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Biblical Criticism

I have heard many arguments for a multiple authorship/editing of the Torah. Is there any reason to doubt the seemingly convincing conclusions of the secular university Bible scholars? Are there contemporary Biblical scholars of note who dissent from the "unanimous" view of their peers that the Torah text is from man?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

A complete discussion of Bible Criticism is beyond the scope of one email, but I can try to cover a few of the basic points.

One claim that the Bible Critics use for "multiple authorship" is the fact that the Torah uses different words to refer to God.

Of course this is true, because a human being can never fathom the totality of God. We can only describe "aspects" of His existence. For example, two primary terms the Torah uses for God are "YHVH" (the Four-Letter Name) and Elohim. YHVH represents the attribute of mercy (see Exodus 34:6), and Elohim is the attribute of judgment (see Exodus 22:8). Assigning different names to those various aspects is a key to deeper understanding of who God is. It's like describing “light” by the various colors visible through a prism.

Another point raised by the Bible critics is the subtle stylistic differences of the Torah text. For instance, if you carefully analyze Shakespeare (or any other human writer), you will see that the writer prefers certain sounds and phrasing structures. For example (and I am making up this example), lets say that Shakespeare will frequently end a word with an "sh" sound, and then follow it immediately with a word beginning with the letter "b." Most likely the author does this subconsciously. If a "new manuscript" of Shakespeare were discovered, the experts would run it through a computer, and if this same "sh" and "b" pattern was completely non-apparent, then the manuscript is likely a fake.

So too, Bible critics have applied this methodology to the Torah and found that it is not consistent. This criticism, however, is seriously flawed, because it applies a "human" phenomenon to God! In other words, the Bible critics start with their own premise – that the Bible was written by man – and then apply those human standards to it. But if the Bible was written by God, then obviously God has a consciousness far beyond those human constraints.

This idea has been corroborated by many researchers, for example Chaim Shore, a non-religious engineer at the Univ. of Tel Aviv, whose computer documentation on the Book of Genesis revealed a single author.

As a third example of multiple authorship, Bible critics will cite the two different creation stories which appear in the first chapters of Genesis. Yet that fails to consider the deep theological reasons for two different creation stories: It describes the complexity of human beings, who operate in multiple dimensions, and then merge those perspectives to create a holistic life approach. This spiritual phenomenon is detailed in many rabbinic writings, including Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik's "Lonely Man of Faith," which is available in English.

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