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Richard Elliott Friedman

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Richard Friedman

Harvard University

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Who wrote the Bible?, The Bible with Sources, Commentary on the Torah, The hidden book in the Bible, The Bible Now

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Richard Elliott Friedman (born May 5, 1946) is a biblical scholar and the Ann and Jay Davis Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Georgia.


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Friedman was born in Rochester, New York. He attended the University of Miami (BA, 1968), the Jewish Theological Seminary (MHL, 1971), and Harvard University (ThM in Hebrew Bible, 1974; ThD in Hebrew Bible and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, 1978). He was the Katzin Professor of Jewish Civilization: Hebrew Bible; Near Eastern Languages and Literature at the University of California, San Diego, from 1984 until 2006, whereupon he joined the faculty of the University of Georgia Religion Department.

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He is a winner of numerous awards and honors, including American Council of Learned Societies Fellow. He was a Visiting Fellow at the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford; and a Senior Fellow of the American Schools of Oriental Research in Jerusalem. He participated in the City of David Project archaeological excavations of biblical Jerusalem. He is probably most famous for his work Who Wrote the Bible?, a description of the documentary hypothesis.

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Origin of the P source

Friedman is of the view that the P Source of the Bible was composed during the time of Hezekiah. P for instance “emphasizes centralization of religion: one centre, one altar, one Tabernacle, one place of sacrifice. Who was the king who began such centralization? King Hezekiah."

According to Friedman, and others who follow the theories of Julius Wellhausen regarding the formation of Israel's religion, P is the work of the Aaronid priesthood. They are the priests in authority at the central altar – not Moses, not Korah, nor any other Levites. Only those descended from Aaron can be priests. Friedman then goes on to say “P always speaks of two distinct groups, the priests and the Levites. Who was the king who formalized the divisions between priests and Levites? King Hezekiah." Chronicles reports explicitly:

“Hezekiah assigned (Hebrew יעמד) the priests and Levites to divisions — each of them according to their duties as priests or Levites. (2 Chronicles 31:2)”

Friedman writes that the “Aaronid priesthood that produced P had opponents, Levites who saw Moses and not Aaron as their model. What was the most blatant reminder of Moses' power that was visible in Judah? The bronze serpent 'Nehushtan'. According to tradition, stated explicitly in E, Moses had made it. It had the power to save people from snakebite. Who was the king who smashed the Nehushtan? Hezekiah.”


  • Who Wrote the Bible? (Harper San Francisco) (1987, new preface 1997) ISBN 978-0060630355
  • A general audience explanation of the Documentary Hypothesis of the composition of the Old Testament. He asserts, following Yehezkel Kaufmann, that the Priestly source was written earlier than commonly accepted, during the reign of King Hezekiah (715–687 BCE), and identifies the Deuteronomist as either the prophet Jeremiah, or the latter's scribe, Baruch ben Neriah (or both, working together).
  • The Bible with Sources Revealed (Harper San Francisco) (December 1, 2003) ISBN 0-06-053069-3
  • A translation of the Pentateuch into English with the different sources highlighted in different font styles and colours.
  • The Hidden Book in the Bible (Harper San Francisco) (September 1, 1999) ISBN 0-06-063004-3
  • Concerns the Jahwist (J) source.
  • Commentary on the Torah (Harper San Francisco) (April 1, 2003) ISBN 0-06-050717-9
  • The Hidden Face of God (Harper San Francisco) (December 13, 1996) ISBN 0-06-062258-X
  • The Bible Now, with Shawna Dolansky (Oxford University Press) (July 1, 2011) ISBN 0-19-531163-9
  • The Exodus (HarperOne) (September 12, 2017) ISBN 0062565249
  • Presents a case for a historical Exodus, but of the Levites only.


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