The Canonization of the Pentateuch: When and Why? (Part I)

Alexander Fantalkin*, Oren Tal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The canonization of the Pentateuch has preoccupied scholars from different disciplines from antiquity to the present. However, two major questions still require an explanation: when did it happen and why did it happen? In this two-part article an attempt has been made to clarify these issues. Based on an interdisciplinary approach, where the insights of redaction criticism are merged with archaeologically-supported historical analysis, we suggest that the inception of the Torah-canonization should be viewed within the framework of the geopolitical transformation that characterized the first half of the fourth century BCE, when, following a major Egyptian rebellion, Egypt was no longer a part of the Persian Empire, while southern Palestine became the empire's frontier for the first time in more than a century of Achaemenid rule. The canonization of the essentially anti-Egyptian version of the Torah in the early fourth century BCE should be considered as a conscious response of Jerusalem's priestly circles to this new reality, signaling to the imperial authorities that they are dealing with loyal subjects that consider Egypt as a world of chaos, an antithesis to the world of cosmic order, so central to Persian imperial self-understanding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalZeitschrift fur die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2012


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