Name (abbreviated "J" from its German form) given to what the literary critics consider the oldest of the Pentateuchal traditions. It received its definitive form (s) in the Southern Kingdom of Judah during the early period of the monarchy. After the destruction of the Northern Kingdom in 721 b.c., J was conflated with the elohist (E) tradition to the benefit of the former. J is characterized by its anachronistic use of the name yahweh for God from the beginning of its history (whence its name). Its theological outlook, its style, and much of its vocabulary are all distinctive. Its history includes: the creation of man and woman, the Fall, the religious decline of mankind, the patriarchs and their descent into Egypt, the Exodus, and the wandering in the desert. J's history provides the basic narrative framework for the Pentateuch. Many critics think that the history continued with a description of the conquest and other events until the time of the monarchy, but there is no agreement concerning the precise identification of J in the later books. For more details and bibliography, see pentateuch.
[e. h. maly]