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Source Criticism

The Torah as a synthesis of multiple texts

Balaam the Seer Is Recast as a Villain

The oldest biblical sources see Balaam as a great seer, but as time goes on, biblical texts portray him in an increasingly negative light. The key to this shift lies in Deuteronomy’s attitude to Israel and gentiles.

Prof.

Alexander Rofé

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Navigating the Torah's Rough Narrative Terrain into the Land

The route the Israelites take through the Transjordan in Numbers 21 is choppy: They are in the Negev then suddenly they are back in the Transjordan; they are moving south and suddenly they are north; they are in western Moab then suddenly they are in the eastern desert. Though traditional commentators attempt to tease out an overall route, it seems more likely we are looking at a palimpsest that includes contradictory versions of the story.

Dr.

Angela Roskop Erisman

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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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Solving the Problem of "Kadesh in the Wilderness of Paran"

Kadesh-barnea is in the Wilderness of Paran, and Kadesh is in the Wilderness of Zin; how are we to explain the Scouts return to “Kadesh in the Wilderness of Paran?”

Dr.

David Ben-Gad HaCohen

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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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Did Israel Celebrate their Freedom While Owning Slaves?

Celebrating the “Time of our Freedom” with a look at the of problem of non-Israelite slavery in the Torah.

Dr. Hacham

Isaac S. D. Sassoon

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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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Deuteronomy: The First Torah

Before the Five Books of Moses were compiled as a complete work, evidence from Deuteronomy as well as from Joshua and Kings shows that Deuteronomy itself was known as “the Torah.”

Dr.

David Glatt-Gilad

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The Opening Of Devarim: A Recounting or Different Version of the Wilderness Experience?

Dr. Rabbi

Zev Farber

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Supporting the Priests vs. Sustaining the Poor

Using Source Criticism to Disentangle a Moral Problem in the Torah

Dr. Hacham

Isaac S. D. Sassoon

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Whose Idea Was It to Send Scouts?

Project TABS Editors

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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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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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Why Was Joshua Singled out by Moses?

A New Insight into an Old Question

Dr. Rabbi

Zev Farber

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Using Deuteronomy to Fill in the Lacunae of Numbers’ Spies Story

Moses refers to the story of the spies in Deuteronomy 1. The details that overlap with Numbers fit only with the (incomplete) J version of the account. How are the two versions connected and what new details can we learn from comparing them?

Dr.

David Ben-Gad HaCohen

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The Death of Pharaoh's Firstborn: A One Plague Exodus

After commissioning Moses at the burning bush, God commissions Moses again in Midian, and then again on his way to Egypt. In this third commission, God instructs Moses to tell Pharaoh, “Let My son go, that he may worship Me, yet you refuse to let him go. Now I will slay your firstborn son” (Exod 4:22-23). How does this narrative fit into the exodus story?

Dr. Rabbi

David Frankel

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Shabbat HaYom, HaYom, HaYom: Stylistic Repetition or Polemical Assertion?

Stylistic Repetition or Polemical Assertion that Shabbat Starts in the Morning?

Dr. Hacham

Isaac S. D. Sassoon

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Datan and Abiram: A Rebellion of the Shepherds in the Land of Israel

The biblical text is unclear about why Datan and Abiram are rebelling. A careful look at their words shows that they are complaining about the land they are already living in.

Dr. Rabbi

David Frankel

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The Three Redactional and Theological Layers of the Plagues

The plague story expanded over time in three main stages: The oldest stage (E) has Moses perform 3 plagues on his own; this was revised to create a story of an all-powerful God performing 8 plagues (J), utilizing Moses as a mouthpiece. Finally, the Priestly redactor revised this into our familiar narrative of 10 plagues, in which God uses the miracles to announce himself to Egypt and the world.

Dr.

Tzemah Yoreh

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When Pharaoh's Stubbornness Caught God by Surprise

A Supplementary Approach to the Theological Conundrum of Pharaoh’s Heavy Heart

Dr. Rabbi

David Frankel

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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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Israel's Departure from Egypt: A Liberation or an Escape?

The oldest layer E has the Israelites pushed out by the Egyptian people under the king of Egypt’s nose during the plague of darkness and Moses splitting the sea on his own. J then revised this account to create a story of an all-powerful God smiting the firstborn sons, forcing Pharaoh to give in, and then drowning Pharaoh and his army in the sea when Pharaoh changes his mind. Finally, the Priestly redactor adds details, expands the numbers of both the Egyptians and the Israelites, and puts in his signature theological innovation: God changes Pharaoh’s mind for him and forces him to give chase.

Dr.

Tzemah Yoreh

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The Historical Exodus

The Evidence for the Levites Leaving Egypt and the Introduction of YHWH into Israel

Prof.

Richard Elliott Friedman

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Who Were the Loyal Scouts?

Caleb and Joshua or only Caleb?

 

Project TABS Editors

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Enthroning God in the Temple with the Song of the Sea

The Song of the Sea begins with defeat of the Egyptians and ends with YHWH’s enthronement in His temple. Comparison with the Epic of Baal and Enuma Elish clarify the genre and purpose of such hymns, and a striking parallel with Solomon’s prayer in 1 Kings 8 offers a clue to the original context of this ancient song.

Rabbi

Daniel M. Zucker

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The Two Shabbats of the Decalogue

A Historical Approach

Dr. Rabbi

Norman Solomon

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The Israelites Are Not the Hyksos!

The hidden polemic in the Torah’s note that “Israel did not escape by way of the Philistine coastal route”

Dr.

David Ben-Gad HaCohen

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Male Homosexual Intercourse Is Prohibited – In One Part of the Torah

A polyphonic approach to reading the Torah

Dr. Rabbi

David Frankel

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Moses, Aaron, and Miriam: Were They Siblings?

The (In)Significance of Biology and Heredity

Dr. Hacham

Isaac S. D. Sassoon

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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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How Does God Answer the Question: "What Is Your Name?"

A redaction-critical answer to why the Torah has God commanding Moses to tell the Israelites two different names, Ehyeh and YHWH.

Dr. Rabbi

Zev Farber

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What Does Deuteronomy Say about Homosexuality?

“Let there be no kadesh among the sons of Israel. You shall not bring the fee of a harlot or the pay of a kelev (dog?) into the house of YHWH” (Deut 23:18-19).

Dr. Hacham

Isaac S. D. Sassoon

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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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When and Where the Israelites Dwelt in Sukkot

Dr.

David Ben-Gad HaCohen

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Unraveling Megillat Esther: How the Story was Developed

A close literary reading reveals the seams of two independent stories: the Harem Intrigue (Esther) and the Court Intrigue (Mordechai) and how they were connected to the festival of Purim.[1]

Prof.

Sara Japhet

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Dr. Rabbi

Zev Farber

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Differing Conceptions of the Divine Creator

Prof.

Marc Zvi Brettler

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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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