Erich Lessing

Perfect strangers. Though separated by nearly 3,000 years, Pharaoh Shishak I of Egypt (935–914 B.C.E.) and the German Bible scholar Julius Wellhausen (1844–1918) nevertheless had one thing in common: both were instrumental in the dating of Biblical texts. Shishak (depicted here, standing before a crowd of Israelites, who raise their hands to be counted) led a large-scale invasion of Canaan shortly after 930 B.C.E. One result of his campaign was the depopulation of the Negev. The book of 2 Samuel refers to the Negev as a settled area, so it must predate Shishak’s attack, making it one of the Bible’s earliest texts.

Wellhausen famously developed the “Documentary Hypothesis” that separates the texts of the Hebrew Bible into four strands of composition: J (Jahwist, after the name it uses for the Israelite God—Yahweh [Jahweh in German]), E (Elohim, after the name for God this strand uses), P (Priestly Code) and D (for the author of Deuteronomy). As Wellhausen observed, neither J nor E place any restrictions on where a sacrifice may be offered. Hence J and E must date to a time before the reign of King Hezekiah (727–698 B.C.E.), who centralized religious worship in the Jerusalem Temple.