On the Subject of Authorship

I figured since we were on the subject of authorship and certain Christians' inability to determine it, I would dust off some golden oldies (I think I read them first in Paine's Age of Reason) about Moses' authorship of the Pentateuch.


A few of these aren't great arguments (i.e. they do not stand on their own as a "proof"), but they are statements that best make sense if one believes that Moses did not author these books. In other words, they best support the assumption that someone else wrote the first five books of the Bible.

1) Moses is always referred to in the third person. This is a weird style of writing. Why not just say "I" instead of "Moses"?

[This one is weak on its own.]

2) Deuteronomy tells where Moses is buried and states that "no one knows his burial place to this day." This indicates that this was written some time after Moses' death because it is remarkable that no one knows to this day--i.e. in a time far removed from his death.

[Even conservatives admit that Moses didn't write this. Usually, they say it is Joshua, but that really wouldn't make sense of the "to this day" comment.]

3) In Genesis 14, it states that Abraham chased his nephew's captors to the city of Dan. The problem is that Dan wasn't a city until the time of Samson (Judges 18:27) some 331 years after Moses died. Moses could not have known about Dan.

[This one is better. Was it a different Dan in the same location 300 years before it was renamed "Dan"? Unlikely.]

4) In Genesis 36:31 it lists some kings of the other countries "before any king reigned over the Israelites." In Moses' life there were no kings in Israel. This didn't happen until Saul, hundreds of years after Moses died. And the fact that they say any king implies that there have been at least more than one before this passage was written. Moses couldn't have written this.

[This is pretty difficult to get around. Sure, Moses was a prophet, but the fact that this statement is said so matter-of-factly is notable. One wonders why it wouldn't have been brought up by Samuel when the people were calling for a king hundreds of years later.]

5) Exodus 16:35 reads, "The Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a habitable land; they ate manna, until they came to the border of the land of Canaan." Moses was dead before the Israelites reached the border.

[Hmmm. Doesn't sound like a "prophecy" to me. Sounds like a statement of fact.]

6) In trying to prove the existence of giants, Deuteronomy 3:11 says, "Now only King Og of Bashan was left of the remnant of the Rephaim. In fact his bed, an iron bed, can still be seen in Rabbah of the Amorites." In this passage, this bed is already an ancient relic that can still be seen in Rabbah (a city which was not even conquered until King David ruled over Israel). This is much too late for Moses to write.

[More prophecy? Certainly doesn't sound like it.]

***

Is this even important? Maybe.

Jesus seems to believe that Moses wrote those books. In John 7:19 Jesus says, "If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me."

Paul attributes the books to Moses: "For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness." Romans 10:5

Throughout the history of the early Church, Christians believed in Moses' authorship of the Pentateuch.

Is it possible that Jesus, Paul, and the early church was wrong? [Of course, I guess you could say that Moses wrote parts of the book and that Jesus and Paul were only refering to the parts that he wrote, but I'm going with the "they were wrong" theory, well, because I'm an apostate.]

***

Okay, so normally I don't buy into "black helicopter" theories, but this one is a little too hard to resist.

When could the Pentateuch have been written?

In 2 Kings 22:8-13, there is this interesting story. Israel had long been divided into two kingdoms. Josiah had just come to be king of Judah. He wanted to repair the temple and told the priest to go through all the stuff and see how much money they had. While the high priest was looking, he found the "Book of the Law" and gave it to a secretary who read it to Josiah. When Josiah heard it, he tore his clothes because he realized that they had not been obeying God.

[Here's the passage lest you thinks I makes this stuffs up: "The high priest Hilkiah said to Shapan the secretary, 'I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord.' When Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, he read it. Then Shaphan the secretary came to the king, and reported to the king, 'Your servants have emptied out the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it ion the hand of the workers who have oversight of the house of the Lord.' Shaphan the secretary informed the king, 'The priest Hilkiah has given me a book.' Shaphan then read it aloud to the king. When the king heard the words of the book of the law, he tore his clothes. Then the king commanded the priest Hilkiah, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Achbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary, and the king's servant Asaiah, saying, 'Go, inquire of the Lord for me, for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our ancestors did not obey the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.'"]

Now, what if instead of "finding" the Law (another way of saying the first five books of the Bible) here, this is when it was actually written?

What if most of the Hebrew Bible was actually written at a time in the divided kingdom of Israel when Josiah wanted to control the people he was ruling? What if it was written to keep a crumbling kingdom together as a system of control?

Governments and institutions make money off the labor of the masses. What better way to keep people in their place than make up some crap about eternal rewards for faithful earthly servitude? Religion keeps people docile and obedient to the "powers that be." Maybe it's all made up to that we can be manipulated into being sheep (interesting that that's such a well established biblical metaphor, huh).

***

So, maybe that is stretching it a bit, but it is an interesting theory, isn't it?

8 comments:

Hallq said...

I don't think you're the first to theorize that "finding" a book of the law meant writing it - though in the version I heard, it was just Deuteronomy that this happnened with. Who knows, though.

exbeliever said...

Hallq,

No, it's definitely not my theory at all. I think it's Paine's, but I really can't remember where I heard it first.

I just think it's interesting.

Albert said...

A little more reading on the origins of the Pentateuch:
http://www.bibleorigins.net/HebrewDatesPentateuch.html

exbeliever said...

Interesting link, albert.

Alan Lund said...

Funny that you should bring this up today. I just wrote this last night: http://little-endian.blogspot.com/2006/02/who-wrote-bible.html,
a very brief summary of the documentary hypothesis. If you have not yet read "Who Wrote the Bible" by Richard Friedman, I highly recommend it. You could also check Wikipedia for an overview.

Morne said...

Here is some additional reading info on the origin of the Pentateuch (First 5 books of the Old Testament:

http://www.quest.za.net/pages/readonline
/ch2/chapter2B.html

exbeliever said...

I'm bummed that no one is writing anything to defend Mosiac authorship of the Pentateuch. I thought I would get something in that direction.

I guess it's not provocative enough. :-(

Sharon Mooney said...

Some thoughts . .
Books of Moses and The Law