What to Make of Jewish Religious Leaders Who Subscribe to the Documentary Hypothesis

A just published article on our book quotes Eyal as saying that taking apart the documentary hypothesis can cause “a religious earthquake.” He goes on to say: “If we take the authorship of the Torah seriously, then the value system of the Torah will reassert itself.” Nowhere is this more true than in the non-Orthodox movements of Judaism, whose leadership is trained in the documentary hypothesis. Ordinary Jews who attend these synagogues and who revere the Torah would be shocked and upset to know their religious leaders do not ascribe the same authenticity and import to the Torah as they do.

So how is it that Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist rabbis embrace the documentary hypothesis? Why would they dedicate their lives to their religion if they believe in a theory that undermines Judaism’s foundational text?
These are good people, who are motivated to do good. Given this drive, it’s natural for them to have wanted to become Jewish leaders. In the largely secular world from which they come, they are very quickly introduced to the documentary hypothesis in their career training; (the documentary hypothesis is actually taught in their seminaries). Once the Torah is seen as the work of many men who invented the stories, and not the work of Moses, the respect accorded the Torah must necessarily change. 

Maybe some of the Torah’s values are out of date; maybe it espouses bad values in some instances. But these people want to do good. So they will substitute what they think is good for what comes from the Torah.

So the question becomes, where do you get your values from? The New York Times or the Torah? Readers of our book should get a copy into the hands of Reform and Conservative rabbis they know, and especially to young rabbinical students, so that they too tether their true desire to do good to a Torah that is not seen through the distortion of academic Bible criticism.

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