A few days ago Yaakov Menken wrote about the Documentary Hypothesis, and I meant to get back to that. Several of the comments on his posts seemed to assume that if any mistakes or differences crept into our Torah scrolls over the years, then 1) the eighth Ani Ma’amin is not true (“The Torah we have is the one G-d gave Moshe on Sinai”) and therefore 2) the Documentary Hypothesis is true or at least remains on the table.
I won’t go into all the unwarranted leaps of logic here but do want to make a couple of remarks.
The Documentary Theory has nothing to do with the question of whether slight differences and inaccuracies crept in over the years. It is a theory that the Torah was not given to Moshe by G-d but was written by a variety of human authors over a period of time, and later all those variations were (clumsily) folded into one by a hypothetical Redactor.
R’ Menken’s statement that “as soon as one says that even a single word doesn’t come from G-d it is no longer a Torah philosophy” clearly is not referring to scribal errors that have crept in over time, but to the theory that the Torah was not written by G-d.
If you say that some unknown author wrote part of the Torah — even one word — you are making a statement that does not accord with the Orthodox mesorah.
That Yehoshua may have written the last few verses — as one comment mentioned — has nothing to do with the R and C and Wellhausen theories of human authorship of the Torah. It is well within our mesorah to say that there is one opinion that Yehoshua wrote the last few verses. (The other opinion is that Moshe Rabeinu wrote those verses, at Hashem’s dictation, while weeping over the verses describing his own death.) Even according to the opinion that Yehoshua wrote the last few verses, it was with Hashem’s imprimatur, and again, has nothing to do with the theory of human (as opposed to Divine) authorship of the Torah.
The Ani Ma’amin dealing with this — “this Torah is the same one given to Moshe” — likewise is not meant to refute those who say errors may have crept in. Rather, it is meant to refute those who say the Torah was written by humans and not by G-d. You see, even in Rambam’s time, there were those who rejected the original mesorah and denied the Divine authorship of the Torah. Wellhausen was not nearly as original as he thought. The statement “every word was written by G-d” is not a statement affirming human inerrancy, but a statement affirming the Divine authorship of the Torah.
This is the dividing line between Orthodoxy and every non-Torah movement: not the question of whether errors have crept in (all very minor, of course) but the question of Who wrote the Torah in the first place. We need to keep our eye on the ball here and not get distracted by minor side issues.
There is no document in history that has been transmitted through so many centuries, in so many different countries, with so few changes, as our Torah. While this does not “prove” the Divine authorship of the Torah, it does strongly support R’ Menken’s contention that it would have been very difficult for a human to have written the Torah and then to have presented it to the entire Jewish people as the word of G-d without the people demurring.