What did Moses write on?

Discussion in '2000-02 Archive' started by Lorelei, Oct 14, 2002.

  1. Lorelei

    Lorelei
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    I had an interesting conversation with a friend the other day. He said that Moses could not have written the first 5 books of the Bible for this reason:

    There were only two ways to write at that time, stone tablets or parchment paper, he said Moses was too poor to afford the paper, so he didn't really write it.

    Of course it was my husband that brought to my attention the fact that the Isrealites took all that they could carry out of Egypt and they had enough gold to make an idol calf out of it, so the poor thing is easily handled.

    My husband also mentioned how they wrote on dried animal skins at that time.

    Anyway, this sort of stumped me. It seems I am always unprepared when I am hear strange unexpected questions.

    Does anyone have any good information or resources that explain the historical times of the Bible and will help explain how such things were done. I know the Bible, but I am not familiar with a lot of historical data from certain time periods.

    Thanks

    ~Lorelei
     
  2. Dr. Bob

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    Actually the most common medium for writing was with a stylus on soft clay tablets, which later hardened in the sun.
     
  3. Helen

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    or papyrus...
     
  4. Johnv

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    Tradition holds that Moses wrote the pentateuch, but much of the happenings in them took place after the death of moses.

    Also, there is much in the books of Gen and Ex that were oral traditions that were handed down over many generations, and probably written elsewhere, but not documented in entirety until Gen and Ex came along.
     
  5. Paul of Eugene

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    Sheepskin. He wrote on sheepskin, which was often used for the finest manuscripts. [​IMG]
     
  6. Helen

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    Thanks, Paul, you are probably right, actually.

    John, no, there are some editorial comments in the last for books of the Torah that were probably inserted by Joshua or his scribe (and the chapter on the death of Moses), but Moses indeed wrote the last four books of the Torah and probably collated the first (Genesis) from previous WRITTEN documents. There is no sign of what we associate with oral tradition in Genesis. It is too detailed and precise. Oral tradition is not that way. Genesis 5:1 also indicates that the material was actually written from the first.

    [ October 17, 2002, 11:08 AM: Message edited by: Helen ]
     
  7. Rev. Joshua

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    What??? Helen, there is a mountain of biblical and anthropoligcal scholarship that looks at oral tradition and redaction in the Hebrew Bible, particularly in Genesis. Older authors like Von Rad and Gunkel come to mind, as well as recent works by people like Daniel Silver.

    The impact of merging various oral traditions is evident even in the first two chapters where two separate Creation accounts are homogenized into one. As for the lack of "detail" in oral accounts, that is patently false. Genealogies in most oral cultures were tremendously important, and they were learned in excruciating detail by the Griots of the community.

    How can you even say that with a straight face?

    Joshua
     
  8. Helen

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    Sorry, Joshua, but you have latched onto the liberal interpretation and that does not hold up. Genesis 5:1 indicates a written record. Wiseman's work in the thirties and the work of many others engaged in Middle East and Biblical studies since then have begun to confirm more and more fully the fact that the toledots were used as colophons in the tradition of the most ancient writings known. Genesis is a series of eyewitness tablets. Genesis 1 and 2 are NOT two different stories, but rather God's information to us in Genesis 1:1-2:4a and then Adam's recollection, himself, from 2:4b to 5:1a. This is exactly in line, as per style, with what we see in the most ancient tablets known in the Middle East.

    Oral tradition does NOT read as eyewitness accounts, but as narrative. Genesis reads as eyewitness accounts, and then, towards the end, as though it were more official, as though Joseph's scribe had been putting it down as an official record at Joseph's request.

    I suggest you look into the evidence and the numerous essays and lectures which have been written and given by highly qualified scholars regarding this.
     
  9. Baptist Believer

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    Having a "mountain of scholarship" does not determine truth.

    While I certainly believe that Moses did not write every word (especially sections that describe his death and allude to events after his death) and that someone or numerous people came after him and perhaps collected and edited his writings into their modern form, the validity of the classic "documentary hypothesis" is highly suspect to me. Much of textual criticism reminds me of what C.S. Lewis described in a famous essay (I can't remember the name of it) that is included in "God in the Dock". Lewis describes the experience of reading reviews of his books where the reviewers wrote of the process by which Lewis had come to write certain passages. He said that in *every* case where the reviewers presumed to know something about the text other than what was actually written, they were wrong -- and that's giving the reviewer the benefit of a common era, a common culture and a common language. How presumptuous are we if we try to make dogmatic assertions about the development of ancient texts and use those theories as a guide to interpretation. Instead, I am convinced that we should pay attention to what the text actually says and then figure out what it means in both the ancient and modern contexts. Note: I am not knocking scholarship by any means... but I have known too many scholars who have big ideas and little common sense.

    Have you considered that the so-called "two creation accounts" are the product of one writer taking the form of ancient cosmologies and stripping the paganism out of it and then introducing the God of Israel as the "Elohim" Creator in the "second" account? It could easily be the product of one writer just as the opening chapter of the gospel of John takes the concept of the "logos" (Word) from Greek philosophy and reinterprets it in light of Christ. Paul also uses a similar technique recorded in the book of Acts where he talks to the Athenians about their "unknown God".

    I certainly agree with you about detail in oral tradition, but be careful about assuming that things that may be hard for you to believe are embellishments of oral tradition.
     
  10. Rev. Joshua

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    Helen, storytelling, oral tradition, and comparative mythology are my academic areas of concentration. They were the focus of my research in seminary, and all of my graduate and professional research since (and the focus of my research proposal that I just submitted to Emory). This is my area, and I can say with confidence that the preponderance of biblical scholarship strongly disagrees with you.

    Yes, the final form of the Torah that we have is clearly a written document, but the underlying narratives that led to much of it were oral.

    Joshua
     
  11. Rev. Joshua

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    That is essentially what happened - with both accounts. Nevertheless, the underlying narratives both came from an oral tradition (c.f. Enuma Elish).

    Joshua
     
  12. Helen

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    Sorry, Joshua, but the evidence is against that now. Here is a good layman's explanation:
    http://ldolphin.org/tablethy.html

    and following is from Oswald T. Allis of Princeton and later Westminster Theological Seminary (I assume you approve) in "The Five Books of Moses" Presbyterian & Reformed (1964)

     
  13. Lorelei

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    I am finding this interesting to research. The "friend" in question was over the other night, and this time my husband got to him first. He now realizes that there were things to write on during this time period. They did some surfing on the net and it seemed to help. (This is a person that believes in God, but not the Bible.)

    Helen,

    I am facinated with much of what you had to say. Have you written any papers on it, or have any good resources that I can find this information at? I really want to explore this further. I do thank you so much for your input!

    Thanks to everyone for thier responses, it has made for some great discussions. Of course our real prayer is that our friend will find the Truth and get to know God rather than just believe he exists. [​IMG]

    ~Lorelei
     
  14. Lorelei

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    Helen,

    I guess you were posting while I was asking you for more info! Thanks! (Of course I would love to have any other resources you could share too.)

    [​IMG]

    ~Lorelei
     
  15. Rev. Joshua

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    "Evidence?" We've recovered original tablets that bear the fingerprints of the original authors? Wow, I must have missed the press release.

    Helen, I'm not at all surprised that you can find a few scholars who defend this "tablet" hypothesis. One could just as easily conjecture that the various discrete (and sometimes contradictory) units of the Pentateuch were written as complete fabrications by people sitting in different rooms of the same building; and that they were later pieced together by a single editor. These are very old stories that have passed through several hands before reaching their final form, and the vagueness of their origins leaves room for any number of theories (including this rather bizarre one).

    Nevertheless, Pritchard's Near Eastern Texts is filled with similar writings (of oral origin) that would seem to bely your point that these writings must be eyewitness accounts. There may be a few folks out there who take advantage of the ambiguities in the origins of these texts in an attempt to advance their own theological agendas. That does not mean that the larger scholarly community accepts those theories.

    Joshua
     
  16. Helen

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    Joshua, truth has never been determined by majority.

    However God has given us evidence of what the truth of Genesis is, and a number of very qualified -- even by your liberal standards -- Bible scholars are beginning to support what has come to be known as the Tablet Hypothesis.

    Instead of simply pooh-poohing it, I urge you to look into it, the way others have and are doing. I know R.K. Harrison and Dr. Charles Taylor have written rather extensively on this. I know there are others as well. It is not something to be passed by so lightly or disdainfully, sir.

    [ October 17, 2002, 02:49 PM: Message edited by: Helen ]
     
  17. Lorelei

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    Thanks Helen! [​IMG]
     
  18. Paul of Eugene

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    It's quite clear that there are SECTIONS in the pentateuch that were pieced together. It is not "proven" they were originally tablets; that is an unwarranted assumption. Oral tradition is known to have been organized in just that fashion and is an adequate explanation of what we see. That is, the official storyteller of the clan would memorize whole sections of narrative in blocks. Certainly, at some point, they would have been reduced to writing! And it is no slur on the nature of the biblical witness to say that. We can still have exactly the same arguments about inerrancy, for example.
     
  19. Jim1999

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    I once received a Hallmark card signed by Moses....Hmmm now I wonder if it was authentic?

    Cheers,

    Jim
     

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