Difficulties for the Modern Believer
As formulated by Maimonides in his 8th principle of faith, traditional Jewish belief in a divine origin for the Torah entails a number of notions, specifically,
- The biblical text in our hands today was transmitted by God to Moses,
- Every word of this text is equally divine and laden with meaning,
- This written text was simultaneously accompanied by an oral commentary.
Critical approaches to the biblical text, which pose problems for this formulation, are not a modern invention. Nevertheless, there is no denying that the scope and intensity of such questions have increased considerably in the past century. Beyond the usual difficulties (erroneous or fallible content, questionable morality, and textual evidence of evolutionary historical development), the feminist critique has most recently problematized the very notion of divine revelation as verbal communication – given that language itself now appears so pervasively rooted in a particular perspective and cultural bias.
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March 25, 2014
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Prof. Tamar Ross is Professor Emeritus of the Department of Jewish philosophy at Bar Ilan University. She continues to teach at Midreshet Lindenbaum. She did her Ph.D. at the Hebrew University and served as a post-doctoral fellow at the Center for Jewish Studies at Harvard. She is the author of Expanding the Palace of Torah: Orthodoxy and Feminism. Her areas of expertise include: concepts of God, revelation, religious epistemology, philosophy of halacha, the Musar movement, and the thought of Rabbi A.I. Kook.
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