Modern critical scholars divide the Pentateuch into distinct components and constituent strata of tradition, identifying areas of unevenness in the scriptural tradition, which point to several interwoven documents rather than one seamless whole. Although the conclusions reached by such critical scholarship are still matters of dispute, the inconsistencies identified stand clearly before us and pose a serious challenge to the believer in divine revelation. How can a text marred by contradiction be the legacy of Sinai? How can there be reverence for Holy Scriptures that show signs of human intervention? David Weiss Halivni explores these questions, not by disputing the evidence itself or by defending at all costs the absolute integrity of the Pentateuchal words, but rather by accepting the inconsistencies of the text as such and asking how this text might yet be a divine legacy.
Inconsistencies and unevenness in the Pentateuchal scriptures are not the discovery of modern textual science alone. Halivni demonstrates that the earliest stewards of the Torah, including some of those represented in the Bible itself, were aware of discrepancies within the tradition. From the time of the books of Chronicles through that of the rabbinic commentaries, perceptive readers of the scriptures, noticing maculations, which mitigate against the notion of an unblemished, divine document, have responded to them in different ways.
Revelation Restored asserts that acknowledging and accounting for maculation in the Pentateuchal text is not alien to the biblical or rabbinic tradition and need not belie the tradition of revelation. Moreover, Halivni argues that through recognizing textual problems in the scriptures and the efforts to resolve them in tradition, we may learn about not only the nature of the Pentateuch itself but also the continuing relationship between its people and its Source.
David Weiss Halivni is Lucius N. Littauer Professor of Classical Jewish Civilization at Columbia University.