One of the most influential Bible scholars of the past two centuries, Julius Wellhausen (1844–1918) developed what has come to be known as the documentary hypothesis. This hypothesis holds that the Pentateuch comprises four primary sources, each of which represents the perspective and concerns of a different author or school of authors. Wellhausen felt that the history of ancient Israelite religion could be reconstructed by analyzing the distinctive characteristics of the material drawn from each separate source.

According to Wellhausen, the latest stage of historical development is reflected in scriptural passages derived from the Priestly source (P), which ostensibly reflects the strict religious climate of the post-Exilic period (after 539 B.C.E.). It was P, asserted Wellhausen, who invented the Tabernacle design, simply by halving the dimensions of the Jerusalem Temple. But Michael Homan notes the flaws in Wellhausen’s view. Given the differences between the Temple and the Tabernacle configurations—and given also the evidence for earlier Near Eastern models—it appears that the Tabernacle plan was neither an invention of P nor a scaled-down version of the Temple design