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September 25, 1987 - Image 94

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-09-25

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

BOOKS

dor--- ilft=. - upgmteur

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Wishing you .a happy,
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New Year

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Detective Story:
Who Wrote The Bible?

RICHARD C. HERTZ

Special to The Jewish News

A

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sk a person, "Who
_wrote the Bible?" If
- the person is Or-
thodox, traditionalist, fun-
damentalist, whether Jew or
Christian, he will probably
answer, "God wrote the Bible.
Every word of the Bible is
God's word, literally true,
with nothing added or
deleted, since the Word of God
was revealed at Sinai!'
If the person answering is
liberal in religious feeling,
then the answer may well be
found in Richard Elliott
Friedman's new book Who
Wrote The Bible? (Summit
Books).
Prof. Friedman's controver-
sial new book shows how the
Bible is like an enormous
jigsaw puzzle in which he
puts most of the pieces
together. As he says, "People
have lived by it and died for
it and we do not know who
wrote it . . . for it is one of the
oldest puzzles in the world!'
After reviewing the long
list of Biblical commentators
who have perceived contradic-
tions in the text, he cites a
few examples: How could
Moses write about his own
death or describe how Moses
went into the Tabernacle in a
chapter before Moses builds
the Tabernacle? Or how could ,
the humblest man on earth
describe himself as the
humblest man on earth if he
was so humble?
Friedman's first task is to
identify the four documents
associated with the Divine
name. When God is called
Yehweh/Jehovah, that docu-
ment is known as J. The docu-
ment that calls God in
Hebrew Elohim is known as
E. The third document, by far
the largest, dealing with
priests, is called P. The
distinctive source found only
in the Book of Deuteronomy
is called D.
Friedman then' does a
fascinating job of uncovering
the history of these
documents: who wrote them,
when they were produced,
their historical background,
how they were preserved and
integrated with eaeh other,
and finally who edited or
redacted the various versions
into what we now know as the
Tanach or Holy Scriptures.
Friedman comes up with
many details about the social,

- Dr. Hertz is Distinguished
Professor of Jewish Studies at the
University of Detroit.

political, and religious
motivations that pull all this
in historical context.
It is not news that there are
two versions of many stories
in the Torah, what Friedman
calls, "doublets:" two ac-
counts of Creation, two
stories of the Flood and
Noah's ark, two stories of the
Covenant, and so on. What
Biblical investigators have
long noticed is that one story

Modern detective
work points to the
Prophets Jeremiah
and Ezra as the
final editors of the
Bible.

refers to God by one name and
the other version refers to
God by a different name.
The stories duplicate each
other in some ways, in other
points they contradict each
other. The famous Creation
story of Genesis 1-2 refers to
the Creator as God 35 dif-
ferent times. The second ver-
sion always refers to Him as
Yahweh-God. The first version
never calls Him Yahweh. The
second version never calls
Him God.
The discovery that there are
four documents separate and
distinct, the work of four dif-
ferent authors living in four
different time periods, came
to be known as the "Docu-
mentary Hypothesis" and the
process called "Higher
Criticism." This is the system
of biblical investigation
taught at Hebrew Union Col-
lege and at liberal Christian
seminaries, Catholic and Pro-
testant, throughout the coun-
try. Biblical history taught to
seminarians identifies the J
code as coming from ancient
Judah and the E code from
the northern kingdom of
Israel.
Friedman points out inter-
nal evidence from the lan-
guage of the Bible, even to the
point, like Shakespeare,' of
making puns. In Jacob's
deathbed testament, he-calls
Joseph. "I have given you one
portion more than your
brothers" (Gen. 48:22). The
Hebrew word for portions is
sekem. Telling the father of
Ephraim that he is getting an
extra Shechem is like telling
the governor of Michigan, "I
have given the other states
some trees, but I have given
you an arbor?'
How the golden calf story
was written primarily as a
Continued on Page 92

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