In which it is shown that the Pentateuch and the books
of Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel and Kings were not
written by the persons after whom they are named.
The question is then asked whether they were
written by several authors or by one,
and who they were
1] In the
we dealt with the foundations and principles
of knowledge of Scripture, and proved that these amount to nothing more
than assembling an accurate history of it.We also showed that the ancients
neglected this form of enquiry, essential though it is, or if they did write
anything about it and handed it down, it has perished through the injury of
time, and thus most of the foundations and principles of this knowledge
have disappeared. Now we could live
with this if later writers had kept
within proper limits and faithfully passed on to their successors what little
they had received or discovered and not contrived novelties out of their
own heads. For this is how it has come about that the history of the Bible
has remained not only incomplete but also rather unreliable, that is, the
existing basis of our knowledge of the Scriptures is not just too sparse for
us to construct an adequate history, it also teems with errors.
2] My aim is to correct this situation and remove our prevailing theo-
logical prejudices. But my attempt, I am afraid, may be too late. For the
situation has now almost reached the point that men will not allow them-
selves to be corrected on these questions but rather obstinately defend
whatever position they have taken up, in the name of religion.There seems
to be no room left for reason except perhaps among a very few persons
(few in relation to the rest), so completely have these prejudices taken over
men’s minds. I will however make the attempt and not give up on the task,
since there is no reason for complete despair.
3] In order to demonstrate these things in due order, I commence with
the false assumptions generally made about the real authors of the sacred
books, and ¢rst with the author of the Pentateuch, whom nearly everyone
has believed to be Moses. Indeed the Pharisees so vigorously defended this
supposition that they considered anyone who took a di¡erent view a here-
tic. This is why Ibn Ezra, a man of quite liberal disposition and consider-
able learning, who was the ¢rst of all the writers I have read to call attention
to this assumption, did not dare plainly to state his view but merely hinted
at it with some rather obscure words which I shall not be afraid to render
clearer here in order to make the point itself quite evident.
Here are Ibn Ezra’s words from his commentary on Deuteronomy:
‘‘‘Beyond the Jordan etc’’: If you understand the mystery of the twelve and
of ‘‘Moses wrote the Law’’and ‘‘the Canaanite was then in the land’’and ‘‘it
will be revealed on the mountain of God’’and also‘‘behold his bed, a bed of
iron’’, then you will know the truth’.
In these few words he discloses and, at
the same time, demonstrates that it was not actually Moses who wrote the
Pentateuch but some other person who lived much later, and that the book
Moses wrote was a di¡erent work.
In order to prove this, he notes:
1) that the preface of Deuteronomy
could not have been composed by
Moses, since he did not cross the Jordan.
2) that the entire book of Moses was inscribedvery distinctly on the face of a
single altar (see Deuteronomy
27, Joshua 8.37, etc.), an altar which consisted of
only twelve stones according to the report of the rabbis, from which it follows
that the book of Moses was a much more slender volume than the Pentateuch.
This is what I think our author wished to signify by referring to ‘the mystery of
the twelve’, though he might have meant the twelve curses mentioned in the
same chapter of Deuteronomy. For it could be that he believed that they had
not been included in the book of the Law, because, Moses not only commanded
the Levites to inscribe the Law but also to recite these curses in order to bind the
Commentary on Deuteronomy,
Pentateuch, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, Kings
people by oath to observe the inscribed laws. Or perhaps he meant to allude to
of Deuteronomy, about the death of Moses, a chapter that has
only twelve verses. But it is not relevant to examine these and other such
3) Ibn Ezra then notes that Deuteronomy 31.9 says,‘and Moses wrote the
Law’. These words cannot be the words of Moses but come from another wri-
ter who is narrating the acts and writings of Moses.
4) He notes the passage at Genesis 12.6, where in telling how Abraham was
surveying the territory of the Canaanites, the historian adds that ‘the Canaanite
at that time was in that land’, and thus clearly excludes the time at which he wrote
it. This must therefore have been written after Moses’ death, at a time when the
Canaanites had been expelled and no longer possessed that territory. This is
what Ibn Ezra, in his note on this passage, is indicating in the words: ‘and the
Canaanite was then in that land; it seems that Canaan’ (a grandson of Noah)
‘took the land of the Canaanite which was in the hands of another; if this is
not true, there is a mystery in this thing, and he who understands it should
be silent’. That is, if Canaan invaded those regions, then the sense will be
that ‘the Canaanite was already in that land at that time’ ^ as distinct from a
previous period when it was inhabited by another people. But if Canaan was
the ¢rst to cultivate those regions (as follows from Genesis ch.
), then the
text excludes the present time, i.e. the time of the writer, which is not therefore
the time of Moses, because in his time they still possessed that territory. This
is the mystery about which Ibn Ezra recommends silence.
5) He notes that at Genesis 22.14 Mount
is called the mountain of
God, but did not have this name until after it had been dedicated to the building
of the Temple and the choice of this mountain had not yet been made in Moses’
time. Moses does not specify any place as chosen by God. On the contrary, he pre-
dicts that one day God will choose a place which will be given the name of God.
6) Finally, Ibn Ezra notes that in Deuteronomy, chapter
, the following is
inserted into the story of Og, king of Bashan: ‘Only Og, king of Bashan,
remained of the rest
of the giants; behold, his bed was a bed of iron, the
[bed] surely, which is in Rabbah of the sons of Ammon, nine cubits in length’,
etc. This parenthesis plainly indicates that the writer of these books lived long
after Moses. The manner of speaking is appropriate only to someone referring
to very ancient times, and pointing to relics of things to establish his
credibility; without a doubt this bed was ¢rst discovered in the time of
David, who subdued this city, as
2 Samuel 12.30 tells us.
Spinoza’s footnote: see Annotation
Spinoza’s footnote: N.B. the Hebrew rephaim means ‘condemned’, and seems also, from
20.4, to be a proper name. I think therefore that here too it signi¢es some family.