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 boundaries are.

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.

By: Rabbi Dr. Dovid Gottlieb

Bible Criticism  (The Jewish view)
On Bible Criticism  and Its Counterarguments
Bible Survival

Biblical Criticism
Did God Speak at Mt. Sinai?
Accuracy of The Torah Text
The Unbroken Chain of Torah Transmission
The Cohanim / DNA Connection
Living Up To The Truth - Philosophical Approach
by R. Dr. Dovid Gottlieb


A Rational Approach to the Divine Origin of the Torah
(Listen)   (download)  (Low Bandwidth)
(Listen)  (download)  (High Bandwidth)

Rational Approach to the Divinity of the Oral Tradition
(Listen)   (download)  (Low Bandwidth)
(Listen)   (download)  (High Bandwidth)

by Lawrence Kelemen

Historical Verification of the Torah - Standards & Prophecy (1 of 4)   (download)
Historical Verification of the Torah - Sinai & Miracles (2 of 4)   (download)
Historical Verification of the Torah - Revelation (3 of 4)   (download)
Historical Verification of the Torah - Higher Quality of Life (4 of 4)   (download)
by Rabbi Dr. Dovid Gottlieb

biblical criticism - Judaism Online