by Eyal Rav-Noy & Gil Weinreich



The fatal flaws in their hypothesis

Page 1 of 4

People who take the Bible seriously are going to ask questions. Critical questioning of the Bible does not imply hostility to a work held sacred by religious believers. Rather, such questioning should be encouraged as a means of deepening our understanding of the text.

We argue that most contemporary biblical criticism is a fraud, an exercise in futility, and a model of lemming-like conformity. On balance, the academic study of the Bible has not contributed to a better understanding of the text. Rather, the field seems to be devoted to the circular task of proving itself correct.

An excellent example of this closed circle is a statement by one of the field’s most prominent spokesmen, Richard Elliott Friedman, who, in his popular book—Who Wrote the Bible?—dismisses opposing views in a single sentence: "At present, however, there is hardly a biblical scholar in the world actively working on the problem who would claim that the Five Books of Moses were written by Moses—or by any one person." 1

A condescending footnote adds insult to injury: "There are many persons who claim to be biblical scholars. I refer to scholars who have the necessary training in languages, biblical archeology, and literary and historical skills to work on the problem, and who meet, discuss, and debate their ideas and research with other scholars through scholarly journals, conferences, etc."2

Despite this rather pompous dismissal of any dissent, it is the academic critics of the single authorship of the Bible who are short on objective evidence, and it is the documentary hypothesis that is unscholarly and cannot withstand logical scrutiny.

Imaginary Scrolls and Fabricated History

Our argument begins with the total absence of any physical evidence that the J, E, P, or D documents ever existed. Centuries of archeological discoveries have turned up ancient Torah scrolls and fragments, but none have been at odds with the Torah familiar to all Bible readers.

It should be emphasized that Jewish tradition stringently forbids the destruction of a Torah scroll. If a Torah scroll is no longer fit for use because even a single letter is hand-formed incorrectly or the scroll is beyond repair, the Torah is ritually and respectfully interred, as a deceased person would be. Hence, there are countless Torah scrolls, many of which were laid to rest in near-perfect condition, that await discovery in a Middle Eastern cave or manuscript burial site (called a genizah). Of the numerous finds to date, not a single one is a pre-redacted J, E, P, or D scroll, document, or fragment.

The absence of such scrolls from the archeological record does not by itself prove they do not exist. But it should make the Bible critics exceedingly cautious in upholding a belief for which there is not a scrap of tangible support.

Facts are stubborn, and so are Jews

In addition to the lack of physical evidence, there is a common- sense objection to the documentary hypothesis. The idea that ancient Israelites with different traditions would agree to unite their sacred texts (e.g., an early J text with, say, an early E text) would appear strongly at odds with the disputatious nature of the Jewish people. As the old Jewish saying goes, if you’ve got two Jews, you’ve got three opinions.