DOCUMENTARY HYPOTHESIS DEBUNKED

An Analysis of Bible criticism

Rabbi Shlomo Cohen

(845)356-7584

Bible criticism has been around for a little over 125 years. Today, while not widely known, it is often given as a college class and is often mandatory and, of course, only one side of the issue is mentioned. Unfortunately, academic freedom and intellectual honesty are in short supply on college campuses. Society is concerned more with being politically correct rather than with being just plain correct. Far from being a casual course offering, there is a very real anti-G-d agenda being actively pursued by the liberal left. This is only one arm of their attack on morality. Far from being benign, their agenda is having very real, very frightening effects on society.

Spinoza, an apostate Jew, is generally thought to have been the first to suggest that the Bible had been written by man. His hypothesis was essentially ignored by both the Jewish world as well as the Christian community.

Bible criticism began in earnest at a time when religion was under attack from all sides. Developed almost concurrently with evolutionary theory, the object was to prove that G-d did not create the world and indeed, probably did not exist other than as a myth dreamt up in antiquity to explain the forces of nature and to give the priests control over people's behavior. If you accept the a priori notion that G-d does not exist than it becomes logical to assume that He could not have written the Bible. If He didn't, who did? The answer appears obvious. G-d didn't, ergo man did. The only question remaining then is , which man or men was / were the true author(s) of the book that the world accepts as the Bible?

One peculiarity of this field is that it is 'criticism' in the harshest sense. Merely perusing the library shelf one finds that every single learned tome has but one agenda - that of looking for error. Not one work looks at the biblical material for its content or for what it purports to be . No other form of literary criticism chooses to only question authorship, dating and authenticity to the total exclusion of discussing the texts themselves.

THE BIBLE CRITICS AND THEIR BIAS

 One of the first to build a critical edifice to back the hypothesis of human authorship was Johann Gottfried von Herder (1744-1803). He was a German critic and author who surmised that the legends of the bible began as primitive shepherd's tales which, through oral tradition, eventually became enshrined as religion. His original theories have been discarded over time except for this emphasis on 'primitivism' which appears to remain a presupposition among bible critics to this day. If one keeps in mind that these same people subscribe to the theory of evolution, rather than view previous generations as spiritual giants, they are forced into a position of thinking that anything ancient is 'primitive'. 

A German Professor named Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918), the foremost name in bible criticism, was the one who formulated the classical account of 'Documentary Hypothesis' in an article called "Prolegmena zur Geschichte Israels" published in 1878. Accepting that the Bible was written by man, he proceeds to attempt to show, through two different methodologies, how this was accomplished. "Higher criticism", (concerns itself with who was the author?) and  "lower criticism"(concerns itself with the actual content). Although significant aspects of Wellhausen's presentation have been superseded, the basic identification and sequence of the documents is still used by bible critics today. Amazingly, he considered the era prior to the Israelite monarchy as a historical vacuum. In other words, anything prior to Saul and David didn't happen. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were merely a "glorified mirage" from later Hebrew history, projected back in time.  In other words, Wellhausen effectively stole  34%, over  one-third of our history, in one fell swoop with no evidence, nothing to support his contentions, just an agenda.

Hermann Gunkel (1862-1932) proposed a more rigorous method of determining 'source documents' by searching for literary types. One quote should suffice to show the shortcomings of his entire approach. "The oldest Hebrew folksong is contained in only one or perhaps two long lines; the people of that period were not able to understand more!" [emphasis mine] ("Grundprobleme" pg.34) Note the  assumption that is made -  with zero proof. Once this assumption is accepted, the most ridiculous theories can be advanced, and, what's worse, sound sane. These 'stupid' ancient people, and some of their surrounding neighbors developed written languages, built complex structures, systematized legal frameworks for their societies, built cities, learned to smelt ore and produce an array of tools and weapons, warred and traded across a large geographic area, had sophisticated marriage and business contracts but couldn't understand more than two lines!!!  His error, as with so many others of his ilk, was that he theorized with incomplete information. Gunkel formed his opinions several decades before the discovery of the texts from the ancient city of Ugarith which predate the patriarchal narratives by several centuries. These epic myths are far longer than one or two lines and are quite sophisticated.

Martin Noth (1902-1968) had such an impact on modern biblical 'scholarship' that his major work "Uberlieferungsgeschichte Des Pentatauch" in certain circles is considered more of a proof text than a work of speculative thought. Rather than deriving the narratives from Canaanite legends or shepherd's folktales, Noth relies on the theory of Albrecht Alt that the patriarchal stories had their origin in various cult sites where the "God of Abraham", another "God of Isaac" and yet a third "God of Jacob" were worshipped. As the early Hebrews migrated to Canaan they brought these cults with them. Eventually they came together and combined into one God, one tradition. Noth posits that there were actually two different Jacobs. One, with Esau, west of the Jordan. A different Jacob, with Lavan, East of the Jordan. Both were joined into one persona and a single legend by the redactor at some later date. Does Noth expect us to believe that nobody ever crossed the Jordan in antiquity or had dealings with more than one other person. For him to seriously suggest so certainly leads one to question Noth’s  motives. Yet, the more absurd the contention, the more people seem to accept it.

William Albright (1891-1971) was a biblical archaeologist as well as a practicing fundamentalist Christian. He started out, in the 1920’s  agreeing with most of Wellhausen’s theory. Later on, he changed his mind as a result of his own research. He brought a more scientific approach to the issue by establishing a well ordered pottery sequence for  ancient Palestine. He eventually came to believe that the majority of extra-biblical evidence, in general, supported the biblical patriarchs as historical figures. Of course, his religious beliefs were considered, by others in the field, to bias his work. In fact, Albright often went overboard in thinking that his conclusions "proved" the historicity of the Bible. Others who followed Albright's thinking include Glueck (an ordained Rabbi, although I don’t know his affiliation), Wright and John Bright.

Albright writes “ Hebrew national tradition excels all others in its clear picture of tribal  and family origins. In Egypt and Babylonia, in Assyria and Phonecia, in Greece and Rome, we look in vain for anything comparable. There is nothing like it in the tradition of the Germanic peoples. Neither India nor China can produce anything similar. In contrast with these other peoples the Israelites preserved an unusually clear picture...”[The Jews : The Biblical Period W.F. Albright 1963]

 

Both T.L.Thompson in "The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives" and John Van Seeter in "Abraham in History and Tradition" attack Albright's stance. They both try to show that Wellhausen was essentially correct in positing a 9th century BCE time frame for Abraham, rather than the 18th century BCE according to Jewish sources, and that the books may have been written as late as the 5th th century BCE. Neither work has impressed the academic community, indeed, many have attacked both books for various reasons.

One of the attackers is William G. Dever, an archaeologist (but not a bible scholar) from the University of Arizona who believes that bible critics aren't archaeologists, don't understand archaeology and should not be using archaeological data in their interpretations of biblical material. He goes so far as to blast Thompson by saying "Whatever one makes of Thompson as a biblical historian, his attempts at archaeological critique and synthesis are dangerous and misleading." (Harvard Theological Review 73, 1980 pg..8 note 19)

All of the above men share several things in common. First and foremost, they are all academics associated with a university. Anyone familiar with campus protocol is aware of the famous dictum, “publish or perish”. As with many professors, these men have had to come up with an idea, pursue grants to fund their research and then produce a work to validate their positions. In certain areas, the more far-fetched the original notion the easier it is to find funding. This is especially so in leftist-liberal circles in order to build a framework for a pre-conceived ideology. Secondly, vested interest, both in keeping their jobs as well as bolstering their agenda, requires maintaining a status quo vis-à-vis  the accepted, and only acceptable, university oriented philosophy . Those who veer too far off this norm soon find themselves out. Thirdly, it is very human to not want to go against the tide. Peer group pressure is very strong. At the higher levels, university politics assume pressure-cooker intensity. Few can, or care to, overcome that pressure.

DOCUMENTARY HYPOTHESIS EXAMINED

Textual analysis essentially tries to prove that the Bible was authored at different times by different people. Four documents are identified by Wellhausen and are still used today:

                  1- The "J" Document, named for the use of G-d's four letter name is considered the oldest "source document' followed by;

                  2- The "E" Document named for the use of God's name Elokim.These first two are supposed to have originated at the time of the early monarchy.

                  3- The "D" Document or the Deuteronomist is thought to have developed next.

                  4- The "P" Document named for the priestly laws it contains is "dated" from around the period of the Babylonian exile. (This is close to 900 years after Sinai) [Different authors have other dating orders but the basic breakdown remains the same.]

These were four books from four supposedly different groups who had each developed their own idea of G-d and how to serve Him.

All of these were then supposedly edited later on and passed off as one work by someone who is called the Redactor.

During the 1980's, when feminism was in vogue, a book was written attempting to show that the author was female. Don't forget that, at the same time, others were trying to show that G-d was female. All in all, this topic continues to bring some wild nonsense out of the woodwork.

In a recent book, "Who Wrote The Bible", (Summit Books 1987) the author, Richard Elliot Friedman, theorizes that the Redactor was none other than Ezra, although he is not the first to do so. Let us examine the two possibilities that present themselves. Logically, there are only two times the "Bible" could have been presented to the Jewish people even assuming human authorship. The first possibility is at the time the Jews left Egypt and the second possibility is anytime thereafter.(No one posits an earlier date). The latest possible date would, of necessity, have to be some time prior to the translation of the Torah into Greek, the Septuagint, in the year 220BCE [3541] by King  Ptolemy II of Egypt. This was a mere 300 years after the time the critics maintain that the redactor lived. That event removes all doubts as the Torah was then in the hands of others who could see if any changes were made. Ptolemy himself was, of course, convinced of the antiquity of the entire Torah as a unit. Actually, all of Christendom and Islam also believe in the Divine authorship of the Torah and the Jews receiving it at Sinai. Without this belief their own superstructures fall apart. Only those whose desire it was, and is, to destroy anything that prevents them from  enjoying total freedom with nothing to stop them saw fit to deny Hashem's existence and go to any lengths to prove their preconception.

We may actually posit a much earlier date. It is relatively clear that the Torah had assumed its present form, at the latest, by the time of the development of the Shomronim (Samaritans) after the Assyrian conquest of Israel in 721BCE. These “Samaritans” are still with us today centered around Mount Gerizim in Israel. Their text is,  in its entirety, the whole recognizable Torah, in order, same laws and story line intact albeit with thousands of word changes, spelling differences and other ‘minor’ variances. Any redactor would have had to operate some time before  their appearance yet this date is over 200 years earlier than any date proposed by the critics for the redactor.

So looking carefully at both possibilities, in Moses’ time or sometime thereafter, leaves us with a distinct feeling that human authorship is going to create an enormous problem.

Had the book been written by Moses alone, with no G-d in the picture, imagine the scenario. He passes the book around. What is the reaction of those who read it? "Moses, it says in your book that we all heard G-d speaking from the mountain with thunder, fire and smoke .There were 2 1/2 million witnesses by your own account. Pretty dramatic, yet none of us recall this event and we were all supposedly there. You'd better go back and rewrite that part. How can we accept the rest of the book, which is great, by the way, when it contains an obvious lie."

The second possibility is that it was a cut and paste job done sometime after the event. We'll use Friedman's  theory that the Redactor was Ezra. Ezra passes around copies of his 'book'. What is the reaction then? "Ezra, it says in your book that these events will never be forgotten among the people, yet nobody recalls any such events. I've asked my father, my grandfathers and all the village elders. Nobody has ever heard any such thing. Why did you put those lines in? Take them out and then, perhaps, we would find this more believable." Alternatively, using the "cut and paste" idea -- "Ezra, your book has all these new laws in it and yet the book itself says that nothing may be added or taken out. Why should we take on all these new laws that were never part of our religion or accept all these newcomers with their strange customs." 

Keep in mind that Ezra lived at the end of the First Temple era through the exile and into the Second Temple era. Josephus lived at the end of the Second Temple, some 400 years later. Josephus states clearly that the Jews never changed a thing in the Torah. Had Ezra been the Redactor there would have been a definite memory ,if not actual groups, of people still holding on to their ancient beliefs. No such memory, copy of an old manuscript or group of people existed.

In addition, if you study the Book of Ezra it becomes painfully obvious first, that his style is quite different from that of the Five Books  (the critics, who are so big on stylistic differences, just ignore this ) and, second, that he nowhere includes the burning issues of his own day. Intermarriage bothers Ezra to no end. It would make sense for him to make more of this issue particularly since the Torah does mention it in several places. This does not happen. The critics claim "retrojection" when it works for them but conveniently overlook the fact that many assumptions of any possible later author do not appear.

Even if we were to suppose that the redactor was someone other than Ezra the problem remains much the same. Furthermore, the Torah requires that the Jews keep many special laws quite a few of which are unique to the Torah having no counterpart in any other culture. Had these laws been new, why would the Jews accept them from Ezra or anyone else, claiming antiquity, when they were never kept before. If they already were keeping the laws, where did the laws come from?  The critics offer no explanation for the origin of these laws!!! The fact is that the laws were not new at all. Ezra was one of the latter Prophets. There are innumerable references to many Mitzvos in the earlier Prophets. The Jews were familiar with them and Ezra was not starting anything novel at all. Then too, why in heaven's name would he fill a book with detailed laws concerning the erection of a Tabernacle in the desert. This was not put in as an ancient legend regarding the distant past which would have made sense if Ezra wrote it. It is written in the future tense.

 These arguments do not even begin to touch upon some of the information contained in the Torah or some of the statements made in the Torah which could not possibly have been known nor would have been stated by any human author for which the critics offer no explanations. Signs of the kosher animal, Shmitta or Aliya L’regel are three such examples. Offensive attacks are an effective tool of the demagogue. The defense is kept so busy trying to answer the charges they have no time to raise their own questions.  Should they rebut, the demagogue ignores the rebuttal and attacks anew from some other direction. This is exactly what bible criticism has done over and over. The number of unanswered questions are legion.

One other point must be considered carefully. In all of history perhaps no other single concept has been as radical or as revolutionary as the notion of one G-d - monotheism. At a time when the entire world was polytheistic this notion was  to eventually effect half the world’s population.  We accept it as axiomatic today. Even atheists profess to not believe in one G-d. Agnostics are only unsure about one G-d. None of these non-believers are expressing doubt about the existence of the sun god, the rain god, Thor, Zeus or Neptune. How and when this concept came about is epochal. We, of course,  know that Avraham was the originator of  our belief. The critics don’t even give this problem passing mention yet it is the very root of the issue. Any discussion of the historicity of the Bible must start and end on this pivotal point.

Historical revisionism is difficult. There must be some basis in fact or it all falls apart. Suppose someone told you that in the year 1056 the heavens over Europe opened up and a voice emanated from the skies saying "My name is Jesus and I am the son of G-d and I command you to go on a crusade".  Would you believe this or not? Assumedly, your reaction would be "How come I've never heard this before?" This event would be legendary, reported in textbooks, discussed in learned papers. The church would never let anyone forget this. The fact that you've never heard of it lends a high probability to the fact that it never happened. But this is, in effect, what bible critics would have us believe occurred.

Using a different scenario, there are three other books central to their respective religions; the Christian Bible, the Koran and the Book Of Moroni. How were they introduced and accepted by the people? Is there any point of comparison to the idea that the Torah was passed off by either Moses or Ezra with no truth to their claims?

The oldest of the three other books is the Christian Bible. Note that there is no claim of Divine authorship. In fact there is no claim at all. These are merely books purporting to have written down an oral legacy. The unknown authors are simply reporting those legends that had been passed on to them anywhere from 50 to 250 years after the event. Note that the only claim, unsupported outside of the Christian bible, is of G-d speaking to Jesus alone and we have no way of knowing whether or not Jesus ever made the claim himself. Those who accepted the original claim, that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah, were all orthodox Jews. Christianity developed from that base into something altogether different. However, to those who later accepted the books, they were either already familiar with the same or similar legends or were new converts from paganism,  accepting what they were told by others who had a basis for their beliefs, and whose own beliefs contained nothing to prevent them from accepting something new. There is also very little “new” in Christianity, changes in the lives of converts were actually rather minimal. The different authors really do, as expected, have different styles, tell different versions of the same legends, disagree on direct quotes and facts. Later authors do embellish earlier material.

The Koran also makes no claims to Divine authorship. It too was written down after the death of Mohammed, as prophet, as a means of preserving an oral record. Mohammed is reporting the prophecies which Moslems believe he received from the Angel Gabriel. Gabriel spoke only to him.  Revelation was his alone unlike the National Revelation at Sinai. “After Mohammed died the Caliph, Abu Bakr, not without hesitation, entrusted its (the Koran’s) collation to Zaid ibn Thabit. Then the Caliph Uthman had a vulgate text made on the basis of copies left in charge of Hasah, Mohammed’s widow and daughter of Umar; and the other copies were burnt.” [Muhammed and the Islamic Tradition, Emile Dermenghen ,Overlook Press ,1981]  Credibility is thus not a question of believing G-d, Gabriel or Mohammed. The onus of believability is thrust on the copyists hired by Uthman. The book was  accepted by those who had already been converted and believed or those who were converted later on, by the sword mind you. 

You might ask how it was possible for Joseph Smith to pass off The Book of Moroni to his followers. [For those unfamiliar with the story, Joseph Smith lived in Palmyra, New York. In the year 1820 he claimed that both G-d and Jesus appeared to him. In 1823 the Angel Moroni appeared to him and showed him where an ancient book in an ancient language engraved on gold plates was hidden on Cumora, a hill near Palmyra, by an ancient culture. Joseph Smith was then given the translation of the book which he copied and later had published it in 1830.] The angel appeared to nobody else, nor did any other person see the original gold manuscript. Those who accepted it were already believing Christians. Mormonism was a radical departure from Christianity in only a few ways and did not require a major paradigm shift for those who chose to follow Joseph Smith. 

So we see that the other three books are in no way analogous to the problems presented by a Divine national revelation at Sinai.These other books, in fact, base whatever claim they do have as being the natural successor to the original-- our Torah.

What the revisionists would have you believe is that four disparate groups of people with four different holy books, worshipping at least two different gods, one of the groups a special set of priests {priests to whom? one may ask, and which book did they use}, would all agree to set aside their personal beliefs and combine to form a new religion with a new composite book and a new composite god . This all occurred with not the faintest hint of the original groups remaining. There are no records, memories, legends, sects or even the slightest hint of archeological evidence on which to base the original assumption. It began as, and remains, pure fiction. Those who chose to follow this line of thinking do so with the intent to prove that G-d does not exist and in effect are saying "Don't confuse me with the facts."

The end of Freidman's book contains several examples of the breakdown of the verses in the Torah as the critics attempt to undo the "cut and paste". Several things strike anyone who is familiar with Torah study. First, their breakdown seems quite arbitrary often splitting verses into three or four parts, ascribing different authorship to each part. These splits are made on the basis of linguistic similarities and differences. Even cursory knowledge of any form of literature would incline one to recognize that in dealing with so many different types of writing, any one author has need of different styles. Imagine the prose of the Breishis narratives written in the style required for the book of Vayikra, the 'P' document, regarding the erection of the Tabernacle and the sacrifices.  Would anyone seriously suggest that Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets, or your own resume and shopping lists, were written by two different people because of stylistic differences? Second, most critics work, not with the original Hebrew, but in translation. Linguistic similarities and differences between German or English words will have little, if any, bearing on the original . Yet they proceed. Thirdly, those familiar with Torah commentators recognize that every question asked by the bible critics was asked, and answered, centuries ago. The only difference in the answers is that Torah commentators  acknowledge the existence of G-d which obviously makes all the difference in the answers. There can be no compromise between the two positions. If the axiom is wrong, any logical inferences made on the basis of the axiom are wrong. Furthermore, using bible criticism to prove G-d didn't write the book, even if they were to succeed in their proof, still would have no bearing and does not prove that He doesn't exist, which is what they set out to do. Additionally, to assert that an omniscient G-d is limited to only one writing style places constraints on G-d which are absurd. Any researcher can tell you that any prior notions one has will color all the results. Setting out to prove something lends great weight to the necessity of having to prove it at all costs.  But they have failed to prove a thing. Incredibly, though  this failure is real, so is the fact that society is totally unaware of the failure and proceed as if  the secularists  have succeeded!!!

Simply reading the text as one would any other book robs the Torah of its purpose. As the word of G-d revealed to mankind, the words convey more than mere denotations. They form the foundation for a philosophy, a weltanschauung, a tradition and a way of life. To approach this way of life strictly from an academic point of view is tantamount to reading a National Geographic article about the Watusis or Hottentots and claiming to understand their culture.

THE NAMES OF HASHEM IN THE TORAH

The J document and the E document were named due to the Torah's use of these two Names of G-d. Any Frum Jew can tell you that the reason our sages propose for this usage represents different attributes of Hashem. In fact, the greater question is why the bible critics stopped at two Names when G-d is referred to by SEVEN different Names.[Rambam, Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah Chapter 6 Halacha 2] FIVE of which are found in the first five books. Four of the Names are used in combined forms as well. Looking at the chart of the occurrences of the various Names, it is as easy to see why the critics raised the question as it is to see why our sages had raised the same question 1500 years ago.

Occurrences of the names of Hashem in the Torah.

 

 

 BRAISHIS

 

 SHEMOS

 

VAYIKRA

 

BAMIDBAR

 

 DEVORIM

 

 TOTAL

 

YKVK

     121

     351

    277

     360

       214

 1,323 

ELOKIM 

     196

      127

      54

       25

       368

    770

ADO-NOI

       6

       5

      0

       1

         0

      12

KALE

         20

         7

         0

           10

           13

      50

SHAKAI

          5

         1

         0

           1

            0

        7

KALE-SHAKAI

        4

        0

       0

          0

           0

       4

ADO-NOI/ELOKIM

      18

       1

       0

        0

         0

      19

ADO-NOI/YKVK

          2

          0

          0

           0

            2

        4

Kale- Elokei

       2

       0

       0

        0

         0

       2

TOTALS

      374

      492

      331

      397

       597

  2,191

                                    a)  The letter 'K' is used in place of the letter "Hey" in each Name.

                                    b)  Some of these numbers may not be exact

                                    c)  Shalom and Tzivakos, as names of Hashem, are not used in the Torah.

                                    d)  Each entry includes all forms of that name with prefixes and suffixes.

                                    e)  This list includes 'Chol" usages of Hashem's Names. It also may include place names although I                                                                     made an effort to exclude them. It also includes every use of the Name even when it refers to                                                              other gods.

                                    f)  The Rokeach, in his introduction to Sefer Breishis, states that Hashem's Name is mentioned 1,818                                                            times in Chumash. He does not break down the count nor does he offer any explanations. I am guessing

                                    that his number does not include references to other gods.

The frequency distribution is clearly skewed both as to use of Name and the number of occurrences in the different books. Far from being obvious that this is the result of a 'cut and paste', one questions the Redactor's skills. Did he favor 'J' over 'E'? The instances of usage point in that direction. Where did the other names come from? Where there yet other groups brought into this new and improved religion? Why are these other names used at all, or conversely, used so sparingly? Why did he occasionally choose to combine some of the Names but not others? He seems to have balanced the Names nicely in Breishis but falls down on the job in the other four books. Each and every one of the books simply doesn't utilize a minimum of two, but up to five, of the names and combinations in a smoothly edited fashion. Why write in such a choppy fashion when there is an attempt to get each group to accept the work?  Did the Redactor's scissors break or did he run out of paste? It is difficult, in fact, far-fetched, to attempt to build any hypothesis on these numbers, frequencies or distribution. Any solution to the problem, other than that advanced by the sages, seems to raise more questions than it answers. 

COMPARING THE TIME FRAMES

It would be helpful, before discussing archaeology, to get a feel for the time frames involved and 

what is known about the dating of the people, cultures and events under discussion.

The Jewish sources:

 3000                          2000                               1000                                  1

Third millennium BCE                  Second millennium BCE               First millennium BCE                  First millennium CE

                                                                  Abraham  Yakov goes   Torah Given               Saul 1st          Ezra   1st Temple   Septuagint  2nd Temple

                                                                                   to Egypt           At Sinai                       king             lives    destroyed     translated  destroyed

                                                               1812BCE     1600BCE       1313BCE                   875BCE     470 BCE   423BCE       220BCE   70CE  

Secular dates for comparison:

Third millennium BCE                  Second millennium BCE               First millennium BCE                  First millennium CE

                                       Hammurabi                              Homer  Confucius  Socrates  Aristotle     Jesus               Mohammed

                                                                       1800BCE                                                      750BCE    500BCE  &  Plato    250BCE                                  850CE

                                                                                                                                                                                 350BCE

Archaeological divisions of time:

Third millennium BCE                  Second millennium BCE               First millennium BCE                  First millennium CE

     stone age    early bronze age          middle bronze age   late bronze age   iron age

                                                            2000-1600BCE         1600-1200BCE  1200-586BCE

Lagash  Umma    Ebla   Mari  Akkad Empire             Nuzi &       Hittite                                               Persian Empire        Assyria

                                                 2371-2191BCE              Ugarit

                                                                    

Bible Critics hypothesis:

Third millennium BCE                  Second millennium BCE               First millennium BCE                  First millennium CE

Shepherd's    tales    and    developing    cults                             J & E                      P                            D   Redactor      

                                                                                                       documents           document          document

 

 

Archaeology and Criticism

One of the important theses the critics used was what they called 'retrojection'. That is, the writers of the Bible did not know what conditions prevailed at the time they were writing about and instead assumed that those conditions matched the ones in which they lived. If so, names of people and places would not match with ancient times. Utensils, modes of travel, contracts etc.would appear as anachronisms like watching a cowboys and Indians movie and seeing an airplane fly overhead. The critics began looking carefully for these anachronisms.

Remember, when criticism first started, archaeology was in its infancy. The first digs were just being done. By today's standards, these digs probably destroyed more than they saved. Little was understood about strata, using pottery for dating, techniques for preserving or even recording juxtaposition of articles. Photography was also in its infancy and it would be many years before it would be recognized as a powerful tool for the archaeologist. Even today, evidence found in the ground is subject to a wide scope of interpretation. Nonetheless, on the basis of the skimpy evidence available, critics were willing to make sweeping generalizations. 

DOMESTICATION OF THE CAMEL

One example which illustrates how far off the mark the critics were was Wellhausen's contention that the biblical narrative regarding Abraham couldn't be true since the story has him utilizing camels. At that time the only evidence they had was that camels weren't domesticated until about 600 years after Abraham. On that basis, Wellhausen contended that later writers simply assumed that since they used camels so did Abraham. Unfortunately, Wellhausen neglected a very basic premise. The Talmud states "Lo Ra'eenu, Aino Ra'aya". In English this is generally stated as "lack of evidence is evidence of nothing". Subsequent digs have shown that the camel was in fact domesticated some hundreds of  years prior to the time of Abraham.  A cuneiform tablet, dating from 18th century BCE Byblos, Phonecia describes a list of fodder for domesticated animals in which the camel is specifically mentioned.  A cylinder seal from northern Mesopotamia , dating from the patriarchal era, depicts riders seated on camels. [[See Biblical Personalities and Archaeology L. Bronner Keter Pub 1974 also Introduction to the Old Testament Gordon 1953]

 

THE INVENTION OF WRITING

There was a similar idea that Moshe could not have written down the Torah since writing was not invented until later. Of course today we know that writing predates even Avrohom by many centuries. Sumerian pictograph writing first appears in the fourth millenium BCE.  Egyptian hieroglyphics are found as early as c3100BCE. Cuneiform writing in Mesopotamian records goes back as far as c3000BCE. In the Indus valley writing has been dated to c2500BCE. Writing is found on Crete from c2000BCE. Linear forms of writing are found in Knossos in c1700BCE. The records unearthed at Ugarit are from as early as the 15th century BCE.

Writing was, in fact, quite widespread as evidenced by the innumerable ostraca, clay tablets and inscriptions found throughout the entire area across an extremely broad spectrum of time. To posit illiteracy would require the positer to provide specific proof regarding specific people, an obviously impossible task. Otherwise, the assumption of literacy is safe. [See Biblical Personalities and Archaeology L. Bronner Keter Pub 1974]

 

THE MERNEPTAH STELA

At present, the earliest known extra-biblical mention of Israel comes from the Merneptah stela dated to c1209BCE. Found in the funery temple of the Pharaoh Merneptah in Thebes, this 7.5 foot high granite monolith tells of Merneptah's wars in Canaan where, according to this account, he defeated a people called Israel. According to our dating, this would place these wars some 100 years after the Jews entered the land of Israel during the time of the Judges which would fit neatly with Jewish history . Although this is far too late to help us with Patriarchal historicity, using internal dating systems, it does place the Patriarchs back to the exact chronology presented in the Torah. There is no reason to presume the Torah is wrong.

THE IPUWAR DOCUMENT

An even earlier mention has been questioned by archaeologists. The "Ipuwar document" comes from Egypt and seems to tell, in amazing detail, the Ten Plagues, albeit from 'the other side'. It is currently found in the Leyden Museum in Holland, catalog #344. It is 17 pages of papyrus, written on both sides by an Egyptian named Ipuwar. Each page contains 14 lines. A.H.Gardiner translated it in 1909 He dated it some 600 years prior to the Exodus, thus there has been little excitement over the discovery. However, there are dating problems in Egyptology in general. Pharaohs were notorious in the manner in which they rewrote history in a way that glorified themselves. Thus, entire reigns are often written out of the record thereby skewing the dating procedures used today. Professor Emanuel Velikofsky has noted a six hundred year differential. That

600 years is the controversy over what the Ipuwar document may be referring to.  If the differential is correct, then it would seem that there is an extra-biblical source for the ten plagues. Professor Velikofsky thinks so.

THE BALAAM INSCRIPTION

An inscription found in Deir Alla speaks of Ballam son of Beor. He is mentioned several times in the inscription as a prophet and seer. The main facts of his existence, his life and several specifics are all in accord with what is known of him from the Torah. Thus we have an extra-biblical mention of a biblical figure which immeasurably strengthens the historical veracity of the Torah.

PERSONAL NAMES

Early critics made much of the fact that biblical names seem to have sprung from nowhere. The biblical account also speaks of kings no one had ever heard of from any outside source. Several  major finds were to deal a mortal blow to virtually all of bible criticism. Several ancient cities were located and extensively excavated.Ur, Ugarit, Sura and Mari amongst others provided evidence that the critics were badly mistaken. In these places huge numbers of records, engraved on baked clay, were discovered. Lo and behold, the Mari texts corroborate biblical place names and personal names [the so-called 'i/y Amorite imperfective'] as being common in that place and time and much less common both before and after. Records of biblical kings, including Chizkiya 800 BCE King of Judah, Sanbalat, 500BCE governor of Samaria and King David from 1000 BCE, were found. (The reference to King David, the first extra-biblical mention of him found, was discovered in 1993 in the ancient city of Laish which was later part of the tribe of Dan.) Contracts, similar to those mentioned in the patriarchal narratives were discovered in the Nuzi texts agreeing with the social and legal practices of the patriarchal age. In short, archaeological evidence was found to, time and again, verify the biblical accounts. 

“To this must now be added the still earlier Ebla texts, where- so we are told- numerous personal names familiar to us from the Bible are to be found: Abram, Eber, Ishmael, Esau, Saul, David and Israel, as well as others. We are also told that towns bearing names of the various ancestors of Israel are likewise mentioned: Phaliga (Pleg), Sarugi  ( Serug), Til-turakhi (Terah), Nakhur ( Nahor0 and Haran. None of the names oof the patriarchs themselves and very few of the names of those connected with them ever occur as proper names in Israel again thruoghout the Biblical period. The patriarchal narratives are thus in this respect most authentic. [A History of Israel John Bright pp. 77-78]

We may take the liberty to go even farther. The state of archaeology today is such  that Nelson Glueck felt compelled to say “It may be categorically stated that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical statement.”. It is safe to say that all finds tend to support the biblical accounts and there are no finds that contradict the bible at all.  "The biblical data match  objective facts from the ancient world in an almost uncanny way, establishing the general reliability of biblical time periods." [The Patriarchal Age Kenneth Kitchen BAR March 1995]

JERICHO

A case in point regards a German archaeologist, Kathleen Kenyon, who did a dig at the ancient city of Jericho. Her trench "proved" that the destruction of the city dated some 150 years before the time of Joshua which we date to 1271BCE. Furthermore, the Book Of Joshua has the wall falling outward while her trench showed conclusively that it fell inward. So much, Kenyon said, for the Book of Joshua. Interestingly enough, some years ago, archaeologists were out to prove the bible wrong and they set out with their shovels to demonstrate this. Today, archaeologists have found the bible to be an accurate source of information and they generally now set out with a shovel in one hand and a bible in the other.

 During the 1980's Dr. Bryant G. Wood, an archaeologist from the University of Toronto, continued Kenyon's trench.He discovered that good ole Kathleen had stopped digging too soon. Her trench stopped outside the city walls where the poorer people lived. She had dated the city by means of the cheaper pottery, which dates as older, rather than by the more expensive pottery found inside the walls, which dated to the time of Joshua. Since the perspective now changed, the walls were now falling in the right direction. The dig at Jericho, far from dismissing the Book Of Joshua, now shows the book to be correct down to the smallest details including the fact reported in Joshua that the battle occurred just after the spring harvest. Nonetheless, archaeologists remain skeptical, don't confuse us with the facts, since they still wish to maintain that the Israelites did not enter the land until two centuries later and then, not as conquerors, merely as immigrants.  [ Believers Score in Battle Over the Battle of Jericho  New York Times Feb 22 19__?)

In a subsequent letter to the editor, Zecharia Sitchin, author of “The Lost Realms” on ancient civilizations and prehistoric events, points out that scholars  have disbelieved the phenomenon of the sun standing still over Gibeon. Sitchin tells us that “Aztec lore from that period of time reports the sun failing to rise for a whole day in the City of the Gods, Teotihuancan ( north of Mexico City). Like wise, it failed to rise for 20 hours in the Andes according to Inca legends. Since a day that does not end and a night that does not end are the same phenomenon in opposite parts of the world, the dating of the the Israelite conquest at 1400 BCE, now corroborated by archaeology at Jericho, would also confirm the tale of the sun standing still in Gibeon”

PRICE OF SLAVES

There is a seven foot high basalt stela in Susa, southeastern Mesopotamia, of Hammurabi, King of Babylon, 1792-1750BCE, on which is a cuneiform text containing an prologue, 282 laws and an epilogue. The famous Code of Hammurabi, discovered in 1902, which drastically changed the view of the ancient world. No longer could the revisionists claim that the ancients were primitive.  One of the laws sets the price of slaves at 20 silver shekel. Joseph, at about that time, is sold into slavery for 20 silver shekel. In Exodus, the price of a slave is given at 30 shekel. Another price of 50 shekel is given in 2 Kings 15;20 in the time of Menachem. Inflation at work. There is also an archaeological  record of the price of slaves covering the time from 2400 BCE - 400 BCE. The prices of slaves changed dramatically from a low of 10 shekel in Akkad in c2400BCE to a high of 120 shekel in the Persian Empire 400BCE with prices rising on a continuum. In each instance, the biblical price matches the other known prices in the period to which it relates. The redactor, writing in the 5th century BCE, should have used the price at his time of 100 shekel or more or he would have needed to be aware of the changes in these prices to be able to report them accurately. Why no retrojection?

 

 

MARRIAGE CONTRACTS

Another convincing point which places the Patriarchs in the proper era is Hagar. Hagar is Sarah’s slave. When Sarah finds herself  infertile she gives Hagar to Avrohom so he may  have children. In our monogamous society this sounds strange. “Here dear, go sleep with the cleaning lady.” However, in the context of a polygamous society, which was the case in 18th century BCE Near East, this tactic enabled a father to protect his daughter’s position in her husband’s home. For a price, a legally binding contract was drawn up in which a husband would relinquish his right to multiple wives. One condition of the contract protected the husband’s need to produce children. If his wife turned out to be infertile, she is legally required to provide  another wife or concubine of her choosing over whom she had authority.  Far from being an anomaly, Nuzi marriage contracts of the period frequently contain the same provisions. Thus we find Sarah treated according to the highest level of respect within the milieu of her time and locale. [See Uniquness and Antiquity of the Book of Genesis Joshua M. Grintz Pg.63]

 

INHERITANCE LAWS

Yakov has a number of sons from two wives and two concubines. In his final blessing it is apparent that each of his sons are to share equally in the inheritance. Later in Exodus we find that  “the first fruit of  his (the father’s) loins”, the same language employed in reference to Reuvain, is to receive a double portion.

The laws of Lipit- Ishtar, in the 20th century BCE provides equal shares for all children. Hammurabi, 200 years later gave the sons of a man’s first wife first choice. Shortly  after, the laws of Nuzi and Mari provided a double share for the natural son  whereas the adopted son did not receive it. Neo-babylonian law in the first millennium BCE provides the sons of a first wife with a double share while sons of the second wife get only a single share.Yet another confirmation of  the historical accuracy of the Torah, this  description of the laws of inheritance is, once again, in consonance with what we know of inheritance law from other cultures at the time.

PLACE NAMES

There are 21 place names associated with Avrohom. An additional 13 place names are mentioned in conjunction with Yitzchok and Yakov.  Some of these places were not necessarily cities, as for instance the Oaks of Mamre, and will not be found in the archeological record.  Others, such as the five cities of the plain mentioned in Breishis 14, may be under the waters of the Dead Sea which has risen far above ancient levels. Still others have simply not been located yet. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. The exact locations of some of the places are not spoken of in the Torah nor can their location be deduced. There are, however, a sufficient number of cities that are mentioned in the Torah for which archeological evidence abounds. Critics have broken down the early, middle and late Bronze ages into smaller units and refer to them as EB IA, EB IB , EB II,  MBI etc. While some of the place names fit perfectly others are dated a little too early or a little too late to match Biblical narrative. Once again, we need to remember that the  archeological record is incomplete, even digging a few feet in one direction or another will affect what is or isn’t found. Dating methods are subject to interpretation if not out-and-out conjecture. The cut-off between eras will obviously not be well defined nor will it be the same for different places. In general, it is safe to say that what evidence is available tends to corroborate that these places indeed existed in the place and at the time the Torah claims.

FORMAT OF COVENANTS

Many examples of covenants or treaties are given in the Torah. Likewise, many treaties and covenants are known from other cultures. Over time the formats of these treaties change very dramatically within the Torah as well as without. The elements of any given treaty may be made up of a title, a prologue, witnesses, stipulations, oaths and blessings or curses. Not all these elements are found throughout and the order in which each element appears can change. The subject is quite complex but once again we find that the nature of the changes in structure and the elements used match consistently to the period in which they belong. The format of covenants and treaties provide another piece of evidence that the Torah's chronology is reliable. [More on this subject may be found in BAR, March 1995 ]

 

 

USE OF A UNIQUE TERM

A sole use of the term, “ Achol Es Kaspeinu”, in Breishis 31;15 is literally rendered as “our money was eaten” used by Rochel and Leah in reference to their inheritance from Lavan, their father. This term is found nowhere else in Tanach. Yet there are at least five known examples of 18th century BCE Akkadian marriage contracts  using this exact terminology, “Kasph Achulu”, in precisely the same context.  We thus verify in another way that  the Author knew what He was about and that no redactor could possibly be credited with such specific knowledge of the times 1300 years before his own.

CONTACTS WITH EGYPT

Sefer Breishis contains several mentions of  Avram (as he was still called) going to Egypt, the sale of Yosef who ended up in Egypt and Yakov and his family eventually settling in Goshen , north-eastern Egypt.  As historians have noted, from the 20th to the 16th centuries BCE, the time frame of  the Patriarchs,  the Egyptian government was centered in Goshen in the Eastern Nile Delta. Both before and after the period  of the Patriarchs there was no such royal Egyptian presence in Goshen.  Under the 19th dynasty, the time of Ramses who is identified as the Pharaoh of the exodus, the Egyptians returned to the Eastern Nile Delta in concurrence with what we know from the Torah. Any 5th century BCE writer would have had no way of knowing this information as the royal Egyptian residences of that period were located in Zoan on the Eastern Delta, a fact reported in Tehilim, Yechezkel and Yishaya.

“Whoever described or committed the Joseph story to writing was all too familiar with Egyptian life, Egyptian literature and culture. In particular he was expertly informed concerning the Egyptian royal court.” [Archeological Digs and Research Prof. Alan Sherman pg.185]

 

GEO-POLITICAL CONDITIONS

 It appears that the time of the Patriarchs was the only time that the situation regarding alliances of minor powers banding together was really feasible. Prior to and after that time there were “superpowers” which effectively controlled the entire area. Thus the alliance of Avrohom in the war or the four kings against the five kings in Breishis 14 could have occurred in only one specific historical period, that of the early second millennium BCE, which is exactly the time frame of the Torah.

Specific personal and place names are cited and, although no records of these particular people have been found to date, the type of names are similar to others which have been found and are certainly true to type. The name Aryoch (Braishis 14:1) was discovered at Mari as Ariwuk son of Zamarlan. Several of the place names mentioned have  been  identified with ancient cities of the area. As for example Ellasar with El-as-ra in the Mari area.

Cases can be made as well for comparable customs during the Patriarchal period in such diverse areas as adoption, concubinage, marriage customs and property acquisition,

The following article appeared in  The Washington Post in the Religion section, page C8, on Wednesday, April 2,1980. I believe it typifies the state of academia.

 


DECODING HEBREW MARKS MAY UNRAVEL SECRETS OF ANCIENT ‘SINGING TESTAMENT’

 

By Carolyn Lesh

United Press International


PARIS - Above and below the ancient Hebrew script of the Old Testament are curious little marks that Suzanne Haik Vantoura believes contain one of the world’s greatest lost messages.

                  For hundreds of years the Old Testament has been printed with the marks, which resemble horseshoes, clusters of dots and the letters “S” and “V” on their sides.

                  Biblical scholars long thought they were accent marks. But Haik -Vantoura believes they represent a musical scale and that the Old Testament was originally sung. And many musical and religious scholars now agree.

                  For the past decade, Haik-Vantoura, a 68 year-old music theorist and composer, has worked painstakingly to decode the marks.

                  “I would have stopped long ago if I had not believed in the immense importance of this message.” she said. “the music is a message of splendor from G-d - it is a new message of the Bible.”

                  Her latest effort is a record album. “The Music of the Bible Revealed”. In it, several psalms and the Ten Commandments are sung the way Haik-Vantoura believes they were centuries ago.

                  It is her second album of “reconstituted” Bible misic. The last record, released two years ago, was a best seller in the classical departments of Paris music shops.

                  “I would very much like to continue making albums to reconstruct the entire music of the  Old Testament,” Haik-Vantoura said. “But it takes me as much as three hours to transcribe one page of the Bible. And there are almost 10,000 hours of music left to be recorded.”

                  Haik Vantoura’s research began in 1940 when she and her parents of Jewish ancestry  fled into the French countryside to escape the invading Nazi army. There she experimented by substituting notes on the musical scale for the mysterious marks.

                  The war interrupted her research. After studying ancient music at The Center of Biblical Studies at the National Scientific Research Institute of France and at the National Conservatory of Music, she resumed her sleuthing in earnest 10 years ago.

                  Her theory was boosted when she found the ancient words to describe the symbols in the Aramaic language, which was spoken in Western Asia in the middle ages. Translated into English, the words mean things as “rest”, “end”, “jump”, and “succession”.

                  “Finding those words was one of the high points of my research,” Haik-Vantoura said. “there were those who at first were critical of my theory.”

                  But these days, most of the time she is praised.

                  “It is thrilling to be able to sing or hear sung the result of the immense work of Suzanne Haik-Vantoura,” said Daniel Lesur, honorary inspector general of music at the French Ministry of Culture. He said she had “brought to life a music almost 3,000 years old.” He compared the experience to 19th century Egyptologists at last deciphering ancient hieroglyphics.

                  In her latest album, Celtic harps, lutes and trumpets set off the vocal arrangements.

                  “Here, let me sing you just a little of the music,” she said, her face beaming.

                  In a soft voice she sang the ancient words of the Ten Commandments, “Ol (sic) Tirtsah, Lo Tinar (sic) Lo Tignov.”

                  “You can see how gentle the music is,” she said. “It is so tender and sweet - not at all harsh. It brings you face-to-face with G-d.”


 


I’ve shown this article to scores of people over the years. It’s always good for a laugh. It would really be funny were it not so tragic and typical of scholarly research. Clearly, her single greatest error was in not once ever stopping even a conservative Bat-Mitzva girl and asking what those little squiggles on the page meant. It is obvious she never once stepped foot in any Shul. She wasted her life in reinventing the wheel.  The worst of it is that she is taken seriously by prestigious academic institutions. This must be a lesson to us in evaluating any statement made by any  secular “scholar” when they interpret Torah without benefit of  Mesorah.

Simply perusing other articles and books written by the critics one is left with the same sort of feeling. The articles are self serving. They take a pre-conceived notion based on prior works that were also foundationless and agree or disagree with it depending on their particular bias and agenda.

In conclusion, whether one believes in G-d or believes that the Torah was given by G-d is irrelevant in the context of this discussion. The burden of proof lies, not with the believer, but  with those who have chosen to de-Deify (if I may) all religion. In their attempt to reduce humanity to the lowest common denominator, that of animals, they have pulled out all the stops. The war we wage is a war for morality, for decency and for the idea that life is sacrosanct and has meaning. While the forces of evil are currently in vogue they have certainly fallen short of proving their case. Bible criticism is a sorry excuse for scholarship, a sad chapter for academia and a poor basis for a philosophy of life for any thinking person. 

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