Saturday, May 15, 2010

Book Review: Who Wrote the Bible?

Title Who Wrote the Bible?
Author Richard Elliott Friedman
Rating ****
Tags non-fiction, bible, old testament, history, textual criticism 

My mother introduced me to this book years ago and I loved it. Was reminded of it recently and decided to re-read it. Yep, still good.

Friedman first talks about the history of Biblical textual analysis. Doubts that Moses wrote the Torah arose in the Middle Ages but were viciously suppressed. But the question had been raised and became more common, increasing steadily from the 17th century on.

The result is that we now know much more about who wrote the Bible, when, what their viewpoint was, and when they wrote. Friedman concentrates on the Torah, or Pentateuch, and the Deuteronic books (beginning with Deuteronomy and going through Judges, Kings, and the Chronicles). There were four authors and an editor who combined the source documents into what we have today.

The earliest were the J and E documents, which were then edited together. Following them were the D and P documents. All of these were written before the Babylonian exile, but the editor combined all the documents in the period of the Second Temple.

Since I'm a historian, I love the history he talks about, from the time Israel was ruled by judges, then kings, broke into the separate kingdoms of Judah and Israel, the fall of Israel, and so on. Then there's the viewpoints of the different authors. The P, or Priestly, document, for example, was written by an Aaronid priest - a descendent of Aaron, who made his living through sacrifices brought to the temple. So in his telling of Biblical stories, Aaron is emphasized more, Moses is slightly denigrated, all sacrifices must come to the temple, God is just and worship must be mediated by the priests, and so on.

Excellent book, and a good starting point on the topic. As follow ups I recommend books by John Shelby Spong, especially Rescuing the Bible From Fundamentalism, which covers the New Testament as well as the Old, and almost any of Bart Ehrman's books that concentrate on the new Testament. A friend of mine also recommends Isaac Asimov's book on the Bible.



Publication HarperOne (1997), Paperback, 304 pages
Publication date 1997
ISBN 0060630353 / 9780060630355

Posted via web from reannon's posterous

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