Sunday, July 21, 2013

Deuteronomy based on a different Biblical tradition? Simple vs. Simplistic

In a recent article, by Rabbi Zev Farber, Ph.D., this summary appeared:
Despite [ed: Deuteronomy] sharing many details with the desert story as told in Exodus and Numbers, there appears to be no way to make the two versions work with each other without unreasonably stretching the meaning of the texts. The simplest literary approach is the academic one which posits multiple authors with multiple traditions. How such an approach meshes with traditionalist belief requires serious thought but it is necessary to start by recognizing the simplicity and straightforwardness of the academic approach.
Finally, it appears to me that being able to accept that there are contradictory perspectives expressed in the Torah allows us to offer meaningful interpretations of each and to address significant tensions in the text without feeling the need to create hollow apologetic explanations. Think of our other holy texts, the Mishna and the Talmud, for instance. They are filled with debates about Torah principles, and yet we say that eilu ve-eilu divrei Elokim chayim – each position is the word of the Living God. We are a religion that loves incongruity and debate and our Torah study thrives on the productive tension inherent in multivocality and conflicting perspectives. 
I have always thought that this academic approach was rather silly, as it applies to Devarim vs. the rest of Torah. For the academics, it is as if the only tool they have is a hammer, and so to them, everything looks like a nail. And then, since it is the "academic" approach, everyone considers it to be the most simple and straightforward. Thus, any discrepancy between Devarim and the rest of the Torah arises from a different tradition.

If I disbelieved in Torah miSinai and believed in multiple authorship, I would say something like the following, which I think is much simpler and straightforward. And nowhere near as silly.

Sefer Devarim was obviously written for an audience who were already familiar with the Biblical narrative, and the author wishes to exploit it for its own ends. That is, Numbers ends the desert experience, and particularly Numbers 32 is the end of the narrative. The remainder of Numbers is summary -- 33 as a helpful accounting of all the stops in the wilderness, 34 and 35 as the command and parameters of inheriting the land, and 36 as it applies to the tribes staying on this side of the Jordan. Thus, Numbers ended the Torah.

Now some author wants to take advantage of the Torah's popularity, and penned a sequel, as a first person recounting of the Bible from the perspective of Moshe. Call this author Moshe, call this person Yehoshua, call this person Chilkiyahu, Ezra, or even Fred. It does not matter. Someone would do this with a particular religious or political agenda.

That is why there are so many references to what "you have seen with your own eyes" in Deuteronomy -- 3:21, 4:9, 11:7, etc. The author knows his audience already knows this -- from the Torah they have -- and he is building upon it.

Since it is not meant as a parallel first-telling of the Biblical story, but as a retelling of the existing Biblical story, the author of Deuteronomy does not have to retell every single darned historical point. If he mentions Datan and Aviram but not On ben Pelet, the role of On is not going to be lost to posterity. If he introduces a slight change to the narrative that still works with the narrative, it is possible -- in some cases, likely -- that the author did this to further his agenda. If he introduces discrepancies in arcane points, it is possibly simply an error from the human author, rather than an accurate reporting of an alternate tradition.

Meanwhile, from the traditional standpoint, it is easy to say that it was Moshe Rabbenu as the author, with the agenda of exhorting to Israelites prior to their entering their next stage of existence. That other explanations exist which the article-writer considers "hollow apologetic explanations" does not mean that one cannot offer this extremely straightforward answer with a twist. Meanwhile, it also does not mean that alternative explanations (I'd have to see them) are indeed a davar reik. In many cases, these explanations of textual discrepancies simply function on a different plane of existence, in a midrashic universe where minor textual features are carefully analyzed and creatively interpreted. If so, this is standard midrashic discourse, rather than a hollow apologetic answer.

Let us examine a few of the ten discrepancies the article-author has offered. (Please note that this is not intended as an attack on him. It is rather a careful analysis of the ideas which don't originate from him, I think, but from other Biblical scholars. The author of the article has accepted this approach as the most simple and straightforward, and moves on from there. And there is much to praise in his intellectual honesty and willingness to expose himself to the slings and arrows that will inevitably result, given his position in life. But it is the ideas I am analyzing here.)

The first discrepancy I would like to consider is this one:
2. The Court System 
According to Deuteronomy (1:9-13), the court system devised in the desert was Moses’ idea. However, according to Exodus (18:17-22), the idea was not Moses’ but that of his father-in-law Jethro.
In Exodus 18, the focus is on Jethro's role as visitor and influencer of the Israelites. And so, Jethro proposes this, and in the end, 18:24, וַיִּשְׁמַע מֹשֶׁה, לְקוֹל חֹתְנוֹ; וַיַּעַשׂ, כֹּל אֲשֶׁר אָמָר. We are not told there Moshe's words in instructing the Israelites.

In Deuteronomy 1, Moses does not claim exclusive credit for the idea. He does not mention Jethro because Jethro is irrelevant. Jethro would be a distraction to Moses' exhortation. Rather, he is reporting what he said to the Israelites when he implemented this action (or even, a portion thereof). And the purpose of mentioning this is not dry history, but of the transitioning of power from Moses to others, in this cases, lower judges.

Another one:
  1. The Scouts
According to Deut. 1:22, it was the people’s idea to send scouts to get a feel for the land before the invasion. However, according to Numbers 13:1-2 it was God who first commanded that scouts be sent.
Which serves the author's agenda better in Deuteronomy, that the Israelites were uncertain and thus wanted a feel for the land, or that God initiated it? See how the Samaritans work it out, blending the two texts such that they asked, Moshe was pleased with the idea, asked God, and God approved. (Forget about the focus on "lecha" in shelach-lecha which is either apologetics or finding further midrashic support for an already apparent resolution.)

This was the author of Deuteronomy filling in additional details, that they were uncertain and requested it. He fully knows that in Shelach, God commanded it, but would interpret this as a command in response to the request. In this way, he stresses the Israelites prior uncertainty about taking the land, which is part of his agenda.
  1. The Panic
According to Deut. 1:25-26 the Israelites react with panic at the idea of conquest, even after the scouts say positive things about the land.2 However, according to Numbers (13:26-14:3) the panic of the Israelites follows upon the negative report of the scouts.
Emphasis mine. In Number 13:27, the spies indeed say positive things about the land. That ten of them also say negative things, while two of them argue, is beside the point. That is not part of Deuteronomy-author's agenda, which is a mussar shmuess. His point is that once the Israelites heard these positive things, they should have moved forward.

In a footnote, the article-author acknowledges that even in Deuteronomy there is mention of spies saying negative:
2 They do eventually say that the scouts frightened them (v. 28), but this is only after their initial panic and rebellion and the narrator/Moses never makes it clear that this in fact occurred.
Is he seriously suggesting that the Israelites simply made up a fact that the narrator / Moses disagrees with? And this made-up fact just so happens to correspond with a tradition in Numbers? This is "the simplicity and straightforwardness of the academic approach"?!

My own "academic approach" answers this in a more straightforward manner. Earlier, it did not serve the author's agenda (or Moses' agenda) to emphasize the negative portion of the spies' report. Now, where Moses is about to dismiss the Israelites' concern in this regard, it does serve the author's agenda.

Another one:
  1. The Loyal Scout
God references only Caleb in Deuteronomy 1:36 as the loyal scout who survives the punishment of the desert generation due to his loyalty. Although this parallel’s Numbers 14:24, it contradicts God’s claim in Numbers 14:30.
Actually, while only Caleb is mentioned in Deuteronomy 1:36, we hear that Joshua will go in immediately thereafter, in Deuteronomy 37-38.

Not as a loyal spy. That was not said explicitly, I readily admit. Instead, it is because Joshua is to take the reigns of leadership from Moses. Which is a huge part of the Deuteronomy-author's agenda.

If you look at Numbers 14, this can be interpreted as consistent as well. Numbers 14:24 singles out Caleb as the loyal spy who will survive. Numbers 14:30 also mentions Joshua, but does not give a explicit reason for Joshua. And Deuteronomy 1:38 steps into that void, sees the opportunity, and provides a different reason for Joshua. (Though obviously if he had been a rebellious spy he would not have been an allowable replacement. And of course he would have been spared anyway, but the focus was on his being Moses' replacement, and that just as the Israelites would not enter, so would Moses not enter)

Could you see why, in retelling, an author with an agenda might shift focus, and so, while not writing direct contradictions, reframing the narrative in such a way to advance his agenda?

This is not (necessarily) a result of Deuteronomy's author relying on a separate tradition, and being unaware of our Biblical text.

I could do the same for most of the objections people raise. And I would not do it as apologetics.

I think that many academics of Bible are good at finding discrepancies in the text but lousy at reading literature and divining authorial intent. And as a result, they don't see how an author might be reinterpreting a text rather than not knowing it. And it would be a real pity if we "recogniz[e] the simplicity and straightforwardness of the academic approach", and not recognize how simplistic it is.


Chanokh said...

Thank you for this article. I've always thought - and said - that the whole "academic", self-described "critical" Biblical studies were severely lacking in basic methodology. For one they never grapple with past readings of the text, on the fallacious pretext that "they were written by rabbis, so they can be discounted as partial". It shows that they never read Malbim , to mention just one pashtan who is quite preoccupied with the consistency of the narrative.
But even worse, they function with rigid and outdated assumptions as to how a literary text functions that is just astounding. Their manichean approach to dissecting texts shows ignorance of such basic lterary theorists as, I don't know, Bakhtin or Barthes. They wouldn't get a BA in French literature. But when it's Bible, anything goes.

joshwaxman said...

i must admit that i don't know such basic literary theorists as Bakhtin or Barthes either...

david a. said...

Reb Josh,
First, I want to say that I, at least, appreciate the extensive effort that you (and David Ohsie) did, in (yet again) showing the disingenuousness of many of Dr. Betech methods.

As to this post, a few comments.

1. Given that our tradition views the Torah as very precise document i.e. every single word and maybe even every letter is not supposed to be redundant, so whether one says different traditions or applies your suggestion, the question remains how does our traditional view allow for conflicting details of narratives. Was Moishe being disingenuous? Did Moishe never hear of “ha-omer dover b’shem omro”? or did he simply forget details? I really don’t see how this works.

2. In my book a quotation means that the text following is meant to be an exact reporting of the words communicated by the quoted. So, for example, when Moishe says in Shemoth, these are the words spoken by God and then goes on to quote the 10 C’s, then those recorded words are then supposed to be exactly what God stated. How then does he alter them here in V’eschanan.

3. In any case, focusing on the fact that details of narratives being different or even contradictory represents a very minor aspect of the problems with Devarim versus rest of Chumash. By far, more important is simply that the Judaism of Devarim is substantively different. The Haskofot of Devarim, the religious emphasis, and even many of the Mitzvot are just NOT the same. To an objective student, it is simply impossible that Devarim was written by the same individual(s) writing the rest of Chumash.

joshwaxman said...

david a:
Is "Moishe" how you typically pronounce Moshe? I know you have propounded the Deut as based on separate tradition in the past, but there is no need to mock the other side.

For the moment, please don't focus on the "frum" position, but on the academic.

According to this focus, (1) is irrelevant (though your summarizing it as "conflicting details of narratives" ignores what I wrote in my post), and (3) is irrelevant (or indeed, is the very point I was making!).

As for (2) -- that is your perspective. I don't agree that, e.g., when Pharaoh spoke to Moshe, he spoke in such stilted language. This is a summary of the actual words spoken. See Ibn Ezra's extended essay on changed language in the Aseres HaDibros.

Only once this is firmly established on non-"frum" grounds as a nuanced approach can one start to approach how to resolve it from a "frum" perspective.

DH in general is much better than this, IMHO. In this, my primary objection is that of Shadal to lower Biblical criticism. He engaged in it himself, but was critical of contemporaries doing it, because he thought they were doing it wrong.

Yehuda said...

"I could do the same for most of the objections people raise. And I would not do it as apologetics."

I would actually like to see you do so, because try as I might, I can't really work out a good answer for the following.

1) The discrepancy as regards Aaraon's place of death.

2) The fact that nowhere in Devarim is there any concept or tithing other than what we call Ma'aser Sheni and that nowhere in the other books do we find anything that resembles Ma'aser Sheni.

3) That if you try and follow Moshe's account of their journey it really looks like Har Horev is to the south of Eretz Yisrael and not anywhere remotely near the Sinai.

I can see how your idea would work for, say, the aseret hadibrot differences (though moving it into the sphere of apologetic where Moshe is the author seems to border on sacrilege) but not these and others that I could ask.

Finally, I think - and this is not uncommon - you are ascribing too much simplicity to the 'academic approach'. It is true that the classic Wellhausen theory is very simplistic and rests on all sorts of untenable assumptions. Orthodox Rabbis had real successes attacking these (I fear that our generation would be les successful), but academics have actually taken these on board and their theories do not rely on mutually distinct traditions and fully take into account the idea that different sources may be deliberately playing off each other. That's the problem with the academic world: their arguments actually get better with time, us ... not so much.

I used to go in for this "academic bible criticism is so crude and unliterary' and then I happened to open a book which I came across in a library. It shook me to the core. I can't remember the name of the book off hand, but will post it when I do.

joshwaxman said...


Do you understand that first and foremost, I am speaking academically and not frumly? Please, let us focus on that first.

As I wrote in the immediate comment above, I think that the Documentary Hypothesis in general works out much more neatly that the specific Deuteronomy objections. I am ascribing simplicity because I see these particular objections as simplistic.

saying that because Moshe didn't mention Yisro in a speech where Yisro was entirely beside the point, the author of Deut did not know about Yisro, and that this is an impossible contradiction -- that is simplistic.

That one can answer up most of them in this manner, without apologetics, is an observation I've made over time, from the arguments put forth about Deuteronomy, on various blogs. (Maybe they are not representative...) The ones in Rabbi Farber's article are good examples of this sort. That does not mean that you can put me on the spot with specific hard ones you have selected, and expect me to produce a ready answer to each one. Nor am I committing myself to answering everyone's Bible contradictions here.

Any contradictions are helped along by specific references to verses. e.g. for Aharon, first point to Deut 10:6
and then to Num 33:38
which in turn is a summary of Num 20:23-29

here is the really awkward way the Samaritans try to resolve it:

in terms of #2, couldn't this be one of Josiah's reforms, rather than reliance on an existing tradition? must we say that there was some other text this author relied upon?

joshwaxman said...

here, btw, is how one might BEGIN to approach the question of there where of Aharon's death. I am not saying I have the most compelling answer, but I do have an answer.

first, note that in each instance we see וַיָּמָת שָׁם or שָׁם מֵת אַהֲרֹן וַיִּקָּבֵר שָׁם.

further, note that in Devarim 9:20, we read וּבְאַהֲרֹן, הִתְאַנַּף יְהוָה מְאֹד--לְהַשְׁמִידוֹ; וָאֶתְפַּלֵּל גַּם-בְּעַד אַהֲרֹן, בָּעֵת הַהִוא.

Meaning that we would have thought that Aharon was to be destroyed at Har Sinai, and he would have been, without Moshe interceding. However, instead, Aharon dies only at some later stage, only once they move on, and not at Har Sinai. (Chanelling Ibn Ezra here.)

Note that it does not continue on with more than one more traveling in Devarim 10, and then jumps immediately back in time (Devarim 10:10) to Har Sinai, and Hashem not destroying the Israe;otes.

That was the "agenda", that Aharon did not die immediately as punishment. Perhaps once this was conveyed, precision as to Aharon's resting place was not required, or the point.

Still not a complete answer.

Yehuda said...

"Perhaps once this was conveyed, precision as to Aharon's resting place was not required, or the point."

But it is precise, it just gives a different answer.

Anyway, I'm not trying to be antagonistic, and I agree that this YCT chap's examples are pretty duff. My point is just that we need to recognise that biblical criticism has moved on and developed and we need to be engaging with the latest theories, not the old ones. It's a bit analogous to the whole biblical archaeology debate, the old minimalist school was so crude and reductionist that it was actually less of a threat than the new school who say that, yes, David haMelech did exist, but he presided over a capital of 2,000 people and his great power basically meant building grain stores in a few dozen places.

The book I was thinking of is called Birkat Shalom. The account of the Doc hypothesis I found there is simply light years away from the one I have read orthodox apologists deconstructing.

zach said...

David A - "Given that our tradition views the Torah as very precise document i.e. every single word and maybe even every letter is not supposed to be redundant"

Although one seems to hear this idea constantly parroted, it is not a universal assumption among commentators. E.g., Ibn Ezra will often ascribe a redundancy to merely a poetic technique.

I assume that the "no redundancy" idea is largely due to the overwhelming influence on Rashi.

zach said...

"The discrepancy as regards Aaraon's place of death."

Without knowing the exact locations of both Mt Hor & Moserah one cannot assert this as a discrepancy. Inerrancy advocates claim that these are next to each other.

A similar, but stronger, case can be made for the Sinai/Chorev association.

david a. said...

>>>> Is "Moishe" how you typically pronounce Moshe?

Mocking? whose mocking? I grew up in a chassidishe household, and that was his name. Moy-sheh. But if it bothered you, I apologize.

Thank you for the links to your reporting on the Ibn Ezra. I am fully aware of his commentary. And frankly, with the greatest respect to the IE, its mostly lame. The IE, saying that minor textual differences don’t matter as this is the way people report the words of others, flies in the face of (a) the supposed textual precision of the Torah. And (b) this text is supposed to be quotes by Moshe of God’s words. Quotes imply precision..

Then he goes on to say that Moshe changed the text (for whatever reason). Basically he suggests that the 2 texts are 2 traditions/versions, i.e. one God’s, one Moshe’s. Wouldn’t this defy the famous 8th principle of the Rambam and one which today, we are prepared to negativelysajcoo 1059 brand people with..

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

The peshat meaning of the Talmudic dictum דברה תורה כלשון בני אדם, although often interpreted as an explanation of the apparent anthropomorphisms, etc., in the Torah, is actually that the Torah utilizes poetic language or idiom as a means of expressing its message.

Hillel said...

Do you think the fact that this approach is generally overlooked (if not rejected) in academic circles is due to poor scholarship, or is it intentional and political?

After all, you claim this would be your approach if you "disbelieved in Torah miSinai and believed in multiple authorship."

But this approach is entirely compatible with Torah MiSinai and single authorship! One could explain that Moshe (in words supplied by Hashem) gives the new generation instruction based on the stories that occurred to the old generation. Naturally, there are some changes to account for the different people and situation (e.g., not portraying Yitro in a positive light or mentioning him as a relative immediately after a devastating war with Midian.)

In other words, do you think it's possible academic scholars are wary of this approach because it leads to the conclusion the Bible may or may not have multiple authors (as least re D), and they're not comfortable with this as an open question?


david a. said...

As for Moshe not mentioning Yitro as the source of the idea for establishing a judiciary to assist him, this is quite consistent with the character of Moshe throughout Devarim.

In the rest of Chumash we have Moshe attributing good deeds or actions to many others, Aaron, Joshua, Betzalel, Pinchas,etc. etc.

But here is an interesting fact. The Moshe of Devarim acknowledges no one.

Even when he mentions Caleb at the end of the spy story, he doesn’t bother to tell us why he’s such a good guy.

SPACE said...

Yes, I can confirm, that Deuteronomy differs from other Bible books, I noticed it when 1st time reading Bible, it was 20 years ago. I can agree, that Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers wrote the same man or same group. Deuteronomy wrote another man or group.
Also it is said in books of Ezdra 2 or 4, that when he returned from babylonian captivity, book of Deuteronomy `accidentally` was found in ruined temple wall, and he with help of Nehemiah was able to rewrote whole Tanakh.

joshwaxman said...

I don't entirely know. It calls for speculation, and perhaps discussing it with proponents of these theories would be more fruitful.

I don't think it is intentional or political. But I would lean towards the following factors:

* group-think. not everyone is a theorist, and many a scholar will echo the orthodox positions of the field, rather than reevaluating them.
* the approach of finding discrepancies worked so well in other areas of the field. this is the hammer and nail mentioned above. see also textual recension theory and how it carried over.
* as in the comments above, there are a few hard cases that my approach does not give a ready answer for. and then extrapolate from there.

I don't know that my theory is *entirely* compatible with Torah miSinai and single authorship. Maybe yes, maybe no. In some cases, it might be more of a kvetch. For example, if we are saying that Devarim is interpretation of previous texts (which we have before us), interpretation can be an insidious thing. It can be incorrect interpretation or a re-interpretation, against the plain sense that we would otherwise get. (Sort of like how I argue that Yechezkel is not disagreeing with the Torah's laws of kohanim, but rather interpreting them in a different way.) And in those places, the tradition and the academic would part ways.

joshwaxman said...

by the way, check out my most recent post, on a related issue.

coronet said...

SPACE, a few posts back, starts off with "Yes, I can confirm..." I thought you'd like to know that "confirm" is not a synonym of "agree with".

coronet said...

Here are the topics that Birkat Shalom, which Yehuda mentioned, deals with:

joe said...

thanks for your insightful comments on this matter. i agree that it's pretty clear the author of Deut. slightly changes some details when it fits his agenda. (which perfectly befits a human author) however, there is more to the story. the main objections come from the main part of Deut. such as the discrepancies regarding maa'ser, shmitah, arei miklat, and countless others. but even in the opening and closing chapters there are some serious difficulties. consider the problem of the aron. in Deut. it says that Moses built a wooden aron right after coming down of mount sinai, where it stayed (ויהיו שם). however, in exodus we read that the aron was a gold plated box placed in the holy of the hollies. and if the wooden box was only temporary, why isn't it mentioned in exodus?
or consider this, why is there no mention of the mishkan and of the korban chatas and osham in the entire book of Deuteronomy?
food for thought.

joshwaxman said...


yes, there are other objections, as mentioned. i didn't cover them because they were not mentioned in the article which brought down this other sort of objection.

i don't know that these objections are so serious; we would need to consider each in turn. for example, is the acacia-wood box in Deuteronomy **necessarily** a contradiction to the acacia-wood box covered in gold in Exodus. Note in your contradiction, you said gold-plated, but did not mention that underneath it was wood, and indeed the same specific type of wood in each.

If the **agenda** of Moshe's speech is that God still gave them a second chance, and that this second giving of the Luchot is still with them, then just perhaps the fact that the acacia-wood box was covered in gold is not something he felt was relevant. Since the focus here is not the construction of the mishkan and its vessels, he did not need to go into irrelevant details. Maybe, as Ibn Ezra suggests, Moshe did not make this wooden box himself, but this was via tzivuy, command, to Betzalel.

why wasn't chatas or asham mentioned in Deuteronomy? I don't know. Why wasn't Noach mentioned in all of Deuteronomy? Or Sarah, or the plague of tzfardea! It must be that the author did not know about Noach, Sarah, or Tzfardea! or maybe... it just didn't happen to come up.

david a. said...

>>>> for example, is the acacia-wood box in Deuteronomy **necessarily** a contradiction to the acacia-wood box covered in gold in Exodus.

It is interesting to point out that the Book of Kings has Solomon bringing “home” an Ark that clearly didn’t have the golden Cherubim on them ( I-Kings 6:23-24 & I-Kings 8:6-8). Also, his Ohel Mo-ed apparently lacked the golden altar, menorah, and table, as well (I-Kings 7:48). All in line with Devarim versus Exodus.

>>>> Why wasn't Noach mentioned in all of Deuteronomy? Or Sarah

That’s lame. They had nothing to do with the wilderness experience. On the other hand where is Aaron? In Chumash, he is mentioned about 300 times, but almost never in Devarim. He is found at Moshe’s side at nearly every crisis, but never in Devarim. This CANNOT be random. It’s not unreasonable to conclude that the author specifically intended to leave him out..

Joe let you off the hook, by only listing a few problems. There are dozens more.

Ok. So you don’t know why Moshe left things out. what about what he did put into Devarim. A couple of questions.

1) You cannot deny that Ahavat Hashem is a core, fundamental concept of Judaism. Why did it take Moshe 40 years to mention it to B’Y?

2) Devarim has about 70 new mitzvoth. E.g. Mezuzah, Get, (contents of) Tefillin, Shema, Bentching, and many more.. Did B’Y not keep them prior to Devarim?

David Z said...

Just in response to point 3 of Yehuda:

Why do you think we know where Sinai is? I have been pretty convinced that it's one of the mountains on the Arabian peninsula. But there's other options:

The Christians chose the Sinai Peninsula and called it that.

David Z said...

Response to david a (and this is ridiculous we can't reply and have to post generally):

The transition from Wilderness with constant divine experience to the "natural" Land with its agriculture is a theme noted by many traditional m'forshim. That would also go far to explain the two questions you bring up. ahavat hashem is much more important to stress when the yira fades. I don't know when b"y got these mitsvot, but it wouldn't boggle the mind that they were either needed more or at all after the transition.

david a. said...

>>> ahavat hashem is much more important to stress when the yira fades.

i have no idea why that would be,. it simply an assertion on your part. besides, you use the word "stress". the word should be absent. the concept is completely absent from the Torah for B"Y outside of Devarim.

as for the new mitzvot in Devarim, it's hard to imagine that B"Y in the desert didn't divorce or husbands die childless or the giving of charity etc etc..

joshwaxman said...

as for the new mitzvos in Devarim...

is it hard to imagine that B"Y in the desert already knew of yibbum, as practiced by Yehuda as custom, but that it was not necessary to focus on such details until issues of inheritance of the land became relevant. is it hard to imagine that in the desert, when all were supported by Divine handouts, did not need to engage in the giving of charity?

Joe said...

"yes, there are other objections, as mentioned. i didn't cover them because they were not mentioned in the article which brought down this other sort of objection."
you didn't mention the contradiction about edom which is much more serious than the minor discrepancies you did mention.
"If the **agenda** of Moshe's speech is that God still gave them a second chance, and that this second giving of the Luchot is still with them, then just perhaps the fact that the acacia-wood box was covered in gold is not something he felt was relevant. Since the focus here is not the construction of the mishkan and its vessels, he did not need to go into irrelevant details. Maybe, as Ibn Ezra suggests, Moshe did not make this wooden box himself, but this was via tzivuy, command, to Betzalel."
well, then why did he mention the aron at all? if he brings up the aron and cares enough to tell us what type of wood it was, why did he stop at the golden box, omitting it entirely? and when put together with the fact that there is no single word about the mishkan, not a single word about this great event that takes up half of exodus,and would certainly be of great interest for Moses at this time to recount how god had chosen to reside in their midst, and when added up the strange phenomena that the parshios of the mishkan are written in a very different style (extremely repetitive, emphasis on details, etc.) from devarim, it just begs the question.

"why wasn't chatas or asham mentioned in Deuteronomy? I don't know. Why wasn't Noach mentioned in all of Deuteronomy? Or Sarah, or the plague of tzfardea! It must be that the author did not know about Noach, Sarah, or Tzfardea! or maybe... it just didn't happen to come up."
you can't be serious here. Moses' speech covers the period from the exodus to the entry to israel, there is no reason to mention the ten plagues or noach. but when all the korbanos are mentioned many times in devarim, and only chatas and asham are suspiciously left out, it puts my alarms off.

joshwaxman said...

"well, then why did he mention the aron at all? if he brings up the aron and cares enough to tell us what type of wood it was, why did he stop at the golden box, omitting it entirely?"

if you look at the description elsewhere of the ark (Shemot 25:10-11), there are two separate pesukim. the first is to make an ark of atzei shittim and its dimension. the second pasuk is to cover it with pure gold all about and make a golden crown all around. it is quite easy to say that one is an intrinsic description and the other extrinsic; or that the beginning of the description is enough to give the audience, who already knows the rest, the idea. Moshe was, after all, recounting in part a command to construct it. i honestly do not see the question.

whether the construction of the mishkan is important enough is subjective. it depends what the agenda, or purpose, of Moshe's speech was.

so too for korbanot. e.g. we see in Re'eh (Devarim 12) descriptions of various korbanot in the context of where and how they could eat meat, in the midbar and then, in the land when Hashem enlarges the border. there is thus a reason to mention shelamim, which was how they could eat optional meat in the midbar. there would be no reason in this context to bring in chatas and asham. your alarms are up perhaps (I don't know) because you are assuming this is a dry historical first telling, rather than a retelling in order to make certain points.

The Haggadah tells over the story of the Exodus, yet Moshe is only mentioned once, just by chance, in a prooftext. Had that random prooftext not been included, one could say that the Haggadist lacked a tradition of a Moshe.

Moshe's speech (in Ki Tavo) includes Arami Oved Avi, from the haggadah, and includes the period in Egypt. Yet no mention is made! :)

But yes, I was giving extreme examples. Just as there is no reason to mention Sarah, Noach, or Tzfardea, if the author of Devarim had a specific goal in his speech, then these other points could similarly be out of scope.

david a. said...

>>> there would be no reason in this context to bring in chatas and asham

But, it’s more than chatas and asham, the fundamental and important concept of ”kapporah” (atonement of sin) is totally absent from Devarim, which by the way is also totally absent from all of sifrei Nevi-im, and only shows up later. An interesting co-incidence.

And, the extent of differences is never ending. I asked about “new”mitzvoth. Well the difference extends into when were the mitzvot taught to B’Y.

It is clear that in Shemot that Moshe received mitzvot (in addition to the 10 Cs) at Sinai. And that he wrote them down and that he taught them to B’Y at that time.

Well, in Devarim, it never states that he wrote them down or that he taught them to B”Y at Sinai or at any time during the 40 years. In fact, an objective reading of Devarim clearly indicates that at “arvat Mo-ov” is the first time mitzvot (outside the 10 C’s) are given to B’Y. The constant use of the word “ha-yom” and also never any references to previously given mitzvot.

Particularly indicative, read the Tochecha (Deut 28:1) “It shall be that if you heed to the voice of the Lord, Your God, to observe, to perform all of His commandments that I command you this day ….”. The implication is that only commands of “this day” are part of the Tochecha. Either, there weren’t others or the others don’t count as mitzvot of God.

And then again in the negative part, Deut 28:15, the same phrase “this day”.

Is it any wonder that many biblical scholars believe that Devarim (at least the bulk of it) was once a stand alone “Torah”?

joshwaxman said...

these are new points, and i can't go on indefinitely.


it is clear from Devarim 5:26-27 that Moshe received additional commandments at Sinai.

you want to say that, despite this, according to Devarim (say 6:1), this is a first telling. maybe, but not necessarily. as a retelling, there would be no need to re-record that he wrote these down, or restate every instance of commanding that which he had done in the past.

Devarim 28:69 ends:
"These are the words of the covenant which the LORD commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, beside the covenant which He made with them in Horeb."

Since this is a second "covenant", patterned after the covenant made at Chorev, but made now right before they enter the land, it makes internal sense to keep saying that they are commanded "this day".

joshwaxman said...

to add to this:
indeed, our hypothetical Bible scholar, who says that Deuteronomy is written by a much later author exploiting the existence of an earlier text, should be enthused by this.

here we see the author of Deuteronomy exploiting the existence of a previous Covenant, at Har Sinai, in order to introduce his own innovations. Thus, he reiterates (in his own words) the Brit at Chorev, also noting that it was non-comprehensive, and then he gets to command his own religious innovations, as a Brit Chadasha.

Other commandments along the way don't fit with this agenda, and thus don't bear mention.

but this trick really works because he can refer to an earlier text which had a covenant on Sinai.

david a. said...

>>> nonsense.

Most often nonsense is in the eyes of the beholder.

>>>> it is clear from Devarim 5:26-27 that Moshe received additional commandments at Sinai.

I never said he didn’t receive additional mitzvoth at Sinai. I said that nowhere in Devarim does it say that Moshe conveyed them to B”Y or that he wrote them down during the desert trek. To me, the repeated use (nearly 2 dozen times) of “ha-yom” indicates that he waited 40 years to teach these mitzvot.

>>>>> Devarim 28:69 ends:

The operative word in this verse is “covenant” at Choreb which generally refers to the 10 Cs.

joshwaxman said...

right, because the **agenda** was not to focus on Moshe's prior relaying of those other mitzvos.

again, you are deriving something from a lack of a mention.

let us run with this idea, but under my theory outlined above, an exploiting later author. (which runs parallel to Moshe introducing new ideas at the end of the 40 years.)

did he wait 40 years for these particular mitzvos, as part of the parallel covenant? sure, we can say that. and we can also say that that is the purpose of Devarim 5:26-27: so that the recipients of the this later text or command don't question the introduction of new mitzvos (Bal Tosif). The author reminds them that other commandments were also given to Moshe at Sinai, and now he is revealing them.

Since these mitzvos, part of this new covenant, are introduced anew, the focus is on today, when these are being commanded, or when the new covenant is drawn.

I don't agree about what was left unspecified, to conclude that the author must not have known about other commandments delivered over the 40 year journey, and therefore, in a dry delivery and first telling, he relates all the possible commandments he knows of, but at the end of the sojournings.

indeed, in Re'eh, this week's parsha, one might already see a transformative process from previous law. that is what כִּי-יַרְחִיב ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֶת-גְּבֻלְךָ, כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר-לָךְ would be about.

("The operative word in this verse is “covenant” at Choreb which generally refers to the 10 Cs."

I don't see how this is a response to what I wrote.)

David Ohsie said...

The following post in Hirhurim brings some historical evidence for the general approach taken here:

Holy Hyrax said...

So now that we have all the differences down, what can be said about the similarities? Is there are consistent literary idea running from exodus to deuteronmy, or are we talking about War & Peace vs. Charlottes web type of differences?


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