May 25th, 1997
by Dr. Phil Fernandes
A chapter from his doctoral dissertation
© 1997, Institute of Biblical Defense, All Rights Reserved
This chapter will argue that the Old Testament is a compilation of reliable historical writings. The divine authorship of the Old and New Testaments will not be argued for until chapter twenty-eight. The goal of this chapter is to show that the Old Testament is not a book of religious myths. It records historically accurate data; therefore, it should be considered historically reliable.
Since the data concerning Old Testament reliability is so extensive, this chapter will necessarily be selective. Evidence will be provided for only eight (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Isaiah, and Daniel) of the thirty-nine Old Testament books. However, since liberal scholars attack the reliability of these eight books more aggressively than the other Old Testament books, a strong case for the reliability of these eight books will go a long way to proving the reliability of the entire Old Testament. Most of the information in this chapter is derived from Gleason Archer’s A Survey of Old Testament Introduction.2
THE OLD TESTAMENT MANUSCRIPTS
The Old Testament was written originally in Hebrew and Aramaic.3 It consists of thirty-nine separate books written at different times and places between 2000BC and 400BC.4 The three main extant Old Testament manuscripts are the Masoretic Text, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Septuagint.5
The Masoretic Text is currently considered the standard Hebrew text.6 It dates back to about 1010AD.7 It contains the entire Old Testament.8 Despite its late date, it is considered the purest Hebrew text. No recent manuscript finds have brought suspicion to the Masoretic text.9 Due to the strict copying techniques of the Masoretes, they have preserved a Hebrew text which essentially duplicates the authoritative texts of Christ’s time.10
The Dead Sea Scrolls date back to approximately 150-100BC.11 The Dead Sea Scrolls are the oldest extant Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament.12 These scrolls were found in 1947 in various caves along the northwest coast of the Dead Sea.13 The Dead Sea Scrolls contain fragments from every Old Testament book except Esther.14
The Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament.15 The Septuagint dates from 250-150BC.16 When the Masoretic Text, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Septuagint are compared, there is essential agreement between them. The few areas of disagreement do not effect the doctrines contained in the Old Testament; the disagreements are mainly copyist errors and variations in spelling.17
LOWER, HIGHER, AND FORM CRITICISM
Lower criticism is the science of discovering the original text on the basis of imperfect copies.18 This can only be done by comparing the existing copies of the passage in question. Lower criticism is essential in the task of producing accurate translations of the Old (and New) Testaments.
Higher criticism, on the other hand, deals with ascertaining the authorship, date, and integrity of each biblical book.19 Higher criticism has been abused by liberal scholars who refuse to accept the evidence for the traditional Jewish and Christian view concerning the authorship, date, and integrity of the books of the Bible. This is due, in part, to the common antisupernaturalistic bias held by liberal scholars.20 This bias rejects the possibility of revelation from God, predictive prophecies, and miracles.
Form criticism seeks to find the oral traditions that supposedly lie behind the written documents.21 This view is highly subjective; it is often dependent upon the imagination of the scholar.
THE DOCUMENTARY HYPOTHESIS
The documentary hypothesis is the theory that the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) was a compilation of different written documents composed by different authors at different places and at different times.22 The traditional view of Moses being the author of the Pentateuch around 1450BC is rejected. The documentary hypothesis holds to much later dates for the writing of the Pentateuch.23
Before the eighteenth century, the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch was not questioned. However, the rise of deism (the belief in a non-miracle working God) led to a more skeptical approach to the Bible.24 The process which led to the documentary hypothesis began in 1753 with the speculation of a French physician named Jean Astruc.25 He was puzzled by the fact that God was called “Elohim” in the first chapter of Genesis, while He was primarily referred to as “Jehovah” (or Yahweh) in the second chapter.26 He concluded that these different names for God pointed to different written sources. The sources became known as “Elohim” and “Jehovah.”27
In the 1780′s, Johann Gottfried Eichorn applied the distinction between the J (Jehovah) document and the E (Elohim) document throughout most of the Pentateuch.28 In 1806, Wilhelm M. L. DeWette introduced the view that the entire Pentateuch was written no earlier than the reign of King David (around 1000BC).29 DeWette also reasoned that the book of Deuteronomy (which later became known as the “D” document) was written at the start of King Josiah’s reformation to unify the worship of the Jews in 621BC.30
In 1853, Hermann Hupfeld divided the E document into E1 and E2. The E1 document later became known as “P” (the priestly code).31 In 1869, Abraham Kuener put the four supposed documents in what later became the standard JEDP order.32
In 1878, Julius Wellhausen supported this JEDP order with the evolutionary view of religion. This view teaches that man’s first religion was animism (the belief that everything in nature has a life force or soul). Animism evolved into polytheism (the belief in many gods). Polytheism led to monalatry (the worshiping one god as supreme over all other gods). Finally, in the evolutionary view of religion, monalatry gave rise to monotheism (the belief in one God).33
The gradual development of the documentary hypothesis was completed in Wellhausen’s thought. According to Wellhausen, the J document was written in 850BC, while the E document was produced in 750BC. Deuteronomy was composed during King Josiah’s reform in 621BC. The Priestly code was considered to be written in various stages between 570BC and 530BC.34 This was a great departure from the traditional view which, as stated above, held that Moses was the author of all five books (around 1450BC).
REFUTATION OF THE DOCUMENTARY HYPOTHESIS
The documentary hypothesis is no longer as popular as it once was. Twentieth century scholarship has repudiated this view. Still, rather than returning to the traditional view of Mosaic authorship, twentieth century scholars have tended towards even more speculation. Several more documents have been suggested.35
Any evidence for the unity of the Pentateuch is explained away by asserting that a hypothetical editor supposedly put several documents together.36 It can be said of liberal scholars that they will not allow any evidence to falsify their subjective reasonings. They speculate that two creation accounts (Genesis 1; 2) must mean two different written sources. By doing this, they reject the abundant evidence showing that ancient Semitic writers often utilized a style which made use of repetition in their literature. Somehow, twentieth century liberal scholars assume they can scientifically reconstruct the text thousands of years after it was written. They even believe their speculations should hold more weight than the traditional view of the Jews who were themselves much closer to the original documents.37
The modern liberal scholars are guilty of circular reasoning. In their attempt to prove that the Bible is merely a human book, they assume that revelation from God is impossible.38 In spite of the fact that much of ancient pagan history has been shown to be unreliable, liberal scholars assume that these pagan historical writings are always right when they differ from the biblical account39 Meanwhile, again and again the Bible has been proven to be historically reliable.40 Another weak assumption is their view that the Hebrews could use only one name for God. History reveals that ancient empires such as Babylon, Ugarit, Egypt, and Greece all had several names for their primary deity.41 Therefore, there is no justification for speculating the existence of different authors and multiple documents merely because a different name for God (Elohim or Jehovah) is being used.
The evolutionary assumption that the Hebrew religion had evolved into monotheism is also called into question. Israel, after all, was the only nation among its ancient neighbors to have a true monotheistic faith. Israel is the exception rather than the rule. Even if one could prove that the religions of Israel’s neighbors evolved towards monotheism, Israel’s history is that of a nation that began with monotheism.42
Modern liberal scholars are notorious for taking passages out of context in order to “prove” that the Bible contains contradictions. Whenever a conservative scholar produces a possible reconciliation of the passages in question, the solution is automatically rejected by liberal scholarship.43 Apparently, because of the common liberal bias against anything supernatural, liberal scholars will accept no argument for the traditional view of the Pentateuch.
In short, the documentary hypothesis and its updated versions do not stand on a solid foundation. They are based upon an unjustified bias against the supernatural; they also resort to fanciful speculation. The concept of the JEDP documents was created by the imaginations of liberal scholars. There is no evidence whatsoever that these documents ever existed. This is not to say that Moses did not draw upon information from written sources which predated him, but, if this was the case, objective evidence must be produced for verification. Uncontrolled subjective speculation is not true scholarship; it is the antithesis of scholarship.
EVIDENCES FOR THE MOSAIC AUTHORSHIP OF THE PENTATEUCH
Merely pointing out the inadequacies of the documentary hypothesis does not prove that Moses wrote the Pentateuch around 1450BC. Therefore, positive evidences for Mosaic authorship must be presented.
First, the entire Pentateuch displays a unity of arrangement. Even the documentarians concede this point by inventing a hypothetical editor to explain the unity of the Pentateuch.44 This unity of arrangement strongly implies that the Pentateuch had only one author.
Second, both the Old and New Testaments call Moses the author of the Pentateuch (Joshua 8:31; 1 Kings 2:3; Daniel 9:11; Mark 12:26; Luke 20:28; John 5:46-47; 7:19; Acts 3:22; Romans 10:5). Even the Pentateuch itself declares Moses to be its author (Exodus 17:14; 24:4; 34:27; Numbers 33:1-2; Deuteronomy 31:9).45
Third, eyewitness details in the Pentateuch indicate the author was a participant in the events he was describing. The author at times is so precise in his details that he lists the exact number of fountains (twelve) and palm trees (seventy) in Exodus 15:27.46 The author even describes the appearance and taste of the manna from heaven for future generations (Numbers 11:7-8).47 These precise details make it unlikely that the author was other than an eyewitness of the events he recorded.
Fourth, the author of the Pentateuch was well acquainted with the geography and language of Egypt. He was familiar with Egyptian names and uses Egyptian figures of speech. There is a greater percentage of Egyptian words in the Pentateuch than in the rest of the Bible. This seems to indicate that the author had lived in Egypt and was most likely educated there as well. Moses was born, raised, and educated in Egypt. It is also interesting to note that the author does not attempt to explain these uniquely Egyptian factors. This probably indicates that his original readers were also familiar with the Egyptian culture, and, this is exactly the case with the Israelites that Moses led out of Egypt.48
Fifth, the author of the Pentateuch, although familiar with Egypt, shows himself to be unfamiliar with the land of Canaan.49 This is consistent with Moses. After leaving Egypt, he wandered through the wilderness of Sinai, but did not enter Canaan (the promised land). The author of the Pentateuch, though he describes with great detail the geography and vegetation of Egypt and Sinai, treats the land of Canaan as a place virtually uknown to him or his people.50 Therefore, the traditional view of Mosaic authorship is much more plausible than the documentary hypothesis.
Sixth, the setting of Exodus through Numbers is that of a desert atmosphere point of view.51 Even the laws concerning sanitation apply to a desert lifestyle (Deuteronomy 23:12-13).52 This would not be the case if the author or authors lived an agricultural lifestyle in their own land for nearly a thousand years (which is what the documentary hypothesis teaches).53 Even the tabernacle (a portable tent that was the Jewish place of worship) implies a nomadic lifestyle of the worshipers.54
Seventh, Moses was qualified to be the author of the Pentateuch. He was educated in Egypt, grew up there, and spent much of his later life in the Sinai desert (Acts 7:22).55
Eighth, the customs recorded in the Pentateuch were genuine second millennium BC customs.56 This would not be expected if the Pentateuch was written much later. This point is even stronger when it is realized that many of these customs were not continued on into the first millennium BC. Some of these ancient customs were the legal bearing of children through maidservants, the legality of oral deathbed wills, the possessing of household idols in order to claim inheritence rights, and the way real estate transactions were practiced.57
Ninth, the Ras Shamra literature dates back to approximately 1400BC.58 Therefore, writing existed during Moses’ time. Hence, it cannot be argued that written languages had not developed to the degree of the Pentateuch at such an early date, which is what the documentary hypothesis teaches.
Tenth, archaeological finds have confirmed much of the history and customs reported in the Pentateuch, whereas no archaeological find has refuted the history recorded in the Bible.59 Examples of this are the excavations of the cities of Bethel, Schechem, and Ur.60 Archaeology has shown that these cities were inhabited as early as 2,000BC (the time of Abraham).61 This had been denied by liberal scholars until archaeology proved them wrong and the Pentateuch right. The Hittite Legal Code, which dates back to about 1300BC, is another example. It was discovered by archaeologists between 1906 and 1912. It confirms the ancient procedure used by Abraham and several Hittites while engaging in a real estate transaction in Genesis 23.62 Another example of archaeological confirmation of the historical reliability of the Pentateuch deals with the use of camels. Genesis records that Abraham owned camels. However, since no nonbiblical references to domesticated camels had been found, liberal scholars assumed the Pentateuch had to have been written at a much later date. However, since 1950, several archaeological findings have shown that the domestication of camels in the middle east occurred as early as 2,000BC.63
Eleventh, all the biblical evidence shows that the Jewish Faith was originally monotheistic, and that it later became idolatrous and polytheistic.64 This runs counter to the evolutionary view of religion. In fact, there is no historical evidence that any nation’s religion ever “evolved” into a genuine monotheistic faith. A true monotheistic faith is unique to the Jewish religion and its offshoots (Christianity, Islam, and their offshoots).65
Twelfth, liberal objections that the religious customs, writings, and legal code of the Jews were too advanced for the traditional fifteenth century BC date of composition have been shown to be unwarranted. Recent studies of ancient religions show that “primitive” peoples had technical sacrificial language.66 Also, the Code of Hammurabi (1800BC) is a legal code which is very similar in its sophistication to the Law of Moses.67 The census lists found in the ancient Semitic world (Mari, Ugarit, and Alalakh) between 2000 and 1500BC have much in common with the census lists found in the Book of Numbers.68 Finally, Deuteronomy follows the same basic format as the Hittite suzerainty treaties (latter half of the second millennium BC), a treaty agreed upon by a king and his people.69 Therefore, the Pentateuch appears to be a fifteenth century BC document, and not a much later writing.
Thirteenth, ancient legends of creation and the worldwide flood are universal among primitive peoples. These legends appear to perversions of the true biblical account.70 An example of this would be a comparison of the ancient Babylonian flood account (the Gilgames Epic) and the Genesis flood account. Whereas the boat in the Babylonian account would never float due to its dimensions, the ark’s dimensions as listed in Genesis describe a vessel that would be virtually impossible to capsize.71
Fourteenth, the Jews accepted the Law as Mosaic during King Josiah’s reform in 621BC. It is therefore hard to believe that a large portion of the Pentateuch had just been written. The Jews of that day could not have been so naive. It seems more likely that they had good reasons to believe the documents they had were copies of the ancient writings of Moses and not recent creations.72
Fifteenth, Moses had a good reason for using different names for the one true God. He used different names for God when dealing with different contexts. He referred to God as “Elohim” when discussing His act of creation or His infinite power. Moses seems to have called God “Jehovah” (Yahweh) when speaking of God in terms of His covenant relationship with His elect.73 It is therefore unreasonable to assume that the utilization of various names for God requires more than one author. In fact, compound names such as Yahweh-Elohim are often used to refer to God. Yahweh-Elohim occurs eleven times in the second chapter of Genesis. It is ludicrous to assume that one compound name for God is the work of two authors writing at different times.74
Finally, Moses also had good reasons for varying his diction and style. Good authors commonly vary their text to prevent monotony; Moses would have done the same.75 Moses would also have to vary his style due to the wide range of his subject material (genealogies, biographies, historical accounts, religious instruction, moral legislation, etc.).76 The varying of the diction and style of the Pentateuch is therefore no evidence for multiple authors. Even parallel accounts (such as the two creation accounts of Genesis 1 and 2) were common by one author in ancient Semetic literature; it was often used as a type of poetic style.77
When all the above factors are taken together, the conclusion becomes obvious. There are extremely good reasons for accepting the traditional view that Moses wrote the Pentateuch between 1450 and 1410BC. There is absolutely no evidence for multiple authors of the Pentateuch (other than the case of Moses’ obituary in Deuteronomy 34 which was probably penned by Joshua). Though Moses did apparently refer to written documents which predate him (especially while compiling Genesis), all the evidence favors the early traditional date for the Pentateuch, and not the later dates given by liberal scholars. The evidence points to Mosaic authorship. The liberal view is therefore based upon a bias against the supernatural; it is not based upon a scholarly consideration of the evidence.
JOSHUA AND THE CONQUEST OF THE PROMISED LAND
Liberal scholars of the twentieth century have denied the reliability of the biblical account of the conquest of the promised land found in the Book of Joshua. However, in 1887AD the Tell el-Amarna tablets were found. They consisted of ancient writings on clay tablets.78 These tablets contain correspondence between Canaanite kings and the Egyptian Pharoah during a troublesome time. The Canaanite kings were requesting assistance from the Pharoah due to constant invasions by nomadic peoples called the “Habiru.” Many scholars believe that the Habiru invaders, or at least many of them, were in fact the Hebrews of Joshua’s army.79 Many of the reports in the Tell el-Amarna tablets confirm specific details as related in Joshua’s account of the conquest.80
Any descrepencies between the tablets and Joshua’s account can be explained by the fact that though all Jews were Hebrews (referred to as Habiru in the tablets), not all Hebrews were Jews. For Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, was himself a Hebrew (Genesis 14:13). Therefore, the Jews were probably not the only Hebrews invading the land of Canaan during the life of Joshua.81
In short, the evidence seems to indicate that there is enough agreement between the Tell el-Amarna tablets and the Book of Joshua to conclude that these tablets provide ancient secular confirmation for the Israelite conquest of the promised land (Canaan).82 The strength of this conclusion is in no way lessened by the fact that the Habiru invaders of the tablets cannot in every case be equated with Joshua’s army.
THE BOOK OF ISAIAH
Liberal scholars have rejected the traditional view that Isaiah wrote the Book of Isaiah between 740 and 680BC. In an attempt to explain away the supernatural fulfillment of predictive prophecies, these scholars have concluded that there were actually two authors who wrote Isaiah. This is called the “Deutero-Isaiah Theory.”83 They argue that one author wrote the first thirty-nine chapters, while a different author wrote the last twenty-seven chapters.84 The second author is assumed to have lived in Babylon after the Babylonian Empire had taken the Jews captive in 586BC. If the book is merely a human book (as liberal scholars claim), then, since the last twenty-seven chapters speak of the Babylonian captivity, it must be dated after that event occurred.
Several things can be noted to refute the Deutero-Isaiah theory. First, the entire book of Isaiah exhibits a similar writing style. In fact, conservative scholars have located over forty sentences or phrases that exist in both halves of Isaiah.85 One would not expect this if there were more than one author. Second, the author is familiar with the Palestine area; he is not familiar with Babylon.86 However, if the second half of Isaiah was written by a Jew living in Babylon, this would not be the case. Third, Jesus apparently believed that Isaiah wrote both halves of the Book of Isaiah. In one New Testament passage, He quoted from both Isaiah 53 and Isaiah 6 and referred to Isaiah as the author of both (John 12:37-41).87 Fourth, a prediction of the Medo-Persian overthrow of the Babylonian Empire is mentioned in the first half of Isaiah (Isaiah 13:17-19). This Medo-Persian conquest occurred in 538BC. Even liberal scholars admit that this section of Isaiah was written before the Babylonian captivity (586BC).88 If the author could predict the future in the first thirty-nine chapters, he could certainly do the same in the last twenty-seven chapters.
There is no good reason to reject the traditional date and authorship of Isaiah; only a bias against the supernatural will cause a scholar to reject the traditional view despite the evidence in its favor. Isaiah chapter 53 is a case in point. It is probably Isaiah’s most famous prophecy. In this chapter, Isaiah predicts that the Jewish Messiah would suffer for the iniquities of His people. Since this did not occur until 30AD, there is no way for scholars to date any portion of the Book of Isaiah this late.89 Therefore, no matter how late Isaiah is dated, the fulfillment of predictive prohecies must be admitted. Hence, the liberal bias against the supernatural is without justification.
THE BOOK OF DANIEL
The traditional view concerning the Book of Daniel is that Daniel wrote it between 590 and 530BC.90 Daniel lived under both the Babylonian and the Medo-Persian rule over Judah.
The liberal view teaches that the Book of Daniel was written around 165BC to encourage the Jews in Palestine to resist the evil ruler Antiochus Epiphanes.91 This is due to the fact that Daniel predicts the reign of this vile man. And, as mentioned throughout this chapter, liberal scholars reject the fulfillment of predictive prophecies. Their world view forces them to date the Book of Daniel after the events occurred. Hence, they assume the late date.92
There is much evidence for the traditional date of Daniel. First, Daniel uses early Aramaic which is consistent with the sixth century BC date of composition, rather than a second century BC date.93 Second, the three Greek words found in Daniel do not prove a late date (the Greeks did not takeover the Palestine area until 330BC). The three Greek words are names of musical instruments, which could easily have been known and used in Palestine and Babylon long before the Greeks conquered those regions.94
Third, Daniel’s theology, contrary to liberal speculation, was not too advanced for such an early date as the sixth century BC. His teaching concerning angels, the end-time resurrection, and the Kingdom of God can also be found in other Old Testament books which predate the sixth century BC.95
Fourth, there is strong archaeological confirmation of some of the historical characters found in the Book of Daniel. King Belshazzar was thought to be unhistorical by liberal critics. Secular history records Nabonidus as the last king of the Babylonian Empire. However, later discoveries of cuneiform tablets revealed that Nabonidus shared his reign with his son Belshazzar.96 Liberal scholars also rejected the historicity of Darius the Mede, but recent scholarship has identified Darius the Mede with an ancient govenor of Babylon named Gubaru. It has also been shown that Darius was probably not a personal name; rather, it was a title of royalty (such as Caesar was for the Romans).97
Fifth, several of Daniel’s predictions were fulfilled after 165BC.98 Therefore, there is no reason to date the Book of Daniel around that time. Daniel’s prophecies of the four world kingdoms (Daniel 2, 7) predicted that the Medo-Persians would overthrow the Babylonians (this occurred in 538BC). Daniel foretold the Greek conquest of the Medo-Persian Empire (330BC). But, Daniel also prophesied the Roman conquest of Palestine, which occurred in 63BC. This is obviously much later than even the most liberal dating of Daniel (165BC). Hence, there is no way to avoid the conclusion that Daniel contains predictive prophecies that have been fulfilled.99
Some of Daniel’s most amazing prophecies are Messianic. Daniel predicted that the Messiah would be executed 483 years after the order to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem was issued (Daniel 9:24-27). This would place the death of the Jewish Messiah at about 30AD.100 Daniel also stated that the death of the Messiah would be followed by the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem (which occurred in 70AD).101
No matter how one tries, there is no way to remove the supernatural elements from the Book of Daniel. Even if a person accepts the liberal dating of the book of Daniel (165BC), it is still evident that Daniel predicted the future. He predicted future events that did not occur until after 165BC. Therefore, there is no reason to attempt to date Daniel after the events he predicts, for even the late date for the composition of Daniel must admit the fulfillment of predictive prophecies. Since even the liberal 165BC date would have to admit major fulfillments of prophecies, the evidence supports the traditional date (590-530BC) for the Book of Daniel.
The Old Testament has been shown to be historically reliable. Many times archaeology has confirmed the Old testament account. Not once has an archaeological find refuted the history recorded in the Bible.102 The only reason to reject the historical reliability of the Old Testament is an a priori bias against the possibility of God revealing Himself through propositional form, and, as has been shown, this bias is unwarranted.