Bible Query from
Q: Exactly how do you pronounce "Torah", and what does it mean?
A: The Merriam-Webster Dictionary pronounces it as TOR-ah with a long "o", schwa on the "a", and the accent on the first syllable. The Torah consists of the first five books of the Bible, Genesis through Deuteronomy.
Torah is often translated as "Law". However, it has a broader meaning than just "Law", and a better translation is "instruction". For example, Clement of Alexandria in The Stromata (193-202 A.D.) book 1 ch.28 p.340 divided the Torah into four topics: a) Historic b) Legislative / ethical c) Sacrifice / physical science d)Theology / vision.
It can also be divided into other classifications.
Q: Why do people think Moses wrote the first five books (called the Torah)?
A: There are at least three reasons.
1. Jesus referred to these as written by Moses in Mark 1:44; 10:3-5, 12:26; Luke 16:29,31; 20:37; John 3:14; 5:46; 6:32; 7:19; 7:23.
2. Others recognized the Torah as written by Moses. Matthew 12:19; Luke 2:22; 5:14; 20:28; 24:27,44; John 1:17; 1:45; 8:5; 9:28; Acts 3:22; 6:11,14; 13:39; 15:1,5; 15:21; 21:21; 26:22; 28:23; 1 Corinthians 9:9.
3. Moses could have written all of this down himself (he had 47 years to do so) or he may have had a secretary write down some or all of it. A secretary may have appended some things, such as the chapter on Moses’ death, but regardless of how they were written down, God gave the books through Moses.
For more information, read Gleason Archer’s, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction. Moody Press p.108-123, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.45-51, and Evidence That Demands a Verdict volume 2 p.95-120. The Talmud (Baba Bathra 146) says Joshua added the part about Moses’ death.
Q: Did Moses write every single word of the Torah?
A: Probably not. But that is OK because it is God and not Moses whom we trust for giving and preserving what He wants us to read. Exodus 6:26-27, 16:33-36 could have been written by Moses if Moses chose to write these parts in the third person. Moses was a prophet, but writing about his own death in Deuteronomy 31:9,24 would be unusual. However, none of these three examples indicate anything written later than Moses’ time. See Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.112-113 and p.153-154 and When Critics Ask p.132 for more info.
Q: In general, how could the first five books be by Moses, since people [allegedly] could not write back then?
A: In the mid-nineteenth century, many liberal so-called Christian teachers taught that the Bible came through centuries of oral tradition since people could not write in Moses’ time. Since then, the first writing we have found was 1,800 years prior to Moses. 30,000 Sumerian tables have been found, including 4,000 in the city of Uruk, dated 3,000 B.C., and 20,000 tablets in the important city of Mari. 14,000-15,000 inscriptions on clay tablets have been uncovered in the city of Ebla, (2500-2200 B.C.), including one mentioning the name Abraham. By Moses’ time, even slaves could read and write. Of course, Moses was raised in the Egyptian court and had a thorough education (See Acts 7:22).
Even a common slave could learn from simply reading all the inscriptions on the walls of the various temples and tombs. One might say that for people who still cling to the oral tradition theory, they need to read the writing on the wall, too. For more discussion see Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.51-54. For more on Ebla, see the National Geographic Magazine December 1978 p.731-759.
Q: Would you have an answer to this question: The number of Israelites killed by God for disobedience and rebellion in the wilderness years?
A: There are two different ways to answer this question.
a) Almost all of the Israelites who came out of the wilderness died there because of disobedience. Many of them died natural deaths of old age, but God said that none who came out of Egypt would reach the promised land except for Joshua, Caleb, and those under the age of accountability. (Also, some others were not killed out of disobedience, but died because of the Amalekite attack in Exodus 17:8-13, and a few may have died (obediently) fighting the Midianites in Numbers 31:7-12.)
b) But if you want only the people who were directly killed by God (including by plague) for disobedience,
b1) Exodus 32:35 says many were killed, without giving a number, by plague after they made a golden calf.
b2) Leviticus 10:1-3 two sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu were killed for offering unauthorized fire.
b3) Numbers 1:33-34 records a severe plague, but does not give any numbers.
b4) Numbers 14:37-38 The individuals who spread a bad report about Canaan were struck down and died of plague.
b5) Numbers 16, Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and their families were swallowed up by the earth.
b6) Numbers 20:22-26 Aaron died because he and Moses rebelled at the waters of Meribah. (Aaron was 123 at the time according to Numbers 33:39, but he died at God's express command.)
b7) Numbers 21:6-8 Many people died of venomous snakes after speaking against God.
b8) Numbers 25:8-9 A plague after the Israelites worshipped the Baal of Peor killed 24,000.
b9) Finally Moses was commanded to go up to Mount Nebo in Moab just across from Canaan, where God told Moses He would take his life. God told him to go there to give Moses a view of the land, even though Moses could not enter it. So Moses went up there to view the land and then to die as God commanded him.
c) There were executions too.
c1) 3,000 Israelites were killed for idolatry after the worship of the golden calf in Exodus 32:28.
c2) A blasphemer was stoned in Leviticus 24:10-16.
c3) Numbers 15:32-36 One who gathered wood on the Sabbath was stoned.
c4) Numbers 25:4-8 Israelites were killed who worshipped the Baal of Peor.
Also note that in the second census in Numbers 26, the overall number is slightly smaller than the first census 40 years ago. So their wandering in the wilderness for 40+ years did not increase their numbers at all.
We learn in other places in the Torah, as well as later, that God is merciful and loving, but the preceding passages show that God is strict and full of wrath too. It could have been that these deaths could have been passed over in silence and lost to history, but they were deliberately recorded here, and I think it was because God wanted to make a point. Even though God can be gracious and merciful, don't take those for granted. Don't rebel against God, because God is the most wrathful as well as the most loving Being in the universe.
May you experience God's grace and mercy, and not His wrath.
Q: Is there any historical evidence for a "hexateuch" or collection of the Torah plus just the Book of Joshua?
A: There is none whatsoever. Three pieces of contrary evidence are that:
1. The Samaritans accepted only the Torah (first five books) as scripture.
2. The Sadducees likewise accepted the same five books as having full scriptural authority.
3. Orthodox Jews accepted the same Old Testament as Protestants, but they divided it into three parts, Torah, prophets, and writings.
Q: What is the JEPD Theory, what are arguments for it, and why is it wrong?
A: The JEPD Theory, or Documentary Hypothesis, is taught in many university Bible courses today. It was developed in the 19th century by Julius Wellhausen and others, when scholars thought few could write in Moses’ time. It claims the Bible’s first five books (as well as Joshua) were oral tradition written down many centuries after Moses, by at least four or five different authors.
Jehovist source (c.850 B.C.) for passages where the divine name is used, such as Gen 1-2:3; 7:2-3.
Elohist source (c.750 B.C.) where the word Elohim is used for God, such as Genesis 2:4-3:3.
Priestly source (c.450 B.C.) for verses pertaining to the temple, such as Leviticus and Gen 6:19-20.
Deuteronomist source (c.622 B.C.) for most of the Book of Deuteronomy.
Holiness source (575 B.C.) for Leviticus 17-20 is a variation on the JEPD theory.
In general, the JEPD theory used to teach that the Bible misrepresents itself and the Torah was edited into the form we have today about 200 B.C. However, we have a copy of Exodus and Leviticus from the Dead Sea scrolls dated 250 B.C.
...What the Bible Writers Said
Moses wrote down what the Lord had said in Exodus 24:4-7 and Exodus 34:27.
The LORD spoke in Joshua 1:7-8 about being careful to obey all the law Moses gave him in the Book of the Law. See also Joshua 8:31-34; 23:6.
In Josiah’s time, 2 Chronicles 34:14 mentions that they found the Book of the Law which Moses gave.
Jesus and the gospel writers mention the Law being through Moses in Mark 7:10; 10:3-5; 12:26; Luke 2:22; 5:14; 16:29-31; 20:28,37; 24:27,44; John 1:45; 5:45-47; 7:19,23; 8:5; 9:29
The apostle Paul in refers to the writings of Moses in Romans 10:5; 1 Corinthians 9:9; and 2 Corinthians 3:15.
Other New Testament books mentioning Moses are Acts 3:22; 6:14; 13:39; 15:1,21; 26:22; 28:23; Hebrews 9:19; Revelation 15:3.
Other verses which Evidence That Demands a Verdict volume 2 p.95-98 mentions as saying were written by Moses and/or in his time are: Deuteronomy 31:9,24-26; Exodus 17:14; Numbers 33:2; 1 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 14:6; 23:25; 1 Chronicles 22:13; 2 Chronicles 5:10; 23:18; 25:4; 30:16; 33:8; 35:12; Ezra 3:2; 6:18; 7:6; Nehemiah 1:7,8; 8:1,14; 9:14; 10:29; 13:1; Daniel 9:11,13; Malachi 4:4.
Isaiah 59:21 promises, "‘As for me, this is my promise to them,’ says the LORD. ‘My spirit, which is upon you, and my words, which I have placed in your mouth, will not depart from your mouth or from the mouths of your children and descendants from this time forward,’ says the LORD." (NET)
Now Moses might have written all the Torah on parchment himself, since he had over 40 years. Alternately, he might have had scribes do it. A few words might have been edited later, and Moses probably did not write of his own death. Apart from these exceptions though, the Bible writers, all Jewish teachers (Philo, Josephus, etc.), early Christian writers, and those who trust the Bible today believe
a) The Torah (Law) was written in the time of Moses,
b) by Moses or through scribes under his direction,
c) as a reliable transmission of God’s word.
The JEPD theory denies all three points.
...Criteria for Judgment
When people say something is true or false, they should state their criteria for making their assessment. In general, when a document claims to be written by someone in a particular time period, the benefit of the doubt goes to the claim, unless there are substantial reasons to think otherwise. For example, we have no record that Julius Caesar ever took his armies on campaigns in Gaul, except for his own history. Yet no one doubts he did this. It is not being objective to have one standard for secular history, and a more skeptical standard for history by religious people.
The following are arguments for and against the JEPD theory, with rebuttals to each point in italics. The "terrain" of the battlefield has changed significantly since the JEPD theory was introduced, with each tiny blow from the archaeologist’s pick gradually tearing down the wall of respectability of this 19th century theory.
...Multiple Author Arguments for JEPD
Difference in divine names used for God: Elohim is used 33 times in the first 34 verses, and Yahweh-Elohim 20 times in the next 45 verses.
Answer: This is not quite accurate, as Elohim alone is used 3 times In Genesis 3:1-5 when the serpent and Eve are talking. But the use of one term versus the other was deliberate. This expressed first the universal, transcendent nature of God, followed by His more personal aspects. There is a similar situation in the Muslim Qur’an. "Allah" predominates in later, Medina suras, while "Lord" is often is used, and Allah is seldom used in the earlier Meccan suras. Likewise the first chapter of Hebrews never uses the words "Jesus" or "Christ", but only "Son" 5 times. Yet Hebrews 2-3:3 uses "Jesus" 4 times. Yet no one doubts the unity of the Book of Hebrews. John 1:1-16 never uses the words "Jesus" or "Christ" either but only "Word" or "Son" 6 times. Yet no one thinks John 1:1-16 was by a different author.
As an aside, the Book of Jonah only uses the divine name, except when the sailors are speaking up through Jonah 3:4. After that the narrative uses Elohim to refer to the True God also.
Supposed Anachronisms: In Exodus 6:2-3 God says He did not make Himself known to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob by His Name of Yahweh. This name appears 197 places prior to Exodus 6:2-3.
Answer: Saying "Columbus landed in America" is not anachronistic, and do not forget Genesis was not written down until the time of Moses. Also, it does not say never revealed before then, only not revealed to these three people. Of course, most of the dialogues are likely paraphrases.
Doublets of Separate Events: Gen 1 & Gen 2. Gen 4:17-24 & Gen 4:25-32. Gen 12:19-20 & Gen 26:7-11. Gen 15 & Gen 17.
Answer: Similarity does not prove repetition. For example, Genesis 1 is the creation of the earth, and Genesis 2 is the creation of man in the Garden of Eden. In Genesis 12:19-20, if a son looked up to his father, and his father passed his wife off as his sister and never told the son this was wrong, the son would be more likely to do the same. Isaac did the same in Genesis 26:7-11.
Doublets of summary or qualification: Gen 9:19-20 & Gen 7:2-3. Gen 12:1-5 & Gen 4b-9. Gen 32:22-32 & Gen 35:9-10.
Answer: Ancient literature often summarized too.
Alleged contradictions: Gen 1:12,26 & Gen 2:5-7. Gen 1:24,27 & Gen 2:7,19.
Answer: God created plants before man, but the plants of the field (crops) were all after man in Genesis 2:5-7. Genesis 2:7,19 shows the animals had been created, that they were not created until then.
Different writing styles are present.
Answer: The same person can use various writing styles for different topics, and at different times in their life. For example, C.S. Lewis wrote children’s stories, science fiction, and theology, and his style is more varied than differences in the Torah.
...Time Period Arguments Against JEPD
Who would know these time period details? In the 19th century, Bible critics could point to many details of the Torah that had no extra-Biblical backing. Hittite cities in Palestine, no evidence of Sodom and Gomorrah, names such as Abram and Arioch, all the peoples, etc. In the 20th century we have found evidence for all of these, including 51 or the 68 peoples mentioned and 13 of 16 cities. For example, 15,000 tablets are preserved from the city of Mari (2800-1760 B.C.) There are names of Noah, Abram, Laban, and Jacob.
Who would know the details of ancient Egypt? Even Bible critics today sometimes make the mistake of saying things like Egypt must have had a closed border, there is no evidence of Hebrews, etc. However, archaeologists have found evidence of Asiatic long-tail sheep in Goshen first appearing in exactly this time period. Lists of slaves in Egypt around 1540 B.C. specifically mention slaves from the tribes of Issachar and Asher. A large villa has been found that might have been Joseph’s home. Asiatic names of only that time period have been found such as Shiphrah.
For "J": Genesis 1 appears as a contrast, almost to refute the Gilgamesh Epic, which was written about 2500 B.C.
For "E": Genesis 2 has some similarities to the Sumerian Dilmun poem, written about 2400 B.C. Clearly if two works of literature have similarities, which suggest a similar time period.
For "P": There is now no valid reason to date Levitical sacrificial laws late, according to scholar Joseph P. Free, because similarities appear in Ugaritic material from the 14th century B.C.
For "D": The outline of Deuteronomy is very similar to Suzerainty Treaties prior to 1000 B.C.
...Unity Arguments Against JEPD
Over 92 verses are split between different "authors" according to the liberal Interpreter’s One-Volume Commentary.
Gen 2:4; 7:16,17; 8:2,3,13; 10:1; 12:4; 13:11,12; 16:1; 19:30; 21:1,2,6; 25:11,26; 31:18; 32:13; 33:18; 35:22; 37:25,28; 41:46; 42:28; 45:1,5; 46:1; 47:5,6,27; 48:9,10; 49:1,28
Exodus 1:20; 2:23; 3:4; 4:20; 7:15,17,20,21; 8:15; 9:23,24,35; 10:1,13,15; 12:27; 13:3; 14:9,19,20,21,27; 15:21,22,25; 15:13,15; 17:1,2,7; 19:2,3,9,11,13; 24:12,15,18; 25:18; 31:18; 32:8,34,35; 33:5,19; 34:1,11,14
Numbers 13:17,26; 14:1; 16:1,2,26,27; 20:22.
(Deuteronomy is considered entirely "D".)
Just how many verses would need to be split in the middle by this theory, before this theory is no longer tenable? 91 verses is too many, yet that is how many would be split.
Here is a translation of the actual text from the Brooklyn Papyrus that mentions Issachar, Asher, and Shiphrah from Pharaohs and Kings : A Biblical Quest by David M. Rohl. Crown Publishers 1995 p.276-277.
"(b) At lines 13, 14, 16, 22 and 67 we have variants of the tribal eponym 'Issachar' the name of the fifth son of Leah by Jacob;
(c) At line 23 the name of the clan 'Asher' occurs, named after its eponymous ancestor, the second son of Zilpah by Jacob.
(d) And finally at position 21 we read 'Shiphrah',"
Q: Did God reliably preserve the Torah?
A: Yes, both scripture and archaeology indicate there are no significant changes in our copies today for four reasons:
1. God promised to preserve His word in Isaiah 55:10-11; 59:21; 1 Peter 1:24-25, Matthew 24:35.
2. Jesus and the New Testament confirmed the Old Testament scriptures in Matthew 19:4; 22:32,37; 39; 23:35; Mark 10:3-6; Luke 2:23-24; 4:4; 11:51; 20:37; 24:27,44
3. Archaeological evidence: In the Septuagint, the Torah translated into Greek around 400 B.C. The Dead Sea Scrolls were from about 100 B.C. to after the time of Christ, and we can compare them with our Bibles today. Aramaic Targums are translations made around the time of Jesus. The Dead Sea Scrolls are about 95,000 fragments from around 867 manuscripts of the Old Testament and other writings. About 1/3 of the Dead Sea scrolls are manuscripts of the Old Testament according to The NIV Study Bible p.1432.
4. Confirmation by the early church writers, including Ignatius and Polycarp, who were disciples of the apostle John.
For more info, see Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible. Moody. p.321-382.
Q: For Muslims, what evidence is there from their Qur’an that the Bible was originally from God?
A: Muslims I have spoken with will freely acknowledge the Bible was originally given by God, but here are reasons, from their own Qur’an, why they should believe this.
1. The Qur’an mentions many prophets and godly people in common with the Bible.
These include: Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Job, Moses, David, Solomon, Elijah, Elishah, Jonah, John the Baptist, Jesus, and his apostles.
Sura 8:84-85 "We gave him [to Abraham] Isaac and Jacob, all (three) We guided; and before him we guided Noah and among his progeny David, Solomon, Job, Joseph, Moses, and Aaron; Thus do we reward those who do good; And Zakariya and John [the Baptist] and Jesus and Elias [Elijah] all in the ranks of the righteous."
Sura 32:23 "We did indeed aforetime give the book to Moses. Be not then in doubt of its reaching (thee): and We made it a guide to the children of Israel."
Sura 6:91 "No just estimate of Allah do they make when they say: ‘Nothing doth Allah send down to man (by way of revelation)’: say ‘Who then sent down the book which Moses brought? - a light and guidance to man;..."
2. The Qur’an says Allah gave His words to these prophets
Sura 4:150-151 "Those who deny Allah and his messengers, and wish to separate between Allah and his messengers, Saying: ‘We believe in some but reject others’: and wish to take a course midway, (151) They are in truth unbelievers;..."
Sura 3:48 says, "And Allah will teach him [Jesus] the book and Wisdom, the Torah, and the Gospel.
Sura 29:46 shows you should believe in the Bible: "...’We believe in the revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you..."
Q: For Muslims, what evidence is there from their Qur’an that the Torah is reliably preserved today?
A: From my experience, I feel many Muslims apparently are not clear on what their own Qur’an teaches on this topic. Here are four points, followed by an explanation of each point.
1. The Qur’an never says it was corrupted
2. Rather it says Allah preserves His word.
3. Jesus confirmed the Bible in His time, and
4. Archaeological evidence goes back to the time of Jesus.
1. The Qur’an never said the Bible was corrupted.
Sura 2:75 says some people, perhaps Jews of Medina, perverted God’s word knowingly after they understood it. It does not say they corrupted scripture, either their own or all the world’s. Also, they could not pervert God’s word knowingly unless they still had God’s word. Also see Sura 3:48.
2. The Qur’an says that Allah preserves His word.
Sura 5:46 says, "And in their [the prophets’] footsteps we sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Torah that had come before him: we sent him the gospel; therein was guidance and light. And confirmation of the Torah that had come before him: a guidance and an admonition to those who fear Allah". Jesus had to have the authentic Torah to confirm.
It goes on. Sura 5:47 says, "Let the People of the Gospel Judge by what Allah hath revealed Therein...." If the People of the Gospel are to judge by what God has revealed in the Gospel, how can the Gospel they are to judge by not be the Gospel God told them to judge by?
Sura 5:48 says "To thee [People of the Book] We sent the scripture in truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety: so judge between them by what Allah hath revealed, and follow not their vain desires, diverging from the truth that hath come to thee...." See also Sura 5:66,68,70.
Notice that Allah a) confirmed the scripture that came before it, and b) guarded it in safety. Dear Muslim, do you believe what the Qur’an says about God guarding the scripture of the people of the book?
Sura 15:9-10 says "We have, without doubt, Sent down the Message; And We will assuredly Guard it [from corruption]. We did send messengers before thee Amongst the sects of old:" Sura 15:9 does not say just the "Qur’an" was guarded, but "the message."
Sura 10:94 says doubters should ask those who have been reading "the Book" before Mohammed.
3. Jesus’ Confirmation of the Torah in His time.
Sura 3:48 says, "And Allah will teach him [Jesus] the book and Wisdom, the Torah, and the Gospel.
The Qur’an, Sura 5:46 says, "And in their [prophets’] footsteps we sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Torah that had come before him: we sent him the gospel; therein was guidance and light. And confirmation of the Torah that had come before him: a guidance and an admonition to those who fear Allah"
If Jesus confirmed the Torah that was preserved in His time, it is perilous to reject what Jesus confirmed.
The Qur’an, Sura 3:50 says, "‘I [Jesus] have come to you), to attest the Torah which was before me. ... I have come to you with a Sign from your Lord. So fear Allah, and obey me." People have a near impossible time trying to do the following.
1. Fear God, yet think He is unable/unwilling to preserve the revelation His followers are obeying.
2. Obey Jesus, yet reject both His words and the Torah He confirmed.
4. Archaeological evidence of the Old Testament
Archaeology shows the Bible Jesus knew was preserved. See the question, Did God reliably preserve the Torah? for more info.
For more info please contact Christian Debater™ P.O. Box 144441 Austin, TX 78714. www.BibleQuery.org