How Was the Old Testament Written? – Program 4

By: Dr. Gerald Lrue, Dr. Walter Kaiser, Jr.; ©1989
Because the style of Deuteronomy is so different, can’t we assume it was added to the Torah later, and written many, many years after the events took place?

Was the Book of Deuteronomy a Later Addition to the Torah?


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, “Are the 39 books in the Old Testament of the Bible an authentic, credible and reliable source of revelation from God?” The main hypothesis of those who are critical of the Old Testament is called the Documentary Hypothesis, or JEDP theory, a theory which is being taught at almost every university in America. Part of the Documentary Hypothesis claims that the book of Deuteronomy was not written by Moses, but by some unknown authors who lived some 779 years after Moses, around the year 621 BC. But what does recent archaeological evidence show?

In the last 20 years considerable evidence has been gathered concerning the Suzerainty Treaties, that is, a treaty drawn up between a more powerful ruling king and a less powerful vassal king found in the second millennium BC. Scholars have now documented that the typical Suzerainty Treaty of the Hittite period, around 1400 BC, always included the following parts or sections: first, there was a preamble; second, there was the historical prologue; third, there were the main provisions of the treaty; fourth, the curses and blessings were outlined; fifth, the arrangements for the continuation of the treaty, including the periodic reading of the treaty before the public, were included.

But scholars now know that the treaties of the second millennium greatly differ with the treaties found in the first millennium. For example, treaties dating around 621 BC all lack section 2, the historical prologue, and section 4, the curses and blessings. This is very important because the book of Deuteronomy, which has both section 2 and section 4, conforms exactly to the treaties found around 1400 BC, not the first millennium of 621 BC. Therefore, the case for Mosaic authorship of Deuteronomy is very strong, as it agrees with the known historical conditions of Moses’ day. Archaeologists such as G. E. Mendenhall and G. T. Manley have flatly concluded Deuteronomy could not have been written after Moses. Tonight, does the archaeological evidence destroy the Documentary Hypothesis? Was the book of Deuteronomy written by Moses around 1400 BC, as the Bible claims, or written by unknown authors in 621 BC as the critics claim? We invite you to join us.

Ankerberg: Tonight, we’re talking about, “How was the Old Testament written?” Our guests are Dr. Gerald Larue, Professor Emeritus of Archaeology and Biblical Studies at the University of Southern California, who is currently the Chairman of the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion: as well as Dr. Walter Kaiser, who is the Academic Dean and Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He’s authored many, many books.
Now, tonight, guys, in terms of how was the Old Testament written, we’ve gotten to a place where I want to go both to archaeology and zero in on the “D” of the JEDP theory here, or JEPD, whatever you want to go with, alright? How was the Old Testament written? Was Moses a part of Deuteronomy? And I want to zero in, Dr. Larue, on something that you said and then the actual evidence, because this is a program concerning evidence. You’ve said that, “During the seventh century BC, the book of Deuteronomy was added to the Torah.” And you agree with the other higher critics and you follow the Documentary Hypothesis that Deuteronomy dates sometime after 701, probably about 661, right in that area.
Now here’s the question, what impact does the discovery of the 10,000 clay tablets at Boghazkoi make concerning the dating of the book of Deuteronomy? Specifically, what do you think about the evidence in George E. Mendenhall’s book, Law and Covenant in Israel and the Ancient Near East, or Meredith Kline’s The Treaty of the Great King, or Kenneth A. Kitchen’s article, The Ancient Orient, Deuteronism, and the Old Testament? What I’d like to know, Dr. Kaiser, is what in the world is the importance of this discovery, and then, why you think this has a bearing on Deuteronomy and its dating and its authorship that smashes the JEDP theory?
Kaiser: The pinnacle in this whole alphabet soup of JEDP—for those of you who are listeners and viewers and you want to try to figure this whole thing out, there is a parceling of the first five books up into four documents—the kingpin in the whole thing is the “D” Document, which is basically the majority of Deuteronomy, but with snatches of material as sleuthed out by literary critics just on the basis of internal evidence. Not that they have a “D” document, no one’s ever seen a “D;” no one’s ever seen a “J” or an “E” or a “P” for that matter. So they say that this is the kingpin.
But the interesting thing is that Deuteronomy as written belongs in the Mosaic time, that it’s a contemporary of Moses. Now, why do I say that? I must say it wasn’t the Evangelical community that showed this. This was a simultaneous discovery in the 1950s, the American scholar at the Ann Arbor University of Michigan, Professor Mendenhall, and in Germany Baltzer, not knowing each other’s works, but simultaneously came to a similar conclusion. Among that literature, we did find the treaty, the Suzerainty Treaty, with the Great King making a treaty with the Lesser King. There are five standard parts to that as written in the second millennium gattung [literary type] in a 1400, 1500 “league,” somewhere in that particular time. First of all, there is the preface, then there is historical prologue, then there’s stipulation, then there’s provision for witnesses, and then there are curses and blessings. At least those five parts, usually a sixth part.
Now here’s the point. It’s got to be, according to its written form—not according to oral tradition, but according to its written form—it must be in the second millennium, 1400 or 1500, which is Moses’ time, interestingly enough, Joshua’s time. Not the time of say, Josiah, who was supposed to have found the Book of the Law that was hidden in the temple at that time. Why do I say that? Because, in the first millennium, the Assyrian vassal treaties drop out the historical prologue; they drop out the witnesses; they do not have the blessing section. They went to a whole different literary genre at that particular time. So on scientific grounds—we’re not talking theology here; we’re not talking “inspiration;” we’re talking hard empirical data—it had to belong there.
Now, these scholars have known of this for some time. It’s true, it was the Evangelical scholars, Kenneth Kitchen and Thompson and Meredith Kline, who pointed this out and said, “The book of Deuteronomy, chapter 1 through chapter 34, is a mirror image of the Hittite documents—second millennium, 1400, 1500 BC—not first millennium.” But what do the scholars who first found this say? Nothing! Zero! You will get in their footnotes. Eisfelt, for example, the German, in his Enleitung, his introduction, he will say, “Compare, however….” Yes, compare indeed! Let’s go to Meredith Kline. Let’s go to them. Because the facts show that it had to be second millennium, as written, not as passed down “orally” for all this period of time.
This is a curious thing. The higher critic adopts and accepts all the archaeological evidence. They say, as I’m sure Gerry does here, that’s when it was truly “remembered.” They had Nuzi materials, the Execration texts, the Mari materials, the Ras Shamra materials. All of these show that, yes, this is an authentic detail that was remembered and then carried by oral tradition from 1500, 1800 BC, and was finally written down in 800, 700, 600, 400. Accurately, mind you. Accurately? This is mind-boggling that they would remember it that long and keep all of these eccentricities.
When it comes to New Testament studies, we have the life of our Lord in 30 AD, and then we say it’s the disciples or the group of followers of Jesus who wrote it down 30 years later, say in 60 or 70 AD, as witnessed, for example, by the famous find on the Gospel of John, which pushes it back into the first century. And yet the scholars say, “That’s too long to remember tradition—30 years.” Thirty years! I feel like a piker in Old Testament studies. This is from a millennia and a half—1500 years! Think how many generations that is that everyone remembered it accurately, passed it by word of mouth, someone else remember it accurately, passed it by word of mouth, someone else remembered it accurately, passed it by word of mouth. You ought to try that in a group and see what happens by the time it gets all the way around the other side. It’s changed! It’s changed! Yet these scholars believe! Oh, they’re much greater believers than I am. I wish I could believe like that. They believe that it’s been carried that long and preserved accurately. And they say, “But you can’t prove it’s written!” And I say, “Oh, now wait a minute. How about the Hittite Treaty? It had to be written.” Deuteronomy is presently contained in the collection that we have, chapters 1 through 34, exhibits a second millennium Hittite Suzerainty Treaty form. Now what do you say?
Larue: Wow, what a sermon!
Ankerberg: Alright, we’ve got to take a break. And, Dr. Larue, it seems that here you have Deuteronomy right at the very time when Moses actually lived, and you also have the exact kind of form of the literature surrounding him, so it would seem that that would be exactly the way he would write it. Why would anybody not put it right in that time period and give Moses the credit? And, Dr. Larue, you’ve got to tell us that as soon as we come back from our break. So stick with us.

Ankerberg: Dr. Larue, if what Kaiser has just said, and it’s back in the 1400s, JEPD goes right down the tubes and we’ve got to go back to the way we have always looked at the Bible. What do you think about that?
Larue: I think it’s a wonderful sermon and I could have almost applauded. What we’re dealing with is not solid blocks of material. We’re dealing with an outline, a format. That’s all! And this tremendous memory that we have to have; all this stuff remembered and that sermonic advice you heard a moment ago, not so—all we’re dealing with is a formula format.
We’re dealing also with limited evidence. Until we had the Boghazkoi material, we didn’t know this formula. Now we know it. We do know that parts of it appear in other Suzerainty Treaties, as you’ve already said, among the Assyrians. They dropped some here. Sometimes they add this here. It is not consistent. What we happen to have here is one that has all the same pattern. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s 1400 BCE or “Before the Common Era.” That doesn’t mean anything of the sort. It simply means that the format is the same.
Where did it come from? I do not know whether or not there was in the Canaanite community the carry-on of this. We’ve only got one source of Canaanite material—and that’s the Ras Shamra—really in any large amount. And that’s primarily the stuff we’ve been looking at; liturgical material. We have a few treaty bits, but not enough to really do the kind of job we need.
So I’m saying, we have other evidence that points to the seventh century. First of all, the material that we find in Deuteronomy incorporates ideas that were put forth by the prophets. Now, maybe they were all anticipated by Moses, but the prophets come out of a definite time period. They are dealing with problems of their own time, and they’re addressing themselves to issues of their own time, so that when we find some of the overtones, the calls for morality, that in Deuteronomy now legislated in the name of Moses, we can say, “This can go back to the prophetic oracles.” The kind of things, “Thus says Yahweh.” Yahweh was still speaking, according to Jewish belief.
The second thing is, we do have this interesting pattern in 2 Kings of the discovery of the text within the temple. Here is a book of law, “I’ve suddenly found this book of law.” And in it there is a change in pattern. A change in pattern of the Passover, which is different than the way it had been observed. “We have never observed it like this,” says Josiah. “We’ve never done it this way.” Why not, if they’ve had this book for all these years? Why does he say that? And then they begin to observe it according to the Deuteronomic pattern. So that we have evidence here that something associated with Deuteronomy was found in the temple in the time of Josiah.
Now, whether or not they had rolled this up and hidden it and kept it secret all this time and say, “Well, it was really written in 1400. Look at the formula outline.” No. That doesn’t work. We look at the text itself. We look at the evidence here, not outside, and we say, “If there’s a parallel here, that’s fine.”
Ankerberg: How did it come down? In other words, it was still written way down here. How did it come down? Was he right? It was passed on, on and on.
Larue: No. You see, you’re making a jump. You’re making the assumption that nothing was there except fourteenth century, then nothing between. And I’m saying, the patterns were there all along. We have these patterns in the Syrian documents. Now, wait a minute…
Ankerberg: I understand that. I’d just take an easy one that the kids out there at the university know. You know, back in the hippie days you wore your hair long and you wore bellbottom jeans, okay? We don’t wear them today. There’s got to be a reason all of a sudden to do the same thing we did back there in the 60s and 70s. Now the question is, if the culture has changed, which we all agree, and all this time has gone down the tubes here, why would all of a sudden they make this great big leap back into the past and pull out this kind of a form?
Larue: But it isn’t a leap in the past. The form has been there all along and in various treaties they utilized different parts. That’s what I’ve been saying. Nothing has changed.
Ankerberg: I see. Well, okay, Dr. Kaiser, bring us up to date on this, would you?
Kaiser: Well, now we need to ask the question, “Who’s following the sources?” Who really are the true source critics? I’d like to now claim that the conservative is the true source critic, because I’m following sources. These are real sources. Understand? J E D and P no one’s ever seen. You’ve got to understand that. These are hypothetical sources. They are made up by a deductive process. You draw up your criteria; you close the book; look at and see if it works.
But we need controls. I offer control. I’ve offered a control here. Here is a real document. And, by the way, this isn’t just a couple of dozen. We’re talking here on the order of five, six, seven dozen texts. And we have a whole series going from the middle of the second millennium through the Aramaic text into Syrian text, Assyrian text, and going all the way down into Essarhadon’s time. So that we have a long series, and we’re able to get this across in a good number of different places.
You contest it by saying it’s just an outline, and I want to deal with that by saying, “But that’s the whole point!” We’re talking about the integrity of style. Style is one of your criteria. It’s not my criteria. You determine a book by its style. I’ve taken your criteria. I’ve used your criteria and beat you at your game.
Larue: Uh-uh… no!
Kaiser: I have shown you that according to style…
Larue: This is not style.
Kaiser: …it belongs according to the second millennium.
Larue: No, outline is different than…
Kaiser: And genre too as well, which is another criteria.
Larue: But outline is different than style. Style is a way of using language.
Kaiser: It comes along with that outline too as well. Because we’re in a legal kind of format, and therefore you have certain kinds of terms that come with that and need to flow in this particular case.
Larue: Okay. That’s a genre, but the terms are not the same. Only the outline’s the same. We don’t have the echo of the terms.
Kaiser: We do. We do have the echo of the terms. For example, Father Moran, a Catholic theologian writing on this says, “Look here at the terms they’re using. The term for love, the term ‘achad’ for ‘chesed’”—great terms here—he says, “This is endemic to the Deuteronomic style.” And he said, “That’s what they’re using during this particular time.” And he’s bring out words and phrases.
Larue: But chesed is used all the way through. Chesed is Nelson Glueck’s essay proved. I wrote the introduction to it, so…
Kaiser: Yes.
Larue: So, no, this is not a new word. This is a Hebrew word.
Kaiser: And as far as the other point that you raised that you asked about this document, why didn’t they know about it? The truth of the matter is, the text itself claims that it had been buried in the trash.
Larue: No it doesn’t!
Kaiser: No one had any kind of access to the whole biblical text, if you can imagine that in Israel. They had gone so far away that they no longer even remembered such a thing. And when the king heard it, he ripped his clothes. He said, “If this is true, we’re in trouble! We’re in trouble!” Because he said, “This is the Word of God.” He had never heard it before. This was his first hearing, and he was the king! If that’s what the king thought, what must it have been for the average layperson to be…
Larue: Who did this dastardly deed of throwing the Word of God in the trash and keeping it from the king and all the temple people and all the rest? Who did this terrible thing?
Kaiser: The text doesn’t say, so again you’ll find me conservative in my answer. I don’t know, and I’m not ashamed to say I don’t know.
Ankerberg: Okay. But let’s finish this up. Kitchen went one step further, it seems. Why is it that Kitchen and Kline have both stated that you cannot see this being placed down the pike?
Kaiser: I think there is a freedom in the truth. When you follow your evidence and you don’t have an ax to grind, that thing will flow, and you will follow your evidence. And they followed the evidence, and it led them straight back to putting the so-called “D” document, or the book of Deuteronomy, larger, expanded, into its genuine milieu. The era from which it purported to come from, that was the era in which we found expressions and style and outline and genre that was supporting it. It rang true. It rang true. So therefore the claim has supporting evidence. And it’s building up a high level of probability, and the probabilities get so high, that after a while you’re going to have to say, “Gracious, if I’m going to go against that stack of evidence, then I must have a will not to believe.”
Larue: Walter! Walter! You have a bias with which you come to this, and so does Kitchen. They come with this, that this is Deuteronomic, this is Mosaic. They start with this. They come with the inspired concept. These are prejudices too; prejudgments on the literature. I come to it and I say, “It’s a literature. It’s written by people. Let me look at it and see what it says.” I let the literature lead me rather than a bias that says, [for example,] if I come to the Qur’an and say, “It is a sacred book, and therefore I have to treat it in a certain way,” I can’t do critical studies. And I think that this is where the limitation comes.
Ankerberg: But is it a bias when Kline and these writers say that the surrounding cultures, after the time period that you are talking about when these documents came out, that the treaty form changed? Isn’t that what they’re saying, that the evidence shows that the cultures all around changed, and it went out of existence? So the fact is that if everybody went out of existence, then why is it that it would come down all this way and all of a sudden show up, and they would use that form?
Larue: It didn’t go out of existence. That’s the point.
Ankerberg: But that’s what they’re saying that the evidence shows.
Larue: No. The evidence shows that portions of it were used here, and other portions here. The format is there. And each country does it in a different way.
Ankerberg: But don’t Kline and Kitchen say that the exact form that was followed there, yes, it was changed, there was an evolution? And that’s the proof. They never went back to the exact form that you see right back here in the fourteenth century.
Kaiser: Yeah, that part is true, that the outline and the substance is reduced from this period. And that if it would have been written as it is claimed, in 621 or seventh century—that’s the claim of the liberal here; that it’s got to be in that century—then it should have had a different literary genre.
Larue: How can you say, “It should have had”? Why does it have to have this? You see, now I’m doing what you did. You’re saying, “It has to have that because I say so and the Assyrians did it that way.”
Ankerberg: Because they would have only written in that which they knew, not what they didn’t know.
Larue: You don’t know that they didn’t know this. You see, now you’re arguing from silence.
Ankerberg: Final wrap-up, Walter.
Kaiser: Final wrap-up is, “Always hang with the text.” You go back to your evidences. And real sources are not out of the whole realm of what we as believers in inspiration and the inerrancy of the biblical Word think. The Bible has numerous sources. Book of Chronicles quotes 75 sources: The Book of the Wars of the Lord, The Book of Jasher, The Book of Iddo the Seer. Those are real sources. You want to see anything more, read The Chronicles of the Kings of Israel. See, the case is not sources against no sources; the case is real sources versus hypothetical sources. And that’s where the tension point is. So it’s time to ask, who really is the real scientist here? Who is the person who is willing to set aside their prejudices methodologically for the moment, and to say, “Let me see where the truth leads me. And let’s see if indeed I can find a fair shake.”
Ankerberg: Okay, we’re going to pick this up, and we still need to take a look at Isaiah and Daniel with these same kinds of presuppositions and assumptions. We’ll see how that comes out, so stick with us.

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