Who Wrote The Bible?
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Who Wrote The Bible?

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  2,673 ratings  ·  124 reviews
"J," "P," "E," and "D" are the names scholars have given to some authors of the Bible, and, as such, they are very important letters to a lot of people. Churches have died and been born, and millions of people have lost faith or found it, because of the last two centuries of debate about who, exactly, wrote the canonical texts of Christianity and Judaism. Richard Elliott F...more
Published June 2nd 1988 by Jonathan Cape Ltd (first published 1987)
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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
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
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.

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...more
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...more
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...more
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
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...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
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...more
This book is based off of the JEDP theory. He goes into the book assuming that the documentary hypothesis is true and has basically been agreed upon by the majority of scholars for a hundred years. This might have been true at the time he originally wrote the book, but it is no longer true today. Unfortunately, that makes this books pretty irrelevant for a current understanding of the Torah. All of his assumptions are based on the documentary hypothesis.

I did however, learn quite a bit about th...more
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...more
Jul 18, 2009 Brent rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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...more
Jul 23, 2009 Danns rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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...more
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
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
E Douglas
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
Dan Trudeau
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...more
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.
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
Carl Cranney
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...more
Colby Qualls
This book was enlightening. Certainly different from my conservative, fundamentalist, evangelical background.
Chad Larson
I found this book extremely enlightening. It gave me a much richer appreciation for the Old Testament. It begins to explain so much of the complexity and contradictions, along with the crazy stories. If you have an interest in the OT, this is a great place to start. Does Friedman have all the answers? Is his theory open to criticism? No and most certainly. But, his theory is compelling and the book reads like a mystery. I couldn't put it down. You might have to reconsider some beliefs, but this...more
Excellent little book! Skip an Old Testament class and read it. Return for the Prophets lectures.
Alas, this book was a bit disappointing. Not by it content, but by the author's writing ability.
First he uses what I consider lazy writing. He uses skills we all used growing up. Filling pages with questions and telling us what he's going to cover instead of just saying what he wants to say. Not to sure where this style caught on as acceptable. Maybe it's a bleed over from a lecture style.
Having said that, he presents a lot of interesting arguments for his point of view (which seem quite reasona...more
Very readable introduction to the Documentary Hypothesis (DH)explanation for the origin of the Torah/Pentateuch/first five books of the Bible. The DH covers the formation of the different texts that were then compiled to form the Torah, and the author explains the process of deciding which texts belong to which sources and who these writers were. The author also discuss some of the other writings, such as 1&2 Kings and Jeremiah, as they relate to these five early books.

I am not familiar with...more
Friedman mitigates considerable apprehension and tension generated by the Documentary Hypothesis of Julius Wellhausen. This
theory, which Friedman calls the Big Mistake, was built on the—now disproven—idea that the first 27 chapters of Leviticus,
also known as the Priestly Code—along with other portions of the Pentateuch—was a post-exilic work and that the Tabernacle in
the Wilderness never existed but was a representation of the Second Temple under Nehemiah and company. Well, not so,
according to m...more
For those who are interested in a scholarly discussion of a question which most people (at least most have wondered at some point or another) “Who Wrote The Bible?” by Richard Elliott Friedman is a book you should read. Friedman uses history as well as uses the contact to first build the case for multiple authors of the Books of Moses, and then put forward a plausible hypothesis for the authorship for the different sections. Of course, he is not attempting to name specific authors, but rather fo...more
For centuries, readers of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible noticed repetition of stories: Moses striking water from the rock, Abraham claiming that his wife is really his sister, the creation of man and woman, and so on. In the 18th century it was noticed that in one set of stories, God is called Yahweh, and in the other simply God (Elohim in Hebrew), and one set of stories is more concerned with Judah (the southern half of David's kingdom) and its neighbor Edom, and the other with Israe...more
Michael Johnston
Interesting literary assessment of who wrote the five books of Moses (or the Old Testament). In the end, Friedman builds on the work done by previous scholars that suggests that the book has four key authors and that a great deal of the writing was completed by an editor that put together the work of several authors. Friedman takes pains to indicate that the identification of human authors does not reduce the holiness or power of the words, but for those who are orthodox or evangelical, the whol...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
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