Monthly Archives: June 2012

How well do you know the book of Deuteronomy?

I am currently working through the book of Deuteronomy and will soon post about it. So if you’re interested in studying Deuteronomy with me, pick up a Bible and join in. I’m particularly interested in when and why this text was composed, and how the author uses, or misuses as the case may be, his sources—the older ‘Elohist’ traditions that now make up Exodus 19-24 and passages from Numbers. What do you already know, or would like to know, about the book of Deuteronomy? Do you think the author has the hutzpa to contradict these earlier traditions?… Read more

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The Documentary Hypothesis: How Scholars Discovered J, E, D, and P (3)

This posts is part 3 of the ‘Did Moses Write the Torah?’ series. It too has been excerpted from my writing.

Nineteenth century scholarship: post-Mosaic by centuries

The observable textual data collected over the centuries leading up to and including the nineteenth century no longer supported the long-standing traditional and pre-critical claim that the Pentateuch was written by Moses—a traditional view, moreover, that the text never claimed to begin with and which only came into existence through culturally conditioned theological and ideological interpretive agendas of late antiquity and the Middle Ages. By the nineteenth century the large majority of biblical scholars realized that the Pentateuch was composed out of a variety of sources, all of which postdate Moses by centuries. It was the work of Wilhelm de Wette (1780-1849) that ushered in this new paradigm.

Previously commentators had claimed that the textual data suggested that much of the Pentateuch’s narrative … Read more

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Did Moses Write the Torah? (2)

This and the forthcoming post outline the centuries-long discovery that led careful readers, professors, and clergymen alike to conclude from the accruing textual data that the Torah was composed out of, primarily, 4 once separate sources which were later redacted together. This centuries-long discovery culminated in the 19th century with the Documentary Hypothesis, which is still the most reliable hypothesis that explains, and continues to explain with its variations, the textual data observed. The following is again excerpted from my Introduction. It follows directly from Part 1.

Early evidence of post-Mosaic authorship: anachronisms

Not only was the account of Moses’ death to continuously resurface, implying, as the text itself does, that it was written by a later author—“no man has knowledge of his burial place to this day” (Deut 34:6)—but as early as the eleventh century, educated readers of the Bible, Jewish rabbis, and Christian clergy alike, began … Read more

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Did Moses Write the Torah? (1)

The traditional view held in both Jewish and Christian circles was that the Pentateuch, the Torah, was penned by Moses under divine inspiration. This traditional claim, however, should be tempered by a couple of initial observations. First, the Torah as a whole makes no such claim. Nowhere does the Pentateuch claim to have been written by Moses, or anyone else for that matter. In fact, the sparse references to Moses writing in the Pentateuch are rather specific in nature. For example certain passages, that is certain authors, claim: that Moses writes a memorial reminding later generations that the Amalekites must be exterminated (Ex 17:14); that Moses writes “the words of Yahweh” (Ex 24:4), which contextually could refer to the Covenant Code of Exodus 21-23 or merely the Ten Commandments (there are various traditions combined in this section of Exodus); that Moses is instructed to write “these words” (Ex 34:27) which … Read more

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Contradictions in the Bible: an introduction

My current research and writing projects display an interest in the textual history of the Bible. In other words, how did the various and once independent texts and traditions that now make up what later generations of readers dubbed “the Bible” come about? And more significantly, how do these once independent texts now interact with each other in their new composite framework? Thus the title of the other project that I am working on: The Bible’s Many Authors and the Contradictions They Left Behind. I’d like to post parts of the introduction to this project and then continue by actually posting various textual contradictions and explaining how they came about and what they tell us about the Bible’s composite nature. I hope to generate some sort of feedback and discussion as we move along. We will limit our inquiry to the Torah.

There are literally thousands of contradictions in … Read more

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“The Bible” — a misnomer?

This is the last post in our introduction to What is the Bible. Next we will start to look at specific biblical passages and deduce hypotheses concerning the biblical text’s composite nature.

Does the label “the Bible”—“the Book”—accurately represent its content, that is the once separate, numerous, and often competing, texts and traditions that were written over a thousand-year period by different authors, to different audiences, and to address the needs and concerns of different peoples, worldviews, and even beliefs? How could it? It is a label that by its very nature imposes a homogeneous interpretive framework onto what is then viewed as a canonical book, which was furthermore a product of a later generation of readers, who were themselves influenced by the needs, concerns, and beliefs of their own historical era.

In a very real sense, then, “the Bible” as a title for this collection of ancient texts and … Read more

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