Support that priesthood?Right. It duplicates a lot of the stories, but tells them from a different point of view. And it most certainly does not duplicate the Golden Calf story. Because it has this priestly perspective, this source is called P. It's written intentionally as an alternative to the JE version. On the JE side, it often says "And the Lord spoke unto Moses." On the P side, it says "And the Lord spoke unto Moses and unto Aaron." Sometimes it's called pious fraud, but I don't think this person was a fraud at all.

He was trying to tell history as he understood it, in a way that wouldn't be hurtful to his group.

How are these sources related to the different creation stories in Genesis?J's creation story is focused very much in the earth and begins in Gen 2:4 with "the day that Yahweh made earth and skies." But P's version, which now is Gen 1, is "in the beginning God created the skies and earth." It's more like from the sky looking down. The older creation story is from the earth looking up. In the J creation story, there's no mention of the sun, the moon, the stars being created. Whereas the priestly P version begins with the creation of light, the firmament, setting the sun and moon in the sky, the seas-it's more of a universal picture.

What are other differences between the older and newer sources?

Exodus 17, Moses hitting rock at Meribah. In E's version of that story, the people are thirsty, so God tells Moses to stand on a crag at Horeb, the foot of Mt. Sinai, and strike it and water will come out. He does, and it says God is standing on the crag at the time. The water flows out, and Moses has done a good thing. In the priestly (P) version of it, which is more favorable to Aaron and less favorable to Moses, it's in Numbers 20. There, God tells Moses 'speak to the rock.' Moses strikes the rock instead. Moses says to the people "shall we bring you water out of the rock," where presumably he should have said "should God bring you water," and it's considered the great sin of Moses' life.

The sin that keeps Moses out of the Promised Land.

Yes. And Aaron, who suffers for the sin of Moses in the priestly version. It's telling the stories but from a different perspective.

You mentioned God standing on crag. Your book says that anthropomorphisms are one way to differentiate between the sources-some sources don't use them.

J and E have much more of that sort of thing-God is standing on the rock, God walks in the garden of Eden and makes Adam and Eve's clothes in J, God personally closes the ark in J. There are angels in J and E, but no angels in P.

Why no angels?For P, there mustn't be any intermediaries between God and humans except priests. The word prophet never appears in P, except once where it refers figuratively to Aaron himself. No prophets, judges, no angels, talking animals, or dreams. Whereas in J and E there's the famous story of Jacob dreaming of the ladder, and Joseph interpreting the dreams of the Pharaoh and his own dreams.So there's a different feel to the priestly source. In the priestly source, the path to God is, bring a sacrifice to the priest.

You translated the sources in the order they were written. What was that like?I get a sense of these authors as persons, the way you do when you have a favorite author.When you read each one in order, you get a feel for the beauty of each one. It's like watching one of those slow films of a flower opening up. You see the Bible becoming the Bible.

What's the strongest evidence for your multiple-source hypothesis?

For me, it's a tie between two things: the linguistic evidence--Hebrew of different periods differentiates the sources. It fits with the idea we have about when the different sources were written. It's almost like math: the personal prejudices of the Bible scholar can't enter in as much. It's cleaner evidence than most.

The other big thing is the convergence of so many different lines of evidence. It's not that there are double stories, because we could explain that as the author's intention. And it's not that God is referred to as "God" in some chapters or "Yahweh" in others, because obviously we could refer to people sometimes by their name and sometimes by their profession, for example.It's that when you separate the different sources, the other [word for] God always comes out in the right place. The different words for God occur in the five books of Moses about 2000 times, and the number of exceptions where you get "Yahweh" where you should have gotten "God" are 3.

You said earlier that the editor of J and E did the "second greatest editing job" in the history of the Torah. What's the greatest?You have J and E, and P written as an alternative, and another source, D (virtually the whole book of Deuteronomy)-that's by someone else.But then someone came along around 450 BCE, the redactor of the whole thing, who's probably Ezra, as I've argued in the past. He-"R"--comes along and puts it all together. When you read J or E individually, they read as a continuous story.

If you read P all by itself, it also reads almost as a continuous story, with hardly a gap. Which means this last person, this redactor we call R......Had to splice together three things that already worked well on their own?Right. He put it together with hardly cutting a word. It's one of the great achievements of editing of any literature in history, by anyone, ever. He put it together so well that it's been not only satisfactory, but beloved: The most successful, powerful book in the world fro 2500 years since he did it. The irony is that he took the combined JE, and then P, which was written deliberately as an alternative to JE, and puts them together and makes them work so well together. Outside of its being the Bible, it's a great human achievement by any standard.