Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Short Post about Underwear

Parshat Tetzaveh

After a bunch of weeks of fairly detailed posts, this week will be much lighter.  What I will do is bring one small contradiction in the text that indicates the development of ideas contained in the book of Shmot (Exodus).  In part this will motivate the post in two weeks time, where I'll give an explanation of why scholars think the original "ten commandments" were completely different than the ones we all know.

Don't Flash God

Among various fine clothing items worn by the priests, are the nondescript pants described in Exod 28: 42-43
42 And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover the flesh of their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach. 43 And they shall be upon Aaron, and upon his sons, when they go in unto the tent of meeting, or when they come near unto the altar to minister in the holy place; that they bear not iniquity, and die; it shall be a statute for ever unto him and unto his seed after him.
The idea behind them is simple.  They are to cover up the nakedness of the priests, so they don't accidentally expose themselves to God (who I guess, doesn't like genitals).  However, the commandment for priest wearing pants completely obsoletes a previous commandment that we saw a few weeks ago in Exod 20:21-22
21 And if thou make Me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stones; for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast profaned it. 22 Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto Mine altar, that thy nakedness be not uncovered thereon.
If the priests were wearing pants, it wouldn't matter if they went up by steps, they would never be exposed.

The conclusion is that the earlier commandment requiring altars to not have steps must have existed prior to the innovation of pants as a priestly garment.  It must have been commanded at a time where a freeballing priest had a real chance of flashing God.  Perhaps even moreso, this commandment could have been in force at an earlier period, before worship was centralized at a single temple.

It turns out that, as I've alluded to several times, many of the commandments listed directly after the revelation on Sinai belong to an older set of laws, including this one about hewn altars.  The priestly garments mentioned here belong to a later stratum of laws.  The author who decided priests should wear pants completely removed the motivation for having altars without stairs.  It is really difficult to believe that both laws were commanded at the same time.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Color Purple

Parshat Terumah

In this week's parshah we learn about the commandments to construct the tabernacle and all the vessels therein. The actual construction will be carried out, with nearly identical language in a few weeks; this week we just hear the commands.  Somewhat surprising perhaps to religious people, the standard academic position is that the tabernacle in the desert never actually existed, and the entire sequence of construction was a later invention that attempted to retroject the features of the temple to an earlier age.  There are lots of supporting reasons for this assertion.  We will focus on one small anachronistic element this week in support of that conclusion.  It is not meant to be a comprehensive argument by any means.  Rather this week is an example of something that has always bugged me and that I wanted to research more.  It is yet another example of going into a topic not knowing what awaited me on the other side.

Many Ingredients

In several places the Torah lists the ingredients that go into each of the elements of the tabernacles.  One such verse near the beginning of the parshah (Exod 25:4) says:
And blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats' hair
The first ingredient blue, in Hebrew techelet, has generated a lot of interest in religious circles, mainly because of its association with tzitzit.  The color appears to have fallen out of use for long enough that no one is exactly sure what color it actually is, and how to extract it.  However, that is not our focus this week.  Instead, our focus is on the second color, purple, in Hebrew argaman.  This color, along with the blue, was used in nearly every cloth item in the tabernacle.  It was used in the ten curtains (yeriot, Exod 26:1), the skirt of the ark (parochet Exod 26:31), the screen for the entrance to the tabernacle (masach, Exod 26:31) as well as the screen for the entrance to the courtyard (Exod 27:15).  Addtionally it's used the garments for the Kohanim (priests) which we read about next week.

We know this color a bit better because purple played an important role throughout the Greek and Roman eras.  To track down more about the history of purple I hit up the local library.  The only work I was able to find was a monograph from 1969 by Meyer Reinhold [1].  Normally, I like multiple works to compare against each other, but unfortunately, that was not available here, so we'll have to do with just one.

A Foreign Word

If you're knowledgeable about biblical Hebrew, you probably know that argaman is not a native Hebrew word. It does not have a standard three letter root which is indicative of Hebrew origins.  The first question I had is where did this word come from.  Looking at nearby cultures, the word appears in Ugarit as argmn, in Assyro-Babylonian as argamannu, and possibly in Hittite as arkammas [2].  Beyond that the origin is obscure.  Strong lists a possible derivation from Sanskrit, but it is speculative at best.  Another guess from Albright traces it to a Luyyan word meaning tribute [3] .  One thing is clear, the origin of the word came from the North/East.  It did not come from the southwest, i.e. Egypt.  This will be important later.

Where Did they get the Stuff?

One question that might occur to you while you're reading this parshah is, "where did the Israelites get all the stuff."  Fortunately, this is not an actual plot hole.  The Torah has this one covered.  When the Israelites left Egypt, they took lots of items from the Egyptians.   For example, God tells Moses that when they leave (Exod 3:21-22):
21 And I will give this people favour in the sight of the Egyptians. And it shall come to pass, that, when ye go, ye shall not go empty; 22 but every woman shall ask of her neighbour, and of her that sojourneth in her house, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment; and ye shall put them upon your sons, and upon your daughters; and ye shall spoil the Egyptians.'
And again, right before the 10th plague (Exod. 11:1-2)
1 And the LORD said unto Moses: 'Yet one plague more will I bring upon Pharaoh, and upon Egypt; afterwards he will let you go hence; when he shall let you go, he shall surely thrust you out hence altogether. 2 Speak now in the ears of the people, and let them ask every man of his neighbour, and every woman of her neighbour, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold.' 
 And sure enough when they left (Exod. 12:35-36):
35 And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they asked of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment. 36 And the LORD gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. And they despoiled the Egyptians.
So, reading the story literally, it's certainly consistent that the Israelites would have lots of gold and silver and all sorts of other valuables from which to construct the temple.  It's a little more questionable that they would have brought lumber and other bulk materials.  But what about purple dye, or purple dyed thread.  Is it reasonable that the Israelites could have looted that from Bronze Age Egypt?

To the History Books

The question we ask is, would the Israelites have found purple dye in Egypt while they were there.  Another question is, would the Egyptians have considered purple valuable so that the Israelites, steeped in Egyptian culture at this point, would even think to take it.  The answer to both questions is no.  Reinhold says that purple was a symbol of prestige from the early second millennium.  It was exported from the Phoenician coast, likely harvested from sea creatures.  However, it was never popular in Egypt.  From Reinhold:
Far more certain is that we have no evidence for the valuation of purple as a status symbol token in Pharaonic Egypt [4]
He continues to say that any attribution to Egypt for discovering purple or using it as a prestige color before the Mesopotamian nations is "erroneous."  He addresses this question directly later on directly:
It is well known that among the Jews in antiquity a high valuation was placed upon the color purple, both as a ritual and sacerdotal color and as a prestige symbol in general.  We do not know when it acquired this status among the Jews.  (The view that the Jews acquired this symbol during their stay in Egypt is untenable.)  If our knowledge of the Jewish use of purple as a prestige token both religious and secular, does indeed antedate the Babylonian captivity, we may conjecture that it acquired this special cachet among them either directly from the Tyrians, or from the international prestige value of the color under Assyrian influence.  The least conjectural view would be to assign the beginnings of the valuation of purple among the Jews to the time of the Babylonian captivity, the Restoration, and the influence of Persian practice [5].
Furthermore, Reinhold mentions that in the second half of the 2nd millennium BCE, the references to purple seem to disappear even among those regions (Babyon, Ugarit) where it was popular previously.  It returns to prominence in the 9th century BCE, at a time where the Israelite and Judahite kingdoms were already established.

The conclusion is that, there's no way the Jews could have constructed a tabernacle with purple using only Egyptian spoils.  The Egyptians didn't care for it, nor would Israelites living in Egypt consider it worth carrying out.  There was no purple in Egypt for them to take, and they certainly couldn't manufacture it in the desert. The valuation of purple as a status symbol cannot stem from anything prior to an encounter with the Mesopotamian peoples.


As I said at the beginning, there are a lot of reasons to think the Tabernacle construction is not a realistic endeavor to the desert.  The anachronistic element of purple is just one of many.  While it might indeed be conceivable that wandering Israelites might construct a portable temple, they would not have used purple in it.  They couldn't have had it, and they wouldn't have valued it anyway.  Far more reasonable is it to assume that these descriptions were written much later, putting materials that were desirable and expensive at the time they were written in the far past, without realizing that those materials are badly out of place at the described time.

If the tabernacle was a real object, it must have been created later with materials available in Canaan.   The other alternative is it was not real at all, rather it was a fiction written by later authors who attempted to justify the sacrificial services they were currently doing by retrojecting it into the distant past.  We'll see exactly this type of retrojection in the opposite way, in order to discredit a current practice by a rival priestly guild in two weeks when we discuss the golden calf.   

1. M. Reinhold, "The History of Purple as a Status Symbol in Antiquity" 1969^

2. Reinhold p. 11^

3. W.F. Albright, Bulletin of the Amer. Schools of Oriental Research, 50, Apr 1933, 15^

4. Reinhold p. 12^

5. Reinhold p. 20^

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Hammurabi's Code

Parshat Mishpatim

After the high point of last week, where the Ten Commandments were given on Mt Sinai (or Mt Horeb), we seem to have a non-sequitur this week, where the entire parshah is spent recounting possibly the least exciting commandments in all the Torah.  These aren't commandments that are specific to Judaism either, not even stuff about sacrifices and rituals.  They are commandments that you might see analogues to in any society, stuff about what to do if your animal breaks free and kills someone, or if you borrow something from a friend and lose it, or if you accidentally knock out the tooth of a slave while beating him or her.

The ancient Rabbis were somewhat perplexed by this detour, and offered explanations for the strange transition from the sublime to the mundane.  However, they did not have access to information that we have today that makes this ordering somewhat more understandable.

Ancient Law Codes

In 1901 an archaeological team led my M. H. De Morgan discovered amidst the plunder of a certain Elamite king one of those artifacts that provide a tremendous window into the ancient world.  He found a law code inscribed in rock and dating to the reign of the Babylonian King Hammurabi, who reigned at approximately the 18th century BCE [1]. An even older law code, the code of Ur-Nammu was found in 1952.  That one dates to the late 3rd millennium BCE.  Yet more law codes were discovered, such as the Laws of Eshnunna dating to the late 18th century BCE.  All codes were ravaged by time, and many of the individual laws were lost.  However, a great many of the laws in Hammurabi's code survived, along with the preamble and conclusion.

These law codes govern exactly the same types of laws that appear in this week's parshah.  In a bit we'll look at some of the correspondences in detail.  Both of these law codes predate the Torah, even according to the traditional account which has Moshe writing the Torah at approximately 1400 BCE.  Before we get to some comparisons of details, let's first look at the preamble.

Divine Right of Kings

The preamble of both the code of Hammurabi and the code of Ur Nammu give divine justification for the laws.  For example from the code of Hammurabi:
...then Anu and Bel called by name me, Hammurabi, the exalted prince, who feared God, to bring about the rule of righteousness in the land, to destroy the wicked and the evil-doers; so that the strong should not harm the weak; so that I should rule over the black-headed people like Shamash, and enlighten the land, to further the well-being of mankind.
 And from Ur Nammu:
After An and Enlil had turned over the Kingship of Ur to Nanna, at that time did Ur-Nammu, son born of Ninsun, for his beloved mother who bore him, in accordance with his principles of equity and truth...
The point I want to make here is a simple one.  These law codes are always claimed to be explicitly backed by a deity.  They are delivered by the deity's chosen messenger, in these cases, Hammurabi and Ur-Nammu.  There is a similarity to the biblical account, where Moshe, God's chosen messenger, teaches their version of the laws to Israel.  This might help explain why these laws appear here, the structure is parallel to the law codes that were popular at the time, some of which were probably known to the Israelites.


In this section, which will probably be a little dry, I will list the laws in both the Torah and in Hammurabi's law codes that appeared to me to be similar.

An owner who let's his animal's graze in another field.
Hamm. 57: If a shepherd, without the permission of the owner of the field, and without the knowledge of the owner of the sheep, lets the sheep into a field to graze, then the owner of the field shall harvest his crop, and the shepherd, who had pastured his flock there without permission of the owner of the field, shall pay to the owner twenty gur of corn for every ten gan.
Exod 22:4 If a man cause a field or vineyard to be eaten, and shall let his beast loose, and it feed in another man's field; of the best of his own field, and of the best of his own vineyard, shall he make restitution. 

Freeing a debtor slave after a maximal period of servitude
Hamm. 117. If any one fail to meet a claim for debt, and sell himself, his wife, his son, and daughter for money or give them away to forced labor: they shall work for three years in the house of the man who bought them, or the proprietor, and in the fourth year they shall be set free.
Exod 21:2 If thou buy a Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve; and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing.

Striking a parent 
Hamm 195: If a son strike his father, his hands shall be hewn off.
Exod 21:15 And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death.

Lex Talionis (more on this later)
Hamm 196: If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out. [ An eye for an eye ]
Hamm 197: If he break another man's bone, his bone shall be broken.
Hamm 200: If a man knock out the teeth of his equal, his teeth shall be knocked out. [ A tooth for a tooth ]
Exod 21:24-25 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

Injury during an altercation
Hamm 206-208. If during a quarrel one man strike another and wound him, then he shall swear, "I did not injure him wittingly," and pay the physicians. If the man die of his wound, he shall swear similarly, and if he (the deceased) was a free-born man, he shall pay half a mina in money. If he was a freed man, he shall pay one-third of a mina.
Exod 21:18-19 And if men contend, and one smite the other with a stone, or with his fist, and he die not, but keep his bed; if he rise again, and walk abroad upon his staff, then shall he that smote him be quit; only he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall cause him to be thoroughly healed.

Striking a pregnant woman
Hamm 209-210 If a man strike a free-born woman so that she lose her unborn child, he shall pay ten shekels for her loss. If the woman die, his daughter shall be put to death.
Exod 21:22-23And if men strive together, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart, and yet no harm follow, he shall be surely fined, according as the woman's husband shall lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if any harm follow, then thou shalt give life for life

Damage to a borrowed animal
Hamm. 261, 263 If any one hire a herdsman for cattle or sheep, he shall pay him eight gur of corn per annum. If he kill the cattle or sheep that were given to him, he shall compensate the owner with cattle for cattle and sheep for sheep.
Exod 22:13 And if a man borrow aught of his neighbour, and it be hurt, or die, the owner thereof not being with it, he shall surely make restitution.

Oxen that gore other people
Hamm. 251-252 If an ox be a goring ox, and it shown that he is a gorer, and he do not bind his horns, or fasten the ox up, and the ox gore a free-born man and kill him, the owner shall pay one-half a mina in money. If he kill a man's slave, he shall pay one-third of a mina.
Exod 21:28-32 And if an ox gore a man or a woman, that they die, the ox shall be surely stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be quit. But if the ox was wont to gore in time past, and warning hath been given to its owner, and he hath not kept it in, but it hath killed a man or a woman; the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death. If there be laid on him a ransom, then he shall give for the redemption of his life whatsoever is laid upon him. Whether it have gored a son, or have gored a daughter, according to this judgment shall it be done unto him. If the ox gore a bondman or a bondwoman, he shall give unto their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.

Ear mutilation as a sign of servitude
Hamm. 282 If a slave say to his master: "You are not my master," if they convict him his master shall cut off his ear.
 Exod 21:5-6 But if the servant shall plainly say: I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free; then his master shall bring him unto God, and shall bring him to the door, or unto the door-post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him for ever.

The similarities mentioned above cannot be incidental.  The laws presented here in the Torah must have developed in the same manner as the other law codes in the region, probably borrowing from other cultures where appropriate.  The language is similar, the layout of the laws is similar, and some appear to be directly derived from others.  If you are of the opinion that these laws are divine, you must wonder why God produced laws that were so similar to those of the surrounding nations.  Especially laws that today seem barbaric, like laws regarding knocking out teeth of slaves.

An Eye for an Eye

It's worth spending a couple of lines to focus on the lex talionis, which is a fancy way of saying "an eye for an eye" that I often use to impress no-one at parties.  The traditional Jewish interpretation is that this cannot be meant literally.  From the Talmud, Bava Kamma 83b:
It was taught: R. Dosthai b. Judah says: Eye for eye means pecuniary compensation. You say pecuniary compensation, but perhaps it is not so, but actual retaliation [by putting out an eye] is meant? What then will you say where the eye of one was big and the eye of the other little, for how can I in this case apply the principle of eye for eye?
The literal interpretation is cast aside and replaced with a more humane monetary compensation.  The Gemara argues that the literal retaliation is impossible since one person's eye is not equivalent to another person's eye.  Yet we see the same phrase applied in Hammurabi's law.  If Hammurabi's lex talionis was literal, and it certainly seems it was, then doesn't it seem reasonable that the Ancient Israelites, who were clearly familiar with these law codes, would also interpret it literally?  Or, are we to interpret Hammurabi's law codes in a figurative manner as well?

It is also worth noting the poorness of the Gemara's logical reasoning.  The entire law is thrown out because of possible special cases.  Note that the same type of argument could be made for any specified punishment.  Thirty lashes?  It obviously can't be literal, because some people bleed more easily than others.   Prison?  Some people are claustrophobic, and would be unfairly punished in a small cell.  It's a fun game you can play to invalidate any potential penal prescription.  The more reasonable way to do it is to handle special cases differently.  The truth behind the motivation of the Rabbis wasn't due to logical reasoning, rather it was due to the fact that they (and the prevailing society they were in) felt these laws were barbaric.  So they invented ways to argue them away.

We see in this small section of Gemara, some shortcomings of the Rabbis who are quoted within.  They had no knowledge of these other ancient law codes, and thus often made statements that are highly unlikely in light of these other codes.  Furthermore, they had the task of taking an archaic law and modernizing it, which they did through clever interpretation.  In this case, the interpretation was enough to completely eliminate the plain meaning of the text.  Conservative and Reform Rabbis continue to do this today, interpreting ancient laws in new ways so that the old archaic meanings are considered obsolete or incorrect.  Orthodox Jews are quick to heap scorn on the movements to the left of the spectrum, while at the same time, they accept completely the Talmudic Rabbis who were doing the exact same thing.   

1. Kugel, "How to Read the Bible" p. 120.^

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Using Umberto Cassuto to Argue for Non-Mosaic Authorship

Parshat Yitro

I wouldn't be terribly surprised if most or all of the readers of this blog are unfamiliar with the name Umberto Cassuto.  He was a Jewish Rabbi and Scholar who lived in the first half of the 20th century and wrote several criticisms on the Documentary Hypothesis.  Modern Orthodox Jews today who know a little about biblical criticism will often bring him up as a critic who has shown the incorrectness of the Documentary Hypothesis.  While I personally think his arguments are not very compelling, and inferior to those of other critics such as Whybray, I won't be focusing on the correctness or incorrectness of his arguments.  Instead I will use one of his arguments to show that if you accept Cassuto's premises, there is no way to argue that the Torah could have been written by Moshe (Moses).

An Unassuming Contradiction in Genesis

A contradiction that Cassuto mentions several times has to do with the names of the wives of Esav (Esau).  There are two references, the first says (Gen 26:34):
And when Esau was forty years old, he took to wife Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite.
And the second section says (Gen 36:2-3):
2 Esau took his wives of the daughters of Canaan; Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Oholibamah the daughter of Anah, the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite, 3 and Basemath Ishmael's daughter, sister of Nebaioth
This isn't a huge contradiction by any means.  It can be argued away by simply asserting that these people just had different names.  This is what Rashi does, for example in his commentary on the chapter 36 verses (my translation):
Adah daughter of Elon: She is Basemath daughter of Elon, and she was called (Basemath) because she lit incenses (Besamim) for idol worship. Oholibamah: She is Judith, he (Esav) nicknamed her Judith to deceive his father into thinking she denied idol worship.
This idea of someone being named something else is a standard occurrence in the Tanach.  Yaakov (Jacob) is the same as Yisrael (Israel).  Hoshea (Hosea) is renamed as Yehoshua (Joshua) and so on.  Perhaps it's plausible to assume that the same renamings occurred in other places not specifically mentioned.

How Cassuto Deals with Contradictions

Cassuto has two main works that deal with Documentary Hypothesis.  The first is a series of eight short lectures which is a broadside assault on the Documentary Hypothesis as he understood it.  The second is a more detailed description of the various issues in Genesis.  Unfortunately, the second book is only published in Hebrew and Italian, and is thus extremely rare.  However, since I'm not interested in disproving Cassuto, and instead am more interested in seeing where Cassuto's actual arguments lead us, this is not too much of an issue here.  Everything we need exists in the shorter work [1] .

Some of the apparent contradictions of the text, Cassuto supplies explanations for, not dissimilar from traditional rabbinic approaches.  However, not so for the contradiction regarding the wives of Esav.  As Cassuto says:
It appears that there were current among the Israelites in regard to the names of Esau's wives, and likewise with reference to the other topics that similarly recur in contradictory versions, two divergent traditions; but the Torah did not wish to reject one in favor of the other, and therefore found room for both in its text, leaving it to the reader to chose one of the versions or to find a way of reconciling them as he deemed fit (Cassuto, p. 68).
and a bit later:
When the Torah was written, there already existed among the Israelites a number of traditions concerning the creation of the world and the beginning of human life upon earth... There were undoubtedly all kinds of traditions: on the one hand, the narratives handed down in the circles of the sages and philosophers; and on the other, the folk-tales that circulated among the broad masses of the people, stories that were understood by all and that were suited to explain abstruse matters to the simple mind of a humble shepherd (Cassuto, p. 71). 
Not to beat a dead horse, but yet again:
At the time when the Torah was written, there were current among the Israelites a number of traditions concerning the Patriarchs...and the Torah chose from among them those that were able to advance its purpose (Cassuto, p. 82).
It seems to me that once you are willing to accept multiple traditions regarding one story, it seems reasonable to apply it to similar contradictions.  Cassuto provides explanations of why the two creation stories in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 differ, resolving the contradiction regarding the order of creation [2].  However, multiple traditions, if you are willing to accept it, explains these things more elegantly.

Furthermore, Cassuto's position is not all that different from that of the Documentary Hypothesis.  If you replace the word Torah in the first quote with "redactor", you get a position very similar to that of modern academia.  Cassuto likes to be vague with regard to who he thinks wrote the Torah, as is noticeable from the paragraphs above.  To me, this is a glaring weakness in his argumentation. 

Nevertheless, we are mainly interested in the implications of Cassuto's "multiple tradition" theory.  The main implication is that if there are multiple traditions, then it is required that the date or place of composition is sufficiently distant from the time of the events so that multiple traditions can arise through errors of oral transmission.  It is possible that one of several accounts was near to the actual date and place, but then an explanation is required for why another later account exists, providing a contradictory story.  For example, the later account could be unaware of the first one.

This implication isn't all that exciting for the case of Esav's wives, or the creation.  No one thinks that these stories were written by Yaakov (Jacob), or Adam.  So Cassuto's explanation seems reasonable both for an author such as Moshe, or one significantly later.  However, what about very similar contradictions that date to the time of Moshe and his immediate family?  This is what we will look at.

Before we do that, there's one other question.  Why would multiple traditions arise with regard to Esav's wives?  Why would the Torah need to keep both?  Were people really so attached to the spouses of the progenitor of a nearby nation?  The answer is to understand that these marriages were meant to show the alliances of Edom, the nation synonymous with Esav at the time of writing.  Marriages have been a form of political alliance in many cultures, and the biblical culture is no exception.  In the first account, Edom is only close to the Hittites [3], while in the second account, they seem to be allied with the Hittites, Hivites and Ishmaelites (desert dwellers).  Thus, we can understand the traditions about wives either through etiology or propaganda. It makes sense that multiple traditions would arise, if the political situation was different at the time that each of these traditions arose, or if the author wished to tie Edom to different other nations for propagandistic reasons.

Moshe's Father in Law

Now we will look at two other textual contradictions similar to the one regarding Esav's wives.  The parsha opens with the following verse (Exod 18:1):
Now Yitro (Jethro), the priest of Midian, Moses' father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses, and for Israel His people, how that the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt.
Yitro then comes to join Moshe and the rest of B'nei Yisrael (Israelites) at mount Sinai, bringing with him Tzipporah, Moshe's wife, and his two sons Gershom and Eliezer.  He then advises Moshe to set up a court system, and then departs.

This isn't the first time that we've been introduced to Yitro.  Earlier in Shmot (Exodus) we saw that after Moshe fled Egypt, he took care of Yitro's flocks.  However, let's look at some of that story a little closer (Exod 2:15-21):
15 Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian; and he sat down by a well. 16 Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters; and they came and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father's flock. 17 And the shepherds came and drove them away; but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock.18 And when they came to Reuel their father, he said: 'How is it that ye are come so soon to-day?' 19 And they said: 'An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds, and moreover he drew water for us, and watered the flock.' 20 And he said unto his daughters: 'And where is he? Why is it that ye have left the man? call him, that he may eat bread.' 21 And Moses was content to dwell with the man; and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter.
And it's only a couple verses later that we encounter the name Yitro (Exod. 3:1):
Now Moses was keeping the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the farthest end of the wilderness, and came to the mountain of God, unto Horeb.
There's one other place in the Torah where Moshe's father in law is mentioned (Num 10:29):
And Moses said unto Hobab, the son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses' father-in-law: 'We are journeying unto the place of which the LORD said: I will give it you; come thou with us, and we will do thee good; for the LORD hath spoken good concerning Israel.'
And if this wasn't confusing enough, in Shoftim (Judges), we have this (Judg. 4:11):
Now Heber the Kenite had severed himself from the Kenites, even from the children of Hobab the father-in-law of Moses, and had pitched his tent as far as Elon-bezaanannim, which is by Kedesh.
Here, Hobab is the father-in-law, and not only that he's a Kenite, not a Midianite!  Just like the wives of Esav, it is possible to interpret these away, Rashi in his commentary to Num 10:29 says (my translation):
Hobab: He is Yitro, since it says, Hobab father-in-law of Moshe (Judg. 4:11), but why does it say (Exod 2:18) and they came to Reuel their father?  It teaches that young women call their grandfather, "father".  And he had many names.  Yitro because he added (yeter) a parsha in the Torah.  Hobab, because he loved (Hovev) the Torah, etc.
However, if Cassuto wasn't swayed by Rashi's comments regarding the wives of Esav, it stands to reason that this explanation wouldn't be all that convincing to him either.  It's much easier to explain this in the terms of multiple traditions, one traditions thought that Moshe's father in law was Reuel, one thought it was Yitro and one thought it was Hobab.

If we remember the requirements for multiple traditions to form, we conclude that at least some of these verses must have been written by someone distant from Moshe in space or time, and time seems most likely.  Moshe could not have written these verses, he would have consistently named his own father in law, or at least been explicit to the reason behind multiple names, as the Torah is wont to do in several cases [4].

It's also worthwhile to ask, why the different names.  As with Esav's wives, it might be possible to answer this politically.  Perhaps the verse in Shoftim was written when relations between the Israelites and the Kenites were good, and the verses in the Torah, were written when the Israelites had an alliance with the Midianites.  It's hard to determine more without really going into speculative theories.

One last contradiction.  The book of Devarim (Deuteronomy) never mentions Moshe's father in law by any name.  However, it does mention the appointment of judges (Deut 1:9-18).  The language is very similar, except that the father in law is nowhere to be found.  The idea is Moshe's alone.  Ok enough on this, let's move on.

What was that Mountain Called Again?

Ask any young child, Jewish or Christian what was the name of the mountain where God gave the Torah to Israel, and they'll all tell you that it was Mount Sinai.  And indeed in this week's Torah portion, every time the mountain is mentioned, it is called Sinai.  However, there are many places where the mountain is given another name, Horev (Horeb).  Sinai and Horev appear in several places in the book of Shmot (Exodus).  In the next two books there are only references to Sinai, no Horev.  In Devarim (Deuteronomy) the reverse is true, only Horev, no Sinai [5].

Again, like the other contradictions, the traditional explanation is that Horev and Sinai are the names of the same place.  However, this is a bit tricky.  At the end of last week's parsha we had one of the stories of Moshe bringing water from a rock (Exod 17:6-7):
6 Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink.' And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And the name of the place was called Massah, and Meribah, because of the striving of the children of Israel, and because they tried the LORD, saying: 'Is the LORD among us, or not?
After this, the Israelites encountered Amalek in Rephidim, without any notice of travel in between the incident at Massah and Merivah (Exod 17:8)
Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim.
Then, we get a travel statement at the beginning of this week's parsha (Exod 19:1-2)
 1 In the third month after the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai. 2 And when they were departed from Rephidim, and were come to the wilderness of Sinai, they encamped in the wilderness; and there Israel encamped before the mount [6].
So it seems clear to me that at least in this section, Horev and Sinai are different places.  Unless, you think that the Israelites went from Horev/Sinai to Rephidim and then back to Horev/Sinai, and the Torah author just happened to choose one of the names for the first place and another name for the second.  A bit of a stretch.

What is clear, is that if you are willing to accept Cassuto's multiple tradition hypothesis, then it's very reasonable to apply that here as well.  One tradition had a revelation at Sinai, one at Horev.  Once you accept Cassuto's hypothesis, it becomes clear that these verses also could not have been written by Moshe.  He would not have forgotten which mountain the revelation took place on.  Nor would he have propagandistic or etiological reasons to change it around.

And Many More

The three contradictions mentioned in this article, the different versions of Esav's wives, the different names for Moshe's father in law, and the different sites for the revelation are not pathological examples.  These types of differences are all over the place throughout Tanach.  These help build the case for the multiple traditions of Cassuto, or the multiple authors of the Documentary Hypothesis.  While Cassuto disagrees strongly with the Documentary Hypothesis, his alternative cannot be very appealing to modern day Jews.  As we have seen, it leads directly to a date of composition far enough distant from Moshe that multiple traditions could have arisen regarding details of his life.

1. Umberto Cassuto, The documentary hypothesis and the composition of the Pentateuch; eight lectures Jerusalem, Magnes Press, Hebrew University [c1961], all references to Cassuto come from here. ^

2. In the first creation account, the plants are created on day 3, and man and woman together on day 6. In the second creation account, first man is created then the plants, then woman. Cassuto offers the explanation that the plants on day 3 represent wild plants, while the plants in the 2nd creation story represent cultivated plants.^

3. It's questionable whether the biblical authors actually knew who the Hittites were. The Torah, here and elsewhere, has them dwelling in Canaan. However historically, the Hittite empire never stretched that far south. It is also possible that the biblical reference are not the Hittites, but a smaller coastal nation with a similar name.^

4. For example, the multiple names of Yaakov and Yisrael, Esav and Edom, or the explanation that Beth-el used to be called Luz (link to etiology).^

5. There is exactly one mention of Sinai in the poem Ha'azinu. This poem, and the blessing of Moshe are special cases, as is true for all of the poems. They tend to represent very early compositions, as we'll see in future weeks.  I should note that their are surprisingly few references to either Sinai or Horev in the rest of Tanach.  Judges has one mention of Sinai in Devorah's song (Judg. 5:5, another early composition).  Kings mentions only Horev (1 Kings 8:9, 19:8), the first of which appears verbatim in Chronicles (5:10).  Note that the Deuteronomy choice agrees with that of Kings.  Malachi and Nehemiah only mention Sinai, and there are no references in the rest of the prophets, somewhat amazingly.  Sinai appears in Psalm 68 (twice) and Horev in Psalm 106 (once).^

6. If you noticed that the language in these verses is awkward and a bit clunky, you should be proud of yourself. There are multiple authors hypothesized here.^