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Who wrote the Pentateuch?

Sexton Blake

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That is the first five books of the bible.


The bland answer used to be Moses, and some poorly educated people like those at bibleinfo, still claim that, but:


"For thousands of years people believed that the five books of the Pentateuch were written by Moses. The Talmud even explicitly says so. But it couldn't have been, academics say.


Even a cursory read of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, shows that the Torah could not have been written by a single person – because of differences in style, language and contradiction in the texts, among other things. Scholars studying the bible in Germany during the 18th and 19th centuries concluded that it was a composite work by editors tying together earlier texts written by very different authors.


This conclusion is based on four characteristics recurring in the Torah. (1) The language used in different sections differs widely. (2) Varying ideology. (3) Contradictions in the narrative. (4) The text is strangely repetitive in part, for no obvious reason, indicating that two versions of a single story were included."




And there are more problems with Moses:


Apart from the fact that there is no evidence that Moses even existed, or that the exodus story happened, there has been a long recognition that Moses did not write the first five books of the bible:


Issac ibn Yashush (11th century):

A list of 36 Edomite kings in Genesis 36 all lived long after Moses died.


Abraham ibn Ezra (12th century):

Some passages described places Moses had never visited.

Some passages refer to Moses in the third hand, so written by someone else.

Some passages use terms that Moses would not have known about.

Some passages used language that reflected another time and another locale.


Carlstadt (16th century):

The tradition that the author of Joshua wrote about Moses' death is wrong

because it is written in the same style as the texts that precede it.


Thomas Hobbes (17th century):

Pointed out the uses of "to this day" which showed it was talking of

earlier times rather than contemporary writing.


Isaac de la Peytere (17th century);

Moses used the words "across the Jordan" in the first verse of

Deuteronomy. This would have only been used by someone on the other side, in

Israel, west of the Jordan referring to what Moses did on the east of the

Jordan. Moses never went to Israel.


Spinoza (17th century):

Third person accounts of Moses. He calls himself "the humblest man on

Earth", which would be a contradiction. References to geographical locales

by names they gained long after Moses died. Deut 34: "There never arose

another prophet like Moses" could hardly have been written by Moses.




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For an in depth view as to who wrote the 'Five books of Moses' I recommend "Who Wrote the Bible" by Richard E Friedman and its companion work "The Bible - with sources revealed" by the same author. The author makes the compelling case, and one that is widely accepted even by religious scholars, that a number of writers (As pointed out in the OP) wrote the first five books. Well, it was more like wrote some, redacted and added to others. A real tangle at times. The authors are known as D, P, J, E and R.

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