Talk:Mosaic authorship

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Article started[edit]

Started this article, because the phrase "Mosaic authorship" is mentioned ni quite a few articles dealing with biblical scholarship but the article describing it does not exist.

This has been written off the top of the head and is intended simply to scetch the broad outline of what the article needs to cover. Please feel free to amend, improve, add references, etc etc.

PiCo 01:24, 15 July 2007 (UTC)

I'm uncertain whther it is worth mentioning the errors that Hoffmann and Jacob Benno pointed out in the DH. I suspect most of their points were taken care of by the newer formulations that date P to be earlier. Wolf2191 22:48, 31 August 2007 (UTC)
I think we should stick to explaining the MA rather than the DH. There might be room for this in the DH page of course. But what did Hoffman and Jacobs say? (As for redating P, I'm impressed by what Friedman says on that subject, arguing that the Tabernacle was real, not fictional, as Wellhausen had said). PiCo 23:53, 31 August 2007 (UTC)

From NEJ (Encyclopedia Judaica)on Hoffmann: "His biblical investigations, too, were directed against biblical criticism. These writings, which occupied him for many years, were viewed by Hoffmann as "a holy undertaking… an obligatory battle to answer decisively these new critics who come as oppressors to violate the holy Torah." In his work opposing Wellhausen, Hoffmann rejected the theories of "sources," but he did not formulate an original method of biblical investigation, relying on the basic assumption of "Torah from heaven." In his commentaries to Leviticus and Deuteronomy he relied on rabbinic homiletical and exegetical interpretations for an understanding of these books, as well as offering his own innovative ideas, often based on comparisons between biblical Hebrew and other Semitic languages. While his approach to biblical investigation was essentially the result of the conditions of his time and place, they have stood the test of time and are still studied."

On Jacob Benno: "His principal field of activity in biblical research was the Pentateuch. Although he was not a fundamentalist, his conclusions, as a result of his study of the text rather than on religious grounds, were a complete denial of modern Bible criticism – both textual criticism and Higher Criticism with its documentary hypothesis. He regarded the traditional text more reliable than the ancient translations. He considered the arbitrary textual emendations of Higher Criticism to be unscientific because their only purpose was to validate the latter's own assumptions. Moreover, he accused the school of Higher Criticism of antisemitic trends and of prejudices against Judaism. His opinions were propounded in Der Pentateuch, exegetischkritische Forschungen (1905) and Quellenscheidung und Exegese im Pentateuch (1916). He clarified biblical ideas and expressions which had not been properly understood in Im Namen Gottes (1903) and Auge um Auge, eine Untersuchung zum Alten und Neuen Testament (1929). He also developed a theory concerning the internal rhythm of the Bible, which is expressed by the repetition of key words in set numbers in the narratives of the Torah and its laws, in Die Abzaehlungen in den Gesetzen der Buecher Leviticus und Numeri (1909). His major exegetical work is Das erste Buch der Torah: Genesis, uebersetzt und erklaert (1934). While Jacob did not accept the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch nor the dogma of literal inspiration, he found in its composition so much literary unity and spiritual harmony that all search for its "sources" appeared to him an exercise in futile hypothesis. His comprehensive commentaries on Exodus and a section of Leviticus are extant in manuscript. (An excerpt from the commentary on Exodus was published in Judaism, 13 (1964), 3–18.)" Note, as a Reform Rabbi Jacob dis not believe in MA, but his work is used by Nechama Liebowitz and others to bolster MA.

See also this guy [1].

And don't forget about the Hertz Chumash Wolf2191 01:05, 2 September 2007 (UTC)

He considered the arbitrary textual emendations of Higher Criticism to be unscientific because their only purpose was to validate the latter's own assumptions. An example of this is the pair saq-amtahat, the first characterizing E and the second J according to nearly all critics. the appearance of saq in Gen 42:27 contradicts the source-critical division into documents. The "solution" to this is either to emend saq to amtahat or to attribute its appearance to the Redactor. (In progress) —Preceding unsigned comment added by Wolf2191 (talkcontribs) 02:30, 2 September 2007 (UTC)

That's an interesting blog ([2]) and I'll read more of it. He raises some interesting points. But let me say first that I wish more people would read the Prolegomena before they venture opinions on it. It's not about the documentary hypothesis at alol, contrary to what a lot of people seem to think - it's about the development of Israelite and Jewish religion, using Wellhausen's analysis of the sources of the biblical texts as its basis. It takes the DH for granted. W's views on the DH were set out in an earlier book, called, I believe, "Sources of the Pentateuch" or something like that - it's mentioned in the documentary hypothesis article.
The blogger is quite right to say that earlier writers had anticipated W's arguments - W's aim was to defend and promote the views of earlier scholars whose thinking tended in the direction he wanted to go himself - a late P. He wanted this because it supported his views on the late development of Judaism. He saw Israelite religion as originally polytheistic, with a royal cult developing in the Kingdom period and finally a putsch by the Temple priests.
This brings us to the interesting questoin of W's anti-Semitism. I haven't read anything by him that I could construe as anti-Semitic - nothing hateful about Jews at all. BUT, he obviously wanted the Jews as a people to be absorbed into mainstream European society...BUT again, I get the distinct impression that he saw European society as essentially secular, not religious. If the Temple priests saw Temple priests as being the highest estate to which man could aspire, Wellhausen saw the German university professor as the pinnacle of human evolution. I don't think he had a religious bone in his body.
I started writing an article about the Prolegomena but didn't quite finish it - but if you go the article on Julius Wellhausen you should find a link to it.
If you think Benno and Hoffman are important, by all means put them in here. But it's probably best to mention only the essential names - the world is full of scholars and exegetes, and there simply isn't room for all of them. (I'd encourage you to write articles about them, too. PiCo 11:55, 3 September 2007 (UTC)

David Zvi Hoffman has a decent article already. I will work on a Jacob article. In terms of MA Hoffman is basically THE main player on the Orthodox side which is why his work need be mentioned. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Wolf2191 (talkcontribs) 03:27, 16 September 2007 (UTC)

Good source[edit]

[3] good source. Wolf2191 05:50, 21 October 2007 (UTC)

(I made your latest into a new section, as the page was getting a bit long and unweildy). Yes it is a good source - by Gil Student I gather?. I have a little trouble distinguishing his own ideas from those of others that he summarises. But it would make a good basis for organising the article - on the basis of various ideas on just how Moses wrote the Torah, whether by direct dictation and all at one time, by dictation but not all at one time, whether Genesis was based on written sources available to Moses, etc. PiCo 06:55, 21 October 2007 (UTC)

To use Students own words "It's all a (poorly written) summary of an essay by R. Menachem Mendel Kasher in the addenda to one of the volumes of Torah Shelemah." Will try to work on it some other timeWolf2191 14:32, 21 October 2007 (UTC)

This article[edit]

I like very much this article but would like the mention of some of the oldest manuscripts of the torah so as to show that the latest possible date for the writing of the torah i know there are manuscripts predating that of the dead sea scrolls but I am not sure what they are named-- 11:56, 22 October 2007 (UTC)

I found one notable manuscript at Ketef Hinnom was found a manuscript dating to 600 BCE i will finish writing this later-- 11:59, 22 October 2007 (UTC)

In 1979, two silver scrolls that were used as amulets, inscribed with portions of the well-known Priestly Blessing of the Book of Numbers were discovered in a burial cave near Jerusalem. These scrolls have been dated to close to 600 BCE based on late Iron Age artifacts found in the undisturbed area of the tomb where they were located. Also based on paleographic evidence Erik Waaler, in his book "A revised date for Pentateuchal texts?" published in 2002, dates the amulets somewhat earlier than the other artifacts in the cave (725-650 BCE). Should these datings be correct than the dating of Torah to the time of Ezra would be incorrect and the date of the Torah would be much older than what most Biblical critics think it is, it would also mean it would be more likely for the Torah to have been written because of this earlier date.-- 12:33, 22 October 2007 (UTC)

That the amulets are dated to the 7th century only proves that Blessing inscribed on them was known in the 7th century, not that the entire Torah was known. But yes, there is room in the article for a paragraph on archaeological and other evidence of the antiquity of the Torah. But (again a "but") be sure to quote reputable academic/scholarly, sources, don't rely on your own deductions. PiCo 15:31, 22 October 2007 (UTC)

Possible evidence of Mosaic authorship[edit]

In general, Wiki articles try to avoid lists and use normal prose instead - do you think you could re-write your new section as paragraphs, using lists only when you need to? (Or at the very least, introducing lists with short prose paragrpahs explaining what they mean) PiCo (talk) 17:41, 11 December 2007 (UTC)

My deletion from the Evidence section[edit]

Java, you really do have a repeated line - your 8th dot-point reads: "The Torah uses phrases which are of Egyptian origin in which the words are translated verbatim", and your 10th: "Furthermore, the Torah uses phrases which are of Egyptian origin in which the words are translated verbatim". The footnotes for both refer to the same book and same page-number.PiCo (talk) 02:59, 12 December 2007 (UTC)

Revision of the Evidence section[edit]

Thanks Java, IMO it reads much better this way. I wonder if you could go even further - under the subheading "Other", some points deal with archaeological evidence, others with critical views, and some with linguistic evidence - perhaps the linguistic material could be joined with the Egyptian material and two new subheadings made for the other material? (Incidentally, this illustrates why prose is so often preferred to dot-points - it helps to structure the material, as well as in constructing an "argument", although of course we're not supposed to argue cases on Wiki).PiCo (talk) 03:15, 12 December 2007 (UTC)

Later: Congratulations on your hard work on this. I'll just make a few comments that you might or might not like to take up:

  • There are still a few dot-points left - perhaps you meant to delete the asterisks that create them, I don't know, but certainly the dots don't seem to me to be needed.
  • The "Egyptian terminology" subsection begins: "Certain forms in standard Biblical Hebrew are borrowed from second-millennium Egyptian." This sentence isn't really needed, even as an introduction to what follows - I'd prefer just to launch straight into the substance. As you rely entirely on Hoffmeier for this section, it might be advisable to begin with something like: "According to James Hoffmeier, etc etc". You'd then need only one footnote for the entire subsection.
  • The "Biblical manuscripts" subsection still has a dot-point, but it's not needed - if you delete it, you'll have a normal paragrpah for this subsection. The subsection also has no reference, although it mentions a book by Erik Waaler. If he's your source, you might like to put a footnote referencing his book at the end of the paragraph. I'm uncertain about the status of the last sentence: "Should these datings be correct than the dating of Torah to the time of Ezra would be incorrect and the date of the Torah would be much older than what most Biblical critics think it is, it would also mean it would be more likely for the Torah to have been written by Moses because of this earlier date."If this is from Waaler, then fine, but if it isn't, it needs to be referenced.
  • "Correct portrayal of ancient history" is a terrible title. Better to call it "Archaeology". Again, the dot-point can be easily turned into a paragraph.
  • "Antiquity of the Hebrew..." Personally I'd combine this with the Egyptian terminology subsection and call the whole thing "Linguistic evidence" or something like that - but if you want to have two subsections, they should at least be placed together, since they deal with similar subject matter.
  • "Other". This subsection is largely about the antiquity of the Hebrew in the Torah, and should be included in that subsection. The very first point, about the trend to view the Pentateuch as a literary unit, relates to criticial reassessments, and perhaps could stay under the "Other" heading. Again, the dot-points could go.

I hope this is a help to you - I don't like to touch it myself as you'd probably revert anything I did! PiCo (talk) 07:43, 12 December 2007 (UTC)

The reason why the sentence starts with "Certain forms in standard Biblical Hebrew are borrowed from second-millennium Egyptian" is because different dialects of Egyptian have existed over time and the Egyptian found in the Torah was used during 2000-1000 BC if the Torah had Egyptian from say 500BC this would say the text was authored in 500BC. Furthermore it is very strange that if J document, E document, P document, D document were supposedly developed over a span of time starting at about 900BC after the dialect of Egyptian used in the Torah was already extinct! --Java7837 (talk) 08:00, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
You misunderstand my point: I was saying that you could shorten the paragraph, and thus make it more readable, by dropping the introductory sentence and going straight into the main subject: something like this: "According to James Hoffmeier, the Torah uses words and phrases of 2nd millenium BC Egyptian origin - Hoffmeier cites the words used for basket, bulrushes, pitch, reeds, river, and river-bank in the narrative of Moses' nativity, and the word for magician, among others, in the Joseph narrative. Hoffmeier concludes... (and then give a quote from Hoffmeier saying what conclusions he draws from this). This would be much more succinct and would also source your material in Hoffmeier much more securely. (Incidentally, I think you'll find you've misused the word "verbatim" in your present text - it has no connection with translation). PiCo (talk) 09:43, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
(I should have congratulated you again on the work you've done on this section - it looks much more professional now. I really would find another word or phrase for "verbatim", though - it looks very odd to a native English speaker).PiCo (talk) 09:58, 12 December 2007 (UTC)


According to what I know, the Torah's language lead people to believe it was written during the era of the Second Temple... Siúnrá (talk) 17:24, 23 March 2008 (UTC)

"although in none of these is it unambiguously stated that the five books of the modern Torah are meant, as opposed to 'instruction' in its more general sense."

In truth in these sources the reference is to תורה הזאת - THIS Torah - Its certainly referring to a specific and well-known (must be a better term) document - not instruction in the general sense.Are you sure your statement isn't OR?Wolf2191 (talk) 03:06, 10 October 2008 (UTC)

The point being made in the quoted sentence (taken from our article) is that the language used is never unambiguous - it's never clear whether the "this" of "this torah" means the Five Books or a specific instruction. But I think Siúnrá might actually be talking about the wider question of whether the Hebrew of the Pentateuch can be identified as belonging to the 5th century and later. I'm not sure of the answer to that (if that is the question). Certainly there are good reasons, on quite other grounds, for believing that the Torah was given its current form in the 2nd Temple period, but this doesn't rule out a core tradition dating from a much earlier period. (Amos and Hosaea, for example, both writing in the 8th century, make reference to an Exodus, which suggests that the Exodus as a tradition dates from at least that period). PiCo (talk) 09:13, 10 October 2008 (UTC)

Sorry! I should have started a new section, I was commenting on the statement, not on Siunra. My point was that in some of the verses the term Torah simply can't be referring to instruction "in the general sense". It refers to a SPECIFIC document - whether the Pentateuch , D or some other document.

Regarding the language question - this is the subject of disagreement among scholars. The acccepted view at the moment is that the language is consistent with Hezekiah's time but these things are "liable to change withou warning".Wolf2191 (talk) 17:21, 10 October 2008 (UTC)

Yes, the statements about "this torah" are always referring to a document - as in the torah in Deuteronomy which Moses sets on a scroll beside the Ark. The question is always just where the "edges", so to speak, of each torah-scroll lie - the Deuteronomy scroll seems to refer to the law-code in Deuteronomy, for example, and the other references are also mostly to law-codes (the major exception probably being the injunction against the Amalakites in Exodus). But are you saying that our article is inadequate in expressing this? PiCo (talk) 07:09, 11 October 2008 (UTC)

"Instruction in a general sense" might imply oral instruction - I'd prefer "as opposed to an earlier document that was later incorporated into the Pentateuch" or something along those lines. What do you say?Wolf2191 (talk) 01:12, 12 October 2008 (UTC)

I see your point. This is the full passage: "Statements implying belief in Mosaic authorship of torah (instruction) are also found in Joshua,[3] Kings,[4] Chronicles,[5] Ezra[6] and Nehemiah,[7] although in none of these is it unambiguously stated that the five books of the modern Torah are meant, as opposed to "instruction" in its more general sense." Perhaps the answer is simply to shorten the passage, like this: "Statements implying belief in Mosaic authorship of torah (instruction) are also found in Joshua,[3] Kings,[4] Chronicles,[5] Ezra[6] and Nehemiah,[7] although in none of these is it unambiguously stated that the five books of the modern Torah are meant." I think this is a bit more elegant (as English). What do you think? PiCo (talk) 05:55, 13 October 2008 (UTC)

Done! Thanks.Wolf2191 (talk) 13:12, 13 October 2008 (UTC)

Catholic Encyclopedia[edit]

Catholic Encyclopedia specifically says that the Torah itself says Moses wrote this, there is no reason what so ever to remove this --Alpha166 (talk) 09:50, 18 December 2008 (UTC)

Easton's Bible Dictionary says the exact same thing. --Alpha166 (talk) 09:57, 18 December 2008 (UTC)

Hi Alpha. Thanks for coming to the talk page. I'll paste your edited version of the lead in here and then explain the problems with it.

Mosaic authorship is the traditional ascription to Moses of the authorship of the five books of the Torah or Pentateuch - Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus and Deuteronomy.
There's nothing wrong with this sentence - it's a tight, concise definition of the subject.
According to [the] Catholic Encyclopedia...
This is the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1911, a source almost a century old. Always use the most recent source available - scholarly opinions change, and the more recent are built on, and take account of, later evidence and thinking.
Catholic Encyclopedia, is a famous religious Encyclopedia as is Jewish Encyclopedia, and Encyclopedia Judaica, that is why I cited it. Furthermore several wikipedia articles are derived from and cite the Catholic Encyclopedia
...the belief in Mosaic authorship is first found explicitly expressed in the Torah itself,...
Be careful of the meaning of the word "first" - first in history, or first in the order in which we read the books of the bible? In any case, it's not the view of modern scholars, including Catholic ones, that the Torah was written "first", in the sense of before any other books of the Tanakha. This comes back to what I said above about avoiding sources a century old.
...other parts of the Old Testament, and the New Testament, also express Mosaic authorship.
What point are you making here? Or rather, what point is the 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia making? Ok, I know what the point is: if Holy Scripture says a thing is so, then it is so. But this is a religious argument, not a scholarly one - in scholarship, there can be no appeal to religious authority. (Again this brings up the importance of keeping clear of 1911 encyclopedias - modern Catholic scholars such as, e.g., Joseph Blenkinsopp, would never make an appeal to scriptural authority in the course of an argument about biblical origins. Neither would Cardinal Ratzinger).
Complete misunderstanding I cited Catholic Encyclopedia to show the tradition dates to the torah itself. I was only trying to show that the torah isn't anonymous. I took a class in critical Biblical studies, and the professor of the class was teaching my class the hypothesis, a student ask the professor, isn't the Pentateuch anonymous, and he said no. Then he said the tradition of Moses authoring the Torah, is indeed a very old tradition, and the Pentateuch itself ascribes itself to Moses, but that even though that is so, it disagrees with the evidence.
The attribution of the Torah to Moses, is also expressed by the early Roman historian, Josephus Flavius, and several other historians. The attribution of the Torah to Moses is also found in the Talmud, a collection of Jewish traditions and exegesis that were put into writing from 300 to the 500 CE,...
The same point applies: ancient historians and 5th century rabbis are not authorities on Torah origins, no more than the 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia. Use recent scholarship, not ancient.
I mentioned Josephus, to show how early the tradition is, and to show it predates the putting down into writing of the talmud, and also you to seem to misunderstand the Talmud, the Mishnah part of the Talmud was put into writing about the time of 300 CE, true, but it also mentions earlier ruling of the Jewish Sanhedrin, the one of the most famous rabbis of the Talmud was Hillel he was born in 110BCE, he also was one of the past presidents of it, for example, to name one of the numerous rabbis of the Talmud who predate Christianity. --Alpha166 (talk) 10:53, 18 December 2008 (UTC)
...and was based on the several verses in the Torah describing Moses writing this "torah".
Exactly, although it should probably say simply "torah" rather than "this torah". The word "torah" means instruction, and the Five Books several times speak of Moses writing "instruction" on scrolls. What they don't do, ever, is describe him writing the entire Five Books. That's the crux of what we're talking about.
This is like saying if the Quran say something like "and Muhammad wrote this Quran" it means that one chapter, since Quran literally means recitation. You are simply misunderstanding the intended meaning, for example mitzvah means commandment in Hebrew, despite this is only used in reference to the commandments of the Torah.--Alpha166 (talk) 11:02, 18 December 2008 (UTC)
The Talmudic commentators advanced several versions of just how Moses came to write the Torah,...
Do you see the point here? The talmudic rabbis, writing in the early centuries of the Christian era, inferred from references in the Hamush to Moses "writing torah" that he had written everything, not just the parts occurring next to these statements. And then they began constructing theories as to how Moses had done this...
...ranging from direct dictation by God to a less direct divine inspiration stretching over the forty years in the wilderness. Later rabbis (and the Talmudic rabbis as well - see tractate Bava Basra 15a) and Christian scholars noticed some difficulties with the idea of Moses authoring the entire Torah, notably the fact that the book of Deuteronomy describes Moses' death; later versions of the tradition therefore held that some portions of the Torah were added by others - the death of Moses in particular was ascribed to Joshua.
This section is a little clumsy at one point (it's recursive, meaning that it curls back on itself - prose should flow from point A to point B without going through point C in between), but pretty correct in it's broad outline.
Joshua was a prophet according to the Bible, who became the leader of the Israelites after the death of Moses. The Book of Joshua, appears right after the Torah in the Bible.
Which leaves me, and the average reader, mystified as to the point being made. You can assume a certain level of knowledge in your readers, notably the knowledge that there's a Book of Joshua and that it comes right after the Five.
True I should probably assume the readers of the article know there is a book of Joshua
Mosaic authorship was accepted with very little discussion by both Jews and Christians until the 17th century, when the rise of secular scholarship and the associated willingness to subject even the Bible to the test of reason led to its rejection by mainstream biblical scholars. The majority of modern scholars believe that the Torah is the product of many hands, stretching over many centuries, reaching its final form only around the 6th and 5th centuries BCE.
This is ok, although a bit clumsy.

So, I hope you can see the points I'm making. Your additions/changes are based on the use of an inappropriate source (the 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia - it's scholarship is seriously outdated), and on an inappropriate appeal to authorities which are not recognised as authoritative in this context (the New Testament, Josephus etc).

Please let me know how you react to this - and remember, we are all trying to achieve the same thing, no matter how much we might disagree, so let us be civil and civilised, ok? PiCo (talk) 10:26, 18 December 2008 (UTC)

Anonymous or not? (continuation from previous thread)[edit]

All I was trying to say is that the book isn't anonymous. Mosaic authorship is a very old authorship hypothesis. Furthermore, if you want people to believe in the documentary hypothesis fine, but don't misrepresent the torah by claiming its anonymous, to try to make your argument more plausible, when the text isn't anonymous. Also don't misrepresent the Talmud, to make seem as though it only contains rulings from around 300 to 500 which is false, it mentions for example the Council of Jamnia which happened in the first century. --Alpha166 (talk) 11:13, 18 December 2008 (UTC)
Hi again. I've changed the formatting a little to make what we've done so far more readable. Anyway, thanks for clarifying the point that most concerns you, namely your view that the Torah is not anonymous. I think I should tell you that this isn't the view of the vast majority of biblical scholars today. It's perfectly true that the Torah several times describes Moses writing torah, but (and this is the crucial point), it's never absolutely clear that he's writing more than the lines or chapters surrounding that statement. Note the word "unambiguously". Your professor has chosen to understand the passages in one sense, but the other sense isn't excluded. Your professor is (or was?) no doubt a good and religious man, and I certainly don't see it as my task in life to undermine anyone's religious faith. Beliefs, however, are a different matter, when those beliefs are testable by reason and logic.
So let us take some of the passages describing Moses writing torah, and I'll try to demonstrate how they don't unambiguously apply beyond the immediate context. At Exodus 17:14 Yahweh instructs Moses to "write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven." Clearly, all that Moses is to write is an oracle about the destruction of Amalek, no more. At Exodus 24:4 we have: "And Moses wrote all the words of YHWH..." All what words? Yahweh has just finished delivering a law-code, and the logical answer is that this means the words of this code. Similarly at Exodus 34:27, "And Yahwh said unto Moses, Write thou these words, for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel;" what words? The sense of the passage is that it applies to the words of the Covenant. And Leviticus 26:46 "These are the decrees, the laws and the regulations that the LORD established on Mount Sinai between himself and the Israelites through Moses." There's no clear, unambiguous statement that Moses has written any more than the decrees, laws and regulations.
I repeat, the key word is "unambiguous." Certainly the passages can be interpreted to mean that Moses wrote everything, but they can equally be taken in the narrower sense. It's not our job tom say that one is right and the other wrong, but simply to register the fact of ambiguity.
The part of the article you've been editing is the lede (or lead - I prefer the spelling lead, but for some reason lede is often used). This is meant to be a summary of the main points of the body of the article. In fact our lead doesn't summarise the entire article, but only the first three sections - the fourth was added much later and never got into the summary. Those three sections were written partly by me and partly by a very good and learned yeshiva student - I'm not sure if he's still around, but I like him very much. He was responsible for the information on Jewish scholarship, while I wrote the more secular parts. Our aim was to explain to people what the Mosaic tradition maintains, its biblical basis, its origins in history, and its modern form. The challenge of 19th century secular scholarship plays a comparatively minor role - our aim was to explain the Mosaic tradition, not to prove it true or false.
You say I want to make people believe in the documentary hypothesis. I don't. I don't want to make anyone believe it, and I don't believe it myself. It's not our job to make anyone believe anything. Just to explain the tradition and its history. PiCo (talk) 22:54, 18 December 2008 (UTC)
I reverted because of your edits I believe are cases in which you add your own POV and many cases make stuff up. For example, the article used to say that the Talmud is the first text to mention Mosaic authorship, this is false and you known it. Even if you claim that the Torah is anonymous, you have to admit Josephus explicitly states that Moses wrote the Torah. --Alpha166 (talk) 14:15, 13 January 2009 (UTC)
The article says that the Talmud is the first text to make explicit mention of Mosaic authorship of the entire Torah. As the article explains, the verses within the Torah which speak of Moses writing "torah" are ambiguous - they might mean the entire Torah, but can equally be taken to mean only the law codes next to which they appear. (Only one of them isn't associated with a law code). As for Josephus, so what? He lived centuries after the Torah was written and isn't an authority. PiCo (talk) 04:36, 16 January 2009 (UTC)
Josephus and Philo both wrote texts before the publishing of the Talmud, and they both say the Torah was written by Moses, showing that the Talmud did not make up this viewpoint, that this viewpoint was the common viewpoint long before the Talmud was put into writing --Alpha166 (talk) 14:11, 20 January 2009 (UTC)
Find a published (verifiable) and reputable secondary source for us. PiCo (talk) 21:04, 20 January 2009 (UTC)
I shall get you a source for Josephus. Just to comment earlier you said it never explicitly says in the Torah, that Moses wrote the Torah. I assume you are saying this because Moses is written in the third person, there are many examples of literature of writing in the third person such as the Gallic Wars by Julius Caesar. --Alpha166 (talk) 14:46, 21 January 2009 (UTC)
Just to clarify: it's not me who says the Torah never unambiguously (nt explicitly, unambiguously) says Moses wrote the Torah in its entirety, it's the books by modern scholars. If you read the rest of our article, you'll see that when it treats modern scholars who do believe that Moses wrote the Torah, it talks about how they try to reconcile this belief with the conclusions of scholars who believe otherwise. PiCo (talk) 21:47, 21 January 2009 (UTC)

This article is pretty POV[edit]

Looking at it, it seems to have been authored by single-purpose accounts almost exclusively, and it really shines through. Most statements are oozing with POV, either one way or another. There's a huge balance problem as well, as the pro-Mosaic side of the issue dominates the article. Furthermore, almost the entirety of the giant "Possible evidence of Mosaic authorship" section is sourced to a single work that is anything but accepted scientific consensus even among the pro-Mosaic scholars. The article simply reads as "the Torah was written by Moses, and here's why". All dissent is criticized and marginalized. Instead of educating the reader on the scope of the issue, the article consistently tries to hammers home a single viewpoint.

For an article with such a major exposure, being in the Bible infobox that appears on untold number of important articles, the situation needs to be addressed. I'll try a hand at giving this a neutral treatment.Flyboy Will (talk) 03:18, 16 January 2009 (UTC)

Well, I've done what I could, but there are still some residual issues which hopefully will not get worse with time. The overall question is obviously a matter of belief, and cannot be definitively answered from a scientific standpoint with the evidence we possess. The article still addresses a lot of matters of only marginal relevance; I've deleted some completely unrelated stuff, but there's still many paragraphs dealing with issues that should not be used to support a certain conclusion, but are. For example, Egyptian loanwords in the Hebrew language are not necessarily explained by the historicity of the Exodus. They are completely at peace in the documentary hypothesis framework. It's well documented that the area of the Kingdom of Israel had spent a lot of time as an Egyptian province, so Egyptian loanwords can be explained with or without the Exodus. Regardless of that, ME loanwords have no relevance on the authorship debate. Same goes for the previously extended description of archaic Hebrew, which may have or have not been original research. Archaic forms disappearing by Joshua, again, comfortably fits pretty much any authorship theory I'm aware of.
What is missing from the article, and is sorely needed, is the more in-depth description of Israel in the thousand years between the time of Exodus and the first copies of the Torah known to us, and the theories addressing why that gap exists.
Please, when working with the article, be aware of the subject matter, and don't turn it into a collection of bible verses or extended essays on writing styles. Flyboy Will (talk) 07:24, 16 January 2009 (UTC)

New "Extended Links" category[edit]

I saw how brief the Mosaic Authorship article is compared to the Documentary Hypothesis article, so I added this category. I would assume that most college students, like me, are bombarded with the JEDP hypothesis and its apologetic concessions. Too often, apparent contradictions are portrayed as absolute, and the documentary hypothesis is portrayed as "What all modern scholars accept". I also read that there used to be an evidence category- it might be nice to get that back. We could use the same format as the the second website's format, embellishing it with details from a variety of books and websites. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:41, 16 August 2010 (UTC)

This article is far too kind toward the notion of Mosaic authorship[edit]

From the introduction: "Among scholars, Mosaic authorship continues to be defended by some conservative religious scholars, who seek to reconcile it with modern scholarly findings."

Although the preceding statement makes it clear that "some conservative religious scholars" still believe in and defend Mosaic authorship, what it does not make clear enough is that the large majority of modern scholars deny the possibility that Moses wrote the Torah. In other words, there is an accumulating body of archaeological and linguistic evidence in support of the notion that multiple authors wrote the Torah, whereas there is little or no evidence that it was authored by a single person, namely Moses. (talk) 23:42, 28 August 2010 (UTC)AgainstMosaicAuthorship

you are right. We can treat the idea as a venerable tradition, no need to attack or debunk it, but we need to state clearly that it has no credibility in historical scholarship. --dab (𒁳) 11:42, 29 August 2010 (UTC)

Passage that doesn't make sense[edit]

This passage doesn't seem to make sense - can someone explain what it's saying?

"At least one Rabbinic tradition (Baraitha) teaches that "...even if he asserts that the whole Torah is from Heaven, excepting a particular verse, which [he maintains] was not uttered by God but by Moses himself, he is included in 'because he hath despised the word of the Lord.'"[1]"

What exactly is "he" being included in? (I think this needs to be changed from a quote to a paraphrase). PiCo (talk) 22:49, 14 December 2010 (UTC)

sigh. This is a direct quote of a translation of a medieval Talmudic text. It is completely out of the question to put such stuff in Wikipedia articles. Wikipedia may be cryptic sometimes, but it certainly isn't a dumping ground for uninterpreted Talmud passages.

The gist of the passage is that whoever speculates on the possibility that a single verse of the Torah is of human authorship is guilty of "despising the word of the Lord". Instead of quoting the entire thing, it would suffice to say that Baraitha teaches divine inspiration of the text of the Torah, period.

Sine Baraitha isn't even a specific text but an entire tradition, and the passage isn't reference, this paragraph needs to be removed as random cruft copied from the internet ( --dab (𒁳) 11:47, 15 December 2010 (UTC)

This article lacks any sort of reference on where this tradition first originates. The problem is that the Hebrew term torah just means "instruction". The text of the Pentateuch itself records that Moses receives "istruction" from God. The five books of "the Torah" are named after this instruction, and they contain this instruction. But the idea that the torah (instruction) is equal to the verbatim text of "the Torah" needs to be pinpointed. This likely happened during the medieval period, but we need references. --dab (𒁳) 11:57, 15 December 2010 (UTC)

History of the Mosaic authorship tradition[edit]

Someone added a "please discuss" tag to this statement: "This tradition first appears in rabbinic literature of Late Antiquity."

So far as I know this is correct. Ezra-Nehemiah mentions the "law of Moses", as do a few even earlier works, but it's not clear that they mean anything more than the law - i.e., it's not evident that they mean the narrative of the five books. Nevertheless, these early mentions are pre-Rabbinic and worth mentioning. But the first mention of "books of Moses" comes in 4 Ezra, from the Hellenistic period. This also is worth mentioning. After that it's mentioned again in Sirah and then by Josephus - there may be a few other mentions as well, but all from the Classical period. Then the Babylonian Talmud, about 160 AD, codifies the entire bible by author - but that's very late of course. Anyway, a History section sketching all this out would be a useful addition. What does everyone think? PiCo (talk) 12:23, 15 December 2010 (UTC)

So far as also I know, this is correct. That's why I left it in, even if it isn't properly referenced.
It is clear that "Mosaic authorship" (or rather, divine authorship through Moses) of Mosaic law itself is biblical (Deuteronomist), and thus ancient.

The question is, when did the idea arise that the entire narrative of Genesis and Exodus, except for nine verses discussing Moses' death, were directly written by Moses.

So far we know that this was the prevalent opinion among rabbinical authors in the 17th century.
If you have unambiguous evidence from the 2nd century Babylonian Talmud, that would not be "very late" but indeed very early.
This article definitely needs to lose its focus on modern fringe authors and shift attention to the history of this tradition in antiquity and the Middle Ages. --dab (𒁳) 12:30, 15 December 2010 (UTC)

Some useful sources:

PiCo (talk) 12:50, 15 December 2010 (UTC)

My impression is that the idea is flying around in the Babylonian Talmud, but just as one of many speculative possibilities. When we attribute the idea to Late Antiquity we need to state that it was speculation, not a widespread belief. Then when did it become mainstream? It must have happened at some point during the 6th and the 16th century, but when? --dab (𒁳) 09:06, 14 January 2011 (UTC) The standard history of the Documentary Hypothesis mentions Abraham Ibn Ezra as having to make only veiled suggestions about non-Mosaic authorship because by the 11th century Mosaic authorship was already unquestionable. I don't know how accurate this "standard history" is. (My experience with "standard histories" in other fields is that nobody has bothered to check it out, but it just gets repeated anyway.) TomS TDotO (talk) 13:03, 14 January 2011 (UTC)

This does a nice job of summarizing the basis for the Jews' belief of Mosaic-authorship; however, the Christian perspective is missing. Perhaps it would be appropriate to address the viewpoint of Christians, since Christianity is an Abrahamic faith that uses the Torah. The section could address the belief of Jesus and the New Testament writers that Moses was the author of the Torah. Stratman42 (talk) 18:24, 24 January 2011 (UTC)

There should be some mention of the New Testament verses in the Christian Bible where Jesus and his apostles attribute the Pentateuch to Moses: (Mark 7:10; 12:26; Luke 24:27, 44; John 1:17; 5:46; 7:19, 23; Acts 13:39; 15:1, 5, 21; 28:23) HokieRNB 20:07, 26 November 2012 (UTC)
In the section, "Traditional view", there is a failure to provide an authentic translation of the term "Torah of Moses". In Rabbinic Hebrew, it would be "Torah Mosheh"(תּוֹרָה מֹשֶׁה), meaning "Teaching of Mosheh". Given that the article is supporting the thesis that the Torah was written by the Prophet Mosheh, then it should mention the Middle Paleo-Hebrew, seeing as that was the written language of Mosheh.AurumSpiral1235813 (talk) 17:57, 17 May 2013 (UTC)


Refs #9-19 can be cited as 1 source if anyone has the time. Post any objections at my talkpage. Wekn reven i susej eht Talk• Follow 08:42, 15 June 2011 (UTC)

Single Learning Institute Source[edit]

The entire sub-section: "Text of the Torah in Talmud and rabbinic tradition" cites one source, Marvin Zelkowitz, a University of Maryland professor. Unfortunately, his professorship is in computer science, and this paper was written for the University of Maryland Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, a program of the University of Maryland that requires no entrance exams or anything of the like, according to its website. He taught a course in 2006 on the origins of the bible. I think it highly suspect that the whole section of such an important topic is based on an article (whose one of three sources is wikipedia) authored by a professor writing outside of his field of specialty, and on the subject of the documentary hypothesis. More reliable sources (ideally primary) should be referenced. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:16, 9 August 2011 (UTC)


I added the "Modern conservative Christian scholarship" section a few months ago, on the basis that any discussion of Mosaic authorship should mention Allis. William F. Albright called it "perhaps the most scholarly defense of the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch". But the section has been removed per WP:FRINGE. I think we need to discuss whether that applies here. This is raising a bigger question of how conservative scholarship is reported here on Wikipedia. Obviously many evangelical Christians (and scholars) would accept Mosaic authorship - what does it take to call something "fringe". StAnselm (talk) 20:13, 23 November 2012 (UTC)

Oswald T. Allis, The Five Books of Moses: A Reexamination of the Modern Theory that the Pentateuch is a Late Compilation from Diverse and Conflicting Sources by Authors and Editors Whose Identity is Completely Unknown (Philadelphia: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1964) seems to be largely about the Documentary Hypothesis (as the subtitle suggests), and not so much of a defense of Mosaic authorship. He does seem to accept the post-Mosaic authorship of Deuteronomy 34, but how much more a-Mosaica and post-Mosaica does he recognize? Does he make a sustained argument for Mosaic authorship? TomS TDotO (talk) 14:31, 24 November 2012 (UTC)
Some years ago, I had the opportunity to collect a number of references for an evangelical approach to Mosaic authorship, and here are some of the fruits of that effort:

It should not be dismissed as a fringe opinion. While it should be noted that virtually all critical (i.e. secular or liberal) scholars have rejected Mosaic authorship, many evangelicals still hold to it, either in part or in whole. In fact, William D. Barrick, Old Testament professor at The Master's Seminary argued to the Evangelical Theological Society that "Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch should be preserved as one of the boundary markers of evangelicalism." HokieRNB 17:45, 26 November 2012 (UTC)

I picked one of these books more or less at random from a local library: Kidner, Genesis, and it seemed to be mostly treating the Documentary Hypothesis. I would be interested in a survey of the argument for Mosaic authorship, and I would argue that there is a place for such a survey here. Could you (or anybody) give some guidance for that specific point. (I think that the Documentary Hypothesis is covered elsewhere.) TomS TDotO (talk) 11:23, 27 November 2012 (UTC)
I just now looked at those articles in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, and my first impression is that they support only a very weak form of Mosaic authorship. If I am not mistaken, that there was substantial work done by later authors building on a core of writings by Moses. TomS TDotO (talk) 14:35, 27 November 2012 (UTC)
I've tried these resources, but a number of them are hard to obtain, and others don't seem particularly relevant. For our purposes, this seems to be one of the best fits:
William D. Barrick (14-16 November 2001). "The Authorship of Deuteronomy 34: Moses or a Redactor?". ETS Annual Meeting. Retrieved 29 November 2012.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
My impression of this is that the defense of Mosaic authorship is dependent upon two theses, the first being his claim that "Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch should be preserved as one of the boundary markers of evangelicalism", and then that, under divine guidance, anything, no matter how implausible it seems from a naturalistic point of view, is possible (for example, maybe Moses wrote of his own death, burial, and how he was considered by later generations). The author seems to concede that there are a lot of evangelical writers who accept a weakened notion of Mosaic authorship. This is my impression, and I welcome correction. TomS TDotO (talk) 11:42, 29 November 2012 (UTC)

I'm coming a bit late to this, but I do agree that Christian scholarship on Mosaic authorship is an appropriate thing to consider...if it exists. I'm not convinced it does - most of what I've seen from conservative Christian sources is just repeating what Jewish scholars have said. I'd prefer to combine them as modern scholarship or something like that. PiCo (talk) 07:27, 18 December 2012 (UTC)

Modern "Christian scholarship" does not even consider Moses a historical figure to begin with, this rather prejudices the "Mosaic authorship" question. There may be some conservative Christians who defend "Mosaic authorship", but I am not sure this should qualify as "scholarship"; if it does, it is certainly fringe scholarship. --dab (𒁳) 12:24, 26 January 2013 (UTC)

Upon what basis would you exclude conservative Christians? If your bias is simply because of religious convictions, then it is totally unwarranted. However, it can't be relegated to fringe simply because you don't like it. HokieRNB 19:36, 28 January 2013 (UTC)
This article can include any scholarship that's solid and representative, but the problem as I see it is that just isn't any. At the moment the article has just one example of a Christian argument pro MA, which is that the Gospel of John quotes Jesus saying "Moses wrote of me." That's valid, but it's not much. Compare that to the libraries of argument produced by Jewish scholars over the centuries - have Christian scholars even addressed the problem of how Moses, who was not an eyewitness to the events of genesis, could have written that book? The rabbis have, but so far as I know Christian scholars have not. The section needs decent sources. PiCo (talk) 06:25, 29 January 2013 (UTC)
I agree that we need more, Allis is certainly both solid and representative. Of course he presented more arguments in the book than what we have in this article, though I'm not sure about your last question, PiCo. Anyway, see the Albright quote at the top of this section as an indication of how Allis is accepted by scholars on all sides as the foremost representative of the modern conservative Christian position. StAnselm (talk) 06:30, 29 January 2013 (UTC)
This looks like a good book - have a look from page 60 on. Allis is fine, but isn't there anyone more recent? PiCo (talk) 06:42, 29 January 2013 (UTC)
I have just taken a brief look at the book you suggested (Herbert M. Wolf, An Introduction to the Old Testament Pentateuch, Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1991). It seems to agree that many of the standard a-Mosaica and post-Mosaica may very well be not written by Moses, but that everything else could have been written by Moses. Is this what we want to represent as the "conservative Christian" response? (By the way, this book spends quite a bit of time "debunking" evolutionary biology.) TomS TDotO (talk) 15:11, 31 January 2013 (UTC)

Flagrant pov[edit]

The newest version is riddled with pov material - here's one section:

"However the idea that the view of Mosaic authorship began only in the era of the 2nd Temple is difficult to conceive of. Ezra, who lived at the turn of the 4th century BCE, wrote a book of the Torah before the second temple was built . It is completely implausible that Ezra, who was the spiritual leader of the Jewish people, would not have known that the claim that Moses wrote the Torah started less than 100 years before, and furthermore would not have known the history of this book. In addition intrinsic to the view of Mosaic authorship is also the belief that the Torah was dictated to Moses by God, the only book in the world on which there is such a belief. It is almost inconceivable that a complete nation should without a basis come to believe this about any book, let alone a book that was published only several centuries earlier and whose authorship at the time was known to all. It has never been contemplated about any other book whose author/s' were known at the time of publication that it has been falsely held by the nation in which that book was published that the author was somebody completely different, let alone that that author wrote it 1500 years earlier." Dougweller (talk) 09:59, 19 March 2013 (UTC)

That section has been removed. L69 (talk) 06:24, 20 March 2013 (UTC)

The Neutrality template on top of the article referred to this issue and has been there for many months. If nobody has any objections I will remove it in one week. L69 (talk) 04:31, 18 September 2013 (UTC)

  1. ^ "Tractate Sanhedrin". Babylonian Talmud. pp. Folio 99a. Retrieved 13 April 2010.