This project was supported by the UC Davis Jewish Studies program and a Grant from the UC Davis Academic Senate
Tzemah Yoreh is the one who conceived the crucial idea of using the flexibility and openness of the internet to let us see the Torah in a new way. Even before his pioneering digital project, his The First Book of God (Berlin ; de Gruyter, 2010) was the first time I had ever seen a Pentateuchal source presented in a form you could actually read as an independent literary work. Soon after that, he created the first digital scholarly presentation of the Pentateuch’s building blocks in the form of a chapter-by-chapter layout of the supplementary hypothesis. This remains the clearest and most compelling way that a non-Documentarian view of the Bible has been presented. Yoreh’s current work, Why Abraham Murdered Isaac, is a uniquely readable and literarily powerful presentation of the starkest building block of the Bible.
The specific idea of creating digital versions of each of the Torah’s main sources that anyone could read and compare in order to answer their own research questions came from my Trinity College student Alix de Gramont. Her 2015 undergraduate thesis addresses one of the most central questions of Bible criticism: were ancient Mediterranean narratives typically coherent, and if so, do the likely sources of Genesis and Exodus resemble them? This BA thesis asks, and to my mind answers, this question with a clarity and focus that few scholars in the field have.
The hard detailed work of examining the basis of source-critical divisions was done in the first stage with my UC Davis graduate student Aron Tillema, who carefully worked through the most detailed presentation, that of Carpenter and Harford-Battersby, and analyzed how and why they divided the sources of Genesis through Exodus the way they did.
UC Davis graduate student Katie White’s rigorous study made a view of the whole Pentateuch possible. She did the project’s main research on Leviticus through Numbers, revising the work Aron and I did with Carpenter and Harford-Battersby as well as carefully incorporating the major comments of Israel Knohl and Jacob Milgrom. She is now joined by UC Davis graduate student Walker Rhea, who is currently bringing his expertise in ancient Mediterranean literature to the project with work on Genesis and Exodus that will appear shortly.
After I initially despaired of finding a web developer who understood what it might mean to make a truly inviting and illuminating online Pentateuch, the great Digital Humanities scholar Lauren Klein introduced me to her collaborator Dan Jutan. Suddenly the reaction went from “wait, what are you trying to do and what’s the point?” to “this is something that really needs to happen, and sure, I can do that, but I can also do this, which might be even better!” Dan’s combination of Computer Science and Yeshiva background and his existing accomplishments in creating new ways to study Jewish classics online made him the ideal person to turn a plan and a bunch of .docx files into a new way of seeing the Torah.
I thank my colleague Samuel Boyd for putting the stunning range of knowledge he has at his fingertips into an incisive and wonderfully helpful reading of the texts, and Bernie Levinson, Joel Baden, Jackie Vayntrub, and Jeff Stackert for access to their remarkable insights on important details. David Tibet’s keen editorial eye saved us from a number of infelicities. The textual choices have generally been quite conservative, adhering most closely to the analyses of Noeldeke and Carpenter-Harford-Battersby though indebted to and informed by contemporary work such as that of Israel Knohl, Joel Baden, Jeffrey Stackert and Liane Feldman. All major editorial missteps are mine.
We thank the University of Nebraska Press and the Jewish Publication Society for permission to use its translation, with minor modifications as noted.
This source division is Copyright 2022 Seth Sanders under a Creative Commons license.