Monthly Archives: June 2013

Using Moses to Rewrite History

When the author of the book of Deuteronomy sits down to write his text, he has Moses renarrate the story of Israel’s past from the revelation at Sinai to the current narrative setting on the plains of Moab. Renarrate because this “history” was already narrated in earlier textual traditions which served as the Deuteronomist’s sources. These earlier texts now make up parts of the books of Exodus and Numbers, and scholars have identified them as belonging to the Elohist and Yahwist.

In other words, stories from the older Elohist and Yahwist traditions, which are now preserved in the books of Exodus and Numbers, were used as sources for the Deuteronomist’s composition. Yet, on every single renarration of these stories, of this “history,” the Deuteronomist’s Moses radically alters them—indeed outright contradicts them—claiming to say and do things he never said and did, and narrating things that never happened, or happened … Read more

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