SOME REMARKS ON BIBLICAL CRITICISM
Biblical Criticism, or the Documentary Theory of
the Bible, is a position with many demerits. Here are a few.
BIBLICAL CRITICISM asserts that the Torah [and the rest of the Bible] is a
composite document made up of a variety of older sources, written by
different authors at different times, combined by a later editor. The
evidence for this hypothesis consists in the main of variations in literary
style [esp. Names of G-d], contradictions, redundancies and claimed
connections to various historical circumstances.
First a point of logic. In order to weigh the evidence for a hypothesis, we
must know what its competitors are. We want to see that the evidence for a
hypothesis counts against its competitors, so that the evidence makes the
hypothesis more credible than its competitors. Now in the case of BIBLICAL
CRITICISM there are TWO RELEVANT COMPETITORS. One is OHA [for One Human
Author]: the Torah was authored by a single human being. Another is G: the
Torah was authored by G-d. We must ask: against which competitor does the
evidence offered in favor of BIBLICAL CRITICISM count? The answer is that it
counts against OHA only; it is not relevant to G!
Here's why. The evidence supports BIBLICAL CRITICISM due to considerations
of human psychology. Changes of style, contradictions and redundancies are
things that a normal human author would avoid. If we find them in the text
AND WE ASSUME HUMAN AUTHORSHIP AT THE OUTSET, then we have reason to assume
many authors SO THAT THE TEXT WILL AGREE WITH WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT THE
PSYCHOLOGY OF HUMAN AUTHORS. Now this sort of consideration obviously counts
for BIBLICAL CRITICISM and against OHA. But if we cannot assume anything
about the psychology of the author, then this evidence is useless. Since we
don't know anything about G-d's "psychology," it does not count against G.
The study of BIBLICAL CRITICISM is irrelevant to the question of G-d's
authorship of the Torah.
Second - even in the competition with OHA the evidence is very weak. (A) In
1985 researchers at the Technion programmed a computer to analyze variations
in literary style in Genesis and compare them with the variations in style
of works of single authors of the same length. The result was that THERE IS
LESS VARIATION IN GENESIS THAN IN THE WORKS OF KNOWN SINGLE AUTHORS. (B) We
have documents from the ancient near east of admittedly single authorship
with different names for the same god. So variation in G-d's names is no
evidence for multiple authorship. (C) The editor is supposed to have
composed the Torah out of fragmentary documents possessed by a variety of
different group, each with its own conception of G-d [reflected in its name
for G-d] and its traditions of history, laws etc. the editor somehow
convinced all the groups to replace their fragments with his one composite.
This occurred at a time when there were Jewish communities in Israel,
Babylon, Alexandria, Egypt and elsewhere. Yet this event – the unification
of the text – left no historical record at all. No opposition, no hold-outs
retaining their fragments, no celebration of the editor and the event of
finally achieving the authentic divine text…. This is historically
incredible. (D) The editor is supposed to have left different names of G-d,
contradictions and redundancies because of his piety - he did not want to
tamper with holy texts. But in some places where the stylistic variations
are not a as pure as they would like, they suggest the he changed the text.
Contradiction? No problem: they claim there were TWO EDITORS! The first too
pious to change anything, the second who made changes. Sounds a bit like a
game.... (E) They cannot agree how many documents there are and where their
Further reading: The Documentary Hypothesis by Umberto Cassutto, is a
serious detailed consideration of the main evidence for BIBLICAL CRITICISM
with devastating criticism. Biblical Personalities and Archeology by Leah
Bronner shows how much of the ancient period described in the Torah is
verified by archeology. Neither author is familiar with the majority of
Jewish sources nor is totally reliable in his/her opinions. But their
criticism of the standard BIBLICAL CRITICISM is devastating. Before Abraham
Was by Kiawada and Quinn is also very critical of BIBLICAL CRITICISM on
clear logical grounds, although their positive suggestions concerning the
Torah are outrageous. Finally, the Technion computer study is found in
Genesis – An Authorship Study, Yehuda Radday and Haim Shore, Analecta
Biblica no. 903, Loyola Press, 1985.