Can Modern Bible Scholarship Be Reconciled with Faith?

According to Benjamin Sommer, it can. In a recent book entitled Revelation and Authority: Sinai in Jewish Scripture and Tradition, he attempts to do so by arguing that the Hebrew Bible is the product of divine revelation even though the Torah is not the literal, word-for-word, Word of God. (Interview by Alan Brill):

Using modern critical tools such as history and philology to understand the Bible’s teachings doesn’t somehow render those teachings irrelevant to religion; using those tools simply means that I am able to get much closer to understanding biblical texts and their teachings the way their first audiences understood them. Why understanding the Bible more deeply and more authentically on its own terms should be thought inimical to accepting the Bible as sacred is utterly beyond me. . . .

[Furthermore], it seems inauthentic to me, as religious Jew, to separate what I know about the Bible intellectually from the ways I employ it religiously. It will not do to read the Bible serially, sometimes as [an historical] artifact and at other times as Scripture. Such a choice would require one to partition oneself, so that one has a secular mind and a religious soul co-existing uneasily in a single body but not communicating with each other. . . .

There really was an event at Mount Sinai that involved all Israel, and Sinai is not just a metaphor. However, [the Torah] is Scripture not because all of its words came from heaven, but because it contains the nation of Israel’s response to God’s real but non-verbal commands that came to Israel at Sinai.

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Read more at Book of Doctrines and Opinions

More about: Bible, Biblical criticism, Judaism, Religion & Holidays, Revelation, Torah MiSinai

Will America Invite Israel to Join Its Multinational Coalitions?

From the Korean War onward, the U.S. has rarely fought wars alone, but has instead led coalitions of various allied states. Israel stands out in that it has close military and diplomatic relations with Washington yet its forces have never been part of these coalitions—even in the 1991 Gulf War, when Iraqi missiles were raining down on its cities. The primary reason for its exclusion was the sensitivity of participating Arab and Muslim nations. But now that Jerusalem has diplomatic relations with several Arab countries and indeed regularly participates alongside them in U.S.-led joint military exercises, David Levy believes it may someday soon be asked to contribute to an American expedition.

It is unlikely that Israel would be expected by the U.S. to deploy the Golani [infantry] brigade or any other major army unit. Instead, Washington will likely solicit areas of IDF niche expertise. These include missile defense and special forces, two areas in which Israel is a world leader. The IDF has capabilities that it can share by providing trainers and observers. Naval and air support would also be expected as these assets are inherently deployable. Israel can also provide allies in foreign wars with intelligence and cyber-warfare support, much of which can be accomplished without the physical deployment of troops.

Jerusalem’s previous reasons for abstention from coalitions were legitimate. Since its independence, Israel has faced existential threats. Conventional Arab armies sought to eliminate the nascent state in 1948-49, 1967, and again in 1973. This danger remained ever-present until the 1978 signing of the Camp David Accords, which established peace between Egypt and Israel. Post-Camp David, the threats to Israel remain serious but are no longer existential. If Iran were to become a nuclear power, this would pose a new existential threat. Until then, Israel is relatively well secured.

Jerusalem’s new Arab allies would welcome its aid. Western capitals, especially Washington, should be expected to pursue Israel’s military assistance, and Jerusalem will have little choice but to acquiesce to the expeditionary expectation.

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: IDF, U.S. military, U.S.-Israel relationship