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On the Irrelevance of Biblical Criticism

Aug. 29 2017

Engaging with the recent series in Mosaic on the problems with academic scholarship of the Bible, Jerome Marcus argues that the documentary hypothesis—the regnant claim that the Tanakh was synthesized from a series of earlier texts that can be disentangled through critical reading—should be ignored by anyone who wishes to take the holy book seriously. He writes:

Bible criticism . . . rests on the idea that to interpret the text accurately, the identity of the author and his historical location has to be reconstructed, and this requires the dating of the text and, correlatively, its extrication from texts by later or earlier authors with which it came to be interwoven.

One adopting this view of the Bible necessarily rejects the idea that the text is a coherent whole. . . . Yet someone who is focused on the text’s history and the identity of its author(s) will not study the text with the commitment of extracting meaning from the text itself. Instead, he will use the context to inject meaning into the text from outside it. . . .

It’s not just the religious reader—it’s also the truly careful and wise reader—who will never abandon the assumption of the Torah’s coherence for just this reason. The moment one abandons the assumption of coherence is the moment one stops learning from the Torah.

Note that this argument says absolutely nothing about the historical origin of the Torah. Biblical criticism may or may not rest on bad history. Instead, the argument here is that Bible critics advocate a shallow way to read any book, much less the Book of Books. Surely if one should read the Federalist Papers, or Shakespeare, or any other part of the Western canon, [assuming] that those books contain great ideas and that they are worth taking seriously as the vehicles for the transmission of those ideas, then the Bible can profitably be read in that way. And just as it would be a colossal mistake to dismiss Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay as no more than advocates for their class [as Marxist critics are inclined to do], so it is at least as big a mistake to dismiss the Torah—any part of it—as simply the work of a priest advocating for priests, or of any [member of some] group advocating for that group’s interests.

Read more at Lehrhaus

More about: Biblical criticism, Hebrew Bible, Judaism, Religion & Holidays

Hamas’s Dangerous Escalation in Gaza

June 22 2018

As Hamas has stepped up its attacks on communities near the Gaza Strip—using incendiary devices attached to kites and balloons—Israel has begun to retaliate more forcefully. In response, the terrorist group has begun firing rockets and mortars into Israel. Yoav Limor comments:

What made Wednesday’s rocket salvo different is that ‎unlike previous flare-ups on the border [since 2014], this time it ‎was Hamas operatives who fired at Israel, as opposed ‎to Islamic Jihad or the ‎rogue terrorist group in the coastal enclave. ‎Still, Hamas made sure the attack followed most of ‎the familiar “rules”—only [firing] at night and only at the ‎ communities in the vicinity of Gaza, and apparently while also ‎trying to minimize any casualties, to avoid further ‎escalation. ‎. . .

The first reason [for the shift in tactics] is Israel’s own change of policy ‎with regard to kite terrorism. It took Israel far ‎too long to define the incessant waves of incendiary ‎kites sent over the border as actionable acts of ‎terror, but once it did, the IDF began ‎systematically countering them, including firing ‎warning shots at terrorist kite cells and targeting ‎Hamas assets in Gaza in retaliation.‎

The second reason is Hamas’s own frustration and ‎distress in Gaza. Since the border-riot campaign was ‎launched on March 30, some 150 of its operatives ‎have been killed and the Israeli military has ‎carried out over 100 strikes on Hamas positions in ‎the coastal enclave, all while Hamas has nothing to ‎show for it. ‎In this situation, Hamas is searching for [some sort of victory] by declaring that “bombings will be ‎met with bombings,” as Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum ‎said Wednesday, in order to portray itself as defending Gaza from ‎Israel.‎ . . .

Hamas is banking on Israel opting against a military ‎campaign in Gaza at this time so as not to split its ‎focus from the [developments in Syria], but it is sorely ‎mistaken if it thinks Israel will simply contain ‎kite terrorism or shy away from action given the new ‎equation it has presented. ‎At some point, Israel’s patience will expire.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security