Moses wrote the Torah?
Posted by Tod BillingsPresident of the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers, Astronomy lab instructor at the University of Arkansas (UALR), and owner and maintainer of the popular "Godless Zone" online message boardAugust 1, 1999..
By Tod Billings
omebody below, I believe it was Todd, wanted to know why I didn't buy the traditional authorship of the Torah. That alleged author is Moses.
I told him I'd cover the issue when I have time, and that is now.
There are several reasons that I don't believe Moses wrote the Torah. Let's start with the most obvious one: It is never claimed in any of the Torah that Moses was the author. Another obvious piece of evidence is the fact that Moses is never spoken of in the first person. He is always spoken of in the third person. Granted, neither of these are direct evidence themselves against Moses being the author, but they do show there is no evidence that he did, and raises the question: why do the Jews and Christian traditionally believe Moses is the author? The obvious answer is to give it authority, and that is not a good reason to accept the authorship! That is like saying: if Moses didn't write it, then it lacks authority, and for that reason, Moses must have written it.
Secondly, there are passages in the text that indicate the Torah wasn't written at the time the events described in the Torah took place.
In Genesis 14:14 we read: "When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he mustered his retainers, born into his household, numbering three-hundred and eighteen, and went in pursuit as far as Dan."
However, "Dan" wasn't called "Dan" until well after Moses death, but was called "Laish" until after the Hebrews invaded Canaan. This is found in the Bible itself. Read in Judges 18:27:
"They proceeded to take Laish, a people tranquil and unsuspecting [how typical of those abhorrent barbarians], and they put them to the sword and burned down the town... They rebuilt the town and settled there, and they named the town Dan, after their ancestor Dan who was Israel's son. Originally, however, the name of the town was Laish."
So think hard for a second: if the account in Genesis calls this place Dan, it had to have been written after it was called Dan!
To borrow Thomas Paine's analogy:
New York used to be called New Amsterdam until 1664. So if we read an undated story that refers to New York as New York, we know it was written after 1664.
Since Dan wasn't called Dan until after Moses' death, it stands to reason that whoever wrote that account wrote it after Moses death!
There are other similar cases:
In Genesis 36:31 we read: "And these are the kings that reigned in Edom, before there reigned any king over the children of Israel."
The same reasoning employed above applies here. To use Thomas Paine's analogy again, "Now, were any dateless writings to be found in which, speaking of any past events, the writer should say, 'These things happened before there was any Congress in America, or before there was any Convention in France, it would be evidence that such writing could not have been written before, and could only be written after there was a Congress in America, or a Convention in France, as the case might be; and, consequently, that it could not be written by any person who died before there was a Congress in the one country or a Convention in the other."
It is not only evidence that the author of this passage lived well after Moses, and after kings ruled Israel (which would mean it was written almost four-hundred years, at least, after Moses death), but it doesn't make much sense if it wasn't written after there were kings in Israel!
Furthermore, since the plural form is used, "kings," it would indicate it was written after there had been several kings ruling Israel.
Another piece of evidence: throughout the Torah we read punishments that require bringing people to the city gates to stone them. However, Moses didn't live in a city: he wandered around in the wilderness of Sinai until his death, so why would he write a law pertaining to gates that didn't yet exist? It would have seemed rather silly to those reading his law. That indicates to me that the Torah was written after Israel was a country, and had city gates!
Another piece of evidence is the fact that Moses is never spoken of in the first person. He is always spoken of in the third person.
What of Numbers 22:3 which states "Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth." If Moses really said this in reference to himself, he is vain and arrogant, not "very meek!" To quote Paine again, if Moses wrote this, "...it is a lie in sentiment."
More evidence is very obvious to anybody who has studied the Torah indepth: the different writing styles found within, and the different, but consistent, references to God. This is the basis of modern scholar claims that the Torah was written by at least four different authors of a period of centuries: J (or Y), E, P, and D, or Jehovah (Yahweh), Elohim, Priestly, and Deuteronomical.
Examples are found in the very first two chapters.
In Genesis 1, God is referred to only as "God," or "elohim," but never as "YHWH-God." In Genesis 2, however, God is referred to consistently as "YHWH-God," employing his name as well as his title.
It is a known fact that refraining from using God's name was a later development in Judaism, not arising until the exile, which would of course imply that chapter 2 was written considerably before chapter 1.
It seems odd that Moses would write some chapters consistently referring to God as simply "God," and then write other chapters consistently referring to God as "YHWH-God," and never interchange the two within the same chapter. Hmmm...
It not only indicates the same person didn't write the Torah, but that this person wasn't Moses, and that parts of the Torah were written as late as the exile or afterwards.
That is all for now, but on a final note, I'd like to point out another reason for doubting that Moses wrote the Torah: It was common place in all cultures of ancient times to attribute literature to cultural heroes as a way to legitimize it. An example from the Judeo-Christian faith is the book of Enoch, unanimously agreed by Jews, Christians, and skeptics not to have been the author of this book.
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