The Muffti has a question. Kenny recently turned Muffti’s attention towards a book called Who Wrote the Bible by Richard Elliott Friedman. Let the Muffti give credit where credit is due: Friedman’s work is lucid, comprehensible and decidedly not written merely for consumption by the members of the ivory tower. Friedman makes several claims that I was curious about so I’d like to poll the Jewlicious nation on a couple of them.

First, Muffti noticed that Friedman claims that “…At present, however, there is hardly a biblical scholar in the world actively working on the problem who would claim that the Five Books of Moses were written by Moses – or by any one person.”(p. 28) The Muffti, a product of (rather shoddy) hebrew school upbringing never had even heard so much as a suggestion that the author of the written tradition wasn’t given directly to Moses and put to paper. What he is curious about is whether or not others are privy to this information about serious biblical scholarship or not? Is it common coin amongst our people that the bible is multi-authored or is do the lay people (like Muffti) only know of the single author hypothesis?

Second, Muffti found himself (as usual, and over quite a few drinks) arguing with aforementioned Kenny over the relevance of the finidng that up to four (possibly five) distinct authors put together the Torah. And not only several authors, but several authors with apparent political agenda that explains some of the contradictory moments of the text. The Muffti, not suprisingly, found this to be an obvious vindication of the anti-religious view point. Kenny saw otherwise. Some of the crucial breaking points, as we saw them were:

  • Does the legitimacy and holiness of the Torah derive from its allegedly divine source or from its acceptance as a document that Jews have come to accept over the past 2700 years?
  • Does the temporal distance from the revelation at Sinai cast skepticism on the accuracy of both the laws we’ve come to accept (since apparently Leviticus came quite late!) and on the accuracy of the narratives that depict our alleged history?
  • The book claims that Deuteronomy was most probably written by Jeremiah, who also wrote the subsequent 6 books (and then further edited them once the first exile came about). Since it is an apparently continuous narrative and the author makes no indication to how to group them, should we be skeptical about the division between what is the Torah and what the Prophets comprise?
  • Muffti thinks, in order: yes and so much the worse for its legitimacy. Yes, and so much the worse for its accuracy. Yes, and so much the worse for traditional divisions that reflect dogma rather than history. However, the Muffti is open minded and soliciting opinions. Expert opinion in particular is both sought after and welcome. (Rabbi Yonah?) And are there any remaining serious efforts to rebut the Friedman’s claims?

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