Saturday, June 23, 2018

The Museum of the Bible, Operation Scroll, etc.

AN UNHELPFUL HEADLINE: An Illegal Archeological Dig in the West Bank Raises Questions About the Museum of the Bible The Museum of the Bible has been funding a number of scholarly projects, including an illegal excavation in the West Bank that will certainly influence how the public understands the Bible and the ancient world (Michael Press, Hyperallegic). This article raises some genuine issues, notably the questions still surrounding the handling of the the formerly-first-century Mark fragment from Oxyrhynchus. More on that here and links.

It also flags a financial connection between the Museum of the Bible and the study of unprovenanced Aramaic incantation bowls. But there are plenty of scholars unconnected with the Museum of the Bible who are working on this material. Indeed, the funded project is based at Exeter University, so it is mainstream scholarship. It is a real problem how to handle such unprovenanced artifacts. I don't pretend to have a fully satisfying solution. I have discussed such concerns and given you my own view here.

But the bulk of the article concerns the Dead Sea Scrolls. The "illegal dig in the West Bank" is Operation Scroll, the recent attempt by the Israeli Goverment to explore the caves in the Judean Desert more fully. The objective is (so far with very little success) to recover any remaining Dead Sea Scrolls. The project was also sponsored by the Hebrew University and the IAA. Past posts on Operation Scroll are here and links.

Beyond that, the author has concerns about the international legality of the handling of the Dead Sea Scrolls from at least the 1967 war on. These do not bear very directly on anything to do with the Museum of the Bible. And in general the author seems to have serious reservations about funding of archaeological projects by Evangelical Christian organizations.

The author has his views. Readers may agree or disagree. None of the issues are new, with the possible exception of the specifics about the Mark fragment. We're still waiting for full information on that.

I do criticize Hyperalleric for the headline of this piece. One can debates the issues surrounding the Dead Sea Scrolls and international law, but to call — without qualification — a project co-sponsored by the Hebrew University and the Israel Antiquities Authority "an illegal archaeological dig in the West Bank" is misleading clickbait.

For other past posts on the Museum of the Bible, start here and follow the links.

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HUCA 88 (2017)

H-JUDAIC: TOC - Hebrew Union College Annual Volume 88. Some of the articles are on ancient and medieval Judaism.

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More on the Denver DSS exhibition

EXHIBITION REVIEW: DEAD SEA SCROLLS TRAVELLING EXHIBIT LANDS IN DENVER (Sandy Bornstein, Canadian Jewish News). The Scrolls actually landed in Denver some time ago. One lot of them has even been rotated out and replaced with another. But the author has just seen the exhibition and she gives it a good recommendation.

Background on the Denver Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition is here and follow the links.

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Was Luke one-upping Euripides?

THE ANXIOUS BENCH: Goads and Gods (Philip Jenkins).
Today we have a guest column. Some time ago, I referred to the Book of Acts, and began an intriguing correspondence with Mr. Jesse Elison. Focusing especially on one key phrase, Mr. Elison made a strong case for showing how Luke was drawing directly on secular Greek literature, and moreover that he might even have been using the work of Euripides as a model for the story he was trying to tell. After all, did not his play The Bacchae describe the introduction of a new religious system into Greece? Invoking that play in this context was surprising to me, and I invited Mr. Elison to expand his provocative comments into a blog post.

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Friday, June 22, 2018

On the Yavneh Yam ostracon

THE PAPYRUS STORIES BLOG: A Harvester’s Plea (guest post by Gareth Wearne).
What legal rights did a farm labourer have in ancient Israel? A rare glimpse is offered by an ostracon (inscribed pot-sherd), which was discovered in 1960 in the guardroom of a small Iron Age fortress, approximately 17 km south of Tel Aviv.

[...]
This essay gives a good, quick overview, but there is more to be said about the inscription, notably concerning the details of the biblical law behind the plea. Past PaleoJudaica posts involving the Yavneh Yam (Mesad Hashavyahu) ostracon are here, here, and here.

Also, welcome to the Papyrus Stories Blog, which first came to my attention through AJR. This new blog highlights stories from ancient inscriptions. Cross-file under Assimilated to the Blogosphere.

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Dhont, Style and Context of Old Greek Job

THE LXX STUDIES BLOG: New Book: Style and Context of Old Greek Job by Marieke Dhont (John Meade).
Below is a guest post from Dr. Marieke Dhont describing her new book Style and Context of Old Greek Job (Brill, 2018). Enjoy.

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Nyström, The Apology of Justin Martyr

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: David E. Nyström. The Apology of Justin Martyr. Literary Strategies and the Defence of Christianity. [Die Apologie Justins des Märtyrers. Literarische Strategien und die Verteidigung des Christentums.] 2018. XIV, 182 pages. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2. Reihe 462. 69,00 € sewn paper. ISBN 978-3-16-155761-3.
Published in English.
In his Apologia pro Christianis, Justin Martyr uses some major apologetic strategies to defend and promote Christianity. These are here identified as the 'logos doctrine', the 'theft theory', the 'proof from prophecy' and the demonological arguments. David E. Nyström analyses each strategy on its own terms as well as in relation to the others in order for them to yield a picture of how they work, rhetorically and literarily, in Justin's grand argument. He also explores possible literary models as well as the purpose and function of the literary form Justin chose for his work.
For more on Justin Martyr and why he is of interest to PaleoJudaica, see here.

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A bibliography of those dubious DSS fragments

THE LYING PEN OF SCRIBES BLOG: A Lightly Annotated Chronological Bibliography of the Post-2002 Dead Sea Scrolls-like Fragments (Årstein Justnes).

Background on the dubious new Dead Sea Scrolls-like fragments is here and links.

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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Review of Rosenblum, The Jewish Dietary Laws in the Ancient World

H-JUDAIC: Garroway on Rosenblum, 'The Jewish Dietary Laws in the Ancient World.'
Author: Jordan Rosenblum
Reviewer: Joshua Garroway

Jordan Rosenblum. The Jewish Dietary Laws in the Ancient World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016. xiii + 193 pp. $99.99 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-107-09034-7.

Reviewed by Joshua Garroway (Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles) Published on H-Judaic (June, 2018) Commissioned by Katja Vehlow (University of South Carolina)

Jordan Rosenblum’s second book-length treatment of Jewish food culture in antiquity comes on the heels of his successful 2010 offering, Food and Identity in Early Rabbinic Judaism. The present volume is less triumphant, in my view, but nonetheless will prove valuable in certain settings.

[...]
I noted a review of Jordan Rosenblum's earlier book, Food and Identity in Early Rabbinic Judaism, here. This is the first time I've specifically noted his 2016 book, but I did link to an essay by him here which was inspired by the book.

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How many bronze platings on the altar?

SOME MORE REDACTION CRITICISM: The Bronze Plating of the Altar: Numbers Versus Exodus (Dr. Rabbi David Frankel, TheTorah.com).
After Korah’s failed rebellion, God commands Elazar to plate the altar with the bronze firepans of the two hundred and fifty tribal leaders (Num 17). But didn’t Bezalel already plate the altar in bronze as God commanded when it was first built (Exod 27 and 38)?
One interesting thing about this essay is that it finds a redactional seam within one of the traditional Pentateuchal sources (P), not just between the sources.

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Paris Philo codex online

VARIANT READINGS: Paris Philo Codex (sort of?) Online (Brent Nongbri).The link to the images were down, but they are now back up. This codex is one of our earliest sources for works of Philo of Alexandria

Background here.

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Bible Animals

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Bible Animals: From Hyenas to Hippos Lions and crocodiles and monkeys, oh my! (Rabbi Dr. Natan Slifkin).
If you were asked to name a book that mentions lions, cheetahs, crocodiles, hippos and hyenas, your thoughts might turn to Tarzan or some other such exotic tale. Bears, jackals, monkeys and panthers are the domain of The Jungle Book. Yet all these animals are also found in the Bible.

[...]
You'd be surprised what's in the Bible.

Rabbi Dr. Slifkin, a.k.a. "the Zoo Rabbi," is curator of the Biblical Museum of Natural History in Beit Shemesh, Israel. Past PaleoJudaica posts on him and the Museum are here and links.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Report on CJH event on Goodman's A History of Judaism

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: A History of Judaism: Goodman, Reed, and Magid at the Center for Jewish History (Erez DeGolan).
On April 18, 2018, the Center for Jewish History (CJH) in New York hosted a public event in celebration of the A History of Judaism. About 40 people, academics and not, came to hear Goodman discussing his work, with a response from Annette Yoshiko Reed and Shaul Magid. The thoughtful remarks of the three and the unusual character of A History of Judaism more broadly, stimulated contemplations on the spacious, if seldom thought of, gap between academic knowledge production and its ‘public’ dissemination. In what follows I discuss the highlights of the CJH’s event and the questions it raised.
With thoughtful commentary.

Past PaleoJudaica posts on Martin Goodman's book A History of Judaism are here, here, and here.

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Review of Tugendhaft, Baal and the Politics of Poetry

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Aaron Tugendhaft, Baal and the Politics of Poetry. The Ancient Word 1. London; New York: Routledge, 2017. Pp. 166. ISBN 9781138063624. $140.00. Reviewed by Aren M. Wilson-Wright, Universität Zürich​ (aren.wilson-wright@uzh.ch).
Baal and the Politics of Poetry is a revised version of Aaron Tugendhaft’s 2012 New York University dissertation. In it, Tugendhaft argues that the Baal Cycle—an epic poem from Ugarit depicting Baal’s struggle for political dominance against Yamm (sea) and Mot (death)—represents a meditation on kingship and its limitations, rather than an unabashed celebration of royal power as usually assumed. Tugendhaft develops this argument over the course of six chapters as well as the introduction and conclusion.

[...]

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More on that tiny royal (?) head

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: An Iron Age Royal at Abel Beth Maacah? Highly crafted figurine may depict a dignitary, elite person, or even a king (Robin Ngo).

Background here.

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Barthélemy's Critique textuelle de l’ancien Testament online

THE ETC BLOG: Critique textuelle de l’ancien Testament for Free Download (John Meade). For you, special deal!

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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Virtual archaeology in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Archaeology Without Ruins. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ ancient Talmudic rabbis look for the First and Second Temples without stones or relics to guide them.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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More on the latest archaeological destruction on the Temple Mount

THE TEMPLE MOUNT SIFTING PROJECT BLOG: Update: Waqf Uses Ramadan to Violate Antiquities Law. Excerpt:
In 2018, this should not be a problem. Taking advantage of the limited police, and ban of all non-Muslims from the Temple Mount because of Ramadan, these archaeologically rich mounds of earth have been irreconcilably damaged. This is a clear violation of the law, a violation of basic morality and respect, and an absolute destruction of the heritage of Jews as well as Christians and Muslims. This constitutes a decade’s worth of regression in the level of enforcement of the antiquities law on the Temple Mount and needs to go viral so that the world can see what the real status quo is on the Temple Mount.

Please share this information and communicate it to the media and government officials. Make this story go viral.
You should read it all.

Background here.

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Review of Kiel, Sexuality in the Babylonian Talmud

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Book Note | Sexuality in the Babylonian Talmud (Noah Bickart).
Yishai Kiel’s new book Sexuality in the Babylonian Talmud analyzes Talmudic texts that deal explicitly with sex in order to situate rabbinic society at the crossroads of a number of late-antique cultures. Through convincing close readings of Jewish material alongside compelling parallels in Greek, Syriac, and Pahlavi texts, Kiel illustrates how Babylonian rabbis used the language of sexuality to negotiate their Iranian context, their Palestinian heritage, and the myriad of concomitant challenges posed by western and eastern Christian thought. This book is highly recommended for scholars and students of rabbinics, early Christianity, and Iranology, especially for those who are interested in the history of sexuality.

[...]
I noted the publication of the book here and an article by the author on the same topic here.

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The Gamla synagogue

ARCHAEOLOGY AND HISTORY: The 2,000-year-old synagogue at Gamla, the oldest yet found in Israel (Ticia Verveer, Times of Israel Blogs).
Archaeological excavations proved that Josephus was very precise in his description, which is remarkable, seldom do literary sources and archaeological data complement each other in such a way. The more than 2,000 basalt ballista stones and 1,600 iron arrowheads that were found are a sorrowful reminder of the aggression off the Romans. Within the settlement a concentration of several dozen ballista stones was discovered. Probably, the defenders gathered the ballista stones that had fallen on the city and hurled them back at the Romans the following day.

The most exciting discovery of the excavation, and the reason why I am here, is a large public building, with benches intended for public gatherings, the amazing remains of an ancient synagogue, the oldest yet found in Israel.
An impressive photo essay by an archaeologist working at the site.

Some past PaleoJudaica posts on the site of Gamla, its archaeology, and its history, are collected here.

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Monday, June 18, 2018

A 1 Samuel LXX manuscript in the Green Collection

AT THE VARIANT READINGS BLOG, Brent Nongbri has been following up indications that the Green Collection includes a fragmentary Greek manuscript of 1 Samuel (possibly containing nine chapters).

The Green Collection 1 Samuel Papyrus and Mummy Cartonnage. Incidentally, per Scott Carroll's quoted comment, this is not "the earliest text of 1 Samuel in the world." Among the Dead Sea Scrolls, 4QSamuelb (4Q52) is dated by Cross to c. 250 BCE and 4QSamuela (4Q51) and 4QSamuelc (4Q53) to the first century BCE. This Greek papyrus seems to be from the early third century CE (or later? - See the second post below). That is still very early. It may be the earliest surviving papyrus copy or Greek copy or both. I don't know.

1 Samuel and the Green Collection’s “Cartonnage”

There are lots of unanswered questions about this manuscript.

For the Samuel manuscripts from Cave 4 Qumran, see Frank Moore Cross et al., Qumran Cave 4 XII 1-2 Samuel. Discoveries in the Judaean Desert XVII. Oxford, Clarendon, 2005.

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The Russians may excavate Palmyra

PALMYRA WATCH: Russian archaeologists eyeing excavations in Palmyra after restoration of Tadmor. Russian experts have already submitted proposals on restoring the Temple of Baal Shamin, one of the main relics of the place.
KRASNODAR, June 9. /TASS/. Russian archaeologists hope to continue archaeological excavations in ancient Palmyra after rehabilitation of the Syrian city of Tadmor, on the territory of which the historical marvel is located, a leading Russian expert said on Friday.

Dr. Natalya Solovyova, a Deputy Director of the St. Petersburg-based Institute for the History of Material Culture said this on the sidelines of the festival titled ‘Russia’s Antique Heritage’ in the southern city of Krasnodar where she did a public presentation of the 3D model of Palmyrene monuments.

"We hope we’ll manage to do some archaeological excavations there because our Institute made an arrangement on them with the Syrian government in spring 2015, several days before the start of combat actions [in the Palmyra area]," Dr. Solovyova said. "We didn’t sign the documents then, however, because armed fighting began."

[...]
For many other past posts on Palmyra, its history, the ancient Aramaic dialect spoken there (Palmyrene), and the city's tragic reversals of fortune, now trending for the better, start here and follow the links.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Repatriating Ethiopic manuscripts?

ETHIOPIC WATCH: British Exhibitions of Ethiopian Manuscripts Prompt Questions About Repatriation. Exhibitions at British cultural institutions have lately underscored the artistic output of Ethiopian scribes, and in the process, have also renewed questions around whether museums that have benefitted from acts of imperialism and colonialism should now return looted objects (Sarah E. Bond, Hyperallergic).
A recent display at the British Library, African Scribes: Manuscript Culture of Ethiopia put the institution’s impressive collection of Ethiopic manuscripts on display. Online, the library has also highlighted efforts to digitize these ancient works and make them accessible to the public. Exhibitions at the British Library and other cultural institutions within Britain have worked to underscore the artistic output of Ethiopian scribes and the literature connected to the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church. In the process, these special exhibitions have also renewed questions of provenance and the issue of whether museums that have benefitted from acts of imperialism and colonialism should now return looted objects — even centuries after the fact.

[...]
I don't have a view on the merits of repatriating these particular artifacts, because I don't know enough about the local situation. But my general position is that antiquities and cultural artifacts are the heritage of humanity, not just of the descendants of their culture of origin. They should be kept where they are safest.

I noted a recent article that discusses the importance of the Ethiopic Church for the transmission of the Book of 1 Enoch here. Also, back in 2004-2005, the Ethiopic manuscripts taken (i.e., looted) by Britain after the Battle of Maqdala were in the news. See here, here, and here.

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Korah and the fire-pans

REDACTION CRITICISM: Why the Fire-Pans Were Used to Plate the Altar (Dr. Rabbi David Frankel, TheTorah.com).
After the two hundred and fifty tribal leaders, led by Korah, were burnt, God tells Elazar to use the fire-pans to plate the altar to remind Israel that only priests may offer incense (Num 17:5). But is this the original reason for the plating? A redaction-critical analysis shows that the story once had a different purpose in mind.
Could be.

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Sunday, June 17, 2018

More on the supposed lost Jobar Synagogue scrolls

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jewish artifacts disappear from Damascus in fog of Syria war. Jewish artifacts, including ancient parchment torahs from one of the world's oldest synagogues, have gone missing from the Syrian capital amid the tumult of ongoing civil war (AP). That synagogue is, of course, the synagogue of Jobar. Earlier this year I noted reports that ancient artifacts, notably Torah scrolls, had been removed from the Jobar Synagogue during the war. The posts are here and here. Some of the reports claimed the removals were connected with "terrorist groups" and/or Israeli and Turkish intelligence and/or (indirectly) the Syrian Army. None of the reports seemed especially credible, although they could not be disproved either.

Now this AP report weighs in with much more detail from "activist sources." The artifacts were taken by rebels for safe keeping, but some artifacts (notably Torah scrolls written on gazelle hides) have since disappeared. Some of the missing artifacts may have surfaced in Turkey. Some of the missing artifacts, it is claimed, may themselves have been fakes. Again, an Israeli connection is hinted at.

This is a convoluted story that is very short of verification. I emphasize that I take no position on whether any of it is true. But I am keeping an eye on it to see if anything develops from it.

For what it's worth, there have been many reports over the years of artifacts being seized by the authorities in Turkey. Some of these artifacts have turned out to be obvious fakes or relatively recent objects that were not as important as the initial reports claimed. I collected links to these stories in this post last October. There was a report on December of a 700-year-old Torah scroll being seized in Turkey, but this turned out to be bogus.

Perhaps of more interest is a report from April of 2017 that Turkish authorities seized a "gold-plated" Torah scroll written on gazelle skin. This Torah (I think it was the same one) was also reported to be 1,500 years old. I explained my reasons for some skepticism of the stories at the links.

The Jobar scrolls were supposed to be on gazelle skins too and some of them seem to stored in a silver receptacle at some point. But those are very tenuous possible links to the scroll in Turkey.

In short, right now we have a bunch of unverified stories. Maybe some of them are real and, if so, maybe some of the real ones are connected. We'll just have to see if any verification turns up. Watch this space.

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Unsifted dirt disturbed on the Temple Mount

THE TEMPLE MOUNT SIFTING PROJECT BLOG: More Archaeological Destruction on the Temple Mount and Damage to Dirt Mounds that Should be Sifted.
Now, under the auspices of the last days of the month of Ramadan, when the Temple Mount is closed to none-Muslim visitors and the police presence is limited, over than a thousand people carried out excavation work, stone clearance and the creation of terraces in these piles of earth!

This is a clear violation of the High Court’s order and shows – this constitutes decade’s worth of regression in the level of enforcement of the antiquities law on the Temple Mount.
This blog is run by credible archaeologists and I would take the report seriously. It doesn't sound good.

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Index of online books on Classics and ancient Judaism

THE AWOL BLOG: CLASSICSINDEX: Links to Online Books (Google Books, Archive.org, etc.) FOR THE STUDY OF GREEK AND ROMAN CLASSICS, EARLY JUDAISM, AND CHRISTIANITY. There are lots of good things here. Note in particular the section on "JUDAISM [2ND TEMPLE : RABBINIC]."

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Who Wrote the Torah?

ASKING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS (REALLY): Who Wrote the Torah? Textual, Historical, Sociological, and Ideological Cornerstones of the Formation of the Pentateuch (Konrad Schmidt, Institute for Advanced Study).
Who wrote the Torah? In light of more than two hundred years of scholarship and of the ongoing disputes on that question,[1] the most precise answer to this question still is: We don’t know. The tradition claims it was Moses, but the Torah itself says otherwise. Only small portions within the Torah are traced back to him, but not nearly the whole Torah: Exodus 17:14 (Battle against Amalek); 24:4 (Covenant Code); 34:28 (Ten Commandments); Numbers 33:2 (Wandering Stations); Deuteronomy 31:9 (Deuteronomic Law); and 31:22 (Song of Moses). Despite all disagreement in current scholarship, however, the situation in Pentateuchal research is far from desperate, and there are indeed some basic statements that can be made regarding the formation of the Torah. This is what this contribution is about. It is structured in the following three parts: the textual evidence of the Pentateuch; the socio-historical conditions for the development of the Pentateuch, and “Ideologies” or “Theologies” of the Pentateuch in their historical contexts.

[...]
HT AJR.

This essay is a very good account of the state of the question by a prominent specialist in the area. It moves from first principles to cautious and circumscribed conclusions. Nevertheless, some of it would be disputed by other specialists. It touches here and there on the traditional JEDP sources, mostly in the notes. But its main interests are elsewhere. That's all to the good.

This is the first time I have seen anyone claim that the Ketef Hinnom silver amulets (containing the text of the priestly blessing in Numbers 6:24-26) could be from as late as the second century B.C.E.

For some more thoughts on the origins of the Pentateuch, see here and links, and here, here, and here.

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