Deuteronomy 34: The Death of Moses, Not of Source Criticism

Journal of Biblical Literature 133, no. 1 (2014)

8 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2015

See all articles by Shawna Dolansky

Shawna Dolansky

Carleton University - College of the Humanities

Date Written: August 1, 2014


Serge Frolov’s article, "The Death of Moses and the Fate of Source Criticism," argues that "Deuteronomy 34 exposes source criticism as it stands today as self-contradictory." This concludes his attempt to respond to Philip Yoo’s argument that all four Pentateuchal sources can be found in the final chapter of the book of Deuteronomy. Yoo’s argument is based on the Documentary Hypothesis; using his knowledge of each of the separate sources within the Pentateuch up to that point, Yoo is able to separate the works of the J, E, P, and D sources in the culminating chapter. Frolov refers to Yoo’s method as exemplary of deductive reasoning, as indeed it is. In contrast, Frolov seeks to demonstrate that inductive reasoning would lead to the opposite conclusion: that in fact, Deuteronomy 34 is a unified “master narrative.”

But finding a unified passage – especially in Deuteronomy – where others see multiple sources hardly seems cause enough to characterize the entire source critical enterprise as self-contradictory. Frolov’s emphasis on method is to be commended, as a basic understanding of methodology in source critical study is sorely lacking in our field. Unfortunately Frolov’s method of reading the text inductively and the conclusions he derives only serve to further muddy the waters concerning what the documentary hypothesis is, and what source critics do.

Keywords: source criticism, bible, ancient Israel, biblical authorship, deuteronomy

Suggested Citation

Dolansky, Shawna, Deuteronomy 34: The Death of Moses, Not of Source Criticism (August 1, 2014). Journal of Biblical Literature 133, no. 1 (2014), Available at SSRN:

Shawna Dolansky (Contact Author)

Carleton University - College of the Humanities ( email )

1125 colonel By Drive
Ottawa, Ontario K1S 5B6
6138628962 (Phone)


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