by Felipe Diez III
The controversy as regards the dating of the book of “the second law” is directly related to questions concerning its authorship. In this post I will attempt to only deal issues pertaining to the date based on the information contained in some commentaries. The latter part of the enlightenment witnessed an upsurge in what came to be called “higher criticism.” This movement questioned Mosaic authorship not only of Deuteronomy but of the Pentateuch. A large part of whether or not an early or later date is given to Deuteronomy depends on when one believes the time of the Conquest occurred. Usually, those who believe in an earlier date often times question total or partial Mosaic authorship, since some of these theologians figure that the theology contained in Deuteronomy was far too advanced for the people of that time. If this is true, then the date of the book would be several hundred years later (1200s) than what was traditionally thought. Some more conservative scholars date the official presentation of the Law by Moses at around 1406 B.C, a year to several years before his death. There are a few scholars who believe that King Josiah’s reforms due to the finding of a law book serve as enough justification for a much later date than was traditionally thought (7th century B.C). Since some believe that the law book “found” by Josiah’s officials was indeed Deuteronomy, some believe that the best way to go about dating the book is to look at a time where a great amount of political activity was occurring, and since Deuteronomy was spoken of as what may have sparked or been a fruit of that reform, it would have been composed then. A popular view has been that during the exilic period (6th century B.C), the book was edited by one or more priestly writers.
Some people based their dates on conjectures that include political and socio-cultural reasons for having written Deuteronomy or at least pieces of it. Some disciplines attempt to reconstruct issues based on whether or not something or other could have happened. Each position analyses the evidence and based on a preponderance of it, comes to certain conclusions. In the middle part of last century and up until last decade, there has been an upsurge of defenses of Mosaic authorship and an earlier dating of Deuteronomy, since these two subjects often are presented together. They are necessarily interrelated.
Deut. 31: 9a, “So Moses wrote down this law and gave it to the Levitical priests.”
Deut. 31:24, 25 “After Moses finished writing in a book the words of this law from beginning to end, he gave this command to the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord.”
As for Mosaic authorship, our Lord certainly has a view:
Mark 12:26 “And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?”