Revelation Restored: Theological Consequences
Even the most conservative scholars concede that the literal surface of the scriptural Torah is such that adjunct nonscriptural traditions are required to enable actual observance. Often such supplementary traditions, in effect, emend the Pentateuchal text; yet this text itself remains intact and inviolable, its canonical and holy status placing it above reproach. The scriptures are sacrosanct; nevertheless, a critical analysis of the written word and of the secondary Torah of oral law, without recourse to apology, reveals that the literal content of the Pentateuch is wanting on its own. I have shown that at times in the history of rabbinic opinion, the supplementary and corrective traditions of the oral law have been held to emanate from the written text itself. Even when such emanations from the text itself are claimed, however, they are posited as such to circumvent a single reality that has come to be taken for a theological impossibility: The Pentateuch itself is maculate.
If religious Jews are to benefit from any part of critical biblical scholarship--if the onslaught of ideas from the academic realm is to be weathered at all--then some theological response must be attached to this new perspective. There are great benefits, as well as dangers, in embracing a critical outlook. My first two chapters have demonstrated that the idiosyncrasies of the Pentateuch itself, as well as the trends and tendencies of rabbinic scholarship, become more comprehensible when traditional understandings are combined with the findings of critical scholarship. Still, however, some theological accounting must be made for these new insights if they are to be assimilated into the religious worldview.
Critical scholarship maintains that the canonical Torah was assembled as a composite work, drawing on several distinct strands of preexisting