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Answered 2012-06-24 02:09:11

There are two general ways to approach this question: based on historical evidence and inquiry or based on religious tradition.

Historical Evidence and Inquiry

The first five books of The Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) are traditionally ascribed to Moses as having written them during the Exodus from Egypt. The Bible confidently states that Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt 480 years before the fourth year of Solomon's reign, which would therefore be approximately 1444 BCE. Because archaeological evidence has made the traditional date of the Exodus untenable, some liberal Christians have suggested that the Exodus really took place shortly before 1200 BCE, when Israelites are known to have begun to arrive in the Palestinian hinterland. Modern Jews generally believe an intermediate date of round 1313 BCE.

However, biblical scholars say that Moses was not really the author of the five books, also known collectively as the Pentateuch. Scholars say they were written by a number of authors or sources over a period of several centuries during the first millennium BCE. The main sources of the Pentateuch were:

  • The J (Yahwist) source, who 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, who 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.
  • 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, who emphasises centralisation of worship and governance in Jerusalem, as would be expected from political events that followed the defeat of Israel. Writing during the seventh-century-BCE reign of King Josiah, the Deuteronomist 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. Writing during the Babylonian Exile, the Priestly Source also uses a late form of Hebrew, with a rather turgid style.
  • The Redactor ('R Source') finalised the Pentateuch in more or less the form we know today, shortly after the Babylonian Exile.

Traditional

According to tradition, they were written by Moses (Deuteronomy 31:24) at God's dictation (Exodus 24:12).

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