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From Richard Elliott Friedman’s, “Who Wrote the Bible”


Here are just a couple of pages from Friedman’s book, of which, everyone with a genuine interest in the Bible should take the time to read.

This is from the introductory section and is an amusing look at the 5 books of Moses and the way fundamentalist Jews and Catholics alike have invented some rather elaborate and unsupported schemes to support their fundamentalist attitude as regards to Mosaic authorship of the books over the centuries. Sadly, the same types of elaborate schemes have been applied by many fundamentalist scholars across the entire Bible to try and prove complete divine authorship and/or infallibility, along with concepts actually contradicting the Bible's message of "God is One - Worship Him Alone, without any partners."

Friedman’s book has been around for almost 20-years now and there wasn’t a lot of anything new in it when he came out with it. He just had fun explaning how he was able to connect the dots. He does add some interesting tidbits here and there though, and his other books certainly contain some great insights about biblical authorship.

Richard Elliott Friedman is well established in the world of biblical scholarship. A fundamentalist Christian or Jew might never otherwise find the inherent problems (nor the beauty; see “The Hidden Face of God”) in the Bible, observed by a scholar like Friedman can because they wouldn’t be looking with their eyes open. Just an opinion.


The Five Books of Moses

[begin quote]

It is one of the oldest puzzles in the world. Investigators have been wrestling with it practically since the Bible was completed. As it happens, it did not start as an investigation into the authorship of the Bible. It simply began with individuals raising questions about problems that they observed in the biblical text itself. It proceeded like a detective story spread across centuries, with investigators uncovering clues to the Bible's origin one by one.

It began with questions about the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These books are known as the Pentateuch (from Greek, meaning "five scrolls") or the Torah (from Hebrew, meaning "instruction"). They are also known as the Five Books of Moses. Moses is the major figure through most of these books, and early Jewish and Christian tradition held that Moses himself wrote them, though nowhere in the Five Books of Moses themselves does the text say that he was the author. But the tradition that one person, Moses, alone wrote these books presented problems. People observed contradictions in the text. It would report events in a particular order, and later it would say that those same events happened in a different order. It would say that there were two of something, and elsewhere it would say that there were fourteen of that same thing. It would say that the Moabites did something, and later it would say that it was the Midianites who did it. It would describe Moses as going to a Tabernacle in a chapter before Moses builds the Tabernacle.

People also noticed that the Five Books of Moses included things that Moses could not have known or was not likely to have said. The text, after all, gave an account of Moses' death. It also said that Moses was the humblest man on earth; and normally one would not expect the humblest man on earth to point out that he is the humblest man on earth.

At first the arguments of those who questioned Mosaic authorship were rejected. In the third century A.D. the Christian scholar Origen responded to those who raised objections to the unity and Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. The rabbis of the centuries that followed the completion of the Hebrew Bible (also known as the Old Testament or the Holy Scriptures) likewise explained the problems and contradictions within the boundaries of the tradition: contradictions were only apparent contradictions. They could be explained through interpretation—often very elaborate interpretation—or through the introduction of additional narrative details that did not appear in the biblical text. As for Moses' references to things that should have been unknown to him, they were explained as owing to the fact that Moses was a prophet. These tradition-oriented responses to the problems in the text prevailed into medieval times. The medieval biblical commentators, such as Rashi in France and Nachmanides in Spain, were especially skillful at seeking explanations to reconcile each of the contradictions. But, also in the medieval period, investigators began to give a new kind of answer to the old questions.

Six Hundred Years of Investigation

At the first stage, investigators still accepted the tradition that Moses wrote the Five Books, but they suggested that a few lines were added here or there. In the eleventh century, Isaac ibn Yashush, a Jewish court physician of a ruler in Muslim Spain, pointed out that a list of Edomite kings that appears in Genesis 36 named kings who lived long after Moses was dead. Ibn Yashush suggested that the list was written by someone who lived after Moses. The response to his conclusion was that he was called "Isaac the blunderer."

The man who labeled him Isaac the blunderer was Abraham ibn Ezra, a twelfth-century Spanish rabbi. Ibn Ezra added, "His book deserves to be burned." But, ironically, ibn Ezra himself included several enigmatic comments in his own writings that hint that he had doubts of his own. He alluded to several biblical passages that appeared not to be from Moses' own hand: passages that referred to Moses in the third person, used terms that Moses would not have known, described places where Moses had never been, and used language that reflected another time and locale from those of Moses. Nonetheless, ibn Ezra apparently was not willing to say outright that Moses was not the author of the Five Books. He simply wrote, "And if you understand, then you will recognize the truth." And in another reference to one of these contradictory passages, he wrote, "And he who understands will keep silent."

In the fourteenth century, in Damascus, the scholar Bonfils accepted ibn Ezra's evidence but not his advice to keep silent. Referring to the difficult passages, Bonfils wrote explicitly, "And this is evidence that this verse was written in the Torah later, and Moses did not write it; rather one of the later prophets wrote it." Bonfils was not denying the revealed character of the text. He still thought that the passages in question were written by "one of the later prophets." He was only concluding that they were not written by Moses. Still, three and a half centuries later, his work was reprinted with the references to this subject deleted.

In the fifteenth century, Tostatus, bishop of Avila, also stated that certain passages, notably the account of Moses' death, could not have been written by Moses. There was an old tradition that Moses' successor Joshua wrote this account. But in the sixteenth century, Carlstadt, a contemporary of Luther, commented that the account of Moses' death is written in the same style as texts that precede it. This makes it difficult to claim that Joshua or anyone else merely added a few lines to an otherwise Mosaic manuscript. It also raises further questions about what exactly was Mosaic and what was added by someone else.

In a second stage of the process, investigators suggested that Moses wrote the Five Books but that editors went over them later, adding an occasional word or phrase of their own. In the sixteenth century, Andreas van Maes, who was a Flemish Catholic, and two Jesuit scholars, Benedict Pereira and Jacques Bonfrere, thus pictured an original text from the hand of Moses upon which later writers expanded. Van Maes suggested that a later editor inserted phrases or changed the name of a place to its more current name so that readers would understand it better. Van Maes' book was placed on the Catholic Index of Prohibited Books.

In the third stage of the investigation, investigators concluded outright that Moses did not write the majority of the Pentateuch. The first to say it was the British philosopher Thomas Hobbes in the seventeenth century. Hobbes collected numerous cases of facts and statements through the course of the Five Books that were inconsistent with Mosaic authorship. For example, the text sometimes states that something is the case "to this day." "To this day" is not the phrase of someone describing a contemporary situation. It is rather the phrase of a later writer who is describing something that has endured.

Four years later, Isaac de la Peyre¢re, a French Calvinist, also wrote explicitly that Moses was not the author of the first books of the Bible. He, too, noted problems running through the text, including, for example, the words "across the Jordan" in the first verse of Deuteronomy. That verse says, "These are the words that Moses spoke to the children of Israel across the Jordan. . . ." The problem with the phrase "across the Jordan" is that it refers to someone who is on the other side of the Jordan river from the writer. The verse thus appears to be the words of someone in Israel, west of the Jordan, referring to what Moses did on the east side of the Jordan. But Moses himself was never supposed to have been in Israel in his life. De la Peyre¢re's book was banned and burned. He was arrested and informed that in order to be released he would have to become Catholic and recant his views to the Pope. He did.

About the same time, in Holland, the philosopher Spinoza published a unified critical analysis, likewise demonstrating that the problematic passages were not a few isolated cases that could be explained away one by one. Rather, they were pervasive through the entire Five Books of Moses. There were the third-person accounts of Moses, the statements that Moses was unlikely to have made (e.g., "humblest man on earth"), the report of Moses' death, the expression "to this day," the references to geographical locales by names that they acquired after Moses' lifetime, the treatment of matters that were subsequent to Moses (e.g., the list of Edomite kings), and various contradictions and problems in the text of the sort that earlier investigators had observed. He also noted that the text says in Deuteronomy 34, "There never arose another prophet in Israel like Moses….” Spinoza remarked that these sound like the words of someone who lived a long time after Moses and had the opportunity to see other prophets and thus make the comparison. (They also do not sound like the words of the humblest man on earth.) Spinoza wrote, "It is...clearer than the sun at noon that the Pentateuch was not written by Moses, but by someone who lived long after Moses." Spinoza had been excommunicated from Judaism. Now his work was condemned by Catholics and Protestants as well. His book was placed on the Catholic Index, within six years thirty-seven edicts were issued against it, and an attempt was made on his life.

A short time later, in France, Richard Simon, a convert from Protestantism who had become a Catholic priest, wrote a work that he intended to be critical of Spinoza. He said that the core of the Pentateuch (the laws) was Mosaic but that there were some additions. The additions, he said, were by scribes who collected, arranged, and elaborated upon the old texts. These scribes, according to Simon, were prophets, guided by the divine spirit, and so he regarded his work as a defense of the sanctity of the biblical text. His contemporaries, however, apparently were not ready for a work that said that any part of the Five Books was not Mosaic. Simon was attacked by other Catholic clergy and expelled from his order. His books were placed on the Index. Forty refutations of his work were written by Protestants. Of the thirteen hundred copies printed of his book, all but six were burned.

An English version of the book came out, translated by John Hampden, but Hampden later recanted. The understated report by the scholar Edward Gray in his account of the events tells it best: Hampden "repudiated the opinions he had held in common with Simon...in 1688, probably shortly before his release from the tower."

[end quote]

Let us hope this type of "influence" will not continue to be used on those who chose to follow common sense, logic and factual research in opposition to those who chose to mindlessly wander through live believing anything that makes them 'feel good.'

More . . . .

  Scholars of Christianity and Judaism Reveal Truth About Their Religions
"Bible - A Closer Look" Yusuf Estes, Ph.D. (Theology)
"Who Wrote the Bible" - (excerpts) Richard E. Friedman
"Who Wrote the Bible" (text pages)- Richard E. Friedman
"Council of Nicaea - Trinity Accepted in 325 AD" - According to the Catholic Church
"Arianism Vs. Council of Nicaea" (Church History) By Brother John Raymond
"Beginnings" (How Did It Come About?) [under construction]
"Priests And Preachers Enter Islam" True Story - of American Family & Catholic Priest
"Live Broadcast" /video/audio/chat room

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