[b-hebrew] Author of the Torah

Heard, Christopher Christopher.Heard at pepperdine.edu
Fri Jul 29 21:40:49 EDT 2005

As a methodological point: if you are looking for the latest possible  
date that something could have happened, it is methodologically sound  
to start with the very latest possible date, and then see whether  
there are any earlier latest possible dates. The canonical form of  
the Pentateuch *must* have existed before it could be translated into  
Greek. That fact is firm, but of course it does not preclude the  
existence of that text long before that translation was made.

As far as the "Samaritan schism" is concerned, the evidence of the  
text-types does not really allow for pushing the divergence between  
the proto-MT and the pre-Samaritan text-type earlier than the 5th  
century, and actual exemplars of the pre-Samaritan text-type are not  
attested, if my data is correct, before the Hasmonean period.

The Elephantine papyri are interesting to bring up in this regard.  
The correspondence going back and forth between Elephantine, Samaria,  
and Jerusalem certainly suggests that there was a rather high degree  
of cooperation between those three center of Jewish worship at the  
end of the 5th century BCE. Bagavahya and Sanballat write a *joint*  
letter recommending the rebuilding of the Elephantine temple. This  
shows a degree of unity between Samaria and Jerusalem that can hardly  
be called a "schism." It also shows that Deuteronomism was not  
normative for Judaism in this period, at least as practiced in  
Jerusalem, Samaria, and Elephantine, for sacrifices (albeit only of  
grain and incense) at Elephantine were approved by Sanballat and  
Bagavahya, over against Deuteronomic cultic centralization. Moreover,  
Hananiah's instructions concerning Pesach and Shavuot are not  
identical to the Torah's, and the fact that Hananiah has to bring  
instructions for these festivals from outside Egypt may in fact imply  
that the Elephantine Jews did not have a copy of the Torah. I would  
say that the evidence from Ezra-Nehemiah and Elephantine, read  
generously, suggests that the Torah was nearing its canonical form in  
the 5th century, but not there yet.


R. Christopher Heard
Assistant Professor of Religion
Pepperdine University
Malibu, California 90263-4352

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