Podcast: Joshua Berman on How Traditional Jews Can Respond to the Challenges of Academic Bible Criticism

On reading the Hebrew Bible in a spirit of intellectual honesty without losing your faith.

Baruch Spinoza.

Baruch Spinoza.

Feb. 13 2020
About the authors

A weekly podcast, produced in partnership with the Tikvah Fund, offering up the best thinking on Jewish thought and culture.

Joshua Berman is professor of Bible at Bar-Ilan University and the author most recently of Ani Maamin: Biblical Criticism, Historical Truth, and the Thirteen Principles of Faith (Maggid).

This Week’s Guest: Joshua Berman


Ever since the 17th-century philosopher Baruch Spinoza denied the Mosaic authorship of the Torah—denied that Moses produced the first five books of the Hebrew Bible—traditional Jews have had to contend with serious intellectual challenges to their belief that Scripture comes down from the divine. These challenges have grown more multifarious in recent years. Many young Jews at elite universities now encounter not only the field of academic biblical criticism, which developed in the wake of Spinoza, but also the growth of popular online projects, like theTorah.com, that expose ever-greater numbers of Orthodox Jews to contemporary scholarship about the historicity of the Bible, the authorship of Scripture, and the Torah’s ancient Near East context.

How have traditional Jews responded to these challenges? Are there rational and persuasive responses to the arguments put forth by Bible critics? Can Jews who value tradition and the wisdom of the Hebrew Bible engage academic scholarship with intellectual integrity? Is it possible to craft a coherent worldview by seeking insight from, at once, the best of Jewish and of Western thought? Should traditional Jews retreat from heretical challenges to their faith or confront the academy on its own terms?

These are just some of the questions that the Bible scholar Joshua Berman tackles in his new book, Ani Maamin: Biblical Criticism, Historical Truth, and the Thirteen Principles of Faith. Now, Berman returns to the Tikvah Podcast to discuss why he wrote the book, what the field of academic biblical scholarship looks like from the inside, and how a deeper understanding of the ancient world from which the Torah emerged can enhance understanding of the Book of Books.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.



For more on the Tikvah Podcast at Mosaic, which appears roughly every Thursday, check out its inaugural post here.

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More about: Biblical criticism, Hebrew Bible, History & Ideas