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Astruc, Jean

ASTRUC, JEAN

French physician of the 18th century who played an important role in the history of biblical criticism; b. Suave (Tarn), France, March 19, 1684; d. Paris, May 5, 1766. Though his father was a Protestant at the time of Jean's birth, and though the latter was baptized in the Protestant church at Suave, the elder Astruc was soon after converted to Catholicism, and his son was raised and always lived as a Catholic. Jean Astruc received his higher education at Montpellier, France, where he became a doctor of medicine in 1703. He succeeded his former master, Pierre Chirac, in teaching medicine at Montpellier (170710) and then obtained the chair of anatomy at the University of Toulouse. After a year in Paris and a year as physician to King Augustus II of Poland, he was appointed medical consultant to Louis XV of France and later (1731) professor at the College of France. Besides publishing several works on medical topics, he took a side interest in philosophy, theology, and biblical exegesis. He is best known for a work that he published anonymously, Conjectures sur les mémoires originaux dont il paraît que Moise s'est servi pour composer le livre de la Genèse (Brussels 1753). Noticing that in certain parts of Genesis, God is designated by the Hebrew word "Elohim" and in other parts by the Hebrew word "Yahweh" he strung the Elohim parts together and the Yahweh parts together and thus obtained two fairly coherent parallel accounts. From this he concluded that Moses had used two principal documents, an Elohistic one and a Yahwistic one, in addition to ten smaller documents (from Moab, Edom, etc.); Moses would have placed the documents one parallel to the other, but later copyists jumbled them together. Thus, was born the socalled documentary hypothesis, which Astruc proposed as merely probable and expressly subject to the judgment of the church. This hypothesis as applied to the other books of the pentateuch by J. G. Eichhorn and K. D. Ilgen won favor, especially in Germany. Although Astruc was not correct in most of the points of his theory about the composition of Genesis, his acute observation about the Elohistic and the Yahwistic documents used in the composition of this book laid the foundation for the modern, much more elaborated documentary hypothesis on the composition of the Pentateuch.

Bibliography: a. lods and p. alphandÉry, Jean Astruc et la critique biblique au XVIII e siècle (Paris 1924). a. m. lautour, Dictionnaire de biographie française 3:139194. e. o'doherty, "The Conjectures of Jean Astruc, 1753," The Catholic Bibical Quarterly 15 (1953) 300304. j. de savignac, "L'oeuvre et la personnalité de Jean Astruc," La Nouvelle Clio 5 (1953) 138147. a. strobel, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche 2 1:967. e. kutsch, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart 3 1:666. p. auvray, Catholicisme 1:971.

[a. m. malo]

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