Lower Criticism
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Lower Criticism

July 04, 2018 05:52AM
I reiterate from my previous posting (“Teaching Biblical Scholarship in a Modern Orthodox High School”) that the Torah meets modern high-quality data transmission standards and is letter perfect. I am also responding point by point to Sholom Eisenstat's posting which seems to have been submitted prior to my posting (since he does not cite me and I answer some specific points).

LC AS SERIOUS AS DH: Sholom writes: "There is no escaping that this evidence (for LC (Lower Criticism), the assertion that the current Masoretic text has numerous flaws and inaccuracies) can be similarly disruptive to the community as we fear the DH (Documentary Hypothesis) is."

My response: This is not true: DH is heresy while LC is usually not. The DH denies the literal statement that a national revelation happened at Sinai and asserts that our current text was redacted from numerous other texts by non-prophetic scribes, thereby denying its Divine origin. Contrastively, LC asserts that mistakes occur in the Masoretic Text (MT). As I cited in my previous posting, Rambam, in his principles of faith, states clearly that heresy only occurs if a person both denies that the current MT is identical with the Mosaic Text at Sinai AND ALSO asserts that **Moses wrote these differences by himself** (vs. a result of transmission error).

JEWISH VIEW ON LC: While LC is not heresy I consider it slander. The current MT has ambiguity in 2-3 words (Vayihyu, dacha and maybe potiperah ). All other differences are differences in full-deficient spelling, vocalization, cantillation and other non-semantics. By modern standards, a data transmission with 3 errors per 300,000 letters is "high quality". Furthermore, legally, it can be called perfect. Analogously “Truth in Advertising” is not violated if say a photocopy machine is called letter perfect if occasionally it misses a letter (say from a toner problem).

TEACH LC: Sholom writes: "Are we consciously avoiding the teaching of what must be acknowledged as truly completely kosher?" Sholom continues, "Much of LC comes from "i) rabbinic responsa from well-known scholars, ii) manuscripts and scrolls which we can readily view iii) the Masoretic commentary known as Minchat Shai by Yedidya Norzi (16th century) which is full of references to variant readings of Torah texts collected from the Talmud and Midrash."

My response: I agree. This should be taught. However, this does not contradict the high data-quality of Masoretic transmission.

INVERTED NUNS: Sholom writes: "Shabbat 115a-116b tells us that the 'inverted nuns' surrounding Numbers 10:35-36 were introduced to denote that those verses would be moved to another location in a later edition of the Torah; yes, a later edition of the Torah!"

My response: Sholom distorts the text twice. The text states i) God Himself put these in the text and ii) (as explained by Rashi) "in the days of the Messiah” this text will be as written in its proper place (in Numbers 2). The Talmud does not say there will be a whimsical “later edition” of the Torah. It opens the possibility that King Messiah and his Sanhedrin (whom will have many prophets) may reedit this paragraph’s place BUT *only in the Torahs of King Messiah's era.* This will be prophetically sanctioned with approval in current Torah. No Torah content will change, just placement. Furthermore, it is possible that the text will not change but e.g. Beth Jacob teachers in King Messiah's era will teach the song of ‘when the ark journeys’ while teaching Numbers 2 explaining to the class that this is the proper place, as indicated by God, and it was left in Numbers 10,11 to mention God during the rebellions.

READ-WRITTEN: Sholom writes: "Radak, Ibn Ezra and Abarbanel all had different theories for the origin and purpose of the Kri Ktiv phenomenon where words are spelled one way but pronounced differently, sometimes read but not written and vice versa."

My response: I couldn't agree more. Furthermore, I would teach that the introduction I think by Radack in which he discusses variant texts and the 2 out of 3 rule for the Temple Torahs was deleted; this is wrong. We should teach all this.

I further note, too often, we speak about the need to be intellectually honest and hear the academic side. Doesn't honesty require hearing BOTH our side and their side? For example, in my article "Biblical Puns" (JBQ,34(3),2006) I cite secular scholarship that punning through misspelling, also known as metaplasmus, is not homily (derash!) but a legitimate grammatically accepted method of nuancing!

Suppose a teacher comes to one of the principles on this list and asks: "I want to be intellectually honest and show that misspelling can be fun and part of the text; which sefer should I teach and which commentary should I use?" How many people know the answer to this (I am talking about a serious work not the Kli Yakar or Sforno) Intellectual honesty requires reteaching our own tradition.

Finally, I point out that if the text of the Torah is corrupt there is no motivation to learn more; but if the misspellings are intended then I must learn more and find out why they are there. So, a very serious problem with accepting LC is it diminishes possible learning (Mitzvah of Talmud Torah). The other serious problem with LC is the slander prohibitions. Usually however there is no problem of heresy.

10 DOTS: Sholom writes: "Ezra introduced dots at 10 places in the Torah. We are told that when Eliyahu comes, he will tell us that whether the words are correct and the dots should be removed or the words and the dots should both be removed (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Ver: A, 34)"

My response: Nowhere does it say that Ezra introduced this because of *already* corrupt texts. Rather Ezra introduced this to prevent corruption. For example, if it says "These are the generations of Moses and Aaron" but only Aaron's children are mentioned, a scribe might think that "Moses" is an error and erase it. To prevent this Ezra placed dots to avoid corruption.

2 OUT OF 3 RULE: Sholom writes: "There were 3 sifrei Torah in the azarah of the Temple each of which was corrected based on the other two (Sifri Devarim, piska 356)."

My response: Error correction through the majority is standard. You are reading this on the web. But noise on the web could accidentally change an "a" to a "b" of whatever. The reason this doesn't happen is that multiple copies are sent and the web receiver picks a majority version if there are discrepancies *which happens rarely” As to the reaction, "Aha, so error is possible" I again reiterate: Torah transmission has resulted in 3 errors per 300,000. It is as good quality as web transmission.

LC THREAD: I agree with Sholom. We should have a thread on LC. Perhaps we can share best explanations of apparent anomalies.

Respectfully submitted
Russell Jay Hendel; Ph.d. www.Rashiyomi.com/

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/04/2018 05:53AM by mlb.
Subject Author Posted

Discussion topic: Teaching Biblical Scholarship in a Modern Orthodox High School

Sara Susswein Tesler June 17, 2018 07:43AM

Re: Discussion topic: Teaching Biblical Scholarship in a Modern Orthodox High School

Shmuel Kaufmann June 18, 2018 07:01AM

Re: Discussion topic: Teaching Biblical Scholarship in a Modern Orthodox High School

Shmuel Silberman June 19, 2018 05:17PM

Re: Discussion topic: Teaching Biblical Scholarship in a Modern Orthodox High School

Heshy Grossman June 21, 2018 05:49PM

Re: Discussion topic: Teaching Biblical Scholarship in a Modern Orthodox High School

Russell Jay Hendel June 21, 2018 06:40AM

Re: Discussion topic: Teaching Biblical Scholarship in a Modern Orthodox High School

Aaron Marcus June 24, 2018 06:52AM

Re: Discussion topic: Teaching Biblical Scholarship in a Modern Orthodox High School

Sholom Eisenstat July 01, 2018 08:42AM

Lower Criticism

Russell Jay Hendel July 04, 2018 05:52AM


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