Our first topic of the year is one that I have been asked about, directly or obliquely, a number of times in comments and correspondence: Did Moses write every word (or most of) the Pentateuch (Torah) or are the critics correct that the Pentateuch is essentially a patchwork quilt of at least four documents (popularly called J,E,D, and P – the “Documentary Hypothesis“)?
It shouldn’t surprise you that my answer to the above question is “no” (to all parts). I really don’t think the two alternatives that people who ask the question present for consideration adequately represent the situation, and so, a coherent solution. I’m no fan of JEDP (I think it has serious circular-reasoning problems), but I don’t think Moses wrote all the Pentateuch either, as parts of it are demonstrably late. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
To start us off, I offer this short (only four pages) essay written by Jacob Milgrom, an expert in Jewish law (thirty years in the field, over 250 scholarly articles to his credit, along with some hefty commentaries in various books of the Torah, especially Leviticus and Numbers). Milgrom wrote this essay for the believing Jewish community as you will readily discern. Although I wouldn’t say some of the things he says in the essay, it’s a good start for introducing the fact that the question above about Mosaic authorship is a legitimate one. Most students of the Bible, especially those of the evangelical persuasion, are simply unaware that the issue isn’t “liberals versus Bible believers.” The question arises from the biblical text itself. But picking up on that requires a very close knowledge of the Old Testament text — that part of the Bible scarcely read (and quickly when it is) much less truly studied. Milgrom’s article, written for the lay person, will give you a couple clear cases in point that most readers would never spot and think about. And they are the tip of the iceberg. The question is a real one.
So, please have a look. I’ll look forward to your comments. I’ll come back to the article in the next post and add some other material to get us started in how we need to think about this issue. Naturally, it will relate to how we think about inspiration (and perhaps inerrancy). Dig in!