[b-hebrew] Author of the Torah

Dave Washburn dwashbur at nyx.net
Fri Jul 29 21:37:26 EDT 2005

On Friday 29 July 2005 16:21, Heard, Christopher wrote:
> [Me, 12:38 PM PDT 7/29/05]
> Well, the burden of proof ought to be borne by those making the claim.
> [/me]
> [Begin Dave, 2:25 PM PDT 7/29/05]
> Get real.  Those who deny Mosaic authorship are the Johnny-come-lately
> camp;
> said authorship has been accepted since at least the time of Jesus, and
> most
> likely at least several centuries before.  So you're the one making the
> "new"
> claim, not I.  Hence, the burden of proof is on you by your own
> criterion.
> [/Dave]
> Just to clarify, I would say that my statement above applies to anybody
> who makes any claim. Any claim, whether I make it, or you (Dave), or the
> Pope, or whoever, is by the making of the claim obligated at some level
> to be prepared to answer the question "Why do you say that?" I think it
> is not arrogant for me to say that my behavior on this thread
> demonstrates my willingness to shoulder the burden of offering specific
> on-point evidence for any claims I make.
> Questioning Mosaic authorship of the canonical form of the Torah is not
> at all a "Johnny-come-lately" or a product of modern skepticism. It is a
> product of reading the text, at least for some. Baba Bathra assigns
> authorship of Deut 34:5-12 to Joshua. 

One brief snippet.  That hardly compares to the current situation or 
constitutes "skepticism" as currently defined.

> In the 12th century CE, Ibn Ezra 
> questioned Mosaic authorship of Genesis 12:6 because of the way in which
> the Canaanite presence in "the land" is described. 

One verse.  See above.  These are not helping your case.

> In the 1500s and 
> 1600s, at least half a dozen writers questioned Mosaic authorship of the
> canonical form of the Pentateuch--though not Mosaic contributions in the
> form of sources. Some scholars in this period argued that the canonical
> Torah was compiled by a later author using Moses' notes and memoirs,
> while Hobbes and Spinoza were perfectly happy to attribute Mosaic
> authorship to those parts of the Torah that the Torah says Moses wrote,
> but thought the other parts came from a different hand. 

Yup, the "enlightenment."  Precisely my point.  It was 1500 years before 
somebody came up with this idea, which makes it very much a 
"Johnny-come-lately" by comparison.  Thank you for making my point.

> Note well that 
> the "youngest" of these sources, Spinoza, dates to c. 85 years *before*
> Astruc's _Conjectures_, and some 200 years before Wellhausen's
> _Prolegomena_! No "Johnny come latelies" here; the tradition of
> ascribing at least some of the Torah to a hand other than Moses' is at
> least as old as the earliest documentable tradition *that I know of* of
> a ascribing the entire Pentateuch to Moses' stylus (viz., Baba Bathra).

I find it astounding that you put that one bit from Baba Bathra in the same 
category with Spinoza and Wellhausen.  Talk about a flying leap...

> [Dave]
> Obviously it hasn't in the present thread; however, the weight of
> previous
> exegesis as well as the testimony of those who were MUCH closer to the
> time
> in question than we, is quite uniform in asserting that 1) Moses did
> author
> the Pentateuch,
> [/Dave]
> Again I repeat: Where are these claims? Where is this evidence? And what
> is the warrant for giving credence to it? There is no such claim
> internal to the Torah. I would daresay, exegetically, that there is no
> such claim internal to the Bible. I am not aware when the first such
> claim can be documented; the earliest I know of for certain is Baba
> Bathra, but I imagine that such claims can be documented earlier than
> that in patristic sources. 

Others have given them to you in this thread.  See them.

> I don't know the Hellenistic Jewish sources 
> or the DSS well enough to know if such a claim is made there, and I
> would be happy to learn whether such claims are made there. But even if
> they were, mere "proximity in time"--e.g., removed by only 1,000 years
> from Moses instead of 3,000--would not be enough in my mind to overcome
> the internal indicators from the text of the Torah itself.

The DSS don't discuss such things, but the New Testament does, as has already 
been cited.

> [Dave]
> and 2) the references to the Law of Moses in the other books
> do indeed refer to the Pentateuch.
> [/Dave]
> As of yet, I have seen no exegetical demonstrations of this, nor even
> citations of specific "traditional interpretations" that would support
> this claim.

I haven't seen any evidence that any amount of such material would change your 
mind, even though much has already been presented.  Several posts have 
discussed just such things, and I see no need to repeat what they already 

> [Dave]
> And of course, it also needs to be
> *demonstrated*, not *assumed*, that those references to NOT refer to the
> Pentateuch.  I haven't seen any demonstration of that on this thread,
> either.
> Bear in mind that arguments from silence always cut both ways.
> [/Dave]
> I would respectfully suggest that if you will re-read my post
> time-stamped around 12:37-12:38 PDT today (7/29/05), you will find that
> I gave several reasons for doubting that the references to "the book of
> the law of Moses" in Joshua 8, 2 Kings 22-23, and Ezra-Nehemiah refer to
> the canonical Torah as we know it. My reasons may be right, wrong, weak,
> or just plain stupid, but they are most definitely *there*. 

What I saw were claims and speculations, nothing more.  My reasons, which have 
already been stated very well by others, may fall into the same categories, 
but they are also most definitely there.  I'm not repeating the material the 
others have presented because it wastes bandwidth.

> I have 
> certainly not made any claims that rely entirely on an "argument from
> silence." I have indeed made the observation that the Torah does not
> claim that Moses wrote it, only that Moses wrote *parts* of it, or
> better yet, some documents that served as sources for it, but I hardly
> left it at that. In particular, the alternation between the third-person
> narrative framework and the first-person speeches of Moses needs some
> sort of explanation if Moses wrote the canonical form of Deuteronomy as
> we have it, as does the consistent use of third-person narration from
> Moses' birth onward in the other books of the Pentateuch. That certainly
> is not an "argument from silence."

ANE materials freely mixed persons; see the sources.  This seems to be 
imposing a 20th century criterion onto an ancient text, which we all do from 
time to time (yes, I've done it as well) but need to watch out for.  To say 
that there is no evidence that Moses wrote in such a style is indeed an 
argument from silence, because there's no way to demonstrate whether he did 
or didn't.

> [Dave]
> As for the Josiah thing, that is a fine bit of circular reasoning.  It
> couldn't be the whole Pentateuch, we are told, because chunks of it
> hadn't
> been written yet.  So it must have only been Deuteronomy, which MAY have
> been
> written at that time (i.e. fabricated for the specific purpose of
> Josiah's
> reforms).  But we know that those other chunks hadn't been written yet
> because Josiah's story doesn't refer to them.  Therefore it wasn't the
> whole
> Pentateuch because those parts hadn't been written yet, which we know
> because
> they're not referred to, which we know because they hadn't.....
> [/Dave]
> Again, let me respectfully suggest that if you will re-read my earlier
> post on this subject (today 7/29/05 time-staped around 12:38 PM ), you
> will find that my comments on Josiah's "book of the law of Moses" bear
> no resemblance to the "circular reasoning" that you (Dave) critique in
> the paragraph quoted above. I made no such arguments. Rather, what I
> said was that the specific "reforms/innovations" that 2 Kings 22-23 says
> Josiah implemented strongly resemble provisions of the Deuteronomic
> Code, and the emphasis on blessings/curses in that law book also bears
> strong echoes of Deuteronomy. *That* is the basis upon which the
> identification of that "book of the law" with some edition (not
> necessarily the present canonical form) of the book of Deuteronomy is
> based, not _a priori_ decisions about the dating of other discrete law
> codes.

I read your earlier post.  If the Josianic reforms focus on certain features 
of Deuteronomy, that doesn't exclude the probability that the other books 
were there as well.  Once again, it's an argument from silence.  There's no 
evidence that they were there, but there's no evidence that they weren't.  We 
can try to infer some things from obscure and uncertain hints in the Josiah 
story, but we can't be sure either way.

> The propensity of modern "scholarship" for this type of approach
> continues to
> amaze and amuse me..................
> To be frank, I'm finding it hard to maintain my composure and aplomb in
> the face of such jibes. I am not sure what you mean by "this type of
> approach," Dave. If you mean the "type of approach" you described in
> your paragraph on Josiah, I once again recommend you re-read my earlier
> comments on that topic, where you will find that my comments do not run
> in that vein. As far as I can tell, my "approach" on this thread has
> been to (a) cite relevant textual data; (b) interpret that data; (c) ask
> exegetical questions; and (d) ask after the data and reasoning
> supporting views that don't agree with mine. If you find *that* approach
> "amaz[ing] and amus[ing]," then by all means yuk it up, but I will
> certainly continue to use it, as I know of no other way to do
> responsible interpretive work.

Several other folks have been using exactly the approach you describe, and you 
have told them variously that they are not presenting any evidence.  It's 
clear we're getting nowhere, so I'll bow out of this thread.

> Chris
> --
> R. Christopher Heard
> Assistant Professor of Religion
> Pepperdine University
> Malibu, California 90263-4352
> http://faculty.pepperdine.edu/cheard
> <http://faculty.pepperdine.edu/cheard>
> http://www.iTanakh.org <http://www.iTanakh.org>
> http://www.semioticsandexegesis.info
> <http://www.semioticsandexegesis.info>
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Dave Washburn
"Well, if I'd wanted a safe life, I guess I wouldn't have 
married a man who studies rocks." - Betty Armstrong (Fay Masterson)

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