Centuries of copying, moving, editing and tinkering have caused monotheism's "holy book" to viewed with some doubt. The "Hebrew Bible", or Torah, transmogrified into the "Old Testament" by Christianity, is the fundamental origin of the faith of millions. Once thought to be authored by Moses, who would have had to pen much of it after his death, scholarship finally concluded that The Book was the work of many authors. Friedman has done an
outstanding job of sorting out who [at least in the abstract] produced the texts accumulated into what was known as The Books of Moses. A proponent of the Documentary Hypothesis, he has lined out with vivid clarity which author created which text of The Book.
In his Introduction, Friedman insists that whatever interpretation of authorship is to be followed, it must be based on evidence. This challenges the idea that "faith" is sufficient support for how the authorship of this anthology should be viewed. Empirical evidence, he argues, is the only solid basis to consider in assessing origins. To perform this feat, he has accumulated "the largest collection of evidence ever assembled". He then presents the source texts to demonstrate their artistry, their notions of the divine, the history of their nation and how they view humanity. The books, he notes, were assembled from sources as any historical rendering should be done.
He identifies the authors by letter designations, mostly arbitrary, but clearly distinct. Each author has an identifiable reference in time and place. The first two, "J" and "E", and their editor ["redactor"] "RJE" are scribes from the 8th and 9th centuries BCE. "J" is a resident of the southern kingdom of Judah, while "E" is an Israelite priest in the north. Their use of the name of the deity, Yahweh or Elohim respectively, is the major clue to the author. Using these sources, the "RJE" editor compiled their work after the Assyrian conquest of Israel. A third author, "P" follows, probably in the 6th or 5th century, who added much on the law and stories of creation, exile and captivities. The final author, "D" composed the book of Deuteronomy, which assembled the "J" and "E" sources and covered the last acts of Moses.
Friedman lists seven methods of analysis he used in compiling and evaluating the material to determine authorship. These are: Linguistic, which reflects the variations of Hebrew over the centuries; Terminology, the use of words and phrases by the various authors; Content, which includes the names of the deity and various sacred objects; Continuity, in which the "narrative flow" is revealed by separating the texts and re-reading them for stylistic indicators; Connections, parallels in or between various Books; Relationships, placing the texts in historical context; and Convergence, showing how different lines of evidence come together. It was clearly a monumental task Friedman has undertaken and achieved.
In presenting this mass of material in understandable form, Friedman has put the publisher to an immense task. Verse by the various authors are presented in varying fonts and colours in direct contrast to each other. A key to the sources is presented, which the reader would do well to review closely. It's the expression of Friedman's analytical prowess and dedicated scholarship. This book, as a reference, is hardly light reading, nor is it intended to be. It demonstrates fully the human basis of the collection. Authors draw on one another for material, then restate it in their own terms, or create new text where they feel omissions require explanation. Friedman dodges the question of "divine inspiration" adroitly, but it's clear The Book, revered by so many, is work of men's hands. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]