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Who wrote the Torah
by Henry L Lazarus
    There are many theories about how the five books of Moses were put together. None of them ever made sense to me. The problem is that the torah is truly ancient, with parts written less than a thousand years after the invention of writing. people looked at the world very differently, and there are many assumptions about the Torah that completely miss this point. The torah has been read several times a week to listeners since the beginning of the second temple period. It makes sense that scribes would read important documents to the population regularly. Tribal membership was an important part of ancient society, and I think that stories about the tribal founder would have been regularly read to the tribal members.  Archaeologists haven't found examples of such writing. However Archaeology is working with little stuff that has survived the thousands of years.   
There is no question that in the middle of the fifth century a group of Jewish scribes created the version we have today. The obvious reason is that the alphabet the text is written,  today known as Hebrew, is actually Aramaic. It was the official alphabet of the Persian empire after the beginning of the fifth century during the reign of Darius the great. The kingdoms of Israel and Judah used an alphabet archeologists call Paleo Hebrew. The Samaritan version of the Torah is still written in that alphabet and the Dead Sea Scrolls contain documents using that alphabet. During the time of Ezra, there was a great assembly of elders that met somewhere in the Persian Empire during the time of Ezra the Scribe. They eventually moved to the second Temple and became the great Sanhedrin. No records of its proceedings survive.

Bronze age had customs very different from our own. People lived in clans which were parts of Tribes.  They loved genealogy but changed elements fo fit their needs rather than being truly accurate. They also would conflate clans with the individuals that gave the clans their name, making for very long lifetimes. Most people were associated with cities though there was a class of people who lived, like modern Bedouins, called Hapiru, Habiru, or Apiru. It was a period when empires collected tribute from the cities it ruled.
    The ancient city of Mari was destroyed by Hammurabi in 1761 b c e. Archeologists have recovered letters collected by it’s final king Zimri-Lim and they provide a fascinating look at this ancient world. A few letters refer to Terru, a vassel ruler appointed by Zimri-Lim to run Urkesh. Afeter a few assassination attempts on his life, he quits to become a habiru and moves to Haram. Some Archeologists thing he might have been Abraham’s father Terah. That would put Terah’s move to Harran (today known as Carrhae sometime between 1775 and 1761 b c e.  It was an independent  city state that worshiped the moon Sin.
    The story of Abraham has two events that are well described and probably represent actual events. Both concern the five cities of the Plain north of the Dead Sea in what is now Jordan. In one The king of Elam and, some of his vassal kings defeated the kings of Sodom and the King of Gomorrah. One of the vassal kings of Elam is Amraphel king of Shinar. He is frequently identified as Hammurabi by Archeologists. That would put th battle sometimes before 1763 when Hammurabi conquered Elam. The destruction of four of the cities of the Plains by fire matches what is found at Tall el-Hammam. At least one archeologist compares the destruction with the meteorite explosion of Tunguska, Russia. Radiocarbon dating puts the date of  destruction at  1650. Our ancestors would have considered this destruction an act of the gods. Unfortunately Radiocarbon dating is not very accurate for the ancient middle east, so that date may not be very accurate. 
    Dating in the ancient world is difficult. Hammurabi, for example, is dated by a mention of a solar eclipse centuries before. One of the reasons the ancients had trouble keeping track of ancient events, was there was no standard dating system. Events were dated based on the reign of kings.
    Writing in the ancient world was done by scribes. Some of the nobility were taught to read at least one language, but there were also multiple ways of writing. Hieroglyphics and cuneiform were very different and Scribes were supposed to know both them and other form of writing. Herodotus in the fourth century wrote his The Histories with a team of scribes, dictating his words. With the exception of cuniform tablets found by archeologists in ancient cities, all ancient works, that have survived till today, were regularly copied and sometimes modified for the audience the work was read to. As a result errors creep in. Scribes add additions not present in the original work. Ancient writing is still more accurate than oral lore and keeps details that would be lost  by bards. Comparing Homer’s works with the Torah, for example, there are many details such as city names and places that were included in the Torah. Scribes did add to the work to make the tale interesting to the audience it was read to.  The Torah is read to an audience several times a week because of the common lack of literacy when it was written.
    In my opinion, the tale of Abraham, because of its detail, seems to me to have had its first version commissioned by Isaac or Ishmael at his funeral. It was important enough to be read aloud regularly to Isaac and Jacob’s people.
Joseph  became Vizier of Egypt under a unnamed Pharaoh. Some people date this to the time of the Hyksos, 1650-1559, But these Semite Pharaoh’s only ruled Northern Egypt. I assume that Joseph lived a little earlier, and was Vizier under one of the final Pharaoh’s of the thirteenth dynasty, the last of which decamped to Thebes, leaving the Semites in the city of Avaris in charge. In my mind I can see Joseph’s scribes writing his story, and adding Abraham’s tale to complete the story.
    In 1550 Ahmose I , founder of the 18th dynasty, conquered Avaris and enslaved its population. Skip forward three hundred years  to the reign of Ramses II. According to the bible the slaves built storage buildings in Pithom and Ramses. The city Ramses and an early version of Pithom were both built by Ramses II, The city Ramses was close to Avaris where the slaves lived, and was where Ramses II had his palace. The movements of the Israelites mentioned in Exodus come near several Egyptian cities that were abandoned a few centuries later.
    The details of the Exodus story suggest, to me, that Scribes were writing the tale. I am convinced that this early version of the Torah was lacking the first eleven chapters, all the laws that seem to interrupt the text, and the description of the Tabernacle with its rules and rituals.
    Flash forward till King Josiah in second kings in 632 where his workers found the book of the Torah. That caused a religious revival, Most people think what was found was the book of Deuteronomy, It makes more sense to me that this would have been the early version. The book caused a revival of religion in Judah. As it says in Kings II 22.8 : And Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord.”  It’s interesting that the holiday of Passover was restored (or created) by Josiah for in verses 21-23 it says “And the king commanded all the people, “Keep the Passover to the Lord your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant.” For no such Passover had been kept since the days of the judges who judged Israel, or during all the days of the kings of Israel or of the kings of Judah. But in the eighteenth year of King Josiah this Passover was kept to the Lord in Jerusalem.”
    It makes sense to me that in the middle of the fifth century when scribes were compiling texts to help Jews survive s Jews, they decided to add things. Some scribes insisted on adding all the temple laws and religious laws that had developed during the first kingdom. The priests wanted descriptions of rituals. The first eleven chapters were created from myths common to Semetic peoples modified to fit the belief in a single God. Since many people associate the tower of Babel with Etemenanki, a  ziggurat rebuilt by Nabopolassar and Nebuchadnezzar II in Babylon, its possible that these ancient myths were written down when the final version of the
Torah was created.
    Ancient papyrus decays. Even in the dry desert conditions, most of the dead sea scrolls are only pieces. The texts used by the scribes who edited the bible into it’s present form have been long lost to decay. There is no way to prove my suppositions, but they make sense me me.
    The following Youtube channels helped be thresh out my ideas:  Ancient Egypt and the Bible, Armstrong Institute of Biblical Archaeology, Beneath the Bible, Expedition Bible, History with Cy, and World History by a Jew. There’s also a large number of books I bought on ancient Jewish history.