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Traditional History

BC Date
Creation3761 4004
Noah born27052596
The Flood21052348
Nimrod reigns19722247
Tower of Babel built19692233
Abraham born18121996
Confusion of Tongues17642233
Patriarchal Age
Abraham called1737 1921
Isaac born1713 1896
Esau and Jacob born.. 1837
death of Abraham.. 1822
Joseph sold into Egypt.. 1729
Bondage in Egypt
Jacob to Egypt15221706
Moses born.. 1571
Passover and Exodus1312 1491
Ten Commandments1312 1491
Age of the Judges
Joshua enters Canaan 12721451
Samson slays Philistines.. 1136
Samuel is judge8891120
Samson destroys temple.. 1117
Saul made king878 1095
David kills Goliath..1063
Davidic Kingdom
David made king876 1055
David captures Jerusalem.. 1048
Solomon starts temple833 1012
Temple is dedicated.. 1004
death of Solomon 796925
Two Kingdoms
Lost Tribes exiled555721
Temple destroyed492586
Babylonian Captivity
Persian Rule
Temple Rebuilt355515
Seleucid Era312312
Christian era14
The term "Torah" is applied to the books containing the teaching of the Mosaic revelation and the Law, that is, the Pentateuch. In Jewish theology Torah signifies, first, the totality of Jewish doctrine, whether taken as a basis for religious knowledge and conduct, or as a basis for study. The expression, however, generally signifies the Pentateuch. The Torah relates the preparatory measures for and the establishment of the Old-Testament theocracy, and contains the institutions and laws in which this theocracy found its visible expression.

The tendency in the sacred literature of all languages is towards the doctrine of literal inspiration: that the very language in which the Sacred Book is written is sacred, and that every word and even every letter of the Sacred Script has value and importance. A companion doctrine to the doctrine of literal inspiration is the doctrine that all knowledge is contained in sacred scripture, that scripture is not only an instruction in religion, but also a revelation for science, for geography, for history. This doctrine, common to all peoples who have maintained a literal inspiration of their sacred scriptures, was adopted in the Dark Ages by the Christian Church.

The Old Synagogue and the Talmud firmly maintain the Mosaic authorship of the Torah. The question of the authorship of the Hebrew Bible -- the five books of the Torah, neviim (prophets), and ketuvim (writings) -- known to Christians as the Old Testament, is a very secondary matter to him who already admits, on the authority of the Church, the inspiration of the Pentateuch; for where the divine author is known, there is little need to search for his amanuensis. The Scriptural declarations on the subject seem too clear to admit of doubt; and thus lend the sanction of their direct authority to the truth laboriously wrought out by criticism, that it was Moses who wrote the Pentateuch. The exact date is not given, but Moses could have used any number of written or oral records and most likely wrote it in the wilderness of Sinai after the Exodus in 1445 BC.

Although Moses was said to have reduced the Pentateuch to writing, it was not to be supposed that he was the original author of everything in it. Former generations, far back in antiquity, had naturally written down and preserved the records of past events. Joseph, Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham had probably contributed their share to patriarchal literature; and Moses was, no doubt, disposed to avail himself of all the aids within his reach, and of all the sources of information at his command. So that, besides personal observation, we might expect him to use, with due caution, the current traditions of his time, popular songs, monuments, registers, genealogies, narratives, biographies, and histories. It would be no matter for astonishment if he was found (as suggested by a learned writer) incorporating with his own original materials documents from elsewhere, adapting, curtailing, extending, translating, as Livy does whole pages of Polybius without acknowledgment ; or interweaving them with his own narrative, or with each other. The incongruity of Moses describing historically his own death induced all critics to assign the last portion of Deuteronomy to some other hand than his.

The division of the history, as expressed in the Old Testament itself, was into four periods. The first six books sketch what the writers regard as the formative period, terminating with the establishment of Israel and Israel's sanctuary and institutions in the promised land. The books of Judges and Ruth and Samuel sketch the period when the institutions were fluctuating and the sanctuary wandering. The books of Kings treat of the third period, during which they represent that the sanctuary was fixed, was the permanent temple in Jerusalem. Notice that they do not begin with the establishment of the monarchy, nor with David, but with the arrangements for building the temple. The connected series of books known as 1 and 2 Chronicles and Ezra and Nehemiah first makes a review of the three preceding periods, and then treats of a fourth period, that of the post-exilian restoration of the sanctuary.

The first point to be attended to is the adoption of a satisfactory choice between the conflicting claims of the Masoretic Hebrew and the Septuagint Greek texts, to guide our calculation of the Patriarchal Genealogies. So conflicting indeed are these authorities as to make a difference of about six Centuries before the Deluge, and seven or eight Centuries (and by some various readings even more) between the Deluge and the birth of Abraham. One obvious advantage possessed by the Hebrew Scheme is the freedom from various readings, in comparison with the doubts and embarrassment attendant on three very formidable ones in its rival. This however ought by no means to be regarded as decisive of the question; and the more especially so, since these, and perhaps one or two other variations of lesser note, may with great probability be traced to the anxiety of the early Christians to adapt their Sacred Chronology to the Millennary traditions with regard to the duration of the world and the advent of the Messiah, which prevailed in their days.

The advocates of anti-reconstructionist opinion regarded themselves as holding the views that had always been held concerning the Bible. They particularly objected to attempts to resolve the books into their supposed primitive elements. But a vast body of additional evidence had been gathered since these men wrought; and an understanding of the structure and contents of the existing Old Testament is not up to date unless it has been formed in the light of this new evidence. These efforts were devoted to questions of reconstruction rather than to the understanding of the Old Testament as at present constructed.

Smith Bartlett Goodenow wrote in 1896 that " ... the question of truthfulness would turn largely upon the chronological certitude of the dates given... when the onset has really come, and the Old Testament veracity is on all hands assailed, the chronological results here reached find their use, and serve as a breast-work against the tide of archaeological assault, which threatens to make havoc of the Old Testament history.... There might be a single copyist's error here or there in Scripture; and indeed we know for a certainty, that there is occasionally a corruption of a date or number. But there could not be any such wholesale corruption of the dates generally.... This great divergence in the copies as to the full age of the world, may have been providentially allowed (by the corrupt copying either of the Hebrew or of the Greek text), for the very purpose of preventing any sure fixing prematurely of prophetic "times and seasons"."

The Documentary Hypothesis is taken for granted by most scholars, but anathema to those who hold to the unity of the scriptures. There is one way in which the "Higher Criticism" affects the doctrine of Christ, which is too important, too momentous, to be passed over in silence. It is admitted on all hands that Lord Jesus Christ taught plainly and unreservedly the divine authority and Mosaic authorship of the Books traditionally ascribed to him (e. g. Matt. v. 17, 18, xix. 8, xxii. 31, 32, xxiii. 2 ; Mark'x. 9, xii. 26; Luke xvi. 31, xx. 37 ; xxiv. 26, 27, 44; John iii. 14, v. 45. 46, 47, vi. 32, 49. vii. 19, 22, &c). Hence those who accept the teaching of the "Higher Criticism" with regard to the Pentateuch are reduced to the painful alternative of believing either that Jesus taught what He knew not to be true, or that He shared the ignorance of the men of His own generation, and believed that to be true which the brighter light of the "Higher Criticism" has since discovered to be false. One writer concluded that " It is not too much to say that no danger of an equally threatening character and subversive tendency has appeared in the Church during the many centuries of her existence.... now that these speculations are taken up by grave English Divines... it is no longer possible for ordinary Christians to remain in peaceful ignorance of the strife which is raging around them."

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Page last modified: 20-11-2011 19:19:40 ZULU