I have been explaining that while at Princeton Theological Seminary, I started finding that there could be mistakes in the Bible.  My first realization of this involved my study of the Gospels, but I was studying the Hebrew Bible as well, and I finally got to the point where I had to admit there appeared to be mistakes there as well.  Lots of mistakes.  Contradictions, discrepancies, historical errors.  And these show up right off the bat, in the book of Genesis.

Let me detail some of the differences I started finding, as I later summarized them, many years later, in my textbook on the Bible, where I talk about why Moses almost certainly didn’t write the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible, Genesis through Deuteronomy) and about some of the tensions one finds in the text.


As already mentioned, the critical scrutiny of the traditional view of the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch deepened and became more rigorous as scholarship advanced.   In addition to the problems just mentioned, other troubling features of the narratives came to the fore.   I have already mentioned the fact that there are numerous anachronisms in the stories of Genesis:  camels were not domesticated in Canaan in Abraham’s time (despite what is said in the stories), for instance – or in the time of Moses.  So too the Philistines did not exist as a nation yet (even though they show up in these chapters).  Nor did the city of Beersheba.   The stories that contain such references could not have been written in Moses’ day in the 13th century BCE; they must have be dated to a time no earlier than the 11th century or so, and possibly much later.

What is more, there are clear indications that these books were not written by one author at all, especially in the internal tensions that can be found among the stories and the various doublets that they present.

The internal tensions came to be seen as particularly significant.  Nowhere were these tensions more evident than …

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