Rolf Rendtorff (10 May 1925 – 1 April 2014) was Emeritus Professor of Old Testament at the University of Heidelberg. He has written frequently on the Jewish scriptures and was notable chiefly for his contribution to the debate over the origins of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament).
Rendtorff was born at Preetz, Holstein, Germany. He studied theology from 1945 to 1950 at the universities of Kiel, Göttingen and Heidelberg. He undertook his doctoral studies under Gerhard von Rad, 1950–53.
Rendtorff has published many works on Old Testament subjects, but was notable chiefly for his 1977 book, "Das überlieferungsgeschichtliche Problem des Pentateuch" (The Problem of the Transmission of the Pentateuch). The book was a study of the question of Pentateuchal origins (the question of how the first five books of the bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Book of Numbers and Deuteronomy – came to be written), and appeared at the same time as two other important books, John Van Seters' Abraham in History and Tradition (1975), and Hans Heinrich Schmid's Der sogenannte Jahwist (The So-called Yahwist) (1976). The three studies, appearing almost together, inaugurated a heated discussion in scholarly circles on the validity of the then-dominant consensus on Pentateuchal origins, the Documentary Hypothesis.
- Das überlieferungsgeschichtliche Problem des Pentateuch, by Rolf Rendtorff. Translated by John J. Scullion: The problem of the process of transmission in the Pentateuch. ISBN 1-85075-229-X
- Abraham in History and Tradition, by John Van Seters, Yale University Press, ISBN 0-300-04040-7, 1975
- Der sogenannte Jahwist, by Hans Heinrich Schmid. (1976) in German. ISBN 3-290-11368-X