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Arguably the first historical novelist was the Jahwist author of the Bible, but the novel isn't easy to find. Richard Friedman makes a great case for the Jahwist in his Who Wrote the Bible, better still in The Hidden Book in the Bible. There were four authors of the biblical Torah, or Pentateuch, the first five books of the canonical Bible. It's thought that a redactor, or editor, took the four accounts and melded them into the Torah in the fifth century B.C. The Authors are the Jahwist, Elohist, Preistly author, and the Deuteronomist, or JEPD, but by far the most interesting writing is that of the Jahwist. He wrote of all the gritty characters in the Bible, like who laid with who and all of the war stories, even a passage of how the Philistines had to compensate the Jews with golden hemorrhoids for stealing the Ark of the Covenant.
The other authors laid down the laws and ritual of the Jewish people, with the Priestly author leading the way. The redactor melded these together so well that it wasn't until the 19th century that theologians began separating their concepts. But the redactor does due justice to a God who's both fair and feared, loved in a personal fashion as well as an ethereal God. This is wholly seen in the two creation accounts, one in which God creates in six days and rests on the seventh (the Elohist), and then tears into the story of Adam and Eve in Chapter 2, Verse 4 of Genesis. In the Noah account he's more surreptitious, blending the two stories. At one point, Noah is told to take one clean and seven unclean animals, in another the two-by-two. There are two accounts of the finding land scenes as well.
The Jahwist as first historical novelist comes to the fore when Friedman notices that the author's remarkable writing style is also seen in historical books all the way to David. Friedman takes pains to show us how these sentence structures and individual words are only seen in the J author and in parts of the books form Genesis through Kings. He redacts those portions of the Old Testament and places them in beautiful order in the middle of The Hidden Book in the Bible in a chapter called The Book of J. Here you can see all the unsettling, troubling, powerful characters, and easily learn the names and deeds of those characters.
I must present a case for the author of Job as the first pure novelist, and arguably the best novelist, or literature, in our short history. It tells the story of a man who is tortured even as he reveres God, who makes a pact with Satan to enable Job's plight. Job is visited by wise men and finally rejects God. God asks Job how he can question God. "Who is this that obscures divine plans with words of ignorance? Gird up your loins, like a man, and you tell me the answers!"
All four of my children have great writing skills, which I attribute to their own hard work, though not with the skill of the Jahwist or author of Job. As they were growing, Santa, the Easter Bunny, Uncle Sam, the Tooth Fairy, and the Great Pumpkin would write them letters to find in the morning of those holidays, though again without the skill of those two Old Testament novelists.
A world is born again that never dies.
- My Home by Clive James