Who Wrote the Torah?

Among Christians and Jews alike, it is widely held that the Torah (Genesis through Deuteronomy) was written by Moses through divine inspiration.  The first time that this belief was explicitly stated in writing was in the Talmud, and this conclusion was arrived at after studying the Torah.  There are varying thoughts on the exact process of divine inspiration.  Did God show Moses what happened and tell him to write about it?  Or did God dictate word-for-word what Moses was to write down?  No one knows for sure, but the latter option is the basis of any credibility that the Bible Code might have.  (Note:  the Bible Code says that Los Angeles will be “torn in terror” by an earthquake sometime this year.)  However, the last chapter of Deuteronomy documents Moses’ death.  Possibly, God told Moses to write this before he died, or else a third party wrote this chapter down in Moses’ book.

Conversely, the Documentary Hypothesis (most notably upheld by one Julius Wellhausen), states that originally, there were four documents, the first of which was written around the time of Solomon’s reign.  Document J reflected the Southern Kingdom’s (Judah’s) interpretation of Israel’s history, so called for the use of YHWH (spelled in German:  JWH).  Document E, written later, was the Northern Kingdom’s version, which preferred to say “Elohiym”.  Document D was supposably written during Josiah’s reign, and included every book from Deuteronomy through II Kings.  Finally, Document P was written either during or just after the exile, and was so called because of its focus on the priestly duties.  After the exile, these four texts were compiled into one large text, and eventually broken down into the books we know today.  The main argument for this hypothesis, apparently, is that the Torah contains so many styles and so many ways of thinking, and obviously an author can only have one style (note sarcasm).

A more recent and much more popular theory these days is the Accretion Hypothesis.  This belief states that, rather than being compiled of four main texts, the Torah and later books are actually composed of hundreds of small fragments that were compiled and added onto over many centuries (a process known as accretion).  Larger sections in what were earlier identified as Documents J, D, and P, are still identifiable as originating from these same three documents, though these are now considered much smaller as other sections within them are now thought to have been derived from small fragments.  Document E is noticeably missing from this hypothesis, as what was originally credited to this document is now thought to be nothing more than a compilation of fragments.

Which of these theories is correct?  Honestly, nobody can know for sure.  There is very little evidence to support each one, and so far, no evidence has been found that dates back even so far as the life of David.  What if hundreds of little fragments are found?  Do we not hang such fragments, all found from one source, on the walls of our churches, homes, and classrooms to remind us of what God says?  Could the early Hebrews not have done the same?  Would this prove the Accretion Hypothesis?  Not necessarily.  What if a single volume is found?  Could this not be just another compilation?  Might someone have compiled many texts into one Torah earlier than the accepted date?  It is possible.

Does it matter which of these theories we believe?  Not so much as it matters that we believe that, through one man or hundreds, God spoke each word and it is His Word.  Neither the Documentary nor the Accretion Hypotheses threaten my belief, and the traditional theory does not amaze me any more than the others.  Simply know that the Torah is part of God’s Word, and know why you believe it.  “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” 2 Timothy 3:16.

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One Response

  1. thank you. It is God’s word however it happened. I may believe that Moses wrote the entire Pentateuch, including his death (God could have told him how it would have happened) and I believe he was inspired to write without error but did God tell him word for word or just oversee it I cannot tell. Or if it was a compilation of different authors along with Moses could God not have inspired them as well? The main thing to me is that it is God’s word and I believe it while continuing to learn more about it.

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