JEDP (Mo & Deut)

Ian Hutchesson mc2499 at mclink.it
Sat Dec 18 12:47:36 EST 1999


I don't want to defend the documentary hypothesis, though I should say it
has proven remarkably useful for two reasons: 1) it has led away from
fundamentalist, literal contortions in interpretation, and 2) it has given
the fundamentalist literalist something to rail against for decades.

Someone proposed the possibility that Moses was the compiler of the various
odds and ends that have been welded into the series of books we call the
Pentateuch, but let me just take the opportunity to remind those concerned
that Deuteronomy, the one that I've spent a bit more time with recently,
recounts the death of Moses, which indicates that at least that was not
written or edited or redacted or anythinged by Moses -- and any talk about
that this was an epilogue is only an ad hoc means of dealing with the fact
that Moses didn't write part of the text (and naturally if not this then
what else?). Consider also the so-called farewell speech he recites, 33:3
has Moses say, "Moses charged us with the law..." If Moses is speaking
about himself in the third person, who is the "us"? I would think it is
inevitable to conclude that at least this verse also was not written by the
person who hagiographers claim wrote the work.

The same book is very fond of a few expressions, "the place where the Lord
God will set his name" (and variations) and "the land which the Lord God is
giving them". These seem to be transparent means of dealing with the temple
and the land currently occupied as seen in a text written to be before the
time they arrived there. Hey, it just is possible to all those people who
will never accept the notion of vaticinio ex eventu that these periphases
were part of real visions of the future, and that all the laws promolgated
only for living in the promised land were for later applications. Even the
provisions made for the resident foreigner [ger] in the laws could also
have been that way. Let's write laws or give laws that have no relevance
until you get in the land and get foreigners settling in your territories.
(Surely 1:16 is about courts already in operation?)

Let's also consider, while we're here, the agricultural feast days, both
shevuot and sukkot are agriculturally based feast days, ie you need to be
practising a system of agriculture to provide what is necessary for them.
This means that you need to be settled in a locality and practising farming
(and cattle raising to furnish an essential part of the system of
sacrifices). Prior to such a situation, feasts like these (with their
accompanying sacrifices) would have been meaningless.

If we still haven't got the idea that Deuteronomy was written in Palestine,
what about 4:38 God brought you (the Israelites) out of Egypt, "driving out
before nations greater and mightier than yourselves, to bring you in,
giving you their land for a possession, as it still is today." Where are
they? Similar logic is found in 2:12 in which the Israelites had driven out
the original inhabitants of "the land which the Lord gave them as a
possession."

If we're still not convinced that Deuteronomy cannot be the work of a
Moses, just look at 1:5, "Beyond the Jordan in the land of Moab, Moses...".
What is the point of view of the writer of this verse?

It should be clear that Deuteronomy is a work that was written in
Palestine. Yet, Deuteronomy is generally older than the other pentateuchal
books, which have gained a lot more baggage since the writing of the main
part of Deuteronomy. Consider the holy days, where is the day of atonement
in Deuteronomy? Not considered important enough to include? the writer
forgot? he was in some different religious current? (Perhaps he too was an
Essene.) What about the position of the Levites in Deuteronomy, in which
they are considered at a level with the priests in Jerusalem, unlike later
times? Where is all the Aaronid propaganda in Deuteronomy which is spread
through Exodus, Numbers and Leviticus? It would seem that the greater part
of Deuteronomy was written prior to the Aaronid ascendency found in the
other pentateuchal books.

Some other parts of Deuteronomy were written later. If we are to believe
that there was a social crisis in the second temple period which was
characterised by the selling of Hebrew people as slaves -- the area around
Jerusalem didn't offer much in the way of raw materials, so we find the
greatest export from the zone was human, soldiers and slaves. Numerous
passages complain about the sale of people for slavery (including
Zech11:4-12). This is where the Phoenicians and the Greeks come in as
traders who were responsible for taking away Hebrews and spreading them
through the Mediterranean, including to Greece and Egypt. We find in
Deuteronomy 24:7, "If someone is caught kidnapping another Israelite,
enslaving or selling the Israelite then that kidnapper shall die." Again,
let us consider 28:68, a warning for against disobedience which entails the
threat, "The Lord will bring you back in ships to Egypt, by a route that I
promised you would never see again; and there you shall offer yourselves
for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but there will be no
buyer." I'm sure someone out there in TV land can find another context in
which this verse might have sense.


Cheers,


Ian




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