How Was the Old Testament Written? – Program 2

By: Dr. Gerald Lrue, Dr. Walter Kaiser, Jr.; ©1989
Is the Old Testament history, or is it myth? Is the text riddled with inconsistencies and discrepancies as some critics claim?

Is the Old Testament a Credible Book?


Tonight, John Ankerberg will investigate the topic: How was the Old Testament written? The Holy Bible is like no other book in all the world. It claims to be the written revelation of the one true God, and gives proof of this claim by presenting infallible evidence. Other religious documents such as the Qur’an may claim to be the very word of God, but they contain no such self-authenticating proofs as does the Bible. Only the Bible validates its claims by prior prophecy and subsequent fulfillment. But professors in American universities are teaching our students the theories of the higher critics who declare that the Bible is merely a product of human origin. The higher critics assert that the Old Testament can be dealt with in a purely literary way, and naturalistic explanations must be found for every account which depicts the supernatural.

In tonight’s program John will examine the theories that the higher critics have put forth denying the Bible is historically accurate. One of these assertions is that Moses could not have written the Pentateuch. Julius Wellhausen, the founder of the documentary theory, has stated, “Writing was virtually unknown in Israel during Moses’ time, and consequently Moses could not have written the Pentateuch.” If the higher critics are correct, then the Bible is in error. Even Jesus Christ Himself was wrong when He taught that Moses was the author of the Pentateuch. The higher critics have also written that the Bible is not historically trustworthy, pointing to the fact that they have never heard of any evidence of a nation revealed in the Bible called the Hittites. What about this? And finally, the higher critics claim they alone are scientific in their assumptions of approaching the Old Testament. But have they really given the Bible the benefit of the doubt in what it states, or have they approached the Bible with an anti-supernatural bias? These questions will be answered tonight as John examines the evidence from archaeology and history. Find out whether the JEDP theory of the higher critics has been demolished by the evidence or whether it still stands. We invite you to join us.


Tonight, John Ankerberg examines “How was the Old Testament written?” Those who have criticized the Bible have based their theories on the following faulty assumptions: First, when the higher critic sees different names for God being used in a text, this automatically means to him that different authors wrote that material. For example, they say all the material in which the writer calls God “Jehovah” was written by the “J” author; all the material in which God is called “Elohim” was written by the “E” author. But if the different names of God prove different authors, then the Hebrew writers were the only ones in the history of literature that were incapable of using more than one name for God.

Second, the critics assume that different writing styles and different vocabulary prove there were different authors. But by using this same criteria, critics could not possibly accept the fact that one single author like Milton could write merry poetry such as El Allegro, lofty epic poetry such as Paradise Los,t and third, scintillating prose essays such as Areopagitica. If Milton had been a Hebrew author, the critics would have to be speedily carved up into A B C multiple source hypotheses. Different styles do not prove different authors.

Third, the higher critic assumes that differences in accounts, alleged discrepancies or contradictions prove that there were different authors who gave us conflicting information. But through the science of textual criticism, we are beginning to understand and reconcile some of the alleged discrepancies in the ancient texts. Evangelicals have always advocated the inspiration and inerrancy of the original autographs, not every manuscript copied by scribes.

Fourth, the higher critics believe editorial insertions such as the account of Moses’ death in Deuteronomy 34 proves there were multiple authors. But in Joshua 24:26 the Bible states, “And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God.” If Joshua recorded anything in the Book of the Law, then he also must have contributed to what Moses wrote in the Law, the first five books of the Bible. Evangelicals have always held that it is correct to state that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible, meaning that he wrote the majority of it. But they have also held that some of it was written by such people as Joshua, as the Scripture itself records. These writers as well as Moses were inspired by God in their writings. The critic believes that by pointing out that not all of the Pentateuch was written by Moses, he is proving that none of the Pentateuch was written by Moses. But this assumption is not logical, it is not supported by Scripture, and is not held by orthodox, evangelical Christians.

Finally, the critics assume that historical accounts of the Bible that lack present day archaeological evidence are fictional. But archaeology has proven that many such assumptions once made by the critics about the Bible were wrong, such as: “There was no writing in Moses’ day,” and “the patriarchs, Moses himself, the ancient Hittite nation, as well as all of the cities mentioned in Genesis 14 never existed;” “The literary structure of the Pentateuch, particularly Deuteronomy, could not have been written by Moses;” and “The exodus and conquest of Canaan could never have happened.”

All of these statements, once made by the higher critics, have now been proven to be false by the latest archaeological evidence. Tonight, we’ll investigate some more the higher critics’ so-called discrepancies, such as the account of Moses’ death: who wrote it? Obviously, if Moses was dead, he could not have written it. We will also examine the Scriptures in Exodus 6 in which the Israelites are said not to know the personal name of their God, Yahweh, until it was revealed to Moses on the holy mountain, and compare that with Genesis 4 which says that the Israelites called upon the name of Yahweh from the very earliest times. The higher critics assume this proves different authors, otherwise how could one author state that the Hebrews did know, and at the same time, did not know the name of their God? To find out the answers, we invite you to join us for tonight’s program.


Ankerberg: Welcome! I’m really glad that you’ve joined us tonight. Our topic is, “Is the Old Testament a credible book?” Is it history or is it myth? Tonight, my guests are Dr. Gerald Larue, Professor Emeritus of Archaeology and Biblical Studies at the University of Southern California, and he’s currently Chairman of the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion. My second guest is Dr. Walter Kaiser, Academic Dean and Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He’s the author of many books. Guys, we’re glad that you are here tonight, and I can’t wait to get into this discussion.
Dr. Larue, you have said in How the Old Testament Was Written, an article that was written in the Free Inquiry magazine, a Secular Humanist magazine, and you have said, “The list of inconsistencies concerning the books that Moses was supposed to write could be extended, and as they accumulate, the problem is such that it is clear that more than one author contributed to the so-called ‘Books of Moses.’ And therefore there’s really no reason to believe that Moses was anything more than a hero figure, whose name has become attached to collections of ancient Hebrew law codes, indeed the Mosaic authorship has been replaced by a mosaic of authors.” Now, this is one of the six main arguments of the higher critics that helped them to develop JEPD, that namely, we have inconsistencies or discrepancies in the text and therefore we posit that there’s got to be some guy that came in afterwards and either messed it up, added to it or fixed it, right?
Larue: Or Moses was a little inconsistent.
Ankerberg: Or Moses himself was off-balance. Either way, it can’t be that God spoke to Moses or God helped Moses in collecting data so it was accurately brought down to us as traditionally held.
Larue: Or God is inconsistent.
Ankerberg: Now, Dr. Kaiser, we need to come to this, because that’s a serious problem here. And I have outlined six or seven that I think almost all the students at the university would say, “Yeah, I’ve heard this from my professor along the way of these inconsistencies.” I’m going to give them. And let’s take a couple here. I’ll outlined them and then we’ll take them in order, okay? First of all, the city of Dan mentioned in Genesis 14:14, “It’s got to be a verbal error,” they all say. “Because you find that in another spot,” I think in the book of Judges “that you find that’s where it’s established. How in the world if it’s established there could it show up in Moses’ first book?” Let’s start with that one.
Kaiser: Well, sure enough, I think that probably is not as humble a claim as it should be. I think it’s a very exorbitant claim. First of all, Dan does appear in Genesis 14. It looks like indeed someone got their calculations incorrect. But indeed we do have two “Dans.” There is not only the Dan which is far north, we have another Dan that’s on the route of retreat coming through Damascus, which is also a good possibility. But the scholars have always known, and we have a number of situations like this, where the text has been modernized. And, again, we are asking whether indeed “Dan” is in the original autography or whether that has been later on updated. The older name of the city is, if indeed we’re talking of the Dan in the north, is Laish. That’s clear; and that it was renamed in the time when the tribe of Dan moved north in Judges 18. But I don’t think that you could mark it down as an error. You’ll have to know and have complete control of all the texts and the autographs. And at this point, I would say we ought to be hesitant before we mark that one down as a sure inconsistency.
Ankerberg: Leupold also in his book said that it didn’t make any sense to take the geographical area of the Dan mentioned in the older books simply because if they take them that way, they would have gotten messed up with rivers. And it’s hard to retreat when you’ve got to cross about four rivers in a row. But the geographical area that you’ve got in Genesis, which would suppose another site altogether for that city, is a terrific way to “beat it” out of that area.
Larue: There is a problem, though. You’ve already indicated that the text could be modernized. This means then that already we’re talking of an editorial change in the text. Somebody has made a change. If this was originally Laish—autographs we don’t have; we have only very late documents—and if this was originally Laish, then some editor has been at work and changed it to Dan for whatever reasons. That, again, goes back to what I have been saying: the text has been editorialized. That’s what I was getting at. I’m not saying it was wrong, but I’m saying that it’s very unlikely that Moses would have written “Dan” before Dan was named.
Ankerberg: Let me ask you, does that seem to you to bother the accuracy of the inspiration of the Bible as Christians hold it, then?
Larue: No, this is a different subject entirely. What I’m dealing with here….
Ankerberg: Well, inerrancy and inspiration would say that God helped Moses or the authors put right information in there.
Larue: Okay, then you would have to say that God inspired the editor to make the change.
Ankerberg: Do you have a problem with that?
Larue: If you want to go on that kind of a theory. I have a problem with the whole “inspiration” theory.
Ankerberg: Is there any evidence about that, Dr. Kaiser?
Kaiser: The evidence, I think, in terms of texts we don’t have. The Evangelical always insists that it is inerrancy and that the work of God was in the original text. And that it is the original text that accurately depicts the real. Now, if you’re still talking about the same city, which city has a modern equivalent, then the problem that we have here is about the same problem that you get in a modern version, which takes an old word and updates it and tries to put it in common coinage to put it into communication. So, it’s not an error. We’re still talking about the same pinpointed geographical site. The question is, how will it best communicate to the generations who are trying to hear it?
Ankerberg: Well, talking about these other editors that might have been inspired, that might sound heretical. But let’s jump right to the big one, and that is the fact, who wrote the end of Deuteronomy concerning Moses? Obviously, if Moses is dead, how in the world can he be describing that? But if it’s not Moses who wrote it, then we have somebody else who wrote the last couple of verses in Deuteronomy. So the critics would say, “Therefore you’ve got proof that Moses didn’t write the Pentateuch.”
Kaiser: Well, of course, though, the question is the claim. Does the end of the book of Deuteronomy claim that it was written by Moses? And the answer is, “No.” I think the Evangelical only wants to say that the report of the first five books comes from a contemporary, and that Moses does the bulk of that, probably the greater lion’s share. But obviously no one is claiming, and I’ve never seen an Evangelical,… can you name someone who really said Moses wrote his own death, and also prophesied that no one knows to this day where his grave is? That’s unusual prophecy. But on the other hand, you do have, in the next book, Joshua 24, Joshua claiming that he was instructed to add many words to the Book of the Law. The “Book of the Law” generally is taken by scholars to be a reference to Torah. So here you have a contemporary of Moses, who is in control of the data, who is writing it. My supposition, and all of those Evangelicals I’ve ever read is, no, Moses did not write Deuteronomy 34. Joshua probably did, because we do have a claim that he wrote in the Book of the Law.
Ankerberg: Does that bother you, Dr. Larue?
Larue: No, it just says that Moses didn’t write all of the Torah. That’s all. And that’s what I’ve been saying. I’ve been saying that we have editors. We’ve now got Joshua making additions to it. You’ve accepted the last 10 verses as Joshua, how many others did he make? Which means it’s not Moses, it’s some contemporary. We’ve already got the editorial process going, by your own statement.
Kaiser: But if I could join in here. This is fun! Because it seems to me at that point that you’re pressing so hard, it’s curious. Why would you say it wouldn’t be Moses? Suppose I wrote a letter to my wife, and I had a complete description of what took place in our debate, see? And I gave her all of the words here, and then John, who knows my wife, would add on the bottom a P.S. And one of the other staff here would add something else too as well. Would that then not be my letter? It would seem to me that the body and the main part of it still is my letter. And you could refer to it, and she would think that I wrote it. And yet would not get upset because there are three P.S.’s on the bottom of it. I think that’s the flavor of the material that we’re dealing with here.
Larue: You’re evading the issue. The P.S. is not listed here. Nobody says P.S. The statement is, “Moses wrote the Torah.” And I’m saying, “The Torah has been editorialized,” and you’re saying, “Yes, but that doesn’t mean Moses didn’t write it.”
Ankerberg: Yeah, you’ve got an assumption, I think, going there. For example, did Hammurabi write every bit of the law?
Larue: Hammurabi obviously borrowed laws from other people.
Ankerberg: Yeah, but I mean, the fact is, his name went on the top, and obviously there was…
Larue: No. This is not true. It’s called “Hammurabi’s Code.” He argued, as the biblical people did, that he was inspired by a god. And I accept his inspiration on the same level as I accept the biblical one or accept the Qur’an. All of these people claim to have inspiration. How do you test inspiration?
Ankerberg: We’re not talking about that, we’re talking about, did Hammurabi write every single syllable that is underneath the codes?
Larue: I doubt that he wrote any of it. I think…
Ankerberg: Yeah, I think you can prove that. But his name is still attributed to that body of literature. Is that any different than what we’re talking about with Moses? You’ve got two examples right back in the same time period.
Larue: Well, little bit different time period, but even so….
Ankerberg: So the question is then, who is saying that it’s got to be done exactly the way you’re saying it?
Larue: I’m not saying that. I’m saying that your claim is, that “This is the words of Moses.” And I’m saying, “Some of them.” Who knows. How can you test?
Ankerberg: The claim is what, Dr. Kaiser?
Kaiser: The claim is that Moses wrote such substantial bulk of this material that his name can be placed over the whole of it. And that’s fair in any kind of field of reference. I think you would find that to be fair. That’s why I used the illustration of the letter. And I think that that is fair for our Lord Jesus, to refer to the bulk of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy; and the fact that indeed there is a P.S.—as a matter of fact, Deuteronomy 34 is kind of a P.S. here.
Larue: Yes it is.
Kaiser: A grave P.S., coming right at the end about his death. And there is a reference to additional material, but I don’t think that takes away from its claims.
Ankerberg: We’re going to take a break here, and we’re going to come back and take another one of the inconsistencies that Dr. Larue has put into his article: “Did the Hebrews not know the personal name of their God?” And we’re going to talk about that in just a little bit. So please stick with us.

Ankerberg: Okay, welcome, we’re back. And we’re talking with Dr. Gerald Larue and with Dr. Walter Kaiser. Dr. Kaiser, let’s take another one of the so-called discrepancies in the text that would, according to Dr. Larue and other higher critics, show multiple authors. And it comes from Exodus 3:13-15 and Exodus 6:2-3, where you find the Hebrews did not know the personal name of their God Yahweh until it was revealed to Moses on the holy mountain. Yet Genesis 4:26 notes that from the very early times people called upon the name of Yahweh. “Doesn’t this show multiple authors?” Or, “Don’t we have an error?” How could they know and not know?
Kaiser: Well, it’s curious that you bring that up, John. We have been talking about that for just about 250 years or more, so I would assume that by now we’ve been to school. I think the standard answer there is found in the language that Moses wrote in, which is Hebrew. And at this point he uses a little expression before the word for the name of his God, and that is the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, bethBeth essentia, as it’s called—and therefore it should not be translated as if he did not know the name “Jehovah” or Yahweh, as if when he heard this name he said, “So what is this? I’ve not heard this name before! This is a whole new idea, and let me write that down!” So he wrote down Yahweh and said, “This is going to be my new name of my God. From here on out I’m going to use that.” But rather the translation should be that He, God, was not known. El or Elohim did not reveal Himself or make Himself known. Now, this little beth, the second letter of the alphabet here, is translated “in the nature of,” “in the quality of,” “in the character of.” They did not see the import of this part of His character and qualities. This has been known since 1600, 1700. Gesenius, in the standard Greek grammar, gives us his explanation. He gives explanation as a grammarian, not as a theologian. Therefore, I am surprised that we’re still talking about this this late in history. We should move on.
Ankerberg: Dr. Larue, any comment? Does that make sense?
Larue: I’m only interested in the Exodus 6 where it said, “I am Yahweh. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as El Shaddai, but by my name Yahweh I did not make myself known to them.”
Kaiser: And that’s the very passage we’re talking about.
Larue: Yes.
Kaiser: “By my name, b’shem.”
Larue: B’shem.
Kaiser: Yeah. It’s “in the nature, in the character of” the name Yahweh they didn’t come to know it.
Larue: Well, wait a minute…
Kaiser: They’re using name here and the beth essentia—this is not only attested in this passage…
Larue: Right.
Kaiser: …we’ve got a whole category of Hebrew passages where it’s a well known syntactical and grammatical feature of the Hebrew language. So we’ll have to play according to Moses’ rules rather than our English translation.
Larue: Then you’re saying they did know the name Yahweh before.
Kaiser: Oh, yes, and that’s why it’s found 156 times in Genesis already.
Larue: Right. Right.
Ankerberg: Yeah, but one more thing before we close this program. Who really killed Goliath? Was it Elhanan or David? You have to compare 2 Samuel 21:19 with 1 Samuel 17:53 and the account in Chronicles there. What do you think, Dr. Kaiser?
Kaiser: This is well known again. In the Chronicles narrative, I think that we have “the brother of” introduce that phrase which is, I think, an indication that our text in Samuel at the present time is not the best text. We have known of all the books in the Old Testament that Samuel is the one, especially from the Dead Sea Scrolls, that has given us the most fits. When we did the book of Isaiah—we found the Isaiah Scroll—for over 100 pages of material when the Revised Standard Version (RSV) came out they made 13 corrections for over 100 pages of text. My teacher Harry Erlinski said to me that, indeed, we were incorrect on 10 of those 13. He said there are only three changes and these three changes in Isaiah were of a nature of changing of one letter or so, the difference between an English spelling of “honour” and American spelling. It is about equivalent to what we are dealing with here. But when we come to Samuel, Samuel’s text seems to be better in what we call the Septuagint or the Greek version. And there indeed it does harmonize with the Chronicles material. So I believe in the book of Samuel, 1 and 2 Samuel, I think in the Greek version we are preserving the authentic original text, and now the Dead Sea Scrolls seem to be pointing in that direction.
Ankerberg: Okay, the fact is that you seem to have a corruption that has come down and they’re simply saying, “Voila! There you have an error!” Okay. Does that knock out the fact of the accuracy of the text? Does that knock out the fact of the author who wrote it? Does that show multiple authors because you have that?
Kaiser: No, I don’t think so at all. It’s that science we call the science of textual criticism. It goes on constantly. We have refined that much better in the New Testament, and only since the Dead Sea Scrolls have we really gotten into it for Old Testament. The day of the Old Testament scholar in textual criticism still lies up ahead. And I think that there are some very, very good solutions. But I don’t think we ought to pronounce the benediction on that one yet. There are ways which it seems to me that problem can be solved, and they have been known for over 100 years.
Ankerberg: Okay, we’re not done with this yet, but we’re out of time for this week. We’ve got a couple more, such as, were there two writers of Isaiah? Are there two Isaiahs? Was Daniel a fraud that was written and simply portrayed to everybody that it was written in the fifth or sixth century and actually written down about [AD] 166, right in that area? We’re going to talk about that next week, so please join us.

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