Zeligman’s Lower Bible Criticism - Contradictions in the Torah text
Zeligman attempts to disprove the Torah’s divine authorship by rehashing old and tired arguments which “seems to support the idea that it was written by different people in different time”.An excellent analysis of some of the problems of higher and lower bible criticism and how it has been refuted, can be found at http://www.aishdas.org/toratemet/en_cardozo.html
1. Zeligman starts with the well known problem of the two seemingly contradictory creation stories. This has been answered numerous times throughout Jewish literary history, but an approach can be found here: http://www.torah.org/advanced/mikra/5770/bereishis.html
2. Zeligman questions how Genesis 15:13 and Exodus 12:40 can state that the Hebrew exile lasted 400 or 430 years when according to Torah
calculations in the Talmud and Midrash, the exile lasted a mere 210 years. Rashi to Gen 15:13 deals with this by stating that in Gen 15:13, G-d states that Abraham’s offspring (starting with Isaac) will sojourn in a land not theirs for 400 years. Not that they will be in Egypt proper for all of those years. He demonstrates how Isaac was constantly sojourning. Exodus 12:40 is referring to the Jewish (Bnai Yisroel there refers to the generic name for the Jewish collective, not literally Jacob’s sons. This includes Abraham.) collective exile, starting from Abraham’s leaving his home at age 70 to go where G-d told him and ending with the Jewish exodus from Egypt.
Zeligman’s assertion that “Dibrah Torah klashon bnei adam” (The Torah speaks like people), precludes the oral Torah having a different interpretation than of the plain meaning of the text is sheer nonsense. The Torah speaks like people simply means that in the basic understanding of the text, the Torah speaks in human terms since that is whom it is addressing. The Rashi he quotes in Gen 33:20 explicitly states the well known midrashic and talmudic dictum that there are numerous interpretations to the Torah. 70 in fact. Each one valid (in non halachic terms of course) but addressing differing levels of insight, ranging from the basic to the secretive (kabbalistic).
3 Pants. Question - The Torah commands the priests to wear pants while performing the service on the altar because their strides will expose their nakedness. But the Torah also commands that there be no steps to the altar so that their nakedness be not exposed. But if they are wearing pants why would they expose themselves on the altar? He concludes that one text was written after pants were commonly worn in Persia in 6th century BCE.
Answer: Zeligman descends into speculation land with this. It may well be that pants weren’t commonly worn until the 6th century BCE, but the Torah nevertheless commanded the priests to wear pants anyway as a higher expression of modesty. See a similar idea in Pesachim 3 and Rashi there where the spreading of a woman’s legs is not expressed due to modesty concerns. Actually Zeligman’s question is proof itself that he is wrong. Whoever the author of the Torah is must have known that the ancient Jews didn’t commonly wear pants, for if they did, there would be no need for a divine commandment to ensure that the priests wore pants. They would wear them anyway. As for the nakedness issue, Rashi Ex: 20:23 already answers this.