Who Wrote the Bible?

Who Wrote the Bible?

by Richard Friedman

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Overview

A much anticipated reissue of Who Wrote the Bible?—the contemporary classic the New York Times Book Review called “a thought-provoking [and] perceptive guide” that identifies the individual writers of the Pentateuch and explains what they can teach us about the origins of the Bible.

For thousands of years, the prophet Moses was regarded as the sole author of the first five books of the Bible, known as the Pentateuch. According to tradition, Moses was divinely directed to write down foundational events in the history of the world: the creation of humans, the worldwide flood, the laws as they were handed down at Mt. Sinai, and the cycle of Israel’s enslavement and liberation from Egypt.

However, these stories—and their frequent discrepancies—provoke questions: why does the first chapter in Genesis say that man and woman were made in God’s image, while the second says that woman was made from man’s rib? Why does one account of the flood say it lasted forty days, while another records no less than one hundred? And why do some stories reflect the history of southern Judah, while others seem sourced from northern Israel?

Originally published in 1987, Richard Friedman’s Who Wrote the Bible? joins a host of modern scholars who show that the Pentateuch was written by at least four distinct voices—separated by borders, political alliances, and particular moments in history—then connected by brilliant editors. Rather than cast doubt onto the legitimacy of the Bible, Friedman uses these divergent accounts to illuminate a text that was written by real people. Friedman’s seminal and bestselling text is a comprehensive and authoritative answer to the question: just who exactly wrote the Bible?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501192401
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 01/01/2019
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 109,995
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Richard Elliott Friedman is one of the premier bible scholars in the country. He is the Ann & Jay Davis Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Georgia and the Katzin Professor of Jewish Civilization Emeritus of the University of California, San Diego. He is the author of Commentary on the Torah, The Disappearance of God, The Hidden Book in the Bible, The Bible with Sources Revealed, The Bible Now, The Exile and Biblical Narrative, the bestselling Who Wrote the Bible?, and his newest book, The Exodus. He was an American Council of Learned Societies Fellow and was elected to membership in The Biblical Colloquium. His books have been translated into fourteen languages.

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Who Wrote the Bible? 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've long had the feeling that the Bible (the Old Testament, that is) was largely exaggerated by current religious believers and that the stories were largely symbolic. After reading this excellent analysis of the original texts (J, E, P, D, and R), one can see the real truth of the Bible - that it was written at various times in history and each version is biased toward the socio-political environment of the writer. The way the final product (I guess you can call it the 'R' version - the edited/redacted version from Ezra) is written shows how followers have misinterpreted the Bible for dozens and dozens of centuries. If you are a fundamentalist that believes the Bible is wholly the word of God and is completely without fault, this book will tear down that misconception and open your eyes to the truth. Oh, if only our public schools would teach this book as a scientific/historical look at the Bible, there'd be much less self-righteousness in America (and likely the world)
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm actually a student of Dr. Friedman's, and he's an even better lecturer than writer if you could believe that after reading this. His style is impeccable and flows beautifully. I've never had a religious background, but this book nonetheless peaked my interest and gave an excellent introduction to Bible scholarship, especially when read in conjunction with relevant portions of the Bible. I'd say this book is most meaningful for either the most devout believer or the atheist, because for them it will be the most thrilling.
Hanuman2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very useful historical work.
fundevogel on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The title is a bit miss leading. Friedman really only addressed the first five books of the Bible traditionally attributed to Moses. However as complicated as those origins become once Moses' authorship is shown to be purely pseudo epigraphical it makes sense to devote a whole book to them. The author (a Biblical scholar studying the origins of the books for ten years prior to this book) presents his version of the Documentary Theory. Simply put the Documentary Theory states that the Bible (at least the parts in question) was compiled from various preexisting sources in such a way that they were literally intertwined. The theory was originally introduced as an explanation for the often contradictory story doublets and inconsistent language and purpose of the text. Essentially, rather than all the Pentateuch being written by a single man it is composed from four separate works known as J, E, P and D.That makes sense to me, Friedman does a fine job of explaining the evidence for this theory and the four sources. After that you dive into his personal attempts to place the sources in time and authorship. He explains that J & E were oppositional texts the appeared when Israel and Judea split. They maintain the important Jewish traditions that had already been established, but have differing emphasis relating to their own political and religious status. Later, once outside invaders crush Israel, the two Jewish sects are reunited and their separate texts are combined in what is likely and political and religious compromise. Then the P source arises which serves to solidify the role of the current priesthood. D is a response to P reflecting shifts in practice and perspective in the time of the second temple. Friedman makes a strong case for these positions, I'm a bit more leary of his attribution of D to Jeremiah and his naming Ezra the redactor of the all five books. There simply doesn't seem to be much available to support such specific claims of authorship.All told I found it terribly informative and easy to read. However the complexity of the research and Friedland's failure to more specifically explain the sources of his theory leave me reluctant to simply swallow all of his assertions. It would have been nice if he had explained what came from literary analysis, what was supported by archeology or outside sources and when he simply relied on the content of the Bible. That's really the shortcoming of the book. It produces a lot of plausible theories that depend on complicated research that is unavailable in the book. It's also really frustrating to read about the intertwining of the various sources without being able to to crack open the Pentateuch and see for yourself where one source stops and another begins. I'd like to be able to do that and maybe get a feel for how the sources were recognized to begin with, at least as well as a non Hebrew speaker can. All and all it's a good read, but I don't think it shuts the book on the subject. There are simply too many unknowns, as far as I can tell, to prove all of Friedman's positions. There is an odd bit at the end. I read the first 13 chapters unable to tell if Friedman was a believer or not. Simply put he was only addressing scholarly issues in scholarly terms. And then at the end the last chapter becomes a plea that his previous arguments do not in any way threaten Christian belief. That really doesn't make sense to me. how could a case that the Pentateuch not only had multiple authors, but that they had significant differences in politics and religion and that they were later combined in a way contrary to their original intent not threaten the veracity of the Bible? I guess ultimately as compelling as his research is, it doesn't really have any bearing on Mr. Friedman's faith. This is a man that can put on his scholar hat and do some good work, and then put on his religious hat and be completely immune to any problems raised by his own research.
reannon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My mother introduced me to this book years ago and I loved it. Was reminded of it recently and decided to re-read it. Yep, still good.Friedman first talks about the history of Biblical textual analysis. Doubts that Moses wrote the Torah arose in the Middle Ages but were viciously suppressed. But the question had been raised and became more common, increasing steadily from the 17th century on. The result is that we now know much more about who wrote the Bible, when, what their viewpoint was, and when they wrote. Friedman concentrates on the Torah, or Pentateuch, and the Deuteronic books (beginning with Deuteronomy and going through Judges, Kings, and the Chronicles). There were four authors and an editor who combined the source documents into what we have today. The earliest were the J and E documents, which were then edited together. Following them were the D and P documents. All of these were written before the Babylonian exile, but the editor combined all the documents in the period of the Second Temple.Since I'm a historian, I love the history he talks about, from the time Israel was ruled by judges, then kings, broke into the separate kingdoms of Judah and Israel, the fall of Israel, and so on. Then there's the viewpoints of the different authors. The P, or Priestly, document, for example, was written by an Aaronid priest - a descendent of Aaron, who made his living through sacrifices brought to the temple. So in his telling of Biblical stories, Aaron is emphasized more, Moses is slightly denigrated, all sacrifices must come to the temple, God is just and worship must be mediated by the priests, and so on.Excellent book, and a good starting point on the topic. As follow ups I recommend books by John Shelby Spong, especially Rescuing the Bible From Fundamentalism, which covers the New Testament as well as the Old, and almost any of Bart Ehrman's books that concentrate on the new Testament. A friend of mine also recommends Isaac Asimov's book on the Bible.
apswartz on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love this book. I have read it three times now and I know I will turn to it again and again. Friedman writes in a clear, concise manner that is highly readable. He provides a clear presentation of the Documentary Hypothesis and traces the various strands providing theological, historical, and political motivations for each strand and for the different steps in the redaction of the text. This would be a wonderful first book for a person new to source criticism.
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TedMorgan More than 1 year ago
Professor Friedman here relates a fundamental history of the formation of the Five Books of Moses (Torah or Pentateuch). He writes in a lucid, informative English style. His scholarship opens an important part of biblical criticism to general readers. Reading him rewards those who want to feel part of a vital part of our intellectual history.
Chalicewell More than 1 year ago
This is very useful book, filled with insightful commentary and historical information. However, I would caution any reader that this is in no way an easy read. Due to the amount of information that Kugel has in this book it is difficult to wade through to get to the information you are seeking. That stated, it does has a permanent place in my library.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book shows in a readable fashion how someone combined and interspersed the texts of earlier documents to create the first five books of the Bible. Since those earlier documents did not always agree on certain points, the result was many of the contradictions and inconsistencies that can be found in the Bible. Friedman presents the idea that it was the prophet Ezra who put the Torah together from its earlier source documents and presented it as a revelation from God. The material that is presented in this book shows that the Bible was not produced in the way that most believers think it was, and that there is good reason to be skeptical about its declarations about the supernatural. For that reason, this book may be helpful in countering the fundies and others of their ilk. I first learned about this book when I read The Biblical Cosmos Versus Modern Cosmology, by David Presutta, which I also recommend.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! I am a fairly well-educated Jew and a believer in much my religion teaches, yet I was thrilled to read Prof. Friedman's scholarly analysis of the origins of the Jewish Bible. He helped resolve many of the inconsistencies that rabbis and scholars have struggled with over the past couple of millenia. He turned what we today see as a religious work into a political one. The synthesis of history, political science and religion was generally brilliant, deceptively easy to read and influences my thinking whenver I read the weekly Torah portion in synagogue. A tour de force! I borrowed the book when I read it the first time, and am about to buy it so I can re-read it at my leisure.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Absolute best book out there on Higher Criticism of the Bible's authorship. Compelling and convincing, I was hooked! I read this through at least four times, and then set out to learn more. I then came across another book that completed this book in the most surprising way, and allowed me to make a thoroughly educated decision. The second book is called 'Evidence That Demands a Verdict 2' by Josh McDowell. Both of these should be in your permanent library! Enjoy!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mr Friedman has went beyond other scholars and has opened up the door for biblical critique. This book on all levels is one of the best work that I endevoured. So Far I have not read a book with this much volume and illumination. Hes not a Professor, hes a GENIUS!!!!!
karlpov More than 1 year ago
Christians will perhaps be disappointed to find that this book covers only the Jewish Scriptures, mainly the first five books (Torah, Pentateuch). But this is a fascinating exposition of the Documentary Hypothesis which shows how differing strands of Bible narrative were woven into each of the first four books (Deuteronomy seems to be a strand by itself), and how differing strands found in the same book originally may have had conflicting political agendas. This may prompt the freethinking reader to conduct analyses of his own on materials beyond this book's coverage, such as pro- and anti-monarchy narratives. Not, of course, for the fundamentalist who believes that Moses wrote all five books.