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TheFlood Story and the J and P Traditions


Floodaccounts compare and contrast according to the sources. This paperwill describe the flood account according to the J and P sources byanalyzing the characters, timelines and the different names of God.

a.Introducing the J and P sources

b.Break down into the different flood stories.

c.Thesis statement that states a defensible argument on the floodstories in Genesis


1.The flood according to ‘J.`

2.The flood according to ‘P.`

3.Defensible argument

4.Differences between the ‘J’ and ‘P’ sources

5.Similarities between the ‘J’ and ‘P’ sources


Eachflood story presents a cohesive and chronological sense. Bothaccounts concede the existence of a supreme being. The minorvariations between the accounts from these sources are as a result ofdifferences in the time periods that they lived, which had a bearingon their perception of God.


Thispaper reviewed the account of Noah and the flood as illustrated inthe Yahwist (J) and Priestly Writer (P) sources. The two sources areintroduced in the first paragraph as part of the documentaryhypothesis (DH) or the Wellhausen Hypothesis. The story of the floodin the J source is presented in this paper as God calls Noah andtells him to build an ark. Specific details are not given. Godintends to bring a flood due to the great wickedness that He haswitnessed on earth. Noah is instructed by the Creator to bring intothe ark his family and all animals in pairs of two, male and female. Noah does as God commands and the heavens and fountains of the earthopen. A flood follows for 40 days and nights and all life dies.According to the P source, however, the difference is that as it alsogives the same account as reviewed the flood lasts for 340 days. Thispaper has outlined the minor differences in language, terminologies,and timelines as noted in the two sources. These possible reasonsbehind the differences are explored and explained in details. Thereasons noted in this paper include the different perspectives of theauthors, their different periods in history and the difference interms of their intended target audience. Translation into differentlanguages has also been pointed out as a factor that courses thedifference in the two sources. The similarities are also analyzed.Since the similarities outweigh the differences, this paper concludesby supporting the authenticity of the accounts. The authenticity ofthe accounts is proven, and the existence of a supreme being whocauses all this to happen cannot be disputed, as illustrated by thispaper.

TheJ and P sources form part of the documentary hypothesis (DH) (alsoknown as the Wellhausen Hypothesis) which states that the Torah(first five books of the Bible), namely: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus,Numbers and Deuteronomy were originally in independent, complete andparallel accounts. A progression of redactors later combined thesebooks into the current form. The J and P sources form part of thefour sources that include Jahwist or Yahwist (J source), thePriestly Writer (P source), Deuteronomist (D source), and the Elohist(E source). The J source is the oldest hypothesized source of thePentateuch. It is dated back to the 9th or 10th centuries. It givesan account of creation, Noah and the flood, Noah`s descendants andthe tower of Babel.

Thepriestly source, or simply P, was written to demonstrate that evenwhen all had seemed lost, God remained present with the nation ofIsrael. The source is also in parallel with the J source indescribing the story of Israel from creation accounts, the earliesthumans, their exodus from Egypt and the consecutive experiences inthe wilderness. The different flood stories in these sources can bebroken down into the J and P accounts which are quite different butparallel. The J sources are found in Genesis 6:5-8 7:1-9, 10, 12,16-17, 22-23 8:2-3, 6-13, and 20-22, while the P sources aredocumented in Genesis 6:9-22 7:9-11, 13-16, 17-21, 24 8:1-2,3-5,13, 14-19 and 19:1-17. The objective of this paper is to provide adefensible argument on the flood stories in Genesis drawingillustrations from the Yahwist (J) and Priestly Writer (P) sources.This paper will describe the flood account according to the J and Psources by analyzing the characters, timelines and the differentnames of God.

TheFlood According To ‘J.`

Inthe J sources, Yahweh (Hebrew YHWH, German Jahwe for God) instructsNoah to build the arc. The building process of the ark is notportrayed Noah is instructed by Yahweh to take seven sets of cleancreatures in the ark and just one set of unclean creatures in pairsof male and female. Noah is told to take his anonymous wife, sons,and daughters-in-law into the ark. By that time, Noah is 600 years ofage when the surge starts. He and the rest of the people who enteredare in the ark for seven days before the surge starts. The Flood isbrought on by a heavy rainfall which endures for 40 days and40nights, and the waters fundamentally cover the tree tops and themountain peaks. All life on land, including man, creeping creatures,livestock and birds of the sky died. Then gradually, the watersstarted to recede from the surface of the earth. Noah sent a dove,and when the dove returned to the ark due to lack of a restingground, he knew the waters had not receded completely. After anotherseven days, he released the dove again and when this time it did notreturn to the ark, he looked and saw the water had completelyreceded. He took out all creatures that were in the ark and offered asacrifice to Yahweh. God then said in his heart that he would nolonger curse the ground for man`s sake and he would never againstrike everything living (Kerns, Jennifer, and Julius, 2014).

TheFlood Story According To “P.”

Theconstruction of the ark is given particular detail. God instructsNoah to build the ark with a length of 300 cubits by 50 cubits inwidth and 30 cubits in height (Katz and Ben, 2012). The ark was tobe three floors high with the door on its side. The names of Noah`schildren are also given as Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Two pairs, male,and female of every type of creature are to be taken inside the arkand food for all animals is to be placed in the ark. A contract ismade between God and Noah and Noah &quotdid as God instructed&quot(Seters and John, 2015). That particular day of the year isidentified in the story (as in Genesis 1 where God makes the world inprecisely seven days). In that same day when they entered the ark,the deep fountains of the earth burst open, and the sky windowsopened. The flood happens on the very day Noah entered the ark andcovered the mountain peaks. Every man, bird, creeping creatures andanimal died in that flood that lasted for 150 days. God then sent thewind over the face of the earth that subsided the waters. The deepfountains and the sky windows were also stopped. The ark rested onthe Ararat Mountain. Noah and the people in the ark are inside for340 days when the waters finally subsided, and God instructed him togo out of the ship together with all that had entered. God theninstructed them to multiply and fill the earth, and He also made acovenant with Noah that he will no longer bring forth a great floodupon life on earth. The rainbow would be the sign of God`s covenantwith Noah.


Theflood stories in the J and P accounts may differ in some aspects, butthey are resoundingly parallel and accurate. The two accounts givethe same occurrence of events thus proving their authenticity. Theminor differences noted may be due to the different perspectives ofthe writers. The minor differences between the two sources arediscussed below.

Argumentfor the Differences between the ‘J’ and ‘P’ Sources

Inthe J account, the Creator is referred to as Yahweh while the Paccount only refers to Him as God. This, however, is not asignificant different since the Creator is referred to in many otherwords according to language, religion, and geographical location.Distinct authors also can have different names for the Creator asillustrated by Kerns, Jennifer, and Julius (2014). Another differencebetween the two sources as pointed out by Lam and Joseph (2013) isthe fact that ‘P` states that one pair is accommodated of each typeof animal while in the ‘J` source, Yahweh instructs Noah toaccommodate seven pairs of ‘clean` creatures and only one pair of‘unclean` creatures. In this perspective, the clean animals arereferred to as those animals that are suitable for sacrifices orburnt offerings to God. The actual number of the animals accommodatedby Noah can, however, vary according to the different authors and thevarious periods of writing that these authors existed.

Asalready pointed out earlier, the ‘J` source is older that all theother hypothesized sources of the Pentateuch (Katz and Ben, 2012).The two texts also differ on what happens to the life that was not inthe ark. The ‘P` text makes use of the word ‘expired` while the‘J` text stated that all life ‘died.` This difference isinsignificant in trying to disapprove the validity of the textsbecause both the terminologies can be used interchangeably to mean‘come to an end` (Lam and Joseph 2013). The accounts also differ onthe timeline of the flood. In ‘J,` the flood starts seven daysafter Noah enters the ark and lasts for forty days and nights. In ‘P`however, the flood begins immediately Noah enters the ark and theentire flood period to the time the waters recede completely lastsfor 340 days. This difference can be attributed to the time theparticular authors started to count the specific days. One could haveincluded the first day it started raining while a different authorcould have decided to start when the actual floods started coveringthe face of the earth. The difference in terminologies is also notedwhen in ‘J,` it states that Noah releases a dove to investigate thewater levels, but ‘P’ states that he releases a raven. Otherdifferences noted between the two sources are the absence of specificdetails in ‘J’ and the personal nature of Yahweh in ‘J.`

Thesedifferences have also resulted from the difference in translationinto other texts. Some of these words have been translated from Greekand others have been translated from Latin. Translation loses themeanings of some words and terminologies. These differences are onlymajor compared to the similarities and the parallel nature of the twosources as discussed below

Anotherreason that could justify the differences in the two texts is thepresence of redaction. This is the process by which text is editedfor publication. Various authors have redacted the two sources ofdocumentary hypothesis so that they can be converted into publishabletexts in line with the contemporary language and understanding. Thishas also diluted the intended meaning of the two sources.

Similaritiesbetween the ‘J’ and ‘P’ Sources

Thevast similarities between the two accounts outweigh the minordifferences in detail, language and terminologies. The two sourcesboth agree on the presence of a man named Noah who was instructed bythe Creator to build an ark so as to escape the heavy rain that thecreator would bring upon the face of the earth. The Creator isbringing the rain as a punishment to wipe out all life on earth dueto the prevalence in sin and wickedness of man. Also, the twoaccounts acknowledge the righteous nature of Noah and his family. Inthe two accounts, Noah sends out a bird to investigate the level ofthe waters to ascertain that the flood had receded. It is alsoacknowledged that a supreme being existed who was communicating withNoah and who was behind the flood. His name does not matter what isimportant is that He existed hence further proving the authenticityof the two sources.


Thesources used for this paper are reliable. However, they do notprovide enough information for the disparity between the two texts.The difference in historical times and target audience alone cannotaccount for the contradictory information in these texts. They needto illustrate how the different authors came up with their specifictimelines to enable the reader to have a better and conciseunderstanding of where the difference could have come from.


Despitethe difference in characterization, timelines, names, calendar,language and other minor details, each story makes a cohesive andchronological sense when derived from the other and analyzedindependently (Baden and Joel, 2012). This demonstrates that thedocumentary hypothesis has a powerful explanatory aspect and it makesit a good model for the sources of the Pentateuch. Both sourcesdisplay remarkable similarities to the parallel narrative of theflood. The divergent perspectives noted in the accounts are theinevitable result of authors who possess different viewpoints of God.The difference was dependent on the various living periods of theauthors and intended audience. The truthfulness of these accounts andthe existence of a Supreme Being can, however, not be disputed.


Baden,Joel S. The Composition of the Pentateuch: Renewing the DocumentaryHypothesis. Yale University Press, 2012.

Katz,Ben Z. A Journey Through Torah: A Critique of the DocumentaryHypothesis. Jerusalem: Urim, 2012. Print.

Kerns,Jennifer C. Julius Wellhausen and the Development of the DocumentaryHypothesis. , 2014. Print.

Lam,Joseph. &quotBook Review The Composition of the Pentateuch: Renewingthe Documentary Hypothesis. By Joel S. Baden. The Anchor YaleBible Reference Library. New Haven &amp London: Yale UniversityPress, 2012. Pp. x+ 384. $65 (cloth).&quot (2013).

VanSeters, John. The Pentateuch: A social-science commentary. Vol. 1.Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015.