Apologetics and Biblical Criticism Lite
(Note: this was originally an appendix to How to Read the Bible)
I have a premonition that some readers of the present volume – especially my fellow academics, as well as some divinity school students, ministers, and perhaps a few educated laymen – will react to its main argument with a yawn. Such people have grown used to the idea that the Bible really wasn’t written by those figures long claimed to be its authors, that it is full of contradictions and editorial overlays, etiological narratives and invented history. “Yes, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus,” they will say. “We are all a little older and wiser now, and some of our old illusions have fallen away. But really, that’s not so bad – in fact, it’s not bad at all. We embrace the truth about the Bible as we now know it.”
Moses’ Big Mistake
The Bible recounts that, toward the end of their forty years of wandering in the wilderness, the Israelites ran out of water. They of course complained bitterly to their leaders, Moses and Aaron: “Why did you take us out of Egypt only to have us die here of thirst?” Thereupon, God instructed Moses to pick up his staff and go with Aaron to a certain rock. “Speak to the rock,” God tells them, “so that it gives forth water, and there will be enough to drink for all the Israelites and their flocks.” The two then proceed to carry out this instruction:
Moses took the staff from before the Lord as He had commanded him. Then Moses and Aaron gathered the people in front of the rock, and he said to them: “Hear me now, you rebellious ones: can we get water for you from out of this rock?” Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his staff, and abundant water flowed from the rock, so that the congregation and their flocks could drink. Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Since you did not show your trust in Me, sanctifying Me in the Israelites’ sight, you will not lead this congregation to the land that I am giving them.” (Numbers 20:9-12)
The last sentence comes as a shock. Didn’t Moses and Aaron do exactly as they were told? Then why should they now be prevented from finishing their mission of leading the Israelites into the Promised Land?
The Man Who Mistook His Tefillin for a Hat
This essay has been removed from this website at the request of the publishers of a forthcoming collection of articles on the subject of sanctification in Judaism (which will include “The Man Who Mistook…”). More details on the book to follow; I hope eventually to make my essay available again through this website. JLK
Bibliography to Accompany How to Read the Bible
This bibliography was deemed too long to be included in the printed edition of How to Read the Bible, so it was posted on my website instead. If you cannot find the reference that you are looking for, please let me know.