Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Book Review: 'Who Wrote The Bible?

Book Review: 'Who Wrote The Bible?' By Richard Elliot Friedman
By Dr. Niaz Ahmed

Is the Bible authentic? Surely, it is one of, if not the most influential book in our modern
time. It has, and currently is being studied in depth not only as sacred text, but also as
literature, and history. Richard Elliot Friedman, a renowned biblical scholar, and author of,
“Who Wrote the Bible?” is a Harvard graduate, and currently the professor of Jewish studies
at the University of Georgia. In his book, he focuses primarily on the author (or authors, as
you will see later) of the five books of Moses (IE. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers,
Deuteronomy). This compilation is known as the Pentateuch (from Greek, meaning “five
scrolls”), or as you may well know, the Torah (from Hebrew, meaning “instruction”). From the
long course of biblical analysis throughout history, to the formation of the Documentary
Hypothesis of Julius Wellhausen, and finally to his own analysis, Friedman thoroughly
explains the source of the texts of the Five books of Moses, as well as its influence on the
next 6 books of the Old Testament. Using both historical and archeological evidence, tied
with linguistic analysis of the Bible text, he systematically identifies the individual authors of
the four main source documents (J, E, P, and D), while challenging certain aspects of the
Documentary Hypothesis. In lieu of such analyses, any religious scholar would question the
sanctity of such a book (considered to be a holy scripture), in being the word of God.
Friedman starts with the history of biblical studies and the analysis of the Bible's
foundation, which began with the long history of discriminatory action that even involved excommunication of those who pursued such knowledge. Initial investigators had agreed with
the old tradition of Moses as the original author, while still suggesting that a few lines may
have been added here or there. Isaac ibn Yashush, a Jewish court Physician for a ruler
during Muslim Spain, showed that a list of Edomite Kings in Genesis 36 actually named some
kings who lived long after Moses, suggesting that this list was written by someone other than
Moses (Friedman 18). He later became known as “Isaac the blunderer.” The man who gave
him this label was Abraham ibn Ezra, a 12th-century Rabbi, who exclaimed, “His book
deserves to be burned,” (referring to Isaac). Astonishingly, Ezra began having doubts as well,
as Friedman explains:
“...ibn Ezra himself included several enigmatic comments in his own writings...He
alluded to several biblical passages that appeared not to be from Moses' own
hand: passages that referred to Moses in the third person, used terms that
Moses would not have known, described places where Moses had never been,
and used language that reflected another time and locale from those of Moses.”
Through the next few centuries, several scholars followed in Ezra's footsteps, and proclaimed
further that Moses was not the author of the Torah. In the 16th century, Andreas van Maes, a
devoted Catholic, wrote a book in which he explained that Moses may have been the original
author, but editors had inserted or changed phrases later on. This book was added to the
Catholic index of prohibited books (20).
Eventually, a British philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, became the first to announce that
Moses did not write the majority of the original five books. Several scholars later, a French
convert to Protestantism, Richard Simon, claimed that the additions to the Mosaic Law were
written by scribes who had collected and reviewed older texts. As Friedman explains,
“These scribes, according to Simon, were prophets, guided by the divine spirit,
and so he regarded his work as a defense of the sanctity of the biblical text. His
contemporaries, however, apparently were not ready for a work that said that any
part of the Five Books was not Mosaic...Simon was expelled from his order....Of
the thirteen hundred copies printed of his book, all but six were burned.”
(Friedman 21)
Simon, however, did have the right idea, in the sense that the writers had collected and had
available certain source documents. This created the hypothesis that several source
documents may have been combined over time by different authors, of those respective
documents. One big piece of evidence was the concept of the doublet. A doublet is
essentially a context of the same story appearing twice. There are numerous areas in the
Bible which hold doublets. Two different stories of the creation of the world are mentioned.
The covenant between God and Abraham is related twice, differently, as well as two different
stories regarding Noah's ark, and more. Further analysis was undertaken of these doublets,
especially in the linguistic sense, or the style of writing, and certain similarities in the text, i.e.
references to certain places or things with the same specific names became apparent. In due
time, it went from a two source hypothesis to a four source hypothesis (22).
With many centuries of collaboration, there was enough evidence that the five books of
Moses had been put together using four different source documents which were then
appropriately represented by alphabetic symbols. According to Friedman:
“The document that was associated with the divine name Yahweh/Jehovah was
called J. The document that was identified as referring to the deity as God (in
Hebrew, Elohim) was called E. The third document, by far the largest, included
most of the legal sections and concentrated a great deal on matters having to do
with priests, and so it was called P. And the source that was found only in the
book of Deuteronomy was called D.” (Friedman 24)
Julius Wellhausen, who examined these four sources, developed a systematic construction of
the development of these sources and through what stages of religion and history each
source must have been written. Friedman continues,
“He examined the biblical stories and laws that appear in J and E, and he argued
that they reflected the way of life of the nature/fertility stage of religion. He
argued that the stories and laws of Deuteronomy (D) reflected the life of the
spiritual/ethical stage. And he argued that P derived from the priestly/legal
stage.....To this day, if you want to disagree, you disagree with Wellhausen.” (26)
This, in essence, was the Documentary hypothesis, aka, the Wellhausen hypothesis. This
revolutionary idea finally drove the Catholic Church to become involved. In the 1940s, the
Pope enjoined and encouraged scholars to pursue such knowledge about these biblical
writers (27). This led to a decrease in the centuries of opposition to the biblical analysis of its
authors. Friedman writes,
“At present...there is hardly a biblical scholar in the world actively working on the
problem who would claim that the Five Books of Moses were written by
Moses....Scholars argue about the number of different authors who wrote any
given biblical book.....Since Wellhausen's days there has been an archeological
revolution, which has yielded important discoveries...” (28)
Throughout his analysis, Friedman begins by painting a picture of the biblical world, and then
locating the biblical author respective to the period of time he reconstructs. His analysis is
literary, with archeological evidence, and in no way involves evidence from the Bible as
sacred text, but only as historical data. Never does he mention, or incline towards, the idea
that the Bible is not the word of God, or that the sanctity of the text is, or could be, the true
final revelation to Mankind. His examination is strictly in the educational understanding and
focused identification of the authors of the Old Testament. Could it be that he is trying to
relate to all readers, that is, involving even Richard Simon's idea that the writers were divinely
guided? Perhaps it could be to minimize any offensive ideas to those faithful in the Bible.
Regardless of his perceived intentions, it would be difficult for any religious scholar not to
question the overdue acceptance of this type of analysis by even the Pope himself. What
took so long? Why the centuries of uproar and opposition? What entitles a book to become
considered a holy scripture or even to become the center-point of centuries of heated debate?
Hazrat Mirza Bashirudin Mahmood Ahmad (ra), explains it very well in his book, “Introduction
to the study of the Holy Quran”, where he writes,
“A revealed book is superior to a man-made book because we can assume that
the former will not lead us into error. God is sheer guidance. In a book revealed
by Him, therefore, we may expect to find only light and truth, no darkness or
error. If our conception of God does not imply such a trust in what He reveals,
then that conception has no value. If communications from God also can err,
then what ground have we for holding divine teaching superior to human
teaching? Belief in a book entails belief that that book is free from error. It is
possible, however, that a book originally revealed by God may come to suffer
from human interference. If the contents of a book have suffered additions and
subtractions at human hands, then that book can no longer serve as a guide.”
(Ahmad 27)
Beginning with the first two source documents, J and E, the story starts in 12th century
B.C., with the original 12 tribes of Israel. The land of Israel was made up of many peoples, of
whom prior to the arrival of the Israelites, were dominated with paganism. Friedman mentions
a 13th tribe of Levi, which was identified as the priestly group. He asserted that the priests
were usually chosen from this Levi tribe, since it was hereditary. Around that time,
essentially, the priests and so-called judges were the ones with power. The other type of
leader, was the prophet, who, in Friedman's eyes,
“...were regarded as having been called by the deity to perform a special task
with regard to the people. The task might be to encourage or to criticize....in the
realm of politics, ethics, or ritual.” (Friedman 36)
Eventually, the need presented for a leader to unify all tribes, and the first King of Israel was
anointed: King Saul. Saul ends up having a falling-out with the preist-prophet Samuel, as he
began to abuse his power as King. Samuel responded then by designating another king:
Prophet David (as), from the tribe of Judah. Friedman describes David as,
“...a major figure in the Hebrew Bible, really the only one who comes close to the
level of Moses in impact....The Davidic dynasty was in fact one of the longestlasting ruling families of any country in the history of the world.” (39)
Saul had originally perceived David as a threat to his throne, and so they became
rivals. Friedman writes, “When David received the support of the priests of Shiloh (Levites),
Saul had them all massacred – except for one who escaped.” The Kingdom had split after
Saul's death, where his son Ishbaal had ruled the northern country, while David ruled over the
southern region. Ishbaal was then assassinated and David then regained control of the entire
country. During David’s (as) reign, he appointed two chief priests for each the north and the
south, to help support the new unity. The northern priest appointed was Abiathar, who was
the one priest who had escaped Saul's attack on the priests of Shiloh. The southern priest
was Zadok, of the tribe of Judah, from the priests of Hebron. The priests of Shiloh claimed to
be descendants of Prophet Moses (as), while the priests of Hebron claimed to be
descendants of Prophet Aaron (as). This North/South distinction played an important role in
the creation of J and E. David's son Solomon (as) became King after him, and ruled with
great wisdom and prosperity. Friedman mentions another son of David, Adonijah, who
actually had fought over the throne with Solomon. Adonijah had support from the Northern
Mushite (supposed descendants of Moses) priest, while Solomon held support from the
Southern Aaronid (supposed descendants of Aaron) priest. Obviously, with Solomon being
given the throne, the tension had already begun between these two historically selfproclaimed priesthoods. Around 922 B.C., after Solomon's death, the North seceded from the
South, leaving the lands Israel and Judah, respectively. And as each priest held the power,
you can see the North was governed by the Mushite priests, and the South by the Aaronid
priests. This would then lead to the reason for there being two very similar versions of the
original Torah given to Moses, i.e. J and E. These two kingdoms reigning side by side, with
the same historical religion, it would then make sense that each would create their own
version, which would represent their views (40 – 48).
The discovery of the different sources was even more interesting. In Genesis 1 and 2,
there are two different creation stories. This was analyzed by three investigators, who all
realized that the first version always mentioned the creator as God – 35 times, while the
second always referred to him as Yahweh – 11 times (Friedman 51). Furthermore, there is a
distinction in the order of creation, as Friedman explains,
“In the first version, God creates plants first, then animals, then man and woman.
In the second version, God creates man first. Then he creates plants. Then, so
that the man should not be alone, God creates animals. And last, after the man
does not find a satisfactory mate among the animals, God creates woman.” (51)
Eventually, within E, was discovered P (which we will get to later), and D was uncovered as a
completely separate source (which we will also cover later on). The two different creation
stories mentioned above are P and J, respectively.
Back to J and E, further analysis displayed the focus of each author in respect to their
views on Moses (as) (North – Mushite Priest) and Aaron (as) (South – Aaronid Priest). For
example, Joshua was known very well in version E as Moses' trusted second man, and
essentially as a prophet after Moses, while in J there isn't much role for Joshua. Furthermore,
the golden calf story is mentioned in E, but completely left out in J. Friedman relates
concerning this story,
“The golden calf story reveals more about its author than probably any other
story in J and E. In addition to all that it tells us about its author's background
and about its author's skill in fashioning a story, it conveys how deep his anger
was toward those who had displaced his group in Judah and in Israel. He could
picture Aaron, ancestor of the Jerusalem priesthood, as committing heresy and
dishonesty. He could picture the national symbols of Israelite religion as objects
of idolatry. He could picture the nation who accepted these symbols as
deserving a bloody purge. What he pictures Moses doing to the golden calf was
what he himself might have liked to do to the calves of Dan and Beth-El: burn
them with fire, grind them thin as dust.” (Friedman 76)
The golden calves at Dan and Beth-El, were placed, one in each city, by King Jeroboam of
Israel after the kingdom split. The Levitical priests of Shiloh, at that time, were not
recognized; in fact, Jeroboam did not place them in any priestly role. Their priestly status was
awarded neither in the North or South, hence, the emotion within E. Moreover, in J it
mentions that it was “God” who freed the Israelites from Egypt (Exod. 3:8), whereas in E, it
proclaims Moses as helping free them from Egypt (Exod. 3:10). What’s interesting is the
proximity of these two claims, within three verses.
J, in essence, contains less emphasis on Moses, and more on his patriarchs, while E
displays more sympathetic development of Moses' personality. Friedman reveals,
“...for E, Moses has a significance far beyond what he has in J. In E, Moses is a
turning point in history. E has much less than J about the world before Moses. E
has no creation story, no flood story, and relatively less on the patriarchs. But E
has more than J on Moses.” (83)
For E, as Friedman concludes, it becomes fairly evident for the author to have been a
Levitical Priest from Shiloh (likely a male), with his emphasis on the prophet Moses. This
author would have lived around the time Israel was separate from Judah, around 922 to 722
B.C. For J however, the answer is not as specific: Friedman inquires about the author of J,
“For him, something extremely important had happened before Moses. This
writer was concerned with the ruling family of Judah, David's family. He therefore
emphasized the significance of God's covenant with the patriarchs. It was tied to
the city of Hebron, David's first capital....the revelation to Abraham was itself a
turning point in history. It was not to be regarded as inferior to the revelation to
Moses or the people at Sinai.” (83)
Freidman describes the author of J, as one who remembers the original covenants and
revelations from God himself to the patriarch prophets. Hence, J uses the name Yahweh
throughout. The J author may have well been related to the Judean court, possibly from a
circle of men and women who would have such power to develop such a document (likely an
advocate of the Davidic Royal House). This would give a higher chance of the J author being
female, than E. Nonetheless, the J author would have lived from around the time of the
Judean king Jehoram, until the fall of Judah, approximately 848 to 722 B. C. The important
point is that J and E were both written before the Assyrian empire had invaded and destroyed
Relative to the other source documents, J and E are more similar to each other. Even
when their focus may be towards different views, they're style of writing are reasonably
similar. Friedman writes, “...it has never been possible to separate them on stylistic grounds
alone.” He suggests the possibility of J being a Judean court account of sacred national
traditions, therefore creating the desire amongst the northern Levites to produce their own
national account. The bottom line is that they're not unrelated works, only different versions
that have been eloquently blended with each other. In fact, in modern analysis these two
source documents are now referred to as JE. It is assumed that the J and E difference would
be evident to any analyzer. He concludes, “The uniting of the two works reflected the uniting
(better: the reuniting) of the two communities after two hundred years of division.”
From a religious point of view, what's important here is not that the writers are human
beings, and not God, but the fact that the writers, or writer is not Moses, or any prophet for
that matter, meaning the writers lack any association with divine revelation. How could God
allow the existence of two different versions of a document considered to be his word, with
contradicting views in both? Hazrat Mirza Bashirrudin Ahmad explains concerning the Old
“In the Old Testament, to a very large extent, social ideas and ideals have been
combined with material conceptions, and both centre around religion. But this
attempt of the Old Testament can be described as a first attempt only and not a
finally successful attempt...”
He continues later on,
“Moses gave to Israel both a religion and a civilization. But his teaching proved
too rigid to answer to that variety of urges of which human nature is
capable....Moses did not succeed in making good citizens out of the new
generations of Israel...But while Israelite Teachers had tied man to a narrowly
conceived teaching, Christian Teachers released man from all moral and
religious obligations. Mosaic teaching restrained the mind of Israel from
advancing beyond Moses' time, unless it was in the form of rebellion or
hypocrisy.” (Ahmad 26)
It seems that the priests of Israel contributed much to the rebellion and hypocrisy of the
Kingdom of Israel and consequently the Hebrew Bible. In the Holy Quran, it is revealed,
“And, Surely, among them is a section who twist their tongues while reciting the
book; that you may think it to be part of the Book; while it is not part of the Book.
And they say, ‘It is from Allah’; while it is not from Allah; and they utter a lie
against Allah unknowingly.” (Quran 3:79; Allah is the Arabic name for God)
Continuing with the analysis of D and P, the priestly involvement, or the lack of any prophetic
involvement becomes clearer.
Shortly after the time of the split of the Kingdom of Israel, the Assyrian empire had
gained great power. Around 722 B.C., Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians, however Judah
survived, while Jerusalem stood and remained the capital city. The Jews were exiled, mainly
into Judah, and to the east (lost tribes of Israel). The Judean King at the time was King
Hezekiah, who established both political and religious reform. The greatest change was
centralization of the religion, of which one aspect was that animal sacrifices were allowed only
at the main temple in Jerusalem. This meant that the priests present at the temple were the
only ones allowed to hold such rituals. King Hezekiah favored the Aaronid Priests, a
significant move on his part, which will become evident later. Hezekiah's son Manasseh
reversed all of his Father's doings, by decentralizing the religion, and even re-establishing
some pagan customs. Manasseh's son followed in his footsteps, however, his grandson King
Josiah, re-established centralization. King Josiah’s sons and grandsons followed, and the
family of David ended with Zedekiah, when the Babylonian empire invaded and burned
Jerusalem in 587 B.C., thereby ending the Kingdom of Judah.
During this reign of Kings, in 622 B.C., a priest named Hilkiah apparently discovers a
“scroll of the Torah” in the temple at Jerusalem. This is historically recognized as
Deuteronomy. Most investigators question whether this was actually a discovery, or a
charade. Several biblical scholars have labeled it as “pious fraud”. Uncovering the author of
Deuteronomy will reveal the reasons why.
Deuteronomy reveals itself to be very similar to the next six books of the Old
Testament: Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings. Martin Noth explains this
compilation, with D as its foundation, as one continuous story from Moses to the destruction
of Judah. He called this link the “Deuteronomistic History” (Friedman 104). Another scholar
named Frank Moore Cross, uncovered that the D writer had often referred to certain stories
with “...to this day...” Further analysis showed great emphasis on King Josiah, in fact there
are two entire chapters on King Josiah where he is portrayed as the best among Kings; he is
even perceived to hold greater status than King David. Friedman discloses,
“The person responsible for seven books of the Bible was someone from
Josiah's reign. I found that this person deliberately designed his history of the
people to culminate in Josiah. Josiah was not just good, and he was not just
important. In this writer's picture, Josiah, in many ways, was someone to be
compared to Moses himself.”(111)
Friedman then continues to explain eight different points on the relationship and portrayed
similarity between Moses and Josiah. Only a few need mentioning, as he relates,
“In Deuteronomy Moses tells the people, 'Love Yahweh your God with all your
heart and with all your soul and with all your might.' Only one person in the
Hebrew Bible is described as fulfilling this: Josiah...The book of the 'torah' is
mentioned only in Deuteronomy, in Joshua, and then never again in the Hebrew
Bible except in one story: Josiah...In Deuteronomy, Moses describes what he did
to the golden calf that Aaron made. He burned it, he smashed it 'thin as dust,'
and he cast the dust into a wadi (Deut. 9:21). In 2 Kings, Josiah goes to the altar
and high place at Beth-El, the site of the golden calf that Jeroboam set up.
Josiah burns the high place and smashes it 'thin as dust'.” (112)
It was evident that the D writer had an interest in Prophet Moses. Moreover, the book
appears to be written more in the interests of the priests, than the royal courtiers. It speaks
with laws, specific to centralization, including animal sacrifices, as well as tithes, and
offerings; and even requires the King to write his copy of any law in front of the Levites. It
also declares the Levites to be the only legitimate priestly tribe. This would point to the likely
probability that the author was a Levite priest from Shiloh. Bear in mind that E was also
written by the same group of priests. This group had believed in the centralization of worship,
because the city of Shiloh had once been the national religious center, in the days of Samuel.
Now recall back that D was found in the central temple of Judah in 622 B.C. What was the
need for this scroll? Further discovering connected the Deuteronomistic historian to prophet
Jeremiah, as Friedman analyzes,
“Jeremiah, the prophet who favored Josiah, and who was close to the people
who discovered the 'torah', and who referred to Shiloh as the great central place
of old, was a priest...but he never sacrifices – which is also consistent with the
position of the priests of Shiloh...he is the only prophet to refer to Shiloh...he is
also the only prophet to refer to Samuel, the priest-prophet-judge who was the
greatest figure in Shiloh's history.” (126)
He continues by disclosing the similarity between the book of Jeremiah and Deuteronomy,
that at several points, they're written in the same language. Friedman concludes about the D
“And so he shaped his history of his people around the themes of 1) fidelity to
Yahweh, 2) the Davidic covenant, 3) the centralization of religion at the Temple in
Jerusalem, and 4) the 'torah'. And then he interpreted the major events of history
in light of these factors. Why did the kingdom split? Because Solomon had
forsaken Yahweh and his torah....Why did the northern kingdom of Israel fall?
Because the people and their kings did not follow the torah. Why was there hope
for the future? Because the 'torah' had been rediscovered under Josiah, and now
it would be fulfilled as never before.” (135)
Friedman presents archeological evidence of the likelihood of the author/recorder or compiler
of the Deuteronomistic History, not as Jeremiah, but closely linked with him, i.e. his scribe,
Baruch son of Neriyah. Once again, the author is not a prophet, though closely related to
one, yet still without the possibility of divine revelation. Note how Friedman refers to a
prophet of God: “Because Solomon had forsaken Yahweh and his Torah”...Throughout his
book, he speaks of prophets this way, in the sense that, no extra respect is displayed towards
them. Is it because he himself has a misunderstanding of a true prophet of God, or is it
because the Bible creates these misunderstandings? Hazrat Mirza Bashirrudin Ahmad sheds
light on this subject, he writes,
“Jewish scholars who describe Prophets as thieves and robbers must have
entered these things into the Book of Moses as a cover for their own sins. Their
unholy interference with a Book of God made it necessary that God should reveal
another book which should be free from the absurdities and falsehoods which
had crept into the old.” (Ahmad 45)
He mentions the example in Genesis 19: 30-36, where Prophet Lot dwells in a mountain with
his two daughters. During the night, the eldest daughter says to the other, “Come, let us
make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father.”
And they do so, according to this biblical story, one by one they lay with him, while he is
unaware due to drinking wine. The story ends with, “Thus were both the daughters of Lot with
child by their father.”
He continues,
“No comment is necessary on this terrible narrative. It offends our sense both of
the factual and the moral. But the present Torah does not hesitate to attribute
this to a Prophet. From this we have to conclude that the Torah, as we know it
today, is not the Torah revealed to Moses. It must have been composed later by
Jewish scholars at a time when they had developed hatred for the sons, real or
supposed, of Lot, Moab, and Ammon. The faith of these Jewish scholars had
become so weak, their hearts had become so hardened that to defame Moab
and Ammon they did not hesitate to attribute to Prophet Lot conduct which is
reprehensible in the extreme and the attribution of which to any Prophet is
entirely intolerable. Is the Christian and the Jewish world today prepared to hear
such things attributed to the Prophets of God? If they are, it is only further
evidence that we should have had a book which corrected the depraved
mentality of our day.” (46)
In the Holy Quran, God responds,
“Woe, therefore, to those who write the Book with their own hands, and then say:
‘This is from Allah,’ that they may take for it a paltry price. Woe, then, to them for
what their hands have written, and woe to them for what they earn.” (Quran 2:80)
Approximately 120 years after the fall of Israel, the empire of Babylonia gained control
over the Assyrians. Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian emperor conquered and burned
Jerusalem, and supposedly all of the scrolls/documents present at that time. The Jews are
then exiled to Babylonia, Egypt, and elsewhere east (lost tribes of Israel). Roughly 50 years
later, the Persian Empire conquered Babylonia, and the Israelites are allowed to return to
their homeland of Israel and Judah. A second temple was built in Jerusalem, and the
priesthood that were chosen to lead were the Aaronids, because the Mushite priests
(descendants of Moses) were seen as pro-Babylonian. At this time, two governors were
chosen by the Persian emperor to keep control of Jerusalem and Israel: Nahemiah and Ezra.
Ezra had arrived in Jerusalem with a letter from the Persian emperor, and also in his hand,
what he claimed to be the “Torah of Moses”.
P is the largest source of the three main source documents. It is roughly the size of the
other three combined. Friedman explains mistakes made with the initial investigators.
Professor Edward Reuss concluded that the P law was written later than any of the prophets,
because none of the prophets refer to the P law. This was the first mistake. Karl Graf
induced that JE came before D, and then P was written after. This was defended by the
temple idea, where the tabernacle (tent that Moses built in desert to house the ark) was
mentioned in E three times, J never, D never, and P >200 times. Graf claimed that the
tabernacle was fiction, and that it represented the second temple that was built in Jerusalem
during Persian rule. This was the second mistake according to Friedman. Julius Wellhausen
claimed that the laws and stories of P assumed centralization. This was the third mistake.
Further evidence was given by Wellhausen, in the sense that, several parts of P mentioned
sacrifices or guilt offerings that were not mentioned in JE or D, and thus it was concluded that
only the exiled Jews who would feel such guilt would mention these. Another related point,
was the list of holidays involving atonement of sin (again not mentioned in JED), again
relative to a guilt-filled community. Friedman claims this is wrong, and that P was not written
He explains that recent linguistic evidence has shown that P was written before the
Babylonian exile, according to the biblical scholar Professor Ari Hurvitz. Shortly after, more
investigators had uncovered similar findings. Regarding centralization, Friedman explains,
“P constantly commands that sacrifices and other religious ceremonies must take
place at the Tabernacle – or the Tent of Meeting, as it is also known....If you do
not come to the central place, you will be cut off...That hardly assumes
centralization. It demands it.” (Friedman 171)
He continues by explaining that ‘the exiled Jews feeling guilty’ is not a proper reason for
argument. In fact, he believes the author was more likely present around the first temple than
the second. P mentions certain objects in the tabernacle, of which some objects were not
present in the 2nd temple. What was the tabernacle? The tabernacle was actually the 1st
temple; it was real and present until it burned down. P, therefore, must have been written
before the 1st temple was destroyed, due to its emphasis on the tabernacle. According to
Friedman, the author of P was likely an Aaronid priest. As is evident now, the rivalry between
the famous two priesthoods (Mushite and Aaronid) is by far the most influential factor in much
of the construction of the Hebrew bible. Recall the fall of Israel: the North falls, thereby joining
with the South. E then combines with J, forming JE. Now JE contained a good amount on
Prophet Moses (at least more on Moses than Aaron, when combined), thereby minimizing the
status of Prophet Aaron. The Aaronid priests, who were at the time in power due to the ruling
of King Hezekiah, couldn't bear such a scripture; hence, they take advantage of their power,
and, in essence, write a 'torah' of their own. The P source focuses extraordinarily on Prophet
Aaron, and his exceptional status. In fact, the word “prophet” is only mentioned once within
P, and it refers to Aaron (Friedman 188).
The connection between P and JE is very peculiar. In 1964, a Norwegian investigator
discovered that P followed JE in its doublets and stories. Recall, the story of creation in
Genesis, P began with the heavens, while JE began with the earth. Another example is the
story of The Rebellion in Numbers 16, where the P version justifies Aaron and the Aaronid
priesthood only, while the JE version is much simpler, and of course justifies Moses.
Essentially, P was written as an alternative to JE. In P, God is seen as just, while in JE, he is
viewed as more merciful. The majority of the text in Chronicles is P, where it praises
Solomon and Hezekiah, the two kings who did the most for the Aaronid priests. Other
examples include the story of the water from the rock, where the Jews demand food and
water from Moses. In the JE version, Moses simply helps them (Exod. 17:2-7), while in the P
version, through some way he commits a sin, with Aaron standing by and suffering alongside
Moses, due to Moses' sin (Num. 20:2-13). This again shows a diminished status of Moses, in
the presence of Aaron. This is yet another example of the defaming of prophets in the Torah.
If those faithful in the Hebrew Bible, truly believe the Torah to be written by Moses himself,
how could the text include such accusations on him? Hazrat Mirza Bashirrudin Ahmad
“It is possible also that the Prophets whose teachings are recorded in the Bible
collected the word of God as it was received by them, but the records left by
them could not endure the ravages of time, and when they became extinct the
people who came after wrote them again from their memory, and in doing so
entered many of their own thoughts and judgments into them.” (Ahmad 32)
As is obvious, the Aaronid priests only wanted to signify Prophet Aaron, and in doing so,
defamed Prophet Moses. As Friedman relates, concerning the P author,
“This writer was not only eliminating items that he specifically rejected on
theological or political grounds. He was eliminating the long, anecdotal tales of
the older text. To extract the P stories from genesis and then read them, one
gets the impression of a writer who means to get down to business. And that
means the age of Aaron...Besides this writer's changes and his silences, one
more element of his work provides knowledge of him: his additions. Most
obvious is his enormous emphasis on law. It overwhelms the rest in quantity:
half of Exodus, half of Numbers, nearly all of Leviticus. But he also was capable
of adding a character to a story, and, rarely, he even introduced an entirely new
story with no parallel at all in JE.” (Freidman 205)
The P writer was not happy with JE; however the D writer was, quoting JE left and right.
There is also a story in P that D quotes nearly word for word, which would signify that the
Deuteronomist knew about P. In fact, when comparing the possibility of Jeremiah as the
author of D, it would make sense due to presence of several references to P in the book of
Jeremiah. That is, if Jeremiah was himself the author of his own book. Assuming this,
Jeremiah, or the D writer, knew the priestly laws, but didn't appreciate them; he referred to P
as the “lying pen of scribes”. In conclusion, the P stories and laws were present in Judah by
the time of Jeremiah, and before the death of King Josiah, hence it was written somewhere
between 722 B.C. and 609 B.C.
Now with four source documents present, how were they combined? There had to
have been someone to combine them, and not just anyone, but someone very clever and
intelligent. According to Friedman, the redactor was Ezra; he came to Judah with the “Torah
of Moses” in his hand. For the compilation, P was used as the governing structure, where
each book essentially began with the priestly texts, and Ezra added his own text similar to the
typical language of P, wherever it was needed, mostly in the beginning and ends of books to
create the continuity. In general, the flow results from a combination of P with JE, and then
ending with D, and concluding with Moses farewell speech. The initial viewpoint had been
that the redactor and P writer were one in the same person, however, Friedman disagrees,
explaining that they were different people, yet both were Aaronid priests. He claims this
compilation took place in the days of the 2nd temple, as he writes,
“The first time that we find the full Torah of Moses in Judah, it is in Ezra's
possession...This does not prove that it absolutely had to be Ezra who fashioned
the Five books of Moses. But he was in the right priestly family, in the right
profession, in the right place, in the right time, with the authority, and with the first
known copy of the book in his hand.” (Friedman 224)
David Freedman referred to the first 11 books of the Bible (Genesis → 2 Kings) as “The First
Bible”, because Deuteronomy created the flow perfectly. Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Ahmad
agrees concerning Ezra, as he relates,
“From the history of Israel we learn that in the time of Nebuchadnezzar the books
of Israel were burnt and destroyed. They were rewritten by the Prophet Ezra,
and of Ezra we read in Jewish literature: 'It was forgotten but Ezra restored it'
(Suk. 20A, Jewish Encyclopedia Vol. 5, p. 322)
And again: 'Ezra re-established the text of Pentateuch, introducing therein the
Assyrian or square characters (Sanh. 21B, Jewish Encyclopedia Vol. 5, p. 322).”
(Ahmad 28)
He continues,
“The Torah as we know it today, therefore, is not the Torah which was revealed
to Moses. It is the Torah which Ezra recorded from his memory, and about
parts of which he himself was in doubt...Jewish scholars take the view that Ezra
did not quite know whether a given person was son or grandson of another
person. When this is the view held by Jewish and Christian scholars of Ezra's
memory, how can ordinary Jews and Christians and other ordinary people be
satisfied about the spiritual value of a book with as little authority as the Bible?”
With this much doubt, and human interference on a so-called holy scripture, how could
one conclude this book to be a guide for all mankind, let alone the word of God. Richard
Friedman eloquently and rationally uncovers the authors to the majority of the Old Testament,
specifically the five books of Moses, using not only linguistic, but also historical and
archeological evidence. His analysis is succinct and clear, as it is educational and nonreligious, in the sense of providing evidence against these books being the word of God. To
conclude, one could ask another question, as Hazrat Mirza Bashirrudin Ahmad relates,
“The question is, what spiritual benefit can accrue from such a book? What
faith or trust can such a book inspire in its readers? If the claim had been that
the Torah is a collection of statements made by many hundreds of thousands of
Jewish writers, even then the book would have possessed some value. But we
find that, on the one hand this book is offered as the very word of God, and
that, on the other, it contains thousands of contradictions. This unwarranted
claim on behalf of the Bible takes away even such value as it would have
possessed, had no such claim been made on its behalf. Such a book cannot
serve as a guide, and who can say that after such a book we did not need
another?” (Ahmad 38)

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