Tablet Theory Shown in a Table Format

But I find Genesis 1 has to be totally different. If it’s only refuting other origin stories, how did Israelites know what to refute it with? I’d like to know how you respond to that.

If God walked with Adam and Eve in the garden, surely they would have wanted to know how it all came to be. Why not Genesis 1 as a song they taught to their children, and they taught to their children, etc?

In what specific way(s)?

I don’t claim that it’s only doing that. But to the degree that Gen 1 is a polemic, it is largely theological. Israel’s God is different than the gods of the surrounding neighbors (primarily via ethical monotheism). This theological distinction was due to direct revelation and experience with YHWH. However, how a creation account plays this out is open for various options. It’s possible that God somehow/someway gave a direct account of what actually happened in creation. My only problem is that there’s no textual (or theological or philosophical) evidence to support this hypothesis. It’s also possible that the author (call him Moses if you like) gave a creative narrative in order to highlight the theological differences. Both hypotheses (among others) qualify as “revelation” in the Christian understanding of inspiration, but the modes of revelation would be different.

One of the pieces of evidence that push me away from a thoroughgoing direct revelation view is that the Hebrews describe the world/universe in much the same way as everyone else in the ANE (e.g., three-tiered, waters above, pillars underneath, etc.). So if God specially revealed some striclty historical (or scientific) account of creation, he either (a) did not give every detail, or (b) he gave everyone else the same special revelation. A more parsimonious explanation IMO is that God allowed the inspired writer to give a theologically-oriented narrative within a common-sense phenomenological perspective. (This, then, leads me away from a literalistic understanding of the days and the order of events. If I’m wrong, that’s fine, but I do get to my position honestly.)

I actually like the older view of Gen 2:4a as the conclusion for two reasons: 1) I posit that the original tablet colophons were very simple, following the pattern of the most ancient tablets. Later tablet colophons included more content and became very detailed. 2) I further posit that we have to be careful because some content such as 2:4b may have been added by Moses in weaving the tablets together into one somewhat seamless narrative. That’s pure conjecture, I realize.

I like the next narrative to start in 2:5 because it starts out with a “once upon a time” fashion. I’m not saying it’s a fairy tale. I just mean the author it taking you to a time and place. Genesis 1:1 does the same thing. When, who, what.

Terah’s story goes from 11:10b through 11:27a.

Abraham’s whole story starts with 11:27b (I split a lot of verses because I think the colophons were dead simple)

Abraham’s story was written by Isaac, Abraham’s son and ends with that as the toledoth at 25:19a.

25:12 is a sub-title toledoth of an embedded genealogy of Ishmael and the exact same thing happens in Jacob’s story when he embeds Esau’s genealogy in 36:1. (these are the two sub-title toledoth’s and the only one’s that begin a section)

I see 25:19b-26 as a “bridge genealogy” that is immediately followed by a narrative. That narrative, like the one in 2:5, just launches into a “When… who… what”

Anyway, you can see the pattern. Very simple toledoth’s that end a section by splitting verses when needed. Makes it work out nicely.

I don’t think you have any evidence. So a better account of what happened is this

“ANE borrows the world/universe creation account from the ancients, the righteous line of Adam through the patriarchs, entrusted with the true account of beginnings, accounts passed down meticulously and without error”

why is there no toledoth of Abraham?

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@r_speir you tried to call me out 3 weeks ago about Todd Wood. I challenged you several times to follow-up…but you remained silent. So I have no desire to engage with you on anything until you respond or retract. At the moment, I don’t consider you an intellectually honest interlocutor.


What is your theory @anon46279830?

After studying it so much the last few months, it seems to guide and structure the whole belief structure. Two examples: We invoke the image of God over and over today to explain our beliefs in a modern era. The metaphors, analogies and allusions to water seem to be prolific throughout scripture.

This fits with a global flood and ANE narratives having some grains of truth based on the stories Noah’s sons would have told.

I understand that; I vigorously disagree with your position obviously. Especially when I think the scientific evidence is fantastically on our side regarding the order of events, after studying cosmology a bit. And if you divorce Genesis 1 from a literal reading I think you have to give up a lot of truths in Psalm 104 and 148 and so much more.

Correct. We have every reason to believe that the Bible text came first. So many examples, but I personally love this one about the Nippur tablet dated to ~2100 BC.


Fig. 3. The Nippur tablet (c. 2100 BC) with Hilprecht’s translation below. The words in square brackets are not decipherable in the text, but were added by Hilprecht according to the context.

(2)……[the confines of heaven and Earth I] will loosen
(3)……[a deluge will I make, and] it shall sweep away all men together;
(4)……[but seek thou l]ife before the deluge cometh forth;
(5)……[For over all living beings], as many as there are, I will bring overthrow, destruction, annihilation
(6)……Build a great ship and
(7)……total height shall be it structure.
(8)……it shall be a houseboat carrying what has been saved of life.
(9)……with a strong deck cover (it).
(10)….[The ship] which thou shalt make
(11)….[into it br]ing the beast of the field, the birds of heaven,
(12)….[and the creeping things, two of everything] instead of a number,
(13)….and the family …

In Genesis 6:16, God commanded Noah to make the Ark with a roof and a door. Line 9 states that the vessel was to be covered with a strong deck. In line 8, the word Hilprecht translates as “houseboat” signifies a boat with a door and is closely related to an old Semitic word meaning ‘ark’, a chest or box in which something can be carried safely. An alternative translation of line 8 was given by the assyriologist, Alexander Heidel: “The same [ship] shall be a giant boat, and its name shall be ‘Preserver of Life’”.1 The word translated “Life” is napishtim . In the Atrahasis account of the Flood,2 Noah is given the title Ut-napishtim , meaning “Man of Life”, perhaps referring to his life-preserving role.

  1. Heidel, A., The Gilgamesh Epic and the Old Testament Parallels , University of Chicago, p. 106, 1946.
  2. Cooper, W.R., The Authenticity of the Book of Genesis , Creation Science Movement, UK, pp. 386–389, 2011.

@deuteroKJ, that, I think, is a really fascinating question, so how do we go about finding it?

First, to find a toledoth one has to know what a toledoth is. So here is a model of a toledoth: Imagine writing your own toledoth. Start with a little ancestry research and go back until you find you are related to someone important, say, Charlemagne, and stop there (that’s the first rule). Put in a bit about the important stuff in your life, if anything. That includes listing your kids and grandkids (the one’s you know about because you aren’t dead yet - rule 2). If space is short, just include a few significant kids. Then rule 3 is, never put in how old you were on the day you died (think you can keep that?). Now put that in a book and on the spine write, “The Toledoth of @deuteroKJ”. Stick it on a shelf. Done.

So that’s how I explain my model toledoth.

Terah followed this model. His toledoth starts in 11:10b “Two years after the flood…” and goes down to himself. He notes how old everyone was when they died, except of course for himself. He lists his 3 most important (or possibly only) children. He puts “This is the toledoth of Terah on the edge of the clay tablet” and sticks it on the shelf. Done.

Then we start a new story in 11:27b. It starts off with Terah and since he’s famous enough to have his own toledoth on the shelf, we don’t need to go back any farther. But, we need to know a little about his kids because it’s important to the story. There’s a real kicker in this intro - very important: “Now Sarai was barren; she had no children.” Keep that in mind. We find out how old Terah is when he died, proving he didn’t write this part of the story. After this, we launch into the main narrative. Abram is already 75 years old at this point. Also important to note.

So we read along, and the plot arc develops. This guy Abram has no son. (remember that from the intro?) Turns out that’s a huge deal. He gets a son, Ishmael. Problem solved? Not so fast. Ishmael has to leave. He has another son, Isaac. Problem solved? He has to kill his son! But wait, no he doesn’t. Dramatic!

The son, Isaac, grows up and it’s a really big deal who he marries and how that unfolds. We know who Abram married, but none of the details. We started Abram’s story when he was 75. Remember that! Skipped all the early stuff. Finally we find out that Abram (now Abraham) is 175 when he dies. Clue - he didn’t write that. We get Isaacs denouement in 25:11 “After Abraham’s death, God blessed his son Isaac, who then lived near Beer Lahai Roi”. That’s the end of the story. Isaac is still alive. Looking on the shelf we see all these tablets now filled with this story, but what does it say on the spine? What’s the colophon?

Not so fast, there is another tablet. We pull it and it starts out with “This is the toledoth of Abraham’s son Ishmael” 25:12 but this toledoth tells us that Ishmael died when he was 137, so clearly, Ishmael didn’t write this, because that breaks one of our rules.

But Isaac outlived Ishmael by quite a long time. He met Ishmael again at his father’s funeral, so he could learn about Ishmael’s descendants.

Then we come to 25:19a “This is the account of Abraham’s son, Isaac”. Now we look up on the shelf and see all these tablets and that is what is on the spine. That’s the colophon. That’s the label on all the stuff we just read and that identifies the principal author.

That’s the label on the edge of the tablet that includes Ishmael’s descendants and records Ishmael’s death. This is Isaac’s story. It skips past all of Abraham’s young years. The story doesn’t start until the part about Abraham not having a son, and that son that Abraham doesn’t have, is Isaac.

What follows starting in 25:19b is about Jacob. And Isaac clearly didn’t write it, because he dies in the story.

Here is the chestnut (ask this in class some day): Where in the Bible do you find the story about the man who had no son, written by the man’s son?

So that answers the question, where is Abraham’s toledoth? He doesn’t have one. A man without a son doesn’t need one. But, Isaac, Abraham’s son does. Ironic. Think on it.

Eventually we find out what happened to Ishmael.

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I would distinguish the mode of revelation needed for us to understand ourselves as God’s image bearers (direct revelation) from the rest (which may or may not have come through direct revelation).

I don’t know how any of it fits with a global flood. As to ANE narratives have some truth…perhaps but not necessarily.

This is where I vigorously disagree. And then you’ve got to wrestle with a different order of events in Gen 2.

Like what? I sure don’t see or believe this.

I must say, this is a very valiant effort and clearly guided by some operating principles. Do I buy it? Not at all, but it was still fun consider. Even if I think you’re on the wrong rabbit trail, I suspect you’ve learned a lot of good and true things along the way.

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@William_Rogers, hold tight to what you have. [Irrelevant swipe at another poster removed by moderator]

But I did go to your website and look over your material. I cannot agree with most of it because you seem adamant in your support of modern science. For instance, you believe in a population outside of the Garden. Where do your ideas say these people came from?

Too, you seem to have an odd idea about evolution. Care to explain that a little more fully?

Whoo boy. The short answer is that @William_Rogers and I would quibble over the details (the colophons were not ‘dead simple’ for example), but I do think he has the right general idea.

The colophons are usually at the end, just as Wiseman and R.K. Harrison concluded, but this is a lot of material from a vast expanse of time and the tolodoth phrase can be used more than one way. There is no single rule which can be uniformly and rigidly applied to all of the material. It isn’t reasonable to think that there would be if the accounts are real history and not forged at a single point in time by a small group of conspirators. Customs vary both from group to group in the same era and over time.

Over rigidity in application hurt acceptance of the idea. The tolodoth can be used to denote the start of a straight-up genealogy as it is for the line of Shem leading to Terah (and thus STARTS that genealogy) but was most often served as a colophon at the end of an account (which is why Genesis 1:1 doesn’t start with one). It can also be in the MIDDLE of an account, for example from a tablet with a genealogy on one side and a narrative on the other with the tolodoth on the edge. Yes there are rules, but there are also exceptions to these rules. And Abraham seems to be one of them.

I don’t think these accounts were mostly written by the person named in the tolodoth (edit, I mean named in the story), rather it was their story, as related by their near descendants, such as their sons. They don’t read like first person accounts. It was up to a man’s sons to tell his story.

And that sort of brings us to Abraham who has no account named after him and this says something about what isn’t true as well as what is true. That there is no account of Abraham is strong evidence that the idea that Genesis was compiled by unknown priests in the first millennium B.C. is in error. If they were willing to ascribe the books to Moses in order to gain credibility, and accounts within them to Isaac and Jacob, why ignore their great patriarch Abraham? Seems like he would be given a prominent role in authorship.

On the other hand, if Abraham had some role in assembling the tablets, either as a collector or a translator from some even more ancient language or as someone who put the old accounts on a set of new tablets, then it makes sense why he didn’t have his own account- the whole collection was his! This is speculation of course.

What is known is that at the time of Terah’s death, Abraham had no son. Imagine what it would be like to be him, and what terrible thoughts of failure might have passed through his mind. If he named the account after himself, which may have been the convention for sons telling their father’s stories, then a family record preserved from Adam to his day would end with his generation. So he wrote the story and put it in his father’s name, which we might suppose was also allowable by the conventions of the day. There is no reason to think that naming conventions for accounts were as inflexible as gravity or had no caveats. The idea was to preserve a family history, and since Abram seemed to have no hope of offspring at the time, he didn’t turn it into the story of his line but left it at his father’s name so that perhaps Lot might one day continue the story without Abrams named being a part of it.

The whole thing is really a beautiful reminder that in God there is hope even when things look hopeless according to what we can see. Abraham was willing to write his own name out of the story of his people because he believed that he had failed to produce a son to continue his story, when in fact his name is great and he has innumerable offspring both by the flesh and by the spirit!

Does it give you any pause that no OT scholar has adopted this since the 1960s?

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Kenneth that depends on how you mean the question. It is true that I would rather that many scholars accepted it than none (if that is even true that none have, it is probable there are people who are considered scholars in their circles that do accept some form of it but you don’t consider them as such because you are in a different scholar tribe).

It also troubles me that todays scholars will spend vast amounts of time and energy picking the text apart whether the basis for it is sound or unsound and yet have failed to lift a finger to make the few modifications to the Tablet Theory required to simply demolish all of the objections raised in order to avoid its consideration. This is a part of my call to treat theology more like a science. It has “logy” in it after all!

Normally when an idea seems to explain a lot of data but there are a few contradictory indicators, someone then adapts the original idea or modifies it a bit in order to see if the first idea was generally on the right track but just needed some tweaking. So far as I can tell, no scholar has ever bothered to do this with the tablet theory, even as evidence continued to come in that the documentary hypothesis has serious inconsistences and shortcomings. I suppose this is where I should turn your question back round on you…does it give you pause that your scholarly tribe hasn’t tried this?

With just a few very reasonable modifications to the original theory, inspired in part by archeological finds made since the it was first proposed, I think I have overcome all of the valid objections to the original version of the theory. The valid objections were based on an overly-rigid application of a narrow view and use of the tolodoth phrase when there is no reason to suspect that language was used only in that manner over thousands of years. Even our English words “generation” and “accounts” can be used in more than one way and Hebrew has a lot fewer words to work with and commonly uses them in multiple senses and ways.

So in that sense, it does not give me pause that no scholar since the 1960s has adopted it because my version of it has never been evaluated. The first iteration from one hundred years ago is the only version they have evaluated and I agree with many of the things they say are problematic for the theory are indeed problematic for it. But these are easily addressed with only minor and reasonable tweaks to the original idea. It only gives me pause that they didn’t think of it a long time ago. I believe that sub-groups can get ultra-conformist in their thinking and that this can hinder them from progressing when they get in an echo-chamber induced rut. If they draw from their expertise to give good reason and evidence that I am wrong that would certainly give me pause, but I can’t get too worried that people who have never considered what I am saying don’t accept what I am saying! Argument from authority is always a logical fallacy, but never moreso than when the authorities cited have never considered the precise question at hand!

OTOH, I am a contrarian by nature. I mean no malice by it, it is just the way I am. A lot of the prophets were the same way so it isn’t always bad (though it can be in may circumstances). I have learned to consider that most are not like that. Whichever way their self-chosen leaders go counts as “evidence” to them. And that is actually a much more efficient way to operate when the tribe is on the right track. I spend energy examining everything and questioning long established principles. If I am doing that where the establishment is healthy, then it is a bothersome waste of time. But let me ask you, do you think the church in the west is healthy? I don’t. I think it has been missing the mark for a long time, My wife has made a study of this and I have not, but at first I thought things had just gotten worse in my lifetime. She made a strong case that the seeds were sown long before. Just something to think about.


I’d be happy to consider any you know of. Not sure what “tribe” you’re referring to. I’m trying to come from my OT/biblical theology discipline, whether evangelical or not. I don’t consider consensus king, but it’s a caution nonetheless.

I’m with you here.

I don’t know if this is the case or not. Wiseman and Harrison were respected scholars, so it’s possible some have tried but found it wanting. It’s also possible you’re right that it hasn’t been given its due. (I’d certainly be interested in seeing any of that from someone who sees its potential. Maybe you’re the one that’ll see a breakthrough!).

However, things have changed in the past 40+ years. The DH has many problems with it, and has been challenged even from critical scholars. Wiseman/Harrison saw the Tablet Theory as an alternative to DH. For that, I commend them. But it’s not the only alternative, so maybe that impetus (i.e., to challenge DH) isn’t seen as necessary.

My brother!

I do wish you well and promise to give it a fair hearing. It’s not a particular interest of mine, but I welcome anyone to put their best foot forward.


@deuteroKJ I appreciate your comments considerably. I look forward to gaining deeper insights as I process John Walton’s books. As for the rabbit trail, I have the blessing of spending this week at a beach house called “The Warren”. I love the irony of that. The goal of my blog is to help other to learn a lot of good and true things as well; or at least give them a good consider.


They are mostly YEC and I am not sure if I would count them as real scholars either. Plus I am sure they would see the details differently so I’d rather just pitch my take on it.

But only to someone who has an interest in it, I can drone on about these things far beyond people’s level of interest. Tell you what, if one of your scholarly colleagues is interested, if you’d be kind enough to connect us I’ll pitch it to them. I hope you remember our dialogue on Gen. 1:27 which I appreciate you doing. I made passing reference to it in the new edition of my book (though no names). It didn’t look like there was a good case there either, until we talked it through.

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I think I’m generally trying to do the same thing as @anon46279830 and Curt Sewell, that is address the perceived weaknesses in the Tablet Theory, even if that results in a refutation in the end. I would at least like to see the best possible version put forward and addressed. That said, I think @anon46279830 has a too complicated story for the Terah toledoth with too many assumptions, so I will try to go back and ask him some questions on that.

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