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Who wrote the Pentateuch?

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Moses wrote the Pentateuch (Torah), as stated explicitly (Deuteronomy 31:24).
See also: The history of the Hebrew Bible

The same literary devices which the Torah employs to enrich its text, have been seized upon by Bible-critics in an attempt to reassign its authorship.
The Jewish sages, based on ancient tradition, identified many of these devices, which include:
recapping earlier brief passages to elucidate,
employing different names of God to signify His various attributes,
using apparent changes or redundancies to allude to additional unstated details,
speaking in the vernacular that was current during each era,
and many more. While Judaism has always seen the Torah as an intricate tapestry that nonetheless had one Divine source (Exodus 24:12), some modern authors such as Wellhausen (the father of modern Biblical-criticism, 1844-1918) have suggested artificially chopping up the narrative and attributing it to various authors, despite the Torah's statement as to its provenance (Exodus 24:12, Deuteronomy 31:24). This need not concern believers, since his claims have been debunked one by one, as archaeology and other disciplines have demonstrated the integrity of the Torah. No fragments have ever been found that would support his Documentary Hypothesis, which remains nothing more than an arbitrary claim, whose falsehood has been pointed out:
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The traditional view is that Moses was the author of the entire Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy). However, the Sources Theory, which states that the Pentateuch had several authors, is widely accepted by modern scholars and many Christians.

During the nineteenth century, Samuel Davidson, D.D found clear literary evidence that Genesis was not written by anyone in the time of Moses. The author mentions events as if they were in the distant past, demonstrating that at the time Genesis was written those events really were in the distant past.

The following two examples show that when the writer lived, the Canaanites and Perizzites had been expelled from the land:
  • "And the Canaanite was then in the land." (Gen 12:6)
  • "And the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land." (Gen 13:7)

Hebron is the name almost always used in Genesis, yet the city did not get that name until Caleb named it (after the death of Moses):
  • Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite unto this day, because that he wholly followed the LORD God of Israel. And the name of Hebron before wasKirjatharba; which Arba was a great man among the Anakims. And the land had rest from war. (Joshua 14:14-15)

Abraham is said to have pursued the kings who carried away Lot his nephew, as far as Dan (Genesis 14:14). But we learn from Joshua 19:47 and Judges 18:29, that the name of the place was Laish, till the Danites took possession of it and called it Dan, "after the name of their father." Anyone writing before the settlement of Israel can only have used the name Laish.

The last clause of the following verse could hardly have been written till after there had been a king in Israel:
  • And these are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom, before there reigned any king over the land of Israel (Genesis 36:31).

Davidson also examined the other books of the Pentateuch and came to the same conclusion, that they could not have been written by anyone living before the establishment of Israel.

Also in the nineteenth century, Julius Wellhausen carried out stylistic analyses, and was able to assign authors called J (the 'Yahwist') and E (the 'Elohist') to the nature and fertility stage of religion, D ('Deuteronomist') to the spiritual and ethical stage, and P ('Priestly Source') to the priestly and legal stage. At the same time, historical analysis suggested that J was the earliest source, E somewhat later, and D and P centuries later than J. Some modern scholars suggest modifications to Wellhausen's hypothesis, but almost all are in general agreement.

After all, a late date for the Pentateuch does not undermine the message of the Bible. It is also important to note that nowhere in the Pentateuch does it claim to have been written by Moses so we must analyse the text to determine who probably wrote it. Just one citation is "Testament: the Bible and History", by John Romer (1996). However, some Christian organisations and their websites present a different view.

Some brief examples I have taken from the Bible support the scholarly view of the authorship of the Pentateuch. I have also provided a brief resume of each of the principal authors said to have written the Pentateuch.

Deuteronomy chapter 34 describes the death of Moses.and says that "not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses..." This could not have been written by Moses, Joshua or even by any author until long after the establishment of a nation called Israel. If we explain this by saying that this chapter was added after the death of Moses, we leave open the question as to what else was added after the death of Moses.

The Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 have a slightly different wording to the same commandments in Deuteronomy 5. Exodus 20:11 also says that the Sabbath is in honour of the 7 days of creation, but Deuteronomy 5:15 says that the Sabbath is in honour of the flight from Egypt. While these issues have no important theological consequences, it is not possible that the man who personally carved the commandments onto tablets would not even remember what he wrote. And if, as the author of the Pentateuch, he was not sure, he could have looked in the ark and read the tablets again.

There are also many 'doublets' where each author provided his own, separate version of the same event. We can be sure that had Moses had been the author, he would have chosen a preferred version and stuck with that one.

  • The J (Yahwist) source always used 'YHVH' as the name for God and presents tradition from the point of view of the southern kingdom, Judah, using archaic Hebrew. J was a gifted storyteller who was especially interested in the human side of things and had his own characteristic vocabulary. J referred to Moses' father-in-law as Reuel or Hobab.
  • The E (Elohist) source always used 'Elohim' as the name for God and presents tradition from the point of view of the northern kingdom, Israel, using archaic Hebrew. E referred to Moses' father-in-law as Jethro, a mistake that Moses himself could not have made.
  • At some time around 650 BCE., J and E were combined by Judaean editors, producing a composite known to us as JE.
  • The D (Deuteronomist) source emphasises centralisation of worship and governance in Jerusalem, as would be expected from political events that followed the defeat of Israel. It uses a more modern form of Hebrew.
  • The P (Priestly) source uses both Elohim and El Shaddai as names of God and focusses on the formal relations between God and society. He also uses a late form of Hebrew, with a rather turgid style.

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Moses wrote the Pentateuch (Deuteronomy 31:24). This is the first five books of the Bible, including the book of Genesis, which God dictated to Moses later on when they were wandering in the desert. Any decent version of the Bible will have a footnote telling you who wrote what books, and when. All of the Bible writers were sent the information of those events that they did not witness firsthand (like the Creation of the earth and Adam and Eve) by inspiration from God.

Answer The documentary hypothesis put forward by Julius Wellhausen and others had as its presupposition that Moses could not have written the Pentateuch due to the different names for God in Genesis as well as the evolutionary idea that the Hebrew written language simply could not have evolved yet. It was too early the scholars claimed, or if writing did exist, it was used sparingly. These presuppositions led to the development of the JEDP theory as being the four main authors behind the Pentateuch which was written much later than the 1400BC that would allow Moses to have written it.

The discovery of the 'black stele' on which was written the code of Hammurabi, which preceded Moses by some 300 or more years demonstrated the error of the assumption about a lack of writing skills. Another assumption of the 'assured results of higher criticism' was that the Hittite kingdom mentioned at the time of Abraham was a myth that did not exist. Yet archaeology has now confirmed that the Hittite kingdom covered a period of over 1200 years, including the time of Abraham.

These facts and others have undermined the assertions regarding Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. The 'assured results of higher criticism' (which was after all only an unproven hypothesis, which had and still to this day has no actual textual evidence to back it up) are not so assured after all. Some scholars at the current time are still clinging to this hypothesis even though its foundations have been long disproved.

Thus Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, which does after all show a unity of theme in the different dealings of God with His covenant people, is not seriously disputed by the facts today, despite some scholars clinging to the old and elaborate documentary theory.
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In Judaism

What is the date of the pentateuch?

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