Thursday, September 10, 2009

LWMO Engagements With Biblical Criticism

-R. Adam Mintz, "A Critical and Historical Approach to The Study of The Bible"

-Moshe Halbertal, "Torah From Heaven - Rabbinic Interpretations of Sinai"

-Panel discussion with some interesting speakers (R. Shalom Carmy, Dr. Lawrence Schiffman, Zelig Aster, etc), on Biblical Criticism all from Orthodox perspectives - but some with interesting suggestions.

-James Kugel. "Can the Torah Make its Peace With Modern Biblical Scholarship?". Blogger reviews from Google. A common complain is that they see Kugel as having led them to a philosophical position, whereby an integral belief is held to be defensible, but they want it to compelling, and also the culture-bound nature of Kugel's claim (one shared about R. Breuer); that aside from a philosophically-undefended predisposition to accept the idea of Revelation, nothing compels such a belief. But I think there is a precise strength in that position; that exact "predisposition" is what defines the Jewish people as the "culture" of boundedness! More significant that any proof he offers for BibCrit - whether valid or not - is the lived presence of his faith in Revelation, not in the face of, but apart from Bib Crit, a faith which of course is shared by those who do not agree with Biblical Criticism.

As usual, I give my caveat that I don't present these fragments as statements of belief in Bib Crit - I have my own resolution which, though not complete, I think to be consistant, faithful and reasonable. One frustration I have is that, among those lay people who claim to be Orthodox and adherents of Biblical Criticism, to a person, I have not heard a one of them, not once, propose or defend any way in which Torah comes from God. They are ready, able and willing to articulate the human part of this "divine communication", but agnostic about the Other participant...the frustration I have with Academics who claim to believe in BibCrit, Torah and observance is that they, almost to a person, write their 'reconciliations' almost exclusively in Hebrew.

It's one thing to take the position that critical scholarship proves itself logically and consistantly as the most reasonable explanation for the Torah text before us, and come to some faith resolution - at least that can be argued about. But quite another is the frequent, blanket acceptance of divergent, competing empirically-based, critical theories and suggestions (on the part of formerly-Orthodox people), on Biblical scholarship - simply because they are made by academics - who are held to be of quasi-religious authority specifically because they are not rabbis, and are unwilling to make theological statements of faith from their scholarship (though some are willing to make negative faith claims for their scholarship). It's almost an obfuscation of the concept of Daas Torah and "Elu v'Elu" - as if many secular "prophets" combine different voices to make one "text" - all receiving the imprimatur of "reason" and "critical scholarship" - and are thus not esteemed for a shared but contentious discourse - but are treated as if they're in blanket accord!!! "Divrei Elokim Haim" becomes "Divrei Critical Analysis" - where the only 'halacha' that is followed is that "Torah is in substance and essence a human creation". How would academics of Bible - who adamantly do not harbor a conviction that their empirical conclusions are Divinely supra-rational and transcend contradiction, regard this?


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