Unlike 99% of all non-clerical Jews, I read the Torah (first 5 books of the Bibole, sacred to Jews) in its most authoritative translation.
The first thing to note, once you get past the notions that God or Moses wrote it, is that research into the text shows that it is the product of four authors, whose documents were edited together. This "documentary hypothesis" is as well-established as evolution, but many religious believers reject it. But that's why there are so many duplications -- sloppy editing. Deuteronomy was probably the work of one person.
Second, it's really primitive. Jews who make this document the center of their lives are fixated on the distant past. Successive waves of liberal Judaism have attempted to spin or whitewash the Torah, but it remains a document where women have no rights, slavery is acceptable, God urges the Israelites to commit ethnic cleansing, and much more gruesome stuff.
Third, NONE of it happened! The story -- exodus, Sinai, promised land -- is central to Judaism, but there's no evidence for any of it. There is no record of the Jews in Egypt, as slaves or in any other capaciity.
Atheists should know what's in the Bible and how the various parts got included. So when Christians get that beatific smile and talk about it being the word of God, you can give them a few kernels of truth about this document (about which they are largely ignorant, so it won't be hard to know more than they do).
I heard that routine YEARS ago and cracked up at its groundbreaking irreverence ("Who is this really? Am I on Candid Camera?").
When was the Torah written? Sometime in 1000---600 BC? Can you give me a general time period? How old is the Hebrew language?
There's an excellent book entitled The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts by Israel Finklestein and Neil Silberman. They date the first 5 books between 800 and 600 B.C.E. as an attempt, by the kingdom of Judah, to unite the kingdoms of Israel and Judah by showing pre-existing (and false) common bonds between the two. And, using false propaganda to show that Judah had always been dominant. Deuteronomy was written during the time of King Josiah (circa 620 B.C.E.) as an attempt to "prove" this unity of the two separate kingdoms, and tout Josiah as the messiah, until he met his demise - probably by the Egyptians. And, as Alan stated, Egyptian slavery, Exodus, David and Solomon being great kings ruling in the great city of Jerusalem - all of it BS. Jerusalem during the time of David was nothing more than a village of mud and stone huts.
That was one of the books I consulted as background for my own "An Atheist Reads the Torah" (it's on amazon).
The ancient Jews may have been a Mesopotamian people who attacked the fringes of the Egyptian Empire (think Somali pirates attacking the US Navy). Inscription from one Egyptian general boasts that "Israel's seed is no more" - an overstatement, of course.
"Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one," Judaism's holiest magic words, is an expression of "Hey guys, we're all Jews, so it's the same god [adonai and elohim, the latter a plural, which imples polytheism], no harm, no foul."
When i was young lad in catholic grade school, i believe they told us that the Torah was written by Moses himself!! As the years went by and I read more history, i no longer believed in that bit of mythology.It appears to be a fact that there is nothing outside of the Torah/Olde Testament that independently confirms the existence of Moses or any of those characters. The entire field of biblical archaeology , supported by the devout, has been a fruitless attempt to shore up the scriptures.
It must be difficult for any thinking person to be a fundie.
How could Moses (didn't exist) have written it if half of it happened before he was born (and he writes about himself in the 3rd person)?
If we understood how people can believe that demonstrable fantasy is truth, we would be a lot closer to the end of faith.
As a follow up question, if Deuteronomy is one of the books of Moses, how could he have written about his own death, after it happened? (Deuteronomy 34).
Couldn't get past Genesis dodgy Jacob and Rebekah talk about bent politicians
I understand fully. I made myself slog through it to prove there was nothing profound - and to differentiate text from spin: to be able to say, with authority, "No, it doesn't say that."