My Take: It doesn't matter who wrote the Bible
April 1st, 2011
01:00 AM ET

My Take: It doesn't matter who wrote the Bible

Editor’s note: David Hazony is the author of "The Ten Commandments: How Our Most Ancient Moral Text Can Renew Modern Life," published recently by Scribner.

By David Hazony, Special to CNN

I am a person of faith. But sometimes I like to step outside of faith and just think about things rationally. Usually this oscillation between faith and skepticism serves me well, with faith giving reason its moral bearings, and reason keeping faith, well, reasonable.

It’s a nice balancing act — except when the question of who wrote the Bible comes up. My Jewish faith tells me that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible, known as the Torah or the Pentateuch. Reason tells me to be open to the idea that somebody else had a hand in it.

And there are definitely a few glitches in the text that back up those suspicions - notably the last eight verses of Deuteronomy, which describe Moses’ own death.

But try as I might, I just can’t believe that the Five Books of Moses were written by J, E, P and D – the four main authors whose oral traditions, biblical scholars say, were cobbled together to make the Torah. (The letters stand for the Jahwist, the Elohist, the Priestly source and the Deuteronomist. Those, we may assume, were not their real names.)

Call me an academic infidel.

I know, it’s been generations now that Bible study scholars at universities around the world have accepted as true that:

(a) the Pentateuch was composed over many centuries through these four oral traditions, which were later written down;

(b) these main texts were woven together by an editor or series of editors living around the 6th century B.C.E.; and

(c) these different traditions are detectable by scholars today, to the point where you can justify entire conferences and an arena’s worth of endowed chairs to figure out not only the source document of every scrap of biblical text, but also the gender, political inclinations, subversive intentions, height, weight and personal traumas encumbering every one of its authors.

The first two are plausible, I suppose. But the third has always struck me as pure fantasy, the point where idle speculation gives way to heavily funded hubris. Of course, if I’m right about the third, the first two lose their authority as well.

Why don’t I buy it?

It’s not just because of how stark, uninspiring and vaguely European those four letters look in a byline. Nor is it the fact that in more than a century’s worth of digging up the Middle East by archaeologists, not a single trace of any of these postulated “source texts” has ever turned up. And it’s certainly not because the scholars’ approach contradicts my faith — after all, it was the willful suspension of faith that led me to consider it in the first place.

No, faith and skepticism dwell together in my confused bosom like pudding and pie.

Rather, my rebellion against these scholars comes from experience. Specifically, my experience as an editor.

It all started a few years back when, as the senior editor of a Jerusalem-based journal of public thought, I ran into trouble on a 10,000-word, brilliantly researched essay about Israeli social policy composed by the sweetest man on earth who, unfortunately wasn’t a stellar writer.

I spent a few weeks rewriting, moving things around, adding and cutting and sweating. Finally I passed it up the chain to Dan, my editor-in-chief.

"Hey Dan," I said. "Could you take a look at this? I added a whole paragraph in the conclusion. Tell me what you think."

A few days later I got it back, marked up in red ballpoint. On the last page, in the conclusion, he had written the words “This is the paragraph you added,” and drawn a huge red arrow.

But the arrow, alas, was pointing at the wrong paragraph.

You see, it turns out that it’s not very easy to reverse-engineer an editing job. To take an edited text and figure out, in retrospect, what changes it went through — it’s about a million times harder than those tenured, tortured Bible scholars will tell you.

Language is fluid and flexible, the product of the vagaries of the human soul. When an editor has free rein, he can make anything sound like he’d written it himself, or like the author’s own voice, or something else entirely. It all depends on his aims, his training, his talent and the quality of his coffee that morning. A good editor is a ventriloquist of the written word.

That’s when I started to suspect that what Bible scholars claim they’re doing — telling you what the “original” Bible looked like — might be, in fact, impossible to do.

Think about it. My case was one in which the author, editor and reader are all known entities (in fact, they all know each other personally); the reading takes place in the exact same cultural and social context as the writing and editing; and the reader is himself a really smart guy, Ivy-league Ph.D. and all, who had spent a decade training the editor to be a certain kind of editor, with specific tools unique to the specific publication’s aims.

Not only that, but he was even told what kind of edit to look for, in which section. And still he couldn’t identify the change.

Now compare that with what Bible scholars do when they talk about J, E, P, and D. Not only do the readers not know the writers and editors personally, or even their identities or when or where they lived. The readers live thousands of years later and know nothing about the editors’ goals, whims, tastes, passions or fears — they don’t even know for sure that the whole thing really went through an editorial process at all.

(If anything, the same textual redundancies, narrative glitches, awkward word choices and so forth that the scholars claim are the telltale signs of an editing process are, in my experience, very often the opposite: the surest indicator that an author needs an editor, desperately. If the text was edited, it was done very poorly.)

As with any field of research that tries to reconstruct the distant past, biblical scholars get things wrong on a daily basis.

And that's OK: Getting things wrong is part of the nature of reconstruction. Whether you’re talking about the origins of galaxies, dinosaurs, ancient civilizations, medieval history or World War II, the conclusions of all historical research come with a big disclaimer: This is the best we’ve got so far. Stay tuned; we may revise our beliefs in a couple of years.

With biblical scholars, however, you often feel like they’re flying just a little blinder than everyone else. At what point does a scholar’s “best guess” become so foggy as to be meaningless?

The Five Books of Moses take place somewhere in the second millennium B.C.E., centuries before our earliest archeological corroborations for the biblical tales appearing in the Book of Joshua and onward. We have no other Hebrew writings of the time to compare it with. So all that scholars really have to go on is the text itself — a wild ride on a rickety, ancient, circular-reasoning roller-coaster with little external data to anchor our knowledge of anything.

This would be fine, of course, if there weren’t so much riding on it.

With other fields, we usually don’t have our own dinosaur in the fight. But with the Bible, it’s not just the scholars duking it out with the clergy. There’s all the rest of us trying to figure out what to do with this stupendously important book — either because it anchors our faith, or because it contains enduring wisdom and the foundations of our cultural identity.

Where does that leave us? Some people, sensing their most cherished beliefs are under siege, will retreat to the pillars of faith — whether that faith is religious or academic. Either it was Moses, or it was J, E, P, and D. End of discussion.

As for the rest of us, it may raise questions about whether we really ought to care that much about authorship at all, or instead just go with Mark Twain’s approach. “If the Ten Commandments were not written by Moses,” he once quipped, “then they were written by another fellow of the same name.”

Using our reason means sometimes admitting there are things we just don’t know, and maybe never will.

Maybe that’s all right. After all, isn’t it enough to know that the book is really important, that it has inspired love and hate and introspection and war for thousands of years, that it is full of interesting stories and wisdom, poetry and song, contradiction and fancy and an unparalleled belief in the importance of human endeavor - in the possibility of a better world - despite the enduring and tragic weaknesses that every biblical hero carries on his or her back? That it is an indelible part of who we are?

Isn’t that enough to make you just read the thing and hope for the best, forever grateful to Moses, or that other fellow by the same name?

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of David Hazony.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Bible • History • Judaism • Torah

soundoff (2,549 Responses)
  1. TG

    Genesis 1:1 says that the earth was created "in the beginning" along with the "heavens". Because of the churches failure to grasp two different Hebrew words, there is confusion between what is meant at Genesis 1:3 and 14-16. At Genesis 1:3, the Hebrew word ’ohr, meaning light in a general sense. But on the fourth “day,” the Hebrew word changes to ma·’ohr′, which refers to a luminary or source of light. (Ge 1:14)

    The earth was formed as a rocklike structure "in the beginning" and on day "one", diffused light (light, ’ohr) evidently penetrated the cloud layers around the earth, though not discernible from the earth's surface. On day "four" however, both the "greater luminary", the sun, and the "lesser luminary", the moon, could now be readily seen (source of light, ma·’ohr′). Hence, over the course of six "creative" days (with each creative day several thousand years long), the earth was then fashioned into our "home", and will remain as such for those who are "meek", forever.(Ps 37:11, 29)

    Thus, the Bible is not in error, but the fault lies with individuals not willing to dig deep enough for accuracy.

    April 2, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  2. Jack

    David bases his arguments entirely on his personal experience. I, too, am an editor, and my personal experience contradicts David's personal experience thereby rendering the reasoning behind his opinion flawed.

    If we're going to argue for or against multiple authorship, then it's much better to address the various arguments made by each side point by point – casting out contradictory personal experiences as the very first step.

    April 2, 2011 at 10:38 am |
  3. Eric

    The first page of the Bible states the Earth was created (by the end of day 3) before the stars (day 4). This is incorrect by multiple billions of years. And that massive error is found by only looking at the very first page

    April 2, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • Right On Bye

      What would you expect from primitive people explaining things they only had slight ideas about. Like when you did your first math problem and thought 2 + 2 was 3. It gets better by the last book, once they've dipped into the psychadelics as start venting out their wrath on Roman persecution in veiled ways to protect theirself from further persecution. In between there are actually things that do make some sense. It's definitely no a cook book though, so don't go expecting some great step by step recipe for your life.

      April 3, 2011 at 1:34 am |
  4. krashundburn

    """it’s not just the scholars duking it out with the clergy. There’s all the rest of us trying to figure out what to do with this stupendously important book"""

    Doesn't this really says it all, folks?. A "stupendously important book" that – quite frankly – confuses the hell out of its intended audience.

    Not exactly what I would expect from an omniscient, omnipotent god with an important message to convey to all mankind.

    Maybe he should have let us eat the whole dang apple.

    April 2, 2011 at 9:59 am |
    • krashundburn



      April 2, 2011 at 10:00 am |
    • Right On Bye

      Funny thing. First the book says something like Adam and Eve can eat the fruits from all the trees of the garden, then one verse later they're told not to eat the fruit of one trees. How do you deal with someone who changes their mind so fast? Then after they do eat the fruit, they are kicked out of the garden and cursed because they have eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Does that mean we would be better off if we didn't know the difference?

      April 3, 2011 at 1:22 am |
  5. Kristoffer Lance

    Shut your blaspheming mouth, David Hazony. Moses wrote the dang bible; everyone knows that. When he writed the first five books (what you Jewish fellers call the Pentagon), he knowed full well all the details of his own death and all the rest of the bible verses to follow. Why you ask? I'll tell you why, by G-d....... because he has magical powers. Duh. Did you just skip over that part where he made an entire SEA split in half like a tater in the hot sun? The part where done this trick with his "staff" held above his head? Ain't you ever watched Harry Potter???? Moses is a bonafied wizard and knocks out bigger contradictions to reason and common logic before breakfast, than the petty little "issues" you bring to the table. There ain't no room for your skepticism round here, chief. That's the devil talking out your stupid little fingers.

    April 2, 2011 at 9:25 am |
    • Roy

      You, sir, are a zealot and a fool.

      April 12, 2011 at 11:06 am |
  6. Michael

    It doesn't matter who wrote the Bible as long as you take it for what it is: a work that was for a period of centuries in progress, observable by the development in moral consciousness from the strictly legalistic, fear-based dyad of sin and punishment in the Pentateuch to the Golden Rule of the New Testament; the journey towards enlightenment of one culture among many who have arrived at the same basic ethical tenets. The Golden Rule has been the conclusion of many separate belief-systems, several of which predate the Judeo-Christian.
    Unfortunately, for those whose sense of self depends on themselves possessing absolute truth and all others being damnably lost, no rational argument will ever hold weight. You cannot reason with a fanatic because fanatics do not value reason.

    April 2, 2011 at 9:23 am |
  7. Marie Pearle

    It does matter who wrote the Bible when it is being claimed by religious leaders that everyone needs to believe everything in it or be eternally tortured/murdered for one's thought crimes of not believing, depending on which version of Hell you are talking about.

    April 2, 2011 at 8:42 am |
    • Frederica

      Marie, hell is reality for everyone as death is. Faith in Jesus and the new life in Him is the only way to Heaven.

      April 3, 2011 at 3:35 am |
    • Right On Bye

      Faith In Jesus:

      Faith without logic is delusion. So faith cannot equal delusion. It is simple Algebra. Its amazing so many who profess faith have been brainwashed to believe faith and science/logic are in opposition. What a sick delusional world we've made for all sides by doing so.

      April 3, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  8. Frederica

    Westerners are becoming stupid and meaningless as their Bible-illiteracy rate rises.

    April 2, 2011 at 8:33 am |
    • PraiseTheLard

      You're partially correct... They're becoming more stupid because their general level of illiteracy is rising – at least in North America... Of course, the least educated ones are clinging to their fictional bibles in desperation...

      April 2, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • NL

      Haven't you heard that atheists are the most bible-literate in our society? Not only do we read more of the bible, but we also read more scholarly work on the bible. The average fundamentalist Christian has a far more narrow bible knowledge.

      April 3, 2011 at 12:35 am |
    • Frederica

      Atheists are persecuting real scholars in every academic field and they are liers talking of books they have never read. Thanks for polluting the planet with your self-smartness.

      April 3, 2011 at 3:39 am |
  9. Jim

    If it doesn't matter who wrote the Bible then it matters even less what the author writes about it.
    If it doesn't matter who wrote the Bible then the author has no possible way of knowing if what is in the Bible points to God or not thus leaving the author ignorant at best.

    CNN, in the usual modus operendi brings forth babble to the used-to-be news pages.

    April 2, 2011 at 8:00 am |
    • Frederica

      Jim, abandoning of quest for Truth is on trend in the post-christian West. I miss their ancestors; they were far better in almost every way.

      April 2, 2011 at 8:23 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Then why don't you off yourself and go where you can be with them, witless?

      April 2, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
  10. Tim


    "It's A Good Book. But It's Not The Only Book."

    April 2, 2011 at 7:57 am |
  11. Richard Cairns

    There is a true story for all thinking Christians and other believers of any other faith which is very relevant to the quest for knowledge about the origin of the scriptures. The British author and itinerant preacher, John Bunyan related in his book "Grace Abounding" how there was a time when in his spiritual strivings he was driven to his wit's end about the possibility of him obtaining eternal life. He relates that at this time of great unease a sentence came to and fell with great force upon his spirit, "Look at the generations of old, and see; did any trust in God and were confounded?" so fresh and uplifting was the saying that it seemed to Bunyan as though it spake to him but on going to the Bible to find the exact setting and source the inspiring words could not be found. He relates: "Thus I continued about a year, and could not find the place; but at least, casting my eye upon the Apocryphal books, I found it in Ecclesiasticus, "Look at the generations of old and see, did any ever trust in the Lord and was confounded; or did any abide in his fear and was forsaken; or whom did he ever despise that called upon him?" This, at first, he continues, did somewhat daunt me; but because by this time I had got more experience of the love and kindness of God, it troubled me the less, especially when I considered that though it was not in those texts that we call holy and canonical; yet, for as much as this sentence was the sum and substance of many of the promises, it was my duty to take comfort of it; and I bless God for that word, for it was of good to me: that word doth still oftimes shine before my face." Now, it is important for us to have a credible witness and credible knowledge about the God of creation but rather than trying to extrapolate all manner of inferences and conjecture on the part of flawed scholars is it not better to read the works and see as Bunyan disclosed that their words speak to our souls and sometimes go direct to ht heart and mind of the individual, as I have myself experienced. This is the spirit of revelation – divine truth that emanates from God and confirms itself to the sincere searching soul. This light, this spirit of truth, this source of divine inspiration that brings light, comfort and joy to the reader exceeds all the wisdom of man and he who reads the old and new testaments in and seeks for this spirit will not be disappointed. By this means alone can one know for an absolute certainty that these writings are true and of divine origin despite the meaningless conjecture of so called religious scholars and priests.

    April 2, 2011 at 7:48 am |
    • Margarita

      Richard Cairns, amen to your statement! Let me just add that for those of us who develop our spiritual side , there is great meaning beyond the words and "stories" of the Bible that can be only understood by the spiritual minded individual. Those that do not understand the symbolism and/or continue to study sacred word will never be able to understand what Helen Keller masterfully expressed ~ "The best and most beautiful things cannot be seen or even heard, they must be felt with the heart."~ Thus, they cannot understand the world beyond their mind and senses. I think even the realm of possibility, the universe and imagination will be very limited for them. I believe science and understanding of this universe would only go farther and faster if we but tap into the spiritual side of our being. I also believe that if there is no tomorrow after we died the earthly experience of those that haven't explore their spiritual side would be very incomplete. Since their realm of possibility and their judgement , in my opinion, are based solely in their senses, the understanding of an underdeveloped mind and an undeveloped esprit. If there is not life after this one I will be very disappointed, but I hope in my last thoughts I will be thankful I was here,and for my spiritual experiences. (porque pase y pise esta tierra- Sorry but Spanish is my mother tongue and I don't know how to translate that expression into English)

      April 2, 2011 at 10:44 am |
  12. stevie

    A professor of theology. is a professor of folklore. Time to consider that these educators have been had. Teach ethics.
    Grow up already. Talking shrubbery, talking snakes, and voodoo dolls (a crucifix IS a voodoo doll) have no place in this
    New Age that we live in.

    April 2, 2011 at 7:33 am |
    • Frederica

      The headless, meaningless ethics of secularism led to infanticide and glorification of worst immoraliy.

      April 2, 2011 at 8:13 am |
  13. thuyblum

    Interesting! I just now printed Coupons of my Favorite Brands for free, search for "Printapons" I highly recommend them

    April 2, 2011 at 6:27 am |
    • Roy

      What does that have to do with ANYTHING?

      April 12, 2011 at 11:04 am |
  14. Ken

    We have to stop wasting our time focusing on the absurdity of random pieces of dogma. The problem in the invalidity of faith as an epistomology.

    April 2, 2011 at 5:37 am |
  15. LoneZero

    "LoneZero, you've been brainwashed by anti-God activists because you only read their garbage writings"

    everything I said was taken from the Bible

    Ephesians 6:5-9 is one of the Bible's instruction for employee and employer though it's employee (slave) and employer (master) the employee was not paid for his services in this time period when the bible and was a slave. Verse 5 was used by slaveholders in the South during the Civil War which is also what I stated previously

    Corinthians 14:34-36 and Timothy 2:11-15. The God of the Bible decrees that woman must submit to the dominance of man. Your not treated fairly or equally you have an Inferior Status.

    There would be no need for the women's movement if the church and Bible hadn't abused them.
    - Father Leo Booth

    The Bible and the Church have been the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of women's emancipation.
    - Elizabeth Cady Stanton

    you don't need anti-God activists you simply need to open the book and read it cover to cover.

    If you believe, it's you're God and your God is perfect then you can't throw out some of the rules just because you don't like them or pretend they don't exist. The Bible shouldn't be used for moral behavior and moral thought. It leads to which parts are you gonna use and which parts you won't.

    A man should not lay with another man it's a sin then the next chapter we should stone disobedient children.

    picking and choosing what to follow and enforce or to ignore is not consistence or fair

    April 2, 2011 at 3:17 am |
    • Frederica

      LoneZero, you are picking stuff out of context. People freed women and slaves ACCORDING to the Bible. Some people misused everything including the Bible words just as your favorite authors did. The Bible proclaims the highest and the most practical morality. What it describes as sin is indeed sin and the execution was because of treason against national security which we still do in all nations. You never got the context and background properly. Study with authenticity. Zero, you never read the Bible and attacking it though you are in full measure of benefitting from it for centuries.

      April 2, 2011 at 8:20 am |
    • Ryan

      Again, LoneZero is taking stuff out of context because he doesn't understand the society of Bible times. First off, yes, there was slavery at the time. However, slavery came about very different than more modern times (1600s-1800s). A man and/or his family became a slave when they owed another family money, food, land, or something along those lines. They had to sell themselves into slavery, much like indentured servants. Also, in those same books, LoneZero clearly skipped the sections where it says to treat the slaves as the master would his own family, which brings me to the next point. The Israelites didn't mistreat their families the way LoneZero is making it out to be. They didn't go around stoning disobedient children. Stoning was used as a last resort only if beatings and isolation from the tribe doesn't work, only for male children, and only if the whole tribe was unanimous in the decision to stone (basically, the disobedient son was given a trial). We do something similar today, called juvenile hall (which stops just short of death but can include beatings and isolation), and sometimes sixteen and seventeen year olds are tried as adults with the possibility of a death sentence, again only used as a last resort. Also, you can't blame the Bible for saying that women are inferior to men, as that phrase is nowhere in it. If anything, the Bible gives far more rights to women than other religions including Atheism (Atheism's bible, the Origin of Species, actually places women of all races lower than men in their respective races on the evolutionary ladder – remeber, you can't throw out rules of your religion either). You have to read the Bible with understanding that it comes from a different culture.

      April 2, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • Magic

      "you can't blame the Bible for saying that women are inferior to men, as that phrase is nowhere in it"

      Just two examples of the inferiority of women in the NT (not to mention all of the OT degradations):

      "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church."

      – and –

      "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife..."

      Both by good ol' Paul of Tarsus.

      Also, calling "On the Origin of Species" atheism's 'bible' is nonsense. It was a starting point in the exploration of descendant biology. The ideas have been greatly built upon and nobody hangs on Darwin's every word.

      April 2, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • Right On Bye

      See prior entry above why we stopped treating women unfairly and the effects on society in general. Not saying its worse, just that changes have unintended consequences sometimes. The solution to one problem often results in three more. And now that I'm thinking about it we probably only stopped slavery because we knew the machine age would compensate work wise and machines would be easier to maintain than human beings. The North had industry, the South used slaves. The north had changed to an industrial society from an agrarian society earlier and knew the benefits. Like all history, of course these aren;t the only reasons things happened the way they did, but take a minute and consider them.

      April 3, 2011 at 1:02 am |
  16. tristanavedon

    It doesn't matter who wrote the bible, because it's a book of lies. It's time we abandoned archaic fairy tales and accepted scientific principles. We've outgrown religion. It's time to leave the primitive ramblings of hateful people behind us and move on.

    April 2, 2011 at 2:14 am |
    • All in All

      Sounds like we should abandon you and move on?

      April 2, 2011 at 2:20 am |
    • Frederica

      Scientific discoveries say there is Creator God as the Bible has been telling mankind all along.

      April 2, 2011 at 2:20 am |
    • krashundburn

      """Scientific discoveries say there is Creator God as the Bible has been telling mankind all along."""

      What? Eh? Come again?

      Hogwash. Rubbish. Bullsh!t.

      Is lying like that acceptable to Christianity as long as the lie promotes Christianity?

      April 2, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Freddy's been hittin' the sauce again...

      April 2, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  17. LoneZero

    "Mankind started to free slaves, treat women fairly, conduct fair trials and executions and stop human sacrifices by only studying and applying the Biblical teachings"

    Once again not true another contradiction from you.

    According to the Biblical teachings A good Christian woman should be silent, submissive, subservient and filled with shame for the curse her gender forced on humanity therefor woman were not treated fairly in the bible the word of God. People against woman's rights used bible scriptures why woman shouldn't have rights or treated equally.

    According to the Biblical teachings we our to own slaves and even have written guidelines how to treat said slaves in the Bible the word of God. People for slavery once again used bible scriptures to support the agenda.

    Do you see a pattern here?

    Good people who fought tooth and nail to be treated fairly and equally regardless of what religion they were helped free slaves and granted equal rights to woman not justChristians. If what you said was true we wouldn't even be discussing the issue since the good book takes away you're voice nor allow to preach.

    April 2, 2011 at 1:11 am |
    • Frederica

      LoneZero, you've been brainwashed by anti-God activists because you only read their garbage writings. The Bible gives proper and practically workable virtues for women as well as teach equality with men. And the Bible alone does that in all the earth. Mankind never knew women and children were equal with men, under God. The Bible's instruction includes employer-employee relationship. Liberators of slaves liberated slaves because they understood man cannot have absolute power over another without abuse as the Bible says. The reason only Christian British and Christian America developed democracy. Things are deeper than you think, Zero.

      April 2, 2011 at 2:27 am |
    • Right On Bye

      "Mankind started to free slaves, treat women fairly, conduct fair trials and executions and stop human sacrifices by only studying and applying the Biblical teachings"

      We started treating women "fairly" when it was realized we could give them jobs doing the same thing as men for less pay. Now every time children have issues we blame the parents, because it could not possibly be that by treating women so fairly, we cut the jobs to job force ratio in half and caused both parents to have to work and leave the kids on their own to grow up with TV as babysitter and moral guide... resulting in the morality issues spoke of above, after 50 years of resulting impact.

      Then when women wanted to start really being treated fairly, we froze male wages so they could, until that stopped working from a business standpoint to increase profits. Then we started using slaves or at least people treated less considerably fair from other countires, much like we morally used other countries to do our torturing in our war on Terror, cause we're the good guys and wouldn't do such things. Slaves in other countries are okay so long as we pay less for our goods and tortures okay if we aren't doing it directly. When that stopped working we killed unions so we could reduce the wages of everyone even further.

      Fair trials are conducted if you have the money. The more money the more fair. In fact if you have bundles of money you can even steal, I mean innovate ways, to take great sums of money from your neighbors without really doing a thing to earn it. If the poor try such innovation, they have a fair trial and go to jail for a long long time.

      As far as human sacrifices, we rant about the unborn eternally, like taxes and deficits, so no one really has time to undertsand the things above. Nothing is ever done about abortion, taxes and deficits because if it actually were it would remove the shield from all the really important issues we don't want you to worry you heads about. And there's nothing wrong at all with sacrificing our yound adults so weopons and oil industries can make outrageous profits. We can't give you ever lasting life but we figure out ways to extend your life for a very long time if you have an illness, so pharmeceutical and insurance companies can squeeze as much cash out of you as possible with drug maintenance programs. The money you send to organizations to cure these diseases only goes to administartor mansions and limosines etc. because to actually find cures would cause and economic collapse worse than you could ever imagine, since the economy is now based entirely on such "services" and nothing much is actually made here any more. 1% of the population controls most of the money.

      This is all very well being based on the religious values we honor. Am I missing something? Are we? Never mind, the commercials are over and my Shows back on TV. See you.

      April 3, 2011 at 12:46 am |
  18. LoneZero

    @NL "Perhaps the devil played a hand in 'inspiring' certain books? Certainly would account for the massive disharmony in the bible message, wouldn't it?"

    That could be true if a devil existed or it could just be what the those men who wrote the bible believed God would want us to accept and believe at the time. Kinda makes sense sincethey owned slaves, mistreated woman, they stoned to death people(children among them), they sacrificed people(sons) and animals to God all within that time frame. Plus the common folk were illiterate who would question them or their motives?

    April 2, 2011 at 12:23 am |
    • Frederica

      @LoneZero: Another popular trend of nowaday's people who love to say, "Evil is mixed with good and good was evil, after all." Free imagination of mankind who wants to blame others for their evil knows no end. Mankind started to free slaves, treat women fairly, conduct fair trials and executions and stop human sacrifices by only studying and applying the Biblical teachings. Now Christians must fight against mass murder called abortion and immoral indoctrinations in the free societies. Pagans never give breaks to the Bible-literate Christians.

      April 2, 2011 at 12:38 am |
    • NL

      I think you forget that many of the things you listed, like slavery and the mistreatment of women, were practiced by people who could cite bible verses as justification too.

      April 3, 2011 at 12:29 am |
  19. LoneZero

    @Magic thanks for correcting me with the auto filter I knew I was missing something.

    April 2, 2011 at 12:03 am |
  20. Reality

    Again, the 1.5 million Conservative Jews and their rabbis are way ahead of David Hazony. No mention of this in Dave's comments. One wonders why that is? And he does not mention The Code of Hammurabi or the Egyptian Book of the Dead both of which predate the Torah as "Ancient Moral Codes".

    To wit:

    From: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482

    "New Torah For Modern Minds

    Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

    Such startling propositions – the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years – have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity – until now.

    The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument.

    "When I grew up in Brooklyn, congregants were not sophisticated about anything," said Rabbi Harold Kushner, the author of "When Bad Things Happen to Good People" and a co-editor of the new book. "Today, they are very sophisticated and well read about psychology, literature and history, but they are locked in a childish version of the Bible."

    "Etz Hayim," compiled by David Lieber of the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, seeks to change that. It offers the standard Hebrew text, a parallel English translation (edited by Chaim Potok, best known as the author of "The Chosen"), a page-by-page exegesis, periodic commentaries on Jewish practice and, at the end, 41 essays by prominent rabbis and scholars on topics ranging from the Torah scroll and dietary laws to ecology and eschatology.

    These essays, perused during uninspired sermons or Torah readings at Sabbath services, will no doubt surprise many congregants. For instance, an essay on Ancient Near Eastern Mythology," by Robert Wexler, president of the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, states that on the basis of modern scholarship, it seems unlikely that the story of Genesis originated in Palestine. More likely, Mr. Wexler says, it arose in Mesopotamia, the influence of which is most apparent in the story of the Flood, which probably grew out of the periodic overflowing of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The story of Noah, Mr. Wexler adds, was probably borrowed from the Mesopotamian epic Gilgamesh.

    Equally striking for many readers will be the essay "Biblical Archaeology," by Lee I. Levine, a professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. "There is no reference in Egyptian sources to Israel's sojourn in that country," he writes, "and the evidence that does exist is negligible and indirect." The few indirect pieces of evidence, like the use of Egyptian names, he adds, "are far from adequate to corroborate the historicity of the biblical account."

    Similarly ambiguous, Mr. Levine writes, is the evidence of the conquest and settlement of Canaan, the ancient name for the area including Israel. Excavations showing that Jericho was unwalled and uninhabited, he says, "clearly seem to contradict the violent and complete conquest portrayed in the Book of Joshua." What's more, he says, there is an "almost total absence of archaeological evidence" backing up the Bible's grand descriptions of the Jerusalem of David and Solomon.

    The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "litany of disillusion" about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel – not one shard of pottery."

    The reaction to the rabbi's talk ranged from admiration at his courage to dismay at his timing to anger at his audacity. Reported in Jewish publications around the world, the sermon brought him a flood of letters accusing him of undermining the most fundamental teachings of Judaism. But he also received many messages of support. "I can't tell you how many rabbis called me, e-mailed me and wrote me, saying, 'God bless you for saying what we all believe,' " Rabbi Wolpe said. He attributes the "explosion" set off by his sermon to "the reluctance of rabbis to say what they really believe."

    Before the introduction of "Etz Hayim," the Conservative movement relied on the Torah commentary of Joseph Hertz, the chief rabbi of the British Commonwealth. By 1936, when it was issued, the Hebrew Bible had come under intense scrutiny from scholars like Julius Wellhausen of Germany, who raised many questions about the text's authorship and accuracy. Hertz, working in an era of rampant anti-Semitism and of Christian efforts to demonstrate the inferiority of the "Old" Testament to the "New," dismissed all doubts about the integrity of the text.

    Maintaining that no people would have invented for themselves so "disgraceful" a past as that of being slaves in a foreign land, he wrote that "of all Oriental chronicles, it is only the Biblical annals that deserve the name of history."

    The Hertz approach had little compet-ition until 1981, when the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the official arm of Reform Judaism, published its own Torah commentary. Edited by Rabbi Gunther Plaut, it took note of the growing body of archaeological and textual evidence that called the accuracy of the biblical account into question. The "tales" of Genesis, it flatly stated, were a mix of "myth, legend, distant memory and search for origins, bound together by the strands of a central theological concept." But Exodus, it insisted, belonged in "the realm of history." While there are scholars who consider the Exodus story to be "folk tales," the commentary observed, "this is a minority view."

    Twenty years later, the weight of scholarly evidence questioning the Exodus narrative had become so great that the minority view had become the majority one.

    Not among Orthodox Jews, however. They continue to regard the Torah as the divine and immutable word of God. Their most widely used Torah commentary, known as the Stone Edition (1993), declares in its introduction "that every letter and word of the Torah was given to Moses by God."


    April 1, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
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