If Deuteronomy is a hoax, why is it still in the bible?

I’m reading The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan, and in it he mentions that Deuteronomy is a hoax perpetuated by King Josiah. If we know it’s a hoax, why is it still included in the bible?

Just because Carl Sagan says it’s a hoax doesn’t make it so.

Does he expand on the point?


The bible is a hoax, so it really does not matter which books are included and which books are not.

While the actual writer may believe that he is perpetrating a hoax (or, as in the case of King Josiah, using a bit of misdirection to support his view on a question of the day), the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

The Lord may inspire a writer who does not recognize that he is receiving true revelation. If the compilers of the present Bible saw that Deuteronomy is TRVTH ™, despite the intentions of its writer, then it deserves to remain as part of Scripture.

No one sat down and said “Today I am going to write a book for the Bible.” The inclusion of any given story, poem, family tree, or letter was decided by later generations, based upon how well that piece of writing agreed with their understanding of the nature of God and te relationship between man and the divine.

This topic is better suited to Great Debates, so I’ll move this thread over there.

moderator GQ

I’ve read The Demon Haunted World (an excellent book, BTW), and IIRC (and I’ll probably have to dredge up my copy to verify this), Sagan simply makes the assertion that it was a hoax by King Josiah without backing it up. In Sagan’s defense, it’s unlikely that proof of this sort of forgery would be extant; but nonetheless, he simply states his opinion on the matter and moves on.

Zev Steinhardt


King Josiah was out to reform the “official religion” of the Kingdom of Judah – which is what evolved into the Jewish faith of today. It had been largely ignored by his father and grandfather, and the Temple was in disrepair.

When he ordered repairs to the Temple, amazingly enough, repairmen found a copy of a Book of the Law, restating much of what was in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers in a manner that was strongly supportive of what Josiah and the priests were advocating. That book was, effectively, the present Book of Deuteronomy. (Cf. II Kings 22:1-10 for the story.)

Some scholars believe that it was written at this time with the purpose of giving the cachet of Moses/YHVH command to the policies propounded by Josiah and the priests. This would make it “a hoax” in the sense Sagan suggests.

I think it’s a suspicious coincidence, but it’s a case of what one chooses to believe.

Thanks, bibliophage.

What DrFidelius said. (Or, if you take the radical hardline never-mind-PC :wink: position, what Muffin said). Nobody is stopping anyone from starting a church or a judaic splinter-sect where their Scripture is missing Deuteronomy, if it makes them feel better about being more accurate.

And that is one problem: nobody has the rights to “THE Bible”. Some Protestant Bible publishers (ever fewer, hardly any by now in the USA) do still manage to include the Apocrypha as an appendix, so it could get sent there. Catholics OTOH keep their Deuterocanonical Books right where they always were, so it probably would make no difference.

Outside of religious significance, the Torah/Pentateuch as handed down from antiquity, with Deuteronomy in there is one of the key literary documents of our culture. There is a value in that work AS IS. Expunging Deuteronomy from it because of studies that it may be a latter addition would be a mutilation.