[b-hebrew] Nehemiah's Torah
Read, James C
K0434995 at kingston.ac.uk
Sun Jul 31 01:35:24 EDT 2005
There are seven direct references to Moshe' in Nehemiah:
1:7, 1:8, 8:1, 8:14, 9:14, 10:29, 13:1
8:1 specifically mentions 'Moshe's law-scroll'
13:1 simply makes reference to 'Moshe's scroll'
I have not reason to believe that these two scrolls were any different
but am open to suggestions.
8:1 explicitly mentions 'Moshe's law scroll'
8:14 makes reference to something found *written* 'in the law that yhwh
had commanded by means of Moshe'. So while there is no explicit reference
to Moshe's scroll/law-scroll, it is certainly adequately implied as they
found it 'written'.
9:14 has no explicit reference to Moshe's scroll/law-scroll but there is
an implicit perception of one, although,this is not adequately implied as
10:29 has no explicit reference to Moshe's scroll/law-scroll but does make
reference to the laws passed through him
1:7 makes reference to the commandments, regulations and judicial-decisions
given to Moshe' but no reference to a written record
1:8 makes reference to the 'word' that yhwh commanded Moshe and then paraphrases
promises and prophecies mentioned in the canonical Torah we have today.
1:7 Talks about yahowah's 'commandments, rules and judgements/punishments'. We
know that the commandments were written in stone and kept in the covenant-chest.
We also know that, by attestation, that Moshe wrote down yahowah's 'rules and
judgements' and these were kept beside the Ark and that Yehoshua started a
tradition of faithful copying, which was to be also undertaken by kings, and that
was still in practice in Nehemiah's day undertaken by 'Ezra the skilled copyist'.
1:8 Makes reference to prophecies we find in today's form of the canonical Torah
and there is no internal evidence here to show that this was also part of Moshe's
scroll of that day but both tradition of authorship and the attested tradition of
copying imply that this was the case. NB This is, however, only circumstantial
9:14 Is an interesting verse because we find it slap bang in the middle of a summary
of not only Genesis to Deuteronomy but Genesis to Deuteronomy to Samuel to Kings.
Now, while this is not explicit evidence that such were already recorded in hard
copies, it certainly is implied. Otherwise, we would be left in a position where not
only did Ezra and Nehemiah compose their own books, but would also have been responsible
for almost the entire hebrew canon. Which is a little exaggerated because Ezra is
merely described as 'a skilled *copyist*' not 'a skilled copyist with the authority to
add oral traditions into the missing bits'.
13:1 Starts the account of how the people realised that they shouldn't be mixing with
Moabites and Ammonites and, more pertinently, that their source of information was
'Moshe's scroll'. This, evidently, is alluding to Deu23:3-6 and therefore does not
conclusively show that Moshe's scroll included more than the first person discourse,
which started at chapter 5. However, by the same token, it doesn't give me any
reason to justifiably doubt it.
10:29 Does not explicitly allude to a written law but the whole context of the story
shows the re-enstatement of spiritual pratices and that the basis of these was 'Moshe's
law scroll' which had been publically read out by Ezra.
8:1 Takes us to a scene where the repair of the wall has been completed and returning
exiles are restoring pure worship of their god, Yahowah. In order to get this restoration
of to a fine start, we note that Ezra does not stand up and say 'I'm a priest entrusted with
oral traditions and therefore you must blindly believe everything I tell you'. He humbly
reads out from a well-established and maticulously copied scroll attributed to Moshe.
More importantly, and more significantly, this scroll is referred to as Moshe's *law* scroll,
which tends to show that the tradition of referring to this scroll as the 'torah' had
already been firmly established and, in fact, other parts of Nehemiah refer to it simply as
'the law', 'god's law', 'the law-scoll/book' e.g. 8:3.
8:14 Refers to something found written in the law. And this something is a command to
dwell in booths in festival of the seventh month. Deuteronomy 16:13,16 commands to celebrate
the festival of booths but makes no explicit mention of dwelling in them. Leviticus 23:42, on
the other hand, *does* make such an explicit reference and it is clear that such was firmly
part of Moshe's scroll, which had been faithfully preserved and copied for many generations
in accordance with the command given by Moshe for the kings to make a copy.
Also Leviticus 23:34 gives the exact date and duration of the festival.
There is no doubt that by Nehemiah's day there had already been a tradition of
faithful copying of scrolls. It is also evident that the most important of those scrolls was
Moshe's scroll or Moshe's law scroll aka 'god's law' or simply 'the law'. It is evident
that there was more than just Deuteronomy in this scroll and the internal evidence of
Nehemiah gives no reason to doubt that any parts of the canonical Torah were not already
a well-established and faithfully copied part of it.
Ezra is referred to as a copyist and is in no way, explicitly or implicitly, authorised to
add oral traditions to Moshe's scroll, which was already considered sacred and was evidently
the major point of reference for the system or worship. In fact, the festivals being
celebrated are outlined in Moshe's scroll or torah.
The priests were well enough versed in the history from Genesis to Kings to be able to
give an accurate summary of their nations failings in their supplication to their god.
This implies a well establiched point of reference that all priests could refer to.
Otherwise, each priest would have his own version of their history as the product of a
game of Chinese whispers. The attested tradition of copying and the traditional view of
the authorship of the implied scrolls give me good reason to believe that they were
in circulation at that time.
More interestingly, Ezra is not commanded to go and get 'the scroll' in 8:1 but 'Moshe's
law-scroll' implying that there were other scrolls. However, I am sure that critics will
pounce immediately on this observation as conjectural but I still think that it is worthy
Furthermore, the tradition of copying was still around in the days of the masoretes and
we know that there is good reason that copyists were named 'sopherim' (counters). We know
that they were maticulous in their duty and employed many counting techniques to verify
the authenticity of copies of scrolls. This tradition was commanded by Moshe and Yehoshua
was the first participant. Ezra was a copyist in Nehemiah's day and there is no reason to
believe that he was less maticulous than Yehoshua or the masoretes. In fact, as a priest
encharged to retore pure worship it is reasonable to believe that he would have more than
the usual care not to overstep the limitations of his duties,
Therefore,I see absolutely no reason to believe that the Torah we have today is substantially
different from the torah which Ezra read from and participated in faithfully preserving via
copying and verification by counting.
This email has been scanned for all viruses by the MessageLabs Email
More information about the b-hebrew