I've been told by a few separate people that Sefer Devarim (as evidenced by historians' accounts and the stylistic differences between it and the other 4 books of Torah) was in fact written at a later time than the rest of the Torah. I have heard many Rabbis say this is untrue but without backing it with any evidence while the people who pose this contention quote various historians who mention parades in the Jewish community after Sefer Devarim was "found."

Does anyone have any information on this topic or references to shed light on the matter?

Edit: This is unlike the other article and question that people think this is a duplicate of. That is going down a theological and philosophical wormhole I have no interest it. I am merely asking about Devarim and the contention that it is not part of the original Torah. I dont see how the other question answers mine.

  • Possible duplicate of Is there a place for the documentary-hypothesis in observant Judaism?
    – robev
    Oct 5, 2018 at 18:48
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    @robev I don't think it's a duplicate. that question is asking whether biblical criticism can be incorporated into Judaism, while this question asks about the evidence (or lack thereof) against biblical criticism.
    – Alex
    Oct 5, 2018 at 19:38
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    Start reading here: mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt09b22.htm#8 Oct 6, 2018 at 19:44
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    I think the question might well be turned around. What are these "historians' accounts," and what are they based on? ("Stylistic differences" mean little; one person's "stylistic difference" is another's "careful distinction.") And this notion of "parades in the Jewish community" - where's that from, when no such "parades" are described anywhere in the contemporary literature (such as the end of Melachim)? I think it's only reasonable that before we ask the Rabbis to back their claims (i.e., the status quo) with evidence, that the evidence against that status quo be presented first.
    – Meir
    Jan 2, 2019 at 17:21
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    There are special rules in sefer devarim in tanayim, e.g. Rabbi Yehuda didn't doresh smuchim in the 4 first books but in sefer devarim he did.
    – kouty
    Jan 2, 2019 at 17:52

3 Answers 3


This supposed "later time" is that of King Yoshiyahu (Josiah). So a very straightforward piece of evidence against this notion is the following quotation in connection with King Amatziah, about 200 years before Yoshiyahu:

But the sons of the assassins he did not execute, as it is written in the book of the Torah of Moses, which the Lord commanded saying: "Fathers shall not be put to death for sons, nor shall sons be put to death for fathers, but each man shall be put to death for his own sin."

(II Kings 14:6. The verse quoted is Deut. 24:16.)

You could of course argue that this is just an editorial comment added when Kings was composed. But that wouldn't explain why this is done just here (unlike in Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, where there are several such comments and citations). Much more logical to assume that Amatziah was consciously following "the book of the Torah of Moses, which the Lord commanded" - i.e., that this verse, at least, was part of the Torah by that time. (And once you grant that, what reason is there to claim that other parts of Devarim date from later?)

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    +1 for the nice answer, I hope you could continue to be around :) Jan 2, 2019 at 23:40

I strongly recommend you the 11th chapter of Judah David Eisenstein's Commentary on the Torah which deals with sefer Devarim and brings various (textual and logical) evidences to defend that it was composed in the last days of Moshe.

For example, he says that the claim that the book was composed later (in the time of king Josiah):

  • is contradicted by this word “found,” not “composed.”
  • the scroll found is referred to with the article sefer ha-Torah (II Kings 22:8), and more explicitly “the book of the Law of the Eternal given by the hand of Moshe.” (II Chronicles 34:14) implying that it was the original book written by Moshe.
  • the passover sacrifice which King Josiah ordered in (II Kings 23:21) are meagerly in Devarim 13:1-8 but is fully detailed in Shemos (12:1–28), to which passage he evidently referred.
  • all the previous celebrations of the festivity (II Chronicles 30) proves that the book was in the hands of Hezekiah one hundred years earlier.
  1. Many basic assumptions in Judaism are taken for granted, de-jure, not "proven empirically". This is one of them: Our belief that the 5 Books of Moses as we have it now were given to Moses by G-d at Sinai.

  2. We do have Rabbinical sources that the Chumash Dvorim is different from the 4 others in some ways: for a Pshat example, the 4 were given to the generation of Midbar and Devorim was given to the generation of Aretz, therefore many important Mitzvos (like Shema) only appear in the later and it uses a different language, just like one would speak differently before different audiences. For a Kabbalic example, the four align with the 4 letter and Devorim is against the Kutzoh Shel Yud etc, just like the 4 Galuos and Galus Mitzrayim.

  3. This difference is of no practical use or application. There's no different Rabbinical treatment of the Pesukim or the Mitzvos because they appear in either Chumash.

  4. There are a couple of Talmudic sources supporting the theory that the current version of the Torah we possess is different from the one received on Sinai or being used by the pre-second Temple generations.
    For example: the Torah was rewritten from one language/font to another (Sanhedrin 25), the number of letters and mid-markers do not match (Kiddushin 30), the Prophets introduced 5 final letters and more.
    Nevertheless, As I mentioned, all those have no practical implications, we keep treating the current tradition as de-facto given by G-d to Moses.

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