These factors led theologians to the conclusion that the Pentateuch is a hybrid document which was written well after Moses' death, and much later than the events portrayed. The authors and redactors are unknown, and are commonly referred to as authors J, E, P and D.
J: a writer who:
focuses on humanity in his/her writing;
might possibly have been a woman. His/her writing shows much greater sensitivity towards women than does E;
regularly used "JHWH" as God's name;
describes God in anthropomorphic terms: God formed Adam from clay; he walked and talked with Adam and Eve in the garden; he spoke to Moses;
lived in the southern kingdom of Judah, during an early period of Israel's history when they followed a nature/fertility religion. May have been a member of the Judean court;
wrote a more or less complete story of the history of the Israelites from a Judean perspective;
J was probably written sometime between 848 BCE (when King Jehoram gained power in Judah) and 722 BCE when the Assyrians destroyed the northern kingdom Israel and took its people into exile. Some scholars date J to the 10th century BCE.
E: a writer who
writes about religious and moralistic concerns;
in all probability was a man;
consistently used "Elohim" as God's name;
lived in the northern kingdom of Israel;
wrote a more or less complete story of the history of the Israelites from the perspective of the northern kingdom, including that version of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20;
probably wrote between 922 and 722 BCE;
may have been a priest from Shiloh who viewed Moses as his spiritual ancestor.
D: a writer who:
lived after J and E, because he was familiar with later developments in Israel's history. He lived at a time when the religion of ancient Israel was in its spiritual/ethical stage, about 622 BCE.
wrote almost all of book of Deuteronomy, as well as Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings. A second writer edited the original text after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 587 BCE. He added the last two chapters to 2 Kings and inserted short passages elsewhere to reflect the change in circumstances brought about by the Babylonian attack.
lived in Judah - probably in Jerusalem;
was probably a Levitical priest - perhaps Jeremiah.
P: a writer who:
focused his writings on God;
added material from a priestly perspective. It discusses priests' lives, religious rituals, dates, measurements, chronologies, genealogies, worship and law;
was a priest who identified Aaron as his spiritual ancestor;
views God as a distant, transcendent deity, less personal than in J and E; sometimes harsh and critical. The words "mercy," "grace" and "repentance" do not appear in his writing. In contrast, they appear about 70 times in J, E, and D;
was displeased with the work of J and E and wrote P as an alternative history;
rejected the concepts of angels, dreams and talking animals that are seen in J & E;
believed that only Levites who were descended from Aaron could be priests;
lived after J, E and D because he was aware of the books of the Prophets which were unknown to the others. Lived when the country's religion reached a priestly/legal stage, before the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BCE;
patterned his writing after the topics in J and E.