Name (abbreviated E) given to a certain narrative and legal tradition identifiable in the Pentateuch. It was preserved among the tribes more closely associated with the Exodus and events at Mt. Sinai and developed by them in the northern part of Canaan where they settled. It was given its definitive form about the middle of the eighth century b.c. After 721 b.c. it was conflated with the yahwist (J) document in the South. E suffered in this conflation so that it now appears mainly as a supplementary narrative. Its character as an originally independent source, especially in Genesis, was once seriously questioned, but is now generally accepted. E's history, as preserved in the canonical Pentateuch, begins with Abraham (traces perhaps in Genesis ch. 15), continues with the rest of the patriarchs and the story of the Exodus, Sinai covenant, and the wandering in the desert. It carefully uses the name elohim for God (whence its name) in the pre-Sinai narratives (e.g., Ex 3.11–14). Its vocabulary, style, and especially its theological outlook are distinctive. The last includes a concern for the covenant and its stipulations, a resulting stricter morality, a tendency to avoid anthropomorphisms, and an emphasis on an idealized desert existence.
[e. h. maly]