Monday, August 13, 2018

Biblical critics on "Across the Jordan"

I wrote about this problem briefly here:

Now Rabbi Zvi Lampel has done a much more complete job - reproduced below with permission. 

Eyver HaYarden

The first verse Bible critics (such as Spinoza) invoke to allegedly prove that the Torah was written after Moshe passed away is the first verse of Devarim: These are the words that Moshe spoke...b’Eyver HaYarden. Now, they reason, Moshe would not have referred to the eastern side of the Jordan as “the other side” of it or the Transjordan, because that is where he was! (I suspect the critics were using a translation that, in order to be helpful, translated Eyvar HaYarden as the Transjordan, which is referring specifically to the eastern side.) Only someone stationed on the western side of the Jordan, they reason, would refer to the eastern side, where Moshe was, as the other side of the Jordan. So it must have been written by someone after the Hebrews entered Canaan proper, and since Moshe never entered the land, he could not have authored that narrative.

Now, if this were solid reasoning, based on a tad of biblical scholarship, it might serve as support for Chazal. They condemn the idea that Moshe, rather than Hashem, authored the Torah. Hashem above, being Eretz-Yisroel-proper centric, could refer to Moshe’s position on the eastern side of the Jordan as “the other side of the Jordan” even though that was the side Moshe was on.

But it is not solid reasoning, and it demonstrates lack of biblical scholarship.

The reasoning is loose, because the Hebrews had been living in Canaan and Egypt for centuries. They could be expected to have long labeled the east side of the Jordan as “the other side,” because both Canaan and Egypt are to the Jordan’s west, and they would likely maintain that name even when temporarily situated on that eastern side. After all, one refers to Chutz LaAretz regardless of whether he is in Israel or not, and one refers to the Lower East Side as such regardless of where he lives.
On literary grounds, Devarim 3:20 demonstrates the silliness of the argument. There, Moshe--who is of course on the eastern side of the Jordan--nevertheless refers to the 2-1/2 tribes on that same east of the Jordon as dwelling b’Eyver HaYarden. And a mere four verses later (3:25) he relates beseeching Hashem, Let me pass and see the good land in the Ever HaYarden. So Eyver HaYarden was used by the same person in the same place to describe either side of the Jordan.

Indeed, there are several other passages where one stationed to the east of the Jordan is still quoted as referring to it as the Eyver HaYarden, and vice versa. Likewise in narratives, Eyver HaYarden is used for either side. For there was an Eyver HaYarden (Kaydmah) Mizrachah, and an Eyver HaYarden Maaravah.

Moshe on the eastern side of the Jordon refers to it as Eyver HaYarden: Bamidbar specifying Eyver HaYarden Mizrachah) 32:19, Bamidbar 34:15 (Eyver HaYarden Kaydmah Mizrachah-- although this may be the narrative) Devarim 1:8, And of course Devarim 3:20, noted above.

As noted above, in Devarim 3:25, Moshe standing on the eastern side of the Jordan refers to the western side as Eyver HaYarden.

In sefer Yehoshua, Yehoshua, on the western side of the Jordon, calls the eastern side the Jordan, Eyver HaYarden (Yehoshua 1:14), and then in 9:1 refers to the western side by that name.

The narrative also calls the western side of the Jordan Eyver HaYarden: Breishis 50:10 (where Yosef’s family travelled west from Egypt to the Eyver HaYarden of Canaan to bury him. Will the critics claim the narrator must have lived on the eastern side to have called it the Eyver HaYarden?!), and of course Devarim 1:1 does the same, as does Devarim 11:30 (which may either be the narrative or Moshe speaking).

Zvi Lampel