Physician and founder of modern Pentateuch criticism; born at Sauve, France, March 19, 1684; died in Paris May 5, 1766. His father was a Huguenot, but became a Catholic. He studied medicine and became professor of anatomy in Toulouse, in Montpellier, and finally in Paris. Astruc owes his prominent place in Biblical literature to his work entitled "Conjectures sur les Mémoires Originaux dont Il Paroit que Moyse s'est Servi pour Composer le Livre de la Genèse," published anonymously at Brussels in 1753, which furnished the starting-point for the modern criticism of the Pentateuch.

Long before Astruc, certain Jewish scholars—among them Ibn Ezra and Baruch Spinoza—not being satisfied with the summary reply of the rabbinical commentators, "The Torah does not arrange its facts chronologically" (, Yer. Soṭah viii. 22d), had dealt more or less critically with the anachronisms and chronological incongruities of the Pentateuch. Astruc's immediate predecessors were Le Clerc (Clericus), Richard Simon, Fleury, and François; but none of these went beyond the generalization that the Pentateuch was composed of different documents. Astruc was the first to offer an explanation of the character and mutual relations of these documents.

Jean Astruc.(After a drawing by Vigée in "Biographie Universelle.")Genealogical Tree of the Astruc Family.

Struck by the fact that in some portions of Genesis the divine name "Elohim" (Engl. version, "God") was used, and in others the divine name "Yhwh" (Engl. version, "the Lord"), he advanced the hypothesis that there had originally existed a number of isolated documents, the materials of which Moses separated and then rearranged, and into which confusion was subsequently introduced by copyists. Thus (from the method of Moses and the work of the copyists) he accounted for the two lines of narrative (Elohistic and Jahvistic) and for the repetitions and antichronisms. Astruc assumed two principal documents: the Elohim narrative, A; the Yhwh story, B, and some ten fragmentary ones. On the basis of this conjecture he rearranged (in two columns, A and B) Genesis and the first two chapters of Exodus. To the Elohim narrative he assigned Gen. i.-ii. 3; v.; vi. 9-22; vii 6-10, 19, 22, 24; viii. 1-19; ix. 1-10, 12, 16, 17, 28, 29; xi. 10-26; xvii. 3-27; xx. 1-17; xxi. 2-32; xxii. 1-10; xxiii.; xxv. 1-11; xxx. 1-23; xxxi. 4-47, 51-54; xxxii. 1-3 (1, 2), 25 (24)-33; xxxiii. 1-16; xxxv. 1-27; xxxvii.; xl.-xlviii.; xlix. 29-33; l.; Ex. i.; ii. To the Yhwh source belong ii. 4-iv.; vi. 1-8; vii. 1-5, 11-18, 21, 24; viii. 20-22; ix. 11, 13-15, 18-29; x.; xi. 1-9, 27-32; xii.; xiii.; xv.-xvii. 2; xviii.-xix. 28; xx. 18; xxi. 1, 33, 34; xxii. 11-19; xxiv.; xxv. 19-34; xxvi. 1-33; xxvii.-xxviii. 5, 10-22; xxix.; xxx. 24-43; xxxi. 1-3, 48-50; xxxii. 4-24 (3-23); xxxiii. 17-20; xxxviii.; xxxix.; xlix. 1-28. To a third column, C, he assigned various repetitions (vii. 20, 23, 24; xxxiv. [?]). A fourth division, D, supposed to contain material foreign to Hebrew history, he subdivided into eight columns, as follows: E, xiv.; F, xix. 29-38; G, xxii. 20-24; H, xxv. 12-18 (and perhaps 1-7); K, xxvi. 34, 35; xxviii. 6-9; I, xxxiv.; L, xxxv. 28, 29; xxxvi. 1-19, 31-43; M, xxxvi. 20-30. He assumed also a few additions by the compiler, and some glosses. As authors of the documents he suggested Amram (who drew perhaps from Levi, and this last from Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham), Joseph, the Midianites (for the genealogies in H, K, L, M), and the Moabites and Ammonites (for F).

Astruc's hypothesis was accepted (or, perhaps, independently reached) and further developed by Johann Gottfried Eichhorn, who made it the foundation of what he was the first to designate as "the Higher Criticism." The chief advance of modern Pentateuch criticism has been to divide Astruc's Elohistic source into two—one of which (P) is the latest constituent of the Hexateuch—to distinguish the Deuteronomistic writings, and to define the literary characters and the historical and religious points of view of the documents. While certain of the details of Astruc's analysis have not stood the test of time, his general critical principles have been retained substantially as he held them.

  • Herzog, Real.-Encyc.;
  • Carpenter and Hartford, Hexateuch, London, 1900, pp. 33 et seq.;
  • Cheyne, Founders of Old Testament Criticism, London, 1893;
  • Briggs, Higher Criticism of the Hexateuch, 2d ed., New York, 1897.
T. M. B.
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