Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Let's collect some maculations

According to the theory of the "maculated Torah" the Torah was once revealed to Israel at Sinai, but over time fallible human beings introduced errors, additions and other corruptions (=maculated).

Today, I want to collect your favorite examples of these maculations. At the same time, I'd also like those of you who are familiar with the Rabbinic writings to suggest solutions and explanations. And let's see where it goes, OK? 

Please add your examples in the comments, and please number them so that we can refer back to them easily.

Brief background:
The premise is either that (1) Israel sinned, that is they failed to adequately protect the text and transmit it accurately during the First Temple years of Baal worship[Halivni] ; or (2) they did not view the revelation in the same terms that we do, that is they saw nothing wrong with adding explanatory glosses or attaching history or other material to the revelation; or (3) Israel returned from exile without any good reliable copies of the Torahs (not inconceivable in those days before the printing presses) so the returnees did their best to recreate it; or (4) some combination of the above.

My own view is that God surely anticipated that His revelation would be corrupted. After all, He presented it to fallible, subjective men without demanding that we take any safeguards or precautions to protect the integrity of the document or its transmission. He had to have known that scribal errors were inevitable. Without a rule to the contrary, He had to have known that we'd gloss the unfamiliar words or attach what we considered "accepted history" to the material. He had to have known that competing interpretations and competing theologies would develop around the text and that some of this would be inserted into the document by well-meaning, piously-motivated transmitters. He created us. He knew what we would do. God, as we understand Him, must have anticipated the maculations; as such the inevitable emergence of such corruptions had to have been part of the system as He originally conceived it.

In fact, that Rabbis recognized that such adjustments were part of God's plan when they announced "lo bashamayim he" during the Oven of Akhnai episode. Once the revelation left Sinai, it belongs to us. And they let us know that God, in their view, approved when they told us He reacted to the conclusion of the episode with laughter. This is why I am able to authority of the Sages and Rabbis to make Jewish laws, while simultaneously confirming that the revelation developed historically and contingently once it was in our hands

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