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Books of the Torah
1. Genesis
2. Exodus
3. Leviticus
4. Book of Numbers
5. Deuteronomy


Deuteronomy is the fifth book of the Hebrew Bible. It is part of Judaism's Torah - the first segment of the Tanakh. It later became part of Christianity's Old Testament. Its Hebrew name is Devarim דברים ("words"), which comes from the opening phrase "Eleh ha-devarim" ("These are the words..."). The term can also stretch to mean "discourses" or "talks", as is generally the case with the Greek word "logos".

Origin of the name Deuteronomy Edit

The English name, "Deuteronomy", comes from the name which the book bears in the Septuagint (Δευτερονόμιον) and in the Vulgate (Deuteronomium). This is based upon the erroneous Septuagint rendering of "mishneh ha-torah ha-zot" (xvii. 18), which grammatically can mean only "a repetition [that is, a copy] of this law," but which is rendered by the Septuagint τὸ Δευτερονόμιον τοῦτο, as though the expression meant "this repetition of the law." While, however, the name is thus a mistranslation, it is not inappropriate; for the book does include, by the side of much new material, a repetition or reformulation of a large part of the laws found in the non-priestly sections of Exodus.

Summary of the book Edit

Deuteronomy consists chiefly of three discourses said to have been delivered by Moses a short time before his death, given to the Israelites, in the plains of Moab, in the penultimate month of the final year of their wanderings through the wilderness.

The first discourse (1-4) is a historical recollection, recapitulating the chief events of the past forty years in the wilderness, with earnest hortatory exhortations to obedience to the divine ordinances, and warnings against the danger of forsaking the God of their fathers.

The second discourse (5-26) is, in effect, the main body of the whole book, and is composed of two distinct addresses. The first of these (5-11), forms a second introduction, expanding on the Ten Commandments given at Mount Sinai. This other, second, address (12-26) is the Deuteronomic Code, a series of mitzvot (commands), forming extensive laws, admonitions, and injunctions to the Israelites, regarding how they ought to conduct themselves in Canaan, the land they regard to have been promised by Yahweh as their permanent home.

The concluding third discourse (27-30) is hortatory, relating almost wholly to the solemn sanctions of the law, the blessings to the obedient, and the curse that would fall on the rebellious. In this discourse, the Israelites are solemnly adjured to adhere faithfully to the covenant between them and Yahweh, and so secure for themselves, and for their posterity, the promised blessings.

After the final discourse, the text describes Moses preparing himself to die. As the main part of preparation, Moses is described as conditionally renewing the covenant between Yahweh and the Israelites, the condition being the loyalty of the people, and at the same time, Joshua is also appointed by Moses as heir, a leader to lead the people into Canaan.

These addresses to the people are followed by what is generally regarded as three short appendices, namely:

Analysis of authorshipEdit

Early Jewish analysis Edit

Several Talmud rabbis were the first to notice problems concerning the supposed premise that Moses wrote the entire five books of the torah. Basing themselves on this premise, they asked how he could possibly have written the text describing his own death and burial, as well as describing, after his own death, that ... there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses. While some contended that he wrote them prophetically, the dominant opinion of these rabbis seems to be that Joshua wrote them and appended them to the text.

Later Jewish biblical exegetes, such as Abraham ibn Ezra (c.1093 - 1167) also noted the distinctly different meditative style, and language, of Deuteronomy and stated that a number of verses must have been written by a later author, again, probably, in their view, Joshua. Similarly, in his introduction to Deuteronomy, Don Isaac Abravanel (1437 - 1508) was adamant that the book had a different author, than did the first four books of the Pentateuch. Both ibn Ezra, and Don Abravanel, prefigured more contemporary exponents of multiple authorship.

These writers had no problem identifying a period for the text to have been written within. At the end of the 2 Kings, there is an account of the religious reform conducted during the reign of King Josiah, also recounted more briefly in the 2 Chronicles 34:3. After eradicating the rival cultic centres to Jerusalem, Josiah purged the Temple in Jerusalem of pagan influences (621 BC). During the process of cleansing, Hilkiah, the High Priest, found a lost scroll of the Torah, the content of which inspired a serious of reforms.

The biblical story continues that Josiah and Hilkiah went to Huldah, the Prophetess to confirm that this was indeed a lost book of the law. She did so, adding that failure to comply would result in the fulfillment of the curses described in the book, and as a result, a ceremony, only otherwise mentioned in Deuteronomy, was arranged. In this ceremony, the king read the entire scroll that was found, to the people assembled for Sukkot, in order to renew the covenant between them and the Law, in a re-enactment of the events at Mount Sinai.

Several rabbis in the Talmud cite a longstanding tradition, echoed by most modern researchers, that the scroll discovered by Hilkiah was none other than Deuteronomy, lost but now recovered by Hilkiah. Some claim the Deuteronomy is the only book of the Pentateuch to mention the centralisation of worship into a single location where sacrifices were permitted to be offered. However, this is untrue, such practice is also mentioned in the Book of Leviticus and the Book of Exodus. In effect, this return to the centralised worship of his forefathers was the very essence of Josiah's reform.

These rabbis also point to various aspects of the story, which are somewhat enigmatic, in their efforts to understand what had actually happened. For example, they ask why the king and high priest chose to go to an otherwise unknown prophetess for confirmation of the text, when there were two major prophets, Jeremiah, and Zechariah, living at that time. The answer they give is that Zechariah was home sick that day, and Jeremiah was away on business.

In fact, this answer may actually be an indication of the historical importance of the Reform and the conflict it would have generated among the masses. Rather than have it originate with overly zealous religious leaders (the prophets), it came from the king and high priest, both of whom were political. By attributing the book to Moses, it could have the same authority as the other books, and its precepts would be similarly observed and respected.

Apologetics Edit

Most Orthodox Judaism scholars and Jews and many fundamentalist Christians believe, despite the ideas raised by the Talmudic rabbis, that the original author of the book was Moses, and that the book really was lost and recovered (e.g. [1]). Their apologetics argues that:

  • The book itself claims to have been written by Moses (1:1; 29:1; 31:1, 9-11, etc.), and, as everyone agrees, was obviously intended to be accepted as his work.
  • The frequent references to it in the later books of the canon (Joshua 8:31; 1 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 14:6; 2 Chronicles 23:18; 25:4; 34:14; Ezra 3:2; 7:6; Nehemiah 8:1; Daniel 9:11, 13) prove its antiquity.
  • Orthodox Jews point to testimony, within the Mishnah and Talmud, that Moses authored nearly all of Deuteronomy.
  • Christians identify further testimony of Mosaic authorship from the New Testament. Matthew 19:7 and 8, Mark 10:3 and 4, John 5:46 and 47, Acts 3:22 and 7:37, and Romans 10:19, all establishes the same conclusion.

Modern critical analysis Edit

Main article: Deuteronomist


Despite the apologetics of many religious thinkers, modern academic criticism completely rejects Moses as the work's author. While the book claims to have been written by Moses, such a claim could be made by any author. While there are frequent references to the book in later works of canon, this can simply be explained as the works being later. In particular, while the books from Joshua to Kings reference Deuteronomy at points prior to the finding of Deuteronomy by Hilkiah, this can simply be explained by those books too not being fully written before the reign of Josiah.

Although Israel is represented as being about to enter Canaan, at an early stage in its nationhood, the language details laws for a state that is highly developed, has the institutions of a king, priesthood, central criminal tribunal, and so forth. Similarly the language within the discourse refers to the land east of the Jordan as being on the other side of the Jordan, implying the author is on the west of the Jordan, a location that Moses supposedly never entered.

The style and method of this book, and its peculiarities of expression, show that it came from a school of thought separate from the rest of the Torah. In fact, Deuteronomy often refers to itself as a separate code of law (1:5, 8:26, 27:3, 31:26), distinct from the four preceding books of the Bible. Scholars have also noted differences in language and style, the laws themselves, and some anachronisms in the text, such as the variations in the text of the Ten Commandments, compared to the version at Exodus 20.

The text is most reminiscent of Jeremiah, with whom the style, and laws, of Deuteronomy have extreme influence. In fact, the style is so strongly similar to Jeremiah, that several scholars have posited him, or his scribe, as the real author. Similarly, it is extremely notable that neither Amos, nor Hosea, nor the undisputed portions of Isaiah, show even the remotest familiarity with Deuteronomy. These facts can easily be explained if Deuteronomy was written after these three prophets, and before Jeremiah, placing its creation squarely in the seventh century BC.

Modern bible scholarship therefore identifies the work as being created in the seventh century BC, in, or very close to, the reign of Josiah. Further study of the other books of the torah has led over 90% of the academic community of biblical scholars to support the documentary hypothesis. This hypothesis identifies multiple authors for the torah, Deuteronomy mostly being considered the work of the deuteronomist ("D"). The Deuteronomists work is believed to have also included the editing together of earlier histories into the books of Joshua, Judges, Kings, and Samuel.

According to such critical scholarship, the origin of almost 100% of Deuteronomy is as the Shiloh priesthood's response to the Priestly Code, the law code created by the Priestly source ("P"), their Aaronid rivals. It is believed that the original element of Deuteronomy, the portion found in the temple, is the central core, the Deuteronomic Code, at Deuteronomy 12-26. Having been pronounced to the public, it is believed that two alternative editions were created, potentially by the same author, and published simultaneously:

  • one containing the core, as well as the historical introduction, Deuteronomy 1-4, as well as a simple hortatory conclusion, with a list of curses, Deuteronomy 27
  • the other containing the core, as well as the theological introduction, Deuteronomy 5-11, and a more extensive hortatory conclusion, Deuteronomy 28-30

While the first of these editions would present the law as the remembrance by Moses of the events at Sinai, the second presents it in the form of a suzerain-vassal treaty, of a form similar to the Covenant Code. As the Covenant Code is thought, in critical scholarship, to be the much older basis of the Deuteronomic Code, this second edition simply reflects a fuller adherence to its structure.

While the purpose of separate editions could have various reasons, for example one being for the priesthood and the other for the people, it is generally agreed, by textual critics, that at some point, shortly after these versions were written, they were combined together ("Dtr1") mostly in the manner in which they are now found. Subsequently, the great hero of the reform, Josiah, was killed at Megiddo, and the Babylonians conquered and dispersed the kingdom of Israel.

Consequently the positive attitude of the code thus far became less appropriate, and so critical scholarship identifies a second edition of the combined work (known as "Dtr2"), containing additional warnings about obliteration and exile, as well as promises of restoration in the event of repentance. This second edition is believed to also have inserted two originally independent documents, and framings for them, which now comprise the two poems at Deuteronomy 31-33. The account of Moses' death is believed to simply have been moved to where it lies now, Deuteronomy 34, to make way, and accordingly, after the torah was later redacted together, Deuteronomy 34 also gained verses describing the death of Moses from both the Jahwist and the Priestly source.

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

Online versions and translations of Deuteronomy:

Related articles:

This article was forked from Wikipedia on April 1, 2006.

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