Where is the chosen place?

Where is the chosen place?

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Everyone knows the most holy place in Israel is Jerusalem, and in Jerusalem the temple mount, right? A year ago, my answer to such a question would have been “Of course!”. Today I would answer this question much differently.

Four years ago, I was 46 years old and Christian. Although at 20 years old I had discovered severe problems with Christian theology and practice, it wasn’t until 26 years later that I finally got serious about seeking the truth. A year later I had embraced the Torah. Another year later, after spending much time studying the Torah alone, I had abandoned the new testament entirely, including any belief in the Christian “messiah”.

What I failed to do at the time, however, was to apply the same level of critical thinking to what I was reading in the Tanakh. I simply accepted what it said about Jerusalem and the temple.

Another year passed while I continued to learn and practice Torah, and then a friend’s Facebook post introduced me to the Israelite Samaritan perspective, which features a belief that Mount Gerizim, not the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, is the chosen place mentioned throughout the book of Deuteronomy, the one and only location in the land where offerings and pilgrimage feasts to YHWH were to be performed once the Israelites returned to their homeland from Egypt.

This perspective intrigued me. As I investigated, it began to resonate deeply with me, and I knew there was something to it. I had already wondered how Judaism had transitioned from the tent of meeting to a temple, when neither the structure nor location (Jerusalem) was mentioned in the Torah. Suddenly I started connecting the dots in the Torah to the special place located near Shechem. There Abram was sent by the Almighty, and promised the land for his descendents. There Jacob had his vision of messengers going to a from the earth, named the place Beit El “House of God”, and was again promised the land. He acquired land and settled there; His children tended to his livestock there; Joseph was sold into slavery nearby, setting him up to be the eventual savior of his family. Joseph, knowing his people would one day leave Egypt and return to their homeland, made them promise to exhume his bones and take them back with them. This they did, and he was reinterred near Shechem. Obviously this was a very, very special place.

Still, I prefer things to be spelled out in black and white, and I lacked the “smoking gun” proof that would convince me that the Israelite Samaritans were correct. I spent close to a year with this question always on my mind, constantly challenging me to confirm and embrace the true chosen place. I would talk about it often during our group Torah study, so much so that I suspect it became annoying to some.

In September 2017, I noticed that Ben Sedaka, Israelite Samaritan historian and spokesman, was planning to be in Cincinnati, Ohio in late December. I contacted him and arranged to meet him there. When he heard I was part of a Torah study group in Nashville, Tennessee, he suggested I invite the whole group, and indeed all of us traveled to meet him and had a wonderful time examining ancient manuscripts, studying the Torah and learning more about the beautiful Israelite Samaritan way of life.

Before meeting with Ben, I felt it would be useful for me to try again to answer the chosen place question for myself, one way or another. I wrestled with it some more, and also reached out to a Facebook group of Israelite Samaritans in Brazil for advice. A young man from India, a seeker of truth born into the Hindu religion, but having embraced the Israelite Samaritan perspective, started up a conversation with me. In the middle of the conversation he made a comment about Moses having encouraged his people that the commandments were not impossible to follow, but were within their power to do, and connected that with the idea that if they were to neither add to nor subtract from them, they must have already known the exact location of the chosen place of Deuteronomy.

It nearly slipped past me, but hours later as I was contemplating our conversation, these words came back to me, and I realized he may have given me the key to finally answer the question. When I re-examined Deuteronomy, and also compared it to the Judean book of Joshua, I discovered the answer was right there in black and white; I simply hadn’t seen it!

The puzzle was finally solved by making some very simple scriptural connections. If certain activities are only to be performed at the chosen place, when you encounter those activities commanded to be done at a specific geographical location, that location has to be the chosen place. Suddenly I had at my disposal a ridiculously simple way to answer the question that had been on my mind for so long!

Here are two simple sciptural connections which confirmed for me the location of the chosen place mentioned more than 20 times in Deuteronomy. The first takes a commandment from Deuteronomy that was to be fulfilled at the chosen place, and compares it to its fulfillment as recorded in the Judean book of Joshua, which reveals where the fulfillment took place:

He commanded them: “At the end of seven years, at the appointed time of the cancellation of debts, at the Feast of Temporary Shelters, when all Israel comes to appear before YHWH your God in the place he will choose, you must read this law before them within their hearing. Gather the people – men, women, and children, as well as the resident foreigners in your villages – so they may hear and thus learn about and fear YHWH your God and carefully obey all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 31:10-12 NET)

This commandment was fulfilled according to the book of Joshua:

Then Joshua read aloud all the words of the law, including the blessings and the curses, just as they are written in the law scroll. Joshua read aloud every commandment Moses had given before the whole assembly of Israel, including the women, children, and resident foreigners who lived among them. (Joshua 8:34-35 NET)

Notice how strikingly similar the language is between the two passages! Where exactly was Joshua when he read the Torah to the entire nation, according to this Judean chronicle of his story? In the Shechem area, conducting the ceremony of the blessing and curses on Mounts Gerizim and Ebal! This had to have been the chosen place!

To confirm, here is another similar illustration: two verses in Deuteronomy, one commanding that sacrifice and feasting only be done in the chosen place, followed by another commanding sacrifice and feasting to be done during the ceremony on Mounts Gerizim and Ebal:

But you must seek only the place he chooses from all your tribes to establish his name as his place of residence, and you must go there. And there you must take your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the personal offerings you have prepared, your votive offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. Both you and your families must feast there before YHWH your God and rejoice in all the output of your labor with which he has blessed you. (Deuteronomy 12:5-7 NET)

The above passage represents the first instance in Deuteronomy of a chosen place that YHWH will choose, the only place where sacrifice and pilgrimage feasting would be allowed. Later in Deuteronomy you find this within the instructions for the ceremony to be held on Mounts Gerizim and Ebal:

So when you cross the Jordan you must erect on Mount Ebal these stones about which I am commanding you today, and you must cover them with plaster. Then you must build an altar there to YHWH your God, an altar of stones – do not use an iron tool on them. You must build the altar of YHWH your God with whole stones and offer burnt offerings on it to YHWH your God. Also you must offer fellowship offerings and eat them there, rejoicing before YHWH your God. (Deuteronomy 27:4-7 NET)

See how easy that was? One passage limits certain activities to the chosen place, and then another instructs those limited activities to be done at a specific location. Logic dictates that the location where those activities were commanded to be done is the chosen place. Very simple, and yet few see it, apparently.

Below I will go into more detail, and demonstrate how this chosen place had already been chosen, (“will choose” being a later Judean change to the text), and why the altar was actually built on Mount Gerizim, not Mount Ebal (another Judean change.)

“Will Choose” or “Has Chosen”?

Deuteronomy refers to a chosen place more than twenty times, each time calling it the “place YHWH will choose”. This is according to the Masoretic text. The Israelite Samaritans, representatives of the northern tribes of Israel, insist this was changed by the Judeans, and originally read the “place YHWH has chosen”.

If it were only the Israelite Samaritan version of the Torah which read this way, one might be tempted to write it off as a sectarian edit meant to favor their position, and in fact most scholars until recently have done exactly that. However, it has been pointed out by scholar Stefan Schorch that the opposite is more likely:

“Adrian Schenker has pointed out in two recent articles that the reading “has chosen” is not only found in the Samaritan Pentateuch, but is attested by some Greek Septuagint manuscripts, too, as well as by the Coptic and the Latin secondary translations of the Old Greek text of the Pentateuch. This indicates that the Hebrew Vorlage of the Old Greek translation of Deuteronomy read “has chosen”, and in terms of textual criticism “has chosen” is therefore certainly the original reading, while the Masoretic reading “will choose” is secondary, being an ideological and maybe even an anti-Samaritan correction.”

(From http://www.schorch.at/SchorchSt2011_The_Samaritan_Version_of_Deuteronomy.pdf)

Further, outside of Deuteronomy one can find passages showing that the Israelites were on a journey to a chosen location that had already been established. In Exodus’ Song of the Sea one finds a startlingly clear instance of this:

You will bring them in and plant them in the mountain of your inheritance, in the place you made for your residence, O YHWH, the sanctuary, O Adonai, that your hands have established. (Exodus 15:17 NET)

Here one can see that immediately after the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea, the Israelites are singing about a sanctuary that YHWH has already chosen for his residence, which is already established by his hands. The first mention of the chosen place in Deuteronomy (12:5) calls it “his place of residence”, just as it is called in the song of the sea above, and just as it was named by Jacob as the “House of God”. It is obviously an already established location, one which had clearly been revealed in times past to their forefathers.

Clearly the Israelites knew their destiny lay in the Shechem area! And sure enough, as one reads the Judean book of Joshua, one finds that after they cross the Jordan, they spend several years conquering their way to Shechem. There they hold the commanded ceremony immediately after the conquest of Bethel and Ai, located in the immediate vicinity. At this ceremony they sacrifice and read the Torah aloud to the entire nation. These are activities which could only be done in the chosen place!

Altar on Gerizim or Ebal?

Another textual issue is the location of the Altar commanded to be built as part of the ceremony at Gerizim/Ebal. The Masoretic text says Ebal, while the Israelite Samaritan Torah reads Gerizim.

Here again, one finds good reason to consider the Israelite Samaritan viewpoint, according to Schorch (from the same document above):

“We have to realize, however, that the Masoretic reading in Deut 27:4 “on Mount Ebal” is almost certainly a secondary ideological correction, as opposed to the text-historically original “on Mount Gerizim”, which is preserved in the Samaritan Pentateuch and the Old Latin (Vetus Latina). According to the original text of the Book of Deuteronomy, therefore, this altar is to be built on Mount Gerizim, which is the mountain of the blessings according to the framing passages Deut 11:29 and 27:12-13.”

Further, a fragment of Deuteronomy 27:4 found among the DSS, written in the Judean script no less, agrees with the Israelite Samaritan reading, as documented at https://foundationjudaismchristianorigins.org/ftp/dead-sea-scrolls/unpub/DSS-deuteronomy.pdf

Finally, consider how the tribes were arranged during the ceremony:

The altar was built for sacrifice. In which tribe resided priests in charge of conducting sacrifices? The Levites, of course! They were to be stationed on Mount Gerizim, and yet we are to believe the altar was built on Ebal? All of the more prominent tribes in fact were stationed on Gerizim, the mountain of blessing.

All of this points to the possibility, even the likelihood, that the Israelite Samaritan Torah preserves the correct and original reading, that the place had already been chosen, and the altar was on Mount Gerizim rather than Ebal.

With that in mind, let’s look at a few more bits of evidence from Deuteronomy.

Identifying the chosen place of Deuteronomy

The very first mention of this chosen place in Deuteronomy appears in chapter 12. Interestingly, the very first mention of the ceremony to be conducted on Mounts Gerizim and Ebal is found in the last four verses of the preceding chapter:

When YHWH your God brings you into the land you are to possess, you must pronounce the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal. Are they not across the Jordan River, toward the west, in the land of the Canaanites who live in the Arabah opposite Gilgal near the oak of Moreh? For you are about to cross the Jordan to possess the land YHWH your God is giving you, and you will possess and inhabit it. Be certain to keep all the statutes and ordinances that I am presenting to you today. (Deuteronomy 11:29-32 NET)

Given that the chapter boundaries are not in the original, one can see this passage as beginning with the command to conduct this ceremony, demonstrating the location of the chosen place that is mentioned mere moments later. Note the admonishment of 11:32 that the Israelites be certain to keep all the statutes that Moses is presenting them on that day.

Chapter 12 continues:

These are the statutes and ordinances you must be careful to obey as long as you live in the land YHWH, the God of your ancestors, has given you to possess. (Deuteronomy 12:1 NET)

Here again it is stressed that these commandments must be carefully obeyed, and for as long as they live in the land! This means the commandments go into effect from the moment they step foot on the western side of the Jordan.

You must by all means destoy all the places where the nations you are about to dispossess worship their gods – on the high mountains and hills and under every leafy tree. You must tear down their altars, shatter their sacred pillars, burn up their sacred Asherah poles, and cut down the images of their gods; you must eliminate their very memory from that place. You must not worship YHWH your God the way they worship. (Deuteronomy 12:2-4 NET)

Here the Israelites are commanded to completely destroy the Caananite religious system. Contrary to the way the Caananites worship their gods, the Israelites must:

But you must seek only the place he has chosen from all your tribes to establish his name as his place of residence, and you must go there. And there you must take your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the personal offerings you have prepared, your votive offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. Both you and your families must feast there before YHWH your God and rejoice in all the output of your labor with which he has blessed you. (Deuteronomy 12:5-7 NET)

Here again is the very first reference to the chosen place. I have replaced the “will choose” with “has chosen”.

There are five additional mentions of this chosen place in Deuteronomy 12, which for brevity’s sake I will not detail, and then the chapter ends with:

You must be careful to do everything I am commanding you. Do not add to it or subtract from it! (Deuteronomy 12:32 NET)

If the Israelites were to carefully follow these commands for as long as they lived in the land, and were to neither add to nor subtract from them, then they absolutely had to know exactly where this chosen place was.

And they did, because as has been demonstrated above, when they had conquered their way to Shechem, they held the commanded ceremony and did those very things commanded to only be done in the chosen place (Joshua 8:30-35).

A new altar built near the Jordan provides more proof

Further proof that the chosen place was known is found in Joshua 22. When the conquest was complete, and the Israelites were secure in the land, the two and a half tribes that had chosen to put down roots in the Transjordan were released from their duties and allowed to return to their land. Before they crossed the Jordan back to their assigned lands on the other side, they erected an altar. When the rest of Israel heard about this, they were incensed and ready to go to war. They sent Phinehas son of Eleazer the priest along with ten tribal leaders to investigate, and they confronted the two and a half tribes in this manner:

The entire community of YHWH says, ‘Why have you disobeyed the God of Israel by turning back today from following YHWH? You built an altar for yourselves and have rebelled today against YHWH. The sin we committed at Peor was bad enough. To this very day we have not purified ourselves; it even brought a plague on the community of YHWH. Now today you dare to turn back from following YHWH! You are rebelling today against YHWH; tomorrow he may break out in anger against the entire community of Israel. But if your own land is impure, cross over to YHWH’s own land, where YHWH himself lives, and settle down among us. But don’t rebel against YHWH or us by building for yourselves an altar aside from the altar of YHWH our God. (Joshua 22:16-19 NET)

Here it is crystal clear that according to the Judean book of Joshua, the Israelites were extremely circumspect about following the commandments related to the chosen place. Once it was explained that this altar was simply a memorial, that no sacrifice would be offered thereon, the tension abated and the Israelites remaining in the land were satisfied.

Clearly the chosen place HAD indeed been chosen, was being carefully observed and guarded, and was not anywhere near Jerusalem, which at this time was still a Jebusite city, and wasn’t established as the Judean holy place until several centuries later.

Problems in the book of Joshua

Though I have shown from the Judean book of Joshua the location of the chosen place, and have further illustrated how important it was by the story of the altar in Joshua 22, the book of Joshua does present a problem regarding the location of the tabernacle.

If Mount Gerizim was the chosen place, one would expect to find the tabernacle was set up there, and remained. It is not explicitly stated in Joshua 8 that the tabernacle was present during the ceremony of the blessing and curses, but since the ark was present, one can infer it was there for the sacrificial activities that were part of the ceremony. At the end of Joshua’s life described in Joshua 24, one reads that he assembled all the tribes at Shechem, and set up a memorial under the oak tree near YHWH’s sanctuary (Hebrew mikdash is here translated “shrine” by the NET when it is normally translated sanctuary or temple):

Joshua wrote these words in the Law Scroll of God. He then took a large stone and set it up there under the oak tree near YHWH’s shrine. (Joshua 24:26 NET).

However, according to Joshua 18, the tabernacle was set up in Shiloh:

The entire Israelite community assembled at Shiloh and there they set up the tent of meeting. (Joshua 18:1a NET)

This presents a bit of a problem, as there was to be only one chosen place, and it should be assumed that by the time of Joshua 8, the tabernacle would have been permanently located at that place.

The Israelite Samaritan narrative reports this about the tabernacle at Shiloh:

Eli the priest, descendant of Itamar ben Aaron, rebelled against the High Priest Uzi ben Bookie, descendant of Pinhas ben Elazar ben Aaron. The latter was the legitimate High Priest according to the Torah commandment [Numbers 25:11-13]. Consequently, Eli was forced to leave Mount Gerizim, and went with his supporters to Shilo. (From their history page.)

I’ve already established that the Masoretic Text was changed to de-legitimize Mount Gerizim as the chosen place, so this may be further Judean editing to place the tabernacle in Shiloh, where Eli and his supporters had set up the counterfeit tabernacle, this being the schism that eventually led to a temple in Jerusalem.

Despite this possible change, it is clear that there was a sanctuary in the Shechem area in Joshua 24:26. This along with the story of the ceremony of the blessing and curses in Joshua 8, and the altar of the two and a half tribes in Joshua 22 remain to testify to the truth, that the chosen place was Mount Gerizim, and the sanctity and uniqueness of this place was diligently guarded against trespass by the nation.

Could the location of the chosen place have changed?

So, how did we get from Mount Gerizim to Jerusalem? Even in the face of the undeniable facts contained above, many maintain that the chosen place changed–that Jerusalem was chosen and Gerizim rejected. Let’s contemplate the logic of this assertion.

First, let’s look again at Exodus 15:17:

You will bring them in and plant them in the mountain of your inheritance, in the place you made for your residence, O YHWH, the sanctuary, O Adonai, that your hands have established. (Exodus 15:17 NET)

The Hebrew word translated “place” in this verse is “makon”, which means “fixed or established place, foundation” according to Strong’s Condordance. This doesn’t seem to indicate a movable structure, but a fixed geographical place. This is the only instance of this word in the entire Torah, though it appears in several places throughout the remainder of the Tanakh.

Those who favor Jerusalem as the chosen place assert that the tabernacle continued to serve as the abode of YHWH until Jerusalem was finally chosen, hundreds of years after the Israelites entered the land. Under this view, wherever the tabernacle was located served as the chosen place until the temple was built.

There are some logical problems with this, however. By the time Israel starts clamoring for a king, we find that Samuel, who was trained by Eli, was going from town to town sacrificing at high places, NOT at the tabernacle:

As they were going up the ascent to the town, they met some girls coming out to draw water. They said to them, “Is this where the seer is?” They replied, “Yes, straight ahead! But hurry now, for he came to the town today, and the people are making a sacrifice at the high place. When you enter the town, you can find him before he goes up to the high place to eat. The people won’t eat until he arrives, for he must bless the sacrifice. Once that happens, those who have been invited will eat. Now go on up, for this is the time when you can find him!” So they went up to the town. As they were heading for the middle of the town, Samuel was coming in their direction to go up to the high place. (1 Samuel 9:11-14 NET)

Samuel was apparently deliberately breaking the Torah commandment to only do these things at the chosen place. Not only that, but he was sacrificing at a high place, which is also forbidden:

You must by all means destroy all the places where the nations you are about to dispossess worship their gods – on the high mountains and hills and under every leafy tree. You must tear down their altars, shatter their sacred pillars, burn up their sacred Asherah poles, and cut down the images of their gods; you must eliminate their very memory from that place. You must not worship YHWH your God the way they worship. (Deuteronomy 12:2-4 NET)

Speak to the Israelites and tell them, “When you have crossed the Jordan into the land of Canaan, you must drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images, all their molten images, and demolish their high places”. (Numbers 33:51-52 NET)

In fact, YHWH had already warned them what would happen if they turned from him:

If in spite of this you do not obey me but walk in hostility against me, I will walk in hostile rage against you and I myself will also discipline you seven times on account of your sins. You will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters. I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars, and I will stack your dead bodies on top of the lifeless bodies of your idols. I will abhor you. (Leviticus 26:27-30 NET)

Despite the above, it seems that according to the Judean writings, the chosen place had been abandoned by the time of Samuel. In fact, it seems that everyone was offering sacrifice at the high places:

Now the people were offering sacrifices at the high places, because in those days a temple had not yet been built to honor YHWH. (1 Kings 3:2 NET)

Interestingly, 1 Samuel 16, where David is chosen to replace Saul as King, YHWH is said to have instructed Samuel to take a heifer along with him to Jesse’s residence in Bethlehem for a sacrifice:

And YHWH said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons.

And Samuel said, How can I go? if Saul hear [it], he will kill me. And YHWH said, Take an heifer with thee, and say, I am come to sacrifice to YHWH.

And call Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will shew thee what thou shalt do: and thou shalt anoint unto me [him] whom I name unto thee. (1 Samuel 16:1-3 NET)

Here even YHWH seems to be ignoring his own instructions regarding the chosen place, sending Samuel to sacrifice in Bethlehem. How can this be?

Where was the tabernacle? Why had it been abandoned in favor of the high places? One explanation that has been offered for this is that the tabernacle may have been destroyed by the Philistines around the time they captured the ark of the covenant (1 Samuel 4), and YHWH condoned the breaking of his commandments for a time until the temple was built. The text does not say this, so this is strictly hypothetical.

Is this reasonable? Does it make sense that a commandment that was to be observed for as long as they lived in the land was okay to break due to these special circumstances?

Even Solomon, supposedly given extra wisdom by YHWH Himself, sacrificed at high places even after the temple was built!

How does any of this make sense? Exodus 15:17 speaks of a place YHWH has already established as his residence. It is not referring to the mobile tabernacle. To believe any of this regarding Jerusalem requires one to believe that the chosen place can change, and that has to lead one to conclude it may change again in the future. If once believes in a future third temple, shouldn’t one acknowledge it may end up somewhere other than Jerusalem? This is particularly the case when one considers that YHWH was apparently so upset with the Judeans that he allowed both temples in Jerusalem to be destroyed.

The Judean writings are actually of two minds on the question. On the one hand, they have edited “has chosen” to “will chose” to allow centuries of Israelite presence in the land before Jerusalem is “chosen”, but on the other hand they agree that there were two “tents”, but that the original was rejected, as seen here:

He rejected the tent of Joseph; he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim. He chose the tribe of Judah, and Mount Zion, which he loves. He made his sanctuary as enduring as the heavens above; as secure as the earth, which he established permanently. (Psalms 78:67-69 NET)

This psalm acknowledges the tent of Joseph, but then claims it was rejected in favor of Judah. Then, after having claimed a “change”, it goes on to call this new choice permanent and unchangeable, as enduring as the heavens. Where is the logic in that? According to this, YHWH moved to a new residence, apparently because His original neighborhood was deteriorating, but this was absolutely the final move. Does that sound like the Almighty, creator of the universe, picking up and moving around based on the actions of his creation?

I’m sorry, but I choose to see what the text is saying, that His chosen place was fixed and unmovable, and that the Judeans were rogue and split from the truth. As is typical, the victor writes the history, and thus the rest of the Tanakh, compiled and approved by the Judeans, presents their story, which most have accepted uncritically.

If you step back and read the Judean writings without bias, the Israelite Samaritan story seems far more rational. In the Judean writings, one finds dozens of severe contradictions between Kings and Chronicles, rampant sacrificing at high places throughout, even human sacrifice in Judges! One reads of YHWH supposedly choosing as king some random handsome guy wandering aimlessly in search of his fathers donkeys, later demonstrating how terrible a choice for king he was, only to be replaced by David, a bloodthirsty, murderous thug who at one point lives with his arch enemies the Philistines, and even seeks to accompany them to war against his own people! As king he breaks every commandment related to Kings, as does his son Solomon in even more spectacular fashion!

Is it any wonder that the Judean writings attest to the fact that the other tribes wouldn’t take part in this?

Now a wicked man named Sheba son of Bicri, a Benjaminite, happened to be there. He blew the trumpet and said, “We have no share in David; we have no inheritance in this son of Jesse! Every man go home, O Israel!” So all the men of Israel deserted David and followed Sheba son of Bicri. But the men of Judah stuck by their king all the way from the Jordan River to Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 20:1-2 NET)

Sheba may have been wicked in Judean eyes, but I submit that he was being obedient to YHWH. The southern kingdom and Jerusalem as the new chosen place was purely a political move, and nothing more.

Where do we go from here?

This information can be disconcerting, as it paints a picture of the Judeans as rogues, rebellious to the commandments of YHWH. If they edited the Torah to legitimize Jerusalem as the holy place, can one trust the writings they have assembled as part of the Tanakh? I can’t answer that question fully yet, but what I can say is that this shouldn’t come as a big surprise, and doesn’t have to be as significant a problem as it may seem.

Those of us who have been Tanakh-only have already rejected the Mishnah/oral Torah as authoritative, with its additions to the written Torah. We have rejected the new testament writings as well, which grew out of Judean messianic fervor during Roman occupation, in second temple times. We need not fear the possibility that we may need to reject additional writings which fail to measure up to the Torah as truth.

We seek to obey YHWH, and all that is required to do that is the Torah. Whether or not we can trust some or all of the Judean writings is superfluous. Whether the prophets can be trusted, whether their future prophecies are true, really makes no difference in our daily lives.

I have long maintained that the Torah is the word of YHWH, and everything else is subservient to it. In light of that, this discovery is not as monumental or fearsome as it may seem. We’ve always known that the history of the people of Israel is replete with rebellion and sin, so it shouldn’t surprise us that we may need to critically consider even the post-Torah writings of the Tanakh.