[b-hebrew] Author of the Torah

Heard, Christopher Christopher.Heard at pepperdine.edu
Fri Jul 29 15:37:52 EDT 2005

On Jul 29, 2005, at 12:13 PM, Dave Washburn wrote:

> On Friday 29 July 2005 13:04, Heard, Christopher wrote:

>> On Jul 29, 2005, at 11:30 AM, Sujata wrote:

>>> Outside the Torah, it is referred to as Torah Moshe in
>>> 1 Kings 2:3, Neh 8:1, 2 Chr 25:4, etc.

>> What is the evidence to show that these references are to the
>> Torah?

> What alternative interpretation can you offer?

Well, the burden of proof ought to be borne by those making the claim.
The question "What's your alternative?" is not evidence in favor of the
claim. It needs to be *demonstrated*, not *assumed*, that references to
"the law of Moses" in the Former Prophets, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles
refer to the canonical Torah. I know of no such demonstration; certainly
none has even been attempted in the present thread.

As for alternative interpretations, I would note the following:

(1) Please cross-reference my lost post on this thread earlier today,
where I discuss the "book of the law of Moses" as referenced in Joshua
8. There is no warrant for interpreting that phrase with reference to
the entire canonical Torah, and good reasons, given in that other post,
for thinking it must refer to a much smaller text. *Perhaps* a Mosaic
core of Deuteronomy is a possibility there, but even that seems rather
long for the occasion. I would imagine that the narrator has in mind
some subset of Deuteronomy.

(2) In the case of 1 Kings 22-23, that "book of the law of Moses" the
majority view is that this book was some form of the core of the book of
Deuteronomy, though probably not the canonical form of Deuteronomy. This
view may or may not be right, but I think it does have much to commend
it, as the narrative goes on to depict Josiah's religious reforms (or
innovations, depending on your point of view) in very Deuteronomistic
terms, even quoting passages from Deuteronomy, referring to the
Deuteronomic blessings and curses, and focusing on cultic
centralization. Based on my reading of 1 Kings 22-23, I am inclined to
follow the majority on this. In any event, it is a reasonable
alternative to the view that Hilkiah brought Josiah a copy of the
canonical Torah.

(3) Ezra's "book of the law of Moses" has often been assumed to be the
canonical Torah. At least, as envisioned by the narrator, it certainly
included some version of Deuteronomy 23 but also the ritual calendar in
Leviticus 23. Out of all the references to "the book of the law of
Moses" in the Tanakh, those in Ezra-Nehemiah stand the best chance of
being references to the canonical Torah. Yet even here the evidence is
not firm, because the references to the law-book in Ezra-Nehemiah
include materials that cannot be found in the canonical Torah, e.g., the
(indirect?) quotation in Neh 8:15. Thus the law book referenced in
Ezra-Nehemiah seems to be on a trajectory toward the canonical Torah,
but probably not there yet.

(4) The Torah itself describes Moses writing three different law books:
(a) the Book of the Covenant, (b) the Ritual Decalogue, and (c) the
Deuteronomic Code (to use shorthand in each case). The phrase "the book
of the law of Moses" could aptly apply to any of these three,
individually, without referring to the entire canonical Torah (as Jim
pointed out in his comment about "globalizing the local").

These are not necessarily the only alternatives, but simply those that
occur to me at the moment. So again I put forward the claim that
references to "the book of the law of Moses" in the Tanakh can serve as
evidence for Mosaic authorship of the canonical Torah only if those
phrases can be convincingly shown, exegetically, to have reference to
the canonical Torah.


R. Christopher Heard
Assistant Professor of Religion
Pepperdine University
Malibu, California 90263-4352
http://www.iTanakh.org <http://www.iTanakh.org> 

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