Visualizing Pentateuchal Composition: A New View of the Creation of Ancient Hebrew Literature


  • Seth L. Sanders University of California
  • Walker Rhea University of California Davis
  • Kay White Mount Holyoke College



Pentateuch, Hebrew Bible, Comparative Literature, Source Criticism, Non-Documentarian, Neo-Documentarian, Gilgamesh, Flood


This article describes a gap in scholarship on the Hebrew Bible, and demonstrates a way to address it via a digital humanities project that is at once a research tool and an interactive work of public scholarship. The gap results from the fact, well-known among scholars but still startling to much of the public, that ancient Israel had no Bible as we know it. This is the case for the Persian and Hellenistic period, when, as we know largely from the evidence of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the textual form of many biblical books and the biblical canon as a unit was not yet fixed. But it is also true in a different way for an earlier period in the history of the Pentateuch, before the texts were edited into their current form. With this consensus as a starting point, we present the opportunity to visualize the most widely-agreed on possible sources and layers of the Pentateuch separately, offering a glimpse of texts closer to what people in ancient Israel may have actually had, and letting readers experiment with how they may have been combined.


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How to Cite

Sanders, S. L., Rhea, W. . and White, K. . (2023) “Visualizing Pentateuchal Composition: A New View of the Creation of Ancient Hebrew Literature”, Avar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Life and Society in the Ancient Near East . London, UK, 2(2), pp. 379–432. doi: 10.33182/aijls.v2i2.2842.



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