A couple of posts ago I talked about the account of creation in Genesis 1 (with respect to the first two verses, the creation of the “heavens and the earth” and the “Spirit of God” hovering over the water). One question I repeatedly get asked by blog readers is what we can say about the author of that creation account and of the Pentateuch (or the “Torah”; the first five books of the Old Testament — Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). It’s been years since I’ve talked about it on the blog.
Historically, it was always said (as it is still often said by avid Bible readers today) that these books were written by Moses, the great leader of the Israelites in the 13th century BCE, and main figure of all the books of the Pentateuch, except Genesis (the story of his birth is given at the opening of Exodus, and much of the rest of the Pentateuch is about him). But scholars came to doubt it. That’s what these posts will be about. Why doubt such a solid tradition of authorship?
Here’s how I begin answering the question in my textbook, The Bible: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings.
Periodically over the course of history, during the Middle Ages, there were readers, students, and scholars of the Torah who raised significant questions about whether Moses did, or could have, written these five books. The questions increased among European scholars during the seventeenth century; the questions came to be raised systematically in the eighteenth century; and they came to a head in the nineteenth century, when an entirely different view of authorship came be expressed and popularized, so much so that it now dominates scholarship. This is the view that no one person was
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