Jewish Scripture: Preserved or Corrupted? An Introduction

In addition to our articles on HinduismChristianityQadiyanism, etc., we now continue our series on Interfaith Critique by turning to Judaism.

Religious Jews believe that their holy books were divinely revealed. Jews give special importance to and revere the first five books that contain the Mosaic Law.[1] In addition to the written law contained in the Five Books of the Hebrew Bible, Jews are taught to believe that Sayyiduna Musa ‘alayhi as-salām received the oral law on Mount Sinai as well. Furthermore, both of them were intended to complement each other.

According to Jewish tradition, the oral law was kept alive in the memories of the priestly class of the Levites and Cohens. However, after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD and the dispersion of the Jews from Palestine, the Jews feared the loss of the oral law. The Rabbis then took on the task of recording and codifying the oral law in book form. This work was known as the Mishnah.

Jews claim that the Mishnah was complex and beyond the understanding of the common man. So the Rabbis compiled a commentary to it, which was known as Gamarah. The Mishnah and Gamarah combined are known as the Talmud.

Parts of the Talmud were written in Palestine, but the Palestinian work is regarded as inferior. Superiority was given to the Talmud compiled by Rabbis in modern-day Iraq between the third and fifth centuries AD.

At first, the Torah was restricted to the first five books. Later it included the entire Old Testament[2] and then the Talmud was also honored as “Divine.”

Torah studies are regarded by Jews to be the noblest of pursuits and are incumbent upon all the males of the community.

The Ethics of the Fathers states, ‘Moses received the Torah at Sinai and handed it down to Joshua; Joshua to the elders; the elders to prophets and the prophets handed it down to the rabbis of the great assembly. The latter said three things: be patient in the administration of justice, develop many students and make a fence for the Torah.’

In another place, the same work states, ‘Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai received the oral tradition from Hillel and Shammai. He used to say, ‘If you have learned much of the Torah, do not claim credit for yourself because God created you for this purpose.’’

Preserved?

Bible scholars agree that the first five books were not put into their final canonized form by Ezra until more than eight centuries after the death of Sayyidunā Mūsā ‘Alayhi as-salām! Under such circumstances, the corruption of the text was inevitable. The final edition was admittedly written by learned scribes. This is the academic consensus and agreed upon by many Jews.

When the authenticity of the first five Books has such a huge question mark hanging over it, what can be said about the rest of the “divinely revealed” works like the Talmud?

To begin with, the Talmud was not part of Mosaic law, but was later included in it – words of men given divine status, we seek the protection of Allah Ta’ala. Then, the Palestinian part of it was regarded as inferior, giving supreme authority to the Iraqi Talmud.

In contrast, the Noble Qur’an has been preserved in its pristine purity, unchanged and its challenge to bring the like of it, nay, even a verse of it, to match it, has not been met. And for the skeptics, the fact remains that the consensus within secular academic studies is that the origins of the Quran can be authentically traced to within the life of the Prophet or very shortly thereafter.

Glory be to Allah.

Notes

  1. “The meaning of “Torah” is often restricted to signify the first five books of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), also called the Law (or the Pentateuch, in Christianity). These are the books traditionally ascribed to Moses, the recipient of the original revelation from God on Mount Sinai. Jewish, Roman CatholicEastern Orthodox, and Protestant canons all agree on their order: GenesisExodusLeviticusNumbers, and Deuteronomy.” [https://www.britannica.com/topic/Torah]
  2. “Hebrew Bible, also called Hebrew Scriptures, Old Testament, or Tanakh, collection of writings that was first compiled and preserved as the sacred books of the Jewish people. It also constitutes a large portion of the Christian Bible.” [https://www.britannica.com/topic/Hebrew-Bible]

 

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