Doublets are seemingly identical duplicative narratives of the same event, which source critics believe
is one story told by two or three different authors living during different periods of time. They believe
that this explains the differences and contradictions of each account. Found mostly in Genesis, doublets
can also be found elsewhere in the Pentateuch.
Today, largely as the result of a better understanding of Ancient Near Eastern Literary styles and
culture, source critics no longer consider doublets as strong evidence of source documents; the alleged
doublets were not a consequence of multiple authors, but instead a reflection of literary devices typical
of that period. The following summarizes the problems that destructive critics face in light of Ancient
Near Eastern Literary styles and culture.
1. Misunderstanding Ancient Near Eastern Literary styles: repetition.
Ancient Hebrew used restatement as a literary style in which the essential elements of an account is
repeated with some variation and introduces more specific information to emphasize or focus on the relevant
elements of the account. In comparative Near Eastern manuscripts (such as the Gebel Barkla Stela or royal
inscriptions from Urartu, etc.), this literary pattern is observed as the author (scribe) makes a general
statement or praise about a ruler and then duplicates (repeats or restates) the account with more specific
and important details.
For example, in the beginning of the Gebel Barkla Stela, there are general terms
describing royal supremacy, and immediately following is a restatement that specifically elaborates on the
triumphs in Syria-Palestine. In another example, the royal inscriptions from Urartu have the initial
paragraph attributing the defeat of certain lands to the god Haldi and then the same victories are repeated
in detail as achieved by the king.
2. Misunderstanding Ancient Near Eastern Literary grammar: paratactic sentence structure.
Ancient Hebrew sentence structure was usually paratactic, which meant that whole sentences were connected
with the conjunction "and." Unfamiliar with this fact, source critics saw this sentence structure as a
method used by redactors to join fragments from diverse sources.
A good example of a paratactic sentence is the literal translation of Genesis 1:1-4, "In the beginning
God created the heavens and the earth and the earth was formless and void and darkness was
over the surface of the deep and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters and
God said, "Let there be light" and there was light and God saw that the light was good
and God separated the light from the darkness.
With the use of "and", ancient Hebrew rarely used subordinate clauses or phrases when the sentence
expressed several ideas. Thus, the relationships of the ideas were left to the reader. In modern Bibles,
translators replaced the paratactic sentence structure with modern forms and expressed the relationships
between ideas. For example:
if there was contrast, "and" was replaced with "but",
if there was a purpose, "and" was replaced with "in order to" or "so that",
if there was a temporal relation, "and" was replaced with "when" or "while" or "then."
Genesis 1:14 is a biblical example of how modern translations approach paratactic sentences. The bold
font indicates the words supplied by translators:
Then God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the
day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; (Gen 1:14)
3. Misunderstanding Ancient Near Eastern Literary style: parallelism.
Ancient Hebrew used parallelism for both poetic and non-poetic purposes. This involved clauses that
were paired to invite comparison and thus convey more descriptive information.
Another form of Hebrew parallelism is found in the literary device called a chiasm
(see Chiasms: the Hebrew X-factor). Based on the Greek
letter X (chi) describing the x-shaped literary structure, a chiasm is an inverted parallel literary
structure where the central idea is located where the inflection or turning point has occurred. Hence,
the ideas of this structure take the following sequential form A-B-C-X-C'-B'-A' where X is the central or
4. Misunderstanding Ancient Near Eastern Literary forms.
Within Genesis, the Hebrew term tôledôt (or toledoth) is found twelve times and establishes
a structural and directional unity that has been ignored by source critics. Based on the Hebrew root
word for "giving birth," tôledôt means "generations," which, in other modern translations, may
be seen as "account" or "story."
The term tôledôt provides a structural unity to Genesis by serving as an
introduction. It introduces the next section, often a genealogical list or historical account of the person
named next to the term tôledôt. When examining the subjects associated with each tôledôt, they
form a histo-theological division: five form the Primeval history or Covenants with Adam and Noah - human
initiatives that caused failure, and five form the Ancestral history of Israel or Covenants with Abraham
and his seed – God’s initiatives that redeem man from his failures. This symmetry adds to the literary
beauty of Genesis, but is lost by source critics.
The term tôledôt provides directional unity to Genesis by delineating the
scope of the passage. The first tôledôt begins with the widest scope: creation of the universe, and
the last tôledôt ends with the smallest: the single human progenitor of Israel.
Verses containing the tôledôt.
Primeval History / Covenants with Adam and Noah
Genesis 2:4 Account of Heavens and Earth - Creation and Expulsion
This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created,
in the day that the LORD God made earth and heaven.
Genesis 5:1 Generations of Adam - Adam to Noah genealogy and Sons of God
This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day when God created man,
He made him in the likeness of God.
Genesis 6:9 Generations of Noah - Flood and Rebirth
These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man,
blameless in his time; Noah walked with God.
Genesis 10:1 Generations of Shem, Ham, Japheth - Table of Nations and Tower of Babel
Now these are the records of the generations of Shem, Ham, and Japheth, the
sons of Noah; and sons were born to them after the flood.
Genesis 11:10 Generations of Shem - Shem to Terah genealogy
These are the records of the generations of Shem. Shem was one hundred years
old, and became the father of Arpachshad two years after the flood;
Ancestral History / Covenants with Abraham and His Seed
Genesis 11:27 Generations of Terah – Abraham’s story
Now these are the records of the generations of Terah. Terah became the father
of Abram, Nahor and Haran; and Haran became the father of Lot.
Genesis 25:12 Generations of Ishmael – Ishmael’s genealogy
Now these are the records of the generations of Ishmael, Abraham's son, whom
Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah's maid, bore to Abraham;
Genesis 25:19 Generations of Isaac – Jacob’s story
Now these are the records of the generations of Isaac, Abraham's son: Abraham
became the father of Isaac;
Genesis 36:1 Generations of Esau – Esau’s genealogy
Now these are the records of the generations of Esau (that is, Edom).
Genesis 37:2 Generations of Jacob – Joseph’s story
These are the records of the generations of Jacob. Joseph, when seventeen
years of age, was pasturing the flock with his brothers while he was still a youth, along with the sons of
Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives. And Joseph brought back a bad report about them to their
The only instance where tôledôt was used as a conclusion instead of introduction
These are the families of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies,
by their nations; and out of these the nations were separated on the earth after the flood. (Gen 10:32)
The only instance where tôledôt was used as a restatement of a prior tôledôt
(Gen 36:1 – Details of Esau’s genealogy)
These then are the records of the generations of Esau the father of the
Edomites in the hill country of Seir. (Gen 36:9)
Another literary form that source critics have not noticed is the systematic method by which the unchosen
descendant of an ancestor is treated. The genealogy of the non-elect is typically given before the heir.
For example, Cain is given before Seth (Gen 4:17-26), Japheth and Ham is given before Shem (Gen 10:1-4,
6-8, and 21-22), and Ishmael before Isaac (Gen 25:12-15, 19), and Esau before Jacob (Gen 36:1-10; 37:2).
Genesis 4:17-26 - Cain before Seth
17) Cain had relations with his wife and she conceived, and gave birth to Enoch;
and he built a city, and called the name of the city Enoch, after the name of his son. 18) Now to
Enoch was born Irad, and Irad became the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael became the father of Methushael,
and Methushael became the father of Lamech. 19) Lamech took to himself two wives: the name of the
one was Adah, and the name of the other, Zillah. 20) Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of
those who dwell in tents and have livestock. 21) His brother's name was Jubal; he was the father of
all those who play the lyre and pipe. 22) As for Zillah, she also gave birth to Tubal-cain, the
forger of all implements of bronze and iron; and the sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah. 23) Lamech said
to his wives, "Adah and Zillah, listen to my voice, you wives of Lamech, give heed to my speech, for I have
killed a man for wounding me; and a boy for striking me; 24) if Cain is avenged sevenfold, then Lamech
seventy-sevenfold." 25) Adam had relations with his wife again; and she gave birth to a son, and named
him Seth, for, she said, "God has appointed me another offspring in place of Abel, for Cain killed
him." 26) To Seth, to him also a son was born; and he called his name Enosh. Then men began to call
upon the name of the LORD.
Genesis 10:1-4, 6-8, and 21-22 - Japheth and Ham before Shem
1) Now these are the records of the generations of Shem, Ham, and Japheth, the sons
of Noah; and sons were born to them after the flood. 2) The sons of Japheth were Gomer and
Magog and Madai and Javan and Tubal and Meshech and Tiras. 3) The sons of Gomer were Ashkenaz and
Riphath and Togarmah. 4) The sons of Javan were Elishah and Tarshish, Kittim and Dodanim.
6) The sons of Ham were Cush and Mizraim and Put and Canaan. 7) The
sons of Cush were Seba and Havilah and Sabtah and Raamah and Sabteca; and the sons of Raamah were Sheba and
Dedan. 8) Now Cush became the father of Nimrod; he became a mighty one on the earth.
21) Also to Shem, the father of all the children of Eber, and the older brother
of Japheth, children were born. 22) The sons of Shem were Elam and Asshur and Arpachshad and Lud and
Genesis 25:12-15, 19 - Ishmael before Isaac
12) Now these are the records of the generations of Ishmael, Abraham's son, whom Hagar
the Egyptian, Sarah's maid, bore to Abraham; 13) and these are the names of the sons of Ishmael,
by their names, in the order of their birth: Nebaioth, the firstborn of Ishmael, and Kedar and Adbeel and
Mibsam 14) and Mishma and Dumah and Massa, 15) Hadad and Tema, Jetur, Naphish and Kedemah.
19) Now these are the records of the generations of Isaac, Abraham's son: Abraham became the
father of Isaac;
Genesis 36:1-10; 37:2 - Esau before Jacob
1) Now these are the records of the generations of Esau (that is, Edom). 2)
Esau took his wives from the daughters of Canaan: Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Oholibamah the
daughter of Anah and the granddaughter of Zibeon the Hivite; 3) also Basemath, Ishmael's daughter, the
sister of Nebaioth. 4) Adah bore Eliphaz to Esau, and Basemath bore Reuel, 5) and Oholibamah
bore Jeush and Jalam and Korah. These are the sons of Esau who were born to him in the land of Canaan.
6) Then Esau took his wives and his sons and his daughters and all his household, and his livestock
and all his cattle and all his goods which he had acquired in the land of Canaan, and went to another land
away from his brother Jacob. 7) For their property had become too great for them to live together, and
the land where they sojourned could not sustain them because of their livestock. 8) So Esau lived in
the hill country of Seir; Esau is Edom. 9) These then are the records of the generations of Esau the
father of the Edomites in the hill country of Seir. 10) These are the names of Esau's sons: Eliphaz the
son of Esau's wife Adah, Reuel the son of Esau's wife Basemath.
37:2) These are the records of the generations of Jacob. Joseph, when
seventeen years of age, was pasturing the flock with his brothers while he was still a youth, along with the
sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives. And Joseph brought back a bad report about them to
Thus doublets are intentionally used for a literary purpose and do not reflect the identification
of sources in the manner of the Documentary Hypothesis.
1. Archer GL, An Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, Grand Rapids, MI:
2. Kaiser WC, Davids PH, Bruce FF, Brauch MT, Hard Sayings of the Bible, Chicago,
IL: Inter-Varsity Press (1996).
3. Kitchen K, Ancient Orient and Old Testament, Chicago, IL: Inter-Varsity Press (1996).