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Mosaic authorship

When dealing with the debate about whether Moses himself authored (when I say "authored" of course I mean that he was directly inspired by God), it is appropriate to begin with what the Pentateuch and the rest of the Scriptures have to say about the topic.

First, however, it is important to note that many verses which refer to the writings of Moses, particularly in the Pentateuch itself, only refer to small sections and therefore are themselves mostly irrelevant to the larger question of who authored the Pentateuch as a whole. For example, in Exo 24:4 we read of Moses writing down all the words that God had just spoken, and in verse 7 we read of Moses taking this "book of the covenant" and reading it before all the people. Verses like this do not affirm the authorship of all five books of the Pentateuch and thus, while helpful in their own way with regard to other matters, do not deal with the question of the Documentary Hypothesis. But there are a number of references which do claim authorship by Moses for the "entire" Pentateuch (I enclose "entire" in quotation marks because it is understood that these claims do not deal with the extremely small number of isolated incidents where words that are in the Pentateuch today are probably not from Moses' own hand).

Before considering these references, there is one other matter that must be briefly attended to. According to the DH the books of Joshua, Judges-Ruth, Samuel, and Kings were written as part of the so-called "Deuteronomistic history" at the same time Deuteronomy was composed, namely during the early years of Josiah's reign. (Allowance is made by critical scholars for Kings being finished only a couple of decades later, perhaps by the same person (even Jeremiah or Baruch, according to some) or one of his close contemporaries.) Thus, when we consider references from these books, or from Chronicles, we generally must assume for the sake of argument that these claims carry no weight of proof, being claims only and not evidence. It is beyond the scope of this short study to examine the authorship of these post-Pentateuchal historical books, although (a) this issue is not nearly as serious in its implications as the issue of the authorship of the Pentateuch is, and (b) is largely determined by resolving the question of the authorship of the Pentateuch.

Having mentioned this brief caveat, let us turn our attention to the words in Jos 1:7-8, which refer to the Mosaic authorship of not just one small section, but rather of the entire "book of the law", which I take to refer to at least Exodus through Deuteronomy, if not Genesis as well.

Next we consider the record of Jos 8:30-35, which describes the altar that Joshua built to Yahweh Elohim of Israel upon Mount Ebal. V 31 refers to building the altar of unhewn stones just as Moses had commanded. This commandment is recorded in Deu 27, in a section that critical scholars universally attribute to the original Deuteronomist of Josiah's day. Jos 8:32 continues by mentioning the writing of the words of the law upon the stones of the altar, and vv 34 ,35 refer to Joshua reading all the words of the law of Moses to the people, including the blessings and the cursings. The blessings and the cursings are taken from Lev 26 and Deu 28, two sections which are also universally attributed by critical scholars to authors living hundreds of years after Moses.

Still in Joshua, we come to Jos 23:6, which is very similar to the Jos 1:7-8 reference cited above. Although as I have mentioned these references do not by themselves seem to deal directly with the question of the authorship of the book of Genesis, it is conceded by all that, were Exodus through Deuteronomy written by Moses, Genesis would have been too. Thus the claim for Mosaic authorship is effectively made here even though not directly made.

The next significant reference is in 1Ki 2:3, where it is recorded that as David charged his son Solomon, reference was made to the written Law of Moses. This clearly restates our basic claim.

The last two claims in the OT that we shall consider both concern events during the time of Joash, roughly eighty years before the time of Hezekiah, and thus at least that many years before the writing of either the P or D material, according to the critical scholars. In 2KI 14:5-6 we read of Joash refraining from executing the children of the murderers, and of holding this policy precisely because of the words of Moses recorded in Deu 24:16, part of the D material according to the DH. And in 2Ch 23 we read of Jehoiada making arrangements in accordance with what was written in the book of the Law of Moses. Significantly, these two references both claim to be verifiable in the exilic days, as reference is made to "the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel" in 2Ki 14:15 and to "the story of the book of the kings" in 2Ch 24:27. These both refer to court documents that we know for certain must have existed, as demonstrated by the accuracy of the regnal lengths of the kings of Israel and Judah as shown by Edwin Thiele in his book "The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings." If in fact these claims in both Kings and Chronicles are demonstrably false, the authors of these records must have been quite bold in not only these two verses, but in others as well, in challenging their contemporaries to examine the facts when the facts were demonstrably different.

In the NT we begin by considering the clear claims of Jesus with regard to the Mosaic authorship of all sections of the Pentateuch. In Mar 10:3-5 Jesus asks a question regarding "what did Moses command" with regard to divorce. In Mar 12:26 he refers to the burning bush recorded in Exo 3, as being in the book of Moses. According to the DH, the account of the burning bush was not written down until at least the time of Solomon. In Luk 5:14 Jesus commanded the cleansed leper to go and make his offering "just as Moses commanded". According to critical scholars, the relevant section of the Law was not written until at least the time of Hezekiah. In Luk 24 there are two references to the Pentateuch as being the words of Moses, once by Luke in v 27 and once by Jesus in v 44. In Joh 7:19 we read of Jesus castigating the Jews for not obeying the law which Moses gave.

And in Joh 5 we come to a very important reference. In vv 45-47 we read: "Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?" (KJV) Clearly in none of these refs is there even the slightest hint that Jesus allowed for the possibility of most of the Pentateuch being written during or after the time of Hezekiah, or of it being put into the form that we now have sometime after the return from exile. For believers in Christ like ourselves, these claims by Jesus carry enough weight to carry the argument by themselves. For skeptics and for critical scholars, they are claims only but the fact remains that these are still clear claims. Jesus did not believe in anything even remotely like the DH. (DB)

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