[b-hebrew] Author of the torah

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Sat Jul 30 14:50:19 EDT 2005

James C Read wrote:

> I have read many 'scholarly theories' which attack the authorship
> of the torah but my conclusions are.

You have not read anything substantial if you are unaware of the
relative dates that modern scholarship assigns to the various books.
Let me suggest on this issue that in order to be properly aware of the
various theories for the various books of the Bible, you read the
entries in the Anchor Bible Dictionary for the various books of the

> a)people change constantly. And if *I* wrote a book over a 40
> year period, it would most certainly exhibit different styles
> as my personality continued to change and adapt.

You present these as your conclusions, yet they sound more like
a personal security certificate to protect your beliefs from criticism.

> b) the 'scholarly assumption' that yah does not exist and can
> therefore not inspire men to write his words is completely
> unscholarly because it excludes the testimony of the authors
> who were obviously in a position to know better.

No, your assumption that scholarship as a whole assumes that G-d
does not exist or that divine inspiration does not exist is unwarranted.
Just because scholarship concludes that most likely Moses did not 
receive the Torah on Mt. Sinai as tradition would have it, does not mean
that the various authors of the Bible were not divinely inspired or that
a deity does not exist.  Your assumption is unscholarly.

> d)for strong reasons of fulfillment of tanak prophecy I hold
> that yehoshua was the messiach and was therefore far more
> qualified than any 'scholar' to comment on the torah's authorship.
> Yehoshua's testimony in this regard is clear that he held it to
> be Moses own work.

Yehoshua is a person who lived contemporary with Moses and is credited
in the Talmud with perhaps authoring the last verses of the Torah.  Please 
refrain from using this name to refer to Jesus.  Jesus' Hebrew name was 
most likely "y:$u(" spelled y$w(, and represents pronounciation before the 
development of a furtive patah under the (ayin in such cases.

More than that, while I have no problem with any personal belief you hold,
please don't make it a requirement for argument with you to assume that
Jesus was the Messiah.  This list is not the place to argue to and fro that
point.  It is, however, offensive that you invoke Jewish tradition over and
over again in light of such an assumption.

> e)the 'scholarly assumption' that scribblings on the wall of empires
> whose kings frequently invented their own history and deleted their
> defeats and deified themselves are of more historic worth than the
> tanak are completely biased and cannot be taken seriously.

The only thing that cannot be taken seriously are statements that
"scribblings on the wall of empires" cannot be taken seriously.  By
saying such a statement, you both show your lack of knowledge in
this area and also attempt to protect yourself from criticism by
saying any such argument "cannot be taken seriously."  You don't
have any reasons which can be analyzed and provide none.  You 
simply refuse to argue the validity of "scribblings."

Well, it may be a surprise for you to know, but empires have no wall.
Last time I checked in the dictionary, an empire is not a building.
Furthermore, ancient records exist in a variety of forms, stela, 
decorated walls, chronicles, tablets, etc.  This can include everyday
tablets - for example, "Today, Tammuz 5 of Year 6 of Darius, I paid
so-and-so 5 sheqels" (this is a made up and anachronistic example
written to demonstrate a point).  From such a tablet we might learn
linguistic as well as paleographic information that would help us
date other tablets and records.  Furthermore, and most importantly,
these records constitute for the most part "primary sources."  And,
since I am bringing in primary sources, let's see what you have to say
on this issue in the next paragraph:

> I am, of course, open minded and would welcome any *constructive*
> arguments against Moses as the author of the Torah, as long as we agree
> to keep the discussion on an equal level of respect and give proofs
> based on the primary sources rather than resorting to insulting comments
> to prove a point.

It is good to see that you claim to be open minded because in light of
some of the above statements ("cannot be taken seriously", "is
completely unscholarly") I would think otherwise.  The fact of the matter
is, most of the Bible is not a primary source.  If we want to keep ourselves
on an "equal level of respect" we must agree to match up primary sources
against primary sources and secondary sources against secondary sources
and give proper weight to various sources based on how far removed they
are from the event.

Let us consider the Book of Kings.  This is actually a single book, and its
earliest complete edition as we have it now dates from post-exilic times,
because it explicitly mentions the exile.  Scholars generally believe that
a very similar revision of it existed prior to exilic times, and many scholars
even believe that an even earlier revision existed during the times of 
Hezekiah (without, of course, events that happened afterwards).  Such
scholars don't necessarily hold that because it was from Hezekiah, it
necessarily contains historical information.  Their argument sometimes
goes along the lines: David's wars are non-historical reconstructions, but
they are reconstructions that use terminology current in Hezekiah's times
and which fell into disuse in the following century.  [This applies to the
Book of Samuel, of course, but I am illustrating their type of argument].  In
any case, it is clear that any events told to us by the Book of Kings
regarding Solomon, Ahab, Mesha(, etc. are all at least secondary, as
the author of Kings lived in exilic times.  But the Mesha( stele is a primary
source for this time.  Yet, while claiming to be "open minded" and to accept
only "an equal level of respect" based only on "primary sources", you refuse
 to accept the Mesha( stele, but would accept the book of Kings.

In fact, the Torah, by its very own words is a secondary source even for
events that occured during Moses' lifetime.  See, for example, Num 21:14 - 
16.  Now, this particular chapter quotes the specific sources on which
the Torah is based in this issue, but there could be perhaps other places
where it just uses a source without "placing it in quotes".  This must have 
been quite common in ancient times, and you might compare in this regard 
the book of 2 Kings 18:13 - 20:19 against Isaiah 36 - 39.  It is clear that at
least one of these books quotes either the other source or some common
source behind both of them, and yet neither puts these passages in 
"quotes."  This becomes even more pronounced in the Torah because the
Torah contains two divergent accounts for Israel's passage through the 
desert.  In one instance, they pass through Edom and Moab: Deut 2:26 -
29.  Yet, in others, they go *around* Moab and Edom: Num 20:14 - 21.
Note that here, in the speech to Sihon, he doesn't ask Sihon to agree
"because that's what Edom and Moab also did" (Num 21:21 - 23).  These
are not the only passages relevant to the issue "Did Israel go through 
Edom and Moab?"  The passage in Judges I already cited, along with a
later passage in Numbers and also a passage in Jeremiah also have
immediate and direct relevance to this issue.  Based on all of the above,
one might make the following statement: "The Torah is at times a 
secondary source, even for events during Moses' lifetime.  There may
have been times that primary sources are cited without naming them
or even identifying the passage as a citation.  Sections in the Torah
are at odds and this may derive from using several primary sources 
that were at odds."  This last statement is substantiated by the fact that
the "Book of the Wars of Yahweh" names places in Moab

This last issue does not deal with whether Moses wrote the Torah or not.
It is logically possible that Moses could have written the Torah and yet
used divinely-approved sources that were themselves at odds with each
other.  (Jewish tradition does not have a problem with conflicting
traditions that are both divinely approved: )elu wa)elu dibberey )elohim
hayyim - "These and these are the living words of G-d.")  This is all that
is necessary for my earlier claim in the previous thread, that each
passage be assessed on its own merits as to whether the passage
speaks of other gods as "existing entities that we don't serve" or as
"false entities that other nations believe in but we don't."  You took my
claim of possible conflicts in the Torah on this issue and changed that
into the claim of Mosaic authorship.  These are two different issues, of
which I apparently hold differently than you on both.  But these are
still two unrelated issues.

What is clear from the above demonstration is that neither the Torah nor
the book of Kings can be taken as a primary source.  Following your
above claim that we maintain an equal level of respect and use only
primary sources, this means that we must first substantiate whether the
Torah in a particular passage is a primary source or not, because it is
clear that at times it isn't, and it's not at all clear that it tells
us every time
it quotes a primary source (making the Torah in that quoted passage a
secondary source).  One may possibly claim that all events prior to Moses'
lifetime cannot be considered part of the "primary source" of the Torah, if
there is such a thing.

However, there is another source, aside from the Torah or the book of Kings,
that you like to invoke: tradition, Jewish tradition, etc.  Let me quote Avoth
1:1 on this issue: "Moses received the Torah from Sinai and handed it over
to Joshua; and Joshua to the Elders; and the Elders to the Prophets; and the
Prophets handed it over to the Men of the Great Assembly."  There are quite
a lot of interpretations of these passage and various issues with it.  For
example, it refrains from mentioning God, and bypasses the royalty in its
chain of transmission.  However, what this passage does illustrate is that
tradition is not a primary source.  It is not even a secondary, nor a tertiary
source.  If we assume that Moses received the Torah around 1400 BCE, that
means that tradition is so many generations removed from the actual events.
If we take "so many" to be 3400 years divided by the "years/generation" and
"years/generation" to be around 70 (an all too unlikely large value), we get 
around 50 generations.  Tradition is at least a 50-th source if not much further
removed from the events.  If we want to keep the discussion at "an equal level"
we must properly look at tradition as much inferior to "scribblings on the wall
of empires" which apparently refer to genuinely primary sources, unlike the
Torah, the book of Kings, or tradition.

Let me now deal with the last point you raised:

> c)why would the hebrews not object to a group of imposters
> fabricating the writings of their most important prophet
> centuries after his death?

I don't know what to tell you.  But you assume that the "Hebrews" diligently
copied and were all literate and familiar with the Torah for much of the ancient
times.  In fact, the two major holidays of the Jewish calendar - the Feast of
Tabernacles and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, were not observed for a great
many years.  See 2 Kings 23:21 and Nehemiah 8:13 - 18.  Both instances
also follow events where the Torah is made known to the people in some way,
apparently because they were not aware of it beforehand.  So now you ask
why they wouldn't object?  How would they object if they were not aware of
the contents of the Torah throughout most of the First Temple period and
when the Bible illustrates a situation where the Torah was forgotten again and
again?  However, I ask you to refrain from calling Ezra or Josiah or any other
Biblical personality an imposter.  That I may think they elaborated or
the Torah text, part of it, or joined various earlier documents
together, does not
mean that they weren't divinely inspired to do so.  Your assumption that history
must have happened the way you think it was or else we are talking about 
"imposters" and "fabrication" is unwarranted and even offensive.

Yitzhak Sapir

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