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Who Wrote The Bible? [Paperback]

Richard E Friedman
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 25 1997
"It is a strange fact that we have never known with certainty who produced the book that has played such a central role in our civilization," writes Friedman, a foremost Bible scholar. From this point he begins an investigation and analysis that reads as compellingly as a good detective story. Focusing on the central books of the Old Testament--Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy--he draws upon biblical and archaeological evidence to make a convincing argument for the identities of their authors. In the process he paints a vivid picture of the world of the Bible--its politics, history, and personalities. The result is a marvel of scholarship that sheds a new and enriching light on our understanding of the Bible as literature, history, and sacred text.

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Who Wrote The Bible? + The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts + The Bible With Sources Revealed
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Product Description

From Amazon

"J," "P," "E," and "D" are the names scholars have given to some authors of the Bible, and, as such, they are very important letters to a lot of people. Churches have died and been born, and millions of people have lost faith or found it, because of the last two centuries of debate about who, exactly, wrote the canonical texts of Christianity and Judaism. Richard Elliott Friedman's survey of this debate, in Who Wrote the Bible?, may be the best written popular book about this question. Without condescension or high-flown academic language, Friedman carefully describes the history of textual criticism of the Bible--a subject on which his authority is unparalleled (Friedman has contributed voluminously to the authoritative Anchor Bible Dictionary). But this book is not just smart. Perhaps even more impressive than Friedman's erudition is his sensitivity to the power of textual criticism to influence faith. --Michael Joseph Gross

From Library Journal

Friedman carefully sifts through clues available in the text of the Hebrew Bible and those provided by biblical archaeology searching for the writer(s) of, primarily, the Pentateuch. He does so with clarity and engaging style, turning a potentially dry scholarly inquiry into a lively detective story. The reader is guided through the historical circumstances that occasioned the writing of the sources underlying the Five Books of Moses and the combining of these diverse sources into the final literary product. According to Friedman, the most controversial part of his case is the identification of the writer and date of the Priestly source. This book is neither comprehensive nor unduly complex, making it a good introductory text for beginners and nonspecialists. Recommended for all academic libraries. Craig W. Beard, Harding Univ. Lib., Searcy, Ark.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Important Book on An Important Topic July 16 2004
I am surprised that there have not been more books written on Biblical authorship. However, the term Bible in this book is used loosely, because almost the entire book is about only the Torah portion of the Bible (aka the Pentatuech or the Five Books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deutoronomy)
In this book, the author plays the role of Bible detective and tries to piece together a theory on who wrote (or edited or compiled) the various parts of the Torah, when they wrote it, where they wrote it, and why they wrote what they wrote.
He concludes that there are several distinct sources (from wither individuals or groups) that are pieced together to form the Torah. He identifies them and tries to desribe them.
However, keep in mind that we are dealing with some very old texts here, and it is very difficult to determine anyhting about their authorship. Don't get me wrong, the author does a fine job in his investigation, but still, these are more like educated guesses than they are near conclusive conclusions.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone who is interested in religion. The Torah directly or indirectly forms a major part of the foundation of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It is definitely worth knowing where the Torah comes from, and this book is clearly one of the best on this subject.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but Out of Date May 11 2001
This book was so fascinating, I couldn't put it down. It was so gripping, I kept reading it, even though I was supposed to be attending a Bible class at that very moment. This book is easy to read, and provides a wonderfully coherent theory as to the authors of various parts of the bible.
The only problem is that most biblical scholars don't believe in it any more.
After reading it, I approached a number of my professors (I am a rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College) to ask them about this book, and had to duck to avoid the vitriol that was unloaded against it. The Documentary Hypothesis doesn't have too many adherents there.
It is definitely worth reading; it needs a huge grain of salt to go with it, though, so be careful.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
First, note that Friedman's "Bible" is the Christian "Old Testament." For equally good books about the New Testament, look up the works of Hyam Maccoby and Burton L. Mack.
Second, "Who Wrote the Bible?" took me back to my undergraduate classes in the Old Testament, refreshing my memory regarding such issues as the Documentary Hypothesis, but going beyond with the latest scholarship (a lot has happened in the last twenty plus years!) I can't say enough good things about this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book on the Hebrew Bible May 10 2004
If you want to learn all about the fascinating Old Testament scholarship of the 20th century, you can either spend a few years in divinity school or read this book. Of course, reading the book is a whole lot cheaper. =)
Actually, Friedman does not discuss the entire Old Testament, but only the first five books (the Torah, or Pentateuch), which are traditionally held to have been written by Moses. He outlines how modern scholarship has in fact identified several different authors, usually referred to as the Yahwist, Elohist, Priestly and Deuteronomist sources, as well as a final Redactor or editor. Brilliant stuff, and Friedman makes it read like the greatest bit of historical detective work ever.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure Greatness April 5 2004
The Christian Church originally believed the first five books of the Bible were written by Moses. Through the centuries, a few people were unconvinced that Moses wrote every single word (such as the account of his death). All were called heretics. Only in the past hundred years or so has the idea of multiple authors gained wide acceptance. That idea is called the Documentary Hypothesis, and in "Who Wrote the Bible", Richard Elliot Friedman turns it into one of the greatest historical mysteries of all time.
Written as a whodunit with suspense on every page, Friedman paints a picture of an ancient civilation racked by inner turmoil and bitterness between rival factions. We see the anger and betrayal, and then the indescribable grief when the nation finally fell. And the one man who sought to heal these wounds creating the most influential book in history. Who was this man? I wouldn't dream of telling you because it would deprive you of the thrill of reading one of the most entertaining non-fiction books ever written. If you are at all curious about the history of the Old Testament, you will love this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent but title is misleading March 5 2004
This excellent book focuses exclusively on who wrote the first five books of the Bible, also known as the Pentateuch or Torah. The title is thus unnecessarily misleading and an explanatory subtitle would have been a simple fix. Such a fix would not compromise sales and would nullify any suspicions that the misleading is partially intended for lucrative purposes. The author's aim is to synthesize his and related research, to give an overview for experts, and to make the topic accessible for a wide audience. The aims are amply achieved, the author is clearly competent, and his writing is a pleasure to read. For me as an amateur novice, it was tantalizing to be lead through some chapters like a whodunit, and surprising to see how advances continue steadily in the field. As a non-expert I got the feeling that the research has matured beyond simply dissecting fragments and has moved towards constructive synthesis. Presumably, this book can be taken more seriously than the many, many books on this or related topics by authors who have no serious credentials. The topic is obviously important for all people of the Western and Middle Easter world, including agnostics like me, because the Bible has defined much of who we are and the first five books are seminal. Yes, most people will say to themselves that only the contents are important, but by understanding the history of how the contents came about, one can get MUCH better understanding of the contents. The second edition includes significant changes and a substantial new preface.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
very good, lots of info packed in such a small book.
Published 11 days ago by scott tustin
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended!
This is an excellent book! The research, by the author, that went into this subject is truly a labour of love. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Dave1947
4.0 out of 5 stars The Bible... as "an attempt" at writing history by several authors...
This is a captivating analysis of the first five books of the bible which is backed up by comparisons of the different styles of the authors. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Sue Bootz
5.0 out of 5 stars the Bible's developmental history
An excellent readable account of the Bible's development.
A must read for anyone interested in history and theology through human eyes.
Published 6 months ago by David M. Mannes
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Exploration Of Key Question
For those who are interested in a scholarly discussion of a question which most people (at least most have wondered at some point or another) "Who Wrote The Bible? Read more
Published on July 6 2012 by Dave_42
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Written and Easily Explained
As a lay person I had absolutely no problems whatsover following Friedman's writing. It was clear and stated easily, and frankly a joy to read.
Published on May 3 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Along with Burton Mack "Who wrote the NT"
I use this excellent and manageable text along with Burton Mack's treatment of the NT as handy sources to review prior to discussions on Biblical topics. Read more
Published on Feb. 12 2004 by W. Jamison
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Book About the "Good Book," and a Recommendation
Friedman's "Who Wrote the Bible?" is a good book that explores the documentary hypothesis quite well. It is easy to read and interesting. Read more
Published on Aug. 31 2003 by Samuel J. Spiegelman
4.0 out of 5 stars Good
Plot spoiler warning, it was Ezra and Jeremiah.
In reality however the book is not so much about who wrote the bible but the process by which we understand how it was written. Read more
Published on July 24 2003 by Tom Munro
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