Sunday, 4 July 2010

This Pretty Much Sums Up My Main Issues With Orthodox Traditional TMS

This pretty much sums it up:

From Baruch Spinoza's A Theologico-Political Treatise

Hat tip: The blogger Baruch Spinoza

However, Aben Ezra does not call attention to every instance, or even the
chief ones; there remain many of greater importance, which may be cited.
(33) Namely (I.), that the writer of the books in question not only speaks
of Moses in the third person, but also bears witness to many details
concerning him; for instance, "Moses talked with God;" "The Lord spoke with
Moses face to face; " "Moses was the meekest of men" (Numb. xii:3); "Moses
was wrath with the captains of the host; "Moses, the man of God, "Moses, the
servant of the Lord, died;" "There was never a prophet in Israel like
unto Moses," &c. (34) On the other hand, in Deuteronomy, where the law which
Moses had expounded to the people and written is set forth, Moses speaks and
declares what he has done in the first person: "God spake with me " (Deut.
ii:1, 17, &c.), "I prayed to the Lord," &c. (35) Except at the end of the
book, when the historian, after relating the words of Moses, begins again to
speak in the third person, and to tell how Moses handed over the law which
he had expounded to the people in writing, again admonishing them, and
further, how Moses ended his life. (36) All these details, the manner of
narration, the testimony, and the context of the whole story lead to the
plain conclusion that these books were written by another, and not by Moses
in person.

The traditional Orthodox respone as expressed in the Ramban's explanation at the beginning of Bereishit:

מפני שלא כתב משה רבנו התורה כמדבר בעד עצמו, כנביאים שמזכירים עצמם, כמו שנאמר ביחזקאל תמיד: ויהי דבר ה' אלי בן אדם.ויהי דבר ה' אלי לאמר.
וכמו שנאמר בירמיה:

אבל משה רבינו כתב תולדות כל הדורות הראשונים ויחוס עצמו ותולדותיו ומקריו כשלישי המדבר. ולכן יאמר: וידבר אלהים אל משה ויאמר אליו, כמדבר בעד שנים אחרים. ומפני שהענין כן, לא נזכר משה בתורה עד שנולד, ונזכר כאילו אחר מספר עליו.

והטעם לכתיבת התורה בלשון זה, מפני שקדמה לבריאת העולם, אין צריך לומר ללידתו של משה רבנו, כמו שבא לנו בקבלה: שהייתה כתובה באש שחורה על גבי אש לבנה. הנה משה כסופר המעתיק מספר קדמון וכותב, ולכן כתב סתם.

Basically he says (I'm too lazy to translate if anyone feels like it translate it in the comments thank you!) that the Torah was not written from the perspective of Moshe but rather from a third person perspective because the Torah is eternal and transcends the lifetime of Moshe.

To which I say:

A. The Torah is written in the spirit of the age whether it is the imitation of Ugarit style or the similar language to the Code of Hammurabi or the similarities to Babylonian mythology all of which points to the fact that the Torah WE HAVE (as opposed to some theoretical ideal Torah sitting in heaven) has EVERYTHING to do with the lifetime of Moshe.

B. If it's not from Moshe's point of view surely it should be from God's point of view no?

From Undercover Kofer:

The Torah does not for one pasuk claim that God was its author or that it was inspired by anybody. For someone who was indoctrinated into the belief that God directly wrote / dictated every single verse of the Torah, this is totally new information.

Actually, the evidence seems to be on the contrary: the very first pasuk suggests already that it was written by someone not God as the creation story is written in the third person:

"In the beginning, God created heaven and earth."

Or, in the 'original':

בְּרֵאשִׁית, בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים, אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם, וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ

Notice that it says "God created" and not "I created"!

To which I can only say: "Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things from your Torah"!

Someone comments there:

Anonymous said...

That's an interesting thought, yet I am not sure that it would logically have to be concluded because G-d doesn't say, I created, that this would automatically disprove divine authorship. Further, there are verses that do state, for example, I am the Lord your G-d... Would one thus argue simply that there are x number of verses actually from G-d in the first person but all the rest, the majority, are not?

To which I replied:

Shilton Hasechel said ...

Are you kidding? All those verses where God is speaking are preceded by "And God spoke" or "and God said" which are like big quotation marks.

I guess according to your logic Tom Sawyer wrote Tom Sawyer because he speaks quite a lot in it.

Would one thus argue simply that there are x number of sentences actually from Tom Sawyer in the first person but all the rest, the majority, are not?

Happy 4th of July Everybody!


Puzzled said...

Other unmentioned secrets in the Torah:

God is not omniscent
God pretty much doesn't pay attention to where the Israelites are for a few hundred years until he finally HEARS them
God has to ask Adam where he is and what he did

God is not alone
Many gods work together to create man
Elohim is plural
Psalm for Tuesday: God (that is, YHVH) stands in the council of Ail and speaks to the other gods about their behavior
Who is like you among the gods?
Even the shema is not what you'd expect from a monotheistic book: It says that our God (YHVH) is one, not that there is only one god
Look at how the patriarchs deal with covent issues

Shilton HaSechel said...

Short Version: God in the Pentateuch is not the abstract God of the philosophers (at least not in "J sections") and not the only God of the literary prophets

When I'm in a more religious mood I like to think of it as Israel slowly maturing and being weaned off of polytheism and becoming more aware of the "real" God.

Of course you won't find any of this in Orthodoxy (except maybe Schroeder's new book)

When I'm in a less religious mood well... I whine about it on this blog

G*3 said...

The chumash has an abstract narrator’s point of view. In itself, I don’t see how this fact points to who (or Who) did or didn’t write it.

To borrow from your analogy. “Huckleberry Finn” is told from Huck’s point of view. Does that mean he wrote it? The text of the book makes no mention at all of Mark Twain.

Philo said...

The words of Spinoza. Still so relevant for today. I would recommend you also read David Hume's "Dialogue Concerning Natural Religion" and his essay "Of Miracles", which is found in his, "Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding". Both are available for free on the internet, as well as most philosophers since the copyright as gone out long ago.

Shilton HaSechel said...

>The chumash has an abstract narrator’s point of view. In itself, I don’t see how this fact points to who (or Who) did or didn’t write it.

I can't think offhand of any non-fiction book written in such a style where an author refers to himself in the 3rd person with no explanation. The classic OJ response is "God writes differently than men" to which I say apparently not different enough to not imitate Ugarit and Akkadian literature.

Also it's not just the 3rd person its the "distance in time" the author seems to have from the material.

As for Huckleberry Finn that's fiction and perhaps my analogy of Tom Sawyer is similarly a bad example instead think of biographies vs. autobiographies and the differences in style between the two.

Dov Kramer said...

C'mon guys. If the Torah was dictated to Moshe, including the narrative and conversations between G-d and others (especially Moshe) and the conversations between people (especially betwen Moshe and the nation, particularly in Devarim), it reads pretty smoothly.

Why is there a problem if G-d told Moshe to write down the conversations they had, or that Moshe had with the nation? Or if G-d told Moshe to write the overlying structure in narration form? Try reading it that way. It works.

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