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Who Wrote the Torah (5 Books of Moses)


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Who Wrote the Torah (5 Books of Moses)
The Multiple Authorship of the Books Attributed to Moses

By William Harwood, Ph. D.
Submitted by Bob Hope

As far back as the 18th century, biblical scholars started to recognize that the Pentateuch or Torah was riddled with doublets, i.e., two versions of the same story, each complete and self-contained. This would have been insignificant in itself, but they also noticed that one of the versions invariably identified the deity as Yahweh, while in the other account the deity wasElohim. Recognizing that they were looking at a riffling together of two older documents that had been written independently, they called the author of the Yahweh stories "the Jahwist," in German, or "Yahwist," in English, and for convenience thereafter referred to him simply as "J." The author of the Elohim stories became "the Elohist" or "E." A little later, they came to the realization that the Elohim stories were the work of two authors, one from the 8th century B. C., who retained the "E" designation, and the other a Levitical priest from the 7th century, who became "the priestly author," or "P." When the author of Deuteronomy was recognized as "none of the above," he became "the Deuteronomist" or "D." Finally, in the late 20th century, Richard Friedman of USCD demonstrated that the person who combined the separate documents into a single narrative, long thought to be the Priestly author, was in fact a much later editor, whom he called "the Redactor" or "R."

While it is not unanimous, the most widely accepted dates for the various authors are J, ca. 920 B. C.; E, ca. 770 B. C.; D, 621 B. C.; P, 621-612 B. C. ; and R, 434 B. C. The reasoning behind those dates is that J shows signs of having been written during the reign of Rehoboam (ca. 922-915 B. C.), whom he consciously flattered. E could be off by as many as fifty years. D clearly wrote shortly before the "discovery" of his book in Yahweh's temple in 621 B. C. (2 Kings 22:8-11). P was written after D, which showed no awareness of P's existence, while P referred to Assyria as an existing reality, as he could only have done before Assyria's annihilation in 612 B. C. Since the Torah's final version, containing sections not from J, E, D, or P, turned up in the hands of high priest Ezra in 434 B. C., with no explanation of where it came from or why Ezra suddenly changed the ritual for the feast of booths from the formula in Deuteronomy to that in Leviticus, the logical conclusion is that it did not exist seven years earlier when a Deuteronomic booths was celebrated. Indeed, the most logical assumption is that Ezra himself was R.

Since the delusion that the Torah dates back to Moses has been totally disproven for more than a century, people who can rationalize away the evidence in order to retain a security belief no more deserve the dignity of a rebuttal than incurable Maharishiites or flat earthers, but for the benefit of those who, while aware that scholars have refuted Moses' pretended authorship, are not familiar with the evidence, the following passages that clearly were not written during or near the lifetime of Moses should suffice. (Translations are from my unpublished version, The Judeo-Christian Bible Fully Translated.)

"To this day no one has ever found his (Moses') grave" (Deut. 34:6).

"Since then there hasn't been a spokesman in Yisrael comparable with Mosheh, whom Yahweh knew face to face" (Deut. 34:10).

"At that time, there were still Phoenicians in the land" (Gen. 12:6).

"These were the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before there was any king reigning over the descendants of Yisrael" (Gen. 36:1).

"When Avrum (Abram) heard that his kinsman was a captive, he... chased them as far as [the city of] Dan" (Gen. 14:14).

It is not feasible that the line, "No one has ever found his grave to this day," could have been written until long after Moses' death. The statement implied extensive attempts to locate Moses' grave, carried out over a long enough period for the writer to be despaired of ever succeeding.

It is equally inconceivable that the lack of a subsequent spokesman comparable to Moses would have been deemed remarkable until at least a century had gone by. Also, Moses would not have been described as a spokesman (Hebrew, nabiya) any earlier than the sheikdom of Samuel, since it was in Samuel's time that the word was coined. The same is true of "Miriam the spokeswoman" (Exodus 15:20).

That there were Phoenicians in the land "at that time" was an expression that would have been used at a time when there were no longer Phoenicians in the land, and the Phoenicians survived Moses by many generations.

There was no king reigning over the Israelites until the time of Saul, so no writer who lived earlier than Saul could have referred to a time "before there was any king reigning over the descendants of Yisrael." The comparison of Edom's having kings before Israel had a king demolishes the pretense that the writer was not referring to the monarchy of Saul.

The Canaanite city of Laish was not renamed Dan until the Danites captured it long after the death of Moses (Judges 18:29).

Since J, E, D, P, and R all practiced more or less the same religion, not surprisingly there were points on which they all agreed. For example, all five acknowledged the existence of gods other than Yahweh. R wrote of the Israelites' enemies, "On their gods, also, Yahweh inflicted punishments" (Num. 33:4). J (Ex. 9:14), E (Ex. 18:11), D (Deut. 3:24), and P (Ex. 12:12) were equally unambiguous in expressing their belief that Yahweh was merely the most powerful god but not the only god.

On the question of what was taboo, the authors disagreed. The Priestly author banned male (but not female) homosexuality (Lev. 18:22), and R eventually added a death penalty (Lev. 20:13), but less than a decade before P tried to encourage gay men to start breeding tithe-paying believers, D had written favorably of "the woman who fulfills your physical needs or the male lover who means as much to you as your own breath" (Deut. 13: 6). The claim that Moses authored both of those incompatible views is absurd.

But for most of the differences between doublets, the explanation is not philosophical disagreement but the inevitable consequence of the writers being separated by time and geography. Consider the two accounts in Genesis of Joseph's sale into slavery. E's version reads from 37:18.

"Yosef's brothers saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted together to kill him (v:20b) and throw him into a well (v:21). But Reuwben overheard, and rescued him from their clutches by suggesting, 'We don't have to kill him' (v:22). And Reuwben advised them, 'Instead of shedding blood, throw him into this well in the desert unharmed.' His intention was to rescue him from their clutches and return him to his father (v:24). So they seized him and threw him into an empty well containing no water (v:28). Some Midyanite merchants passed by. They reached down and lifted Yowsef out of the well (v:29). So when Reuwben returned to the well, he saw that Yowsef was not in the well, and he tore his clothing (v:30). He returned to his brothers and told them, 'The boy's gone. What am I going to do?' Meanwhile, the Midyanites sold him in Egypt to Powtiyfar, one of Pharaoh's eunuchs, commander of his bodyguard."

J's story is equally complete, beginning at 37:19.

"They said to one another, 'Look the dreamer's coming (v:20a). How about we kill him (v:20c)? We can say that a wild animal ate him. Then we'll see what becomes of his dreams' (v:23). When Yowsef reached his brothers, they stripped off Yowsef's coat, the coat with the full sleeves that he was wearing (v:25). While they were sitting eating their bagels, they looked up and saw a caravan of Yismaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels loaded with gum, galm, and resin that they were taking to Egypt (v:26). Yahuwdah asked his brothers, 'Where's the profit in killing our brother and covering his blood (v:27)? Instead, how about we sell him to the Yishmaelites? It should not be our hands that harm him. After all, he is our brother, our own flesh.' His brothers agreed (v:28b), and they sold Yowsef to the Yishmaelites for twenty silver coins. They took Yowsef to Egypt (v:21). His brothers meanwhile took Yowsef's coat and killed a kid and dipped the coat in the blood (v:31). Then they sent the full-sleeved coat back to their father, asking, 'Do you know whether this coat we found is your son's or not?' (v:32). When Yowsef was taken to Egypt, he was bought by an Egyptian from the hands of the Yishmaelites who had taken him there" (39:1).

Believers could argue that, while each of the separate versions is coherent, so is the unseparated versionĀ­ except for one thing. As it stands, the Torah now shows Joseph being sold into slavery in Egypt twice, once by Midianites and once by Ishmaelites. Could a single author (Moses) really have been that stupid? Logic says that he could not.