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No longer take comments. Post's 'labels' are unreliable for linking or searching. Use the INDEX OF POSTS instead. A fairly accurate, but incomplete INDEX of Posts & good overview and understanding of this blog READ SOME REASONS TO REJECT ORTHODOX JUDAISM my April 2014 post or click link above. Born into an Orthodox Jewish family (1950's) and went to Orthodox Yeshiva from kindergarten thru High School plus some Beis Medrash.Became an agnostic in my 20's and an atheist later on. My blog will discuss the arguments for god and Orthodox Judaism and will provide counter arguments. I no longer take comments. My blog uses academic sources, the Torah, Talmud and commentators to justify my assertions. The posts get updated. IF YOU GET A MESSAGE THAT THE POST IS MISSING - LOOK FOR IT IN THE INDEX or search or the date is found in the address.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Who Wrote the Bible Part One

Update thru 3/21/2018 6/23/2018 

First a short  tribute to Spinoza who was one the key philosophers to  break the bondage of my mind in two ways.  I have mentioned Spinoza on my blog before. When  much younger still in Beis Medrish and before I ever heard of the Documentary Hypothesis I came across some of  Spinoza’s works. Except for some Rabbis who taught perhaps a few of the last verses of  Deuteronomy were from Joshua, we were taught that the Torah was all  from G-d, and Moses was more or less just a transcriber.   

{ETA 3/21/2018

a) From The Soncino Chumash Edited by Re.  Dr. A. Cohen seventh impression 1968

 When discussing Deut 34:1

Page 1182 "Moses went up. This last chapter was in my [Ibn Ezra] opinion, written by Joshua."

b) Talmud Bava Basra 14b

Joshua wrote the book which bears his name and [the last] eight verses of the Pentateuch.

Talmud Bava Basra 15a

The Master has said: Joshua wrote the book which bears his name and the last eight verses of the Pentateuch. This statement is in agreement with the authority who says that eight verses in the Torah were written by Joshua, as it has been taught: [It is written], So Moses the servant of the Lord died there. Now is it possible that Moses being dead could have written the words, ‘Moses died there’? The truth is, however, that up to this point Moses wrote, from this point Joshua wrote. This is the opinion of R. Judah, or, according to others, of R. Nehemiah. 

I would like to point out that 15a also writes of  R. Simeon who appears to disagrees  with the above. These citations are consistent with what my Rabbaim taught me.}

Spinoza provided strong  evidence that was not likely the case. He hypothesized the Torah was a compilation of various scrolls that get compiled and edited {ETA and some portions authored} at a later date by someone who he theorized was Ezra. His theory is remarkably close to what virtually every, if not every  Bible Scholar today concludes.  Modern Bible Scholars also refer to multiple redactors and authors and may differ on who the final redactor may have been. 

Spinoza also encouraged me to be wary of superstitions.  I would suggest people believing the Torah is from the Mosaic period should begin by studying  Spinoza’s work, then move on to modern Bible Scholarship. These two chapters are essential reading, but I recommend starting from the beginning of the book.  My post is not a copy of Spinoza’s writing and I suggest reading his work to see why he writes it is as clear as sunshine at noon that the Torah is not from Moses [or mosaic times.]

The interested reader may want to read which may have been prompted by a discussion between one individual and myself on another one of Kefirah’s blog posts. My post is written independently of Kefirah’s.

The Torah itself never gives us reason to believe Moses actually wrote the entire Torah. In fact it’s own words  provides evidence that is not likely the case.

There are many verses wherein the Torah writes that Moses was to record or recorded certain specific material. But that is not license to extrapolate to the entire Torah. Perhaps if the Torah BEGAN with the words: “And G-d told Moses to write...” or if the Torah began “And  Moses wrote.... “ Or if the Torah ended “And  Moses wrote all the words from... to....”  at least then there would be some basis to claim the Torah itself meant to indicate the entire Pentateuch was from Moses.  But on the contrary, time and time again the Torah specifically writes that Moses only wrote certain passages. The Torah is all but saying - this part is from Moses/G-d , and the implication others portions may not have been from Moses or G-d. 

{ETA 3/21/2018

From The Soncino Chumash Edited by Re.  Dr. A. Cohen seventh impression 1968. When discussing Deut 31:9

Page 1150 "This law [Torah]. "S [Sforno] defines it as  the section relating to the monarchy (xvii.14ff)"

Page 1150 Rashi and Ramban interprets as the Pentacheuch

The term Torah may not always be referring to the Pentacheuch, at least per Sforno.}

This post will discuss a minuscule amount of Hebrew, but the reader should not have any difficulty following the post. It is going to focus on Deuteronomy.


Beginning on page 83 in Moshe Weinfeld’s commentary on Deuteronomy (Anchor Bible 1991):
Today a book refers to a composition written by a single person. Such was not the case in the Ancient Near East or ancient Israel. The author in ancient times was generally a collector and compiler of traditions, not an author in the modern sense.   Deuteronomy contains laws from the period of the Judges or even from the times of Moses. But it also contains elements from the period of Hezekiah - Josiah. In the second Temple period and onward every letter [of the Bible] was considered sacred. However prior to that it was not the case. Rather the principle content of the books were considered sacred. 

Beginning on page 357 Jewish Publication Bible - Berlin and Brettler 1999  Pseudegraphy - was a convention of authorship in the times of Josiah around 622 BCE.

[ My note - “There have probably been pseudepigrapha almost from the invention of full writing. For example, ancient Greek authors often refer to texts which claimed to be by Orpheus or his pupil Musaeus but which attributions were generally disregarded. Already in Antiquity the collection known as the "Homeric hymns" was recognized as pseudepigraphical, that is, not actually written by Homer.” ]

Evidence From Deuteronomy that the Torah is not likely from Mosaic Period

Lets begin where Spinoza begins in his Theological-Political Treatise ,  Deuteronomy 1:1

Jewish Publication Society Bible (JPS) 1917 Deuteronomy 1:1 These are the words which Moses spoke unto all Israel beyond [  עבר  ] the Jordan; in the wilderness, in the Arabah, over against Suph, between Paran and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Di-zahab.

The word ‘beyond’ is the translation of the Torah’s actual Hebrew word shown in brackets. 

Or Moshe Weinfeld’s version:

Deut 1:1 These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel on the other side of the Jordan...


Commentary on the Torah - Richard Friedman 2001

Deut 1:1 These are the words that Moses spoke to all of Israel across the Jordan...


JPS Tigay’s commentary on Deuteronomy 

“....on the other side of the Jordan....”


 Soncino’s Chumash 1950 

“....beyond the Jordan...”


The Stone Tenach 1998 edition

“...the other side of the Jordan....”


 Jewish Publication Society Torah 1962 edition:

“...on the other side of the Jordan...”

Page 1468 Eerdman’s Analytical Concordance 1988 has for the Hebrew word [  עבר  ] -  across, beyond, other side. 

In the appendix to this post we will see the Hebrew word is used to indicate direction and will demonstrate that is the most likely intention of   עבר in Deut 1:1

Page 383 JPS Berlin and Brettler translates  Deut 1:1 “These are the words that Moses addressed to all Israel on the other side of the Jordan....” and then explains to us - The geographic frame of reference places the speaker west of the Jordan and thus already in Canaan. It is an anachronism.

And Moshe Weinfeld has the same conclusion - the stand point of the Author is on the west bank [ of Jordan].

In other words, the author of Deuteronomy is providing a third party narration to the Israelites who are on the west side of Jordan. But according to tradition the Israelites are East of Jordan during the Mosaic period.  So this strongly suggests that Deuteronomy was written after the Mosaic period. ( I must clarify - not that the whole Deuteronomy  was written from scratch by a single person at a later date. See Weinfelds comments included in this post.). The introductory verse to Deuteronomy helps place the temporal period for Deuteronomy's redaction after the Mosaic period. 

Now one verse alone may not convince, but there are other verses and evidence that Deuteronomy  as we have it was most likely  finalized after the Mosaic period. 

JPS Berlin and Brettler discusses  Deut 2:12 And in Seir dwelt the Horites aforetime, but the children of Esau succeeded them; and they destroyed them from before them, and dwelt in their stead; as Israel did unto the land of his possession, which the LORD gave unto them.--

And explains as follows: The Israelite conquest of the land is presented as already having been completed. It is anachronism.

And on the same book discusses  Deut 3:11 For only Og king of Bashan Remained of the Remnant of the Rephaim; behold, his bedstead was a bedstead of iron; is it not in Rabbah of the children of Ammon? nine cubits was the length thereof, and four cubits the breadth of it, after the cubit of a man....

And explains as follows: The emphasis that the bed is NOW there places the historical perspective of the narrator long after the events here recounted. Cubit is given as about 17.5 inches. [ If so, that would put the bed at 13.13 feet by 5.833 feet - a bed for quite a large individual.]

{ETA 12/11/2015 Spinoza writes that knowledge of the bed in Rabbah was most likely obtained in the times of David when he captures Rabbah as described in 2 Samuel}

Besides these and other verses we may add the following content from JPS Berlin and Brettler:

JPS tells us that Deuteronomy  is not likely of Mosaic origin. The reforms of King Josiah and Deuteronomy have numerous points of contact and similarity. Josiah reforms represented an important bid for cultural, political and religious autonomy in the face of threats from Neo Assyria and a resurgent Babylon.  Also, the Deuteronomy  covenant structure resembles Neo Syrian State Treaties, Ancient Near East Legal collections and Wisdom literature. 

Lets look at some additional verses strongly implying Deuteronomy is likely not written during the Mosaic period.

Deut 34:1 And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho. And the LORD showed him all the land, even Gilead as far as Dan; 2 and all Naphtali, and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah as far as the hinder sea; 3 and the South, and the Plain, even the valley of Jericho the city of palm-trees, as far as Zoar. 4 And the LORD said unto him: 'This is the land which I swore unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying: I will give it unto thy seed; I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither.' 5 So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD. 6 And he was buried in the valley in the land of Moab over against Beth-peor; and no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day. 7 And Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated. 8 And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; so the days of weeping in the mourning for Moses were ended. 9 And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him; and the children of Israel hearkened unto him, and did as the LORD commanded Moses. 10 And there hath not arisen a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face; 11 in all the signs and the wonders, which the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh, and to all his servants, and to all his land; 12 and in all the mighty hand, and in all the great terror, which Moses wrought in the sight of all Israel.

Verse 1-4 could not have been written by Moses. He went up the mountain but never returned.

Verse 7 - ‘unto this day’ Moshe could not have written this because he was not alive. It also implies a long period after he was dead.  

Verse 10 - ‘not arisen a prophet since’ also implies a very long period since Moses is dead.

Deut 31: 1 And Moses went and spoke these words unto all Israel....2 And he said unto them.... 9 And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests the sons of Levi, that bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and unto all the elders of Israel. 10 And Moses commanded them, saying: 'At the end of every seven years, in the set time of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles,  

Verse 9 - Tigay writes  “...Moses could not have written this verse in the past tense, in the Teachings because when he was writing the Teachings he had not yet given it to them.”

I think the following verses provide a very interesting puzzle that has some bearing on the authorship of Deuteronomy. It will involve the Book of Numbers, Deuteronomy and Judges.

Numbers 26:52 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: 53 'Unto these the land shall be divided for an inheritance according to the number of names. 54 To the more thou shalt give the more inheritance, and to the fewer thou shalt give the less inheritance; to each one according to those that were numbered of it shall its inheritance be given. 55 Notwithstanding the land shall be divided by lot; according to the names of the tribes of their fathers they shall inherit.... 

Deut 34:1 And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho. And the LORD showed him all the land, even Gilead as far as Dan;...... 

Judges 19:40 The seventh lot came out for the tribe of the children of Dan according to their families. 41 And the border of their inheritance was Zorah, and Eshtaol, and Ir-shemesh; 42 and Shaalabbin, and Aijalon, and Ithlah; 43 and Elon, and Timnah, and Ekron; 44 and Eltekeh, and Gibbethon, and Baalath; 45 and Jehud, and Bene-berak, and Gath-rimmon; 46 and Me-jarkon, and Rakkon, with the border over against Joppa. 47 And the border of the children of Dan was too strait for them; so the children of Dan went up and fought against Leshem, and took it, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and possessed it, and dwelt therein, and called Leshem, Dan, after the name of Dan their father. 48 This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Dan according to their families, these cities with their villages 49 When they had made an end of distributing the land for inheritance by the borders thereof, the children of Israel gave an inheritance to Joshua the son of Nun in the midst of them; 50 according to the commandment of the LORD they gave him the city which he asked, even Timnath-serah in the hill-country of Ephraim; and he built the city, and dwelt therein. 51 These are the inheritances, which Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of the fathers' houses of the tribes of the children of Israel, distributed for inheritance by lot in Shiloh before the LORD, at the door of the tent of meeting. So they made an end of dividing the land.  

Do you see the problems ?

Numbers 26 specifies there will be a lottery to determine the tribal territory allotments of  Israel to tribes.

Deuteronomy 34 - Lord shows Mosese some tribal allotments including Dan’s.

Judges 19 performs the lottery, including one for Dan.

Problem A) - Recall a lottery was performed in Judges 19:40. So did the Lord know what the results of a random lottery was going to be way in the future ?  

Problem B) Dan's tribal area changes after the allotment. Was the future battle of Layish and it's results also known at the time of the Lord showing the tribal areas ?

Problem C) If Deuteronomy  was written before the Judges Lottery, then Moses would have known the tribal areas. After all the Lord showed them to Moses. If so, why hold a lottery - the Lord showed the tribal areas to Moses and he could then relay the Israelites the specifications.

To which believers will reply - G-d was involved and his ways are a mystery and moreover G-d knows the future even the results of a future random lottery and a future war. Or perhaps since G-d can control nature he can force the lottery and wars to end in a certain desired way.  See how all problems go away if you invent miracles, prophecies, mysteries and unlimited powers to G-d ?  This what is known as a non falsifiable position. There is no amount of evidence you can present to such an individual that would convince him their position untenable. They will invent/assert  prophecies, miracles,  G-d’s powers and works in mysterious ways.  But are there not natural explanations ? I am going to speculate and is a topic I need to research further. 

1) Numbers and Joshua are from a similar narrative as to how the lands are assigned, which is via lots.  The Deuteronomy portion may have come from an unrelated  different narrative that G-d told Moses the territory allotments. However, the full details were  not provided in Deuteronomy.  As the Torah is being compiled multiple traditions are being respected.   

2) Numbers and Joshua are an Etiological myth, a true one or a false one. In other words, portions of the tribes had already been extant in Israel. Any tribal bickering over territory  could be quelled by claiming there was a lottery held in ancient times.  It is  possible a lottery was held.  Alternately  bickering could be quelled by claiming G-d had already shown Moses the allotments. 

3) Deuteronomy portion never happened. It was about boasting and glorifying an ancient hero Moses. Also, that  G-d sanctioned the land of Canaan for the Israelites. ‘Proof’  that G-d can control / predict the future. The Deuteronomy section  provides a lead into the next book which is Joshua. 

This post although titled 'Who Wrote the Bible' , is really about why it is very likely Deuteronomy is not from the Mosaic period. My post  Some Reasons to Reject Orthodox Judaism discusses reasons why the Torah is most likely not a divine text.  Now some people may not find my reasons convincing.  But that does not mean the Torah is divine. People who make such an assertion need to provide valid extraordinary evidence.  I am still waiting. 

Continued at Who Wrote the Bible Part Two


Numbers 36:13 These are the commandments and the ordinances, which the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses unto the children of Israel in the plains of Moab by [  על   ] the Jordan at Jericho. 

The Hebrew word in the brackets is translated as ‘by’ or ‘on’. By referencing Moab which happens to be East of Jordan,  this verse is consistent with being written on the East side of the Jordan, in contrast to Deut 1:1

Deut 4: 22 but I [Moses] must die in this land, I must not go over  [  עבר  ] the Jordan; but ye are to go over, and possess that good land.

Here  [  עבר  ] Is being used to denote a direction. Since Moses did not enter Canaan and is depicted as speaking on the East of Jordan,  the direction is referring to the West of Jordan.

Examples can be multiplied.  {ETA 6/23/2018  In many verses} a person standing west of the Jordan who says  ‘[  עבר  ] Jordan’ will be referring to East of the Jordan.  A person standing East of the Jordan who says  ‘[  עבר  ] Jordan’ will be referring to West of the Jordan.   This is especially so when the speaker mentions other location that happen to be on the side of Jordan they are referring to. 

{ETA 6/23/2018 However, there may be exceptions:

The Rashbam on Deut 1:1 explains ‘beyond the Jordan’ was current among the inhabitants of the holy land. For them it meant the East side of the Jordan river. But, ‘beyond the Jordan’ may also refer to a region near Jerusalem by people in the desert thru which the Israelites had been traveling, i.e West of the Jordan river. 

[Using this Rashbam it suggests Deut 1:1 was written by an author on the west side of the Jordan, i.e. in the holy land.]

[Consider Number 32: 32 We will pass over armed before the LORD into the land of Canaan, and the possession of our inheritance shall remain with us beyond the Jordan.

Here the speaker is East of the Jordan and yet refers to the East of Jordan as ‘beyond the Jordan’ ! . But notice, the speaker is contrasting his position relative to the Canaan on the west of Jordan. Relative to Canaan (on the west of the Jordan}, the speaker is ‘beyond the Jordan’ which puts him on the east of Jordan. However, it could be the writer of this verse is already in the holy land, and thus refers to the east of Jordan as ‘beyond the Jordan’, consistent with Rashbam. 

I have not examined every instance of ‘beyond the Jordan’ in the Tenach and the term ‘beyond the Jordan’ could depend on context, period written, who is speaking, first or third part narration, Hebrew grammar etc: and would require a dissertation.]

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