The Book of Numbers: A Critique of Genesis


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It is foundational and necessary for understanding the larger biblical canon, both Old and New Testaments. The Septuagint picks this up as the name of the book. The Vulgate gave it a transliterated form of the same word, and it has come identify the book. Examine the compositional sources, textual witnesses, chronology, and theological significance of Genesis with Pentateuch expert Gordon J. This volume contains an illuminating excursus on the significance of circumcision.

Organized for easy reference, Word Biblical Commentaries make an ideal Bible study companion, whether you are studying a single passage or a complete biblical book. Kenneth A.

James Wood reviews ‘The Five Books of Moses’ by Robert Alter · LRB 23 February

Matthews' two-volume commentary on the foundational book of Genesis uses the NIV text to comment on the historical and theological background of the biblical book. Based on a solid and thorough knowledge of the Hebrew text in its original linguistic and cultural context, it distinctively includes early Jewish and Christian interpretations that explore the history of the Patriarchs and addresses contemporary scholarship's interest in the compositional history of Genesis. It is particularly sensitive to the narrative nature of Genesis.

Exploring the first book of the Bible as "theological literature," Waltke illuminates its meanings and methods for the pastor, scholar, teacher, student, and Bible-lover. Genesis strikes an unusual balance by emphasizing the theology of the Scripture text while also paying particular attention to the flow and development of the plot and literary techniques—inclusion, irony, chiasm, and concentric patterning—that shape the message of the "book of beginnings.

With characteristic creativity and uncommon depth, John H. Walton demonstrates the timeless relevance of Genesis. Revealing the links between Genesis and our own times, Dr. Walton shows how this mysterious, often baffling book filled with obscure peoples and practices reveals truth to guide our twenty-first-century lives.

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John Walton presents comparative studies of ancient texts and their cosmologies. The first half of the book focuses on the ancient texts that inform our understanding of Near Eastern cosmology. Egyptian, Sumerian, and Akkadian texts are the primary focus, but occasionally Ugaritic and Hittite are included as appropriate. Walton posits that functional ontology was pervasive in ancient writing because bringing about order and functionality was the very essence of creative activity.

In this astute mix of cultural critique and biblical studies, John H. Walton presents and defends twenty propositions supporting a literary and theological understanding of Genesis 1 within the context of the ancient Near Eastern world and unpacks its implications for our modern scientific understanding of origins. Old Testament scholar C. John Collins appropriates literary and linguistic insights from C.

Lewis and builds on them using ideas from modern linguistics, such as lexical semantics, discourse analysis, and sociolinguistics. Longman and Walton urge us to ask what the biblical author might have been saying to his ancient audience. Our quest to rediscover the biblical flood requires that we set aside our own cultural and interpretive assumptions and visit the distant world of the ancient Near East.

Responsible interpretation calls for the patient examination of the text within its ancient context of language, literature, and thought. And as we return from that lost world to our own, we will need to ask whether geological science supports the notion of flood geology. Examining recent, leading-edge scientific discoveries, Dr.

Like never before, The Genesis Question integrates the accuracy of both science and the Bible—without compromise—giving skeptics and believers common ground and opportunity for dialogue. Take an in-depth look at the first three chapters of Genesis with Old Testament expert Dr.

John H. In this follow-up course to OT, Dr. That chapter includes a list of fourteen people or groups who have no share in the World to Come, including Manasseh, the generation of the flood, the generation of the Tower of Babel, the people of Sodom, the followers of Korah and the residents of an idolatrous city. This is clearly not a halakhic discussion! So too in the parallel passage in Tosefta Sanhedrin , Chapter Furthermore, it is apparent from other rabbinic sources that this is an aggadic expression meant to deter, rather than a halakhic expression meant to forbid.

For example:. True, it is possible to make halakhic decisions on the basis of aggadah, and there are numerous examples of this throughout history, 6 but there is no obligation to do so. In fact, important halakhic authorities were opposed to rendering halakhic decisions on the basis of aggadah. Harkavy, No. There are basic beliefs in Judaism such as the existence of God and monotheism which are included in the commandments.

Yet Judaism is based primarily upon deeds rather than upon beliefs or dogmas. Each subject must be studied thoroughly on its own merits to determine if there are other opinions in rabbinic or medieval literature, as we shall do below. Maimonides himself expressed the same idea in three places in his Commentary on the Mishnah:. We have already mentioned to you several times that in every debate between the Sages that does not depend on action but merely determines opinion , there is no reason to render a halakhic decision in accordance with one of them Sanhedrin , p.

In other words, Judaism encompasses beliefs and opinions, but halakhah does not. He also essentially denied the existence of the Masoretes, who attempted to establish a uniform text from the multitude of existing versions of the Bible. It appears that Maimonides adopted an extreme position so that simple Jews would not be persuaded by the Muslim accusations. Finkelstein, p. Schechter, p. Higger, p. In one scroll, the word hi appeared nine times [when hu is intended], and in the other two scrolls, eleven times — the Sages rejected the reading of the first scroll and accepted that of the other two.

In other words, this Tannaitic source describes textual criticism of the Torah in the Second Temple period and the story teaches us that they engaged in this not only in theory but also in practice. Version B, Chapter 37, p.


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There are ten dotted passages in the Torah and these are they [there follows a list of all the words in the Torah with dots above them]… Why? According to Avot Derabi Natan , none other than Ezra the Scribe himself, in the fifth century BCE, engaged in text criticism and questioned whether certain words belonged in the text of the Torah or not.

He therefore put dots above them so that he could to ask Elijah the Prophet in the messianic era. Indeed, Professor Saul Lieberman has shown pp. These are the garments of Adam that resembled a torch…. Some maintain that Rabbi Meir wrote these derashot [homilies] in the margins of his Torah scroll, but this does not seem likely. Hirshman, p. He said to them: they were experts in ketiv malei and ketiv haser defective and plene spellings , we are not.

In other words, Rav Yosef attested that the Jews of Babylon in his time were not experts in the defective and plene spellings in the Torah. This means that there were variant readings in the Torah in Babylon at the end of the third century CE. Indeed, this fact was further confirmed in the modern era with the publication of many books and articles which compiled hundreds of examples of these variant readings. For we see that this is not the case!? The Torah has 5, verses, the Book of Psalms has 2, verses, and Chronicles has 1, Rather, thus we have heard a tradition from the early Sages who said that according to [ Massekhet ] Soferim this baraita [in Kiddushin ] is referring to that Torah scroll that was found in Jerusalem that was different in its script and in its number of verses , and so too regarding the Book of Psalms and Chronicles, but now the Torah, Psalms and Chronicles are like this.

In other words, Rav Hai Gaon is explaining according to a lost baraita in Massekhet Soferim , that the baraita from Kiddushin was referring to a specific Torah scroll that was found in Jerusalem, but in our day — Babylon in the 10 th- 11 th centuries — the number of verses is completely different. This is one of the things written in the Torah scroll that left Jerusalem in captivity and came to Rome and was hidden in the synagogue of Asveros… so they were written in the Torah that left Jerusalem.

Bereishit Rabbati is attributed by Hanoch Albeck and others to Rabbi Moshe Hadarshan who lived in Narbonne in the first half of the 11 th century, although Hananel Mack disagrees with this attribution. Even if this tradition is historically doubtful, it reveals that the author of this midrash did not reject the possibility of variant readings of the Torah.

In other words, Radak explained that the Men of the Great Assembly engaged in text criticism. In places where they could decide on one version, they did so and when they could not decide, they recorded a keri and ketiv. Indeed, Radak repeated this explanation many times in his commentaries. Avot ] Florence, whose purpose was to determine the correct text of the Torah. In other words, the Ramah is attesting to many textual variants among the Torah scrolls in his day.

He decided to determine the correct reading on the basis of the majority of the scrolls, similar to the practice found in Sifre Devarim quoted above section IV, 1. Indeed, he himself wrote a Torah scroll as a prototype which many copied from in the years after his death. He replied:. In contrast to what was explained in Sefer Ahavah [Maimonides, Hilkhot Sefer Torah ], I have answered previously and will now repeat my answer in brief, i.

The correct thing is to scrutinize [the scroll according to what is written] in Sefer Ahavah loc. In other words, Rabbi Abraham ruled against his father, taking a lenient position with regard to open and closed parshiyot in the Torah, since there is no accepted and reliable Torah scroll such as the one that had been kept in the Temple court.

Therefore a Torah scroll can only be declared invalid in this regard if it differs from all other scrolls. At the beginning of that work, he wrote:. Since [because of our many sins] the Torah has been forgotten and a correctly written Torah scroll cannot be found, because the scribes are ignorant and the scholars pay no attention to this matter, I therefore searched diligently for a Torah scroll written correctly regarding the letters and closed and open parshiyot but I did not find one.

And, needless to say, [neither did I find one in which] the defective and plene spellings were exact, for this knowledge has disappeared from our entire generation… Sinai 60 [], p. In other words, Rabbi Yom-Tov Lipmann Muhlhausen made an effort to find a Torah scroll in which both the letters and the open and closed parshiyot were correctly written, but he eventually gave up in despair. From these sources, we learn that, according to the Sages, textual criticism began with none other than Ezra the Scribe himself and continued throughout the Talmudic period.

In the Middle Ages, important scholars such as the Ramah engaged in the text criticism of the Torah, while others admitted that one cannot reconstruct the original text since the text in our hands is quite corrupt. The Torah has been copied thousands of times by human beings; hence both large and small errors have occurred. One who engages in text criticism, not only does not sin, but continues in the path of the Masoretes and all the other important rabbis cited above. Thus far, we have seen many sources that viewed text criticism in a positive light. In addition, there are sources in the Talmud and Midrash that allude to source criticism.

These sources can be divided into three categories:. Many contemporary Orthodox rabbis claim that the entire Torah was given to Moses at Sinai. This claim is inconsistent with the following source:. Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish [2 nd generation Amora , ibid. If not, then according to the opinion of Rabbi Levi [3 rd generation? Rashi ad loc. Therefore, he also calls the rest [of the Torah] megillah [scroll], because when he went back and completed it he had to write from Bereishit until the parashah of the Priests, and then skipped over the parashah of the Priests which was already written, and wrote from there until the parashah of the [Levites], and so on and so forth.

In other words, Resh Lakish agrees with the position of contemporary rabbis who maintain that the Torah was given at Sinai. Rabbi Yohanan, however, thought that the Torah was given scroll by scroll in stages , apparently in chronological order, while Rabbi Levi thought that the Torah was given in stages, but not in chronological order. Rabbi [Judah the Prince] says: because it is a book by itself… Rabbi Shimon says: it is marked before and after because this was not its place.

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And what should have been written in its place? Any Torah scroll which has 85 mistakes may not be read until it is corrected. Some say: all these measures [of the number of mistakes, which is based on the number of letters in Numbers ] were only mentioned because this is not the place of the parashah. The Holy One, Blessed be He, made signs before and after [this passage] to indicate that this is not its place.

Rabbi [Judah the Prince] said: It is not for that reason, but because it is an important book in its own right… Who is the Tanna who disagrees with Rabbi? It is Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel. For it was taught: Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel said: This passage is destined to be removed from here and written in its place. And why did he write it here? To provide a break between the first punishment [Numbers ] and the second punishment [ ibid. Rav Ashi said: With the flags [ ibid. Professor Lieberman has already noted p. If he edited this section, it is possible that he edited other sections as well.

Rabbi Judah the Prince is of the opinion that the Torah was given in ashuri script; because they sinned, it was changed to roetz [Samaritan script? Rabbi Eleazar Hamodai is of the opinion that the Torah was given in ashuri script and did not change. The baraita summarized above appears there with changes and is preceded by an Amoraic statement:. These sources contain three different perceptions of the role of Ezra: According to Rabbi Eleazar Hamodai, Ezra the Scribe did not change anything in the Torah.

Of course, it can be argued that the translation came from Heaven, but if it was done by Ezra, this would indicate significant human impact on the text of the Torah as we have it today, for, as everyone knows, every translator has a great influence on the content of the translated text. Rabbi Abahu [3 rd generation Amora, Eretz Yisrael ] said: during all of the forty days that Moses spent above, he would learn Torah and then forget what he had learned.

There are those who say that this midrash refers to the Oral Torah, yet there is no hint of this in the text.

The Book of Numbers

It is therefore possible that, according to Rabbi Abahu, God taught the Torah to Moses as general principles which Moses then developed into specific laws. If so, Moses played a very significant role in the writing of the Torah. Our Rabbis taught… Moses wrote his book and the sections about Balaam and Job. Rather, up to this point, Moses wrote, and from this point on, Joshua wrote — this is the opinion of Rabbi Judah, and some say, of Rabbi Nehemiah. Rather, up to this point, the Holy One, Blessed be He, spoke and Moses wrote, and from this point on, He spoke and Moses wrote with tears [in his eyes]….

According to Rabbi Shimon, Moses wrote the last eight verses in the Torah in tears, but, according to the Tanna in the first baraita and Rabbi Judah or Rabbi Nehemiah, Joshua wrote the last eight verses of the Torah after the death of Moses. Rabbi Judah and Rabbi Nehemiah disagreed: one said that [Joshua wrote] eight verses [in the Torah] , while the other said [that Joshua wrote] the cities of refuge. There are two strata in this passage. In the earlier Tannaitic stratum, one of the Tannaim says that Joshua wrote the last eight verses of the Torah while another says that he wrote the passage about the cities of refuge in the Torah , because the same subject also appears in Joshua, chapters In the previous section, we saw allusions to source criticism in rabbinic literature.

We shall now see that quite a few medieval rabbis thought that human beings edited or wrote parts of the Torah. These sources can be divided into two groups:. And so he wrote in his commentary to Genesis In several places in his commentaries talks about the sofer [author] of a biblical book, i.

He writes, for example, in his commentary to Isaiah in Mikraot Gedolot Haketer :. Here too, first he said that Ratzin and Pekah went up, and afterwards he elaborated…. And out of a desire to explain what happened in his day, he wrote the cause of the People of Israel descending to Egypt and the history of the Patriarchs from their beginnings. According to Seder Olam , Moses himself wrote in the Torah the history of the Jewish people until his own time, on the basis of books written from the time of Adam and onwards, and he edited all this material under Divine Inspiration.

At the tent flap sin crouches

B Specific sections of the Torah were written after the time of Moses or by other Prophets. Wertheimer, Batei Midrashot , Vol. This midrash on the Masorah was written before the time of Rav Hai Gaon since he was the first to quote from it. And some say: it indicates that a hidden book was there. There are many explanations of this midrash, especially of the last sentence. Adler, Oxford, , p. The Sages said: the entire Torah is the prophecy of Moses alone, except for these two verses that are from the prophecy of Eldad and Meidad, therefore they enclosed them with inverted nuns and included them in the Torah.

This late midrash is also of the opinion that Numbers is the prophecy of Eldad and Meidad rather than the prophecy of Moses. It can be inferred from this verse that the passage was written in the era of the Monarchy. And the enlightened will be silent. He expands the eight verses attributed to Joshua in the Talmudic passage quoted above Deut. Rashbam commented that this passage was written in the time of the Judges. His commentary to the Torah was published in and met with the disapproval of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, as mentioned above.

My teacher, my father, explained: this is the Great Hallel [Psalm ]. This song was composed after they were saved from Sihon and Og and crossed the Arnon river. The song was originally written in the Torah, but King David removed all uncredited songs of Moses from the Torah and put them in his book of Psalms…. He explained that Etzion Gever did not belong to Edom until the king of Edom married Meheitabel, daughter of Matred Genesis who brought it to him:. Therefore this [Genesis ] was written in the Torah in the days of the Great Assembly, so that you would not ask how Etzion Gever came to belong to Edom, as is written in Chronicles.

David Herzog, Cracow , pp. Since Solomon wrote the book, why mention the name of Hezekiah, who was born several generations afterwards? Rather it was an oral tradition from one person to another [originating with] Solomon, and therefore they wrote it down and it was considered as if Solomon had written it. And since we are supposed to believe in the words of tradition and prophecy — what difference does it make if Moses wrote it or a different prophet, since all their words are true and prophetic?

Therefore, if a prophet added a word or words to explain something according to what he had learned from tradition, it is not an addition…. Moreover, this addition is also a true prophecy, even if it was added by a prophet other than Moses. It is known that while the nation of [Israel] was in exile in Babylon they forgot the Torah until the arrival of Ezra the Priest, a swift scribe in the Torah of God, who restored it to them and changed nothing out of all the mitzvot that God commanded Moses.

However, regarding stories in which there is no harm in expanding, such as those mentioned, that Prophet [i. And it is possible that he made these additions under Divine inspiration, as he did regarding the Masorah, and the verse divisions and the cantillation….

In other words, according to this Egyptian rabbi, Ezra the Scribe expanded narrative sections of the Torah, just as he made innovations regarding the Masorah, the division into verses and the cantillation. Therefore, this scholar had difficulty with things written in the Torah which refer to later events. We have seen, thus far, that Maimonides and halakhic authorities who ruled like him were opposed to both text and source criticism. We then analyzed general weaknesses in the sources that prohibit biblical criticism and quoted many precedents for both text and source criticism in rabbinic literature and among the medieval rabbis.

But do these sources validate the systematic division of the Torah into separate sources or documents? After all, the sources we quoted ascribe some twenty verses to Prophets who lived after the time of Moses. Is this enough to support an entire methodology? This question can be answered by comparison with the critical study of the Babylonian Talmud in our day. My teacher, Prof. Shamma Friedman, has shown that the Rishonim or medieval rabbis engaged in Talmud criticism and in separating the statements of the Amoraim from the Stam Hatalmud the anonymous editors of the Talmud in a partial and coincidental fashion.

If we add all of his examples to additional examples, we are still discussing a very small percentage of sugyot Talmudic passages. As Prof. Friedman explains:. We have seen that the Tosafists and the Rishonim who succeeded them knew very well how to distinguish between the words of the Amora and those of the Talmud referring to them. However, they made use of this distinction only in places in which there was a specific question regarding the approach of that specific Amora , which was resolved by separating the Amoraic statement from the Stam Hatalmud.

Only in this way is it possible to study the history of Talmudic law, i. The same holds true for Source Criticism of the Bible. Ibn Ezra, Rabbi Judah the Pious and the other scholars discussed above divided the Torah into different sources in order to solve a random exegetical problem. We, however, can use modern methodological tools to study this subject systematically in order to better understand the Torah from both a legal and literary perspective. Biblical criticism, especially Source Criticism, was created by non-Jews, some of whom were anti-Semites.

He labeled their higher criticism, i. However, in truth, many times in the past, Jewish scholars have absorbed the methodologies of non-Jewish scholars and, in the course of time, turned them into integral components of our Torah study. The following are six examples of this phenomenon:. Those who engage in Biblical Criticism are trying to arrive at the peshat , the plain meaning of the Bible, and the truth of the text that they are studying. This desire is well-rooted in our sources.

Many rabbis throughout the generations have stressed the importance of searching for the truth and some have even regarded this as a religious value. Rabbi Joshua ben Levi explained that Jeremiah, Daniel and the Men of the Great Assembly amended the text of a prayer instituted by Moses in response to changing circumstances, The Talmud asks: How did they uproot a decree of Moses our Teacher? The parallel passage in the Jerusalem Talmud Berakhot , fol. I think that there does not remain a book in the world on this subject translated from other languages into Arabic that I have not read, studied in depth, and thoroughly mastered Alexander Marx, HUCA 3 , p.

Shilat, Vol. After quoting Hullin a, he continues:. In the modern period as well, there were rabbis who emphasized the importance of the search for truth.

The Book of Numbers: A Critique of Genesis The Book of Numbers: A Critique of Genesis
The Book of Numbers: A Critique of Genesis The Book of Numbers: A Critique of Genesis
The Book of Numbers: A Critique of Genesis The Book of Numbers: A Critique of Genesis
The Book of Numbers: A Critique of Genesis The Book of Numbers: A Critique of Genesis
The Book of Numbers: A Critique of Genesis The Book of Numbers: A Critique of Genesis
The Book of Numbers: A Critique of Genesis The Book of Numbers: A Critique of Genesis

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