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תּוֹרָה Torah ; Five Books of Moses; Pentateuch
  • Hebrew בְּרֵאשִׁית Bereshit "In the Beginning"; genesis
  • שְׁמוֹת Schemot "names"; Exodus
  • וַיִּקְרָא Wajikra “And he called”; Leviticus
  • בְּמִדְבַּר Bemidbar "In the desert"; Numbers
  • דְּבָרִים Devarim "words"; Deuteronomy
Torah scroll with jad (pointer)

The Torah (also Torah , Torah ; emphasis on “a”, in the Ashkenazi pronunciation Tauro, Tauroh, in Yiddish Tojre; ) is the first part of the Tanach , the Hebrew Bible . It consists of five books, which is why it is also called chamischa chumsche tora 'The five fifths of the Torah' in Judaism . The Greek name Πεντάτευχος (Pentáteuchos), the "book of five", resulted in the term Pentateuch, which is common in specialist literature . In German translations of the Bible in the Reformation tradition, this group of scriptures is referred to as the five books of Moses .


Range of meanings of "Torah"

Torah is a key term in the Hebrew Bible. With the respective translation into German, preliminary decisions are made as to how the Torah should be perceived by the reading public. The Hebrew wordתּוֹרָה tôrāh is derived from the verbal rootירה jrh (Hifil) meaning "teach, instruct". Following Martin Buber's Germanization, use z. B. the Zurich Bible and the standard translation the term instruction. This expresses the wisdom dimension of tôrāh very well . The ancient Jewish translation into Greek ( Septuagint ) chose νόμος nómos , "law", and in this tradition "law" is also the term used in the Luther Bible .

However, the term Torah has many meanings. The closest refers to the five books of Moses. In a further meaning, “Torah” pars pro toto denotes the entire Tanakh, i.e. both the Torah (instruction) in the narrower sense as well as the Nevi'im ( books of the prophets) and the Ketuvim (scriptures).

The Torah scroll

Rimonim from Danzig , 18./19. century

The term Torah also denotes the Torah scroll. This is a handwritten scroll of parchment with the un-dotted Hebrew text of the Five Books of Moses. A Torah scroll is read from a Torah scroll in Jewish services, whereby this reading is more like singing after a certain cantillation .

A Torah scroll for worship use is generally written by hand by a sofer , a specially trained scribe. Since ancient times the rabbis developed a set of rules for writing a Torah scroll that had both an ideological and an aesthetic dimension. The most effective rule was to write the entire Pentateuch on one roll. This could only be realized with a relatively large, difficult scroll, and such a scroll was hardly suitable for normal reading outside of the service. A book form common in antiquity became a sacred object.

Although medieval works such as Maimonides ' Mishne Torah (with the chapter Hilchot Sefer Torah ) give the impression that the text of the Torah was precisely fixed, research has shown that there were four textual traditions: Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Middle Eastern and the Yemeni. There were differences in the writing material (nib or writing tube) and sometimes different letter shapes as a result. Apparently the clerk's guilds followed their own traditions at the time, some of which differed from the rules laid down by rabbis. The fonts that a modern Sofer STaM uses go back to the 16th century.

If stored properly, a Torah scroll can remain ritually useful for several hundred years. The oldest existing, completely preserved Torah scroll was written between around 1155 and 1255, probably in the Middle East. It was then used by the Jewish community in Bologna and is now kept in the university library there. Torah scrolls that have been damaged mechanically, by wear and tear or by old age ( material fatigue ) and thus become unusable, are not simply thrown away or burned out of respect, but kept in a geniza or buried in a Jewish cemetery .

Not all forms of the Torah are roles. An annotated Torah in book form and with a translation into the national language is called Chumash .

Oral Torah

The "oral Torah" is a basic concept of rabbinic Judaism: God's revelation on Sinai included not only the written Torah, but also its orally transmitted interpretation, which updates the written Torah and thus made it applicable to different life situations. In addition to this idea of ​​two equally original Torot, there is the other concept, according to which the Halacha was derived from the written Torah through methods of biblical interpretation. From today's perspective, three different types of halacha can be distinguished:

  • Commandments derived from the Jewish Bible ;
  • Commandments that exist independently of the Bible;
  • Commandments that are independent of the Bible, but were subsequently given a biblical justification.

The phenomenon that some areas of the Halacha have a narrow base in the written Torah was obvious to the rabbis: “The solution of the vows ( Num 30.3–16  EU ) is in the air and has nothing to rely on . The statutes about the Sabbath, the festival offerings and the embezzlement ( Lev 5,14-16  EU ), see, they are like mountains hanging by a hair, because they consist of a few scriptures and numerous regulations. The administration of justice and the laws of sacrifice, the rules of purity and uncleanliness and incestion have (something) to rely on. These are the main parts of the Torah. "

Around the year 200 AD, the entire religious law developed up to that point was brought into a system of six orders and recorded in writing in a collection attributed to Rabbi Jehuda ha-Nassi . One can see here the different relationship between the halachic materials and the written Torah; Examples:

  • The 5th order of the Mishnah (Kodaschim, "holy") is largely a commentary on the ritual precepts of the Torah, but with the exception of the tracts Tamid and Middot, which contain descriptions of rituals and structural details of the Herodian temple .
  • The 6th order of the Mishnah (Toharot, “purities”) develops rules for dealing with cultic impurity that are based on premises other than the written Torah, e.g. B. that the purity regulations apply not only in the context of temple visits, but also in normal everyday life.

This first written fixation of the oral Torah, the Mishnah, became the standard canon. The name Yehuda ha-Nassi is associated with the conclusion of an epoch in the history of rabbinical literature; Nevertheless, the Mishnah was supplemented in its inventory even after Yehuda ha-Nassi's death.

The Mishnah is discussed and explained at length in the Talmuds. Talmud is the name for the entire work that consists of Mishnah and its discussion ( Gemara ); there is a Babylonian Talmud and a Jerusalem Talmud. The Gemara was fixed in writing until the 6th century. In the Talmud there are considerations about the number of mitzvot, which, in contrast to specific religious law decisions, the halachot, are considered to be eternal. The classic formulation, according to which there are 613 do's and don'ts (365 prohibitions, according to the days of the year, and 248 positive commandments, according to the number of bones in the human body), is in the Babylonian Talmud (Makkot 23b) and becomes Rabbi Simlai there (3rd century) attributed. But this number has not yet been substantiated by a corresponding list from Mitzvot. This was first undertaken by the compendium Halachot Gedolot (9th century).

The Greek name: Pentateuch

The term Pentateuch ( Πεντάτευχος ) is the Greek name for the five books of Moses. It is derived from ancient Greek πέντε pénte , German 'five' , and ancient Greek τεῦχος teũchos , German 'vessel' , so 'five vessel '. The term comes from the jars that were used to store scrolls. Its scope also determined its division into five 'books' ( βιβλία biblía ). The Greek term is also adopted in Latin (Pentateuchus) and is still used in science today.

The German name: Five Books of Moses

In the German Christian translations, the Torah forms the first part of the Old Testament as the five books of Moses . The name is derived from Moses , who was traditionally considered the author of the scriptures for a long time.

The names of the individual books

The Torah or Pentateuch is divided into five books in Hebrew and Greek. This division was a practical consequence of the limited size of the ancient scrolls of papyrus or parchment . In addition, the material was also distributed over five books according to content criteria, as you can see from the different amounts of text: The book of Genesis is more than twice as long as Leviticus. In this respect, the five books each have their own profile.

These are named in Hebrew after the first Hebrew words of the respective text ( incipit ), in the Greek Septuagint after their central themes; In the Luther Bible and other evangelical translations of the Bible, the books are referred to as the 1st to 5th Book of Moses according to the traditional author. The Latin book titles are common in specialist literature.

book abbreviation Hebrew Hebrew initial sentence

(italics: book title taken from the opening sentence)

Greek meaning
genesis gene בְּרֵאשִׁית (b e re'šît)  In the beginning created ... Γένεσις (Génesis) / Genesis "Origin"
Exodus Ex שְׁמוֹת e môt)  These are the names of the Israelites in Egypt ... Ἔξοδος (Éxodos) / Exodus "Exodus" (of the Israelites from Egypt)
Leviticus Lev וַיִּקְרָא (wayyiqrā ')  And YHWH called Moses ... Λευιτιϰόν (Levitikón) / Leviticus "Levitic" (book)
Numbers Num בְּמִדְבַּר (b e midbar)  And YHWH spoke in the desert ...  Ἀριϑμοί (Arithmoí) / Numbers "Numbers" (of the Israelites)
Deuteronomy Dtn דְּבָרִים (d e bārîm)  These are the words of Moses to the Israelites ... Δευτερονόμιον (Deuteronómion) / Deuteronomy  "Repetition of the law"

Contents of the five books

Composition of the Pentateuch

As a literary work, the Torah is a complex structure: Here the reader comes across traces of a long history of origin. Nevertheless, it is possible to read the final text as a well-planned composition ("close reading").

The Torah makes a wide narrative arc:

  • It begins in Genesis with creation and primeval times (1–11). The wanderings of the parents follow: Abraham and Sarah , Isaac and Rebekah , Jacob with Leah and Rachel . The Joseph story (37–50) takes the Jacob family to Egypt.
  • With the beginning of the book of Exodus , Jacob's family became the people of Israel. In Ex 2, Moses is born, who until his death in Deut. 34 is the main character of the Pentateuch, who in this respect could also be read as the biography of Moses (with a history). With divine help, Moses leads the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery into freedom (1–15); they wander through the desert to Mount Sinai. Extensive revelations of divine directives are made here, especially the Ten Commandments (20, 2–17), but also the covenant book and instructions on the construction of a portable sanctuary ( Mishkan ) and the appointment of cult personnel ( Kohanim ).
  • The book of Leviticus is shaped by cultic materials: the Sacrificial Torah (1–7), the Purity Torah (11–15), the ritual of the Day of Atonement (Chapter 16). The law of holiness follows in 17-26 ; a chapter on vows and tithe closes the book.
  • The book Numbers contains cultic materials. In chapter 10 the departure from Sinai takes place; the story of the following hike through the desert and the first warlike actions in the East Bank is mixed with religious and legal instructions.
  • The book of Deuteronomy contains the farewell speeches of Moses. Around a central legal part (12-26) is a kind of sermon by Moses, in which the latter promotes the observance of the commandments before his death. Within this sermon on Moses, the Ten Commandments are repeated and the Shema Yisrael is communicated, two central texts that precede the corpus of the law.

Stories linked with instructions

It is very characteristic of the Pentateuch that religious, legal and cultic instructions are repeatedly inserted into the story of prehistoric times, the wanderings of the heirs and the people of Israel, which are connected with the progress of the plot. This is particularly noticeable in the Book of Numbers, but can also be found in Genesis:

  • Instructions for Noah: prohibition of the consumption of blood (Gen 9,4ff.);
  • Instructions for Abraham: commandment of the circumcision of boys (Gen 17,10ff.).

Traces in the following historical books

The Torah no longer reports on the so-called “ land grab by the Israelites ” ( Albrecht Alt ); this narrative arc is continued in the book of Joshua . That is only one motive with which the Pentateuch points to the following historical books; there are others: The story of the golden calf (Ex 32-34) is the archetype of the "sin of Jeroboam ," (1 Kings 12) that is, the false cult of YHWH in the northern kingdom of Israel , which renders the negative judgment on all rulers of the northern kingdom in the Royal books justified. The narration of the divine revelation that Elijah is given while fleeing on Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19) assumes that the reader is familiar with the Sinai revelation in the book of Exodus.

Completion of the Pentateuch

The writing of the Torah took place in a long process of transmission, in which different sources and various editorial adaptations were incorporated.

The oldest surviving Pentateuch manuscript belongs to the Dead Sea Scrolls and is referred to as 4Q17 (= 4QExod – Lev f ). It is dated to the Hellenistic period (mid 3rd century BC). This manuscript shows a tendency towards harmonization, as is typical of the pre-Samaritan text tradition: contradictions and gaps in the text are balanced out so that a text that is as easy to understand as possible is created (see: Samaritan Pentateuch ). Assuming that this was an adaptation of a more difficult text lying ahead (namely the proto-Masoretic text), it is obvious that the text of the Pentateuch had been in circulation for some time and was copied several times, so that the copyists differed "Trends" emerged. This points to the formation of the Pentateuch by the middle of the 4th century at the latest.

Translation into Greek

Another terminus ante quem for the conclusion of the Pentateuch is the translation into Greek. The first book to be translated was Genesis, in the 3rd century BC. BC, probably in Alexandria . The comparison with the Masoretic text reveals a complex picture: sometimes the translator seems to be familiar with the material (for example with the Joseph story, which was obviously popular) and translates quite freely, then again he doesn't seem to know the content so well and feels his way around ahead, which results in a very literal but also incorrect translation. If these factors are taken into account, there is evidence that he had a Hebrew text that differed from both the proto-Masoretic and the pre-Samaritan text.

The translation of the book of Exodus into Greek was prior to 210 BC. And stands out among the books of the Septuagint for its sovereign command of Greek. That it originated in Egypt is shown by the fact that instead of “Nile” in the Septuagint version of the Book of Exodus there is always “the river”.

The translation of Leviticus is linguistically less conspicuous, it strives for clarity, but also tries to preserve the peculiarities of Hebrew. An important peculiarity is the translation of Lev 24:16: Here not only cursing with the name of God is strictly forbidden, but also every uttering of the tetragram. The Septuagint uses the substitute word κύριος kýrios , "Lord" , for YHWH ; In this tradition, the spelling HERR is found in German translations of the Bible.

The translation of Numeri is considered to be the weakest within the Pentateuch. There are all kinds of errors and grammatical uncertainties; Details of the Jerusalem cult that were not well known in Alexandria are given carelessly.

The book of Deuteronomy is again a translation that closely follows the Hebrew text. It is noticeable here that the translator already found a Greek version of the Shema Israel. This is why this central liturgical text was not translated again, but inserted in the version as it was already known in the Egyptian diaspora Judaism.

The meaning of the Torah in Judaism

Within Judaism, the outstanding importance of the Torah is undisputed, as it became the basis for the religious law (halachic) ​​interpretation of rabbinic Judaism. However, it should not be overlooked that in the further course of Jewish history it was not the Torah that was the focus of rabbinical interest, but rather the discussion of religious law, as it has become a principle in the Talmud . Although the text of the Torah was supplemented by Midrashim , which in the broadest sense represents an interpretation of the Torah, the rabbinical authorities were interested in the halachic discussion and later in the definition of halachic standards. The Torah commentary by Rashi (1040–1105) is usually based on the Peschat , that is, the "simple", literal meaning of the text (see below), and is still of pioneering importance for the study of the Torah today.

The revealed and hidden dimension

In the orthodox understanding the Torah has two dimensions - one revealed and one hidden. The revealed dimension contains the laws of the Torah, which are an expression of God's will. In Hebrew , this aspect is called Gufej Torah (“body of the Torah”) or Nigleh, the “revealed dimension”. In addition to the “body” of the Torah, there is also the “soul” of the Torah - the mystical dimension. It holds insights into divine existence and its revelation, the process of creation and the essence of the human soul. In Hebrew this aspect is also called Sitrej Tora , the “secrets of the Torah”, or Nistar, the “hidden dimension”.

The four levels of meaning of the Torah

The different levels of meaning of the Torah are divided into 4 general categories in the Orthodox view:

  • Peschat is the literal, simple meaning of the verse. The verse (Gen. 1: 1) “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” means that God in the beginning created the heaven and the earth.
  • Remes are the references and indirect references of the Torah. The Gematria, for example, the numerical value of the Hebrew letters, is one of the Torah's methods of pointing out connections. The gematria of bereshit bara “In the beginning created (He)” is identical to that of b'rosch hashana nivra ha'olam “on Rosh Hashanah the world was created”, explains the medieval Bible commentator Baal HaTurim (approx. 1275– 1349).
  • Drasch reveals the abstract meaning of the verse. The Hebrew word for “In the beginning” is Bereshit . As the Midrash points out, this word can be divided into two: b - reschit . With this the verse wants to say that the world was created for the two (in Hebrew the letter b ) reschit ("beginning", "first") - the Jewish people and the Torah (see the commentary by Rashi ad. Loc.).
  • Sod (Hebrew "secret") is the mystical part of the Torah. According to the kabbalistic Tikkune Zohar , the word bereshit can be read as bara shit "created (with) six" and thus expresses that God created the world with six emotional attributes (Hebrew "middot"): love, rigor, harmony, ambition , Glory and union (see Sephiroth ).

But even within these four levels there are different interpretations of the Torah. At the level of the Peschat, for example, Judaism does not know one, but several authorities ( Rashi , Ibn Esra , Rashbam and many more). And despite the uniform basic focus on literal interpretation, they come to different doctrines about the individual verses and events.

The Orthodox Torah Understanding

The fundamental difference between Orthodox Judaism and the non-Orthodox currents ( Reform Judaism and Conservative Judaism ) is the understanding of revelation . The Orthodox tradition is diverse in itself. One school of thought emphasizes that the Torah (in the sense of the Pentateuch) was given as God's word to Moses on Mount Sinai by God himself. In some orthodox circles it is quite admitted that some spelling mistakes may have crept in here and there in the tradition of the word of God , but that does not challenge the fact that the Torah is the word of God . Thus, from the orthodox point of view, a sentence such as "God created man in his image ..." (Gen 1:28) is a fact, since the word of God is by definition the truth itself. This also implies that every word of the Torah must have a meaning, since no letter of God's word can be superfluous. Where the modern sciences were in contradiction with the Tanakh, it would one day be shown that they were wrong.

Jeschajahu Leibowitz stands for a different direction : “The basis of belief is our oral Torah - created by humans; it is also the Torah that binds us. ... We believe that human choices are identical to choices made by belief and religion. … The oral Torah is on the one hand without a doubt a human product, on the other hand we accept it as the divine Torah; the Torah that we wrote ourselves is the divine Torah! ”From this, Leibowitz derived an obligation for the Torah scholars to address halachic questions in the modern world and to further develop the oral Torah.

The liberal understanding of the Torah

Liberal or Reform Judaism sees the Torah as an ongoing dialogue between God's people and their God. The basic document Reform Judaism: A Centenary Perspective put it this way in 1976: “Torah arises from the relationship between God and the Jewish people. The documents of our first meeting have a unique meaning for us. ”Legislators and prophets, historians and poets (people) thus created a legacy that was an obligation to study and that was a path to holiness to practice. Gifted Jews in every generation continued to enrich the Torah tradition. In this way the Torah will be continually created, a process that will continue into the future. The emphasis is on human creativity, with which not only rabbis contribute to the development of the Torah (a thought that has roots in traditional Judaism), but also artistically or musically gifted people. Eugene Borowitz sees a difficulty with the broad, liberal Torah term in the fact that Torah can be identified with expressions of Yiddishness or a somewhat ethnically accentuated universal ethic.

In non-Orthodox Judaism, the Torah is interpreted today with the help of epistemological criteria. The conscience , reason , ethical considerations, knowledge of the natural , human and social sciences limit the meaning and the effect of the commandments and prohibitions of the Torah.

The Pittsburgh Platform (1885) made a fundamental distinction between parts of tradition that have enduring importance (“the moral laws and the exalting and sanctifying ceremonies”) and those that are temporal and relative, such as dietary laws, priestly purity and dress codes. This attitude makes it possible to change traditional Jewish legal practice where, according to the liberal view, it no longer corresponds to the ethical norms of Judaism. These include certain rules regarding divorce, mamser (i.e. a child born from an incestuous or adulterous relationship), kohanim (priests), homosexuals , etc., and most importantly, full religious equality for women. The execution of the mitzvot is placed in the responsible decision of the individual.

The Torah in Christianity

The five books of Moses in the context of the Old Testament

The Old Testament (OT) is divided into three parts like the Tanach. The Pentateuch opens the Christian Bible . However, the Torah does not form a separate unit, but is usually sorted with the previous prophets (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings) and the books Ruth, Chronicle, Ezra, Nehemia and Esther as a group of history books . The Catholic Church also counts the books of Tobit and Judith among the history books , which are not part of the Hebrew Bible.

In the OT the writings ( Ketuvim ) follow in a different order with regard to the Tanach and only then do the posterior prophets ( Nevi'im ) follow . With the different sorting in Christianity there are deviations in the understanding of the Pentateuch. The five books of Moses are no longer read as doctrine or law, but as history books . In Christianity the doctrines and laws are no longer in the foreground, but the promises - especially the Abraham promise - and the narratives of God's historical actions.

Importance and evaluation

Since the Christian Church had included the Old Testament (and thus also the Torah) in its canon, the main focuses of the Torah, such as creation or charity, became common property of Western Christian culture.

In the early Christian theology of Paul , however , the law ( ancient Greek νόμος nómos ) also appears as the opposite of grace . This refers to the teachings and traditions of Judaism in general and, in the narrower sense, the Torah. In this context, grace appears as the proprium of Christianity, while the law is mostly talked about in a derogatory or at least negative manner: man can only obtain a semblance of justification through the law (reproach of attempting self- redemption ), while there is only true justification give by the free grace of God (through faith).

This led to a hegemonic discourse between majority and minority religion, with Christians emphasizing the legalistic, casuistic character of the Torah more than Jews . Further prejudices were “wage morality”, “formalism”, “suffering under the law” or “unattainability” of all individual demands. The “eye-for-an-eye principle”, which is generally believed to serve the idea of ​​revenge, is still often quoted today, while a more detailed analysis (also with the help of rabbinical clarifications) includes the limitation of claims for damages.

In the 19th century, the assessment of Judaism as the religion of law was postponed to the post-exilic period . According to Julius Wellhausen , Jewish identity was then defined solely by following - heteronomous and arbitrarily set by God - regulations, no longer through the election of Israel. Ed Parish Sanders brought the two together again and established a New Perspective on Paul . Even according to the Jewish idea, salvation is not achieved through the fulfillment of the law, but is based on the covenant proceeding from God . This demanded obedience to the law, but also in the case of transgressions it was possible through the means of atonement provided for in the Torah to remain in the covenant. Today, in Christian theology, an earlier caricature of the Law of Moses is widely criticized, and Jewish interpretations of the Torah are receiving greater attention.

The Torah in Islam

In its basic attitude and worldview , Islam refers to the legacy of the prophets and to the clear monotheism of Abraham (Ibrahim). Judaism and Christianity are regarded by Islam as religions that also have a share in divine revelation. From various suras of the Koran (3: 3, 3:50, 3:65, 5:43 ff., 5:66 ff., 5: 110, 7: 157, 9: 111, 48:29, 61: 6, 62: 5) believing Muslims are familiar with the fact that the Qurʾān (Koran) has its roots in the Torah ( Arabic توراة, DMG taurāh , also transcribed as tawrah , tawrat or taurat ).

Some provisions of the Torah are quoted in the Qur'an, such as the principle "an eye for an eye", which is relativized:

“We had prescribed for them: life for life, an eye for an eye, a nose for a nose, an ear for an ear and a tooth for a tooth; and just retribution for injuries. But whoever renounces it, it should be an atonement; and whoever does not judge according to what Allah has revealed - these are the unjust. "

- Sura 5 : 45 : Translation by Rasul

According to the Koran, the appearance of the Prophet Mohammed (Muhammad) is also prophesied in the Torah:

“These are those who follow the Messenger, the Prophet, who is ignorant of reading and writing; There in the Torah and in the Gospel they will find (written) about him: he commands them what is good and forbids them evil, and he allows them to do good things and forbids them to do bad things, and he takes away their burdens and their fetters lying on them. So those who believe in him and strengthen him and help him and follow the light that was sent down with him, they should be successful. "

- Sura 7 : 157 : Translation by Rasul

According to the current Muslim view, this refers to 5 Mos 18.18  EU .

Although both the Torah and the Gospel are mentioned as holy scriptures in the Qur'an, they are rarely studied by Muslims because, according to the Islamic view, the originals of the Torah and Gospel ( Indschil ) have been lost. Today's versions are considered falsified.

From a Muslim point of view, the reason for the similarities between the Qur'an and the Torah is that despite changes over time due to human influence, the Torah still contains elements of the original divine revelation and thus in the final revelation of God (Allah), the Qur'an 'to be found again.

Research history

Doubts about the authorship of Moses

The Jewish Talmud and the Christian New Testament attribute these five books to Moses and regard the events from creation to the distribution of land in Canaan (Deut. 33) as a direct revelation from God to him. Deuteronomy ends with the chapter about his death (Deut. 34), which the Talmud accordingly ascribes to his successor Joshua . Moses had written down this revelation beforehand. Except for insignificant copying errors, it was handed down verbatim: This view is still held today by Orthodox Judaism and, in part, Evangelical Christians and various groups of fundamentalist Christianity .

The authorship of Moses was questioned as early as the Middle Ages . The Jewish scholar Ibn Ezra noted that the scriptures depict the events without a first-person narrator and differentiate between the time of Moses and the time of the narrator or narrators. He saw contradictions that exclude Moses as the author of the scriptures. B. Gen 12.6  EU characterizes the time of the archparents by the fact that "at that time the Canaanites were still in the land". This does not distinguish the time of the heirs from the time of Moses, but only from the later time when the Israelites themselves colonized the land. From this, Ibn Ezra concluded that the narrator who formulated this statement lived long after Israel settled in the land of Canaan. Furthermore, Moses gave the speeches of the 5th book according to Dtn 1,1 orally until his death, so that someone else must have already recorded them.

In the 16th century, reformers such as Andreas Karlstadt disputed the authorship of Moses and saw the priest and Torah expert Ezra (around 440 BC) as the editor who had compiled the five books from older parts of the Torah ( Ezra 7.6  EU ). He also appears in the Talmud as an editor of the Torah.

Thomas Hobbes compiled numerous statements from the Pentateuch, but not only did he gather the facts, he also concluded that Moses could not have been the sole author.

Also in the 17th century Baruch Spinoza published the observations of Ibn Esras and thus initiated the historical criticism of the Pentateuch. In the course of the Enlightenment , various theories about the origin of the Pentateuch were then put forward, on which today's research is based. On the basis of an increasingly differentiated text analysis and more recent archaeological and ancient oriental research results, most researchers today assume that the Pentateuch did not get its final editorial form until after the Babylonian exile in the 5th century BC. BC won. It is traced back to the priests in Israel, especially at the Jerusalem Temple . His oldest, orally transmitted material for a long time, however, goes back to 1500 BC. BC back.

Around 440 BC The Pentateuch was canonized as Torah and since then has formed the main part of the Tanach with a normative character for the Jewish religion. Research sees a motivation for this in ensuring cohesion of the tribes in Israel through a "definitive" religion and in balancing out contradictions in older, heterogeneous traditions.

History of Pentateuch Research

With the Enlightenment, historical and critical research into the Bible began in Europe . Since the 18th century, the Bible has not only been received in its function as a revealed word of God, but has also been perceived and examined in its form as a book that has grown over time. From the 18th century, historical-critical research did away with the centuries-old notion that Moses was the author of the Pentateuch. The authorship of Moses was u. a. therefore denied that Moses could not have reported about things that happened before (creation of the world in Gen 1 f.) or after him (death of Moses in Deut. 34).

Early research observed various inconsistencies and duplications throughout the Pentateuch, such as:

  • two reports of the creation of the world and of man with partly contradicting statements: as a species through the pure creator's word in Gen 1, as a man through a pottery of God, as a woman from the rib of a man in Gen 2;
  • two versions of the duration of the flood , the building of the ark and the saving of the animals in Gen 6–8;
  • threefold salvation of the ancestral mother Sara and Rebecca in Gen 12, 20 and 26;
  • multiple etiological explanations for the sanctuary in Bet-El in Gen 12, 28 and 35.
  • Within the Pentateuch there is a constant change of the divine designations " Elohim " and " YHWH "
  • Change between the terms "Sinai" and "Horeb".

Older document hypothesis

As early as 1711, the Hildesheim pastor Henning Bernward Witter concluded that there were two different authors in Gen 1.1 - 2.4 and Gen 2.5 - 3.24 based on the differences in the designations of God in the creation story. The first of these authors used the divine title "Elohim" in Gen 1,1-2,4a, the second in Gen 2,4b - 3,24 the divine name "YHWH". Witter's observations, however, were not received for a long time.

It was only Jean Astruc who developed Witter's thesis in 1753 and thus initiated critical research on the Old Testament. From the multiple traditions within the Pentateuch, especially the Genesis, he reconstructed two continuous and two other shorter, formerly independent source scripts on which the current text is based. These source scriptures each contained their own accounts of the early days of Israel and were compiled by Moses in four columns (Astruc names these source scripts A, B, C and D). A later, post-mosaic editor worked together ("edited") the four sources.

In Germany, Johann Gottfried Eichhorn extended the thesis Astrucs to the text complex Gen 1 - Ex 2 in 1781 and divided the sources into a pre-Mosaic Elohist (named after the use of the divine title " Elohim") and a post-Mosaic Jehowist (named after the use of God's name " JHWH "). The spelling “Jehowist” corresponds to the reading of God's name “YHWH” at that time, which was read as “Jehovah (h)” until the 19th century.

Karl David Ilgen expanded Eichhorn's thesis further by assuming a source of fragments and therefore differentiated a total of three sources. In terms of research history, this theory became known as the older document hypothesis (also: source hypothesis ), as it was based on several continuous source scripts (ranging from creation to the conquest of the land) from which the current text of the Pentateuch was worked together.

In the 19th century, counter theories developed that tried to reconstruct the origins of the Pentateuch in a different way.

Fragment hypothesis

The so-called fragment hypothesis was based on numerous, previously independent narrative wreaths , which were only gradually worked together to form a complete narrative . Research understands a narrative wreath to be a self-contained group of episodes on a specific topic or a specific person, such as the stories about the progenitor Abraham or the Flood. Representatives of the fragment hypothesis were the English pastor Alexander Geddes and the German researcher Johann Severin Vater .

Supplementary hypothesis

The supplementary hypothesis (also: basic script hypothesis) developed as a kind of combination of the document and fragment hypothesis , the most important representative of which was Wilhelm Martin Leberecht de Wette . After its reconstruction, the Genesis initially consisted of a single Elohistic basic script or source ("Elohim-Epic"), into which a Jehovistic editor gradually worked individual narrative wreaths that were in circulation. De Wette also observed the duplication of many laws in Ex 20-23 and Dtn 12-26. He interpreted this finding as a further indication of different authors and editors within the first four books of Moses ("Tetrateuch") and the "Deuteronomy".

Newer document hypothesis

The so-called newer document hypothesis was decisive for many years . Hermann Hupfeld identified an Elohistic basic script (= priest script), the Elohists and the Jehovists. These three sizes had to be strictly distinguished by the editor. Wilhelm Martin Leberecht de Wette and Eduard Riehm recognized the own profile of Deuteronomy. Karl Heinrich Graf , Abraham Kuenen and above all Julius Wellhausen re- dated the Pentateuch source writings: "The late dating of P and early dating of J by Wellhausen revolutionized the image of the creation of the Pentateuch and, related to it, the history of Israel."

In his Prolegomena for the History of Israel (1886), Wellhausen formulated the thesis that the Torah and the Book of Joshua , which together form the so-called “ Hexateuch ”, are composed of several ongoing literary sources. These could be differentiated on the basis of various characteristics, such as the choice of the name of God, certain preferred vocabulary or the theological orientation.

Wellhausen distinguishes four sources:

An editor (R JE ) worked in the Yahwist source script (J) from the time immediately after the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BC. The Elohistic source (E) and thus created the "Jehowistic history" (JE). This was then incorporated into the priestly scriptures in the post-exile period. Finally, another editor (after Wellhausen possibly Esra ) added Deuteronomy as its own size, and so the Pentateuch came into being in its current form. Because of the four sources elaborated by Wellhausen, the newer document hypothesis was sometimes referred to as the "four-source theory". Although many of Wellhausen's conclusions are no longer supported today, his thesis remains a milestone in Old Testament research.

Martin Noth expanded Wellhausen's thesis at the beginning of the 20th century and, through his studies in the history of tradition (1948), helped it to be widely recognized and widely accepted in Old Testament research.

The Old Testament scholar Gerhard von Rad summarized the state of research in the middle of the 20th century as follows:

“The connection of the three historical works was done in such a way that large parts of the Elohistic work were first incorporated into that of the Yahwist and later - after the priestly scripture was available - the material of the combined Yahwist-Elohistic work was placed in the framework of the priestly scriptures. This multi-tiered editing process finally led to that extensive narrative work at the beginning of the Bible, which ranges from the creation of the world to the establishment of Israel in Palestine. "

Current research

Since the early 1970s, the newer document hypothesis has been increasingly questioned. First the existence of an Elohistic source script, then that of a Yahwist source script was questioned (first by Hans Heinrich Schmid ). According to recent research, J and E are not sources insofar as they do not meet the criteria of an independent source (meaningful beginning, meaningful end, continuous narrative thread and recognizable overall concept).

Therefore, the current research mostly only starts from one real source within the Pentateuch, the priestly scriptures . The priestly script alone has a continuous narrative thread that extends from the creation of the world to the conquest of the land . It is characterized by a clearly recognizable theological line and recurring formulations. All other texts that were previously assigned to J or E are now usually counted among younger editors or viewed as older individual traditions that do not tell the entire story. The majority of the more recent exegetical drafts - for example by Reinhard Gregor Kratz , Erhard Blum , Eckart Otto , Erich Zenger , Jan Christian Gertz , Konrad Schmid , Markus Witte - therefore simply speak of pre-written or non-priestly texts in these texts .

In research, Deuteronomy is and will always be a size sui generis . It occupies a key position both for the genesis of the Pentateuch and for the genesis of the so-called Deuteronomic History . Science is divided about its exact location (completion of the Pentateuch or beginning of the Deuteronomistic History?).

The Old Testament introductory science is currently going through a paradigm shift, as the dating and origin models that have been valid for years are no longer valid. There is also a change in the understanding of the Pentateuch in terms of content. In particular, the figure of Moses was "destroyed" as a largely editorial construct, which was to connect very different, originally independently handed down traditional complexes: the exodus of Israel from Egypt, the journey through the desert, the Sinai revelation and the beginning of the conquest.

The Joseph story , which has long been understood as a prime example of source theory, is understood as a literary unit in today's exegesis because of its formal and thematic coherence, but there are traces of literary growth, i.e. H. editorial processing. In 1991, Harald Schweizer submitted a literary-critical draft of how an intact, continuous narrative thread , which had been distorted by numerous selective editorial additions, could be recovered from a literary point of view. The original and artistically superior narrative had been inflated and defaced to the same extent by text material.

Münster Pentateuch model

The so-called Münster Pentateuch model has been widely used in recent years ; however, it does not represent a consensus of current research. The model goes back to Erich Zenger . Zenger assumes three source scriptures:

  • Source JG = non-priestly texts (approx. 700 BC)
  • Source D = Deuteronomic texts (before 567 BC)
  • Source P = priestly texts (after 520 BC).

The texts that are combined in these sources are of different ages and have a complicated history. The final editing of the Pentateuch will be made no later than 400 BC. It was estimated that at that time the Samaritans split off from the Jerusalem Central Shrine and only recognized the Torah, i.e. the Pentateuch, as the corpus of holy scriptures (see Samaritan Pentateuch ). Thus, by and large, the creation of the Pentateuch must have been completed by this time.

useful information

  • If the Torah is carried or read in the synagogue service, it is only held on the two wooden poles. As far as possible, the parchment is not touched, reading is done with the help of a pointer . Thus the script remains legible and preserved, because a Torah is very laboriously written by hand. A specially trained scribe, the Sofer , is commissioned to do this. It takes a sofer about a full year to write a Torah.
  • The Torah is kept in synagogues in a special shrine, the Aron haKodesch . Usually this is closed with a door and a curtain, the parochet . The Torah Shrine is opened during special prayers and on occasions when the Torah scroll is read.
  • All line widths and lengths are consistent throughout.
  • The new Torah scroll of the Liberal Jewish Congregation Beth Shalom in Munich, written by Sofer Bernard Barroch from London, contains 304,805 letters, 79,976 words, 5,844 verses - a sacred act of Sofer.


Historical designs
  • Henning Bernward Witter : Jura Israelitarum in Palaestinam terram Chananaeam, commentatione perpetua in Genesin demonstrata. Hildesheim 1711.
  • Jean Astruc : Conjectures sur les mémoires originaux, dont il paroit que Moyse s'est servi pour composer le livre de la Genèse. Bruxelles 1753.
  • Johann Gottfried Eichhorn : Introduction to the Old Testament. 3 volumes, Leipzig 1780–1783.
  • Alexander Geddes: The Holy Bible or the books accounted sacred by Jews and Christians. London 1792.
  • Karl David Ilgen : The documents of the Jerusalem temple archive in their original form. Volume 1: The documents of the first book of Moses in their original form. Hall 1798.
  • Wilhelm Martin Leberecht de Wette : Dissertatio critica. Jena 1805.
  • Julius Wellhausen : The Composition of the Hexateuch and the historical books of the Old Testament. Berlin 1876.
  • Julius Wellhausen: Prolegomena to the history of Israel. Berlin 1878.
  • Otto Eißfeldt : Hexateuch synopsis. Leipzig 1922.
  • Martin Noth : Studies in the history of tradition. Part 1: The collecting and processing historical works in the Old Testament (writings of the Königsberg learned society, humanities class 18.2). Niemeyer, Halle 1943.
  • Martin Noth: Tradition of the Pentateuch. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1948.
Recent research
  • Christoph Levin : The Old Testament. CH Beck, 2nd edition, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-406-44760-0 .
  • Reinhard Gregor Kratz : The composition of the narrative books of the Old Testament. (UTB 2157). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2000, ISBN 3-8252-2157-1 .
  • Erhard Blum : Studies on the composition of the Pentateuch (supplements to the journal for Old Testament science 189). Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1990.
  • Konrad Schmid : patriarchs and exodus. Investigations into the double justification of the origins of Israel within the history books of the Old Testament. Neukirchen-Vluyn 1999.
  • Erich Zenger u. a .: Introduction to the Old Testament. Kohlhammer, 6th edition, Stuttgart 2006, ISBN 3-17-019526-3 .
  • Hanna Liss, in collaboration with Anette M. Böckler and Bruno Landthaler: Tanach - Textbook of the Jewish Bible. 3rd edition Universitätsverlag Winter, Heidelberg 2011, ISBN 978-3-8253-5904-1 .
  • Frank Crüsemann : The Torah. Special Edition: Theology and Social History of Old Testament Law. Gütersloher Verlagshaus (1st edition 1992), new edition 2005, ISBN 3-579-05212-8 .
  • Frank Crüsemann: Scale: Torah. Israel's directive for Christian ethics. Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 1st edition 2003, ISBN 3-579-05197-0 .
Research reports
  • Cornelis Houtman: The Pentateuch. The history of its research alongside an evaluation. (CBETh 9) Kampen 1994, ISBN 90-390-0114-6 .
  • Edouard Naville: The Higher Criticism in Relation to the Pentateuch. Bibliobazaar Publishing House, 2009, ISBN 1-110-47014-2 .

See also

Web links

Commons : Tora  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Torah  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Pentateuch  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Jan Christian Gertz: Torah and front prophets . In: Ders., Basic Information Old Testament . 6th, revised and expanded edition. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2019, pp. 193–312, here p. 195.
  2. David Stern: The Jewish Bible: A Material History . University of Washington Press, Seattle / London 2017, p. 32.
  3. David Stern: The Jewish Bible: A Material History . University of Washington Press, Seattle / London 2017, p. 33 f. Sofer STaM: a scribe who makes Torah scrolls, Tefillin and Mezuzot.
  4. David Stern: The Jewish Bible: A Material History . University of Washington Press, Seattle / London 2017, p. 11f.
  5. Günter Stemberger : Introduction in Talmud and Midrash , CH Beck, 9th, completely revised edition, Munich 2011, p. 44.
  6. ^ Günter Stemberger: Introduction in Talmud and Midrash , CH Beck, 9th, completely revised edition, Munich 2011, p. 145.
  7. Mishnah Chagiga I 8, quoted here. after: The Mishnah translated into German , with an introduction and remarks by Dietrich Correns. Marix, Wiesbaden 2005, p. 285.
  8. ^ Günter Stemberger: Introduction in Talmud and Midrash , CH Beck, 9th, completely revised edition, Munich 2011, p. 126.
  9. Günter Stemberger: Introduction in Talmud and Midrash , CH Beck, 9th, completely revised edition, Munich 2011, p. 146.
  10. Günter Stemberger: Introduction in Talmud and Midrash , CH Beck, 9th, completely revised edition, Munich 2011, p. 151.
  11. Michael Pitkowsky: Art. Mitzvot . In: Encyclopedia of Jewish History and Culture . Edited by Dan Diner on behalf of the Saxon Academy of Sciences in Leipzig . Volume 4, Metzler, Stuttgart 2013, p. 216 ff. Here p. 217.
  12. Jan Christian Gertz: Torah and front prophets . In: Ders., Basic Information Old Testament . 6th, revised and expanded edition. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2019, pp. 193–312, here p. 200.
  13. Wolfgang Kraus, Martin Karrer (Ed.): Septuaginta German. The Greek Old Testament in German translation . German Bible Society, Stuttgart 2009, p. 4.
  14. Wolfgang Kraus, Martin Karrer (Ed.): Septuaginta German. The Greek Old Testament in German translation . German Biblical Society, Stuttgart 2009, p. 98: “The Greek name… indicates that the main emphasis in terms of content… is on statements about the temple cult. The name is also reminiscent of the Levites. But these are not mentioned in the book and are not added by the Septuagint either. "
  15. Wolfgang Kraus, Martin Karrer (Ed.): Septuaginta German. The Greek Old Testament in German translation . Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart 2009, p. 133: "The numbers determined here constitute Israel both as a people and as a religious community."
  16. Wolfgang Kraus, Martin Karrer (Ed.): Septuaginta German. The Greek Old Testament in German translation . German Bible Society, Stuttgart 2009, p. 175.
  17. a b Jan Christian Gertz: Torah and Front Prophets . In: Ders., Basic Information Old Testament . 6th, revised and expanded edition. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2019, pp. 193–312, here p. 195.
  18. Jan Christian Gertz: Torah and front prophets . In: Ders., Basic Information Old Testament . 6th, revised and expanded edition. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2019, pp. 193–312, here p. 221.
  19. Jan Christian Gertz: Torah and front prophets . In: Ders., Basic Information Old Testament . 6th, revised and expanded edition. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2019, pp. 193–312, here p. 198.
  20. Karin Finsterbusch: Deuteronomy. An introduction . UTB 3626. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2012, p. 27 f.
  21. Wolfgang Kraus, Martin Karrer (Ed.): Septuaginta German. The Greek Old Testament in German translation . German Bible Society, Stuttgart 2009, p. 3 f.
  22. Wolfgang Kraus, Martin Karrer (Ed.): Septuaginta German. The Greek Old Testament in German translation . German Bible Society, Stuttgart 2009, p. 56.
  23. Wolfgang Kraus, Martin Karrer (Ed.): Septuaginta German. The Greek Old Testament in German translation . German Bible Society, Stuttgart 2009, p. 98 f.
  24. Wolfgang Kraus, Martin Karrer (Ed.): Septuaginta German. The Greek Old Testament in German translation . German Bible Society, Stuttgart 2009, p. 133.
  25. Wolfgang Kraus, Martin Karrer (Ed.): Septuaginta German. The Greek Old Testament in German translation . German Bible Society, Stuttgart 2009, p. 176.
  26. Jeschajahu Leibowitz, Michael Shashar: Conversations about God and the world . Insel, Frankfurt / M. and Leipzig 1994, p. 129.
  27. ^ Central Conference of American Rabbis: Reform Judaism: A Centenary Perspective .
  28. ^ Eugene B. Borowitz: Reform Judaism Today . Behrman House, Springfield 1983, pp. 145 f.
  29. ^ Eugene B. Borowitz: Reform Judaism Today . Behrman House, Springfield 1983, pp. 149.153.
  30. ^ Central Conference of American Rabbis: Declaration of Principles
  31. Wolfgang Stegemann: Jesus and his time , Stuttgart 2010, ISBN 978-3-17-012339-7 , pp. 263-266
  32. Wolfgang Stegemann: Jesus und seine Zeit, 2010, pp. 220 f., 263–266, 275 f.
  33. ^ Richard Elliot Friedman : Who wrote the Bible. This is how the Old Testament came about. Anaconda Verlag, Cologne 2007, ISBN 978-3-86647-144-3 , p. 21
  34. a b c d e Jan Christian Gertz: Torah and Front Prophets . In: Ders., Basic Information Old Testament . 6th, revised and expanded edition. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2019, pp. 193–312, here p. 204.
  35. Cf. Astruc, Conjectures, p. 143 f.
  36. See Eichhorn, Introduction III, p. 22 f.
  37. Jan Christian Gertz: Torah and front prophets . In: Ders., Basic Information Old Testament . 6th, revised and expanded edition. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2019, pp. 193–312, here p. 205.
  38. Jump up ↑ Wellhausen dated the Yahwist in the late royal period, 9./8. Century. The thesis that the Yahwist worked at King Solomon's court in a time of cultural heyday ("Solomonic Enlightenment"), made possible by a Davidic-Solomonic empire, goes back to Gerhard von Rad . Cf. Jan Christian Gertz: Torah and Front Prophets . In: Ders., Basic Information Old Testament . 6th, revised and expanded edition. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2019, pp. 193–312, here pp. 206 f., Note 6 ..
  39. See Wellhausen, Prolegomena , p. 8.
  40. ^ Gerhard von Rad: Old Testament , Piper, 23.
  41. Jan Christian Gertz: Torah and front prophets . In: Ders., Basic Information Old Testament . 6th, revised and expanded edition. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2019, pp. 193–312, here p. 211.
  42. Reinhard Gregor Kratz: The pre- and post-priestly written Hexateuch . In: Jan Christian Gertz, Konrad Schmid, Markus Witte (eds.): Farewell to the Yahwist: The composition of the Hexateuch in the latest discussion . Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2002, pp. 295–324, here p. 295.
  43. Jan Christian Gertz: Torah and front prophets . In: Ders., Basic Information Old Testament . 6th, revised and expanded edition. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2019, pp. 193-312, here p. 281 f.
  44. See Zenger, Introduction , 100-106.