By Aaron Seidman for Jewish Reconstructionist Communities
Does Historical Accuracy of Religious Texts Matter?
This week's Sedra is Metzora, from the opening lines of the second verse: "tihyeh torat metzora" - "This shall be the teaching about the metzora."
The metzora was someone afflicted with a skin problem. Although 'metzora' has been translated as leprosy, it is clear from the symptoms described in the text that it was a variety of ailments other than Hansen's disease -- "true" leprosy. This instruction, according to the text, takes place in the wilderness, where the Israelites are camped, after leaving Mitzraim and experiencing revelation at Sinai. In fact, it is likely that this is something that was added to the text after the core of the Exodus story was recorded.
Most biblical scholars, except Jewish Orthodox and Christian Fundamentalists, have recognized for a long time that the bible is composed of multiple sources, written and edited over many centuries. The text we have was put into final form at Yavneh, late in the first century of the common era. It was long assumed that it was based on older manuscripts and oral traditions that went far back into antiquity.