Unreasonable Belief

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Someone sent me an excerpt from a book he wrote that attempted to prove why the Traditional understanding of the origin of the Torah it true using reason and logic. I think that my response expresses pretty clearly why I lean more these days toward the academic understanding of the historicity of Torah.

Thank you for sending me the excerpt from your book. I read through some of it, skimmed through most of it, basically looking for something new. I didn’t find anything. There is no chiddush, nothing I haven’t seen before many times. I think also the difference between what you are doing and what the academic world does, is that you start with a conclusion that you are already 100% convinced of, and are 110% emotionally invested in, and then try to piece together evidence that supports that conclusion while ignoring evidence that is at odds with the conclusion that you already made.

That is not science, it is not intellectually honest.

I have been on both sides of this fence. I went into my study of academic scholarship believing that they had an agenda. That they were emotionally invested in the Torah narrative NOT being true. What I found was the opposite. Most of the people I met in the academic world were humble truth seekers employing reason and science to reach rational conclusions. They did not begin with a conclusion, but rather began by weighing the evidence. ALL of the evidence. And THEN drew rational, scientific conclusions based on that evidence.

Where I am at personally is that 1) The scientific, academic world, (that really speak with one voice on this) present a FAR more reasonable and rational explanation for the Origins of the Torah and the Jewish people than the religious world does.

And 2), this is a big one… Just because the ‘historical narrative’ of the Torah is NOT true, it does not make the Torah NOT true.

We are the most ancient people in the world, with a real history, and body of wisdom and knowledge that has constantly evolved in order to keep us on the forefront of morality, ethics, science, empathy, and Humanity’s quest to touch the Divine, (whatever that means).

I think that is pretty cool.




  1. Sharona says:

    Having also engaged in the academic world (no not just tour guiding school, but actually real live academia where I not only had to learn what they have to say about the Torah but actually teach it too) I can assure you that they do the exact same thing you are criticizing. They absolutely dismiss evidence that conflicts with their presuppositions, which is why the Documentary Hypothesis (and its offshoots) are still held to be valid despite the numerous examples that just do not fit the theory. Additionally, the fact that you state that academia speak with one voice with regards to the authorship of the Torah gives away just how little you have actually engaged with that world. Because if you had, you would know that it is a constant source of debate, and academics have yet to describe a complete theory that addresses all of the problems found in their current hypotheses. Critique Jews who accept the Torah as Divine, fine. But you just come off as ignorant when you don’t critique the academic world as well.

  2. Sharona, I was speaking specifically about my experience with academics that I have met and spent time with. I spent 45 hours in classes with Dr. Yigal Levin of the Archeology and Near East studies department at Bar Illan University. I also also took part in in-depth study with some of the top archeologists in Israel at every major archeological site in Israel. Lachish, Hatzor, Gezer, Meggido, Ir David. The overwhelming evidence there does not support the historicity of the Biblical narrative. The truth is that today there is no serious academic scholar that views the Bible’s account of the Exodus from Egypt, or the Conquest of the land of Canaan as historically accurate. That is just a fact. The only argument that fundamentalists can claim is that the ENTIRE academic world is bias.

  3. Binyamin Schwartz says:

    Rabbi Wolfe, you’re apparently just as “reasonable” as your guest, Rabbi Farber (“Abraham and Sara aren’t my ancestors or anyone else’s”). It’s kinda hard to tell someone (certainly millions of people) that the unbroken and cherished family tradition of theirs (and their entire people) of THEY THEMSELVES being descendants of the Avot and Imahot, and that they themselves left Egypt en masse on a particular day at a particular hour, and that they themselves heard the word of G-d Himself Who spoke to their ENTIRE people on an exact day, and that they themselves ate manna from heaven for 40 years- is all a big lie, actually the biggest lie ever told. It must’ve been the largest conspiracy ever with millions of conspirator progenitors 3327 years ago who somehow all concocted a brilliant, uniform religion based on their own collective hallucinations to their children and grandchildren. If it was really that easy to “fake” Ma’amad Har Sinai and all the miracles those millions collectively lied about so uniformly, then why didn’t Christianity, Islam or one of today’s sparring Satmar communities in Williamsburg fake their own historical, millions-wide revelation? Why didn’t the original religionists ask why they had never heard of such miraculous, long-term events happening to them? Why did they agree to keep Nida, Kashrut, Ribit and Shmitta? Because they really loved gefilte fish and “just being Jewish” like you? Thanks to some archeological tour, you’ve thrown sounder reasoning out the window without digging deeper to reach a more logical conclusion, just because those conclusions are indeed meta-physical. FYI, I’m friends with a believer Orthodox rabbi who’s also an esteemed doctor of archeology from Bar Ilan, and he’s probably more knowledgable in archeology than you. (And, btw: why don’t you ever discuss the many archeological findings from around Israel, ancient Ninveh, Ur, Susa etc. which actually support so many biblical details and narratives [including the Exodus, conquest of Jericho etc. including many of your aforementioned events]?)

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