It important to start with that the Bible admits its own corruption by the
scribes who wrote down and copied the different chapters of the Old
Testament. First Moses warns the people of Israel that the Covenant,
heaven and earth would be against them because they are very stubborn,
Deuteronomy 31:24-29. He predicted that the Jews, who refused to obey
him while he was with them, would become evil and corrupt. Then in the
Revised Standard Version, Jeremiah 8:8, God asked Jeremiah to tell the
people of Judah:
“How can you say, ‘We are wise, and the law of the LORD is with
us’? But, behold, the false pen of the scribes has made it into a lie.”
The Holy Bible, Easy to Read Version makes it even clearer:
“You keep saying, ‘We have the Lord’s teachings! So we are wise.
But that is not true. Why? Because the scribes have lied with their
This is an obvious statement from Prophet Jeremiah that the scribes
corrupted the Bible. They claim that the Bible says that they are wise, but
they are liars.
The term Bible is derived through Latin from the Greek biblia,
or “books,” the diminutive form of byblos, the word for “papyrus” or
“paper,” which was exported from the ancient Phoenician port city of
Biblos. The Bible consists of the Old Testament of the Jewish scripture
and the New Testament of the Christian books. The remainder of this
chapter will focus on the Old Testament.
The order and the number of books differ between the Jewish Bible
and the Protestant and Roman Catholic versions of the Bible. The Jewish
Bible is the Hebrew Scriptures. It consists of 39 books originally written
in Hebrew, except for a few sections in Aramaic. The Bible of Judaism
consists of three distinct parts:
1. The Torah or Law, also called the books of Moses.
2. The Nebiim, (plural for Nebi, “Prophet”) or Prophets, divided into
the earlier and latter Prophets.
3. The Ketubim, (plural for Ketub, “book”) or Writings, including
Psalms, wisdom books and other diverse literature.
The Christian Old Testament organizes the books according to their
type of literature:
1. The Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament,
corresponding to the Torah.
2. The historical books.
3. The poetical or wisdom books.
4. The books of the Prophets.
The Protestant and Roman Catholic versions of the Old Testament
place the books in the same sequence, but the Protestant version includes
only those books found in the Bible of Judaism. Christians and Jews have
been reading the Bible for over two thousand years. In the present time
Christians go to Sunday classes after a full week of work to attain spiritual
doses. They hear good lessons about the importance of moral values and
the message of Jesus or Isaiah to be righteous and to love thy neighbor
and all the uplifting speeches according to the Bible. After all, the Bible is
the heart of Christianity and Judaism. Biblical scholars are preaching and
studying it in churches, synagogues and seminaries. People read it, study
it, appreciate it, write about it, scrutinize it and argue about it. And no one
knows who actually wrote it. No one knows when or where it was written.
However, the layman accepts the hypothesis that the first five books
of the Bible were written by Moses, half of the Psalms by David, the
Gospel of Mark by Mark and the Revelation by John and so on. After
all in Exodus, 17:14, God told Moses “Write this for a memorial in a
book.” John in his Gospel, 5: 46-47, makes Jesus say the following “For
had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote for me.
But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words.” Paul,
in his letter to the Romans, 10:5, referring to Leviticus, affirms “Moses
describeth the righteousness which is of the law.” John wrote in the
Revelation, 1:9, “. For the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus
Christ.” So, everything was fine and everyone believes that the whole
Bible is the authentic Word of God.
In the third century AD the Christian scholar Origen responded to
objections to the authenticity of the Torah by suggesting that contradictions
are only apparent contradictions. They can be explained after very
complex interpretation that the Bible did not include. For example Moses
described his own death and where he was buried because God had told
Moses this would happen. He also knew that Israel cried for him for thirty
days (Deuteronomy, 34:8). Investigators accepted, for eleven centuries,
this argument that Moses wrote the first five books: Genesis, Exodus,
Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. These books are known as the
Pentateuch (from Greek, meaning “five scrolls”). Then Isaac ibn Yashush,
a Jewish physician of a Muslim ruler in Spain in the eleventh century,
discovered that the list of the Edomite kings that appeared in Genesis 36
mentioned kings who lived long after Moses. Ibn Yashush proposed that
another one wrote this part after Moses. The response to his theory was
that he was called “Isaac the blunderer” by Abraham ibn Ezra, who was
a twelfth century Spanish rabbi. He recommended that the book of Ibn
Yashush to be burned. Ironically, it was Ibn Ezra that discovered that it
was impossible for Moses to write the first five books of the Bible. These
books referred to Moses in the third person, described places that he had
never seen and used language that reflected another time and place than
those of Moses. He concluded that “And if you understand, then you will
recognize the truth.” Then he wrote “And he who understands will keep
silent” (Knight-Jadczyk, 2006, p. 353).
In the fifteenth century other scholars came to the same conclusions
as those of Ibn Yashush. In the sixteenth century, van Maes, a Flemish
Catholic scholar, suggested that later writers expanded the original text
of Moses. They achieved that by making the text more current and
more understandable. Later the Catholic Church classified this book as a
Prohibited Book. In the seventeenth century, Isaac de la Peyrere, a French
Calvinist, published a book that categorically said that Moses was not the
author of the Pentateuch. He referred to the first verse of Deuteronomy,
when “Moses spake to all Israel on this side of Jordan.” But Moses
himself never recorded that he had been in Israel in his life. The book was
also banned and burned. He was arrested and was ordered to recant his
views to the Pope himself, which he did. Later, other Christian scholars
investigated the Bible and found more contradictions such as “There
arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses,” (Deuteronomy,
34:10). This statement does not sound like the words of the humblest
man on earth as Moses described himself. The Catholic Church took the
same stand as with other scholars. Books were burned and scholars were
The Tribes of Israel
Joseph, the son of Jacob, brought his parents and brothers to Egypt. The
sons of Jacob formed 12 tribes in Egypt. According to biblical tradition
these tribes varied considerably in size and population. Moses counted
all the people of Israel in Numbers 1:1-15. These tribes are divided into
1. The first group included the tribes of Reuben, Simon, Levi and
Judah, settled in the south. Later, they formed the Kingdom of Judah.
2. The second group included Issachar, Zebulun, Benjamin, Dan,
Asher, Gad, Nephtali and the descendants of Joseph: Ephraim and
Manasseh, settled in the north. Later, they formed the Kingdom of
After the first generation of the Israelites died, many of the people
of Israel worshipped the idol Gods of the Canaanite Baal and Asherah.
For the following few centuries, judges governed the people. When the
judges became corrupted, Israel asked for a king to lead them. The first
king was Saul who committed mistakes and sins. God was sorry that he
made Saul king. Then God chose David, from the tribe of Judah, to be
the new king. He ruled over all of Israel and wrote many of the songs (or
Psalms). He committed adultery with Bathsheba and later he married her.
When David was old, he appointed Solomon, his son from Bathsheba
as the king of Israel. When Solomon was old, his wives pushed him to
worship their idol gods. In the Quran, David and Solomon are recognized
as two righteous kings and Prophets. Their sins in Bible do not exist in
After Solomon’s death, his son king Rehoboam did not have the
skills to keep the country united. The tribal feud expanded and the
unified Israel did not last long. Israel was divided into two kingdoms:
the northern tribes called themselves Israel and the southern tribes called
themselves Judah. The people of Israel chose a man named Jeroboam
as their king (reigned 786-746 BC). In the northern kingdom of Israel,
several dynasties came and went. The kings of Israel had several capital
cities at various times, the last of which was Samara. There were many
wars between Israel and Judah.
The choice of priests by Jeroboam for his new kingdom was crucial to
the authorship of the Old Testament. In order to strengthen his hold on the
people, he changed the way they worship God. He built two temples for
worshipping golden calves, one at Dan and the other at Bethel. Jeroboam
appointed new priests, including individuals who were not Levites, to the
function of the altar of the golden calf. The priests from the Levi family
had no place in Jeroboam’s new religious structure. They condemned the
golden calves, which were the symbol of a pagan religion. Since the tribe
of Levi had no territory of its own, as the other tribes had, the Levites
had only two choices: they could move to Judah and try to find a place
in the priestly hierarchy there, or they could stay in Israel and perform
various religious services outside Dan and Bethel. The pious priests of
Levi turned into poor and homeless people.
The existence of the kingdom of Israel in the north lasted for about
two hundred years. During the time of Isaiah, the Assyrian empire,
presently north of Iraq, destroyed Israel in 722 BC and deported the
ten tribes of Israel into many places in the empire. Many Israelites fled
from Israel south to Judah to escape the approaching Assyrian army. The
Assyrians replaced the people of Israel with the Samaritans who came
with their pagan religion. The Assyrians invaded Judah in 701 BC and
many cities were conquered. But they could not defeat Judah and they
turned back. In 586 BC the Babylonians finally conquered Judah and its
people led away into exile.
The two Jewish kingdoms existed side by side for two hundred
years. They had common language and history, but they had many tribal
hostilities and feuds. The priests of the Levi tribe became extremely bitter
and frustrated from the tribes of the north who revived pagan religions.
With this picture of the early years of the biblical world, the writers of the
Old Testament can be identified.
J, E, P and D
During the eighteenth century three independent investigators discovered
that the Old Testament has two or three versions of the same story. They
are: the German minister H. B. Witter in 1711, the French Physician
Jean Astruc in 1753 and the German professor J. H. Eichhorn in 1780.
Some of these versions have different details to the extent that careful
studying of the Bible should raise serious challenges to the issue of the
divine inspiration. It was Eichhorn who discovered that the two versions
of many of the Biblical stories were written by J and E who referred to
the deity as Yahweh and Elohim respectively (Cupitt, 1988, p. 90). This
step paved the way to further criticism of the Pentateuch. Even in the
English translation of the Bible, it is easy to observe that biblical stories
often appear with variations of details in two different places in the Bible.
In one version, the deity was referred to as “God”. In the second version
God was referred to as “Lord God.”
1. There are two stories of the creation of the world.
2. There are two stories of the flood.
3. There are two stories of the covenant between God and Abraham.
4. There are two stories of the naming of Abraham’s son Isaac.
5. There are two stories of Abraham’s claiming to a foreign king that
his wife Sarah was his sister.
6. There are two stories of Jacob making a journey to Mesopotamia.
7. There are two stories of a revelation to Jacob at Bethel.
8. There are two stories of God’s changing Jacob’s name to Israel.
9. There are two stories of Jacob’s giving birthright.
The assumption that the two earliest biblical writers, J and E,
developed the whole Pentateuch lasted only eighteen years. Biblical
researchers used the same technique of separating the Pentateuch into J
and E to perform further separation of E. They discovered that there was
a third source that appeared interested in the priests. This source was
called P for the priestly interest. P had a dignified and distinguished belief
of God. For example P did not believe that anyone could actually see God.
When Moses beseeched God to see Him, God responded: “You cannot
see my face, for no man can see me and live” (Exodus 33:20). However,
P believed that humans could have spiritual experiences as a sign to His
existence, which is not to be confused with God Himself. While J and E
consider any Levite could be a priest, P recognized only the descendants
of Aaron as priests over those of Moses. J and E were hostile to P.
The criterion of having three writers of the whole Pentateuch did not
apply to the fifth book, Deuteronomy. Again there were major differences
in the interest and style of the three writers and that of the Deuteronomy.
The differences were obvious even in the translation. There are different
expressions and favorite sentences. Biblical stories were different from
those of the first four books. Deuteronomy appeared to be an independent
fourth source, called D. There are blatant contradictions of details between
D and the others. For example, D has different Ten Commandments! D
was hostile to P since both fought for the priestly advantages.
At the end of the nineteenth century, Julius Wellhausen, (1844-1918),
established the new critical model of discerning the four sources (JEPD)
of the Pentateuch (Armstrong, 1993a, p. 12). Up to the present time,
this theory goes by his name. It constitutes a solid foundation that any
further work should be developed upon it. This study draws the ultimate
conclusion of suggesting a new position instead of the prevailing one
of divine revelation to Moses. This criticism downgraded the historical
authenticity of the Biblical traditions. This critical analysis has extended
beyond the five books of Moses and has touched every book in the Old and
New Testament. There is hardly a biblical scholar in the world actively
working on the problem that would claim that the Pentateuch was written
only by Moses - or by one single person. No serious biblical researcher
can ignore it and no other explanation of the evidence has opposed it.