Moses’ Invisible Pen: How the Pentateuch Destroyed Any Hope of Faith

In the early years of Rayan, I steadfastly rejected religious claims, but for the most part I did so silently. It’s not that I had complaints about the telephone game, extraordinary claims, or even the utter implausibility of the stories in the bible; I really merely did not believe what people were saying about the bible. I was a de facto atheist without knowing what that word even meant. Today I was thinking about this period in my life—where, presumably, I had no reason to reject the teachings of my grandparents’ parishioners, and I believe I’ve pinpointed the exact moment where disbelief became my default position.

It was Moses.

Although my parents—despite their Christian leanings—never asked me to attend religious services as a child, my grandparents did, and I accompanied them to no fewer than 20 Sunday services. It was at these services that I discovered my first critical view of religious teachings.

Initially, I was taught by Grand Mommy and Pop Pop that the Pentateuch was written by Moses. I remember fondly my grandmother sitting down to finish an Old Testament-inspired puzzle and discussing Moses’ authorship of the first five books. She would sit me on her lap and read from the OT, insisting that it was penned by Moses himself (despite his writing about his own death in the third person). I remember her pointing out the bible verses to support this claim. But when they took me to Sunday school and dropped me off with the other children I learned something different.

The Sunday school teacher insisted that Moses played no role in the books’ authorship, but rather his life’s tales and teachings were documented by lay eyewitnesses and eventually compiled into the first five books of the bible. This caused in me great discomfort.

The bible was obviously wrong! To be honest, I put more trust in the Sunday school teacher than I did my own grandparents, but to also be fair no reputable, modern biblical scholar would ever claim the bible was correct about its authorship (for a bibliography, see the bottom of this link). And also to be fair the teacher cited her own pastor as an authority on the authorship of the OT.

In other words, a foundational question about the bible had contradictory answers. Should I accept what the bible says, or should I accept what people who study the bible say about it? I obviously went with the latter, but from that day forward I was filled with a healthy dose of skepticism that has followed me to this day. In a very short matter of time I went from a de facto atheist to a full-fledged religious critic, demanding answers to unanswerable questions, and I would never develop any level of belief even remotely akin to religiousness.

Thank you grandparents.

About Rayan Zehn

I'm a political scientist.
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3 Responses to Moses’ Invisible Pen: How the Pentateuch Destroyed Any Hope of Faith

  1. How early on did this experience occur? I know that in my formative years (3-6) I wasn’t lucky enough to have teachers, parents, and pastors mixing up their messages. It would have been nice, I think, to have something that concrete to hold onto.

    • Rayan Zehn says:

      My grandmother passed away when I was eight, but I also remember that I was in school at the time… so between—let’s say—five and eight. I should have added that my grandparents were southern baptists; however, they attended a catholic church (due to convenience). The variation between the teachings might’ve stemmed from that.

      • David says:

        Hey Rayan, just my 2 cents as usual. The Pentateuch, or Torah, was not written by Moses. As you pointed out there’s great and obvious reasons this is the case, speaking about death in the 3rd person. Or for that matter, that’s a lot of writing whilst being on the side of the hill with God.

        I am of the belief, though I obviously can not prove this, but Genesis had somewhere about 10 different authors, the very first being Adam himself. The reason I believe this to be the case is when I am reading Genesis specifically, the verbage changes so dramatically even within varying chapters. When reading, when you get to a point it says these are the generations of… I believe is the last author signing off. He then hands the scroll down to his son, and so forth. By the end of Genesis I believe they may have been on several scrolls, and tucked away nicely in the Pharaohs great library to which Moses just so happen to be chilling.

        When reading the torah, I get the sense that Moses when fleeing pharaoh, took the scrolls that make up Genesis, and whilst in the wilderness studied the word, pasted them together and formulated or maybe even edited Genesis. But for the other 4 books, I believe he may have had his part in them, but again so did others who were followers. The Torah is completely accredited to Moses much how the 4 Gospels are accredited to 4 names, but anyone with a critical eye knows that these are names Matthew Mark Luke and John who were given to the Gospels by the Catholic Church.

        I feel it doesn’t matter that the author didn’t pen down his name, the account of the first person way in which the Gospels were written seems to speak for themselves, I.E. In John especially often speaking of himself saying the disciple in whom Jesus loved John 21:24 for example. So all though at the top of his paper, or the Bottom he didn’t say this is the disciple John, signing off, I believe anyone who really reads the text should be able to realize it was written by John. That and I believe scholars have said the hand writing of the Gospel of John is the same as the epistles of John, but I can’t say for sure.

        The point I am trying to make is even though the top of our English printed out modern bibles say books of Moses, or Book of John, these things obviously have been added to help the reader. Moses clearly had his part in the Torah, but by no means did he sit up on some hillside some odd days and write 5 books with thousands of Hebrews chilling at the base. Anyone who believes this I feel is the definition of sheeple, no offense to your grandparents. We don’t know what we don’t know. And far to often things we do know, because it was taught to us even, doesn’t make it correct. Bible teaches, study to show thyself approved. 2 Timothy 2:15, don’t just follow along because others say its correct.

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