JEPD Evidence (Jonathan Bailey)

peter_kirk at peter_kirk at
Mon Dec 20 17:15:17 EST 1999

Actually we have been through this one before on the list, probably 
before Jonathan's time, and Ian may think he detects me being 
inconsistent. Possibly. Anyway, here are some of the conclusions I 
came to after that earlier debate, my thoughts as ever being sharpened 
against Ian's ever probing sabre blows.

According to the only real evidence we have for the existence of 
Moses, he was brought up at the Egyptian royal court. (If we reject 
this part of the account, we may as well reject his existence 
altogether.) There he would have received Egyptian style education 
which would very likely include writing on papyrus, Egyptian style. He 
would have had access to Egyptian records, and may well have copied 
for himself those which especially interested him, such as the records 
of the coming to Egypt of his ancestor Jacob and family. At some stage 
he also learned the Semitic tongue of his forebears and also learned 
how to write that, but probably still using the materials available to 
him, papyrus and parchment. He may have taken some of his own scrolls 
(not stone tablets!) with him into the desert, he could even have 
carried them up the mountain. And during the forty years in the desert 
he would have had ample time to write the Pentateuch, on whatever 
materials were available to him, most likely parchment made from 
animal skins. The Ten Commandments are especially singled out as 
having been written on stone tablets, distinguished from the Book of 
the Covenant (SEFER, Exodus 24:7, compare LUXOT HA'EBEN, 24:12).

So why do we have no evidence of Semitic writing on parchment or 
papyrus from Palestine? Simple: parchment and papyrus, which have 
survived in Egypt, have not survived in that relatively damp climate. 
In Palestine, wood may also have been used, but is also perishable. If 
there was no tradition of writing on perishable materials, how did the 
art of writing survive from the proto-Semitic inscriptions through the 
very meagre supply of inscriptions we now have from the pre-exilic 
period? OK, we have the Gezer calendar which may have been a student's 
exercise. Where are all the other student scribes' thousands of 
exercises if nothing was ever written on perishable materials? Since 
we know that pre-exilic Palestine was not completely illiterate, we 
have to posit a tradition of writing on perishable materials, which 
may well have been adapted from Egyptian methods. There is absolutely 
no reason why writing methods should correlate with language families! 
At this period Palestine had more links with Egypt than with 
Mesopotamia, and it is thought that Semitic letter shapes, even the 
ones used at Ugarit, are borrowed from Egyptian sources. We also have 
the evidence in Jeremiah 36 that Jeremiah wrote on a scroll which 
could be cut up and burned, not on stone or clay tablets.


______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: Re[9]: JEPD Evidence (Jonathan Bailey)
Author:  <mc2499 at> at Internet
Date:    20/12/1999 09:48

>>2) Have you got any verifiable evidence for a non-sedentary scribe in the 
>>ancient world circa 1000 BCE or earlier?
>No. Do I need it?

Yes, of course. You are making presumptions about how scribes perform their 
work. If your hypothetical Moses (or whoever did the work on the 
hypothetical mountain) edited the hypothetical sources, he needed to carry 
the original texts on the long hypothetical pilgrimage. What was the medium 
of the writing? Tablets as normal in semitic texts? The reason why we 
normally find such tablets in nice hoards is because the writers didn't 
move around at all.

>>3) Have you got any contemporary evidence to suppose that Moses was a 
>>scribe, or that he had received the necessary scribal training?
>Contemporary to what?

To the hypothetical time of writing, naturally.

Peter may have been tongue in cheek, but I don't think he was being 


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