Good question...

...but was the Pentateuch "adulterated" by later additions?

[Created Jan 1, 1998]

I wrote an article on the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch? and I got this response from the original poster...(my reply follows each major section)...

My dear Mr. Miller,

I thank you for your time and attention. I was really not expecting such a detailed response from you, knowing how busy you really are. I stand highly obliged. is a common question and one I needed to post some information on...thanks for providing me an excuse to do the research (*smile*)

My dear Mr. Miller, after a lot of deliberation and discussion (with friends) on your points I, with due respects, would like to make the following remarks:

1- Nobody claims that "All" of the Pentateuch is "non-Mosaic". All that is challenged is that "All" of the Pentateuch "IS" Mosaic. The problem is not to prove that some "part" (whether substantial or nominal) is an accurate Mosaic tradition, but rather that the "whole" is unadulterated Mosaic tradition. Your answer has only substantiated the belief that the Pentateuch is not "completely" Mosaic. and includes later additions which are "generally (not always) very visible".

Dear friend, it is here that I see that I should have insisted in our earlier correspondence for a better wording of the question to me! I had no idea that this was your REAL question! The differences between our starting points will become quite obvious as I go through your text, point by point (below)...

Nobody claims that "All" of the Pentateuch is "non-Mosaic".

We obviously have a different set of people we talk with! In the scholarly literature of the West, many biblical scholars do not believe there even WAS a Moses! Some believe there WAS one, but that he was NOT an Israelite! And a very large number of them believe he had NOTHING TO DO with the content or recording of the first 5 books of the bible!

In my world, the belief that Moses had even a significant part in developing even pre-cursors to the Pentateuch is a very minority and conservative position indeed! (And you can then image how minority the position is that I hold--that Moses had primary responsibility for almost all of the Pentateuch!).

Had I known your friends were so ultra-conservative, I could have tried to address your question with much different information!

All that is challenged is that "All" of the Pentateuch "IS" Mosaic.

I personally do not know a living soul who argues this, even among very, very conservative people like myself. I know that some ancient writers believed that (e.g. that God told Moses to write the account of his own death beforehand), but I am not aware of anyone holding to that today.

So, I cannot imagine why someone among your friends would even believe that someone held such a position. In philosophy, challenging a position that no one holds is called 'attacking a straw man'. It is very easy to attack a position that no one holds and win; there is no one there to defend it! But to assume that in successfully challenging such a position, one has also successfully challenged a more mainstream position is quite mistaken.

I can only assume that your friends have been misled by someone, with rumors and/or caricatures of the biblical position.

Had I understood that this was the issue, I could have pointed this out without all the detail research! (Maybe on the next question, eh friend?)

The problem is not to prove that some "part" (whether substantial or nominal) is an accurate Mosaic tradition, but rather that the "whole" is unadulterated Mosaic tradition.

This is the same point, of course, so my response is the same...Why should I try to prove something no one holds anyway?

The Church doesn't argue this. The Rabbinical Jew doesn't argue this. The Old Testament doesn't argue this. The New Testament doesn't argue this. Why would someone "challenge" this?

Hmmm... perhaps I can discover a better understanding of your friends' background by your use of the word 'unadulterated' in the remark, for that is a very value-laden term in the West.

A dictionary definition of 'adulterate' (Oxford Concise Dictionary) is this: "debase by adding other or inferior substances" and Webster Unabridged adds "make impure by admixture; use cheaper, inferior, or less desirable elements in manufacture".

Now, IF this is the meaning you intended to convey (and it is distinctly possible that you did NOT mean this), then your friend has somehow decided that only Moses' exact words could/would be 'inspired by God' and that any material added by others--even inspired prophets like Isaiah or inspired scribes like Ezra--is therefore 'cheaper, inferior, or less desirable'.

Let's think about this position for a few moments...

First, let's note that this position will somehow assume that it has the authority and wisdom to be able to decide that the words of Moses are greater than the words of Abraham, King David, Elijah, Isaiah, Solomon, Daniel, or Ezra (to name a few). For example, if Ezra was 'inspired by God' and added bits to the Pentateuch, your friends' position requires them to know already that Ezra's words were 'inferior'. (It is difficult, if not impossible, to see how someone could defend such an outrageous and presumptuous claim to this level of expertise!)

Next, we should note that this position will quickly be forced into defending Mosaic editing/recording of non-Mosaic material--versus Mosaic origination of the material's content. What's the difference? Origination would be words that Moses 'thought up'; recording would be words someone else 'thought up' and Moses 'wrote down' (with the result somehow being 'inspired').

Why will the "only Moses' words are inspired" position be forced into the 'recording also' position? Because all of the really important stuff was dictated/originated by God--NOT by Moses! Moses essentially added nothing to (at least) the giving the Law of God; he merely recorded it. Therefore, if we say that only the words Moses 'thought up himself' are inspired, then the entire "Mosaic" Law has to get discarded--because it was NOT Moses who originated it. Even what is called the "Song of Moses" in Deut 32 was given to Moses from Yahweh in Deut 31.14.

So, very quickly your friend will be forced into expanding the category from 'only the words that Moses thought up' to 'also the words that other people/Persons thought up'.

This should be obvious from the presence of quotations from other sources in the text. Let's note some of these:

1. All of the speeches of the pre-Mosaic figures: Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob.

2. All of the speeches of figures DURING Moses' lifetime--good or bad: Pharaoh, Aaron, Joshua, Balaam(!), GOD(!)

3. All of the speeches of Moses' opponents during his career (e.g., Dothan, Balaam)

Plus, we have the specific literary sources mentioned, for example:

1. the correspondence with the Transjordanian rulers

2. the 'poets' (Num 21.27)

Now, it must be realized that the vast majority of the material in the Pentateuch is NOT "words thought up by Moses" [even the long sermon in Deuteronomy is given in terms of 'God spoke to me...'], so Moses actual personal words are very, very few. So, for there to be SOMETHING 'Mosaic' to preserve at all (!), your friend's belief MUST include Moses' collection, editing, and writing down of material BY OTHER speakers (e.g. God, Balaam, Aaron, Abraham, the Serpent of Genesis 3) and BY OTHER authors (e.g. "poets", foreign kings, survey lists from the spies, genealogies from the Patriarchs).

Once your friend gets to this point, the cat is out of the bag...

For at this point, "inspiration" of Moses (in the production of some final document) equates to "providential guidance" (in the production of some final document). And once this is done, there is absolutely NO reason to judge later "providential guidance" of editors, updaters, annotators, etc as being "cheaper, inferior, or less desirable". God's "providential guidance" is not limited to the great(!). He uses the 'lowly things of the world' to deliver His message: simple shepherds (e.g. Abraham, David), simple fishermen (Peter, James, John), simple scribes (Prov 25.1: "These are more proverbs of Solomon, copied by the men of Hezekiah king of Judah:")

In short, there is nothing "extra" in Moses' work that God did not ALSO do in the work of Isaiah, David the Psalmist, Solomon, or Daniel, or that God could not ALSO do in the lives of anonymous prophetic historians (e.g. the Chronicler) or godly scribes (e.g. Ezra). To defend an opposite position (your friend's position) would be virtually impossible.

Technically speaking, by the way, the 'theological doctrine' of inspiration does NOT refer to the writers, but to the written product only. God "inspired" Moses and the prophets, of course, but only what has survived and been recognized by God's community is what is termed 'inspired'. Moses would have uttered many, many more words to Israel in his Desert Wanderings than shows up in the Book of Numbers, but they are not preserved for us--does that mean those words were not "inspired"? No, it only means they were not 'intended or inspired for us'.

It is the final form of the biblical books that the Jew and the Christian call 'inspired'--NOT any intermediate documents or sources. What form the Pentateuch might have taken at the time of David or Jeremiah is what God would have intended for that generation. For the generation of Ezra, the body of inspired literature would have been larger and possibly updated or changed.

To use an illustration of this, perhaps you have seen the "Red Letter" bibles so popular in the West. In the New Testament of these bibles, the words of Jesus are put in RED LETTERS, so that they stand out from the BLACK LETTERS in which everything else is written. This is helpful if one is studying the words of Jesus, of course, but this would be misleading if someone said that the RED LETTERS are 'more inspired' than the BLACK LETTERS. In the Jewish and Christian perspective, ALL the LETTERS are 'produced' (through the processes of history) by the Holy Spirit of God. The Jew maintains that the Holy Spirit "oversaw the historical processes of production" of ALL the written material (i.e. scripture) of the Tanakh/OT (e.g. Sanh 10.1; 99a) and the Christian maintains that the Holy Spirit "oversaw the historical processes of production" of ALL the written material of the entire Bible (2 Tim 3.16: All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness")

Now, it should be obvious that any later changes to the originals should (probably) not materially change or substantially change the original content. But note that, theoretically, God COULD remove outdated material if He chose to do so--there is nothing requiring Him to maintain all of the material! He certainly changed the requirements of the Law as Israel's situation changed. Several laws given in Exodus/Leviticus are modified from their migratory-basis to a settlement-basis in Deuteronomy. And, in the case of explanatory glosses or location-name updates, nothing in Moses original material is changed whatsoever.

And actually, it can certainly be argued, in my opinion, that Mosaic content would be 'lost' if the names and glosses were NOT added--the very meaning of the words and sentences and paragraphs might be lost! Had translators and interpreters (such as Ezra and company) NOT been around, the meaning of Mosaic original composition might not be preserved (cf. Neh 8.8: "They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read.")

A good example of this is Numbers 12.2-3: "and they said, "Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well?" And the Lord heard it. 3 (Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.)" The comment about Moses' humility was probably added as background material by someone later. Without that background material, the conflict in the passage makes much less sense. In this case the annotation is required to preserve the Mosaic content.

THIRD, let me point out that when you add a series introduction to a book, or a translator's forward, you do NOT change the contents of the original author! The overall book might be considered to be slightly different, but it would be a mistake to consider the author's work 'adulterated'. A scholarly journal article that is reprinted in an anthology, with introduction and epilogue by someone else, does not in any way become 'debased' or 'adulterated'-as long as its literary unity is preserved. If, on the other hand, an editor went in and changed the original arguments--without noting it!--then we might have a legitimate concern over 'adulteration'. David's words in the Psalm's are not 'diluted' OR 'enhanced' by placing a psalm of Moses (Psalm 90) in the collection. Meaning is associated with linguistic units, such as the paragraph or section. These can, to a great degree, be "moved around" without affecting the meaning--if the units were so constructed as to be 'mobile'. And so much of the Tanakh/OT DOES occur in units that allow this. (The Chiasmus structure, for example, is tightly integrated, but highly 'mobile'.)

It is too easy to go beyond the data in this issue, as well. We have four types of phenomena that could count as data for 'adulteration': orthographic/script changes, lexical changes, internal literary additions, and inclusion in larger literary units.

Orthographic/script changes are where--to preserve the meaning of the text (!)--the text is copied into the new alphabet. Conceptually, this is like changing the text from all lowercase letters to uppercase letters, or from printed, block letters to a cursive hand. In this case, the words do not change in the least. There simply is nothing magic about the shape of the letters, as long as the word itself remains intact in the process of transcription.

Lexical changes are where word stock is updated--again, to preserve the meaning. In the Pentateuch this generally occurs in place names. The only way that a simple word-for-word substitution could make any difference, would be in the situations where there may be a word-play on the original word, like a place name. So, for example, in Genesis 21.22-34, Abraham digs a well and makes an oath with a ruler concerning it; hence, the city is called "Beersheba" (lit. "well of the oath"). This ties the place name to the events of the text, so we would be able to detect any topographical changes in these kinds of texts. And no problems show up. And in cases where BOTH are important (name-meaning and locale-identification), the author is careful to leave everything in! Cf. Gen 28.18: "So Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on its top. 19 And he called the name of that place Bethel; however, previously the name of the city had been Luz."

It is important to realize how sacred these texts were to the Hebrews. As we saw in the previous post, they left untouched some extremely old and variously confusing elements--out of sheer respect for the sacredness of the text. Changes to lexical stock were made only when necessary, only when transparent, and if there was the slightest doubt--they put it in as an annotation (like the comment on Luz). How much 'dilution' or 'debasement' occurs in the case like this?! None.

Internal literary additions. Most literary additions will be of the explanatory, background, or annotation kinds--and will accordingly be transparent (or even preservative of the original intent of Moses' words). The word 'internal' indicated that they occur INSIDE semantic units (such as sentences, paragraphs, or major narrative units). As transparent, they would NOT obscure the meaning of the unit, but rather preserve it.

Inclusion in larger literary units. It is here that the discussion gets most interesting. This is where a later prophetic editor has constructed the final form, out of Mosaic and non-Mosaic sub-units, of the Pentateuch as we know have it. It must be remembered that nowhere is the form of the Pentateuch or the extent of the original Mosaic traditions/documents described by God, so there is no theoretical commitment one has to make to the present form. (That the extent or form of the Mosaic material is not in itself a part of revealed truth can also be seen in the fact that the Mosaic law and Mosaic history are quoted by later prophetic biblical writers, of "equal inspiration" to Moses. They obviously NEVER duplicate the entire Pentateuch in the quote(!)-implying that extent of writing is not an issue. And they rarely quote 'letter for letter'-implying that exact form of the writing is not an issue. Being faithful to reproduce the meaning is what is crucial.) No debasement here.

Remember, I pointed out before that later prophets were inspired by the same God as Moses, and that there is no real distinction whatsoever in authority or accuracy or relevance between Moses and later (and earlier) prophets. Even the one verse that could support such a view (Deut 34.11: "Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the LORD sent him to do in Egypt-to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.") was (1) obviously not written by Moses!; and (2) refers to the ministry of Moses (e.g. quantity and extent of miracles, nature of interface with God) and makes no mention of his writings or "his" law. Note also, that Moses and Samuel as held up as 'peers' in Jeremiah 15:1, and with Aaron and Miriam in Micah 6:4.

Let me explain how this prophetic combining or rearranging of sub-units might work in the Pentateuch.

The post-Mosaic prophets attempted to draw the people to the covenant commitment they had made under the ministry of Moses, and one of the means they employed to do this was the writing of 'theological commentary' on historical events. The prophets would either (1) interpret current events according to the framework set up under the Sinai covenant, or (2) get a direct revelation from Yahweh about it, and would then confront the leaders and people of Israel with that understanding/message. In this process they wrote Yahweh's interpretation of events down. Compare:

As for the other events of Solomon's reign, from beginning to end, are they not written in the records of Nathan the prophet, in the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite and in the visions of Iddo the seer concerning Jeroboam son of Nebat? (2 Chr 9.29)

Now the acts of King David, from first to last, are written in the chronicles of Samuel the seer, in the chronicles of Nathan the prophet, and in the chronicles of Gad the seer, 30 with all his reign, his power, and the circumstances which came on him, on Israel, and on all the kingdoms of the lands. (1 Chr 29.29)

As for the events of Rehoboam's reign, from beginning to end, are they not written in the records of Shemaiah the prophet and of Iddo the seer that deal with genealogies? (2 Chr 12.15)

The prophet of the LORD was given prophetic insight into the patterns of Israel's national life. As such, they would discern (as God gave them insight-cf. 2 kin 4.27) when the 'hand of the Lord' was involved (e.g. Is 41.20; 1 Sam 5.6; Jud 14.4; 1 Kin 12.15), and when the 'hand of the Lord' WOULD BE involved (e.g. prophecies of discipline of the nation).

The history of Israel-from start to finish-is a multi-faceted thing. It involved both hope and failure at the same time. The exilic prophet-historian who wrote First and Second Kings saw and documented the trends of failure, disobedience, and degeneration in the History of Israel and Judah, so that Israel would learn from her mistakes. The post-exilic prophet who wrote First and Second Chronicles-and who used the very material written by the First and Second Kings 'prophetic historian'-could see also the seeds of hope and trends of redemption in that same history. The two are not 'contradictory viewpoints' simply because they both saw legitimate trends within a multi-faceted history (as ALL history is), and they don't actually deny the validity of the other viewpoint. They stand within the unitary prophetic tradition that said they there would always be grace available, even in times of judgement [the Deuteronomic curses (Dt 30) and the commitment to Solomon (I Kin 8)].

It is this prophetic pattern-detection function that God MIGHT have involved in the final form of the Pentateuch. Although the subject matter is very, very complex [see IOTTC], let me merely make a few remarks about the final structure of the first five books of the Tanakh/OT.

Even before the fall of Jerusalem, Yahweh had told the prophets that the Law of Moses had been ineffective at producing a godly nation of out Israel, and that He was going to 'change the program' and establish a New Covenant. So, Jeremiah 31.31:

"Behold, days are coming," declares the Lord, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them," declares the Lord. 33 "But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the Lord, "I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 "And they shall not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them," declares the Lord, "for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."

This New Covenant will supersede the Old One, and be focused on 'inwardness' [see also 32.40] and 'knowledge of the Lord' [see also Jer 24.7]. It will have no human mediators (e.g. no technical priesthood), and no 'class distinctions'. Elsewhere in the prophets, this covenant is linked to the messiah of the Davidic Covenant (e.g. Jer 33.14; Ezek 37.26).

Is God 'allowed' to do this?! Can He announce through Moses that there would be a "Second Moses" to inaugurate a different covenant (Deut 18)?! Can He use the Mosaic Law to show them His high and holy standards, and then show them through history that they cannot measure up? That they will need something 'new', something 'of grace', something 'inward'? Of course-He even announced it before hand.

In fact, the later prophets who had the benefit of the additional revelation from God (e.g. Jeremiah above) and the benefit of seeing the failure of Israel to obey the Law (e.g. the author of Kings and Ezra & Nehemiah), MAY be responsible for some of the arrangement and even internal comments in the Pentateuch. For example, it is very easy to argue that the Pentateuch specifically shows the superiority of faith/inwardness over life under the Law!

Moses specifically was guilty of unbelief (under the law) and excluded from the Promised Land (Deut 32.51 and Num 20), as was the entire adult Exodus generation (Num 14.11: "The LORD said to Moses, "How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them?" with 14:21f: "Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the LORD fills the whole earth, not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times-not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it"). But the Pentateuch tells us that Abraham fulfilled the Law, a half-millennium before it was given-because of his faith! So, Gen 26.3-5:

I will establish the oath which I swore to your father Abraham. 4 "And I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; 5 because Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws."

Sailhamer asks the obvious question (IOTTC:260):

"How is it possible for Abraham to obey the commandments, statutes, and laws before they were given? Why is Abraham here credited with keeping the law when in the previous narratives great pains were taken to show him as one who lived by faith (e.g., Gen 15:6)? There has been no mention of Abraham's having the law or keeping the law previous to this passage. Why, now suddenly, does the text say Abraham had kept the law?"

The phrase My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws is a technical description of the Mosaic Law (e.g., Deut 11.1). [Even the Talmud recognized this, and had to argue that Abraham had been given ALL of the Mosaic Law during his lifetime in Yoma 28b!].

At a narrative structure level, it LOOKS LIKE Abraham and Moses are being contrasted. So, Sailhamer again [IOTTC:265, emphasis Sailhamer]:

"It is as if the author of the Pentateuch has seized on the Abrahamic narratives as a way to explain his concept of 'keeping the law.' The author uses the life of Abraham, not Moses, to illustrate that one can fulfill the righteous requirements of the law. In choosing Abraham and not Moses, the author shows that 'keeping the law' means 'believing in God,' just as Abraham believed God and was counted righteous (Gen 15:6). In effect the author of the Pentateuch says, 'Be like Abraham. Live a life of faith and it can be said that you are keeping the law.'

On the other hand, in the portrayal of Moses in Numbers 20, we have the opposite. We have a rather strange sequence of events-with many, many gaps in the details-but the summary of the offense is stated in 20.12: "But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them." Whatever the problem was, the writer of the passage quotes GOD as saying it was an issue of unbelief-NOT law!.

To finish this example, consider Sailhamer's conclusion [IOTTC:270-271]:

"The narrative strategy of the Pentateuch contrasts Abraham, who kept the law, and Moses, whose faith was weakened under the law. This suggests a conscious effort on the part of the author of the Pentateuch to distinguish between a life of faith before the law (ante legem) and a lack of faith under the law (sub lege). This is accomplished by showing that the life of God's people before the giving of the law was characterized by faith and trust in God, but after the giving of the law their lives were characterized by faithlessness and failure. Abraham lived by faith (Gen 15:6), in Egypt the Israelites lived by faith (Exod 4), they came out of Egypt by faith (Exod 14:31), and they approached Mount Sinai by faith (Exod 19:9). However after the giving of the law, no longer was the life of God's people marked by faith. Even their leaders, Moses and Aaron, failed to believe in God after the coming of the law.

"If we have accurately described this aspect of the compositional strategy of the Pentateuch, then we have uncovered an initial and clear indication of the Pentateuch's view of the Mosaic Law. The view is, in fact, remarkably similar to that of Jeremiah 31:31ff. Just as Jeremiah looked back at the failure of the Sinai covenant and the Mosaic Law which the Israelites had failed to keep, so the author of the Pentateuch already held little hope for blessing sub lege. Jeremiah looked forward to a time when the Torah would be internalized, not written on tablets of stone (cf Ezek 36:26), but written on their heart (Jer 31:33). In the same way the Pentateuch holds up the example of Abraham, a model of faith, one who did not have the tablets of stone but who nevertheless kept the law by living a life of faith. At the same time it offers the warning of the life of Moses, who died in the wilderness because of his lack of faith. In this respect it seems fair to conclude that the view of the Mosaic Law found in the Pentateuch is essentially that of the New Covenant passages in the prophets.

Now, for such an authorial intent to be present, either Moses had it/wrote it, or some later prophetic writer had it/wrote it. It is certainly reasonable to believe that Moses himself was the author of the contrast:

But it is also reasonable to believe a later prophet arranged the text in this contrasting way-to show the need for the New Covenant-but the fact that such a 'change' is not mentioned or suggested in the Pentateuch argues that the contrast was written BEFORE the specifics of the New Covenant had been announced.

The point to all this is simply to argue that Mosaic material could be used in larger compositional structures without compromising Mosaic content of 'his pieces'. And, frankly, as I pointed out before, there is no biblical or theological reason for demanding that the Pentateuch be even 'substantially Mosaic' (which I KNOW can easily be defended).

Mosaic authorship (except for those passages or sections that are explicitly referenced by later biblical prophetic writers-e.g., Jesus in Mark 7.10 and Luke 20.37) is NOT an 'article of faith'-it is an historical question. References to the "Law of Moses" or the "Book(s) of Moses" do NOT entail or require that the books referred to by those phrases at the time be the identical originals recorded in 1400-1200BC at all. [This discussion does not even raise the important issues of (1) did Moses edit his 'originals' over time as well; and (2) did Moses even assemble the materials as a 'book' in his time, as opposed to various documents in various places.]

2- As far as your points that support Mosaic authorship are concerned, I submit that they put a lot of weight on the "YES" side of the balance... But even then, they only prove the already proven. As I said earlier, nobody doubts that "Parts" of the Pentateuch... actually, significant "Parts" of the Pentateuch... are authored by Moses. The problem was not to prove that. It was really to prove that the Pentateuch has remained accurately and absolutely Mosaic and unadulterated from any one's additions and alterations. But as you have stated, this has not really been the case.

This looks like a repeat of the above question, but to simply restate in summary form my comments above:

  1. Many people doubt that Moses had any significant input to the Pentateuch (which I tried to counter in my article).
  2. No one holds to the position you apparently asked me to 'defend'-that the Pentateuch is 100% the same it was when Moses recorded it.
  3. The 'unadulterated' term in your friends' position makes the unsupportable assumption that God could not have given 'equally authoritative' revelation to a later prophetic editor (instead of just to Moses).
  4. That position THEN decides that Moses is somehow 'superior' to ANY later prophetic writer(!), and without giving us any reason to believe this.
  5. Your friend's position cannot be maintained for very long as soon as the actual compositional data of the Pentateuch is examined.
  6. Some "alterations" were absolutely necessary to preserve the original Mosaic content.
  7. Scribes/editors went to great pains to preserve the original words of Moses.
  8. Neither the Form nor the Extent of the Pentateuch is every revealed by God, nor is it likely (or necessary) for it to have been the same in every generation.
  9. God could easily have decided to incorporate Mosaic elements into a newer, literary composition to draw out the historical dimensions of Israel's experience in the theocracy. [Although there is no strict reason why Moses could not have foreseen this and done the literary work.]
  10. The "Law and the Prophets" are of one cloth. They cannot be placed into opposition against one another, nor can one be judged as inferior to the other. They are the disclosure of God to His people.

Overall, I would have to say that your friends' position is a bit naïve, certainly overly simplistic, and certainly uniformed (apparently believing that people hold such a position). The varied nature of God's revelation in history, His use of all types of the 'common folk' to achieve His purposes, and even the notion of progressive revelation through time suggests that God is not as concerned about "preserving Moses' words without alteration" as He is with getting HIS message through to each generation of His people.

I hope this clears up the issue somewhat for you (and them). Sorry I misunderstood the question the first time!

In any case, I do thank you, most sincerely for helping me, and providing me with a lot of useful material.

I suspect it was more useful to others, given the real nature of your question-but you are certainly welcome!

Furthermore, I would like to ask you, if all the books of the Bible have the same status as that of the Pentateuch? Do they all have such additions of later scribes etc., that are "generally (not always) very visible"?

This is another complicated question, which I will have to defer...The main problem is that 'scribal additions' are generally so unobtrusive and so transparent and so 'non-adulterating' (smile) as to be undetectable. That is part of the reason it is not a big issue up front. But the practice of Textual Criticism-especially in the later books of the Tanakh/OT and certainly the NT-is a little too complicated for me to go into here.

One main difference we have with the NT, though, is that the time window for 'undetectable additions' is very, very tiny. The same theological issue applies, though, that it is the final form of the documents ANYWAY that is important, but this is complicated by the issue of the historicity of 'alleged additions'. Sorry, but I discuss 'pious fraud' and 'made up history' topics in many other places on the Tank (esp. in the debate with James Still). Maybe that is a good starting point for you?

Hope this helps...glenn miller


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