Who Wrote The Bible?

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Who Wrote The Bible?

This section refers to the first five books of the Old Testament (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) known as the Torah in Hebrew and the Pentateuch in Greek.

The Documentary Hypothesis contradicts the traditional view that Moses was the sole author of the Torah. According to this traditional view the Torah was revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai around 1300 BC. But this Mosaic origin is questioned because found in it are variations in the divine name, style differences, theme differences and duplicate accounts of certain events. This has led to suspicion amongst many scholars that it was not written by one individual author, but by many authors. The hypothesis is based primarily on textual analysis of the Torah. It does solve problems biblical scholars have faced with the Torah such as, anarchronisms, contradictions, doublets and triplets. But does it create more problems than it solves? It doesn't appear so.

(Below is an often used extract to illustrate bible inconsistencies. However there are explanations indicating that there is nothing inconsistant about the extract, but that's for another day).

Genesis:1126 And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran.

Genesis:1132 And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years: and Terah died in Haran.

Genesis:121 Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee:

Genesis:124 So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.

So it seems Terah fathered Abram when he was aged 75, Terah died at the age of 205, which would make Abram 130 years of age at this point. Only then did Abram leave his home. But Genesis says he was aged 75 when he left his home (Of course the ages of certain characters in the Torah is a problem in itself but that's for another day also) .

There are many other inconsistancies in the Torah. The most likely explanation for these inconsistancies, to go back to the Genesis extract above, is that Genesis 11 is taken from one source/author and Genesis 12 from another source/author. And somehow both sources/authors found there way into the 'original' Book of Genesis we read today.

Also, there are a number of anachronisms, like the passage about the Edomite kings mentioned in;

Genesis:3631 "These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom, before any king reigned over the Israelites...."

which tells us that whoever wrote this was aware of the Kings of Israel. So the author could not be Moses since the first King of Israel, King Saul, reigned about 1000 BC where as Moses died around 1300 BC.

And another example;

Genesis:126 Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land.

Again this was obviously written after the Canaanites has departed Canaan or lost control of Canaan which we know happened about the time of King David, around 960 BC, long after Moses lived.

So the Documentary Hypothesis, through the use of specific criteria, proposes that the Torah was compiled by a number of authors/editors and can link the sources to four major sources of literary traditions, known as J,E,D,P.

The four sources and the approximate dates they were originally written, partly based on the Hebrew writing style used are (see also image below);

J source so named as this writer(s) uses Yahweh when referring to God. (The German word for Yahweh is spelt with a 'J' rather that a 'Y'). Dated about 900 BC.

E source uses Elohim to refer to God. Dated about 900 BC.

D source is a style specific to the Book of Deuteronomy. Dated about 600 BC.

P source was written by the Priests who were exiled in Babylon. Dated about 500 BC.

Did the priests have the final say in compiling the Torah. Remember that in 586 BC Jerusalem was in flames. The priests had lost control of the 'Promised Land'. Their 'beloved' city was destroyed. Their temple containing much of what was sacred to them was burnt, and many were killed. The rest were exiled to Babylon. They were a defeated people. It was like the nation of Israel founded by King David was being wiped out.

Much of the earlier work was done by J, E an D, but the final touches, the final editing, deciding what should and shouldnt be included was perhaps done by these exiled priests in Babylon.

This near annihilation incited the priests to compile the Torah? They saw this total wipeout as a punishment, a consequence of breaking the covenant with God. Perhaps they wanted to ensure this would never happen again, and by collecting, compiling and shaping ancient traditions and texts into one book, the Torah, a simple and easy direcion could be given to the exiles thru this book ensuring allegiance to God.

So it seems there were many redactors blending and revising scripture from different traditions over many hundreds of years. In essence the Torah (and Bible in general) can best be described as an anthology of literary works written over the course of hundreds of years (900 B.C. to 300 BC) by numerous authors. In the compilation process many works were reviewed and discussed resulting in certain works included (the ones we see today) and some were discarded, eg. the apochyrpa, and probably many more that have perhaps sadly been lost forever. What would have shaped the selection process? How would they have chosen the books that were inspired by God?

The purpose on an anthology is surely to preserve and present the 'best of' the particular subject matter. So the compilers of an anthology of scripture would almost certainly include material which was as consistant as possible in getting the message of God across as they perceived the message, i.e. they would have preconcieved ideas on the message and therefore have felt they knew what to include and what to disregard. There would be a certain amount of bias in the resulting anthology.

So there seems to have been a degree of 'copying and pasting' when creating the Torah, and this can explain many of the inconsistancies in the Bible, eg, did Noah bring one pair or seven pairs of animals into the Ark, see Genesis 6-9. It is thought these consistancies can be explained by scribes, who regardless of consequences and the critical analysis that would follow in the hundreds and indeed thousands of subsequent years, preferred to preserve original texts and considerd this to be more important, in fact of paramount importance than the consistancy of that text or of detail.

Modern day anthologies are common so in relation to methodology in compilation and presentation the Torah can really be compared to the following;

The Beatles Anthology from the mid 1990s: Specific people well versed in the subject matter telling the almost 40 year story of the Beatles from their perspective through a series of selected songs, interviews and documentary pieces.

The Norton Anthology of English Literature: Selection of literature from the middle ages to the present time compiled by people with sufficient authority in this field of study.

Of course using these modern day examples, trivial in comparison, is not meant to undermine or diminish the importance of the word of God, it is just meant to illustrate how the 'finished' Torah came to be.

But regardless of the human authors and editors, who was it that inspired the writings? Where did the original information written down come from? While the Documentary Hypothesis makes claim to multiple authors of the Torah, it doesn't seek to undermine the central message and theme or subvert the idea that the original writings were directly inspired by God.

Of course there are strong counter arguments to the multiple authorship theory of the Torah. Style differences is one pillar that the documentary hypothesis stands on. But stylistic variation can be inherent in any author so is this really a valid argument? The style can be dictated by the subject matter and the intended audience. How varied can a writing stlye be and yet belong to a single author?

Another pillar is the designation of the deity. But as Wayne Jackson puts it...

(1) Solid biblical research has clearly shown that the use of different appellations for deity could reflect a purposeful theological emphasis. For example, Elohim, which suggests “strength,” exalts God as the mighty Creator. Yahweh is the name that expresses the essential moral and spiritual nature of deity, particularly in terms of His relationship to the nation of Israel (see Stone, p. 17).

(2) The multiple employment of titles was common in the literature of antiquity as a device of literary relief. Archaeological discoveries have illustrated this point on numerous occasions.

But, consider Genesis 28:13. The Lord speaks to Jacob and says: “I am Jehovah (Yahweh), the God (Elohim) of Abraham, the God (Elohim) of Isaac . . . .” Would one argue for the multiple authorship of this single sentence upon the basis of the use of two Hebrew names for the Creator? To even hint at this conclusion invites the scorn of thoughtful people.

Also See here for the various appellations used to signify deity in the Hebrew Bible.

It seems safe to assume that the central message of the Torah is what is important, that all the editing that took place didn't interfere or guide in any particular direction the central theme, in fact the central theme and meaning came through in much clearer light as a direct result of the editing.