toward popular conceptions, the Elohist takes the view of the early (literary) prophets. Yhwh is explained as "ehyeh asher ehyeh" (Ex. iii. 14). Providential purpose is assumed in the course of human affairs, as happenings, for instance, in Joseph's experience (Gen. xlv. 6-8, I. 20). God is with the fathers even in a strange land (Gen. xxxi. 13).

In the miracles as related by E a certain supernaturalism is unmistakable. The plagues are signs to accredit Moses as God's agent. They are to a large extent wrought by the staff of Moses, without the intervention of natural forces as in J (Ex. xvii. 9 et seq.). The rôle ascribed to the Ark in E partakes also of the miraculous (Num. xi. 33), and the conquest of the land is accomplished not so much by the bravery of the tribes as by the miraculous designs and devices of God (Josh. xxiv. 12; Ex. xxiii. 28; comp. Josh. x.). The relations between Israel and God are of a moral character. The sinful nation forfeits God's good will (Ex. xxxiii. 3b). God's revelations are in E transmitted in dreams and visions (Gen. xv. 1; Num. xii. 6). God's angel, the usual medium in J, speaks, in E, from heaven (Gen. xxi. 17, xxii. 11). The superhuman conception of the Deity is thus accentuated. Moses alone was dignified by direct divine communications (Num. xii. 6 et seq.). The chiefs of Israel in E are pictured by preference as prophets. Abraham is a "nabi" (Gen. xx. 7). Moses is the "'ebed Adonai" par excellence (Num. xii. 7); he is the "man of God" (Josh. xiv. 6). He mediates between the people and God (Num. xi. 2, xxi. 7). Justice and morality are highly valued in E (see the Decalogue and the Book of the Covenant). The elders are repeatedly mentioned as guardians of the right (Ex. iii. 16, 18; iv. 29; xvii. 5; xviii. 12; xix. 7; xxiv. 1-14). In E, however, sympathetic interest in sacerdotal institutions is also manifest (Ex. xxxiii. 7-11; Num. xii. 4). Tithes are historically accredited (Gen. xxviii. 22).

Locality and Epoch of E.

E belongs to the Northern Kingdom. Patriarchal biography is localized in the northern districts. Reuben is the magnanimous brother of Joseph (Gen. xxxvii. 22, 29; xlii. 37). Shechem plays a prominent rôle (Gen. xxxv. 4; Josh. xxiv.). Beth-el is recognized as a sanctuary (Gen. xxviii. 22). Some Aramaic expressions (, Ex. xxxii. 16; , Ex. xviii. 9; comp. Hosea v. 13, vi. 1, vii. 1) confirm the impression. Kuenen and Cornill distinguish a North-Israelitish Elohist and another of Judaic tendencies (E¹ and E²; see Kuenen, "Historisch-Critisch Onderzoek," etc., § 13; Holzinger, l.c. p. 214; Cornill, "Einleitung in das Alte Testament," pp. 47-49).

By the earlier critics E was considered to antedate J; but after Wellhausen ("Gesch. Israels," i. 370 et seq.) had pleaded for the contrary view, his opinion was accepted by E. Meyer, Stade, and Holzinger, while Dillmann and Kittel continued to defend the former position. The date of E is thus variously given. E. Schrader makes him older than Hosea and later than Solomon and the building of the Temple. Dillmann assigns him to a period prior to the decline of the Northern Kingdom, that is, to the first half of the ninth century B.C. Kittel is virtually of the same opinion.

Kuenen assigns what he calls E¹ to 750 B.C.; E² to 650 B.C. Stade ("Geschichte des Volkes Israel," i. 58, 583) holds that E can not be older than 750 B.C. Lagarde regards 732 B.C. as the earliest possible date; but, following Steindorff's arguments based upon the Egyptian phrase "Ẓofnat Pa'neaḥ" (forms not occurring in Egyptian before the twenty-second dynasty, and becoming usual only after 663 and 609 B.C.), suggests 650 as the more nearly correct date. Cornill gives for E² 650 B.C., and for E¹ 750 B.C., the same as Kuenen.

  • Holzinger, Der Hexateuch, Leipsic, 1899;
  • Steuernagel, Allgemeine Einleitung in den Hexateuch, Göttingen, 1900;
  • Dillmann, Numeri, Deuteronomium, 2d ed., Leipsic, 1886;
  • Driver, Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament, 9th ed., New York, 1902;
  • Cornill, Einleitung in das Alte Testament, Freiburg, 1891;
  • the commentaries, etc., of Kuenen, Kittel, Schrader, Bäntsch, Budde, Reuss, and others;
  • Wellhausen, Komposition des Hexateuchs, Berlin, 1889;
  • Ryssel, De Elohistæ Pentateuchici Sermone;
  • Carpenter and Battersby, The Hexateuch, pp. 42-48, London, 1900.
J. E. G. H.
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