- Do the stories of the Torah need to be believed as history in the sense of an accurate record the actual past, or can they be mnemohistory, i.e. stories a culture reveres about its past?
- Is it essential to believe that the Torah was written by Moses and not any other prophet?
- Must the Torah reflect only one story line or one point of view?
- Must the Torah’s revelation be perfect as it is, or can it be seen as crafted for the period of time in which it was initially revealed with the intention that it would be enhanced as society progressed?
(1) Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem.... (2) He did what was pleasing to the LORD and he followed all the ways of his ancestor David; he did not deviate to the right or to the left. (3) In the eighteenth year of King Josiah, the king sent the scribe Shaphan son of Azaliah son of Meshullam to the House of the LORD, saying,...(8) Then the high priest Hilkiah said to the scribe Shaphan, “I have found a scroll of the Teaching in the House of the LORD.” And Hilkiah gave the scroll to Shaphan, who read it. (9) The scribe Shaphan then went to the king and reported to the king: ...(10) The scribe Shaphan also told the king, “The high priest Hilkiah has given me a scroll”; and Shaphan read it to the king. (11) When the king heard the words of the scroll of the Teaching, he rent his clothes. (12) And the king gave orders to the priest Hilkiah, and to Ahikam son of Shaphan, Achbor son of Michaiah, the scribe Shaphan, and Asaiah the king’s minister: (13) “Go, inquire of the LORD on my behalf, and on behalf of the people, and on behalf of all Judah, concerning the words of this scroll that has been found. For great indeed must be the wrath of the LORD that has been kindled against us, because our fathers did not obey the words of this scroll to do all that has been prescribed for us.” (14) So the priest Hilkiah, and Ahikam, Achbor, Shaphan, and Asaiah went to the prophetess Huldah—the wife of Shallum son of Tikvah son of Harhas, the keeper of the wardrobe—who was living in Jerusalem in the Mishneh, and they spoke to her. (15) She responded: “Thus said the LORD, the God of Israel: Say to the man who sent you to me: (16) Thus said the LORD: I am going to bring disaster upon this place and its inhabitants, in accordance with all the words of the scroll which the king of Judah has read. (17) Because they have forsaken Me and have made offerings to other gods and vexed Me with all their deeds, My wrath is kindled against this place and it shall not be quenched. ....So they brought back the reply to the king. (1) At the king’s summons, all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem assembled before him. (2) The king went up to the House of the LORD, together with all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the priests and prophets—all the people, young and old. And he read to them the entire text of the covenant scroll which had been found in the House of the LORD. (3) The king stood by the pillar and solemnized the covenant before the LORD: that they would follow the LORD and observe His commandments, His injunctions, and His laws with all their heart and soul; that they would fulfill all the terms of this covenant as inscribed upon the scroll. And all the people entered into the covenant. (4) Then the king ordered the high priest Hilkiah, the priests of the second rank, and the guards of the threshold to bring out of the Temple of the LORD all the objects made for Baal and Asherah and all the host of heaven. He burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and he removed the ashes to Bethel. (5) He suppressed the idolatrous priests whom the kings of Judah had appointed to make offerings at the shrines in the towns of Judah and in the environs of Jerusalem, and those who made offerings to Baal, to the sun and moon and constellations—all the host of heaven. (6) He brought out the [image of] Asherah from the House of the LORD to the Kidron Valley outside Jerusalem, and burned it in the Kidron Valley; he beat it to dust and scattered its dust over the burial ground of the common people. (7) He tore down the cubicles of the male prostitutes in the House of the LORD, at the place where the women wove coverings for Asherah. (8) He brought all the priests from the towns of Judah [to Jerusalem] and defiled the shrines where the priests had been making offerings—from Geba to Beer-sheba. He also demolished the shrines of the gates, which were at the entrance of the gate of Joshua, the city prefect—which were on a person’s left [as he entered] the city gate. (9) The priests of the shrines, however, did not ascend the altar of the LORD in Jerusalem, but they ate unleavened bread along with their kinsmen. (10) He also defiled Topheth, which is in the Valley of Ben-hinnom, so that no one might consign his son or daughter to the fire of Molech. (11) He did away with the horses that the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun, at the entrance of the House of the LORD, near the chamber of the eunuch Nathan-melech, which was in the precincts. He burned the chariots of the sun. (12) And the king tore down the altars made by the kings of Judah on the roof by the upper chamber of Ahaz, and the altars made by Manasseh in the two courts of the House of the LORD. He removed them quickly from there and scattered their rubble in the Kidron Valley. (13) The king also defiled the shrines facing Jerusalem, to the south of the Mount of the Destroyer, which King Solomon of Israel had built for Ashtoreth, the abomination of the Sidonians, for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, and for Milcom, the detestable thing of the Ammonites. (14) He shattered their pillars and cut down their sacred posts and covered their sites with human bones. (15) As for the altar in Bethel [and] the shrine made by Jeroboam son of Nebat who caused Israel to sin—that altar, too, and the shrine as well, he tore down. He burned down the shrine and beat it to dust, and he burned the sacred post. ....(19) Josiah also abolished all the cult places in the towns of Samaria, which the kings of Israel had built, vexing [the LORD]. He dealt with them just as he had done to Bethel: (20) He slew on the altars all the priests of the shrines who were there, and he burned human bones on them. Then he returned to Jerusalem. (21) The king commanded all the people, “Offer the passover sacrifice to the LORD your God as prescribed in this scroll of the covenant.” (22) Now the passover sacrifice had not been offered in that manner in the days of the chieftains who ruled Israel, or during the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah. (23) Only in the eighteenth year of King Josiah was such a passover sacrifice offered in that manner to the LORD in Jerusalem. (24) Josiah also did away with the necromancers and the mediums, the idols and the fetishes—all the detestable things that were to be seen in the land of Judah and Jerusalem. Thus he fulfilled the terms of the Teaching recorded in the scroll that the priest Hilkiah had found in the House of the LORD. (25) There was no king like him before who turned back to the LORD with all his heart and soul and might, in full accord with the Teaching of Moses; nor did any like him arise after him.
How to Serve God Best: The Deuteronomic
versus the Priestly School
The vision of the Deuteronomists contrasts sharply with that of the Priestly writers, who believed that God demanded the ongoing enactment of a complex series of rituals to ensure that the divine presence, God’s kavod, would remain within the Tabernacle, which represented the later Temple. The Deuteronomists rejected the idea that God could physically reside in a Temple because they believed that God was wholly transcendent. In Moses’ retelling of the Sinai event (called Horeb in Deuteronomy), God never descends onto the mountain to meet Moses. The people hear the words of God, but they do not see any aspect of God. God remains in the heavens at all times. Deuteronomy also repurposes the ark from the footstool of God in the Priestly materials to the mundane chest that houses the tablets that contain the words of the Decalogue. A transcendent God does not need a footstool in a Temple.