Authors: Bible Difficulties
How well does it conform to his habit of mind or procedure observable in the rest of the book?
By means of this carefully worked-out formula, Wurthwein has devised a sound method of scientific objectivity and systematic procedure that serves to eliminate much of the reckless and ill-considered emendation foisted on the public as bona fide textual criticism.
What solid evidence is there for the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch?
It is common in liberal or neoorthodox circles to deny that Moses had anything to do with the composition of the Pentateuch. Most critics of that persuasion feel that the so-called Books of Moses were written by several different, anonymous authors beginning in the ninth century and concluding with the final portion, the "Priestly Code," around 445 B.C.--just in time for Ezra to read it aloud at the Feast of Tabernacles (cf. Neh. 8).
Still other scholars, especially those of the form-critical school, feel that rather little of the Pentateuch was actually written down until the time of Ezra, even though some portions of it may have existed as oral tradition for several centuries previous--perhaps even to the period of Moses himself. In view of the general consensus among non-Evangelical scholars that all claims to Mosaic authorship are spurious, it is well for us to review at least briefly the solid and compelling evidence, both internal and external, that the entire Pentateuch is the authentic work of Moses, under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit.
Biblical Testimony to Mosaic Authorship
The Pentateuch often refers to Moses as its author, beginning with Exodus 17:14: "And Yahweh said to Moses, `Write for me a memorial in a book...that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek.'" In Exodus 24:4 we read, "And Moses wrote all the words of Yahweh." In v.7 we are told, "And he took the book of the covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people." Other references to Moses' writing down the Pentateuch are found in Exodus 34:27, Numbers 33:1-2, and Deuteronomy 31:9, the last of which says, "And Moses wrote this law and delivered it to the priests." Two verses later it is made a standing requirement for the future that when "all Israel has come to appear before Yahweh, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing." This provision apparently comprises all of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and most of Deuteronomy (at least through chap. 30).
Later on, after the death of Moses, the Lord gives these directions to Joshua, Moses'
successor: "This book of the Law shall not depart from your Mouth, but you are to meditate in it day and night, in order that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it" (Josh. 1:8). The denial of Mosaic authorship would mean that every one of the above-cited verses is false and unworthy of acceptance. Joshua 8:32-34 records that with the congregation of Israel stationed outside the city of Shechem, on the slopes of Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim, Joshua read aloud from the Law of Moses inscribed on stones the passages in Leviticus and Deuteronomy referring to the blessings and curses, as Moses earlier had Deut. 27-28). If the Documentary Hypothesis is correct, then this account must also be rejected as a sheer fabrication. Other Old Testament references to the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch are 1 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 14:6; 21:8; Ezra 6:18; Nehemiah 13:1; Daniel 9:11-13; and Malachi 4:4. All these testimonies must also be rejected as totally in error.
Christ and the apostles likewise gave unequivocal witness that Moses was the author of the Torah (law). In John 5:46-57, Jesus said, "If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But if you do not believe his writings, how can you believe my words?" How indeed! Likewise, in John 7:19, Jesus said, "Did not Moses give you the Law? And yet none of you does the Law." If Christ's confirmation of Moses as the real author of the Pentateuch is set aside--as it is by the modern critical theory--it inescapably follows that the authority of Christ Himself is denied. For if He was mistaken about a factual, historical matter like this, then He might be mistaken about any other belief He held or doctrines He taught. In Acts 3:22, Peter said to his countrymen, "Moses indeed said, À Prophet shall the Lord God raise up to you'" (cf. Deut. 18:15). Paul affirmed in Romans 10:5 that "Moses writes that the man who practices righteousness based on the law will live by that righteousness." But the JEDP theory of Wellhausen and the rationalistic modern critics deny that Moses ever wrote any of those things. This means that Christ and the apostles were totally mistaken in thinking that he did. Such an error as this, in matters of historical fact that can be verified, raises a serious question as to whether any of the theological teaching, dealing with metaphysical matters beyond our powers of verification, can be received as either trustworthy or authoritative. Thus we see that the question of Mosaic authenticity as the composer of the Pentateuch is a matter of utmost concern to the Christian. The authority of Christ Himself is involved in this issue.
Internal Evidence of Mosaic Composition
In addition to the direct testimonies of the Pentateuchal passages quoted above, we have the witness of the incidental allusions to contemporary events or current issues, to social or political conditions, or to matters of climate or geography. When all such factors are fairly and properly weighed, they lead to this conclusion: the author of these books and his readers must originally have lived in Egypt. Furthermore, these factors indicate that they had little or no firsthand acquaintance with Palestine and knew of it only by oral tradition from their forefathers. We cite the following evidences.
1. The climate and weather referred to in Exodus are typically Egyptian, not Palestinian (cf. the reference to crop sequence in connection with the plague of hail, Exod. 9:31-32).
2. The trees and animals referred to in Exodus through Deuteronomy are all indigenous to Egypt or the Sinai Peninsula, but none of them are peculiar to Palestine. The shittim or acacia tree is native to Egypt and the Sinai, but it is hardly found in Canaan except around the Dead Sea. This tree furnished the wood for much of the tabernacle furniture.
The skins for its outer covering were the hide of the
, or dugong, which is foreign to Palestine but is found in the seas adjacent to Egypt and the Sinai. As for the lists of clean and unclean animals found in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14, these include some that are peculiar to the Sinai Peninsula, such as the
, or pygarg (Deut. 14:5); the
, or ostrich (Lev. 11:16); and the
, or wild antelope (Deut. 14:5). It is difficult to imagine how a list of this sort could have been made up nine hundred years later, after the Hebrew people had been living in a country not possessing any of these beasts.
3. Even more conclusive are the geographical references that betray the perspective of one who is personally unfamiliar with Palestine but is well acquainted with Egypt. (1) In Genesis 13:10, where the author wishes to convey to his readers how verdant the vegetation of the Jordan Valley was, he compares it to a well-know locality in the eastern part of the Egyptian Delta region, lying near Mendes, between Busiris and Tanis. He states that the Jordan Valley was like "the land of Egypt, as you go toward Zoar" (Egyp.
). Nothing could be plainer from this casual reference than that the author was writing for a readership unfamiliar with the appearance of regions in Palestine but personally acquainted with the scenery of Lower Egypt. Such could only have grown up in Egypt, and this fits in only with a Mosaic date of composition for the Book of Genesis.
(2) The founding of Kirjath-arba (the pre-Israelite name of Hebron in southern Judah) is stated in Numbers 13:22 to have taken place "seven years before Zoan in Egypt." This clearly implies that Moses' readers were well aware of the date of the founding of Zoan but unfamiliar with when Hebron--which became one of the foremost cities in Israel after the Conquest--was first founded. (3) In Genesis 33:18, there is a reference to "Salem, a city of Shechem in the land of Canaan." To a people who had been living in Palestine for over seven centuries since the Conquest (according to the date given this passage by the Wellhausen School), it seems rather strange that they would have to be told that so outstanding a city as Shechem was located "in the land of Canaan." But it would be perfectly appropriate to a people who had not yet settled there--as was true of the congregation of Moses.
4. The atmosphere and setting of the desert prevails all through the narrative, from Exodus 16 to the end of Deuteronomy (though there are some agricultural references looking forward to settled conditions in the land that they were soon to conquer). The prominence accorded to a large tent or tabernacle as the central place of worship and assembly would hardly be relevant to a readership living in Palestine for over seven centuries and familiar only with the temple of Solomon or Zerubbabel as their central sanctuary. The Wellhausen explanation for this, that the tabernacle was simply an artificial extrapolation from the temple, does not fit the facts; the temple was much different in size and furnishings from those described for the tabernacle in the Torah. But even this theory of historical fiction furnishes no explanation of why Ezra's contemporaries would have been so interested in a mere tent as to devote to it so many chapters in Exodus (Ex. 25-40) and to refer to it in nearly three-fourths of Leviticus and very frequently also in Numbers and Deuteronomy. No other example can be found in all world literature for such absorbing attention to a structure that never really existed and that had no bearing on the generation for which it was written.
5. There are many evidences of a technical, linguistic nature that could be adduced to support an Egyptian background for the text of the Torah. Detailed examples of this may be found in my
Survey of Old Testament Introduction
(pp. 111-114). Suffice it to say that a far greater number of Egyptian names and loan words are found in the Pentateuch than in any other section of Scripture. This is just what we would expect from an author who was brought up in Egypt, writing for a people who were reared in the same setting as he.
6. If the Pentateuch was composed between the ninth and fifth centuries B.C., as the Documentary school maintains, and if it extrapolated the religious practices and political perspectives of the fifth and sixth centuries back to the times of Moses (by way of a pious fraud), it is reasonable to expect that this spurious document, concocted long after Jerusalem had been taken over as the capital of the Israelite kingdom, would surely have referred to Jerusalem by name on many occasions. It would certainly have included some prophecy of the future conquest of that city and its coming status as the location of the permanent temple of Yahweh. But a careful examination of the entire text of Genesis through Deuteronomy comes up with the astonishing result that Jerusalem is never once mentioned by name. To be sure, Mount Moriah appears in Genesis 22 as the location of Abraham's attempted sacrifice of Isaac, but there is no suggestion that it was to be the future location of the temple.
In Genesis 14 there is a reference to Melchizedek as the "King of Salem"--not
"Jerusalem"--but again without any hint that it would later become the religious and political capital of the Hebrew Commonwealth. In Deuteronomy 12:5-18 there are references to a "place that Yahweh your God shall choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling." While these references are general enough to include such places as Shiloh and Gibeon, where the tabernacle was kept for extended periods of time before the erection of Solomon's temple, it is fair to assume that Deuteronomy 12:5 was mainly intended as a prediction of the establishment of the Jerusalem temple. Yet it is almost impossible to account for the failure of this allegedly late and spurious work of Moses to mention Jerusalem by name, when there was every incentive to do so. Only the supposition that the Torah was genuinely Mosaic, or at least composed well before the capture of Jerusalem in 1000 B.C., can account for its failure to mention the city at all by name.
7. In dating literary documents, it is of greatest importance to take stock of the key terms that are apparently current at the time the author did his work. In the case of a religious book, the titles by which God is characteristically referred to are of pivotal significance.
During the period between 850-450 B.C., we find increasing prominence given to the title
(most frequently rendered in English versions by "the LORD of Hosts").
This appellation, which lays particular stress on the omnipotence of Israel's Convenant-God, occurs about sixty-seven times in Isaiah (late eight century), eighty three times in Jeremiah (late seventh and early sixth centuries), thirteen times in the two chapters of Haggai (late sixth century), and fifty-one times in the fourteen chapters of Zechariah (late sixth to early fifth century). These prophets cover nearly the whole span of time during which the Pentateuchal corpus was being composed by Messrs. J, E, D, and P; yet amazingly enough, the title "Yahweh of Hosts" is never once to be found in the entire Pentateuch. From the standpoint of the science of comparative literature, this would be considered the strongest kind of evidence that the Torah was composed at a period when the title "Yahweh of Hosts" was not in use--therefore, all of it, even the so-called Priestly Code, must have been composed before the eighth century B.C. If this is a valid deduction, then the entire Documentary Hypothesis must be altogether abandoned.
8. If the Priestly Code portion of the Pentateuch was truly composed in the sixth and fifth centuries B.C., it would be expected that distinctively Levitical institutions and enrichments of public worship introduced from the time of David onward would find frequent mention in the Pentateuch. Such distinctives would surely include the guilds of temple singers, who were divided into twenty-four courses by King David (1 Chron. 25) and were often referred to in the titles of the Psalms. Yet no organized guilds of Levitical singers are ever once referred to in the Torah.