Photo courtesy of the artist and DC Moore Gallery

Take two. Moses bears two Tablets of the Law “inscribed by the finger of God,” as he descends Mount Sinai in this painting, titled Moses II, by the contemporary American artist Jack Levine. Although paintings tend to portray the giving of the law as a single dramatic event, the biblical story is actually much lengthier and more complex: In fact, Moses descends Mount Sinai not once but eight times.

The abundant repetitions in the Pentateuch have helped Bible scholars recognize at least four discrete stories that have been woven together to make one continuous narrative. By pinpointing the duplications and discrepancies in the Biblical account of the giving of the law, author Baruch Schwartz attempts to untangle these four strands (called J, E, P and D) and to reconstitute the original accounts of what occurred on Mount Sinai.