According to classical Judaism, Moses was regarded as the author of the Torah (the first five books of the Bible, known to Christians as the Pentateuch), receiving it from God either as divine inspiration or as direct dictation together with the Oral Torah. Tradition says that this happened during the Exodus, around 1440 BCE. However, over the years several questions have arisen, one example being the record in Deuteronomy 34 of Moses' death. The Talmud explains this by saying that Moses wrote it in tears in anticipation of his death. Modern scholars say that the Pentateuch was really written around one thousand years after the time attributed to Moses. On this view, Moses did not really write any part of the Bible.
Tradition states that the Torah was given by God to Moses (Exodus 24:12) in 1312 BCE. Moses taught it to the people (Exodus ch.34), and put it in writing before his death (Deuteronomy 31:24) in 1272 BCE.
This following article will show the reliability of the Hebrew Bible
. First, it will point out a few of the many shortcomings of Biblical-Criticism.
- Who proposed the Documentary Hypothesis?
In the mid-1800s, professor Julius Wellhausen (the father of modern Biblical-criticism, 1844-1918) and others, proposed this Hypothesis, concerning the origin of the Hebrew Bible. Like Darwin, Wellhausen was a former Divinity student who left the fold; and like Darwin, he decided to form a secular theory in his field of study. As with Evolution, Wellhausen's theory was accepted quickly by the academic world, undergoing later change but unchanged in its basic premise.
- What is the Documentary Hypothesis?
Basing itself on linguistics and usage, the Hypothesis splits the narrative of the Hebrew Bible and attributes it to various unknown authors (Priest, Deuteronomist, etc. [J,E,P and D]), despite (for example) the Torah's explicit statement as to its Divine provenance (Exodus 24:12) and having been written in its entirety by Moses (Deuteronomy 31:24), and despite the unbroken national tradition of the authorship of each of the Prophets (Talmud, Bava Bathra 14b).
The Hypothesis also post-dates many of the other books of the Hebrew Bible, ascribing them to unknown authors centuries later. This has the effect of minimizing the reliability of these books, causing them to be seen as not much different than any random ancient text.
- What do the JEPD theorists ignore?
The intricate tapestry of the Hebrew Bible uses literary devices to enrich its text. 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. Instead of consulting the Jewish Oral Tradition and commentary which accompanies the Tanakh, the Bible-Critics have formed secular conclusions.
What are some problems with the JEPD (Documentary) Hypothesis and Biblical-Criticism? While hundreds, perhaps thousands of examples could be given to demonstrate the lackings of these theories, here are just a few:
- 1) Unlike the Bible-Critics who possess no early source, the Hebrew Bible has been handed down since its beginning, in an unbroken chain of tradition for which we possess the names, biography and dates of the leading sages in every single generation. Every verse is elucidated in the Talmud and midrashim.
- 2) No parchment, scroll, or inscription has ever been found that would support the Bible-critics' JEPD (different sources) hypothesis, which remains a set of postulates. And those ancient writers who mention, describe, summarize or translate the Torah (Josephus, Samaritans, Targum, Septuagint etc.), describe it in its complete form.
- 3) Archaeological finds, such as the Ugarit documents and those of Nuzu, Mari, Susa, Ebla, and Tel el-Amarna, have repeatedly caused the critics to retract their claims. The entire social milieu portrayed in the Torah, once criticized as anachronistic, has been shown to be historically accurate, including customs of marriage, adoption, contracts, inheritance, purchases, utensils, modes of travel, people's names and titles, etc. Professor Gleason Archer Ph.D of Harvard University states: "In case after case where historical inaccuracy was alleged as proof of late and spurious authorship of the biblical documents, the Hebrew record has been vindicated by the results of excavations, and the condemnatory judgment of the theorists have been proved to be without foundation."
- 4) The theorists postulated a late date for Deuteronomy. This is refuted by the fact that all the early books quote Deuteronomy. Joshua 22:5 quotes Deut.11:22, Joshua 23:16 quotes Deut.11:17, Judges 1:20 fulfills Deut.1:36, Judges 7:3 fulfills the command of Deut.20:8, 1 Kings 8:51 quotes Deut.4:20, 1 Kings 9:8-9 quotes Deut.29:23-24, and 2 Kings 14:6 quotes Deut.24:16.
- 5) Because of its antiquity, only in the Torah is the female pronoun "hee" spelled with a letter vav; the word "asher" is used exclusively; Jerusalem and the kings are not mentioned, etc.
- 6) Unlike what the theorists claim, no Levite or Kohen ("priest") would have voluntarily invented the Torah in whole or in part. The Torah allows no portion of the land for the Levites (Numbers ch.8), it states that Leah (ancestress of the Levites) was less-favored (Genesis ch.29), it records the curse against Levi (Genesis ch.49), the rebellion of Korah the Levite (Numbers ch.16), and the role of Aaron the Kohen in the events of the Golden Calf (Exodus ch.32).
- 7) Some JEPD theorists question the very existence of Moses. In so doing, they not only ignore the continuous tradition of the entire Jewish nation, but also the statements of ancient writers including Hecataeus, Strabo, Alexander Polyhistor, Manetho, Apion, Chaeremon, Tacitus, Porphyry, Artapanus, Eupolemus, Ben Sira, the Greek Septuagint, the Samaritans, Josephus and Philo, all of whom testify that Moses was an actual person.
- 8) The Aramaic portions of Ezra were post-dated by the theorists. But inscriptions showed that these passages were exactly in keeping with the style of the Assuan papyri, dated from the reign of Ahaseurus and Darius.
- 9) The fact that the Septuagint and the Dead Sea scrolls (and all other ancient sources) include the complete text of Isaiah, refutes the "Deutero Isaiah" theory.
- 10) The critics created the notion of a rival priesthood in Shilo. No evidence has ever been found of this; and all extant priest-families (Kohens) are linked by a DNA gene, thus debunking also the "Khazar" canard.
- 11) One Bible-theorist, Richard Elliott Friedman claims that "The author of the J document was more interested in the patriarchal period while the author of E was more focused on the Exodus and wilderness age." However, neither Friedman nor any Bible critic ever interviewed the postulated J or E to hear their focus or interests, or even saw a manuscript attributable to them. All that we hear about J and E derives from what the critics themselves postulate. Overstatements of this kind go far beyond the type of caution one might expect from a scholar.
- 12) The critics attempt to break down the continuity of the Torah based on style and vocabulary. Their breakdown often cuts verses into three or four parts, claiming a different writer for each part. But in dealing with so many different topics and eras, it stands to reason that the Torah would use different styles. The narrative of Genesis would not function in a style appropriate to the laws of Leviticus. Just as Shakespeare's plays and sonnets differ yet had one author, (and the same goes for your own resume and shopping lists), so the Torah employs styles depending on the subject matter. Also, those familiar with Torah-commentators recognize that every question asked by the bible critics was asked, and answered, centuries ago.
- 13) "Whoever wrote the narrative of Joseph was quite familiar with Egyptian life, Egyptian literature and culture. In particular he was expertly informed concerning the Egyptian royal court" (Prof. Alan Sherman).
Some specific examples
- 1) Critics claimed that the descriptions in the Book of Esther were unrealistic. But when the French archaeologist Marcel Dieulefoy excavated Susa, he stated that the author of Esther must have been closely familiar with the details of the city and the royal palace, which by 1900 had been buried for 2300 years.
- 2) The critics asked how Cyrus' famous proclamation could be dated "the year one" (Ezra 1:1), seeing as it was made in the 21st year of his reign. But then archaeologists found inscriptions stating that when Cyrus conquered Babylon, they began to count the years from that date.
- 3) The secular scholars saw as "unlikely" the royal curse in Ezra 6:12 made by Darius. But inscriptions were found in which more terrible curses were proclaimed by Assurbanipal, Sennacherib, Sargon and other kings.
- 4) The critics denied the narrative of how the Judean king Menashe was captured by the Assyrians. But in the ruins of Kuyundshik was found an inscription by Esarhaddon, enumerating 22 foreign kings that he and Assurbanipal captured, including Menashe king of Judah.
- 5) The destruction of Sennacherib's army at the walls of Jerusalem was denied by the theorists. But then it was found that Berosus and Herodotus both state that Sennacherib's military campaign in Judea ended in plague and defeat. It should not surprise us that the Assyrians themselves didn't record their own losses.
- 6) The existence of the Assyrian king Pul (2 Kings 15:19) was denied. But a tablet, now in the British Museum and dated the year 22 of Darius, states that Tiglat-Pileser and Pul are the same person.
- 7) The critics sought to discredit the invasion of Judah by Sheshak, king of Egypt (2 Chronicles 12:4). But Champolion the French archaeologist, discovered an inscription at Karnak relating Sheshak's conquest of the cities of Judah in detail.
- 8) It was claimed that the camel hadn't been domesticated in Abraham's time. But the Canophorin tablet, dating from 18th century BCE gives a list of fodder for camels and other household animals. And a cylinder seal from Mesopotamia, dating from the patriarchal era, shows riders sitting on camels.
- 9) The term "achol et kaspeinu" ("our money was eaten," Genesis 31:15) is spoken by Rachel and Leah concerning an inheritance from their father Laban. This term is found nowhere else in the Hebrew Bible. Five documents have been unearthed in which 18th century BCE Akkadian marriage contracts use this exact terminology, in the same context. We thus verify again that no postulated late redactor could possibly be credited with such specific knowledge of an era centuries before his own.
- 10) The names Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Laban, Balaam and Joseph were used in the Patriarchal period and dropped out of usage thereafter. These names appear in archaeological inscriptions from that period and no later period. How did those verses get appropriate names for that period of time (if they were created centuries later)?
- 11) Joseph is sold for twenty pieces of silver. That was the accurate price of a slave in Joseph's time, and at no other time. Slaves were cheaper beforehand, and they got increasingly expensive later. How would a later redactor know the right price?
Some indications of the Divine origin of the Torah
- No other religion claims a national revelation, because that is something that cannot be fabricated.
- Moses was no zoologist, yet he knew all the species named in Deuteronomy ch.14 and the nature of their digestion (verses 7-8).
- No Israelite of any tribe, had the Torah been a human invention, would have made Abraham the father of Ishmael, his firstborn (Genesis ch.16). No Israelite would have written that Isaac fathered Esau (Gen.ch.25). Nor would he have admitted the stigma that the Israelites had been slaves (Exodus ch.1). No Israelite would have penned the prohibition against warring with Ammon and Moab (Deut.2:4,9,19), who became enemies; nor would he have ascribed one of our important national institutions to a foreigner (Exodus ch.18).
- In no other religious text can one find such criticism of its own protagonists. No one is immune to having his faults exposed: Abraham (Genesis 16:5), Reuben (Gen.ch.35), Simeon and Levi (Gen.ch.34 and 49), Judah (Gen.ch.38), Joseph's brothers (Gen.ch.37), Moses (Numbers ch.20), Aaron (Exodus 32:2-4), Samson (Judges 14:1-3), Eli's sons (1 Samuel 2:12), Samuel's sons (1 Samuel 8:1-3), Saul (1 Samuel ch.15), David (2 Samuel ch.11-12), Solomon (1 Kings ch.11), and many others.
- No human would have forbidden farming for a whole year every seven years (Leviticus ch.25).
- No other ancient record has such a coherent and detailed account of the genealogy of nations (Genesis ch.10).
A few examples of fulfilled prophecies:
- The Torah predicts the settling of the Holy Land (Deuteronomy ch.12), the construction of the Sanctuary (ibid), the later Destruction and complete scattering of the Jews (ibid. ch.28), and the later Return (ibid ch.30, and Isaiah 43:5-6). All these have been fulfilled. It also predicts that the Jews would never be completely wiped out (Leviticus 26:44), which is itself a historical miracle.
- Noah's blessing of "God will enlarge Japheth" (Genesis ch.9) has been fulfilled through the empires of Persia, Greece, Rome, Russia and America.
- God's promise to make Ishmael into a great nation (Genesis ch.17) has been fulfilled through the wide band of Arab and Muslim countries stretching from western Africa to Indonesia, well over 1.5 billion people.
- God's warning that "you shall go lost among the nations" (Leviticus 26:38) was fulfilled through the loss, to this day, of ten of the Israelite Tribes.
- Moses' blessing to the Levites that God would "smite the loins of those that rise against him" (Deuteronomy 33:11) was fulfilled through the miraculous victories of the Hasmonean kohanim over the Seleucids.
- The prophecy that "Edom will be inherited by Israel" (Numbers 24:18) was fulfilled when the Hasmonean king Hyrcanus subdued the Edumeans and converted them (Josephus, Antiquities 13:9:1).
- The prophecy that the Torah would never die out (see Gen.32:33, Deut.31:21, Esther 9:28, Isaiah 59:21) has been fulfilled, against all odds.
- The prophecy that the recently-barren Israel would once again bloom (Isaiah 41:18-20), has been fulfilled.
- The prophecy that Egypt would no longer rule over other nations (Ezekiel 29:15) has been fulfilled. Until the time of Ezekiel, Egypt had dominated a number of nations. But for most of the past 2500 years, Egypt has been controlled by foreign powers, including the Romans, Ottomans and Europeans. Today, Egypt is independent again. In 1948, 1967 and 1973, Egypt tried to dominate Israel but was unsuccessful each time.
- The prophecy that enemies of the Jews would reside in Israel (Leviticus 26:32) was fulfilled from the time of Nehemiah until today.
- The prophecy that Babylon's kingdom would be permanently overthrown (Isaiah 13:19) was fulfilled. After Cyrus conquered Babylon, it never again rose to power as an empire.
- The prophecy that Tyre's fortresses would fail (Amos 1:9-10) was fulfilled. The Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar attacked the mainland of Tyre, and later in 333-332 BCE Alexander the great conquered the island of Tyre. Alexander's army built a causeway from the mainland to the island so that they could use a battering ram to breach the island's fortress.
- The prophecy that Nineveh would be permanently destroyed (Nahum 3:19) was fulfilled. The prophet said that Nineveh, which was the Assyrian Empire's capital and perhaps the most powerful city at the time, would suffer a wound that would never heal. The city of Nineveh, as well as the Assyrian Empire, never recovered from its defeat at the hands of the Babylonians.
These are just a few examples.