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Who wrote the second tablets - Moses or God? (Friendly debate)


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I was having lunch with my old advisor a couple of days ago and one of the more prominent OT scholars (YDS) came in and joined us. While him and I knew each other in passing (worked on some interfaith projects on/off campus), we didn't really know each other that well but still I asked him a question which I hope some here might want to shed some light on.

Did God or Moses write the second set of Commandments?

As far as the professor, he laughed and said the OT community is split pretty 50/50 on the subject. Some take Exodus 34 as another example of a long line of contradictions, some say the third "he" in 34:28 refers to God (rather than Moses) (Dr. ABC says it's a stretch to go that route since the Hebrew, 34:27, and NRSV (which he considers the most accurate of English translations), make it clear that it's referencing Moses). I asked about the notion of "divine posession" (God 'used' Moses) and he sort of shrugged and understandingly said he doesn't like using that route, it's too much of a cop out to try and shut an opposing opinion out (which I agree with).

So -- while this debate will obviously go nowhere and solve nothing, I thought maybe I'd ask it here and get a friendly debate. Heck, I'm sure you guys (and gals) need something to distract you from running to your mailbox, spamming the refresh button on your email, and staring at the phone.

Who, in your opinion, wrote the second set of commandments?

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It's not that simple. The Hebrew of 34:1 has God promising to write on the second tablets the same things that were on the first tablets. Moses is only required to prepare the stone so it can be engraved. Then in 34:27 when Moses is commanded to write 'these things,' the reference seems to be to what God has just told him, and not specifically to the Ten Commandments. 34:28 does not supply a subject for the writing of the ten commandments, so the verse by itself could be taken either way. The easiest way to understand 34:27-28 in its immediate context would be to say that Moses wrote both the ten commandments and the other instructions. But, unless we assume two replacement copies of the ten commandments, that is inconsistent with 34:1. Therefore although I guess there are multiple possible ways to understand the text, the two interpretations which leap to mind are (1) God wrote the second tablets and Moses wrote other instructions on something else. (2) There are two versions of this story here which differ as to who wrote the second tablets.

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