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IS THE OLD TESTAMENT THE TORAH? PART 3

February 7, 2018 Comparative Religion 0

IS THE OLD TESTAMENT THE TORAH? PART 3

NO EXPLICIT CLAIMS OF MOSAIC AUTHORSHIP

Jews and Christians believe that the Torah we have today represents the original words of God as dictated to Moses, who wrote them down. What we find when we examine the different versions of the Torah is that there is no claim within the Torah itself that Moses wrote all 5 books. To the contrary, there are strong indications that they were written by someone other than Moses.

For example, there is a consistent use of the third person narrative throughout the Book of Exodus:

Then He said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. [Exodus 3:6]

God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” [Exodus 3:14]

Clearly, a third person such as a scribe or chronicler wrote these accounts, and not Moses himself. If Moses had been the writer then we would see the first person narrative being used.

Another issue is that of anachronisms. These are details that do not fit in with the supposed time of writing. For example, here the death of Moses happens before the book of Deuteronomy ends:

Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone. [Deuteronomy 34:7]

Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. [Deuteronomy 34:10]

Here, there is the statement that Moses is the most humble person on earth:

Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth. [Numbers 12:3]

Now, this would be a very odd statement indeed if Moses himself were its author, as it would mean he was boasting about his own humility.

TRANSMISSION PROBLEMS

There is a 1,000 year missing link in the transmission of the Torah. The Dead Sea Scrolls, the earliest manuscript evidence that we have for the Torah, date from around 150 BCE – 70 CE. The scrolls include fragments of all 5 books of the Torah. When we consider that Moses lived around 1300 BCE this means that we don’t have any manuscript evidence until around 1000 years after Moses.

Moreover, within the Old Testament itself there is strong evidence of transmission breaks:

Transmission break #1 – Sometime between Moses (approx. 1300 BCE) and King Josiah (approx. 600 BCE)

Hilkiah the high priest discovers the lost Torah:

Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord.” He gave it to Shaphan, who read it. [2 Kings 22:8]

King Josiah tears his clothes when he learns of this:

When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes. [2 Kings 22:11]

Now this is the key point. After reading the Torah, they proceed to remove all aspects of idolatry and the occult:

Furthermore, Josiah got rid of the mediums and spiritists, the household gods, the idols and all the other detestable things seen in Judah and Jerusalem. This he did to fulfil the requirements of the law written in the book that Hilkiah the priest had discovered in the temple of the Lord. [2 Kings 23:24]

Now, if the Torah had never been lost, then they would have all known about the prohibition on idolatry in Deuteronomy 12:2. Clearly, they had not seen the Torah in a very long time.

Transmission break #2 – Sometime between King Josiah (approx. 600 BCE) and Ezra (approx. 400 BCE)

After the return to Jerusalem from exile, Ezra the scribe reads the Torah to the Israelites:

All the people came together as one in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the teacher of the Law to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded for Israel. [Nehemiah 8:1]

He reads to them details of how they are to celebrate a particular festival:

They found written in the Law, which the Lord had commanded through Moses, that the Israelites were to live in temporary shelters during the festival of the seventh month [Nehemiah 8:14]

We are told that they had not celebrated the festival in this manner for a very long time:

The whole company that had returned from exile built temporary shelters and lived in them. From the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated it like this. And their joy was very great. [Nehemiah 8:17]

Whatever Ezra had been a scribe of before had not included important parts of the Torah. This is because the commandments for the celebration are found in Leviticus 23:42. Clearly then they had not seen the book of Leviticus in a very long time.

MORAL FLAWS AT ODDS WITH THE PURPOSE OF TORAH

The Old Testament paints a very noble and honourable concept of Prophethood:

“…Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.” [2 Chronicles 20:20]

 “Although the Lord sent prophets to the people to bring them back to him, and though they testified against them, they would not listen.” [2 Chronicles 24:19]

Unfortunately the Torah presents the Prophets in an extremely negative light. No sin is too great for them to commit, nor is any vice beyond their lowly desires (you can read more about thishere).

Therefore, believing that the modern Torah is uncorrupted would mean that we accept that the great Prophets of God are corrupted. This is not a viable position given the noble profile of Prophethood as defined in the Old Testament itself.

NEW TESTAMENT AUTHORS AFFIRM CORRUPTION OF THE TORAH

When you read a number of Torah citations in the New Testament, the New Testament writers are actually quoting from the Greek version of the Torah, the Septuagint. Here is one example:

And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” [Hebrews 1:6]

The above quotation is made by Paul in the New Testament and is citing Deuteronomy 32:43. Let’s compare this verse in the Masoretic and Septuagint versions of the Torah (please click on picture to enlarge):

Notice that the Masoretic Text has no mention of angels worshipping God, this is missing in this version of the Torah. However the Greek Septuagint does contain the quote. This is just one example of many where the New Testament authors favoured the Greek Septuagint over the Hebrew Masoretic Text. Most of the Old Testament was written originally in Hebrew, so it may come as a surprise to Christian readers to learn that this Greek version of the Old Testament, rather than a Hebrew text, is referenced in the New Testament. The question then naturally arises, where is this original Hebrew text that the Greek Septuagint is based on? From the point of view of Christians, this original Hebrew text must be important if the inspired writers of the New Testament chose to quote from the Septuagint. The answer is that we have lost this earlier Hebrew text. We have lost a version of the Torah that the New Testament authors believed were the inspired words of God.

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