Moses Could Not Have Written the Torah
Revised: 2019 Jan 28
For many, an essential component of the claim the Bible is the divinely inspired “Word of God” is the uninformed belief Moses wrote the Torah, the Bible’s first five books.
Exod. 24:4 says, “Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord” (NRSV throughout). Even if this could be verified, the surviving Hebrew text cannot be considered a trustworthy copy. The words Moses wrote may have been the basis for some of it, but substantial editing has taken place. This destroys any notion we are reading the unadulterated “Word of God.”
The language Moses would have known was Paleo-Hebrew. Its roots are Phoenician. However, today’s Hebrew source text for the Torah is written in a later Assyrian-based script Moses would not have recognized. This transformation alone represents a major corruption. However, the Torah’s revisions were not limited to an alphabet upgrade. Within the text exist numerous anachronisms and other statements Moses could not have authored.
Three times in Genesis, we find the word “Chaldeans” (ch. 11:28, 31; 15:7). Moses never heard of the Chaldeans. They rose to prominence several centuries after his era. We are told Abraham “went in pursuit as far as Dan” (ch. 14:14). Moses could not have known where the tribe of Dan would settle. At the time he is supposed to have written the Torah, it would still be forty years before the Israelites even entered Canaan. Dan’s territory was allotted in Josh. 19:40-48, long after the death of Moses. The Canaanite city of Laish was conquered and renamed Dan even later. (See Judg. 18:27-29.)
Exodus contains an astonishing contradiction: “God also spoke to Moses and said to him: ‘I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name “The Lord” I did not make myself known to them’” (ch. 6:2-3). If God said this, then he has a very poor memory. The Hebrew for “Lord” is Yahweh. The text claims God never revealed this name to the patriarchs. However, according to Genesis, the knowledge of God’s name being Yahweh goes all the way back to Creation. The Hebrew source text reveals the following people knew God’s name was Yahweh: Adam and Eve (Gen. 4:1), Enosh (4:26), Lamech (5:28-29), Noah (9:26), Abraham and Sarah (12:8; 13:4; 14:22; 15:7; 16:2, 5; 18:14; 21:33) and Lot (19:13-14). Not only does this suggest Genesis and Exodus were written by different authors, we must wonder whether the author of Exodus was even aware of Genesis. This would suggest a later compilation of the two works into the final five-book Torah.
The book of Numbers says, “Moses was very humble, more so than anyone else on the face of the earth” (ch. 12:3). If Moses wrote this, then he certainly wasn’t humble. Obviously, he is not the narrator here.
All of the more literal modern Bible translations place the author of Deuteronomy on the west side of the Jordan River where Moses never set foot. (See Deut. 1:1.) Evidently, the King James translators were so distressed by this verse, they deliberately mistranslated the Hebrew to mislead readers into thinking the author was on the east side. Some modern dynamic-equivalence translations such as the New International Version are similarly dishonest.
Deuteronomy ends by describing the death and burial of Moses ch. 34:5-8. Obviously, a dead man cannot record his own funeral. Moreover, the author says the location of the grave is unknown “to this day” indicating considerable time had passed since the interment. The passage concludes with “Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses” (ch. 34:10). Such a statement could not have been made until several of the later prophets had lived. This dates Deuteronomy to a time centuries after Moses.