Kingdom of Priests

Kingdom of Priests


Why Secular Scholars Are Wrong in Dating the Torah

posted by David Klinghoffer

The week’s Torah portion poses a serious challenge, I think, to secular scholars of the Hebrew Bible and other skeptics who maintain that the Pentateuch was composed no earlier than about 500 BCE. Terumah (Exodus 25:1-27:19) begins the Torah’s overwhelmingly, sometimes mind-numbingly detailed description of God’s instructions to Moses on how to build the Tabernacle, a tent that the Jews employed as their place of worship from just after the Exodus from Egypt until King Solomon built the Temple in Jerusalem. It came in particularly handy during their 40 years of wandering in the desert before entering Canaan.

Now Solomon lived more than four centuries before the purported composition of Exodus. The Jerusalem Temple was generally modeled on the Tabernacle but the instructions here are not for a permanent building but for a tent constructed from linen, wool, ram and other animal hides, and acacia wood. The wooden planks were held together by silver sockets. There’s no mention of a floor. It’s a construction plainly intended to be assembled, disassembled, moved from place to place, and then assembled again. It is well purposed for a people frequently on the move. The obvious question is why the Jews, long established in their land and with an already old and quite stationary temple in their holy city — that is, when they weren’t in exile in Babylon, where they also were not mobile and in any event did not have a central shrine — why this people would need chapter after chapter after chapter describing how to build a portable tent?

It all makes sense if you accept the historicity of the Exodus. God judged that they needed the instructions because they needed to know how to build a tent for their extended travels. Why a people fixed in one geographical location would require the same instructions is devilishly hard to imagine. Yet the thesis of later authorship advanced by secular scholars assumes that the Jews, with their kingdom already four centuries old or even centuries later than that, stitched together a holy book dominated heavily by very detailed and practical instructions for which they never did and never would ever have any use. Why would the purported redactors of the Torah bother to include so much seemingly pointless material in their book, unless it once did indeed serve a practical purpose? 
The idea makes no sense whatsoever. Or can someone explain it to me?


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Sam'l Bassett

posted February 16, 2010 at 11:58 pm


You got the word “Redactor” right — but you don’t seem to understand its meaning. It means “EDITOR” — Ezra and his Scribes EDITED the materiel which was a combination of verbal and written accounts into a form which told a coherent story. Some of the material — like Miriam’s Song and the section which begins: “My father was a wandering Aramean…” certainly go back to Moses’ time; other parts are later, and undoubtedly some parts Ezra and friends write around 500 B.C.
I doubt any respectable scholar would say that the Torah was ALL written around 500 BC — or that it was all written by Moses around 1200 B.C. The Torah we have today is a mixture of history and folk memory — and no less valuable and sacred for that.



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Glen Davidson

posted February 17, 2010 at 2:04 pm


To punctuate what Sam Bassett correctly wrote, obviously “secular scholars” never assumed that the flood story was thought up and written around 500 BCE. It clearly goes back to much earlier sources.
Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p



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J L Jones

posted February 17, 2010 at 3:33 pm


Why did GOD give such very detailed and practical instructions for which they never did and never would ever have any use? Why would the purported redactors of the Torah bother to include so much seemingly pointless material in their book? Because GOD did have and still does have a practical purpose! Typology is used by God through out HIS HOLY WORD. GOD gave HIS word for us to study, mediate on, and discover all the hidden helps for those who HE gave sight to see and ears to hear. GOD does have a very practical and very useful reason for including these detailed instructions for the Tabernacle in the wilderness. GOD will reveal to all the needed understanding of what HIS WORD teaches to those that know HIM. Brother Jack



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David Klinghoffer

posted February 17, 2010 at 4:18 pm


Sam’l and Glen, I think you’d be hard pressed to find a secular scholar prepared to accept that the instructions for the Tabernacle were, as they purport to be, received by Moses for implementation in the desert. Yet it’s equally hard to think of another reason for the text’s composition. The “late date” thesis is *always* used to discredit the historicity of the Pentateuch. Don’t worry, I know what a redactor does, having been one myself for 10 years.



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Michael

posted February 17, 2010 at 4:52 pm


David,
A week or so ago, Biblical archeologists discovered a potsherd with a Hebrew inscription. I don’t have the link right here at hand, but the website “Biblical Archeology” probably does. Anyway, the potsherd is dated much earlier than the model to which most secular scholars adhere.
The inscription seems to be some sort of law/moral/ethical code, but probably not of the Tanach.
I’ll look for the link when I have the time.
Blessings to you and yours,



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Glen Davidson

posted February 17, 2010 at 6:39 pm


Sam’l and Glen, I think you’d be hard pressed to find a secular scholar prepared to accept that the instructions for the Tabernacle were, as they purport to be, received by Moses for implementation in the desert.

No, but I doubt that many would deny the likelihood that they date back to when the tabernacle was the only “temple.”

Yet it’s equally hard to think of another reason for the text’s composition.

Someone wrote down the specifications of the tent that preceded the Temple?
Wouldn’t that in fact be expected?
Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p



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David Klinghoffer

posted February 17, 2010 at 7:03 pm


Glen, but then why — absent the hypothesis of a historically factual Exodus and Revelation as the Torah describes — would a people set up a tent to their God rather than a proper temple, and why would they need detailed instructions, long after the fact, for building such a structure that already existed? You’re caught up in a pair of implausibilities. The only solution for you is to say the Pentateuch represents a massive literary hoax, but it just doesn’t read that way at all.



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Michael

posted February 18, 2010 at 12:34 am


David,
Here’s the link
The Hedgehog Blog
This potsherd contains the earliest known Hebrew writing and has been dated back to the time of King David.
Blessings,
Michael



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Jazre

posted February 18, 2010 at 1:34 pm


One aspect that it’s easy to forget in the miracle of modern times is that it’s not just a matter of how much space it takes up, but how valuable that space is. The years of labor, the utilitizing of a highly-skilled individual, and the expense of materials in creating a new Torah impose a tremendous resource drain on the impoverished communities that until recently was the lot of almost all human existence. Not just to put these directions in the Torah, but their length, detail, and most all, their repetition, make it clear that this was of the most extreme importance, for which it is difficult to make a plausible case for in 500 BC.



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Jazre

posted February 18, 2010 at 1:36 pm


One aspect that it’s easy to forget in the miracle of modern times is that it’s not just a matter of how much space it takes up, but how valuable that space is. The years of labor, the utilitizing of a highly-skilled individual, and the expense of materials in creating a new Torah impose a tremendous resource drain on the impoverished communities that until recently was the lot of almost all human existence. Not just to put these directions in the Torah, but their length, detail, and most all, their repetition, make it clear that this was of the most extreme importance, for which it is difficult to make a plausible case for in 500 BC



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jon

posted February 19, 2010 at 5:01 pm


It’s an idealized work of theology. In fact, there’s little evidence that the Law was ever strictly practiced in the way the Torah presents it. Moreover, the same holds for the Exodus and conquest via the Joshua account. No mention of Israel in Egypt as Israel or Hebrews, no archaeological support for the wilderness wanderings, no archeological evidence for a non-Canaanite invasion or a Joshua-type conquest at all. Rather, Joshua describes cities only as they were around the 700s, some not existing until then. Only with David was the land actually fully conquered. Something that could not have happened until his time anyway since Egyptian garrisons were in Canaan in order to maintain control. Etc, etc, etc. So, if you want a literal reading of the tabernacle and wilderness wandering, you have much bigger problems than construction details to deal with.



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HR

posted February 20, 2010 at 11:54 pm


Believe it or not, the Tabernacle is coming back! That’s why we read so much about it in the Torah. The Tabernacle was placed deep under the Temple Mount after Solomon’s Temple was completed and put into use. Seven years before Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians destroyed Solomon’s Temple, Jeremiah and other prophets of his time led many Levite priests to move the Tabernacle, along with practically all of the accoutrements of the Temple/Tabernacle, 17 miles through Zedekiah’s Tunnel under the Valley of Achor. These holy items have remained underground near the Dead Sea for approximately 2440 years. You can learn more about it at



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Mark2

posted February 21, 2010 at 12:33 am


It’s clear, jon, that you’ve been following the Minimalists’ teachings. Examples of things you’ve probably missed: the Brooklyn Papyrus, the Elephantine Stele, Dr. Bryant Woods’ research, Dr. Adam Zartal’s research.



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Abraham Stubenhaus

posted July 26, 2010 at 5:37 pm


Your second paragraph begins with,
“Now Solomon lived more than four centuries before the purported composition of Exodus.”
Are you learning the same Bible I am?
In mine, I learned that Moses wrote the Torah before he passed away. Solomon came hundreds of years later. However, if you decide to accept that Exodus was not yet written, you automatically deny that Moses wrote the Torah as he was told to do.
Anyway, discussions are healthy and “Machlokes leshem shamayim sofo lehiskayaim.”
Thank you for your writing.



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