Monday, May 21, 2007
[the Western Wall; night of Shavuos]
The holiday of Shavuos, called by the rabbis the “time of the giving of the Torah”, is coming up tomorrow night, so I think this is an important question to answer.
Of course, God wrote it.
However what about the Documentary Hypothesis – the idea that the Torah was compiled from four earlier documents? Over the past 150 years, scholars have carefully analyzed the text of the Pentateuch and reached the conclusion that different sections are written in different styles, presumably by different authors, and the Pentateuch was then compiled from these documents. The alleged documents are basically known as Jawist or J, Elohist or E, Priestly or P and Deuteronomist or D.
Is there any way to reconcile the Documentary Hypothesis with the traditional belief in divine authorship? I think there obviously is.
First of all, the Talmud many times mentions God’s two character traits – the trait of mercy and the trait of justice. Mercy is represented by the name YHVH while justice is represented by Elohim (see Midrash Braishis Rabbah 73:3). I would suggest that the J document is the portion of the Torah more emphasizing mercy and the E document is the portion more leaning toward justice. The Talmud Tractate Megilah 31b states that Deuteronomy was written by Moses – meaning I would assume it was not dictated to Moses directly by God, but rather it is based on a vision which Moses saw and then interpreted. This is D. P is everything else, primarily the sacrificial laws.
P is God.
J is God writing as a merciful father.
E is God writing as a strictly just ruler.
D is Moses writing with divine inspiration.
This explains why there is no remnant of or reference to J, E, P and D in any pre-modern text anywhere. This also explains why the Samaritans have the same Pentateuch other Jews have. It is because these four documents were never separate. They have always been combined into the Torah.
With the beautiful holiday upon us, let us all renew our commitment as God's loyal followers, obeying all His words.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 12:40 PM