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Which Version of the Torah is the Oldest and Most Original?

by: Shmuel ben Shlomi

Just food for thought and discussion: Which version of the Torah is the oldest and most original?

The Northern Kingdom's version has Abraham actually murdering Isaac. Jacob is no relation to Abraham other than marrying into his family line with Rebecca and Leah. Jacob only has six sons instead of twelve, with Judah not being one of them or even mentioned. Joseph is pulled out of the well by the Midianite nomadic traders with no mention of Ishmaelite traders involved. The Midianites sell Joseph to Potiphar, an Egyptian leader in charge of prisons. His wife never tempts Joseph. He is in prison not as a prisoner but as a slave serving the elites that have been imprisoned by Pharaoh and so forth.

The Southern Kingdom, getting its name from Judah have him as the main character after Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, thereby justifying the Davidic bloodline as legitimate for kingship. It also has Jerusalem in the Southern Kingdom of Judah as the only rightful location for the Temple while the Northern Kingdom version has it placed on Mt. Gerizim located in Samaria - the Northern Kingdom.

If you look at the Bible we have today with the eye of an open-minded literary critic you can easily see how the scribes, editors and redactors tried to meld these two opposing versions into one coherent body of work. Plus there is the old debate about the JEDP theory (which is a discussion for another time).

All these cut and paste operations took place during the Babylonian Captivity of the elites from Israel circa 526 to 597 BCE. Fearing their oral stories would be lost, since they weren't for sure when and if their captivity would ever come to an end, they tried their best to put together an accounting that would be acceptable to the remnants of both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms.

This is also why Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi decided to commit the Oral Torah (the Mishnah) to writing around 200 CE for fear it would be lost or distorted after Rome had fully dispersed the Jews throughout the empire.

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