Friday, March 14, 2008

The Possibility of Davidic Authorship

Alice C. Linsley

The Authority of Sacred Texts

For Jews the authority of a sacred text depends upon the authority of its source or sources. Jewish tradition regards Genesis as part of “The Five Books of Moses,” the Pentateuch. Therefore, the authority of Genesis rests on the authority of Moses. That Moses was Horite or Horim, is rather problematic for Jews. Many have viewed him and Abraham as different peoples, rather than as men who belonged to the same ruler-priest caste.  Abraham and Moses do not represent different origins of Israel.

The genealogical material in Genesis clarifies that Abraham and Moses belong to the same caste.  Their kinship, marriage and ascendency pattern is identical.  This is the case, we must recognize that they are one family and their story is of one piece.  It is the story of the Horim, those who the Jews call their ancestors or parents.

Some scholars believe that Moses is responsible for the preservation of the material and that it came to be written much later. Others hold a view that God dictated the words to Moses, much as Muslims believe that an angel dictated the Quran to Mohammed. The Church Fathers didn’t question the role of Moses, but they also didn’t provide much in the way of explanation for how Moses accomplished this.

In the first of this series on “Who Wrote Genesis” I proposed that the material in the Genesis prehistory could have been mediated through King David who was a direct descendent of the Horim.  His city Bethlehem was a Horite city. It is possible then to regard David as contributing to the family narrative that his people received from their ancestors who expected a "Woman" of their caste to bring forth the "Seed" (Gen. 3:15).  What we have is a consistent witness that constitutes the authority of Genesis.

Unlike the other books assigned to Moses, Genesis is not a book of law and it shares none of the other books’ fixation with Moses, the Levitical priesthood, and the nation of Israel. The most ancient authorities don’t claim that Moses wrote the entire Pentateuch, only particular passages identified with these words: “Moses wrote…” This raises the question of whether Genesis can be understood as having authority apart from the other books assigned to Moses. If we believe that each book of the Bible is superintended by the Holy Spirit, then we also believe that each has its own unique authority. Taken together, the books of the Bible must be regarded as extraordinarily authoritative.

The Question of Mosaic Authorship

The Five Books of Moses represent 5 scrolls of roughly equivalent length. They are regarded as containing all the essentials of the law and religious instruction called “Torah.” Therefore Jews sometimes refer to these scrolls as “The Five Fifths of the Law.” This general view of sacred law and doctrine is what Ezra has in mind when he writes, “The Torah of Moses which the Lord God of Israel had given.” (Ezra 7:6)

In Greek, the books are called “Pentateuchos”- Book of Five Volumes. The Septuagint accepts these books as revelation mediated through Moses. The Church Fathers accepted this also, never questioning John 1:45: “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets wrote” or Jesus: “...there is one who accuses you – Moses, in whom you trust. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” (John 5:45-47). The Apostles taught what they had been taught, that both the revelation mediated by Moses and the revelation delivered through prophets testify to Messiah’s appearing. But can we take these passages as proof that Moses is the author of Genesis? Not if we are diligent in the weighing of evidence.

Here are some of the reasons to doubt the assignment of Genesis to Moses:

There is no claim of Mosaic authorship in Genesis, or in any of the Five Books. There are passages attributed to Moses (Deuteronomy 1:5, 4:45, 31:10) and passages that tell us that Moses made written records (Exodus 17:14, 24:4, 34:27, Numbers 33:2, Deuteronomy 31:9,24), but nowhere is there an allusion to the authorship of the Hebrew, raised as an Egyptian. In fact, references to Moses in Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus and Deuteronomy are always in the third person. Consider, the examples of Numbers 2:1, 5:1, 31:1, Deuteronomy 33:1 and Numbers 12:3, which states, “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.” Or Exodus 11:3: “Moreover, the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt.” Is it likely that a “meek” man would write these statements about himself?

Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch is doubtful because Moses could not have written the account of his own death and burial. “So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD, and he buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth-pe'or; but no man knows the place of his burial to this day. Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died; his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated. And the people of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended.” (Deut. 34:5-8)

The phrase “to this day” implies that considerable time has elapsed between Moses’ death and the writing of the passage. However, we must be careful in the labeling of anachronisms, because some identified by modern scholars, such as camels in Abraham’s time (Gen. 24), have been shown to be groundless. The Biblical narrative is supported by the representation of camel riding on Mesopotamian seal cylinders dating to Abraham’s time. (See Gordon/Rendsburg, in BANE:120-12; and Journal of Near Eastern Studies 3, 1944, pp. 187-93.)

Reading the works of Albright, Von Rad and Speiser, one receives the impression of an evolutionary viewpoint that colors their interpretations of the text. The notion that human society in Abraham’s day was primitive is not supported by the evidence. Instead we have evidence of widespread commerce over huge areas 30,000 years ago and sophisticated mining operations in southern Africa involving tunnels and thousands of miners over 80,000 years ago.

The Pentateuch Had Different Authors

The internal evidence indicates that the Pentateuch could not have been written in the form that we have received it by Moses. There is material that comes from a time well after his death, such as the attacks on Horite religious practices such a local shrines.

Some scholars maintain that the five books could not have been written by the same person because of the “doublets”, which they propose come from different sources. A doublet is the same story told twice, but presented from different perspectives. They cite the two creation stories, the two flood stories, the two accounts of Abraham attempting to pass off his wife as his sister, and the two accounts of Hagar being driven from Abraham’s household.

Personally, I find the doublets to be dubious evidence of multiple authors. If Genesis is an account of the Afro-Asiatic peoples, we must expect at least two versions of the material. These versions can be explained by the fact that the Afro-Asiatic peoples have a western/African version of these stories and an eastern or Mesopotamian version. This is not evidence of different authors as much as it is proof of the Genesis claim that “The whole world spoke the same language, with the same vocabulary.” (Gen. 11:1) The “whole world” here refers to the Afro-Asiatic Dominion and we have considerable linguistic evidence that all these peoples spoke cognate languages.

Furthermore, when we look at the creation story in Genesis 1, we recognize similarities to Mesopotamian creation stories, but when we look at the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden, we recognize similarities to African creation narratives.  Genesis clearly contain both the Afro and the Asiatic threads.

The more persuasive evidence for multiple authors of the Pentateuch is that Genesis simply doesn’t belong with the other books. Genesis is a narrative record of the Afro-Asiatic peoples before the emergence of a people identified as Israel. As such, it is distinct from and stands apart from Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy which focus on Moses and the people of Israel.

While Genesis names no one as its author, it claims to be the “toledot” or record of God’s intervention in history among real persons. The claim to be toledot is made thirteen times in Genesis, not a randomly selected number, but one associated with the Afro-Asiatic lunisolar calendar of 13 months (requiring adjustment 7 times every 19 years.) This is significant because it suggests an organization different from the 7 days of Genesis 1.

The Case for Davidic Authorship

I am not the first to propose the possibility of Davidic authorship of Genesis, but I do offer some overlooked evidence in support of this position. Let us consider, very generally, the case for Davidic authorship.

Genesis has affinity to the book of Ruth, the narrative of King David’s pedigree.

The selection of the youngest son to rule over his brothers is the theme of David’s life.

Unification of the tribes under David would require officially embracing the traditions of both northern and southern tribes and these traditions are reflected in the doublets.

The evidence of close relations between the House of Sheba and the House of David.

The acceptance of David by the Jebusites, an Afro-Asiatic people.

The African etiology of the term “selah” found in David’s Songs of Zion.

The theme of setting up a shrine to the God who selects you.

David’s “people of the land” heritage.

David’s 3 blood lines: Edomite, Moabite, Israelite.

Solomon’s fortification of Hazazon-Tamar.

Related reading:  The Genesis Record of Horite Rule; The Horite Marriage and Ascendency Pattern; Using Arab Math to Uncover the Authors of the Torah; Who Were the Horites?


Nathan L Hollenbeck said...

I've always wanted to know, and have heard different explanations.

Based on your hypothesis that "Selah" is of "African etiology," what do you suppose it means in the Psalms?

Alice C. Linsley said...

The Afro-Asiatics languages can be classified into bi-consonantal and tri-consonatnal. The languages in the the first category are west central African and the languages with words that have three consonants are the Semitic languages. This helps us to understand how the Hebrew changes the older Anfican words. "Nok" becomes Enoch, Enosh or Hanoch in Hebrew. "Sala" become "selah in Hebrew. For information on "sala" in African oral, go to p. 13, here:

You see how sala is used in African call and response recitations in Chinua Achebe's novel Things Fall Apart, page 58. This is the proverb that appears:

Eze, elina, elina!
Eze ilikwa ya
Ikwaba akwa oligholi
Ebe Danda nechi eze
Ebe Uzuzu nete egwu

King, do not eat (it), do not eat!
King, if you eat it
You will weep for the abomination
Where Danda (white ant) installs king
Where Uzuzu (Dust) dances to the drums

Thanks for your excellent questions and comments!

Nathan L Hollenbeck said...

Thanks so much.

I remember reading Achebe's novel when I was in high school. I suppose that it was good wine before its time.

So "Sala" is itself a response to a call, rather than some textual notation giving a response or liturgical direction in the psalms?

It seems like it serves a function like "amen" in many churches, a response that emphasize what precedes it. Is that roughly correct?

Alice C. Linsley said...

"Sala" is not a response to a call, but the caller's signal for the people to repeat what the caller has just said, or to chant what they have learned to be the proper response to the call.

Call and response reinforces tradition through rhythmic repetition of stories, dramas, riddles, histories, songs, proverbs, and listings of ancestors and their heroic deeds. The "griot" continues to be an essential figure in African oral arts. These praise singers and story tellers train with elder griots and are responsible for preserving the tradition without changing it. However, a griot is not the only one who can lead a song.