[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'
while
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 
in 8:14

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 
evidence.

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.

Conclusion. 

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 
of note.
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.

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