Go d ¢rst e n te re d in to the c ove nan t with the m. This b o ok, or le tte r,
c on t ain e d ve r y little : s i mply the laws , or c o m mands of Go d which are s e t
out in Exo dus from ch.
22 to ch. 24, a s no on e will de ny who re ads the
chapter cited above impartially and with an ounce of sound judgment.
According to that chapter, as soon as Moses understood the feeling of the
people about entering into a covenant with God, he immediately wrote
down the pronouncements and laws of God, and in the ¢rst light of
morning, after completing certain ceremonies, read out to the assembled
multitude the conditions for entering into the covenant. When he had
¢nished reading these and the multitude had understood them, the people
bound themselves to them with full consent. From the shortness of the time
in which it was written and from its purpose of making the covenant, it fol-
lows that this book contained nothing but the few things just mentioned.
It is evident ¢nally that in the fortieth year after the exodus from
Egypt Moses expounded all the laws he had made (see Deuteronomy
and renewed the people’s commitment to them (see Deuteronomy
he then wrote a book which contained
the laws he had set out and the
new covenant (see Deuteronomy
31.9). This book was entitled ‘The Book
of the Law of God’ and is the book that Joshua subsequently expanded by
adding the account of the people’s renewal of the covenant again in his
day, when they entered into covenant with God for the third time (see
24.25^6). But since we have no book extant which contains this
covenant of Moses and the covenant of Joshua together, we must con-
cede that it has perished ^ unless we adopt the desperate device of
Jonathan, author of the Aramaic Paraphrase
and twist the words of
Scripture to suit ourselves. Faced by this di⁄culty, Jonathan preferred to
corrupt Scripture rather than admit his own ignorance. Joshua
says, ‘and Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God’;
Jonathan translated this into Aramaic as, ‘and Joshua wrote these words
and kept them with the Book of the Law of God’. What can one do with
people who see nothing but what they want to see? What is this but to
deny the real Scripture and concoct a new one in one’s head?
We hence conclude that this Book of the Law of God which Moses
wrote, was not the Pentateuch, but an entirely di¡erent work which the
author of the Pentateuch inserted at an appropriate place in his own work.
That is Jonathan ben Uziel, reputed author of the Aramaic Targum of the prophets, which,
as Professor Fokke Akkerman has noted, was included in the Buxtorf Bible which Spinoza used.
Spinoza writes ‘Chaldean’ for ‘Aramaic’, a common
Pentateuch, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, Kings
This conclusion follows very clearly from the evidence we have given, as
well as from the following. When it is stated in the passage of Deuter-
onomy just cited that Moses wrote the Book of the Law, the narrator adds
that Moses gave it to the priests and commanded them to read it out to
the whole people at stated times.
This shows that this book was much
smaller than the Pentateuch, since it could be read through at one
assembly and be understood by all.
Nor should we overlook the fact that of all the books Moses wrote, he
ordered only this book of the second covenant to be preserved and guarded
with religious care along with the ‘Song’ which he also wrote down after-
wards so that the whole people might learn it by heart .
It was because the
¢rst covenant obliged only the people who were actually present while the
second also obligated all their descendants (see Deuteronomy
that he ordered this book of the second covenant to be scrupulously pre-
served for future generations, and also the ‘Song’, as we have said, since it
chie£y concerns future generations.
As there is hence no solid evidence that Moses wrote any works apart
from these, and commanded that
only ‘The Book of the Law’ and the
‘Song’ be religiously preserved for posterity, and since there are several
things in the Pentateuch which Moses could not have written, evidently
there is no justi¢cation for asserting that Moses was the author of the
Pentateuch. Rather it is entirely contrary to reason to do so.
6] But here someone may ask whether, besides this book, Moses did
not also write down the laws when they were ¢rst revealed to him? In the
space of forty years did he not write down any of the laws he promulgated
other than the few contained, as I said, in the book of the ¢rst covenant?
Although it might seem to stand to reason that Moses would also have
written down the laws at the very time and place that he actually
announced them, I nevertheless deny that we may de¢nitely assert this. For
we should not draw conclusions about such matters, as we showed above,
unless they are evident from Scripture itself or may be legitimately infer-
red from its principles. For it is not enough that they stand to reason. In
this case, reason itself does not drive us to this conclusion. Perhaps the
elders communicated Moses’ edicts to the people in writing which
the narrator later collected and inserted into his account of Moses’ life at
The ‘Song of Moses’, Deuteronomy