I asked this in hermeneutics.

Typical atheists think that Torah is written/compiled on Babylonian exile.

Christians and Jews believe that Torah was written by Moses or someone shortly after him, during the Exodus.


Then a guy in hermeneutics said that Jews in Elephantine do not have Torah suggesting that Torah was indeed written in the Babylonian exile.

What would be the evidence that support one or other theories?

If Jews believe that Moses wrote Torah, what are the evidences supporting that? Is there anything in the bible that Moses wrote Torah?

In fact, the end of Torah describes Moses' death.

  1. Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died. His eye had not dimmed, nor had he lost his [natural] freshness.
  2. And the sons of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab for thirty days, and the days of weeping over the mourning for Moses came to an end.

That uses past tenses. So Moses wrote Torah even 30 days after he was death?

Also the idea that no prophet greater than Moses suggests that it's unlikely to have been written during Moses time because at that time it would have been too obvious.

Moreover, Jews in Elephantine do not seem to have known Torah

One should not interpret extra-biblical material through biblical data but thereverse, in this case making use of the Elephantine documents to interpret thePalestinian reality known from the Bible. 37 32 Porphyrius, De Abstinentia II 26. 33 In contrast to the votive-offering (Lev 7:16) and the peace-offering (Lev 19:5–6). 34 GLAJJ 281 (4,1–2). 35 GLAJJ , vol. II, 1–4; Schäfer, Judeophobia , 185–192. 36 Cf. Johnstone, ‘The Two Theological Versions’, 178. 37 The opposite procedure can be seen for example in J. Mélèze Modrzejewski, The Jews of Egypt. From Ramses II to Emperor Hadrian

, Edinburgh 1995, 37–43 (original French edition, 1991);Porten, Archives from Elephantine , 122–133. Łukasz Niesiołowski-Spanò PALAMEDES 2(2007) 48 We can explain the situation summarized above in two ways: 1) the Jewsat Elephantine did not know the biblical legislation, including the cultic calendar,because they remained cut off from Jerusalem and Yehud society (NB: they did notknow Pentateuch at all), 38 or 2) they did not know this legislation because therewas no such legislation.The first of these possibilities looks implausible. ...


  • So the evidence is that Torah said that Moses wrote Torah?
    – user4951
    Oct 15 '13 at 2:50
  • Actually, the question differ. Not sure what's being asked by the other guy. He seems to be a muslim evangelist or something?
    – user4951
    Oct 15 '13 at 2:53
  • How could jews in elephantine do not have Torah?
    – user4951
    Oct 15 '13 at 2:54
  • 3
    -1. This post haphazardly mixes a silly argument from the Jews in Elephantine with a tendentious indictment of the entire chumash based on the final verses of D'varim. As such, it is both unclear and not useful, IMO.
    – Fred
    Oct 15 '13 at 6:36

If you look at the evidence used in that article about Elephantine etc., it is very poor; the assumptions being made seem ridiculous to me. The fact that someone wants you to write to them at Pesach time doesn't mean they don't know what date you will celebrate it. The fact that people weren't keeping the Shabbat day doesn't mean no one knew about it. Sending people plain instructions about celebrating Pesach doesn't mean they couldn't access the information anywhere else, any more than when synagogues send out the same information in their email newsletters. And so on.

You can't know for sure from historical evidence if one person did write the Torah. What kind of evidence could you expect to survive for that? The only way to know it is if you decide that the Jewish testimony is valid and trustworthy about their own beliefs, and this kind of thing in particular.

(Edit:) We can also learn from the way this is discussed in the Talmud, in Baba Batra 15a:

"The Master has said: Joshua wrote the book which bears his name and the last eight verses of the Pentateuch. This statement is in agreement with the authority who says that eight verses in the Torah were written by Joshua, as it has been taught: [It is written], So Moses the servant of the Lord died there. Now is it possible that Moses being dead could have written the words, 'Moses died there'? The truth is, however, that up to this point Moses wrote, from this point Joshua wrote. This is the opinion of R. Judah, or, according to others, of R. Nehemiah. Said R. Simeon to him: Can [we imagine the] scroll of the Law being short of one word, and is it not written, Take this book of the Law? No; what we must say is that up to this point the Holy One, blessed be He, dictated and Moses repeated and wrote, and from this point God dictated and Moses wrote with tears..."

So- can you see how even the rabbis debated about part of this question? I'm no expert in this, but here is my understanding. The people who said Moses wrote the whole thing did so on the basis of their general understanding of Judaism, Torah and truth. If they were wrong about this minor detail it doesn't destroy Judaism at all. but many Jews agree with the authority of this speculation and go by it.

(Keep in mind that some historical ideas seem to have been speculation/opinions, while other things are believed to be real things remembered through history... such as the giving of the Torah.)

  • You're right. I didn't see it through. But then again, very few jews saw Moses actually writing it out either. We know what we are told. What's unique about jews is that for the last 2k years they don't have the power to manipulate public info (and hence more credible). But 3k years ago? Who knows.
    – user4951
    Oct 15 '13 at 3:37
  • I added an edit in my answer to address that thought. It is my own personal understanding.
    – Annelise
    Oct 15 '13 at 3:53
  • North Korean believe there are double rainbow during the birth of their president. I wonder if jews 5k years ago had more access to accurate information than contemporary north korean.
    – user4951
    Oct 15 '13 at 4:00
  • 1
    Jim - Jews 10 minutes ago have more access to accurate information than contemporary North KoreanS.
    – Gary
    Oct 15 '13 at 4:17
  • 2
    Note: I just listened again to Rabbi Berel Wein about the Jews of Elephantine. They had halachic questions and therefore wrote to the main halachic authorities of their day. They were asking about what date Pesach would be (not to be answered on Pesach). They were asking to have the current and future year calendars sent to them. They were a group of Jewish mercenary soldiers assigned (for life) to an isolated outpost and had not been taught the Torah, nor did they have people who could teach them. The tape is part of Rabbi Wein's history series in the group of tapes about the Chashmonaim. May 30 '14 at 12:54

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