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Who Wrote the Bible?

4.05  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,043 Ratings  ·  158 Reviews
The contemporary classic the New York Times Book Review called “a thought-provoking [and] perceptive guide,” Who Wrote the Bible? by Richard E. Friedman is a fascinating, intellectual, yet highly readable analysis and investigation into the authorship of the Old Testament. The author of Commentary on the Torah, Friedman delves deeply into the history of the Bible in a scho ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published August 25th 2009 by HarperOne (first published 1987)
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Feb 08, 2011 Tyson rated it it was amazing
This book was a pleasure to read and I had a hard time putting it down. Friedman, a Harvard trained Biblical scholar, concisely walks us through the history of Old Testament scholarship while arguing for his own theories on who wrote specific portions, when, what their motivations were, and how and by whom the book was compiled. His purpose is not to debunk or criticize the Bible, but simply to solve the puzzle; and the book reads this way, like you are in on the quest to solve it. All along Fri ...more
Jan 11, 2011 A.J. rated it really liked it
When you look at the bedrock texts of civilization, there is one we continually come back to. It is the bible. No one can have a serious discussion about ancient history without it making an appearance. The same goes for Monotheism or the Western world. Some people believe it was given by God, others by men who thought they spoke for God. It contains discussions and themes on almost every topic: origins, history, divinity, philosophy, eternity, and the meaning of life. For a book so read and ana ...more
Apr 24, 2009 Angie rated it it was amazing
This is a re-read, from college. I truly think everyone should read this book. I was lucky enough to earn a degree in religious studies from a small and very enlightened group of professors. One of the first things I was told is that biblical scholarship is generally at least 20 years ahead of popular knowledge. For instance, the basic hypothesis of The DaVinci Code is based on theories that were shot down in the lat 1970s/early 1980s, yet the public was swept away by the ideas therein.

Apr 15, 2008 Christian rated it it was amazing
Shelves: world
I come back to this book and re-read it from time to time for several reasons: first, the writing is clear and uncluttered; second, the detective work in it is quite honestly thrilling; and third, this book pays the greatest honor to the Bible.

Attributing a work like the Bible to a single magical force totally diminishes the power, meaning and intent of the stories held within.

The author makes the case that this book is even more valuable as a work of man - reinterpreted through the ages - since
Nov 20, 2015 Leemaslibros rated it it was amazing
Un análisis excepcionalmente claro y accesible sobre quién escribió el Pentateuco (no la Biblia en su totalidad) y la historia de cómo llegó a ser el libro que es. Dada la abrumadora relevancia de la Biblia en nuestra civilización (historia, costumbres, lenguaje, ...), este ensayo podría considerarse imprescindible.

Es cierto que para mí convierte la Biblia en el más humano de los libros, pero estoy seguro de que para los creyentes, sin que sea contradictorio, también lo transforma en un hecho di
Dec 30, 2012 Brian rated it liked it
Shelves: religious
First, a little title clarification: the title should be "Who wrote the Old Testament, but we're mostly going to talk about the Pentateuch."

That being said, it was an interesting take from a foremost bible scholar into the latest academic research into the authorship of the Bible. Intuitively, I've wondered about the question. We find it essential to learn about the founding fathers in order to understand the Constitution. Ditto for the works of Tolstoy and Dickens. But, not a lot of time in Sun
Nov 15, 2008 B. rated it it was amazing
I am using this book for a class at my church. It has made me want to continue on my quest of learning about my religion and so forth.

This is the best book on how the Old Testament came to be. The facts were presented to me clearly and straight to the point. The author tells you how J, E, D, P, and R were discovered. If you approach it with an open mind, I think the reward would be great! I loved how he explained the politics behind why the J and E
Dec 30, 2013 Nathaniel rated it it was amazing
Who Wrote the Bible definitely enters that top-tier of non-fiction books that really gripped me while I was reading them and that I know will have a lasting impact on my thought going forward. (Others include On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society and The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement).

When I was much younger I had heard of the documentary hypothesis--which is the idea that the Bible (especially the first five books) was
Mar 29, 2012 Isai rated it it was amazing
Coming from a conservative evangelical background, the Documentary Hypothesis (DH) had been the boogie man that should be avoided and not looked upon. This book changed all this. I am intrigued and want to read more about the subject matter.

To start out, Dr. Friedman (Ph.D, Harvard) studied with some excellent teachers; G. Ernest Wright and Frank Moore Cross. Therefore, his knowledge of the subject matter is uncanny. Additionally, he is an excellent writer.

The investigation begins with an over
Sep 19, 2012 Austen rated it liked it
Shelves: for-school
It’s been widely accepted that Moses was the author of the first five books of the Old Testament, known as the Pentateuch or the Torah. Friedman questioned this, and built on the work of several researchers, most notably Julius Wellhausen, who suggested that the Pentateuch was written by four different sources (which he nicknamed “E,” “J,” “D,” and “P”) and possibly a fifth source who did compiling and editing. Delving further into textual analysis and historical data, Friedman sets out to ident ...more
Corinne  E. Blackmer
When I first read this book, I was quite impressed with its deft argument that several different "authors" (or voices or schools of thought) had written the Torah (which are the books with which the author is concerned) but, after some consideration, I cannot say I find these "findings" all that interesting and, anyhow, they could have other origins. Rather than two different (or more) authors arguing about the right to the priesthood, a single author could be chronicling a debate amongst variou ...more
May 01, 2015 Carl rated it it was amazing
I discovered this book on my mission and found it very enjoyable. Friedman does a good job of writing complicated biblical scholarship for the layman, and even though I've since had academic training in the field of biblical studies, this is still a great refresher for me.

Basically, Friedman argues a slightly more complicated version of the Documentary Hypothesis, that the 5 books of Moses were written by 4 different people over several centuries, and then those different accounts were all spli
Feb 07, 2011 Andy rated it really liked it
Like much of this book's target audience, I am only familiar with the Bible to the extent that it was taught as a religious text in church. (I went to church when younger but am not religious at all now.) Therefore it's hard for me to judge whether this book is necessarily a good introduction into biblical scholarship, as I am not familiar with the field in general, any opposing schools of thought, or any debate regarding the merits of the evidence used in the writing.

That having been said, Who
Jul 18, 2009 Brent rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Armchair biblical scholars, like myself.
I "borrowed" this book from my folks, without a clue as to its position on who authored the Bible. You know, the whole avoiding judgment on the cover thing. Would this be an attack on the Judeo-Christian tradition, along the lines of atheist manifestos recently en vogue, or would it be a feel-good, warm-fuzzy kind of treatment, leaving unanswered questions about the Bible's authenticity?

Richard Elliott Friedman, I was happy to discover, uses rigorous and, at times, ingenious methods of scholarsh
Sameh Maher
Apr 10, 2014 Sameh Maher rated it it was amazing
الكتاب اكثر من رائع ومفيد جدا فى فهم كيف كتب الكتاب المقدس ومن كتب هذا الكتاب الذى اثر فى الملايين على مدار ألاف السنين
يستعرض الكاتب بطريقة مشوقة جدا العالم الذى كتب فيه الكتاب ومن كتبه بطريقة استنتاجية من خلال على الاثار وتحليل اللغة والمنطق
فقدم عرضا شيقا جدا وقويا لنظرياته
الكتاب يبدأ من البداية الاولى من الاسفار الخمسة لموسى وحتى لحظة جمعها فى اطار مشوق لم استطيع ان اتركه حتى انتهى
من الكتب القليلة التى تتركها وتتمنى ان تعود لقرائتها مرة اخرى
قد لا يكون مناسبا للبعض قراءة الكتاب فى ظل غياب مفهوم
Jul 23, 2009 Danns rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone interested in religion and current events
The first few pages of the introduction had me skeptical I would not get into this book, but man was I wrong. I find myself looking forward to getting home and cracking it open. Really cool stuff!

Wow! This book was fantastic. The history of J, E, D and P and the author's hypothesis on who wrote the books and why th redactor put them together in such a way is well derived and adequately supported. Even more, the material is not dry at all. Not once was the material dry and in fact the end of each
Dec 20, 2014 Charlie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biblical-studies
You're never going to find a more interesting book on the documentary hypothesis. This is source criticism with the soul of a detective story. By the end you will have a very clear idea of how literary studies, history, and archaeology can be combined to search for the authors of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). Lines of evidence are presented in a way that is highly accessible to the non-specialist. Friedman is also very even-handed, distinguishing between his more speculative assertions and c ...more
Jan 14, 2008 Michael rated it it was ok
Pretty interesting stuff on how the bible was probably written by different people at different times, always spinning stuff to fit their particular political/cultural/social concerns. It all seems plausible, but the nature of the problem means that a short popularizing book like this isn't all that convincing to me. I just couldn't judge the bits where he goes "so we found three different sets of metaphors used in this book, so there must have been three different authors." Couldn't you do the ...more
Catherine Shereshewsky
Required Reading

The Bible is certainly the most important 'book' ever written. When we consider the current brouhaha over To Kill A Mockingbird and Set A Watchman...with a shy but still living author we marvel at the amazing work of this book. And the great story of discerning the pieces and the construction history is awesome.

Yes, it gives we poor readers a framework to help us understand the how, when, where and why of the construction. And it pains us (or at least me) to realize how complex
Nov 30, 2008 Robert rated it it was amazing
Shelves: judaica
This is one of my favorite books, which I re-read periodically. It's an excellent introduction to the history of the Torah. It explains the "documentary hypothesis", which states that the Torah consists of four originally separate texts, edited into one some time after they were composed, and then goes on to discuss what happened to those texts and how they were eventually compiled into the form we know today. There is a good deal of guesswork, but that is identified as such, and we enjoy follow ...more
Jun 18, 2016 Tom rated it it was amazing
Who would have thought that a historical analysis of an ancient text could read like a mystery novel? Or that a deconstruction of scripture could be so uplifting?

I've found myself intrigued by questions of Biblical authorship for some time, and this book addresses the question head on. And the answers it comes up with are fascinating. This book also illuminates the all-too-common divide between Biblical scholars and regular joes; the former generally take for granted that 'everyone knows about t
Jim Leffert
Sep 15, 2015 Jim Leffert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’ve related to the Hebrew Scriptures in various ways—as the foundation myth of our religion; as a literary and poetic work; as a compendium of laws, some dated and others relevant and inspiring; and as the gateway to nearly three millennia of imaginative Jewish interpretation and homiletics. Friedman’s book, first published 20 years ago, pushed my understanding of the Hebrew Scripture in a totally new direction—he explores the question of who exactly wrote each book at what specific period in I ...more
Michael Fishman
May 01, 2015 Michael Fishman rated it really liked it
In my quest to reconcile the mythos I was fed as a childhood with current known history, I have done a steady reading of alternative views on Jewish History. Some have been more instructive than others.

As a rule, when you are trying to discredit a belief, it is good practice to replace it with one that is more plausible. Plenty of times, this is not done. For example, many will agree that the Warren Commission has plenty of holes in it; it does not plausibly explain who killed John F. Kennedy.
Dec 02, 2014 Eric rated it it was amazing
i first ran across this book at the beginning of the 90s, and have owned a copy ever since; it is one of the dozen or so books i would take with me to a desert island.

the Hebrew Bible is surely one of the most difficult reads out there; it is also one of the most necessary. it's not just that the story line's roots reach so far back (and into some unexpected places), it's also the quality of the stories, their impact on our lives, and the incredible effort needed to read the Five Books as a cont
E Douglas
Jul 15, 2014 E Douglas rated it liked it
First, this book annoyed me because it approached the Bible as purely a literary work. Don't let that stop you from finishing the book. The author begins that way, but by the end he discusses what his theories mean (and do not mean) for believing readers. And it does a good job of a few things along the way as well. It was, for me, a good refresher on the history of the Jewish faith and Hebrew people. Also it helped to solidify for me the idea that if one believes that God wants to be known, and ...more
Jan 04, 2015 Steven rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: big-people-books
Who Wrote the Bible is an engaging, accessible introduction to the pursuit of the origins of the Bible. It is also very humbling to read. I had no idea that one could extract THAT MUCH meaning from the text of the Bible--especially the parts that I usually skip. I am also impressed with how carefully the author approaches his hypotheses--he knows and states where he may be wrong and he is able to provide strong reasoning for why he thinks the Bible is written by who the thinks it is written by. ...more
Dan Trudeau
Feb 22, 2014 Dan Trudeau rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This book gives a good, and convincing, overview of the "documentary hypothesis" of the Torah. The documentary hypothesis states that the first five books of the Bible were assembled from earlier texts (the Yawist, Elohist, Deuteronomist, and Priestly source) you can differentiate within the current books by content and style. This theory isn't universally accepted, though I doubt any ever will be, but Friedman makes a very good case for it.

As with any book like this, the author presents many of
Mar 05, 2013 Lisa rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite books for the last twenty years. I've read and re-read this one and always enjoyed it. It reads like a mystery, piecing clue by clue together with regard to history and the text of the Torah. The most readable, enjoyable Biblical scholarship without too much obvious scholarship or belief systems getting in the way. Can be read by atheists, agnostics, and theists without offense.
Kenneth Bachmann
Jan 25, 2016 Kenneth Bachmann rated it liked it
Friedman tackles the question in a scholarly manner. Here, however, his conclusions must be based on reason and logic both grounded in his knowledge of the history of the biblical era. There are some assertions that are, however, supported by hard evidence or at least by artifacts that at least give the appearance of being hard evidence or something close to it.

My only quibbles are that in painstakingly building his assertions the reading can be less than exciting, and there seemed to me to be a
Mar 30, 2014 Coenraad rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book provides a worthwhile summary of the scholarship regarding the authorship of the first five books of the Bible. The suthor explains his focus on this section of the Bible, although follow up titles regarding the authorship of the rest of the Biblical canon will be interesting. The shaping of these five books involves fascinating periods in the history of the Israelites, and one learns a lot about the ideologies underlying the different sources incorporated into the present Biblical tex ...more
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“Gen 22:11–16a The story of the near-sacrifice of Isaac is traced to E. It refers to the deity as Elohim in vv. 1,3,8, and 9. But, just as Abraham’s hand is raised with the knife to sacrifice Isaac, the text says that the angel of Yahweh stops him (v. 11). The verses in which Isaac is spared refer to the deity as Yahweh (vv. 11–14). These verses are followed by a report that the angel speaks a second time and says, “… because you did not withhold your son from me….” Thus the four verses which report that Isaac was not sacrificed involve both a contradiction and a change of the name of the deity. As extraordinary as it may seem, it has been suggested that in the original version of this story Isaac was actually sacrificed, and that the intervening four verses were added subsequently, when the notion of human sacrifice was rejected (perhaps by the person who combined J and E). Of course, the words “you did not withhold your son” might mean only that Abraham had been willing to sacrifice his son. But still it must be noted that the text concludes (v. 19), “And Abraham returned to his servants.” Isaac is not mentioned. Moreover, Isaac never again appears as a character in E. Interestingly, a later midrashic tradition developed this notion, that Isaac actually had been sacrificed. This tradition is discussed in S. Spiegel’s The Last Trial (New York: Schocken, 1969; Hebrew edition 1950).” 1 likes
“One of the logical consequences of monotheism is guilt.” 1 likes
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