Sunday, June 17, 2018

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 Schmid, 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.


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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