In lieu of my last post (on Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch), I just wanted to highlight a point of clarification. And this point actually flows from a question, and that is: does it really matter who authored the books of scripture, isn’t all that really matters is that we have recognized canonical books of scripture?

To answer my own question, in general it really doesn’t matter if we know exactly who authored each book of scripture (think of Hebrews for example); their canonicity does not depend upon the “church’s” knowledge of human authorship. In other words, there is no principle of canonicity which requires that the church knows (for sure) who the human author is (with the caveat of the Apostolic and Prophetic principles).

That said, the reason I believe that “Mosaic” authorship for the first five books of the bible is important; is because the Israelite cult and socio/cultural shape is historically contingent upon these writings being very early on in their national existence. So to posit, as Enns does, that the Torah was completed in the exilic period (probably by Ezra) poses enumerable problems; one of which, is that Israel’s exile is presupposed by the material provided in the Pentateuch to begin with (e.g. the Mosaic Law/code [see Lev. 26; Deut. 28–32] was the standard they were required to keep in order to avoid exile and curse). If the “Law” was not provided for the Nation of Israel in a time that runs concurrent with Moses’ life-time; then none of the rest of the chronology of the OT (which it is presupposed by, and in fact builds upon, even and esp. in the TaNaKh [Hebrew] order) makes any kind of logical sense. In other words, if the Pentateuch is dated late (as source criticism and the documentary theory [JDEP] theorize), as Enns is asserting; then the coherence of the whole flow of the OT, thematically and otherwise, just does not follow. Since every section of the OT, post-Pentateuch, presupposes the informing shape that said Pentateuch provides (i.e. the Prophets [writing and speaking] appeal to the Torah; the Writings [Psalms, etc.] hearken back to the Pentateuch).

One more point. I have no problem with the idea that redactors or editors have “worked” on the Pentateuch (e.g. Moses certainly did not write on his own death at the end of Deuteronomy); but my problem is when it is asserted that Moses did not originally “author” and receive the revelation from Yahweh that is attributed to him within the narrative/poetry of the Torah. And this is what folks like Enns are asserting, that Moses did not personally “author” the Pentateuch. As another commenter below (Nathan) underscores, and this resonates with my own thoughts here; even if we grant that the Torah (first five books) that “we” have today reflects a period of time (1st millennium B. C.), by way of its “Hebrew” (read my last post to understand this point), that is a few hundred years removed from Moses’ lifetime — this does not preclude Mosaic authorship of the Torah, instead all that this “might” mean is that the manuscripts that we have available to us could be translations from the “original” (autograph) Moses authored text; into a more understandable Hebrew that ran concurrent with the 1st millennium Jewish populace (just think of the LXX or the Septuagint, the NT frequently quotes this Greek translation of the OT as Scripture on par with the Hebrew — see II Timothy).


All of this really just reflects my thinking out-loud; there are a couple salient points I was getting at here:

  • In general I do not believe that knowing who the human biblical author is, is all that important; at least in regards to establishing its canonicity (this is fodder for another post).
  • In particular I do believe that original Mosaic authorship of the Torah is important; simply because Moses’ life and the Israelite ‘cult’ run contingent on the facts and material in the Torah being in existence at the “time” of Moses’ life (and there are some internal factors in the Pentateuch itself that make me think that Moses was its author — fodder for another post, or the comment meta).
  • I have no problem with the idea that the Torah had its redactors or editors; but I believe they were “redacting” Moses’ work, not constructing, post facto, a patch-stitch document from earlier sources (JDEP).
  • In the end, I believe the shape of the canon should be determinative of how we engage the text of scripture, interpretively; but I think this needs to involve both intra and inter-textual concerns (e.g. the ‘Reformed’ principle of analogia fide [‘the analogy of faith] or what I like better analogia scriptura [‘the analogy of scripture’] viz. ‘scripture interpreting scripture’ with Christ as its center Jn 5:39). And to be honest, this whole Mosaic authorship actually becomes a big distraction — whichever way you are oriented on that question. So really, other than reading some of Enns stuff recently, I’d prefer not to dabble with this stuff — except for the fact that I think Enns is mistaken, and if we take what he is saying seriously, then in fact we won’t be interpreting scripture ‘theologically’ (relating the parts to the whole, and vice versa) — which is what he apparently is calling for — instead we’ll still be stuck in the same ‘higher critical’ morass that he is supposedly calling us out of (this is what I always find ironic, those who call for doing more “theological exegesis” at the same time, often, have accepted higher critical methodology and premises as the informing rubric through which they approach the scriptures, bibliologically — I’m digressing again).

P. S. Here are all the passages in the Gospels that directly deal with Jesus’ view of Mosaic authorship of the Torah (the first set of verses are Jesus making appeals to commands that Moses provided in “his book” [the Pentateuch], the second set of verses are passages wherein Jesus explicitly states that: Moses wrote this or that in the Torah [so Jesus believed that Moses wrote the “Torah,” he believed in the Mosaic authorship of the “Torah;” the only other alternative is that Jesus was mistaken — and that just won’t fly with me]):

  • First set: Mt. 8:4; 19:8; Mk. 1:44; 7:10; 10:3; 12:26; Lk. 5:14; 16:29, 31; Jn. 1:17; 6:32; 7:22
  • Second set: Lk. 20:28, 37; Jn. 1:45; 5:45, 46; 7:19

P. S. S. Okay, okay that should suffice, what do you expect I’m a geek 🙂 !