Friday, April 20, 2007
[Moses with Tablets by Marc Chagall]
According to the Documentary Hypothesis, the Exodus story, one of the foundations of Judaism, is primarily based on the E document. So it is interesting to explore, who wrote the E document?
Richard E. Friedman in “Who Wrote the Bible” page 48 writes that at the time of the schism of Rehoboam and Jeroboam, “At Dan there existed an old, established priesthood founded by Moses’ grandson according to the book of Judges. It probably continued to function there.” On page 79, Professor Friedman explains that one sign that the E author was descended from these priests is the favorable light that Moses is shown in the E document. After all, in E, Moses is the savior of Israel.
Now all this is written as if it were well know established facts. No sources or footnotes are given. We are just told that in the Kingdom of Israel there functioned a sect of Levite priests who were descended from Moses and that’s that.
But what is the actual source?
As far as I know, the source is Judges 18:30 where Danites set up an idol at Dan served by Jonathan son of Gershom son of Manasseh, a Levite. How is Moses connected to this? The Talmud Bava Basra 109b says “Manasseh” actually means “Moses”, however scripture wrote it incorrectly because Jonathan was as wicked as King Manasseh.
In other words, apparently what happened is this: Bible critics for whatever reason decided that the Exodus story is a separate “document” called E. They then began wondering who wrote this document. They had to find some group in ancient Israel which was particularly sympathetic to Moses. So someone discovered the Talmudic statement that the descendents of Moses were priests to an idol in Dan. This Talmudic statement happens to contradict I Chronicles 23:16 and 26:24 where the son of Gershom the son of Moses is named Shebuel not Jonathan, but no matter. Since this Talmudic statement supports their theory, it is accept as historical fact, although under other circumstances no skeptic would dream of taking it seriously. And then this “fact” is included in popular books like “Who Wrote the Bible” without any explanation. The innocent reader may assume it is based on clear archeological findings.
I think this demonstrates the quality of scholarship involved in Bible criticism. The moral is: Question everything.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 11:53 AM