Could Multiple Authors and Redaction be Inspired?
Today, I would like to present a couple of alternative hypothetical theological arguments.
There are two characteristics concerning the Bible I believe many modern evangelicals are quite concerned with, and often head towards a Slippery Slope Fallacy when they are confronted with opposing information.
The first is that they usually perceive the Bible and its literature as sui generis. They often have a concept of the books, especially of the OT, as unique. I wouldn’t be surprised if this concept is very closely associated with “inspiration.” God wrote it, it must be unique! However, an examination of the literature of the cultures that surrounded ancient Israel soon reveals cosmologies, flood stories, poetry, laments, law codes, etc. As I have stated before: this should be expected; all human discourse, even if divinely inspired, must take place within linguistic, literary, and cognitive frameworks that exist to convey meaning. In other words, ancient Hebrews did not write in English or compose science manuals.
Second, many people have a synchronic understanding of the texts of the Bible: they believe that most, if not all of the books, were written by a single author, in a single moment of time. Some people do not believe this. They believe that the books which comprise the Hebrew Bible bear evidence of having been written over a period of time; diachronic authorship. But why is one preferred over the other? Once again, I would think that the preference of synchronic authorship may have something to do with inspiration, and probably, what we value in modern culture about literature and writing. However, I am wondering whether diachronic authorship is actually a theological concept with equal validity towards “inspiration.”
An event is not any more intrinsically intelligible or unintelligible because of the pace at which it moves. For a man who does not believe in a miracle, a slow miracle would be just as incredible as a swift one. The Greek witch may have turned sailors to swine with a stroke of the wand. But to see a naval gentleman of our acquaintance looking a little more like a pig every day, till he ended with four trotters and a curly tail would not be any more soothing. It might be rather more creepy and uncanny. The medieval wizard may have flown through the air from the top of a tower; but to see an old gentleman walking through the air in a leisurely and lounging manner, would still seem to call for some explanation. ~ G. K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man
In fact, I would suggest one could argue that multiple authorship over a long period of time could be considered more miraculous, and in need of much more providential divine oversight than God using an author as an amanuensis.
Finally, using either the most conservative or liberal estimates for dating the books of the Bible, one can see that the texts which make up the Bible were themselves collected over a period of time! This would mean then, if one held to diachronic authorship or redaction, a kind of consistent irony. Not only is the collection developed over time, but the books that are in this diachronic collection were themselves developed and redacted over a period of time. In my mind the necessity of God’s hand in this process to form a consistent “theological core” to the material would be arguable, and be much more sustainable as a hypotheses under scrutiny to the evidence the texts bear themselves.