Thursday, January 21, 2010

When Things Don't Add Up

Exodus 12:40 states “The habitation of the Children of Israel during which they dwelled in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years.” [This verse will be publicly read in Orthodox synagogues this coming Saturday morning.]

This verse clearly contradicts Exodus 6:18-20 which states that Kohath lived 133 years and Amram his son lived 137 years. Kohath came to Egypt with Jacob (Genesis 46:11). Moses, the son of Amram, died at the age of 120 (Deut. 34:7), which was 40 years after the Exodus, making Moses 80 years old at the time of Exodus. Therefore the Egyptian exile could not have lasted more than 350 years. (In fact, according to the Talmudic tradition, it lasted only 210 years.)

This contradiction has been addressed by many Biblical commentaries, from ancient times to the present. I have not yet found an explanation which I, in my ignorance, feel is very plausible.

Needless to say, critics of Judaism have used this verse as proof that the Torah was not written by God, since obviously God would not have made a mistake and the number 430 is apparently a mistake.

I believe, however, such a conclusion is unwarranted.

The evidence in favor of the divine origin of the Torah is overwhelming. Exodus 12:40 is a single verse which I don’t understand. In my opinion, this does not outweigh the evidence in favor Judaism.

This same type of logic is commonly applied in any other area of research. Take for example the discovery of soft tissue in dinosaur bones. This would seem to contradict the well established fact that dinosaurs lived tens of millions of years ago, because soft tissues can never survive that long. However rather than contradict the massive evidence of the age of dinosaurs, scientists must simply accept the fact that somehow in this case soft tissue did survive 70 million years, although we don’t understand how. Only when the preponderance of evidence would favor a much younger age for dinosaurs, something almost inconceivable, would that conclusion be accepted.

By the same token, in regarding Judaism, only when the preponderance of evidence would shift to a human authorship of the Torah, something almost inconceivable, could that conclusion be accepted. In other words, as the old Yiddish saying goes, “Fun a kasha shtorbt man nischt”. “You don’t die from a contradiction.”


Anon2 said...

OK, another thoughtful post, JP.

Indeed, science does work that way, there are always controversies and contradictions. One study will say a drug works for a certain condition and another says it doesn't. Then you have to have an honest look at the assumptions, or of the methodology of the study itself.

Obviously, somethings could revolutionize evolution and flip it on its head. If we found the remains of a human skeleton inside the guts of a dinosaur, that would be more than just a contradiction. That would refute the whole science of dating and paleontology.

My question would be: what would constitute a preponderance of evidence for human authorship of the Torah? 5 contradictions? 10? 20? Because I think when it comes to divine authorship, no matter what we could find could be explained away.

Another issue: Your post makes sense only if your starting point is that the Torah is divine. Is there a preponderance of evidence for that? Your main argument, other than the text itself, is the Kuzari argument, which is not really evidence-- but a theoretical argument about human nature (what people would or would not believe).

Forget about the contradictions. What do you make of anachronisms? Like when it says "to this day" in various places where it is obviously referencing something in the remote past, or references to things from a later period? (Like Moshe's burial place, etc) Or the Torah's reference to other gods, as though they really exist (El Elyon, etc). What about god's name being plural, and Hebrews saying, "who is like you among the gods" מי כמוך באלים ה

I don't know, JP, but it seems so clear to me that this was written by ancient man...

jewish philosopher said...

"That would refute the whole science of dating and paleontology."

I believe there are in fact hundreds of anomalous fossils, but perhaps not that dramatic.

"what would constitute a preponderance of evidence for human authorship of the Torah"

That's a matter of personal judgement; for example what would constitute a preponderance of evidence for a moon landing hoax?

"Like when it says "to this day" in various places"

The only place where that sounds a little odd that I know of is Deut. 3:14 "Yair son of Menashe took all of the Argov province until the border of the Geshurites and the Ma'achasites; and he named them for himself--- the Boshon---the cities of Chavos Yair until this day."

"references to things from a later period"

God knows the future.

"the Torah's reference to other gods, as though they really exist"

They never actually participate in anything, so they don't seem to be real.

"it seems so clear to me that this was written by ancient man..."

It's actually entirely and starkly different.

Garnel Ironheart said...

First of all, the Ramban comes up with a way to explain the 430 years as he disagrees with the 210 year theory.

However, all this assumes that the known geneology we are given in this week's parsha is complete and does not skip a generation or two. Incomplete generations are not unheard of - David's as given in the book of Ruth is very incomplete - the hint is that someone begets a Salma but right next to it Salmon begets someone else. If he's the same person, who was the lousy editor to miss such an obvious mistake?
So it could very well be that those generations immediately beneath Yaakov Avinu and above Moshe Rabeinu were mentioned, leaving a couple of centuries of unknowns to fill in the 430 year gap.
Of course you could always argue that 430 years started with Bris Ben HaBesarim which is also fine since it happened in Canaan which was under Egypt's political influence at the time.
And finally, it's "You don't die from a question".

jewish philosopher said...

I don't think there is much question that Kohath was the grandfather of Moses.

Anon2 said...

Regarding "to this day"-- what about dvarim 34:5, "5 So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD. 6 And he was buried in the valley in the land of Moab over against Beth-peor; and no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day"

Regarding future references, OK say God knows the future. But why would it be written in past tense, and spoken to people who would have no idea what its talking about?

jewish philosopher said...

The Torah was intended to be read by Jews of all future generations. For them it would be perfectly correct.

Anon2 said...

"The Torah was intended to be read by Jews of all future generations. For them it would be perfectly correct."

This contradicts the traditional idea of Torah Moshe M'Sinai, understanding the Torah and teaching it to the Chachamim, etc. Is it a reasonable assertion that god would tell Moshe and his chachamim, "these sections of the Torah, you'll have no idea what they're talking about, but will be only understood in future generations hundreds of years from now"? Is there evidence anywhere in the text itself that Moshe or the Israelites did not understand what the Torah is talking about?

So different parts of the Torah were written for different groups of people in different generations. And some parts are written in future tense making predictions and some are in past tense. And based on your last post, the Torah arbitrarily jumps between all of these forms of language, speaking to particular groups only.

Does that sound a little like the DH?

Even assuming a divine authorship, does this also open up the possibility that parts of the Torah weren't intended for us and therefore not binding on us? Parts of the Torah, written for future generations, were not binding on past generations, (like certain commandments), and similarly when god was talking to people in the past perhaps he was not talking to us now?

jewish philosopher said...

When Moses wrote dvarim 34:5 just prior to his death people understood what he was talking about.

Anon2 said...

Then he says to them that nobody knows where he is buried to this day, and that another prophet like Moshe has not arisen (past tense). That would sound very odd to them.

jewish philosopher said...

Please read my last 2 comments.

Garnel Ironheart said...

"Until this day" generally means the day of the author. In this case it was Yehoshua since he wrote that part of the Torah.

And again to the 430/210 thing, you also have to resolve the contradiction in the Bris Ben Habesarim - at one point God says we'll be slaves for 400 years, but at another he says "the fourth generation will return here".
See how the Mechilta resolves the contradiction which might answer why the Torah says they were in Egypt for 430 years even though they were only actually there for 210.

Anon2 said...

""Until this day" generally means the day of the author. In this case it was Yehoshua since he wrote that part of the Torah."

One would assume that 'until this day' would be someone speaking about something long ago, not something that happened yesterday or last week. Otherwise what's the point, just say "nobody knows where he is buried"

Same with the other occurances, including the one JP brought.

Anonymous said...

The Megilla says that Hashem was Hishev Es Haketz, which I understand to mean that He ended the slavery early because it was too harsh for the Bnei Yisroel to endure longer, and they were deteriorating spritually. Soo G-d starting the counting from an earlier point.

Philo said...


This might be irrelevant to your current post, but why do you call yourself a philosopher? You seem to come to so many conclusions on issues relating to metaphysics and epistemology.

jewish philosopher said...

"why do you call yourself a philosopher?"

Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. It is distinguished from other ways of addressing fundamental questions (such as mysticism, myth, or the arts) by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational argument.

Anon2 said...

Since "until this day" or
עד היום הזה
could be a matter of interpretation, what would help clarify the meaning is how it is used elsewhere.

For example, Exodus 10:6-
וּמָלְאוּ בָתֶּיךָ וּבָתֵּי כָל עֲבָדֶיךָ וּבָתֵּי כָל מִצְרַיִם אֲשֶׁר לֹא רָאוּ אֲבֹתֶיךָ וַאֲבוֹת אֲבֹתֶיךָ מִיּוֹם הֱיוֹתָם עַל הָאֲדָמָה עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה וַיִּפֶן וַיֵּצֵא מֵעִם פַּרְעֹה:

Genesis 48:15:

וַיְבָרֶךְ אֶת יוֹסֵף וַיֹּאמַר הָאֱ־לֹהִים אֲשֶׁר הִתְהַלְּכוּ אֲבֹתַי לְפָנָיו אַבְרָהָם וְיִצְחָק הָאֱ־לֹהִים הָרֹעֶה אֹתִי מֵעוֹדִי עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה:

Genesis 32:33

לג עַל-כֵּן לֹא-יֹאכְלוּ בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת-גִּיד הַנָּשֶׁה, אֲשֶׁר עַל-כַּף הַיָּרֵךְ, עַד, הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה:

Dvarim 2:32

כב כַּאֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה לִבְנֵי עֵשָׂו, הַיֹּשְׁבִים בְּשֵׂעִיר--אֲשֶׁר הִשְׁמִיד אֶת-הַחֹרִי, מִפְּנֵיהֶם, וַיִּירָשֻׁם וַיֵּשְׁבוּ תַחְתָּם, עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה

There are many other cases, I won't quote them all here, suffice it to say that even when the reference isn't so clear it certainly is not referring to something that just happened.

So in the examples brought in the earlier comments, the frame of reference is from a time much AFTER the torah was supposedly written, long after Moses' death and long after Israel is settled in Israel.

JP, is it reasonable to come to any other conclusion?

Anonymous said...

I menat to say "Hagada" above, not Megilla. Sorry. Rashi on the posuk says that the 430 years inculde all the years the avvos where gerim in lands they didn't own.

jewish philosopher said...

It seems that "until this day" can mean "forever".

If the Torah was authored much later, it seems odd that Jerusalem is never mentioned. Also, how did the Samaritans adopt it?

Philo said...

I understand. But as a philosopher, don't you think these subjects are not so simple? I mean how do you come to the conclusion of what happens after life etc.?

Anonymous said...

It seems that when the Torah is quoting a human, Ad Hayom Haze refers to the time of it was said. But when the Torah is speaking directly, it means forever.

Anonymous said...


When did JP ever say these issues are simple? The Torah doesn't say these issues are simple. Just the opposite. Chachomim spend lifetimes exploring these ideas.

Philo said...


But they many times came to a conclusion on issues relating to metaphysics. And the only thing they backed it up with, were verses in the Pentateuch.

By "simple" we can also add the existence of God. Not even Immanuel Kant was fully convinced, since he could not prove it by using the 5 senses. A philosopher should not look for answers to these questions, but questions to answer those questions.

Anon2 said...

"It seems that when the Torah is quoting a human, Ad Hayom Haze refers to the time of it was said. But when the Torah is speaking directly, it means forever."

Not quite-- Genesis 47:26

וַיָּשֶׂם אֹתָהּ יוֹסֵף לְחֹק עַד-הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה עַל-אַדְמַת מִצְרַיִם, לְפַרְעֹה--לַחֹמֶשׁ:

As far as I know this is not still the law in Egypt....

"If the Torah was authored much later, it seems odd that Jerusalem is never mentioned."

No odder than the Torah not mentioning Chicago. It was of no significance to early Hebrews.

Also, how did the Samaritans adopt it?"

They didn't. Their Torah is different, and historically we don't know when the Samaritans actually adopted it. They have their traditions and beliefs, just as we do, it is no proof of truth. And, JP, they claim to be the real Israelites, not us, so don't use their faith as proof of anything.

Anon2 said...

I might add that the Chumash text itself never even claims to have all been written at the time of Moshe. On several occasions it refers to the "law" and "instructions" and "commandments" being given at that time, but the narrative of the events itself does not ever claim to have all been written by Moshe.

If you think about it, historically, this makes SOOO MUCH sense. There would have been events, memories and traditions from the time of Moshe and earlier, which were eventually written down at a later time. This would explain the anachronisms (which stop being anachronisms!), various tenses used, contradictions, and other linguistic characteristics. It also makes a "conspiracy theory" unnecessary. A community of people had a common tradition, which was later committed to writing and accepted as the authentic narrative. No big deal. At the time nobody even thought that the whole Torah text was god given verbatim.

Later, perhaps in the time of the prophets or Ezra or the second Temple period, when they already had the texts, the idea took hold that the text itself was holy and given by god. Its was cannonized and sealed.

Doesnt this make SO MUCH MORE SENSE TO YOU???

jewish philosopher said...

Deut. 31:24 states

And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were finished,

Moses wrote the entire Torah.

The phrase "until this day" seems to be kind of a vague Biblical phrase which can mean "until the time this verse was written" or "for all eternity". I guess it depends on the context.

If the Torah was written later than the time of Samuel, it undoubtedly would have mentioned Jerusalem. If it was written later than Solomon, the Samaritans would not have it.

Anonymous said...


The pont about Jerusalem is that obne would expect the Torah to mnention Jerusalem if the Torah was written during the time of the kings because it was so important to the Jews in the time of the kings.

Anonymous said...

Rashi on the posuk Gen. 47:26 seems to be saying that the posuk is refering to the way the Yosef made the law. IT was to be permanent. This is still consistent with my approach above. Ad hayom Haze, when refering to something said or done by humans refers to the time of the writing of the Torah.

Anonymous said...

Rashi on posuk 12:40 seems to be saying that the first part of the posuk "moshav bnei Yisroel" is refering to the years before they entered Egypt. The second part
"asher yoshvu bmitzrayim" refers to the years they spent in Egypt. The posuk does seem to be redundant. So Rashi's explanationos perfectly consistant with the idea that each word in the Torah serves purpose.

Anon2 said...


And my point is that the phrase always refers back to something in the distant past, not recent, so there is a problem with the Moshe burial phrase.

Regarding Jerusalem-- If people are recalling/telling/documenting a story, they would introduce the concepts in some chronological order. It is thus not surprising at all that Jerusalem is not mentioned until later in the Bible when it assumes importance. In fact it would be quite odd for the Chumash, recalling Bnei Yisrael in the desert, to speak of Jerusalem.

JP-- Torah means "law" or "instruction", look at context:

זֹאת, הַתּוֹרָה, אָדָם, כִּי-יָמוּת בְּאֹהֶל: כָּל-הַבָּא אֶל-הָאֹהֶל וְכָל-אֲשֶׁר בָּאֹהֶל, יִטְמָא שִׁבְעַת יָמִים

(Numbers 19:14)

ומי גוי גדול, אשר-לו חוקים ומשפטים צדיקים, ככול התורה הזאת, אשר אנוכי נותן לפניכם היום.

Dvarim 4:8

וזאת, התורה, אשר-שם משה, לפני בני ישראל. (in the context of Moshe handing down specific laws)

Dvarim 4:44

הָאֶזְרָח בִּבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְלַגֵּר הַגָּר בְּתוֹכָם--תּוֹרָה אַחַת יִהְיֶה לָכֶם, לָעֹשֶׂה בִּשְׁגָגָה.
(Here it is clearly not talking about the "Torah")

Numbers 16:29

Only later did it come to mean "the 5 books of Moses".

So your pasuk could mean a set of laws that Moshe dictated, or the laws of dvarim. It does not mean all of the "Torah" as you refer to it.

So, the Torah does not claim that the 5 books of Moses were written by God. These books depict events that occured in the past, in relation to the writer.

Anon2 said...

Further proof of my assertion:

Genesis 12:6

6 And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Shechem, unto the terebinth of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land.
וַיַּעֲבֹר אַבְרָם, בָּאָרֶץ, עַד מְקוֹם שְׁכֶם, עַד אֵלוֹן מוֹרֶה; וְהַכְּנַעֲנִי, אָז בָּאָרֶץ

It would be extremely strange to be informing Bnei Yisrael that Canaan was inhabited by Canaanites, in past tense, unless it was being told to them at a time when Canaanites were no longer in the land.

JP, if you say "The Torah was speaking to future generations" how could Moshe be speaking simultaneously to his contemporaries, in illogical language? And furthermore. if he is speaking to future generations, its only future to a certain point in time, as pointed out by the example of Yosef's tax laws in Egypt.

You just run into too many contradictions. Its not just one. UNLESS-- it was written later by men.

Anon2 said...

One more important thing.

We skeptics don't claim that the Torah is a forgery or false. Your attempt to make it a black and white dichotomy (either the Torah is true and given by god at Sinai, or it is a false forgery) obscures the logical discussion, and leads you to your "conspiracy" hypothesis.

The Torah (along with the rest of the Bible) is a compilation of stories, traditions, customs and authentic history, written by human beings to the best of their ability, and which subsequently became accepted as a Holy Book. This is not a "forgery", any more than the religious writings of Islam or Christianity are forgeries.

Think about how the Talmud, which was clearly written by men, has in time assumed a holy and spiritual significance in Judaism. For orthodox Jews its authority in law is even above that of the Bible. And no one person suddenly wrote the Talmud, out of the blue, and said, "here is the Talmud, and you must follow it." It evolved and was compiled, and its authority is derived from the oral tradition. Now imagine the same thing happening to Jews thousands of years ago, to their stories, traditions and texts. Imagine social, religious and political movements affecting the perception and significance of the texts. Then imagine the Anshe Knesset Hagadola deciding which texts are holy and which are not, and incorporating only the books they thought holy into the Bible.

JP, please don't filter out this comment, it is an important clarification.

jewish philosopher said...

Regarding Jerusalem, in the Samaritan version of the Ten Commandments a command is included to build an altar on Mt. Gerizim, and states plainly that Mt. Gerizim is the site at which all future sacrifices are to be offered.

Presumably, a Jewish version of the Torah would have included at least some reference to Jerusalem if it was written post-Samuel.

Regarding Deut. 31:24, I'm not sure how the Torah could have stated more plainly that Moses wrote it.

Regarding Genesis 12:6, the Canaanites were in the land at the time of Abraham, so I don't think that's really a problem.

Regarding a gradual development of the Torah, I have mentioned this scenario but I find it implausible:

A group of a few thousand Semitic slaves escaped from Egypt about 3,300 years ago under the leadership of an Egyptian nobleman named Moses. After they settled in the highlands of Palestine, these Israelites as they called themselves, began retelling and embellishing the story of their escape. [Which is in itself a little bizarre – wouldn’t escaped slaves rather not advertise that fact?] Numerous different versions arose. Other Canaanites joined the Israelite community. The community grew. Versions of the story became more and more fantastic. Moses became a great lawgiver and miracle worker. Ten Plagues struck the Egyptians. Ten Commandments were given at a mountain in Sinai. In the time of Josiah, these stories, as well as Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings, were edited and became closer to their present form. Finally, a couple of centuries later, Ezra the Scribe finalized the Hebrew Bible, which was then universally accepted by Jews (Nehemiah 8:1). Ezra had the power (Ezra 7:26) to punish all those who disagreed with him. The Samaritans as well, enemies of Jews (Ezra 4:1) , for some reason decided to accept the Pentateuch, although no other writings.

The main problem with this story is, if this is true, why were all the earlier versions, which were in the possession of the tens of thousand of Jews throughout the Persian Empire, and the Samaritans too, immediately, totally and silently disposed of once Ezra presented his scroll? There should have been “Pentateuch police” busy for many years destroying other, not canonical, writings. We know that the early church leaders had to suppress many apocryphal gospels and some have survived to the present. Something similar even happened with the Koran. In Judaism as well, certain books, such as the Book of Ben Sira, were excluded from the Biblical canon and banned. However there isn’t even a record of any command to disregard other versions of the Pentateuch; they are simply unmentioned anywhere, as if they never existed. We again must say that all Jews, and Samaritans (!), unanimously and immediately agreed to lie and to say, “This is the only scroll of the Law of Moses which we received from our forefathers”, although they knew that it wasn’t. There was a perfect, empire wide cover up.

Anon2 said...

"Regarding Genesis 12:6, the Canaanites were in the land at the time of Abraham, so I don't think that's really a problem"

But the Canaanites were in the land THE WHOLE TIME during the Torah period, including Sinai, and presumably the Israelites knew that (after all it was Canaan), so why make a point to say they were "then" in the land?

"The main problem with this story is, if this is true,..."

Tell me, my friend, from when do we have direct evidence of the text of the Torah that we now have? What is the earliest manuscript?

In your argument you assume that Ezra had the same text that we have now, but this is not so. We have no texts at all from back then. In fact, from the books of Ezra and Nehemia it seems that the text was different than ours.

The earliest Torah codexes we have are all centuries after the biblical period. So it is entirely likely, that there were many lost biblical texts, such as the dead sea scrolls, etc.

So missing texts is not a proof at all (as "missing fossils" are not disproof of evolution). Because lots and lots of texts were lost.

If you really like "the missing text" hypothesis, you shouldn't believe in the Torah at all, since all of that "direct evidence" is missing, too. If the Torah was given intact at Sinai, I would have expected to found copies of all of the Torah texts going back thousands of years. But I don't. A HUGE GAP. All we have are codexes going back 1500 years, and dead sea scrolls containing wacky texts, along with a few post-Torah books, like the prophets.

"any command to disregard other versions of the Pentateuch; they are simply unmentioned anywhere, as if they never existed."

Wrong. They're all over the place, mentioned in the Torah and Nach itself. Undoubtedly there were many others not mentioned.

Regarding the Samaritans, the same arguments apply. We don't know exactly when their text was finalized. Its different than ours, but was obviously derived from similar ancient sources. They didn't "accept" Ezra. Your argument assumes the truth of their faith claims. If you're accepting their version of history, why don't you go all of the way and say that they are the real Jews?

Here's the real version: There were an ancient Semitic people named the Samarians. We think they date back to the early biblical period. They shared many traditions with the Hebrews, (even though they didn't get along so well). They, in parallel to the Hebrews, lived in ancient Israel, and shared many but not all texts. Sometime much later, they, like the Hebrews, cannonized their Bible. Samaritans later came to see their bible as given by God to them, and that they were the chosen people.

Is that so hard?

Anonymous said...


It sometimes refers to what was in the distant past in the time of the reader, and sometimes ti refer to the distant past in the time of the speaker or the wrting of the Torah. It is a literary device, meant to convey a sense of a long time. That's all.

Anonymous said...

And Rashi adresses Genesis 12:6. It means that the Canaanites where squatting on land that wasn't theirs. Hashem was assuring Avrohom that he wasn't trespassing.

Anonymous said...


Genesis 32:33 is actually talking about the modern practise that the Jews have of not eating the Gid. It is not addressing something that happened in the past. It is a literary device meant to convey a sense of a long time.

jewish philosopher said...

There are no other versions of the Torah other than the one we have today and a few slightly variant versions, nor is there any record that there ever was any significantly different version.

The Talmud, Josephus, the New Testament, never mention any banned, non-Orthodox different Torahs. This would seem to indicate that the Torah text has been pretty much the same at least since the time of Solomon. The lack of mention of Jerusalem implies an authorship no later than Samuel.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are close to our Torah scrolls

The Septuagint is also close to our Torah scrolls

The Samaritan Torah is close to our Torah scrolls

I would agree that there are a few phrases in the Torah which imply an authorship from the time of perhaps the Judges, however the Torah states clearly that Moses wrote it and this has always been the accepted tradition.

Anon2 said...


JP is honest in conceding a point and saying "but nonetheless, our tradition says so and so", and I can accept that. A person can have their beliefs.

But you, on the other hand, continue to deny, rationalize and contradict yourself. You give forced and unreasonable explanations, involving deviating from the simple meaning of the text and making the same phrase mean something else each time, in order to suit your pre-concieved belief.

JP-- as we say in the Talmud, Heino Hach--

Your examples prove my position rather than contradict it. The fact that "variants" have survived (along with a lack of rabbinic oral Torah in some cases) is the biggest proof in the world that there were pre-Masoretic sources. The variants you mention all drew from these sources and came out somewhat differently. Whatever was rejected, by definition, would not survive in a "banned" version of the Torah, but rather as pre-texts, such as apocrypha, many Qumran texts, etc.

The wikipedia entry you linked makes this same point.

I don't doubt that the Masoretic text is old, and the the sources from which it drew are even older. But the Torah as we have it now with the 5 books of Moses goes back no further than the second temple period.

Here is a very understandable and scholarly discussion of the topic

jewish philosopher said...

Anon2, the fact that there slight differences in spelling or a phrase or two between different versions of the Torah hardly proves that during the first temple period the Torah as we know did not yet exist.

One question that arises is that if the Torah was written by let's say Samuel or Ezra, why not give him credit? Homer took credit for the Illiad, the evagelists took credit for the gospels, so what's the problem?

This is the biggest problem I have with atheism: any and every explanation, or no explanation, is better than "God did it". I think this is dishonest.

Anon2 said...

"This is the biggest problem I have with atheism: any and every explanation, or no explanation, is better than "God did it". I think this is dishonest."

I will be honest. I would prefer to believe in God. I would prefer the certainty and clear authority of my former believing life. But that same honesty tells me that factually, the things that I previously believed are inaccurate. Honesty tells me that the alternative explanations are actually better than the god explanations.

Regarding credit for authorship-- attributing authorship to Moshe gave the text final authority and made it unchangeable.

jewish philosopher said...

So we can surmise that Ezra was on one hand so humble that he would not take credit himself for writing the Torah. Yet he was dishonest enough to lie and claim Moses wrote it. He was clever enough to fool all the Jews and the Samaritans. Yet so stupid that he left verses about how "no one knows where he is buried until this day".

Atheists have no plausible, detailed explanation for the origin of the universe, life or Judaism and cannot explain human self awareness and free will. However for obvious reasons they deny the most simple answer - God did it.

Anonymous said...


Didn't you see how everything I wrote is based on a careful reading of the posuk, the context and of the Rashi? Fully consistant with the Mesorah, and the idea that the Torah is G-d's wisdom, and therefore migh tbe hard for humans to understand.

Anonymous said...

And what wrong with the same phrase meaning something else each time, especially if it is a literzry device that is menat t convey a certain impression? Its all in the context. That's obvious that this is the cse with Ad hayom heze. When refering to the Gid Hanosa, it is obviously refering to the time of the reader. When it was used by Yaakov, it obviously refers to the time he was speaking. Context.

Anon2 said...

"And what's wrong with the same phrase meaning something else each time, especially if it is a literary device that is meant to convey a certain impression?"(my spelling correction)

Because you are deriving the different meaning each time based on a predetermined theological position, not on the context.

Saying in a particular instance that "az" or "ad hayom hazeh" is meant for a reader later than the time of the writer (such as Chavot Gilad or Moshe's burial) or a non-plain meaning (rashi on "az" with Avram or whatever) is forced and out of context.

Anonymous said...

Devorim 2:32 would not make sense if it was written during a later date, and refered to the time of the writing, because it wouldn't them be true. So there it refers to the time of the writing of the Torah during Moshe's time. By the Gid Hanoseh, it refers to the time sof the reader, and when Yaakov used it, it refered to the time of the speaker. It is a vague literary device that is mean to give a certain impression, that has different meaning in different contexts.

Anonymous said...

Devorim 2:32 would not make sense if it was written during a later date, and refered to the time of the writing, because it wouldn't them be true. So there it refers to the time of the writing of the Torah during Moshe's time. By the Gid Hanoseh, it refers to the time sof the reader, and when Yaakov used it, it refered to the time of the speaker. It is a vague literary device that is mean to give a certain impression, that has different meaning in different contexts.

Anon2 said...

I don't dispute that dvarim 2:32 is referring to the time of writing (whenever that is). When you speak of Yaakov, which verse are you referring to? Gid Hanashe? He didn't say that.

You still haven't disproven that the phrase refers back into the sometime distant past, in relation to now, not recent. However, when that poses a problem for your theology, such as Moses' burial and chavot gilad, you say that yom hazeh refers to some future time after the time it was written by Moshe. There context dicatates that it was WRITTEN later and is referring back into the non-recent past. I still don't get it.

And the idea of a "vague literary device" does not jibe with the traditional idea of every letter of the masoretic text being holy and full of meaning.

You should really read the essay I mentioned above, by Menachem Cohen, it will open your eyes.

jewish philosopher said...

Personally, I would not attempt to argue that there is no evidence in favor of atheism. I would also not argue that there is no evidence in favor of Holocaust denial.

Check this out

However what Holocaust deniers and God deniers both are failing to realize is that the vast preponderance of evidence is against them and therefore no one rational would be convinced by them. This is in addition to the fact that both groups have to some degree lied, falsified and manufactured evidence.

Anonymous said...

The Mesorah says that the Torah does use Loson Bnei Odom, human speach, so it does use literary devices, just like humans do. And the point that the Posuk is making about the burial point of Moshe is that is a secret that will not be revealed forever. That is obvious from the context. So Ad Hayom Haze obviously refers to the time of the reader and beyond. Now by Gid Hanose, it means at the time of the reader. When Yakov said it on his deathbed, it meant at the timne he said it.

Anonymous said...

And thge point of the posuk in 3:14
Is that Chavos Yair became the name that the Torah gives to that parcel of land for all posterity, even though that it was a unique way of naming land.

By the Gis Hanose it is refering to what Jews do today, not something in the distant past.