Author Date


Degree Name



Ancient Near Eastern Studies


David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies

Defense Date


Publication Date


First Faculty Advisor

Matthew Grey

First Faculty Reader

Avram Shannon

Honors Coordinator

Eric Huntsman


Priests, Judges, Judiciary, Pentateuch, Source Criticism, Documentary Hypothesis


This thesis analyzes evidentiary passages in the Pentateuch through a source-critical lens to better understand the varied adjudicative ideologies they reflect and the role of priests in them. By selecting important pericopes for this analysis through keywords and narrative details, and then by categorizing them according to the pentateuchal source attributions as represented by Richard Elliott Friedman in his The Bible with Sources Revealed, I use a given source’s data to sketch the judicial outlook of said source, including if and to what degree priests operated as judges. Through such a method, this thesis concludes that the Yahwist and Elohist sources each envision a representative judiciary that may have included some priests, but only as incidental to its composition. The Priestly source, on the other hand, is shown to invest Aaronide priests with what can be understood as legal authority surpassed only by Moses. The Deuteronomist source, as the most detailed regarding its vision of adjudication, is shown to reflect a possible synthesis and development of earlier judicial outlooks, with a dispersed representative judiciary headed by a centralized court comprised of both nonpriestly and priestly judges.