P.J. Wiseman first presented the Tablet Theory, also called the Wiseman Hypothesis, in his 1936 book, New discoveries in Babylonia about Genesis. The theory stands in contrast to the Documentary Hypothesis, which claims that Genesis and the Flood account were the result of a merging over time of multiple source accounts by a redactor or redactors. Most recently Curt Sewell has refined the hypothesis. Wiseman first noticed that many of the ancient Mesopotamian clay tablets we're discovering use "colophon phrases" naming the tablet's writer or owner, as well as some method of dating the tablet; and often relate to family histories and origins. Wiseman also noted their similarity to the book of Genesis, which scholars have long recognized is sub-divided into sections via the phrase "these are the generations of..." Such a phrase is translated from the Hebrew word "toledoth", defined by Strong's dictionary as 'generations' as related to family history or descent.
Sewell hypothesizes that each of these subsections divides into differing individual accounts separated by the Hebrew word "toledoth", God's account of Creation (Genesis 1:1-2:4), Adam's genealogy/personal history (2:4-5:1), Noah's genealogy/personal history (5:1-6:9), Shem/Ham/Japheth's (6:9-10:1), Shem's specifically (10:1-11:10), Terah's (11:10-11:27), Isaac's (11:27-25:19), Ishmael's (25:12-18), Jacob's (25:19-37:2), Esau's (36:1-36:43), and Jacob's 12 sons (37:2-Exodus 1:6).
Since each of these sub-sections is separated by the Hebrew word "toledoth", Sewell considers that Genesis is actually a grouping of the family genealogical tablets, per Mesopotamian style, and thus very much is a compilation of accounts, but not in the way Wellhausen envisioned, since it would make Genesis' origins far older than Moses, rather than younger; with Moses himself the likely compiler/redactor of the tablets' accounts. The theory has also been supported by R.K. Harrison and Russell Grigg.
A particularly strong evidence against the Documentary Hypothesis in support of the Tablet Theory is the existence of chiasms, remarkably complex, structured literary devices, interwoven throughout the book of Genesis, particularly the Flood account.
- Sewell, C. (1994). The Tablet Theory of Genesis Authorship. Bible and Spade (Vol. 7, No. 1).
- Strong's Hebrew Dictionary. 8435.toledoth. Biblos.com.
- Harrison, R.K. (1994). From Adam to Noah: A Reconsideration of the Antediluvian Patriarchs' Ages. Jets (Vol. 16, No. 2). pp. 161-168.
- Grigg, R. (1994). Creation Ex Nihilo (Vol. 16 No. 1). pp. 38-41. ChristianAnswers.net.
- Garrett, D. (2010, September 24). "The Documentary Hypothesis." Associates for Biblical Research.