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In my last post I have written about the question of whether the Torah’s relevance or divine origin are negated if it were written by multiple authors (spoiler: I don’t think so). In this post I would like to offer my opinion on why this topic is still so hotly debated in so many places of the J-blogosphere.

I think the issue people actually mean when they discuss the authorship of the Torah is this: Does every single word in the Torah come directly from G-d? This matters, because halachot (religious rules) are attached to different spellings, certain words in context, or a specific order of verses. If the document is written by a human and not dictated by G-d, all of this may not mean anything. Note that here even divine inspiration does not quite suffice. It has to be word-by-word revelation if you want to attach meaning to every letter.

But this is really in no way connected to the authorship problem. G-d can dictate different parts to different people. Even if G-d dictated X to person A and then (maybe even at a later point) told person B to insert Y at place P, the result is that the text is directly from G-d. G-d can choose several people to write down his exact words, it really does not matter who or how many people wrote the document if it is the word of G-d.

At this point we can get sidetracked by several seemingly related questions. Why are there different writing styles? What about similar documents like the Code of Hammurabi? Why would G-d "trick us" by making the Torah appear like one book written by one author? Or conversely, by making it appear as the work of several people? But while these questions might be interesting to discuss as theological questions, they do not say anything about whether the Torah is the word of G-d. If I believe the Torah is the word of G-d, I can explain everything in a consistent way. Also, if I believe the Torah is not the word of G-d, I can explain everything in a consistent way. There cannot be a proof for G-d’s authorship anyway. Fundamentally it is a question of belief.

So, in my opinion, people feel threatened by the possibility of multiple authors to the Torah because they take it as an attack on their literal reading of the text. Somehow people automatically assume that multiple authors means human authors. The automatic response is not "G-d talks to many people and he ordered each person to insert exactly this exactly at this point", but "you are a heretic". But this does not follow. The fact in itself that there are different writing styles or multiple authors does not automatically does not automatically mean G-d cannot have dictated every word*. While I don’t really share the view that every word of the Torah has been dictated by G-d verbatim (more on that later, maybe), if you want to believe that, I don’t see a logical reason why absolutely have to reject the documentary hypothesis.


Ok, I read this again later, too many negations in this sentence. Let’s try this: G-d can have dictated every word, even if we somehow were able to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that different people were doing the writing.

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