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Bavly Kost 209-638-578 Dr. Meley Mulugetta First Term Paper: Deuteronomy Word count: 3263

Deuteronomy: The Importance of its Authorship Introduction: The Documentary Hypothesis is a modern day theory that establishes the authorship of the Torah by taking away the traditional point of view that places Moses as the author of the first five books of the OT. Julius Wellhausen established the theory and came up with the four source hypothesis. The JEDP source has four distinct authors writing in different time periods and establishing Jewish laws and customs throughout the entirety of the Torah. The book of Deuteronomy has its own author that is different from the other four books of the Torah. The traditional point of view would attribute the author of Deut to Moses. However, in recent years, scholarship has begun to emerge that would claim otherwise. The Israelites had different religious groups inhabiting the region around them. This meant that a written code had to come in place. JEDP places those codes to different time periods throughout history. The D source, which will be the main focus, has its roots from the 6th BCE addressing the contemporaries in the Babylonian exile. Steven McKenzie argues that the main theme of the books hinges on the suffering they endured [being] deserved consequences of centuries of decline in Israels loyalty to YHWH1. Loyalty depended on their relationship with the one true God, however, if one examines the biblical commentaries, the scholarship has been divided on the authorship of Deut. Moses as a possible author or a contemporary of Moses have been suggested as possible links to the authorship of the Torah. The treatments of such scholarship will be explored in an effort to

McKenzie, Steven. Deuteronomistic History, The Anchor Bible Dictionary.Vol.2: Doubleday, 1992, p.160-68.

pinpoint the authorship of Deut based on the 34th chapter of the book. How can an author write a book and also talk about his own death? There are inconsistencies throughout Deut that need to be explored to determine who authored the book. Deuteronomy: Deuteronomy is the fifth book in the Torah and it takes its origins from a Greek word meaning second law as the main theme of the book is based on revisiting the law2. The book consists of Moses giving one final talk to the people of Israel before entering the Promised Land. The book however, stems away from what was already preached in Exodus and Leviticus, hence why it has its own source with JEDP. James Griffiths offers a detailed explanation on what exactly Deut is as he says in his commentary: In Character, therefore, Deuteronomy is historical, containing as it does an account of certain events in the history of the chosen people: legislative- proclaiming a number of laws which the people were to observe when settled in the land of Canaan; but above all, hortatory- a collection of prophetic addresses in which the laws are not merely states, but expounded in the light of history, and their aim and spirit developed in a wonderfully impressive manner3. Deut is a historical book that examines the laws and regulations that the Jewish nation had to keep once they had crossed over to the land of Canaan. A general introduction to Deut was needed in order to understand what type of history a scholar is dealing with. Textual criticism will be important in order to understand if Moses is the author of Deut or if there is more than one author. By examining the Torah and comparing it to Deut, one can determine if we are dealing with the same author or contemporaries writing in the name of Moses.

Coogan, Michael. The Old Testament: A Historical and Literary Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011, p.177.

Griffiths, James Simon. The Problem of Deuteronomy. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1911, p.11.

Surveying the text: The inconsistencies that point to multiple authors. Deut, from the traditional point of view of both conservative Jews and Christians, has been preached as being written by Moses. But a quick analysis made by Coogan does not point to the same conclusion. The framework narrative itself is set in the third person (These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan 1:1), and the narrator of those words is living on the west side of the Jordan River, in Israel, not east of the Jordan, where Moses died4. Coogan does not think the Mosaic authorship can be proven based on these quick facts. Nonetheless, the evidence goes well beyond these small points that Coogan presents. Deut tries to establish its authority by claiming that the written codes and regulations are the first of its kind made present within the text. This is one point that many traditionalists use to prove that Moses wrote the book. The idea of Monotheism (The Shema Deut.6), was first preached by the Jewish nation is indeed a myth. Different cultures that came before the Israelites had very strong religious beliefs in the essence of worshipping the one true God. The Egyptian culture was the first society to have this belief in one God. The Jewish people were probably influenced by the Egyptian culture into this concept of Monotheism; the belief of one God. Scholars believe that the ancient Jews were influenced heavily by the surrounding cultures. Believing in one God was no different and was imposed on them by the surrounding cultures. The idea of believing in one God was a prominent theme within the Egyptian society. Harold Weiners commentary on Deut portrays the image that the Shema and the existence of the idea of believing in one God arose from the Egyptian culture as he states: As to monotheism, evidence has come from the tombs of Egypt to show that is was older than Moses; and we have been able to trace probable lines of transmission by which the
Coogan, Michael. The Old Testament: A Historical and Literary Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011, pg.177-178.

thought of the Egyptian Pharaoh became familiar to the Hebrew lawgiver. It is only necessary to read the twentieth chapter of Ezekiel to realize that the prophet and his heaters had certain knowledge that the exile had been foretold before the end of the wilderness period5. The belief in one God exhibited in Deut comes directly from the traditions of the Egyptians who believed that Pharaoh was the ultimate God. This concept is personified in Deut but instead of worshiping Pharaoh, we have the Jews worshipping YHWH as the ultimate God and creator. This is a major argument that pulls away from the Mosaic authorship of Deut. Another argument that is embodied in Deut that pulls away from the Mosaic authorship is the inconsistencies found within Deut. The slip up argument, as it is known, occurs throughout different points of the text. This argument would indicate that multiple authors have played a role in the writing of Deut. The slip up occurs when certain expressions in Deut do not match with the remaining text. If Moses wrote Deut then two conclusions are drawn. Firstly, Moses was either a clumsy writer and made slip ups in his writing or secondly, there are multiple authors. Samuel Ives, a prominent 19th century historian, seems to agree that Moses was not a very educated man or the passages are post-Mosaic additions to the text. He goes on to give a detailed example of how this slip up occurred when he says: These to be the words which Moses spake unto Israel on this side [more accurately, on the other side] Jordan-indicates that the author was living in the land of Canaan. Moses could hardly have written otherwise in a book which he intended for Israel after the conquest The Horim formerly dwelt in Seir; but the children of Esau drove them out, and destroyed them before them; as Israel did to the land of his possession, which YHWH game him. This is regarded as a slip on the part of the Deuteronomistic, and as indicating that Israel had long been in possession of the Promised Land6.

Wiener, Harold. The Main Problem of Deuteronomy. Ohio: Bibliotheca Sacra Company, 1920, p.3. Curtiss, Samuel Ives. Moses and Deuteronomy. London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1878, p.9-10.

Ives argues that the slip ups are far too many to account for. There are only two options left to conclude: there are multiple authors or a post-Mosaic tuning of the primary text. The idea of multiple authors has garnered a wide audience of support. A disciple of Moses or a contemporary could have written Deut which would explain the differences between Deut and the rest of the Torah in regards to the different laws. For example, the laws on slavery differ completely between Deut and Exodus. In Exodus (21.2-11), we see the rules of slavery being established for men but when one reads Deut (15.12-18), we see the same rules for men and we also see the same rules for women included in the text. This would indicate different authors writing the text. Andrew Harper offers a similar approach in which he claims that a contemporary of Moses wrote major parts of Deut. This would explain different parts of Deut; the differences in language and the stylist approach are different in Deut compared to the rest of the Torah. Andrew Harper believes in the idea of a contemporary writing Deut. It is important to know whether the author of Deuteronomy could have been a contemporary of Moses, or a younger contemporary of his contemporaries7. Harper also suggests the concept of oral tradition being at work. Oral tradition was a very common concept used within these early societies. The people living during this time had accurate senses of the events that occurred compared to people living in our modern times who have short memory spans. The idea is that the oral traditions were preserved and a few generations after Moses, a contemporary could have added on to Deut. Harpers argument would also answer the one prominent dispute of how Moses could have written about his death in Chapter 348. Harper would suggest that a contemporary wrote Deut and this would align itself with the author of Deut. Writing in the name of another individual makes sense since during this time period, different individuals always wrote in the name of their

Harper, Andrew. The Book of Deuteronomy. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1895, p.6. Deuteronomy 34: 5-9

teacher. For instance, Platos work was always written in the name of Socrates. This was common for this time period to write in the name of your teacher. Nevertheless, the other side of the coin suggests that Moses was the writer of not only Deut but, the entire Torah. Moses: The undisputed author of Deut: Within the scholarship of Deut, the traditionalists are the only individuals who still hold to the Mosaic authorship of Deut. Taking the supernatural out of Deut is what JEDP is trying to accomplish. But the question that remains is: what is Deut trying to accomplish? The book surveys Moses talking to the people of Israel before they enter the Promised Land. How can one be certain that Moses is the author of Deut? David Merson claims that any other attestation to another author does not make sense because the difficulties that arise with such a claim will lie with the critic to prove the book was not written by Moses when he says: The book does claim to be from the pen of Moses, and the burden of proof lies with the man who denies it, and the denier may be assured that whenever he produces sufficient proof to establish his negative. It is this claim to a Mosaic origin so unmistakably put forward by the book itself that renders the work of the destructive critic so precarious. To deny the Mosaic authorship of Deuteronomy is a far more serious thing than to deny the same of the other books in the Pentateuch, and for that reason that in none of them is the claim made do directly as here9. David Merson is working of a bias in which he states the book was written by Moses and the church concludes the same as the modern scholars do. No one else could have written Deut except for Moses himself. David Merson has a strong held bias in that he is a Christian and according to his beliefs, Moses did write Deut. It would not be reasonable to cling to the Mosaic authorship, simply because it has been held by the Church in the past, it is certainly reasonable, before giving it up, to see that

Merson, David. Deuteronomy, Its Dating, Authorship, and Contents: A Lecture. Aberdeen: A & R. Milne, 1881, p. 6-7.

we have a consistent theory to put it its place. If I felt it to be wholly untenable, I confess I would be at a loss which of the many current adverse views to adopt10. When scholars work with personal bias, it does not strengthen their argument. Those that confess that Moses wrote Deut and those who say that he did not are both working of personal bias. This leads into the last argument which must be considered. Scholars believe that establishing an author for Deut will indeed help the advancement of the scholarship of Deut. However, I do not believe that establishing an author for Deut is an important factor for the scholarship at all. The importance does not lie with establishing an author but rather in studying the text and the language that it was written in so that it is easier to understand the time period and how different communities were affected by the surrounding cultures. This outweighs the idea of who wrote the book. Scholars want to understand the culture of the ANE in order to determine how these people lived and how they used other cultures in relation to their own religious views. Moses the author of Deut: Does not matter for the current scholarship: The idea that scholars maintain that establishing an author for Deut is important for the study goes beyond the point that understanding the context of the book outweighs who wrote it. To understand the context of the book, one must escape his comfort zone in order to arrive to a conclusion on who wrote the book. If scholars pay attention to the details that do not matter like the superficial aspect of who wrote the book, then the idea of studying the book and its complete message will go unnoticed in the academic world. James Griffiths puts it nicely when he says that in order to understand Deut; we must look beyond these superficial boundaries we set for ourselves. We must climb out of our comfort zone in order to understand what is happening


Ibid., 26.

within the book. This might include explaining the Jewish religion on par with the Pagan religions when he says: Whether the religious history of Israel is to be explained on the same lines as the history of the pagan religions, or on distinctive and supernatural lines; and whether the sacred Scriptures of the Jews were communicated by divine revelation through patriarch and prophets, a process historically crowned by the manifestation of the Son of God in the flesh, or are to be accounted for on purely naturalistic hypotheses, in close analogy with the mythical and legendary literatures of other ancient nations11. James proceeds on to say that if we are to examine the Jewish religion from this unbiased point of view, we must also examine the OT in the same outlook. The number one rule is establishing correct scholarship so that the individual must eliminate all bias. Science and religion are two separate aspects that cannot be combined to answer the greatest questions of life. The same goes true for religion and the historical study of religion. They cannot be combined together in the same field of study. They will both arrive at different conclusions if combined together to try and understand the historical aspect. Religion and the historical study of religion must be separate in order to not cause confusion or create internal bias. This is why I believe that trying to establish an author of Deut is a superficial argument that should not be brought into the scholarship because it creates this unneeded tension in studying the Old Testament. One has to look beyond the author in order to understand what the book is trying to say. With that in perspective, one can conclude that Moses might have had a hand in writing Deut but a contemporary had a helping hand composing Deut as well. Maybe the text was composed during the 6th century BCE. The point is that whoever wrote it had a set message he was trying to make. As scholars, it is our goal to read and understand what this message was. Conclusion:

Griffiths, James Simon. The Problem of Deuteronomy. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1911, p.10.

In drawing this paper to a conclusion, it seems fitting to close with how the scholarship of dating Deut with its respected author has been depicted on different scales throughout the years. The two sides of the argument that have been presented either presents a late dating of Deut, which would take away from the Mosaic authorship or Moses composed most of Deut with a contemporary finishing the ending of the book. Both sides have been well documented throughout the scholarship and study of Deut. Looking at both points of view with no bias entailed has been the un-objective goal of this paper. Can one conclude that both are correct or incorrect? I do not believe one can come to such conclusions but what we can conclude is that both sides present appealing points that show how both can be correct. The rest is left to the unbiased scholar to make that choice. No matter what and no matter who wrote Deut, this concept does not affect the study of the historical overview of Deut. Deut is a book that explains the culture and society of the Jewish nation living at a time where different religions and cultures were being imposed on them. That is a reality that both sides cannot disagree on. On the other hand, as scholars we have to build this picture of what happened in the past. The author of the book does not affect the scholarship in any way, shape or form. I do believe that there is Mosaic authorship in Deut with a contemporary helping to finish the book to its present form.

Bibliography: Barrick, William. The Authorship of Deuteronomy 34: Moses or Redactor? California: The Masters Seminary, 2001.


Coogan, Michael. The Old Testament: A Historical and Literary Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. Curtiss, Samuel Ives. Moses and Deuteronomy. London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1878. Griffiths, James Simon. The Problem of Deuteronomy. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1911. Harper, Andrew. The Book of Deuteronomy. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1895. McKenzie, Steven. Deuteronomistic History, The Anchor Bible Dictionary.Vol.2: Doubleday, 1992. Merson, David. Deuteronomy, Its Dating, Authorship, and Contents: A Lecture. Aberdeen: A & R. Milne, 1881. New Revised Standard Version, The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha, College Edition. M. Coogan et al (eds.). Oxford University Press, 2001. Phillips, Anthony. The Cambridge Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973. Wiener, Harold. The Main Problem of Deuteronomy. Ohio: Bibliotheca Sacra Company, 1920.