Monday, March 17, 2008

Is Mosaic Authorship Necessary?

Alice C. Linsley

Darren Cooney, a reader from Rhode Island, has asked:

“I am curious as to what you think about sticking to idea of the authorship of Moses as far as doctrinal teaching (i.e. liturgical homilies, etc) goes. As you said in your article, the Fathers held to this understanding, so do you think it can be problematic to stray from it as far as expounding doctrine goes? In other words, not in the arena of history or academics, but in the arena of prophetic preaching, etc.

Father Morgan [interim priest at reader’s parish] seemed to agree with you that there is no great benefit in ascribing the Pentateuch to Moses. He was coming from the perspective of the Documentary/Four Sources Hypothesis though, so he wasn't looking much at David.”

Mr. Cooney asks an excellent question. Is it essential for Christians to hold to the view of Mosaic authorship of Genesis for doctrinal purposes? The short answer is “No. It is not essential to hold a view that Holy Scripture does not explicitly and clearly teach, especially when the view is not uniformly held by the Church Fathers.”

The earliest Christian Apologist didn’t hold to Mosaic Authorship

St. Basil and St John Chrysostom taught that Moses is the author of Genesis, but this view wasn’t uniformly held among the earliest Christian apologists. To verify that fact, we will examine the writings of Justin Martyr, a Samaritan Christian who lived from 100 to 165 AD .

Justin Martyr believed that the "prophets" Moses and David foretold Messiah, and he distinguished between the two prophets when he read Genesis. Justin also placed greater emphasis on the Messianic promises through David than on the laws ascribed to Moses. He cites Isaiah: “Hearken to me, and your soul shall live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, even the sure mercies of David. Behold, I have given Him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the nations. Nations which know not Thee shall call on Thee; and peoples who know not Thee shall escape unto Thee, because of Thy God, the Holy One of Israel, for He has glorified Thee.” (Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 1)

Justin also wrote, “But we do not trust through Moses or through the law; for then we would do the same as yourselves. But now-- (for I have read that there shall be a final law, and a covenant, the chiefest of all, which it is now incumbent on all men to observe, as many as are seeking after the inheritance of God. For the law promulgated on Horeb is now old, and belongs to yourselves alone; but this is for all universally. Now, law placed against law has abrogated that which is before it, and a covenant which comes after in like manner has put an end to the previous one; and an eternal and final law--namely, Christ--has been given to us, and the covenant is trustworthy, after which there shall be no law, no commandment, no ordinance. Have you not read this which Isaiah says: 'Hearken unto Me, hearken unto Me, my people; and, ye kings, give ear unto Me: for a law shall go forth from Me, and My judgment shall be for a light to the nations. My righteousness approaches swiftly, and My salvation shall go forth, and nations shall trust in Mine arm?' And by Jeremiah, concerning this same new covenant, He thus speaks: 'Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not according to the covenant which I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand, to bring them out of the land of Egypt'). If, therefore, God proclaimed a new covenant which was to be instituted, and this for a light of the nations, we see and are persuaded that men approach God, leaving their idols and other unrighteousness, through the name of Him who was crucified, Jesus Christ, and abide by their confession even unto death, and maintain piety. Moreover, by the works and by the attendant miracles, it is possible for all to understand that He is the new law, and the new covenant, and the expectation of those who out of every people wait for the good things of God. For the true spiritual Israel, and descendants of Judah, Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham (who in uncircumcision was approved of and blessed by God on account of his faith, and called the father of many nations), are we who have been led to God through this crucified Christ, as shall be demonstrated while we proceed.” (Dialogue, Chapter 11)

Notice Justin Martyr’s listing, with priority given to Judah, the ancestor of King David and Jesus Messiah.

An examination of Justin’s exegesis suggests that he assigned Genesis texts that pertained to Jewish dietary and moral laws to the prophet Moses, but those that pertained to Messiah he assigned to the prophet David. Consider these examples:

“For it was told you by Moses in the book of Genesis, that God granted to Noah, being a just man, to eat of every animal, but not of flesh with the blood, which is dead.” (Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 20)

“Melchizedek, the priest of the Most High, was uncircumcised; to whom also Abraham the first who received circumcision after the flesh, gave tithes, and he blessed him: after whose order God declared, by the mouth of David, that He would establish the everlasting priest.” (Dialogue, Chapter 19)

Justin Martyr offers a satisfying answer to Mr. Cooney’s question about whether Christians must hold to Mosaic authorship of Genesis. In Justin’s view, God is the author of Genesis and has spoken through the prophets Moses and David.

Abraham, Moses and David:  One and the Same Message

Perpetuating Mosaic authorship of Genesis is not helpful because it is too simplistic.  Moses was the son of a Horite ruler-priest, just as Abraham was the son of a Horite ruler before him, and David was the son of a Horite ruler Jesse. The Horites preserved the believe in the coming of the Son of God. Therefore, insisting that Moses is the author of Genesis somehow suggests that he invented the expectation of the coming of the Son of God who is called the "Seed of the Woman" in Genesis 3:15.  Instead, Moses received this tradition from his Horite (horim) ancestors. Christians recognize the promise of Jesus in Genesis.  And if we examine closely the kinship patern of Abraham, Moses and David, we find that they are all Horites whose priestly lines intermarried exclusively.  And all three figures are instrumental in preserving the tradition which they received from their ancestors who lived in Eden.

Related reading:  Who Were the Horites?; Abraham and Moses: Different Origins of Israel?; Why Jesus Visited Tyre


Alice C. Linsley said...

Darren Cooney wrote:

Alice, I just finished reading the essay and it was was very
illuminating! What you posit, while still looking to multiple sources, is a lot more doctrinally whole. The Documentary Hypothesis, to me anyway, always seems to give the idea of some hodge-podge makeup, which would make it difficult to extract a holistic understanding from things.
Unless, of course, the compilers themselves purposely constructed it to be understood as the work of one source (i.e- "Moses"). This is what I saw as the difficulty of the Documentary view, that by always looking at things through this lense, you would actually be working straight against the very understanding the compilers were intentionally trying to convey. But what you say avoids all this, and makes a lot of sense on several levels, both prophetically and historically. I hope that, coming up, you'll delve a bit into how you think this all physically came together.

Thanks again for taking the time to address all this! I hope to get the chance to discuss it a bit with Fr. Morgan at our Bible study tomorrow.

Alice C. Linsley said...

I'm glad the essay was helpful to you. In subsequent essays on "Who Wrote Genesis?" I'll explore the evidence linking Genesis to David and then I'll propose how Genesis came together.

An Easter meditation will be posted on Holy Saturday for my Western calendar readers.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

But Justin does not ascribe Genesis to King David.

The quote refers to the Davidic psalm that says Tu es sacerdos in aeternum secundum ordinem Melchisedec.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

Thus, far from undermining the traditional Christian position that Moses is the author of Genesis, St Justin Martyr buttresses the equally traditional Christian stance that David wrote the Psalms.

As for Moses and Genesis:
a) I have had access to a Rabbinic tradition that Moses was only final redactor, whereas each 12th of Genesis is a book written soon after events, whatever Christians should think of this I do not know, but I find it obvious he had access to Hebrew traditions;
b) St Thomas Aquinas says that the account of the six days was a vision granted to Moses. I think there might be some kind of Patristic consensus behind this. Also, non-Hebrew creation accounts, though written by Adamites, lack this. Other parts of Original Revelation were distorted in various ways rather than just lost.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Moses and David are descendants of Abraham and his Horite people. The Horite ruler-priests lived in expectaion of the coming of the Son of God. They received this tradition from their ancestors (horim. Abraham, Moses and David appear to be in agreement on this received tradition. Otherwise, it can be argued that Moses invented Messianic expectation.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

The Messianic Expectation dates first time from Adam and Eve hearing God curse the snake, second time from Jacob blessing Judah.

I am not buying your Horite theory, I am only stating you have no Patristic evidence that David wrote a single verse in Genesis. What saint Justin refers to in the "by the mouth of King David" quote is so obviously Tu es sacerdos in aeternum secundum ordinem Melchisedec.