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The Authors of the Torah
Jeff A. Benner
Who wrote the Torah (the first five books of the Bible)? The majority of the Bible students today, within both Christianity and Judaism, will without a doubt, identify Moses as the author. Yet, nowhere within the text of the Torah is the author of the five books of Torah identified. Yes, there are passages where Moses states that he has written the text, but this does not encompass the entire Torah. No author for the book of Genesis, whose events occurred before the birth of Moses, is identified. Who authored the final chapter of Deuteronomy after the death of Moses? Not only is it possible that different authors wrote different portions of the Torah but it is possible that different authors wrote about the same account.
Passages written by someone other than Moses
Before the Kings of Israel
Genesis 36:31 And these are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom, before there reigned any king over the children of Israel.
During the lifetime of Moses no king resided over Israel. The author of this passage is writing about the kings of Israel from the viewpoint that they are facts of history. The author lived during or after the time of the kings of Israel.
Rachel buried near Bethlehem
Genesis 35:19 And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem.
As the city of Ephrath was not known as "Bethlehem" until much later, these three words ("hee beyt lehem" in Hebrew) were obviously written by someone other than Moses. Granted, we are only speaking of three words, but if three words from the Torah can be written by someone other than Moses, then why not six words or one hundred words or one thousand words?
Duplicate passages of one event by separate authors
The appointment of Judges
Exodus 18:17-24 And Moses' father-in-law said to him, "The thing that you are doing is not good. You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone. Now listen to me: I shall give you counsel, and God be with you. You be the people's representative before God, and you bring the disputes to God, then teach them the statutes and the laws, and make known to them the way in which they are to walk, and the work they are to do. Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them, as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times; and let it be that every major dispute they will bring to you, but every minor dispute they themselves will judge. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this thing and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people also will go to their place in peace." So Moses listened to his father-in-law, and did all that he had said.
Deuteronomy 1:12-16 'How can I [Moses] alone bear the load and burden of you and your strife? Choose wise and discerning and experienced men from your tribes, and I will appoint them as your heads.' And you answered me and said, 'The thing which you have said to do is good.' So I took the heads of your tribes, wise and experienced men, and appointed them heads over you, leaders of thousands, and of hundreds, of fifties and of tens, and officers for your tribes. "Then I charged your judges at that time, saying, 'Hear the cases between your fellow countrymen, and judge righteously between a man and his fellow countryman, or the alien who is with him.
It is clearly obvious that these two passages are very different. In the Exodus passage Moses' father-in-law gives Moses the idea to appoint judges over the people because it is more than he can handle. But, in the Deuteronomy passage it is Moses who chooses to appoint the judges. There are some striking dissimilarities in the two passages. In the Exodus passage Moses' father-in-law says about Moses' judging over all the people that "The thing that you are doing is not good" while in the Deuteronomy passage the people say to Moses about his appointment of Judges "The thing which you have said is good". In the Exodus passage Moses' father-in-law says "the task is too heavy for you, you cannot do it alone" and in the Deuteronomy passage Moses says, "How can I alone bear the load and burden of you and your strife?"
Israel at Mount Sinai
It is possible that the Deuteronomy passage simply eliminates the suggestion of Moses' father-in-law and only discusses Moses' actions based on his suggestions. Therefore, this passage alone is not evidence of multiple authors but must be used as evidence in conjunction with the other evidence available.
Exodus 20:18 When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance
Exodus 19:17-18 Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently
In the first account Israel sees the thunder and lightning and stays at a distance from the mountain. But, in the second account they go up to the mountain and saw smoke and fire. It appears that while two different authors wrote these two accounts they were combined into one story by one known as a "redactor." This person took the various stories known at the time and attempted to place them all into one story. For this reason we see many of the same stories repeated at different times. While it is usually understood that these are two different stories occurring at two different times, they may be one story written by two different authors and combined into one story by the readactor.
Another account of Israel's experience at the mountain occurs in the book of Deuteronomy where in one passage it says that Israel did not want to hear the voice of God speak to them while another states that he did speak to them.
Deuteronomy 18:16 For this is what you asked of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, "Let us not hear the voice of the LORD our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die."
Deuteronomy 5:4 "The LORD spoke to you [Israel] face to face at the mountain from the midst of the fire
Conflicting passages of separate authors
Making known the name Yahweh
Genesis 14:22 And Abram (Abraham) said to the king of Sodom, "I lifted up my hand to Yahweh, El Elyon, possessor of heaven and earth.
Exodus 6:3 And I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as El Shaddai, and my name Yahweh I did not make known to them.
In the Genesis passage Abraham invokes the name Yahweh but according to the Exodus passage God did not reveal his name Yahweh to Abraham.
A Guide through the Wilderness
Deuteronomy 1:32-33 The Lord your God who goes before you on your way, to seek out a place for you to encamp, in fire by night and cloud by day, to show you the way in which you should go.
Numbers 10:31 Then he said, "Please do not leave us, inasmuch as you [Hobab] know where we should camp in the wilderness, and you will be as eyes for us.
In the Deuteronomy passage Moses tells the people that God will be their guide through the wilderness showing them which way to go and where to camp. But, in the Numbers passage Moses beseeches his father-in-law Hobab to go with them so that he can show them where to go and where to camp in the wilderness because he is familiar with the area.
The Population of Israel
Exodus 12:37 Now the sons of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, aside from children.
Deuteronomy 7:7 "The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples,
It is estimated that the population of Israel, based on the Exodus passage, would be about 4 million if you include all of the men, women and children. According to the Encyclopedia, the population of Egypt at the time of the Exodus was about 2 million inhabitants making Egypt one of the greatest nations of its day. In the Deuteronomy passage God says that Israel was the fewest of all peoples while the Exodus passage would make Israel the most populace nation on earth of that day.