You are on page 1of 53

Who Gave us the Torah?

And Why does it Matter?

According to Jewish Tradition

Moses received the Torah on Mount Sinai and transmitted it (flawlessly) to Joshua. Joshua [transmitted] it to the elders, the elders to the prophets, the prophets transmitted it to the men of the Knesset Ha-gedolah (the great assembly). (Avot 1, 200 c.e.)

What’s behind the passage?
 Text is revealed word of God  Text was written by Moses, other books

ascribed to prophets  The history recorded in the books is accurate  The Mitzvot are binding and reflective of God’s will  Interpretation of the text is for the purpose of divining the true meaning  Jewish/Israelite exceptionalism

Kugel’s Four Assumptions
Of classical Biblical interpretation
 The Bible is a cryptic text  Written in antiquity, relevant to today (not

historically bound)  Possesses no contradictions or messteaks  The Bible is Divine

Source: James Kugel, How to read the Bible

Spinoza’s (heretical) observations
 Spinoza: In these few words

he (Ibn Ezra) hints, and also shows that it was not Moses who wrote the Pentateuch, but someone who lived long after him, and further, that the book which Moses wrote was something different from any now extant. (Chap 8, A TheologicoPolitical Treatise)

Spinoza’s observations #1
 (14) II. That the whole book of Moses was

written at full length on the circumference of a single altar (Deut. xxvii, and Josh. viii:37), which altar, according to the Rabbis, consisted of only twelve stones: therefore the book of Moses must have been of far less extent than the Pentateuch.

Spinoza’s Observations #2
 (19) IV. That in Genesis xii:6, the historian,

after narrating that Abraham journeyed through the land of Canaan, adds, "and the Canaanite was then in the land," thus clearly excluding the time at which he wrote. (20) So that this passage must have been written after the death of Moses, when the Canaanites had been driven out, and no longer possessed the land.

Rashi’s workaround
 and the Canaanites were then in the

land: He [the Canaanite] was gradually conquering the Land of Israel from the descendants of Shem, for it fell in Shem’s share when Noah apportioned the land to his sons, . . Therefore: And the Lord said to Abram: To your seed will I give this land. I am destined to restore it to your children, who are of the descendants of Shem.

Spinoza’s Observations #3
 (23) V. That in Genesis xxii:14 Mount Moriah

is called the mount of God, a name which it did not acquire till after the building of the Temple; the choice of the mountain was not made in the time of Moses, for Moses does not point out any spot as chosen by God; on the contrary, he foretells that God will at some future time choose a spot to which this name will be given.

Why not leave well enough alone?
 Truth. ..  Deeper understanding of origins of Judaism  So: deeper understanding of what our religion is today  Denial of authenticity of other religions  AND/OR: creates vying “authentic religions”  Creates a Judaeocentric world view that doesn’t

reflect actual history  Allows expanded interpretation of text and its application to religious life  The Documentary Theory is VERY strong (150 years of reinforcement)

What is a Theory and a Hypothesis?
 Theory: A set of statements or principles

devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions/conclusions about other phenomena.

 Hypothesis: A tentative explanation for an

observation, phenomenon, or scientific problem that can be tested by further investigation. (American Heritage Dictionary)

The Documentary Hypothesis and Theory
 The Bible was assembled from sources compiled

over several hundred years (922-587 Torah, 300 or later for entire Bible).  Strength of the Theory:
 

150 years of testing and refining Archeological and historical confirmation –
 

Extra-Biblical linguistic correlations Different sources fit different times in historical record

 

Explains the inconsistencies and contradictions in the text Explains different textual styles and “philosophies”

Words that changed the world. . . .

The Sources of The Hebrew Bible

http://www.lfjcc.org/bluehornet/adultclassesfall0902.html

The J Source
 J = ‫ י ְהוָה‬YHWH (German: JAHWEH)
    

922-722 Eden, Cain and Abel, portions of Noah, tower of Bable Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Exodus Mt Sinai Composer: resident of Judah

Favors Southern towns, “heroes” and other references

The E Source
ִ ֱ‫ – א‬kind of a generic name for God. Related to  ‫ֹלהים‬ Canaanite El  Composed by members of priestly community living in the northern kingdom of Israel during same period as J  Maintains that YHWH wasn’t known on earth until God decided to reveal it to Moses

God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai, but I did not make Myself known to them by My name ‫( יהוה‬Ex. 6:2-3) Subtly criticizes southern dynasties

 Favors tribes associated with the northern Kingdom

(often those tribes are connected with northern kings)

The RJE Modification
 722 Assyria destroys Israel (the north)  E flees south and integrates with J in Judah  The stories of both kingdoms were integrated

and interwoven to create a “unified” “seamless” narrative  R = Redactor

The P Text
 P for Priesthood  Consensus for Dating  Just after J and E combined (early 7th century or end of 8th)  Produced by Jerusalem priesthood and responds to J and E  Distinguishes between Aaron’s descendants

(Cohanim) and Levites

2 Chronicles 31 2Hezekiah (715-687) reconstituted the divisions of the priests and Levites, each man of the priests and Levites according to his office

 Leviticus, laws in Exodus and Numbers  Accepts idea that YWHW wasn’t known until Moses

The D Source
 Deuteronomic – classic style:

For you are a people consecrated to the Lord your God: of all the peoples on earth the Lord your God chose you to be His treasured people. It is not because you are the most numerous of peoples that the Lord set His heart on you and chose you indeed, you are the smallest of peoples; but it was because the Lord favored you and kept the oath He made to your fathers that the Lord freed you with a mighty hand and rescued you from the house of bondage, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know, therefore, that only the Lord your God is God, the steadfast God who keeps His covenant faithfully to the thousandth generation of those who love Him and keep His commandments, but who instantly requites with destruction those who reject Him never slow with those who reject Him, but requiting them instantly. Therefore, observe faithfully the Instruction, the laws and the rules,with which I charge you today.(Dt 7:6)

 Part of larger history that includes: Joshua, Judges, Samuel 1,2;

Kings 1,2  Formed during reign of King Josiah in 622 (and expanded in 587 in Babylon)

The Finding and Reading of Deuteronomy

the high priest Hilkiah said to the scribe Shaphan, “I have found a scroll ָ ַ‫ ) סֵ פֶ ר ה‬in the House of the Lord.” And Hilkiah gave of the Teaching (‫ּתֹורה‬ the scroll to Shaphan, who read it. 9The scribe Shaphan then went to the king and reported to the king. . .  11When the king heard the words of the scroll of the Teaching, he rent his clothes. 12And the king gave orders to the priest Hilkiah, . . . .13“Go, inquire of the Lord on my behalf, and on behalf of the people, and on behalf of all Judah, concerning the words of this scroll that has been found. For great indeed must be the wrath of the Lord that has been kindled against us, because our fathers did not obey the words of this scroll to do all that has been prescribed for us.” (2 Kings 22)  2The king went up to the House of the Lord, together with all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the priests and prophets—all the people, young and old. And he read to them the entire text of the covenant scroll which had been found in the House of the Lord. (2 Kings 23)

8Then

What does it look like?

Building the Case: Language
 Hebrew styles of J and E reflect earliest style

of Biblical Hebrew  P reflects later styles– when compared to prophetic styles which are dated based on events (like the Babylonian exile)

NOTE: This is controversial – (more later)

 D = still later – the style that is found in texts

which know of kings through 620 b.c.e.  Dating of language sources comes from extra-biblical inscriptions

Building the Case: Terminology
 Certain words and phrases characterize one source or another  Where exactly did Moses receive the Laws?

J and P – Sinai

Ex 19:18 Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke, for the Lord had come down upon it in fire; the smoke rose like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled violently. Ex 3;1 Now Moses, tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, drove the flock into the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.

E and D – Horeb

 And dozens of similar examples (some very familiar)  Classic “D” -- Deut 6:5 Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

Building the Case: God’s Name
 J(Gen 4:25) Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son
and named him Seth, meaning, “God has provided me withanother offspring in place of Abel,” for Cain had killed him. 26And to Seth, in turn, a son was born, and he named him Enosh. It was then that men began to invoke the Lord (‫ )י ְהו ָה‬by name. appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am El Shaddai. Walk in My ways and be blameless. 2I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will make you exceedingly numerous.”

 P(Gen 17:1) When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord  P(Ex 6:2) God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am the

Lord. 3I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai, but I did not make Myself known to them by My name ‫יהוה‬

Finally: The Clincher
 Repetitions of stories with subtle variations that correspond to

one source or another (there are 31!)  For example: The Covenant with Abraham  Covenant I (Gen 15 J)

 

Abram has a vision – God promises that Ishmael will not be his heir (one yet unborn and unamed will be his heir) and he will have many offspring and receive the land (No circumcision) Abram makes a strange offering and falls into a deep sleep. God is called YHWH – J introduces it early God promises Abram that “nations” will come from him Name is changed to Abraham – Abraham doesn’t know God by name YHWH but is subtly implied by adding “H” He is told to circumcise himself (and his whole retinue) – a “P” concern Isaac is named as the heir, Sarai becomes Sarah as the mother of the nation.

Covenant II (Gen 17 P)
 

Reading some text

But first: An important caveat: Texts tell us far more about the authors then they do about the characters in the text and the events described.

Often, it’s all about David
 David is mentioned 1,025 times!

Moses: 773, Abraham 164

 2 Samuel 23:1 – A Psalm  Genesis 38 -- Why is Judah so worried about

heirs? Where does he get a seal, cord, and staff? Who is Tamar?

Look at 2 Samuel 13. . . Two Tamars?

 Genesis 49 – What is the meaning of this

blessing?

The “linguistic” war between the states
 Judah is a hero in the J text (A Southern Text)  his connection to David is alluded to often  Judah’s tribal symbol is the Lion  David’s royal symbol is the Lion  Judah is a southern region  David’s origins are in Judah  E is a northern text – Judah’s status is insignificant  Northern tribes (Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Manasseh, Ephraim) have greater importance  The adoption story of Joseph’s sons Manasseh and Ephraim reflect King Jeroboam’s status as an Ephraimite  E often criticizes or derides southern tribes, cities, personalities

TWO STORIES OF MOSES STRIKING THE ROCK

Does he or doesn’t he obey God?

He does what God says!
 Exodus 17: 2The people quarreled with Moses. “Give us water to drink,” they said; and Moses replied to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you try the Lord?” 3But the people thirsted there for water; and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” 4Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, “What shall I do with this people? Before long they will be stoning me!” 5Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pass before the people; take with you some of the elders of Israel, and take along the rod with which you struck the Nile, and set out. 6I will be standing there before you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock and water will issue from it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7The place was named Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and because they tried the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord present among us or not?”

Not so fast. . . .

Numbers 20: 2The community was without water, and they joined against Moses and Aaron. 3The people quarreled with Moses, saying, “If only we had perished when our brothers perished at the instance of the Lord !4Why have you brought the Lord’s congregation into this wilderness for us and our beasts to die there? 5Why did you make us leave Egypt to bring us to this wretched place, a place with no grain or figs or vines or pomegranates? There is not even water to drink!” 6Moses and Aaron came away from the congregation to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, and fell on their faces. The Presence of the Lord appeared to them, 7and the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 8“You and your brother Aaron take the rod and assemble the community, and before their very eyes order the rock to yield its water. Thus you shall produce water for them from the rock and provide drink for the congregation and their beasts.” 9Moses took the rod from before the Lord, as He had commanded him. 10Moses and Aaron assembled the congregation in front of the rock; and he said to them, “Listen, you rebels, shall we get water for you out of this rock?” 11And Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod. Out came copious water, and the community and their beasts drank. 12But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust Me enough to affirm My sanctity in the sight of the Israelite people, therefore you shall not lead this congregation into the land that I have given them.” 13Those are the Waters of Meribah— meaning that the Israelites quarrelled with the Lord—through which He affirmed His sanctity.

Noah: Treif or Kosher?
 6:19And of all that lives, of all flesh, you shall take two of each

into the ark to keep alive with you; they shall be male and female. 20From birds of every kind, cattle of every kind, every kind of creeping thing on earth, two of each shall come to you to stay alive. (J)  7:2Of every clean animal you shall take seven pairs, males and their mates, and of every animal that is not clean, two, a male and its mate; 3of the birds of the sky also, seven pairs, male and female, to keep seed alive upon all the earth. (P)  7:8Of the clean animals, of the animals that are not clean, of the birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground, 9two of each, male and female, came to Noah into the ark, as God had commanded Noah. (P)

Abraham. . .which covenant is it?
15: 2But Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what can You give me, seeing that I shall die childless, and the one in charge of my household is Dammesek Eliezer!” 3Abram said further, “Since You have granted me no offspring, my steward will be my heir.” 4The word of the LORD came to him in reply, “That one shall not be your heir; none but your very own issue shall be your heir.” 5He took him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He added, “So shall your offspring be.” 6And because he put his trust in the LORD, He reckoned it to his merit. 7Then He said to him, “I am the LORD who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to assign this land to you as a possession.” 8And he said, “O Lord GOD, how shall I know that I am to possess it?” 17When the sun set and it was very dark, there appeared a smoking oven, and a flaming torch which passed between those pieces. 18On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I assign this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates: 19the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.”

(J)

THE LAND –influenced by Assyrian destruction (722) concerned about hold on the land

Different covenant or just different terms?

17:3Abram threw himself on his face; and God spoke to him further, 4“As for Me, this is My covenant with you: You shall be the father of a multitude of nations. 5And you shall no longer be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I make you the father of a multitude of nations. 6I will make you exceedingly fertile, and make nations of you; and kings shall come forth from you. 7I will maintain My covenant between Me and you, and your offspring to come, as an everlasting covenant throughout the ages, to be God to you and to your offspring to come. 8I assign the land you sojourn in to you and your offspring to come, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting holding. I will be their God.” 9God further said to Abraham, “As for you, you and your offspring to come throughout the ages shall keep My covenant. 10Such shall be the covenant between Me and you and your offspring to follow which you shall keep: every male among you shall be circumcised. 11You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and that shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. 12And throughout the generations, every male among you shall be circumcised at the age of eight days. As for the homeborn slave and the one bought from an outsider who is not of your offspring, 13they must be circumcised, homeborn, and purchased alike. Thus shall My covenant be marked in your flesh as an everlasting pact. 14And if any male who is uncircumcised fails to circumcise the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his kin; he has broken My covenant.” (P)

Who were they? What were they doing? What were they thinking?
A look at the P Text

‫בהעלתך‬
shall place the Levites in attendance upon Aaron and his sons, and designate them as an elevation offering to the LORD. 14Thus you shall set the Levites apart from the Israelites, and the Levites shall be Mine. 15Thereafter the Levites shall be qualified for the service of the Tent of Meeting, once you have cleansed them and designated them as an elevation offering. 16For they are formally assigned to Me from among the Israelites: I have taken them for Myself in place of all the first issue of the womb, of all the first-born of the Israelites. . . . 13You shall place the Levites in attendance upon Aaron and his sons, and designate them as an elevation offering to the LORD. (Num 8)
13You

Who are the priests?
 All of us?

“Thus shall you say to the house of Jacob and declare to the children of Israel:. . .6but you ַ shall be to Me a kingdom of priests ‫לכֶת ּכ ֹהֲ נִים‬ ֶ ְ‫ממ‬ and a holy nation. (Ex 19) a fifth source: H – for Holiness

Who are the priests?
 Only Aaron’s sons:

You shall bring forward your brother Aaron, with his sons, from among the Israelites, to serve Me as priests: Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, the sons of Aaron. (Ex 28)

Who are priests?
 All the Levites:

The levitical priests, the whole tribe of Levi, shall have no territorial portion with Israel. They shall live only off the LORD‘s offerings by fire as their portion, 2and shall have no portion among their brother tribes: the LORD is their portion, as He promised them. (Deut 18)
5The

ֵ ‫ּבנֵי‬ ַ shall come priests, sons of Levi, ‫לוִי‬ ְ ‫הּכ ֹהֲ נִים‬ forward; for the LORD your God has chosen them to minister to Him and to pronounce blessing in the name of the LORD (Deut 21)

Who are priests?
 A dime a dozen. . .

man used to go up from his town every year to worship and to offer sacrifice to the LORD of Hosts at Shiloh.—Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of ַ ‫ ּכ ֹהֲ נִים‬there. (I Sam 1) the LORD ‫ליהו ָה‬

3This

Who were the priests?
 Descendants of David and Zadok?

son of Ahitub and Ahimelech son of Abiathar were priests; Seraiah was scribe; 18Benaiah son of Jehoiada was commander of the Cherethites and the Pelethites; and David’s sons were priests. (2 Sam 8)

17Zadok

What were they thinking?
 Ezekiel was a Priest:

3the word of the LORD came to the priest Ezekiel son of Buzi, . . . That was the appearance of the semblance of the Presence of the LORD. When I beheld it, I flung myself down on my face [classic priestly encounter with God]. And I heard the voice of someone speaking. (Chap 1)

What were they thinking?
 God is pure spirit and remote:
When God began to create heaven and earth—2the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the water—3 God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, a first day. (Gen 1)

What were they thinking?
 God wants sacrifice, not prayer

are the set times of the LORD that you shall celebrate as sacred occasions, bringing offerings by fire to the LORD—burnt offerings, meal offerings, sacrifices, and libations, on each day what is proper to it—38apart from the sabbaths of the LORD, and apart from your gifts and from all your votive offerings and from all your freewill offerings that you give to the LORD. (Lev 23)

37Those

What were they thinking?
 Israel is a congregation not “children”: When he has made expiation for himself and his ַ ְ‫ ק‬of household, and for the whole congregation ‫הל‬ Israel, 18he shall go out to the altar that is before the LORD and purge it: he shall take some of the blood of the bull and of the goat and apply it to each of the horns of the altar; 19and the rest of the blood he shall sprinkle on it with his finger seven times. Thus he shall cleanse it of the uncleanness of the Israelites and consecrate it. Lev 16

What were they thinking?
 Intermarriage was ok:

took the field against Midian, as the LORD had commanded Moses, and slew every male. . . . 9The Israelites took the women and children of the Midianites captive . . . 17Now, therefore, slay every male among the children, and slay also every woman who has known a man carnally; 18but spare every young woman who has not had carnal relations with a man [implying that they are eligible for marriage to Israelites]. (Num 31)

7They

Holiness was a priestly thing
You shall be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy. 3You shall each revere his mother and his father, and keep My sabbaths: I the Lord am your God. (Lev 19) 15You shall not render an unfair decision: do not favor the poor or show deference to the rich; judge your kinsman fairly. 16Do not deal basely with your countrymen. Do not profit by the blood of your fellow: I am the Lord. (Lev 19)

Conclusion
 The ancient Israelite world was far more

complicated than once assumed  A careful reading of the Bible reveals that it is a composite of many sources from different time periods  Traditional glossing of differences misses the complexity  We have nostalgia for a past that never was!

Why does all this matter!?
 Bible is a human document– thus imperfect and in

need of interpretation for meaning  Judaism is evolutionary and can be separated into stages (religion is different in each stage)
   

Pre-Biblical Various Biblical Stages Rabbinic Pre/post enlightenment

 The “history” presented in Biblical texts is highly

objective or fabricated  Biblical theology is a human creation  Religion is the product of human beings

What is MODERN faith?
 Doesn’t require acceptance of literalness of Bible  Embrace of potential for spiritual meaning in ancient     

texts Stories provide meaning and are “real” even if not factual Affirmation that ritual derived from tradition matters (even as its changeable) Sense of connection to ancestors (writers, interpretors, lives) Fluid awareness of religion and its significance Acknowledgement that other religions are equally meaningful for their followers

Sources for this presentation
The Bible with Sources Revealed by Richard Elliott Friedman, New York: HarperOne, 2003

Sources for this presentation
Kugel, James L. How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now. New York: Free, 2008. Print.