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02/18/08: All Torah was written down
All Torah was written down
October 23, 2004
This page is part of the book Critique of the Oral Torah.
In this chapter, I show that, contrary to Rabbinical claims about the Oral Torah, Moses wrote down all of the Torah.
1. Many passages throughout the Jewish Bible say that Moses wrote down the Torah. Here are some examples.
Moses wrote down this Teaching [ha-torah - התורה] and gave it to the priests, sons of Levi, who carried the Ark of YHWH's Covenant, and to all the elders of Israel.
|Deuteronomy Chapter 31 |
9 And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests the sons of Levi, that bore the ark of the covenant of YHWH, and unto all the elders of Israel.
10 And Moses commanded them, saying: 'At the end of every seven years, in the set time of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles,
11 when all Israel is come to appear before YHWH thy God in the place which He shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing.
12 Assemble the people, the men and the women and the little ones, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear YHWH your God, and observe to do all the words of this law;
13 and that their children, who have not known, may hear, and learn to fear YHWH your God, as long as ye live in the land whither ye go over the Jordan to possess it.'
This passages says that Moses wrote down the Torah. He commanded that the Torah be read every seventh year in the presence of all the people, so that the people learn to follow this Written Torah. Moses makes no mention of following another Torah, in addition to the one that he wrote down.
|Deuteronomy Chapter 31 |
24 And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were finished,
25 that Moses commanded the Levites, that bore the ark of the covenant of YHWH, saying:
26 'Take this book of the law, and put it by the side of the ark of the covenant of YHWH your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee.
27 For I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck; behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against YHWH; and how much more after my death?
28 Assemble unto me all the elders of your tribes, and your officers, that I may speak these words in their ears, and call heaven and earth to witness against them.
29 For I know that after my death ye will in any wise deal corruptly, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the end of days; because ye will do that which is evil in the sight of YHWH, to provoke Him through the work of your hands.'
According to this passage, Moses wrote down the Torah in a book that was stored in the Ark of the Covenant.
|Joshua Chapter 1 |
1 Now it came to pass after the death of Moses the servant of YHWH, that YHWH spoke unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' minister, saying:
2 'Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel.
3 Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, to you have I given it, as I spoke unto Moses.
4 From the wilderness, and this Lebanon, even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your border.
5 There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee; I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.
6 Be strong and of good courage; for thou shalt cause this people to inherit the land which I swore unto their fathers to give them.
7 Only be strong and very courageous, to observe to do according to all the law, which Moses My servant commanded thee; turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest have good success whithersoever thou goest.
8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein; for then thou shalt make thy ways prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.
God tells Joshua that "all the Torah" that Moses commanded is contained within the "book of the Torah", and that the Torah should be followed "according to all that is written therein". God also says not to depart from the book of the Torah "to the right hand or to the left". This means, in part, not diminishing or increasing the commandments contained within the book of the Torah. Certainly, the Oral Torah contains multitudes of commandments not found in the Written Torah.
|Exodus Chapter 34 |
27 And YHWH said unto Moses: 'Write thou these words, for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel.'
28 And he was there with YHWH forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten words.
This particular passage does not say that Moses wrote down all of the Torah. It does say that he wrote down the central part of the Torah, which is all "the terms of the covenant" between God and the Jewish people.
2. Despite all the clear statements that Moses wrote down all of the Torah, the Rabbis insist that when it says that he wrote down the Torah, it is only referring to the Written Torah, and that there was another Torah that was passed down orally. However, the following two passages conclusively show that nothing else besides the Written Torah was passed down from Moses.
|Deuteronomy Chapter 27 |
1 And Moses and the elders of Israel commanded the people, saying: 'Keep all the commandment which I command you this day.
2 And it shall be on the day when ye shall pass over the Jordan unto the land which YHWH thy God giveth thee, that thou shalt set thee up great stones, and plaster them with plaster.
3 And thou shalt write upon them all the words of this law, when thou art passed over; that thou mayest go in unto the land which YHWH thy God giveth thee, a land flowing with milk and honey, as YHWH, the God of thy fathers, hath promised thee.
4 And it shall be when ye are passed over the Jordan, that ye shall set up these stones, which I command you this day, in mount Ebal, and thou shalt plaster them with plaster.
5 And there shalt thou build an altar unto YHWH thy God, an altar of stones; thou shalt lift up no iron tool upon them.
6 Thou shalt build the altar of YHWH thy God of unhewn stones; and thou shalt offer burnt-offerings thereon unto YHWH thy God.
7 And thou shalt sacrifice peace-offerings, and shalt eat there; and thou shalt rejoice before YHWH thy God.
8 And thou shalt write upon the stones all the words of this law very plainly.'
Moses died before entering the Land. Before his death, he issued an instruction to the people: as soon as the people enter the Land, they are, among other things, to "inscribe ... all the words of this Torah" on large stones. The people, in fact, did obey this instruction.
|Joshua Chapter 8 |
30 Then Joshua built an altar unto YHWH, the God of Israel, in mount Ebal,
31 as Moses the servant of YHWH commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of unhewn stones, upon which no man had lifted up any iron; and they offered thereon burnt-offerings unto YHWH, and sacrificed peace-offerings.
32 And he wrote there upon the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he wrote before the children of Israel.
33 And all Israel, and their elders and officers, and their judges, stood on this side the ark and on that side before the priests the Levites, that bore the ark of the covenant of YHWH, as well the stranger as the home-born; half of them in front of mount Gerizim and half of them in front of mount Ebal; as Moses the servant of YHWH had commanded at the first, that they should bless the people of Israel.
34 And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the book of the law.
35 There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that walked among them.
The passage describes what the people under the leadership of Joshua did when they entered the Land. According to the description, they followed Moses's instruction to the letter. Joshua wrote "on the stones a copy of the Torah of Moses". The book of the Torah of Moses is mentioned a couple of times. Lest we think that, aside from the book, there might have been some other, unwritten, teaching, the passage clearly states: "There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua didn't read". Absolutely everything that Moses commanded was read. And since it was read, it must have been written down. And since all of it was written, "not a word of all that Moses commanded" was transmitted in an exclusively oral form, contrary to the claim of the Oral Torah.
3. The Rabbis claim that the word "Law" [torah] refers to the portion of God's Teaching that was written down, while the word "Commandment" [mitzvah] refers to the portion that was not written down, that is, to the Oral Torah. (See the Introduction.) Firstly, there is absolutely no basis to this claim - there is no indication that the mitzvot were not written down. Secondly, the above passages clearly contradict this claim. The passage from Joshua say that everything that Moses commanded was read. Everything must include the mitzvot. Also note that the word "Commandment" [mitzvah] comes from "to command" [tsivah].
Third, the mitzvot are, in fact, written down in the Jewish Bible. Moses says
|Deuteronomy Chapter 6 |
1 Now this is the commandment, the statutes, and the ordinances, which YHWH your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go over to possess it --
2 that thou mightest fear YHWH thy God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son's son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged.
3 Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily, as YHWH, the God of thy fathers, hath promised unto thee -- a land flowing with milk and honey.
Moses then begins to list the Commandments [mitzvot], right there, in the written text. These commandments include to know that YHWH is God and there is none else (6:4); to love God with all one's being (6:5); to take God's Commandments to heart, to teach them to one's children, to meditate on them, to make them visible in one's actions, to make them the cornerstone of one's household (6:6-9); and so on. Since the mitzvot are listed in the written text, they cannot refer to the Oral Torah, which, according to the Rabbis, is not written in the text.
|Moshe was denied entry into the land of Israel. He then gets on the stump to plead with the children of Israel to follow the words written in the book of the law. |
58 If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear this glorious and awful Name, YHWH thy God;
59 then YHWH will make thy plagues wonderful, and the plagues of thy seed, even great plagues, and of long continuance, and sore sicknesses, and of long continuance.
60 And He will bring back upon thee all the diseases of Egypt, which thou wast in dread of; and they shall cleave unto thee.
61 Also every sickness, and every plague, which is not written in the book of this law, them will YHWH bring upon thee, until thou be destroyed.
62 And ye shall be left few in number, whereas ye were as the stars of heaven for multitude; because thou didst not hearken unto the voice of YHWH thy God.
Deuteronomy Chapter 30
9 And YHWH thy God will make thee over-abundant in all the work of thy hand, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy land, for good; for YHWH will again rejoice over thee for good, as He rejoiced over thy fathers;
10 if thou shalt hearken to the voice of YHWH thy God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law; if thou turn unto YHWH thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul.
11 For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not too hard for thee, neither is it far off.
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