Tablet Theory Shown in a Table Format

On the creation blog, there is a table that lays out one way of looking at the structure of the Book of Genesis according to the Tablet Theory.

The structure shown attempts to incorporate the best thinking of other authors on this topic while more clearly identifying each section.

I have two questions regarding this page.

  1. Melchizedek is posited as the writer of Genesis 1:1-2:4 (by way of revelation of course). Does this seem reasonable or defensible? Has anyone encountered this suggestion before?

  2. Verses 5:1b-2 is seen as parallel to verses 1:27-28a and are posited as a kind of “Creedal Statement”. Do these verses fulfill the requirements of being a “creedal statement”? If so, which do you suppose was written first?


I have to look at the blog post more tomorrow when I’m not falling asleep. But can’t help but comment now. I had an idea I wanted to research months ago to see if any scholars have already posited it. I think it could be very likely Melchizedek wrote it. I wonder if he is the possessor of the birthright as the firstborn in the line of Shem whose first son was Elam and would have been the official possessor of it. As I was studying Genesis, it just made sense to me since he came from Salem [Jerusalem] and the names were so similar. The rest of the Elamites lived in what I think is now Iran, but maybe he didn’t. It made me wonder if he did not have a son, and so his blessing to Abraham gave that birthright over to him. Wild theory…but anyway, this reminded me I’d still like to track it down.


Welcome to Peaceful Science @William_Rogers :smiley:

This sounds like a question for @AllenWitmerMiller.

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Closer inspection of the article says the author agrees with me:

Essential elements of this view:

  1. Genesis is a highly structured document artfully composed by Moses, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, into one book with this implication:

Answer to 1:
Jesus claims that Moses wrote Genesis. The covenant of circumcision is introduced in Genesis.

Genesis 17:10-12 - 10 This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; 11 and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you. 12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant.

And Jesus states clearly that Moses introduced circumcision as a law.

John 7:22 - Moses therefore gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath.

There is further gospel reference to Moses writing the entire pentateuch.

The argument against Moses writing the pentateuch seems to come from the same group that would say Jesus’ teaching isn’t important, or wasn’t recorded accurately, or that you can’t take from the New Testament to interpret the old. However, I follow Jesus, and He clearly taught that Moses wrote the law.

According to the tablet theory, Moses would have compiled the stories from the family tablets. Could Melchizedek written Abraham’s tablet, sure. But Moses wrote Genesis.

Isn’t that self-contradictory? If Moses wrote Genesis, and the story is true, Moses didn’t introduce circumcision: God introduced it to Abraham. Moses only wrote down what would have been an ancient practice among his people. (If Genesis is true.) That would make Jesus wrong. On the other hand, if Jesus is right, Genesis is wrong.

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Scripture reference? I’m not familiar.

I’d say it’s a question for @deuteroKJ. (Most of my training was in New Testament.)

Yeah, I’m passin’ the buck.

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Thank you for welcoming me. It is great to find a friendly on-line forum with fascinating and important discussions.


Yes I’ve encountered it, and No, it’s not defensible. There is absolutely no textual evidence to go this direction, nor any theological reason to go this direction. Honestly, the whole tablet “theory” is based on nothing but groundless presuppositions, and I see no theological warrant for even wanting something like this. If one “needs” Gen 1 (1:1-2:3 not 1:1-2:4…which is another matter) to be direct revelation (which I don’t understand the need, but let’s go with it for now), why not posit that God revealed creation to Moses during his visits up Sinai?

Nope again. The parallel is only in the repetition of “image” and “likeness.” This alone is not sufficient for something creedal. (Contrast, e.g., the creedal statement of Exod 34:6-7 [“a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty”], which is parroted in several places.)

Though I deny the “if so,” still the question of which was written first is interesting and up to discussion. This really comes down to broader form-critical issues and subjective calls on the ANE influence of these texts in Genesis. For reasons I won’t go into here, I think it’s plausible that Gen 1 was the last text included in the Pentateuch as a whole…but I can’t prove it.

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It’s friendly like a nice swim in the ocean is sometimes, but the sharks are ready to eat you if you can’t back up your position with evidence :wink: Be strong and courageous.

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John 7:22 quoted above.

The covenant is between God and Abraham, but Moses established the law in writing, which is what Jesus is referencing. He even mentions in parenthesis that it is not from Moses, but from the fathers…the following is the scripture in NKJV, not my words.

But the point is irrelevant because the author of the article states that Moses is the author, not Melchizedek. Even if Moses took excerpts from tablets, his compilation is the book of Genesis, and is therefore the author of Genesis which is the canonized version of the Word of God.

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@deuteroKJ thank you for taking the time to entertain my questions. For the sake of my own edification, if you are willing, perhaps you can address a few questions that your response raises in my mind.

First off, I will grant that Tablet Theory in and of itself may not contradict your own unproven theory that Genesis 1 was included last in the Pentateuch. It’s merely down to a sequence of integration, not origination at that point.

Secondly, I think the presuppositions of the Tablet Theory includes the following:

  1. Presuppose that the some of the content of Genesis 1 was written by the people about whom the content deals: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc.

  2. Presuppose that the authors utilized a means of writing common in their culture (circa 2000 BC): clay tablets (especially appropriate for anything you feel should be kept around awhile)

  3. Presuppose that the clay tablets were marked by simple colophons on their edges; simple because early colophons were simpler than later colophons and these are early texts if (1) is true.

  4. Presuppose that the colophons are included in the text when compiled into a linear format.

  5. Take Moses as the Holy Spirit-inspired compiler/translator/editor and attribute it’s inclusion in the Pentateuch to Moses.

If (1) is true, then I think really only (4) would need strong textual support from the book of Genesis itself.

If (1-4) are not groundless but rather plausible, then it becomes more a matter of detailed analysis to determine if the “toledoth” mark the end or the beginning of each section of content. Either way, the idea that content from Genesis 1 was sourced from tablets written by multiple eye-witness authors holds water against JEDP and against a whole-cloth Mosaic authorship.

Where exactly should I think the Tablet Theory breaks down?

Thirdly, regarding the revelation of Gen 1:1-2:4 (not 1:1-2:3…which is another matter) to Melchizedek: I think positing that God revealed it to Moses during his visits up Sinai is just that, an assumption without much to grab hold of really (i.e lacks theological and textual necessity as you put it). So positing something may be fishing for something with a little more grippy-ness.

Hopefully you regard Gen 1 as inspired by the Holy Spirit in some manner (direct or indirect revelation I’m not sure I care) and not just “made up” like a good guess or a fine sounding origin story.

So, back to Melchizedek. There are a few things that make this interesting, I think.

Argument 1:

1-A) Genesis 1 is a “priestly” document
1-B) Genesis 1 is a polemic against false origin stories
1-C) Genesis 1 seems to be a response to Sumerian polytheism more so than to other polytheisms (e.g. Egyptian, Babylonian)
1-D) Therefore Genesis 1 was written by a Priest at the time of Sumerian relevance
1-E) The only candidate Priest in Genesis is Melchizedek (who is a very significant figure)
1-F) Therefore Melchizedek wrote Genesis 1
1-G) Melchizedek gave a copy of Gen 1 to Abraham
1-H) Abraham gave Melchizedek 10% of recovered goods for 1-G above

Argument 2
2-A) Genesis 1 is composed from tablets; several sections end with a toledoth which is derived from a simple colophon (circa 2000 BC style) specifying the “possessor” of the tablet
2-B) Genesis 2:4 is a toledoth whose possessor is God
2-C) Genesis 2:4 is the only toledoth in Genesis without a human possessor
2-D) Melchizedek’s is without his own genealogy and his priesthood is not based on a human genealogy (over and against the Levitical priesthood)
2-E) Melchizedek honors God as the “possessor of heaven and earth”; possessor tying in the concept of God possessing the genealogy of the heavens and the earth.
2-F) Therefore, Melchizedek’s priesthood is established according to the genealogy of God given in Genesis 1:1-2:4
2-G) Therefore, Melchizedek was the conduit of Genesis 1

As you can see, these are really two very different arguments. Either one could stand or fall on its own.

So which of these assertions do you think have the greatest weaknesses?

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Thank you for responding to my question. That is an interesting line of inquiry. Somehow Abraham identified Melchizedek as a priest of the True God in contrast to other priests he might have encountered or been aware of in the area.

Yes, I agree that’s very interesting. As I’ve studied where tribes went after the Tower of Babel and what happened with Nimrod, it appears Mesopotamia and Egypt were dark places with only Abraham, Lot, Abimelech? and Melchizedek as heads of tribes/nations who followed God. I do think others of Noah’s sons’ tribes/nations carried the gospel elsewhere into other continents at least for a time based on what the Bible says about it being preached throughout the earth.

How is it not? Otherwise how can it reveal truth?

In the same way a psalm or Pauline epistle reveals truth without necessarily hearing a direct word from God.

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Not sure what is meant by Genesis 1 and then focusing on patriarchs. The problem with talking about writing and authorship for Gen 1-11 is that the pre-2000 BC world is quite different. As I understand it, the Tablet Theory goes all the way back to Adam, who is at least 2000 years prior to Abraham. For a great resource on writing/authorship in the ancient world see here.

Also, what language are we presupposing? Certainly not Hebrew, which didn’t exist yet.

I’d say that the consistent use of toledoth as an introduction is all the analysis that is needed.

Who was an eye-witness to Genesis 1?

Of course; I’m an evangelical. But I think “fine sounding origin story” can be inspired too.

As I originally stated, I find no grounds for any of these presuppositions or assertions. Nor do I see the payoff for going this route. (There are plenty of good arguments against JEDP without this.) On the flipside, this view seems to suggest anachronistic understanding of ANE authorship, writing, and transmission of texts.

Finally, if someone wants to believe this, I don’t see much harm either. I just wouldn’t want to see it as an argument for anything.

Thank you again for your replies and for the referral to John Walton’s books, in fact I bought my first one earlier this week and look forward to learning from it.

I did mis-type when I referred to Genesis 1 “eye-witnesses”. I do believe God had to provide revelation regarding the content of that portion of Scripture. I meant that I think Jacob authored the part about Jacob, Isaac authored the part about Isaac, etc.

I much prefer the toledoth as a conclusion rather than an introduction. It makes so much more sense, especially as elucidated in the table: Ages of Joy, Days of Creation: Structure of the Book of Genesis

The Tablet Theory is popular among YEC, which I am not, but it does not require that Adam wrote a tablet. The “book of the toledoth of Adam” could have been created at any point from oral tradition.

The original language of the tablets was probably not Hebrew. Sumerian, Akkadian, something like that. Joseph or Moses may have had a hand in translating them as needed.

You have given me much food for thought and I can further my hypothesis around the Tablet Theory and tighten it up a bit.

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@William_Rogers thanks for the back-and-forth. These discussions can be fun. It’s good for me to see what those outside my discipline do with things that, inside my discipline, really aren’t disputed. E.g., other than an older view that puts Gen 2:4a as a conclusion, I’ve not come across an exegete that considers any other toledoth as a conclusion (and Gen 2:4 is almost now universally recognized as an intro, partly b/c of the consistency of its use in Genesis as a structural heading, and partly b/c the parallelism of Gen 2:4 doesn’t allow for the verse to be split apart). So, on one hand, sometimes we need a good challenge; on the other hand, I’d be real cautious to go against the near-unanimous consensus of the experts who do this sort of work for a living.

I’d also add that a toledoth as a conclusion suffers the inexplicable lack of one for Abraham (and what to do with Terah’s in Gen 11:27). Then there’s the one in Ruth 4:18.

Another thing worth considering is the clear allusion to toledoth concerning Jesus in Matt 1:1 (obvious an introduction), just as John 1:1 is riffing off of Gen 1:1.