The Old Testament is that portion of The Bible that was written before the introduction of Jesus Christ, possibly between 950 to 500 BC. The final form was settled around the middle of the 1st millennium BCE. It is the basis for the Jewish religion and adopted as part of the Christian Bible.
Most scholars in the 20th century subscribe to the "Documentary Hypothesis," which asserts that the Pentateuch was written by a group of four authors, from various locations in Palestine, over a period of centuries. Each wrote with the goal of promoting his/her own religious views:
- J: a writer who used JHWH as the "unpronounceable name of God." It is often translated as Jehovah.
- E: a writer who used Elohim as the divine name.
- D: the author of the book of Deuteronomy.
- P: a writer who added material of major interest to the priesthood.
Finally, a fifth individual was involved:
- R: a redactor who shaped the contributions of J, E, P and D together into the present Pentateuch.
Late in the 20th century, many other competing theories emerged as to the authorship of the Pentateuch.
In contrast to academics, religious tradition says that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible, or Pentateuch in Jewish tradition. There are a number of difficulties with this claim. For instance:
- The Torah describes many events and places which did not exist until after Moses died. It also describes his death.
- Numbers 12:3 says, "Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth." If Moses were that humble, it is unlikely that he would have described himself in these glowing terms.
Old Testament morality
The Old Testament contains many cultural aspects that modern Christians find embarrassing or uncomfortable. For example, there is support for slavery, and laws such as the one about stoning unruly children. Often, when confronted by these verses, Christians will selectively obey the Old Testament while claiming the law no longer applies because it was overridden by the sacrifice of Jesus.
There are at least three problems with this excuse:
- Jesus said, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." (Matthew 5:17-18 )
- If you don't think that the Old Testament law still applies, then you don't believe in the Ten Commandments — those are strictly Old Testament.
- Regardless of whether or not God still wants you to follow the law of stoning unruly teenagers to death, the fact that he ever made such a law in the first place makes him morally bankrupt. Many would go so far as to say that this is never a good law in any time, and the fact the it was handed down directly by a supreme being who ought to know better raises serious doubts about that being's understanding of morality.
- Friedman, Richard: Who Wrote the Bible? ISBN 0-06-063035-3