Elohist source

Elohist source – one of the four sources of the Pentateuch (the others being the Yahwist, the Deuteronomist and the Priestly source) specified by J. Wellhausen, characterized by the use of the name Elohim, common among Semitic peoples, as a designation of God.

The stories and narrative episodes forming part of this source are mostly contained in Genesis (including Abraham in Gezer – chapter 20; the expulsion of Hagar –– 21,8-21; the covenant between Abraham and Abimelech –– 21; the sacrifice of Isaac – 22; Jacob’s dream –– 28); others include the legal texts contained in Exodus (the Decalogue – 20,1-17; the Covenant Code –– 20,22-23,33). The remaining books of the Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua contain only fragmentary use of this tradition. It is accepted that the original version of the Elohist source (the so-called document E) was created somewhere around the 8th century B.C., during the reign of Jeroboam II in Israel, which would explain the similarity of this text and the prophetic works of Amos and Hosea, both in terms of contents and in theological terms. Having been edited in line with the Deuteronomist tradition in the 7th century B.C., the document was combined with the Yahwist tradition (JE) either during Hezekiah’s reign or thereafter.

The author of the Elohist document, who was most likely a priest, tends to avoid anthropomorphisation when speaking about God and places an emphasis on His transcendence (the prohibition on making any images of God, the fact that God can never be seen, revelations that appear in dreams or are made by angels) as well as – in an indirect manner – the universal nature of Yahwism. The main theological theme in this source is the covenant between God and Israel, the chosen people; this purpose is also served by the structure of the work, the act of covenant on Mount Sinai placed in its very centre; allegiance to God can be achieved by abiding by the covenant, which is a way to achieve God’s blessing.

The term “sin” is construed as an act that goes against God’s commandments – one that results in a punishment for the sinner. A characteristic feature of this document is also that is refers to many eminent characters in the history of the chosen people as prophets (Abraham, Moses, Miriam, Moses’ sister).


  • W.H. Schmidt, Elohistyczne dzieło historyczne [The Elohist Historical Work], [in:] W.H. Schmidt, Wprowadzenie do Starego Testamentu [Introduction to the Old Testament], Bielsko-Biała 1997
  • J. Wellhausen, Die Composition des Hexateuchs und historisches Bucher des Altes Testaments, Berlin 1883
  • H.W. Wolff, The Elohistic Fragments in the Pentateuch, „Interpretation. A Journal of Bible and Theology” 1972, vol. 26
  • H. Klein, Ort und Zeit des Elohisten, „Evangelische Theologie” 1977, nr 37.
  • Kalina Wojciechowska

© Entries taken from PWN information websites; see: The PWN Encyclopedia, Polish language dictionaries and Foreign language dictionaries.

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