While the traditional majority view in religious Judaism has been that the teachings of Kabbalah (lit.
"tradition") was revealed by God to Biblical figures such as Abraham and Moses and were then transmitted orally from the Biblical era until their redaction by Shimon bar Yochai, modern academic analysis of the Zohar, such as that by the 20th century religious historian Gershom Scholem, has theorized that De Leon was the actual author.
Conversely, Elijah Delmedigo (c.1458 – c.1493), in his Bechinat ha-Dat endeavored to show that the Zohar could not be attributed to Shimon bar Yochai, by a number of arguments.
He claims that if it were his work, the Zohar would have been mentioned by the Talmud, as has been the case with other works of the Talmudic period; he claims that had bar Yochai known by divine revelation the hidden meaning of the precepts, his decisions on Jewish law from the Talmudic period would have been adopted by the Talmud, that it would not contain the names of rabbis who lived at a later period than that of bar Yochai; he claims that if the Kabbalah was a revealed doctrine, there would have been no divergence of opinion among the Kabbalists concerning the mystic interpretation of the precepts.
She confessed that her husband himself was the author of the work.
This leads him to hypothesize that Moses de León's wife sold the original manuscript, as parchment was very valuable, and was embarrassed by the realization of its high ancient worth, leading her to claim it was written by her husband.
Rabbi Kaplan concludes saying this was the probable series of events.
In Jacobs' and Broyde's view, they were attracted by its glorification of man, its doctrine of immortality, and its ethical principles, which they saw as more in keeping with the spirit of Talmudic Judaism than are those taught by the philosophers, and which was held in contrast to the view of Maimonides and his followers, who regarded man as a fragment of the universe whose immortality is dependent upon the degree of development of his active intellect.
The Zohar instead declared Man to be the lord of the creation, whose immortality is solely dependent upon his morality.
There are people of religions besides Judaism, or even those without religious affiliation, who delve in the Zohar out of curiosity, or as a technology for seeking meaningful and practical answers about the meaning of their lives, the purpose of creation and existence and their relationships with the laws of nature, the purpose of the Zohar is to help the Jewish people through and out of the Exile and to infuse the Torah and mitzvot (Judaic commandments) with the wisdom of Moses de León's Kabbalah for its Jewish readers.