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Who Wrote the Bible?

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  4,746 Ratings  ·  205 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 March 21st 1997 by HarperOne (first published 1987)
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Manuel Antão
Feb 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Reading the Bible: “Who Wrote the Bible” by Richard Elliott Friedman

"The question, after all, is not only who wrote the bible, but who reads it.”
In “Who Wrote the Bible” by Richard Elliott Friedman
Some of the texts date to 400 AD or later, such as the second half of Matthew, the whole of John and the whole of Revelation. I would consider a "complete, unabridged Bible" to consist of all texts either used by, or referenced by, any Abra
Feb 08, 2011 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
Oct 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I read Who Wrote the Bible by Richard Elliott Friedman with such angst! It was life changing for me. It has opened up a world for me in as much as the bible is a work of history and literature, open to literary analysis and not a divine document given by god to Moses.
I repeatedly went back to the early chapters for reference again and again.
To understand the book, a lot of biblical background is necessary, which I had almost none at the time, and I needed to plow thru slowly.
The book sparked
Dec 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, scholarship
Wow, this is a remarkably readable and relevant exploration of the authorship of the Pentateuch and historical books of the Old Testament. It's easy for biblical scholarship to get stale pretty quickly, as currents change and leave certain theories behind; it's a credit to Richard Elliott Friedman that the most dated-feeling part of Who Wrote the Bible? is its lousy title.

That's not to say there aren't things to disagree with here – the dates and identities of the various sources are always deb
Dec 30, 2012 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
Dec 16, 2010 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
Jun 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was absolutely fascinating, and also very well-written!! It deserves a place on the bookshelf of any serious student of Biblical or even just ancient near-eastern history, imho.

Five authors: the J, E, P, D and R are found in a great summary of modern Higher Literary criticism of the Biblical texts known to Christians as the Old Testament, and just the Bible or TNaCH to Jewish readers. The J and E are roughly contemporary, from the time of the Northern kingdom and the Kingdom of Yehuda
Apr 23, 2009 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.

Jun 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I now better understand why I didn't really understand the Old Testament.

As a non-Biblical scholar, I can't really judge the veracity of Friedman's analysis, but it seems convincing to my untrained eyes. His argument is that, at least the Pentateuch, was written at different times by different scribes/priests whose views were shaped by their own political and economic interests in relation to the times in which they lived and then later combined and edited by someone else (Ezra?), all of which r
Apr 15, 2008 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
Oct 24, 2007 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
Sameh Maher
Oct 01, 2013 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
Nov 20, 2015 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
Jul 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to anyone who is interested in the origin of the Old Testament.
Dec 30, 2013 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
Sep 19, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Adam Glantz
Feb 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A scholarly detective story, written in a lucid, engaging, and enthusiastic style, and uncluttered with reference notes, that lays out a cogent theory of authorship of the various documents that make up the Torah (Pentateuch) of the Hebrew Bible. Friedman is intellectually honest throughout, beginning with due reverence for the pioneers of Higher Criticism and admitting that the messy and tortuous path to his conclusions has been excised from the narrative. And having pulled apart the biblical t ...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
Linda Cirillo
Feb 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The first five books of the bible are the hardest to read, and while reading this book I began to understand why. Tribal rivals, different groups of priests, various cultures, all had a hand in changing the traditional stories around a bit, just enough to glorify their heroes and defame those of the other guys. And the different versions are cut and pasted. There is plenty of historical background as well, and I think it may be easier to read Deuteronomy now.
John W.
Sep 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Well written, but the author's conclusions and arguments were not able to refute the authority of other scholars (i.e. Welhausen) in a satisfactory and thorough manner.

I acknowledge I'm being pretentious writing that above review.
David Rullo
May 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A great source for anyone in a weekly Torah study group or interested in the authorship of various parts of the Torah. Not really a book to read, nor would it be my first source as a Torah as it contains no commentary but invaluable as a source when discussing who wrote what, when, etc.
B. Lee
Jan 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Clearest and most accessible introduction to the Documentary Hypothesis and related issues in Pentateuchal scholarship that I’ve read.
Mar 18, 2012 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
Oct 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
Richard Elliott Friedman set out to write a highly accessible book tackling one of the most controversial and studied subjects there is: the authorship of the Bible. By anyone's account it is a monumental task, and Friedman accomplished it brilliantly. It would be easy to dismiss this book for its relatively short length and friendly, conversational language, but that would be a mistake. Friedman is a master of the subject, and in very easy-to-understand language he lays down the important quest ...more
Dec 26, 2007 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
Jan 05, 2014 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
Jul 18, 2009 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
Jul 09, 2009 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 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 12, 2008 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
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RICHARD ELLIOTT FRIEDMAN is one of the premier bible scholars in the country. He earned his doctorate at Harvard and was a visiting fellow at Oxford and Cambridge, a Senior Fellow of the American Schools of Oriental Research in Jerusalem, and a Visiting Professor at the University of Haifa. He is the Ann & Jay Davis Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Georgia and the Katzin Profes ...more
“One of the logical consequences of monotheism is guilt.” 2 likes
“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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