Mosaic authorship was accepted with very little discussion by both Jews and Christians until the 17th century perhaps greatly influenced by "Moses Maimonides", the 12th Century rabbi and philosopher who decreed that Moses was the Torah's author, receiving it from God either as divine inspiration or as direct dictation in the Hebrew year 2449 AM (1313 BCE)
Many contemporary secular biblical scholars date the completion of the Torah, as well as the prophets and the historical books, no earlier than the Persian period (539 to 334 BCE). Scholarly discussion for much of the 20th century was principally couched in terms of the documentary hypothesis, according to which the Torah is a synthesis of documents from a small number of originally independent sources.
According to the most influential version of the hypothesis, as formulated by Julius Wellhausen (1844 - 1918), the Pentateuch is composed of four separate and identifiable texts, dating roughly from the period of Solomon up until exilic priests and scribes. These various texts were brought together as one document (the Five Books of Moses of the Torah) by scribes after the exile.
* The Jahwist (or J) - written c 950 BCE. The southern kingdom's (i.e. Judah) interpretation. It is named according to the prolific use of the name "Yahweh" (or Jaweh, in German, the divine name or Tetragrammaton) in its text.
* The Elohist (or E) - written c 850 BCE. The northern kingdom's (i.e. Israel) interpretation. As above, it is named because of its preferred use of "Elohim" (Generic name any heathen god or deity in Hebrew).
* The Deuteronomist (or D) - written c 650-621 BCE. Dating specifically from the time of King Josiah of Judah and responsible for the book of Deuteronomy as well as Joshua and most of the subsequent books up to 2 Kings.
* The Priestly source (or P) - written during or after the exile, c 550-400 BCE. So named because of its focus on Levitical laws.
The documentary hypothesis has been increasingly challenged since the 1970s, and alternative views now see the Torah as having been compiled from a multitude of small fragments rather than a handful of large coherent source texts, or as having gradually accreted over many centuries and through many hands. The shorthand Yahwist, Priestly and Deuteronomistic is still used nevertheless to characterise identifiable and differentiable content and style.
The 19th century dating of the final form of Genesis and the Pentateuch to c. 500-450 BCE continues to be widely accepted irrespective of the model adopted, although a minority of scholars known as biblical minimalists argue for a date largely or entirely within the last two centuries BCE.
The rise of secular scholarship and the associated willingness to subject even the Bible to the test of reason led to its rejection by mainstream biblical scholars. The majority of modern scholars believe that the Torah is the product of many hands, stretching over many centuries, reaching its final form only around the 6th and 5th centuries BCE.