Successful challenges

Jonathan Bailey jonathan.bailey at
Mon Dec 20 05:53:59 EST 1999

---------- Original Message ----------

>Dear Jonathan,
>What do you do with Gen. 36 31,  "And these are the kings that reigned
>in Edom before there reigned a king of/over Israel"? Even Rashi
>attributed this king-list to the time of King Jehoshafat, leading Ibn
>Ezra to proclaim that his book should be burned. What do you do with all
>the other verses indicating late authorship of the Pentateuch?

Gen 36,31 is a matter of interpretation. I interpret the verse as Moses basically saying 
"Edomites have already had a slew of Kings, and we haven't even had one yet."

Now remember, this is after Jacob had gotten the birthright, yet there had already 
been a slew of Edomite kings, and none for Israel. The theme is that the temporal 
things of the world get their glory first, but only for a while, while the things of God 
have to wait for a time, but then they get their glory. At least this is how I interpret the 
passage from my pauline lense.

Now we know that Israel conceived itself of Israel far before the monarchy, and 
expectations of a king were probably common. After all, everybody else, even fleshly 
Esau, had them. The use of the infinitive here may indicate that the author was not 
speaking from the perspective of an author in the far future about an already 
completed event. Therefore I see it somewhat like 'they already have all these kings 
and we haven't even gotten one yet'. Such would be an attidute of the Jews in Egypt, 
wondering about what it means to get the birthright and be slaves in Egypt while the 
fleshly brother loses his birthright and becomes the founder of a great nation. This 
statement is a good indicator of a tradition or a source that Moses would have 
incorporated into Genesis.

But about your other question concerning ALL the verses, I would just have to say 
that many, many of them are like this one, that is, requiring a difference of 
understanding. I am certain that there are some that would challenge me, so let me 
say that I do not hold the extreme (and completely uninformed) position that the bible 
has somehow been immune to the necessary processes of textual transmission in 
this imperfect world which results in occasional alterations to the text. Though I do 
stick conservatively to the MT (no crime in that, it is actually in vogue these days), I 
am not above the understanding that certain alterations have been made in the text 
since the days of Moses, though I am inclined to believe these are small, usually the 
products of copyist errors in insignificant passages, or if any true redaction was done, 
then it was not without the will of God, who I believe to have his hand on the 
preservation of the text as well as on its revelation. In other words, I am capable of 
believing that our textus receptus is faithfully the word of God, even with the 
occasional mistake or redaction, and am therefore not above resorting to 
emendations, and if pressed, could see certain verses as post Mosaic redactions, 
though I have not yet run into any at this point.

But as I said above, many, many, many of these verses that indicate late authorship 
are simply misinterpreted, or inordinately unwilling to allow Moses the privelege of 
using an odd style.

Lastly, I would like to say that if the thread that Peter (are you happy now, Ian!?) 
started about whether Genesis is a redaction or a composition by a single author is 
over (we seem to have milked it for all that it is worth), and we are going to shift over 
to a broader topic of whether Torah is early or late, or had Moses as its author, I would 
like to enlist the aid of, if not turn these questions completely over to, list members 
such as PETER Kirk, Dave Washburn, Baruch Alster, and others who have shown a 
willingness to represent the opinion that the Torah may be older, or written by Moses. 
For me, a lowly grad student, to answer all of these questions demands that I 
research most of them anew, a task that I do not have time for at the moment. I came 
on here to read about the research of others who were further along than I, yet it 
seems that I am one of the primary contributors to the list, and have to say that I am 
devoting more time to my daily e-mails than I had originally expected. It does seem to 
me, though, that the question of Mosaic authorship is one that has been argued to 
death for centuries at this point, and it doesn't seem like the question is likely to be 
solved any time soon. Or conversely, the question has already been solved in the 
minds of the proponents of the opposed views for quite some time. Furthermore, it 
seems to me that before my entry onto the list, those that believed in Mosaic or early 
authorship of the Torah took pains not to mention that fact in order to avoid ridicule 
and insults at the hands of those who don't, a phenomenon with which I am becoming 
aquainted thanks to the kind words of Dr. Lemche. Perhaps further discussion of the 
matter should be avoided on these grounds.

Jonathan Bailey
Hochschule für Jüdische Studien

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