Study the Torah with Academic Scholarship

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Documentary Hypothesis

J, E, P & D sources

“Take Your Only Son Isaac” – What Happened to Ishmael?

In the introductory verses of the Akedah (Binding of Isaac), God refers to Isaac as Abraham’s only son, ignoring the existence of Ishmael. Ishmael’s absence has bothered even the earliest readers of the text, but a documentary approach obviates the problem. The key is understanding the relationship between Abraham and Hagar.

Dr.

Philip Yoo

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Grace Leake

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Noah, Hero of the Great Primeval Famine

Noah's name expresses his father's hope that Noah will bring comfort from the pain of the curse of the land, and before he plants his vineyard, he is called "a man of the land" (איש האדמה). These and other verses point to an older core narrative which spoke not of a flood but of a primeval famine that Noah brings to an end.

Dr.

Idan Dershowitz

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Jacob's Journey to Mahanaim and Penuel in J and E

The merging of two different accounts of Jacob’s return home is reflected in the double etymologies for Mahanaim and Penuel. Why do both sources have Jacob pass through these two cities one after the other? The answer lies in geography.

Dr.

David Ben-Gad HaCohen

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Joseph in Custody: Enslaved or Imprisoned

Joseph, sold by two different groups (Midianites and Ishmaelites), seems to have been bought by two different men (Potiphar, captain of the guard, and an unnamed Egyptian man), leading to two discrete storylines, each of which place Joseph in a different position when he meets the cupbearer and the baker.

Dr. Rabbi

Zev Farber

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The Plague of Dead Fish

Moses striking the Nile to kill the fish and make the water stink eventually developed into the plague of blood: a case of mythological amplification and its reverse.

Dr. Rabbi

David Frankel

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Invoking Creation in the Story of the Ten Plagues

Demonstrating God’s Control of the World to the Israelites

Prof.

Ziony Zevit

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Jacob’s Multiple Death Scenes

Bringing Parashat Vayechi to Life

Dr. Rabbi

Zev Farber

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Finding the Source of Water in Marah

A Critical Look at Israel’s First Stop in the Wilderness

Dr.

David Ben-Gad HaCohen

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Torah from Heaven: Redefining the Question

Many Orthodox Jews believe that God composed the Torah, and feel no need to inquire further.  Nevertheless, it does occurs to me to inquire further, and find a respectful answer to the question of how people, including myself, come to this belief. An honest question beats a dishonest answer, even if the dishonest answer produces much more comfort. And while I enjoy feeling comfortable, I would not want to stay comfortable by not thinking about problems.

Dr. Rabbi

Eliezer Finkelman

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How God's Revelation of the Name YHWH Continues to Enlighten
When God reveals the name YHWH to Moses in Exodus, he says that not even the patriarchs knew this name, yet they all use it in Genesis. Critical scholarship’s solution to this problem led to one of the most important academic innovations in biblical studies in the last three hundred years: the Documentary Hypothesis.

Dr. Rabbi

Zev Farber

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The Unknown Yet Known Place of Moses' Burial

On a mountain, in a valley, no one knows – the three traditions about where Moses is buried in Deuteronomy 34 stem from three different sources.

Dr.

David Ben-Gad HaCohen

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My Name Is Yoel, I Am a Satmar Hasid and a Bible Critic

Sharing his religious journey into biblical scholarship, a young married Hasidic man challenges the Modern Orthodox world to lead where his community cannot. 

Yoel S.

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Joshua Is Appointed Leader Three Times: But Is He in Charge?

Before Moses dies, he requests a leader who will “come and go” before the people. God’s response is clear: appoint Joshua. However, as the narrative continues, God says that Joshua himself will “come and go” at the word of Elazar the priest. And this is only one of three accounts in the Torah in which Joshua is appointed leader. 

Dr. Rabbi

Zev Farber

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Preserving Multiple Opinions

From Judges to Tefillin, the Hagaddah to Kol Nidrei – Jewish Tradition has preserved or harmonized different opinions: An idea reflected in Torah as understood by the Documentary Hypothesis

Prof. Rabbi

Jeffrey Tigay

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Why Deuteronomy Has an Account of Aaron's Death in the Wrong Place

Bewildered, Rashi asks why Deuteronomy records Aaron’s death at Moserah (not Mt. Hor) and why it does so in the middle of Moses’ description of his (second) forty-day stay upon Mount Horeb. Academic biblical scholarship sheds light on these questions.

Dr.

David Ben-Gad HaCohen

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Revelation and Authority: Author’s Response

Prof.

Benjamin D. Sommer

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A Textual Study of Noah's Flood

Project TABS Editors

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The Hebrew Slave: Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy

A Classic Example of Source Criticism Applied to Torah Legislation

Dr. Rabbi

Zev Farber

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The Source of Jacob's Two Blessings

Project TABS Editors

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Gad and Reuben Receive Land in the Transjordan: A Documentary Approach

The tribes of Reuben and Gad ask Moses for permission to settle in the Transjordan (Num 32). A look at this lengthy narrative, what exactly they request and what Moses answers, uncovers several contradictions and inconsistencies. Separating the contradictory elements in the story allows for the identification of two parallel accounts.[1]

Dr.

Liane Feldman

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Jephthah's Wandering Biblical Message to the King of Ammon

An ancient quote, preserved in Jephthah’s speech to the King of Ammon, gives us a clue into the methods of the Torah’s redaction and the status of pre-pentateuchal sources.

Dr.

David Ben-Gad HaCohen

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Source Criticism: It's in the (Plague of) Blood

An Inductive Approach

Prof.

Marc Zvi Brettler

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Unscrambling the Scout Story with the Documentary Hypothesis

Project TABS Editors

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Why Does the Sodom Story Parallel the Flood Traditions?

A closer look at the thematic and verbal parallels between the accounts of the flood and the destruction of Sodom, as well as comparison with other ANE flood/destruction stories, helps us better understand the genre and function of the Sodom story.[1]

Dr.

Baruch Alster

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What Really Happened at the Sea

According to the Torah: Does God split the sea? Do the Israelites cross it? What is the wind for? Where are the Egyptians when they drown?

Project TABS Editors

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Id and Superego: The Two Flood Stories and the Human Condition

Rabbi

David Bigman

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How the Israelite Family Was Put Together: The Twelve Sons of Jacob

The older Northern version of the Jacob story was heavily supplemented by later Southern authors, yielding more sons of Jacob, new explanations of their names, and a much more fecund Leah.

Dr.

Tzemah Yoreh

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A Bible Scholar's Simchat Torah

The Joy of Unraveling the Torah’s Mysteries

Prof.

Baruch J. Schwartz

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Biblical Authority: A Jewish Pluralistic View

Prof.

Marc Zvi Brettler

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Taking Control of the Story: God Hardens Pharaoh's Heart

Exodus narrates three distinct conceptions of God’s relationship to Pharaoh’s stubbornness: God was surprised, God knew beforehand, and God was the direct cause. This essay focuses on the development of the final conception in the Priestly redaction of the Torah, and how and why the Priestly authors did not leave the destiny of the plagues to Pharaoh’s own heart.

Dr. Rabbi

David Frankel

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Reconstructing the Priestly Moses

 Making Sense of the Opening of Vaeira

Dr. Rabbi

David Frankel

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How Can a Torah Commentary Be Source-Critical and Jewish?

Remarks Delivered at Interpreting the Bible in the Twenty-First Century: Celebrating The Jewish Study Bible Second Edition.  March 22, 2015, Pardes Institute, Jerusalem

Prof.

Baruch J. Schwartz

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What Really Happened at Mount Sinai?

Four Answers to One Question

Prof.

Baruch J. Schwartz

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Documentary and Redactional Approach: Israel Knoll

Project TABS Editors

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The Diatessaron and its Relevance to the Study of the Pentateuch

Editors’ Note: We have asked Dr. Naomi Koltun-Fromm to introduce our readers to an ancient Christian text, known as the Diatessaron, to explain what it is, what it contains, and its significance to biblical studies, particularly the Documentary Hypothesis.

Dr.

Naomi Koltun-Fromm

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When and Where the Israelites Dwelt in Sukkot

Dr.

David Ben-Gad HaCohen

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Korah and the Documentary Hypothesis

Project TABS Editors

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Where in the Transjordan Did Moses Deliver His Opening Address?

Deuteronomy 1:1 describes the place where Moses gave his address with a list of several toponyms. Early commentators interpreted these toponyms as Moses’ hidden rebuke, while peshat commentators from Bekhor Shor to R. David Zvi Hoffmann tried to fit them into their context. A geographic and source critical analysis suggests that this is an itinerary list, reflecting an alternative account of Israel’s travels through the Transjordan.

Dr.

David Ben-Gad HaCohen

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Can Orthodox Education Survive Biblical Criticism?

Dr. Rabbi

Zev Farber

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Source Criticism Enhances Our Acceptance of the Torah

Traditional commentators endued certain Torah references with midrashic or esoteric purport in an effort to counteract those who mocked them. But in so doing, they were conceding the mockers’ evaluation of these texts as being, prima facie, inconsequential. Fortunately, source criticism helps us accept these texts without discomfort, obviating the compulsion to interpret them away.

Dr. Hacham

Isaac S. D. Sassoon

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