A few posts ago I more or less backed into a new thread on literary discrepancies found in the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament; these discrepancies are key to understanding why the books were almost certainly not written by a single person — Moses, for example — but are a combination of sources put together centuries after the stories were first placed in circulation.

I talk about this in my textbook: The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction.  Here is how I discuss the matter there:


The literary inconsistencies of Genesis are not unique to these two chapters.  On the contrary, there are such problems scattered throughout the book.  You can see this for yourself simply by reading the text very carefully.  Read, for example, the story of the flood in Genesis 6-9, and you will find comparable differences.  One of the most glaring is this: according to Gen. 6:19 God told Noah to take two animals “of every kind” with him into the ark; but according to Gen. 7:2 God told him to take seven pairs of all “clean animals” and two of every other kind of animal.  Well, which is it?  And how can it be both?

You can find similar differences in other parts of the Pentateuch.  In the next chapter, for example, we will be looking at the ten plagues that Moses miraculously performed against the Egyptians in order to convince the reluctant Pharaoh to let the children of Israel go free from slavery.  These are terrific stories, as good as the accounts of the Patriarchs in Genesis.  But scholars have long detected similar discrepancies.  It has been noted, for example, that in the fifth plague, the LORD killed “all of the livestock” of the Egyptians (9:6).   So, based on this account one would think that “all” of the livestock were, indeed, dead.   But then, just a few verses later

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