"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Notes: Moses Wrote The Torah

Background:  Some Bible scholars believe Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible whereas other scholars argue for editors during or after the Israelites' exile compiling the Torah (and other early OT books) from oral tradition and some written records.

A Survey of Old Testament Introduction by Gleason L. Archer, Jr. is a 500+ page book that my dad let me borrow.  I'm about halfway through and wanted to record some notes that I've made thus far. No use reading a book this size without learning something from it!  And if I don't write it down, I may forget. So...blogging it is.

The author presents theories of men who have varying thoughts on the authorship and time period in which the OT books were written.  His emphasis seems to be on Genesis and the rest of the Torah since many believe Moses did not write it and that the first five books of the Bible were compiled by editors during or after the Israelites' exile.  The author makes a case for the conservative view...reasons that make him believe Moses did write the Torah and why it had Aramaic loanwords and such things that others have used to "prove" it was written by editors during or post-exile.  It's a rather large and somewhat technical book. During parts of it I am merely wading through, while other areas are of some interest.

Chapter 8 dealing with The Authorship of the Pentateuch was really good. I thought the author made a strong case for his beliefs. He told how the editor/late date hypothesis made it such that when a P title for God was used in a supposed J text, the theorists had to make it such that the editors did a lot of copying, deleting and pasting within the text. (Yes, I realize editors delete and add a lot, but if you read the chapter you'd understand better why I took note of this.)

Despite the fact it was regularly done in other religions of that time, for some reason it seems unbelievable to the Late-Date Theorists that Moses could or would actually use TWO different words for God.  Elohim and Yahweh couldn't have both been used for God by ONE author within the same verse or chapter in their view.  The author states that Elohim was often used in passages about God as Creator whereas Yahweh or Jehovah was used in covenants between God and man.  (see pg. 125)

Regarding the two creation accounts, I found the "element of recapitulation" argument of interest.  The author claims this "technique" was "widely practiced in ancient Semitic literature.  The author would first introduce his account with a short statement summarizing the whole transaction, and then he would follow it up with a more detailed and circumstantial account when dealing with matters of special importance.  To the author of Genesis 1-2, the human race was obviously the crowning, or climatic, product of creation."  (pg. 127)

There is much more that took my attention, but people arguing that a Hebrew couldn't write books at that time perhaps did not realize Moses - as part of pharoah's household - was educated in Egypt  where "the art of writing was so widely cultivated that even the toilet articles employed by the women in the household contained an appropriate inscription."  (pg 118)  Also since Moses was part of the Israelite crowd wandering in the wilderness for all those years, why could he not have used some of that time to record what God wanted him to write?  The author has a chapter on archaeology that shows Semitic people were not as uneducated and illiterate as we may want to think they were.  Sophisticated writing has been unearthed.

Some argue that the Torah has some Aramaic loanwords which point to the exilic period when the Israelites were spread in regions that spoke Aramaic  (e.g. The book of Daniel has much Aramaic and was written during exile).  These scholars say the Torah should have no Aramaic words if it were written during Moses lifetime, however, the author makes a claim that Abraham and Sarah came from an area of the world that likely spoke Aramaic not to mention Aramaic and Hebrew along with several other Semitic languages are related somewhat.  Who knows where Aramaic left off and Hebrew began as far as the children of Israel go?  Hebrew could be an offshoot dialect of Aramaic...so having Aramaic in the Torah isn't really proof that it was written hundreds of years after its claim.  Not only would Abraham and Sarah likely speak Aramaic, but Isaac's wife, Rebekah, was brought back from that region and later Jacob went there, lived at least 14 years and married two women - Leah and Rachel - who may have spoken Aramaic. Leah, Rachel and their maidservants were the mothers of the Twelve Tribes of Israel so I don't find it hard to believe some of "mama's tongue" made it into the children's vocabulary and thus the Bible. (see pg. 138)

The author also found it curious that the Torah - if written post-exile where the "chosen line of David had reigned for more than four centuries in the holy city of Jerusalem" didn't have "a very strong and explicit sanction for the kingship."   He writes, "It is hardly conceivable that any patriotic Jewish author, who believed in the divine authorization of the Davidic dynasty, could have passed it over in complete silence."  (pg. 156)   Likewise Jerusalem is not spoken of with high regard as this holy city would be referred to in future biblical books. (pg. 163)  Actually Jerusalem is not even mentioned by name in the Torah.

Although Jerusalem appears in the Hebrew Bible 669 times, it is not mentioned in the Pentateuch. Instead when referring to Jerusalem, the term "the place that God will choose" is used."  (source)

The End.  :)


Sarah said...

Very interesting! I like historical studies on scripture, as you know. :D

Susanne said...

Oh, you've not been around lately, but I'm glad you liked this post. Yes, I recall you like such things! So consider this one just for you! :-D

Suroor said...

Loved it! I always had a deep feeling Moses wrote it :-D

Lat said...

"Likewise Jerusalem is not spoken of with high regard as this holy city would be referred to in future biblical books. (pg. 163) Actually Jerusalem is not even mentioned by name in the Torah."

Found this very interesting! i thought it was a holy place for the Isrealites from the beginning. I wonder how the change took place.Perhaps politics played a major role.

Susanne said...

Suroor, glad you liked it. I didn't know you thought that! :)

Susanne said...

Lat, well it seems in the early days it was "a place God would show them" and they didn't know WHERE that would be. Later - maybe during David's time, I'm thinking - Jerusalem was captured and made into their holy city where the Temple was built by Solomon. Now I might have to look up how that happened since you've piqued my interest. :)

Amber said...

I really don't think that Moses wrote the Torah, or at least not all of it. I think it's a collection of tribal stories that were blended later, though not necessarily as late as the Jerusalem/Temple periods. I think it happened slowly, over time.

Susanne said...

Amber, that's an interesting theory! The author did say that Genesis was likely from other sources (some oral, some written records perhaps) since it was pre-Moses, but he had pretty good explanations for what he believed. I can't cover everything. I'm still reading it in fact.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Good stuff!