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Lamrot Hakol (Despite Everything)

Musings and kvetchings and Torah thoughts from an unconventional Orthodox Jew.

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"I blog, therefore I am". Clearly not true, or I wouldn't exist except every now and then.

Monday, June 05, 2006

DH Idiocy 1

I'm going to start a subsection of this blog (rather than a new blog) to deal with the various idiocies in the joke known as the Documentary Hypothesis. You may know of it as the JEDP Hypothesis. It's the idea that the Torah is actually a patchwork of documents written by different people in different places, clumsily patched together by a Redactor some time either towards the end of the Kingdom of Judah, under King Josiah (according to Finkelstein and Silberman), or early in the Second Temple Period, under Ezra (according to most people who take this theory seriously).

For today, I'm going to mention two of the very obvious idiocies in the theory. But as the number in the title of this entry indicates, there'll be more.

1. "The place where God will put His Name"

Shavuot is over, and during the leyning on the second day, the continual repetition of the above phrase kept jumping out at me. As we know, the Torah doesn't identify Jerusalem as the eventual site of the Temple. It simply alludes to it in this way. Advocates of the Documentary Hypothesis actually see all of these references as material added by the Kohanim-priests in Jerusalem, who were pushing for centralization of the sacrificial cult. They argue (for no solid reason) that originally, there was nothing wrong with bringing sacrifices in your backyard. This is actually an idiocy that deserves its own entry, assuming that because a lot of people broke the law, that the law didn't exist.

In any case, all of this material supposedly stuck in by people who wanted Jerusalem to be the center of everything... and none of it mentions Jerusalem. Why? That's just really dumb. Putting Jerusalem into the text would have been a very minor thing, compared to some of the alterations the Documentarists want us to believe in.

2. The Samaritan Torah

You know who the Samaritans are, right? Back a little over a century before the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem, the Assyrians conquered and destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel. They deported its inhabitants to various places, and then settled the land with tribes they'd conquered elsewhere. This reshuffling was supposed to prevent rebellions, since cutting people off from their homelands would leave them with only an Assyrian subject identity.

When they got there, they decided to adopt the local religion, and wound up with a mish-mash of worship of God and some goddesses.

The Samaritans claim that they are actually the descendents of the Israelites who lived in the northern kingdom, but that doesn't actually make any difference to this point. Either way, they have a version of the Torah, and it differs very little from our Torah. A few letters, here and there, for the most part.

The thing is, the Samaritans and the Jews... we never got along. At the time of King Josiah, we campaigned into their territory and destroyed various idolatrous shrines. We dug up and burned the bones of Jeroboam I, first king of the northern kingdom. Later, when Cyrus let us go back to Judah, the Samaritans wanted to be included in rebuilding the Temple, and we told them to go away. There wasn't much love lost between us.

And yet, the Patchwork Torah, created at one of these two points in history, is something they also think they got in one piece.

Leave alone the preposterous idea of some Redactor convincing an entire nation of stubborn Jews that not only was the Torah given to their ancestors, but that they'd always known the Torah was given to their ancestors... now we're supposed to believe that our arch-enemies fell for the gag as well.

The Documentary Hypothesis is something that can only be taken on faith. You have to start from a devout belief that the Torah cannot be what it purports to be. It cannot be something that was given to Moses and Israel in the desert. Once you start from that a-rational belief, you have to find some alternate source for the book. And the Documentary Hypothesis isn't all that much nuttier than "someone spilled a jar of ink, and the words of the Torah just happened to appear on the page."

23 Comments:

Blogger thanbo said...

Much as I agree on the DH, it does strike one as a bit odd that davka here, there is no anachronistic ref. to J'lem, while elsehwere (vayirdof ad Dan in Lech Lecha) we do have "contemporary to the reader" place names.

Why one place and not the other?

7:33 PM  
Blogger thanbo said...

Another diff between the Samaritan Torah and ours is in the lists of the begats. The LXX has yet a third set of ages and names in the begats in Bereshit and Noach.

7:34 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

That "oddness" ought to give you pause.

And I'm not quite sure what the LXX has to do with the Samaritan Torah. Nothing that I know of.

7:52 PM  
Blogger Milhouse said...

Um, originally, there was nothing wrong with bringing sacrifices in your backyard. It only became wrong when the temple was built in "the place that God will choose to put His name". It couldn't be anachronistically named in the Torah, because He hadn't chosen it yet.

12:04 AM  
Blogger Joe Settler said...

Speaking of Samritans:

http://onthemainline.blogspot.com/2006/06/samaritans_114954085069423206.html

5:33 AM  
Blogger Sabba Hillel said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:48 AM  
Blogger Sabba Hillel said...

To quote thanbo:

Much as I agree on the DH, it does strike one as a bit odd that davka here, there is no anachronistic ref. to J'lem, while elsehwere (vayirdof ad Dan in Lech Lecha) we do have "contemporary to the reader" place names.

End of quote

This would seem to imply that the "contemporary" reader (at the time of Matan Torah did indeed not have valid reference since Yerushalayim had not been chosen. Actually, based on the brachos of Yaakov in Vaychi anf the brochos of Moshe at the end of the Torah, there are those who say that the references were to the areas that the Shvatim began to settle before they were forced to return to the central settlement by the famine (see Rav Hirsch on this matter). Thus, after the shvatim became adults and married, they began to spread out and settle other areas.

http://www.torah.org/advanced/mikra/br/Lkha3.pdf

The first conquest of the Land which G-d gave us was initiated not by Yisra’el the Nation - but by Yisra’el the man (Ya’akov).
During the life of Ya’akov, he and his children sbegan purchasing and/or conquering land in Eretz K’na’an in order to fulfill the promise given to their family. Moshe’s illustration is indeed one from a familiar past - and is therefore instructive and enlightening.
The brothers began dividing up the land - and, at least in the case of Yehudah, they were settling into their future territory
(Timnah, the location of Yehudah’s interaction, is included among the cities of Yehudah [Yehoshua 15:57]). It stands to reason, then, that the brothers, knowing full well that G-d would eventually grant them (or their children) the land, divided it up along general lines.

11:51 AM  
Blogger Tiger Physics said...

I am intrigued by your ideas and wish to subscribe to your newsletter. ;-)

4:41 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Regarding sacrifices in your backyard (bamot), I know that's true, and you know that's true. But advocates of the DH claim that the Kohanim at the time the Torah was "redacted" wanted to claim otherwise. If they are right, the Kohanim would have named Jerusalem explicitly, rather than merely hinting. But they didn't, because there were no "redactors".

4:56 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Hey Tiger (wow, I feel like Mary Jane when I say that), thanks for the kind words. I don't actually have a newsletter, but there is an RSS feed for this blog if you use such things.

5:06 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Joe, the link didn't work. This one works better. And yeah, I noticed that. I thought it was a cool coincidence.

7:04 AM  
Blogger dbs said...

The Documentary Hypothesis is something that can only be taken on faith. You have to start from a devout belief that the Torah cannot be what it purports to be. It cannot be something that was given to Moses and Israel in the desert. Once you start from that a-rational belief, you have to find some alternate source for the book. And the Documentary Hypothesis isn't all that much nuttier than "someone spilled a jar of ink, and the words of the Torah just happened to appear on the page."

I think that you're stating the obvious - the DH is incompatible with Torah Misinai. Perhaps you should consider that the vast majority of Jews accept the 'a-rational' notion that men, not God, wrote the bible. I suppose that they may all be a bunch of nutters to question that God spoke all of these words, performed all of these supernatural miracles and set all of these minute and rituals. After all, God writes books all the time, just ask the Mormons.

Accepting the Torah as divine has only about, hmmm, let me be estimate on the low side, oh, about 10,000 contradictions, literary problems and historical deviations. We do have, however, millions of pages of Talmud, Rishonim, Achronim, etc... to reconcile all of these problems.

But, if one is actually using rationality, I'd say that you may want to consider that those who seek to construct a theory about the human origins of the bible are not complete mental rejects.

Oh, and, by the way, the two 'idiocies' which you mention are not very well aimed.

7:40 PM  
Blogger Joe Settler said...

"Coincidence" is an Amalek philosophy. We believe there is purpose and meaning for everything.

:)

2:59 PM  
Blogger Joe Settler said...

When's DH Idiocy 2 coming out?

2:59 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

David (dbs), that the vast majority of Jews don't accept the Torah, which may or may not be true, says absolutely nothing about the Torah itself. "If 50 million people say a foolish thing, it remains a foolish thing." (Anatole France). Truth is not determined by a majority vote, except in the Sanhedrin.

In any case, your comment was mostly invective, and ends with a bald claim and absolutely nothing to support it. Your profile says, "You may ask, "Is this really about theology?" Well, yes and no..." I suspect that it's more towards the "no". But whatever reasons you have for rejecting the Torah are your own. I'm sorry for whatever they are, but they aren't really relevant here.

9:53 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Joe, to be honest, I don't spend a lot of time thinking about the DH. I dealt with that in college, and it's been a loooong time since then. But if something comes up, I'll definitely post it.

9:55 PM  
Blogger dbs said...

Lisa,

With all due respect, I was responding within the tone of your post. Unlike you, I did not impune any negative inferences toward those who do not agree with my point of view.

It is a bit difficult to take you seriously, though. Do you really think that you can defend:

...that the vast majority of Jews don't accept the Torah, which may or may not be true...

I do agree, by the way, that this isn't logic by majority. But discounting the entire non-frum scholarly community as idiots, well, that takes a certain additude.

9:41 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

David, a person who does a bad thing is not necessarily a bad person. Similarly, a person who accepts a foolish thing like the DH is not necessarily an idiot. I didn't imply otherwise.

In your initial comment, you came at me with "Perhaps you should consider that the vast majority of Jews accept the 'a-rational' notion that men, not God, wrote the bible". I still don't get why I should care. A proposition is correct or not correct completely independent of the number of people who state it.

As far as attitude... well, if that surprises you, you're clearly new around here.

10:20 PM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>it differs very little from our Torah. A few letters, here and there, for the most part.

Surely you are kidding. There are more than 6000 differences. For the most part they are the same in the sense that its the same narrative and the same laws. In the Samaritan version, for example, Reuven still doens't retain the birthright. Moshe still redeems Benei Yisrael etc.

But there are many crucial differences as well. For example, Har Gerizim (Hrgryzym, in the Sam. spelling) is privileged and mentioned in their Aseret Ha-dibrot.

10:19 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Fair enough. And I'm well aware of their alterations regarding Har Gerizim. I stand by what I said, though. Their version is substantially the same. If the lame idea of a "redactor" had any validity to it, the Samaritans would have had to have gotten their version of the Torah after the redaction had been completed. That's not plausable.

10:41 AM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

No problem, I just wanted to make that technical corrections.

As for the rest, it depends on certain things, such as what their actual origin and relationship with the Jews were. According to Josephus, for example, they didn't totally separate from the Jews until John Hyrcanus destroyed their Temple at the beginning of the Hasmonean period, so it isn't strange that they'd share, substantially, the Torah with the Jews.

12:44 PM  
Blogger APV said...

"You have to start from a devout belief that the Torah cannot be what it purports to be."

No. You only have to start from a belief that The Torah might not be what it purports to be.

6:52 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Um... no. I'm going to stick with the way I phrased it. Simply thinking that the Torah might not be what it purports to be isn't enough to account for the wild hypotheses of the DH.

7:09 PM  

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