[slightly revised version of a post originally dated 12-15-22 on Facebook]
Writing at atheist Jonathan MS Pearce’s blog underneath an article entitled, A study in straw: “Apologetics, alphabets, and the Torah,” by guest writer “Lex Lata” (12-1-22) — one that I thoroughly replied to, “BensNewLogIn” stated: “Moses writing Genesis would not have been an eyewitness account.”
No kidding? He figured that out, huh? This is not exactly a huge revelation (no pun intended). Obviously, Moses wasn’t present at the Garden of Eden or the Flood, or the Tower of Babel, or the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, or in Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’s time. Genesis ends with patriarch Joseph’s death. His life and death dates (based on the massive Old Testament research of Egyptologist and archaeologist Kenneth A. Kitchen) were c. 1737-1717 BC to c. 1627-1607 BC: the death dates based on the Bible’s statement that he died at 110 years old. But it must be noted that that is known as a “symbolic” age of death among the Egyptians. In any event, we know the general time period.
Moses, on the other hand, lived from c. 1340 or 1330 BC to c. 1220 or 1210 BC. That’s an estimated 267 years between Joseph’s death and Moses’ birth. Moses obviously drew from oral and/or written traditions passed down to him, to write the accounts of anything that occurred before he was between 40 and 80 years old, when he likely began writing the Torah.
But “BensNewLogIn” — very typically of anti-theist atheists — thinks Christians are too clueless and anti-intellectual to figure out things like this. These sorts of statements are legion among atheists. He then goes on to make an even more dubious statement: a dreaded, notorious “universal negative” that will backfire on one who utters it, almost every time: “Moses writing about Moses wrote in the third person. No where does he say, ‘I did this.’ ”
I disposed of the third person objection in a recent post. It’s much ado about nothing, with many parallels in other biblical and non-biblical classical literature. But now we have this amazing claim that Moses never (“no where”: sic) wrote in the first person.
It’s almost beyond belief that he would assert this, given the sheer volume of words he would have to sift or search through to make such a determination. The search function of the RSV online Bible that I have used for years indicates that the word “I” appears about 1,250 times in the Torah (first five books of the OT): twelve-and-a-half pages of search results.
Are we to believe that ol’ “BensNewLogIn” searched through all of those instances, or read all five books, taking notes, to figure out that none of these first person instances of “I” ever applied to Moses? It’s a joke! How would he know such a thing? I’m not about to search all 1,250 instances of “I” in the Torah to find out, either, but I do know that in Deuteronomy, “The LORD said to me” appears 14 times: every time written by Moses (1:42; 2:2, 9, 17, 31; 3:2, 26; 4:10; 5:28; 9:12-13; 10:1, 11; 18:17).
Here are many more first person words from Moses (RSV), that I found by simply perusing the text of Deuteronomy:
Deuteronomy 1:15 . . . I took the heads of your tribes, wise and experienced men, and set them as heads over you, . . .
1:16 . . . I charged your judges at that time, . . .
1:18 And I commanded you at that time all the things that you should do.
1:20 And I said to you, . . . (cf. 1:29)
1:22 Then all of you came near me, and said, . . .
1:23 The thing seemed good to me, . . .
1:37 The LORD was angry with me . . . (cf. 3:26; 4:21)
1:41 Then you answered me, . . .
1:43 So I spoke to you, and you would not hearken; . . .
3:18 . . . I commanded you at that time, . . .
3:21 . . . I commanded Joshua at that time, . . .
3:23 And I besought the LORD at that time, saying,
4:2 You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it; that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.
4:5 Behold, I have taught you statutes and ordinances, as the LORD my God commanded me . . . (cf. 4:14; 6:1)
4:10 . . . the LORD said to me, . . .
4:22 For I must die in this land, I must not go over the Jordan; . . .
5:1 . . . Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I speak in your hearing this day, and you shall learn them and be careful to do them.
5:5 . . . I stood between the LORD and you at that time . . .
5:28 And the LORD heard your words, when you spoke to me; . . .
6:6 And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart;
9:10 And the LORD gave me the two tables of stone written with the finger of God . . . (cf. 9:11; 10:4)
9:20 . . . I prayed for Aaron . . .
10:5 . . . I turned and came down from the mountain . . . as the LORD commanded me.
10:10 I stayed on the mountain, as at the first time, forty days and forty nights, and the LORD hearkened to me that time also . . .
31:27 . . . I know how rebellious and stubborn you are . . .
All of this (!), yet “BensNewLogIn” wrote: “No where does he [Moses] say, ‘I did this.’ ”
Don’t be fooled, folks, by anti-theist atheist gobbledygook: especially when they make allegedly “expert” or “informed” claims about the Bible. They habitually portray themselves as so well-informed about biblical and theological matters. Don’t believe it. It’s almost always a “quarter of an inch deep.”
No one will call him on this in that discussion thread. No one will even wonder whether his universal negative is true or not. They’ll swallow up anything that their fellow atheists assert, no matter how ridiculous. It’s all GOSPEL TRVTH, as long as an atheist writes it down in one of these atheist Internet echo chambers, that pass themselves off as Bastions of Singularly Open-Minded and Solely Evidence-Based Intellects.
Photo credit: Moses with the Tables of the Law (c. 1624), by Guido Reni (1575-1642) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]
Summary: I address typical comments about Moses as the author of the Torah, regarding eyewitness accounts & first-person writing, from an anti-theist atheist in an atheist forum.