The Instigator
Pro (for)
The Contender
Con (against)

The Torah we have today is the same as it was in the past.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/22/2016 Category: Religion
Updated: 5 months ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 432 times Debate No: 94910
Debate Rounds (5)
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The topic at hand is one of interest. Is the Torah the same collection of books and content (minus spelling errors) the Jews have always had? Is it historically reliable? Are all the books therein still the same? I affirm they are.

This is a 5 round debate. 10,000 characters.
Round 1 acceptance
Round 2 opening arguments (no rebuttals)
Round 3-4 anything goes
Round 5 rebuttals/closing statements (no new arguments)


I accept.
Debate Round No. 1


For the purposes of this argument, I outline the Torah as the first 5 books of what Christians call the Old Testament. This includes the book of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
So the question before us is the following: Is the Torah as we have it today, the same Torah as it was at the time of its inception? Minus spelling errors of course. I will lay out the following arguments:

A) Other Torah's from other points in history are the same in terms of their content of the 5 books I have listed above. Genesis 1:1 says what it said in other Torah's in history's past. The Dead Sea Scrolls back this up.

B) The Jews have a tradition of rigorous copying when it comes to the Torah.

So lets begin

A: The Biella Scroll
"Perani consulted the top experts in the field from Paris to Jerusalem and was able to conclude that the copy of the Torah is at least 800 years old, probably written between the years 1155 and 1225. Two carbon-14 tests were carried out on the manuscript in Italy and the United states which confirmed Perani's conclusions. "

"This scroll is actually still in use and is currently undergoing restoration. The only differences are spelling.
At the end of the 12th century Maimonides [a famous rabbinic authority] set down the rules for how to copy Torah scrolls, and those fixed rules have been followed ever since. This scroll's copyist did not know of those rules. Those rules would have forbidden him from using some of the graphical elements found here, such as use of compression of letters, line justification, and which letters can have [decorative] "crowns" on top."

Leningrad Codex:
"The Leningrad Codex, or Leningradensis, is the oldest complete Hebrew bible still preserved. While there are older parts of Bibles, or biblical books, still in existence, there is no older manuscript which contains the whole Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament in Hebrew). The Leningrad Codex is considered one of the best examples of the Masoretic text."

Aleppo Codex:
"The inscriptions at the end of this manuscript show that it was written in 929, which is thus the approximate time of the writing of the Aleppo Codex."

There are no meaningful differences between the Leningrad and Aleppo Codex.

Dead Sea scrolls:

"About 230 manuscripts are referred to as "biblical Scrolls". These are copies of works that are now part of the Hebrew Bible. They already held a special status in the Second Temple period, and were considered to be vessels of divine communication."

"Among the Scrolls are partial or complete copies of every book in the Hebrew Bible (except the book of Esther). About a dozen copies of some of these holy books were written in ancient paleo-Hebrew (the script of the First Temple era, not the standard script of the time).

Many biblical manuscripts closely resemble the Masoretic Text, the accepted text of the Hebrew Bible from the second half of the first millennium ce until today. This similarity is quite remarkable, considering that the Qumran Scrolls are over a thousand years older than previously identified biblical manuscripts.

Strikingly, some biblical manuscripts feature differences from the standard Masoretic biblical language and spelling."

As noted from Biella Scroll, Jews will keep a text around as long as they can because they see it as divine. The fact that there are about a dozen copies of some of the books written in the first temple period give quite the textual lineage. The first temple period dates to around 1006-586 B.C.

I could personally find no meaningful differences in the dead sea scroll content of the Torah vs the Modern Hebrew. My opponent is free to do that legwork. The Torah (the first 5 books) from then are the same now.

B: Compilation history/Scribes
I will give an explanation behind how books were produced.
"The history of Hebrew bookmaking is as old as the history of the Jewish people and goes back for more than 3,000 years. It may be divided into three periods: from earliest times to the final editing of the Talmud (sixth or seventh centuries); from geonic times to the end of the 15th century and the first printed Hebrew books; and from then to the present day. To the first period belong the books of the *Bible , the *Apocrypha , and the non-biblical texts found among the *Dead Sea Scrolls "

"Papyri have also been found in the Dead Sea caves, among them a palimpsest of an eighth century B.C.E. letter. For sacred purposes only animal skin could be used, either in the form of gevil ("uncut skin"), which was reserved for Torah scrolls, or kelaf ("split skin," parchment"), which could be used for other biblical books and had to be used for phylacteries, while ^8;P59;`2; `7;_3;`3;`4;`3;`2; ("hard to split"), an inferior kind of parchment, was to be used for mezuzot (Shab. 79b; Meg. 2:2, cf. Arist. 176). Later halakhah permitted any parchment for sacred purposes if written on the inside of the skin, while leather was used on the cleaned hair side. Skins used for writing were also distinguished according to the treatment they received: maN27;N27;ah, M17;ippah, diftera (Shab. 79a). "

"Scrolls, being valuable, were kept with care. Sacred books had to be wrapped in mitpaM17;ot (sing. mitpaM17;at; Shab 9:6), and it was forbidden to touch them with bare hands (Shab. 14a; 133b; Meg. 32a; cf. II Cor. 3:14"16). The wraps were made of linen, silk, purple materials, or leather. Today's Torah mantle (see *Torah ornaments ) has a long history. Some Dead Sea Scrolls were found preserved in linen wrappings. Books were kept in chests, alone or with other things; the synagogue *Ark is a survivor of these chests. Earthenware jars were also used as receptacles for books from Bible times (Jer. 32: 14). These have preserved for posterity the treasures of the Dead Sea caves, the *Elephantine Letters , etc. Baskets too were used for keeping books (Meg. 26b)."

"Worn sacred books had to be reverently "hidden away" " in a *genizah " and were eventually buried (Shab. 16:1; Meg. 26b). This accounts for the fact that so few Torah or Bible fragments have been preserved from antiquity, as parchment, let alone papyrus, decays in the ground. Where the genizah was limited to storing away, it made possible such treasure troves as those from the Dead Sea caves and the Cairo *Genizah . Heretical books too were condemned to genizah, and these included almost anything not admitted to the *Bible canon (Shab. 30b; 115a; Pes. 56a)."

A bit on the scribes:

"It is inferred from the Bible that every Jew should write for himself a Torah scroll (see Deut. 31:19; see Sanh. 21b). Expertness, however, being required in writing a Torah scroll, the commandment can only be fulfilled by ordering it from a scribe. The profession of scribe was indispensable to the Jewish community, and according to the Talmud (Sanh. 17b) a scholar should not dwell in a town where there is no scribe. In the talmudic period, scribes were poorly paid lest they become rich and desert their vocations, leaving the community without their services. The scribe writing a Torah scroll must devote utmost attention and care to the writing; he is forbidden to rely on his memory and has to write from a model copy (Meg. 18b). His guide is the professional compendium for scribes, Tikkun Soferim, which contains the traditional text of the Torah, the specific rules concerning the decorative flourishes (tagin, "crowns") on certain letters, the regulations as to the spacing of certain Torah sections ("open" or "closed" pericopes), and the rules for writing Torah scrolls in which each column begins with the Hebrew letter vav (vavei ha-ammudim). Only the Scroll of Esther may be adorned with artistic illustrations but not the Torah scroll, although Alexandrian scribes are said to have gilded the name and appellations of God (Sof. 1:9). When writing a Torah scroll a scribe must especially prepare himself so that he writes the names of the Lord with proper devotion and in ritual purity. It is, therefore, customary that he immerse himself in a ritual bath (mikveh) before beginning his work. (The rules for the writing of Torah scrolls and other ritual texts are laid down in Sof. 1"10; Maim. Yad, Tefillin, Mezuzah, 1"10; Sh. Ar., YD 270ff.) "

I will go over more about the scribal practices if this is not satisfying enough to show the scribes took the transmission of their text very seriously.


I would like to thank my opponent for this debate.


O1: This debate is whether or not the Torah is the same as it was when it was first given. I interpret this resolution to mean that the Torah is the same as it was first allegedly given by Moses on Mount Sinai in the year 2448 (3,328 years ago) as this is the traditional Judeo-Christian understanding of how the Torah was given.

O2: Since this debate is on the Torah (first five books of Moses), any other Biblical text is irrelevant to this debate.

O3: This debate is NOT about the existance of God or whether or not the Torah is true.

Burden of Proof

The burden of proof in this debate is shared. My opponent must show that the Torah is most likely the same. It is incumbent on my to negate the resolution by showing where changes were made.


My framework is fairly simple. I will attempt to show that there has been significant revisions to the Sefer Torah since it was first given. I will also show why the Judeo-Christian tradition of how we received the Torah is incorrect.

With that, let's begin.

C1: Presence of historical anachronisms

An anachronism is defined as "a chronological inconsistency in some arrangement, especially a juxtaposition of person(s), events, objects, or customs from different periods of time." [1] For example, on September 8, 1664, New Amesterdam was renamed New York. If we were to find a document that discusses events around this time and it calls the city "New York", we can conclude that it must have been written after 8 September 1664. Similarly, if a document were to call New Amsterdam "New York" and was supposedly "dated" prior to 8 September 1664, we can conclude the document must be a forgery.

Example 1: The City of Dan

Judges 18:27-29
And taking what Micah had made, and the priest who belonged to him, the Danites came to Laish, to a people quiet and unsuspecting and smote them with the edge of the sword, and burned the city with fire. And there was no deliverer because it was far from Sidon. It was in the valley which belongs to Bethrehob. And they rebuilt the city and dwelt in it. And they named the city Dan, after the name of Dan their ancestor who was born in Israel; but the name of the city was Laish at the first.

This text describes the conquering of the land of Canaan and the conquering of the City of Laish. Much like in the example of New York/New Amsterdam, if we can find a place in the Torah that refers to Laish as Dan, then we have shown a historical anachronism.

Genesis 14:14
When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan.

This text clearly refers to the City of Dan prior to the naming in Joshua - more than 200 years after the death of Moses.

Example 2: The Israeli Monarchy

It is peculiar that the Torah should mention kings over Israel in the Torah long before Saul, the first king.

Genesis 36:31
"These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king reigned over the Israelites.

Thus the earliest time frame in which this passage could have been written is during the time of King Saul.

C2: Textual variaitons

Even more serious than the historical anachronisms are the textual variations that exist between different manuscripts. If I can show that there are major textual variations (other than minor spelling errors) then I win the debate on account that the texts must have been corrupted and changed over time.

There are three main texts that are used for scholarly purposes:
1. The Masoretic Text (MT)
2. The Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS)
3. The Samaritan Torah (ST)

Between the ST and MT, there are over 6,000 variations. While about 3,000 are merely orthographical, the remaining are significant changes that completely change of alter the text [3].

For Pro to affirm his resolution, he needs to do establish which Torah text is the original and under what basis he chooses that text. He also needs to account for why these variations are there and how they came about in history. Chavie Lieber, in describing the differences between the ST and MT notes [ibid]:

"The Samaritan Torah also offers a slightly different version of some stories. It includes parts of dialogues that are not found in the Masoretic text: For example, in Exodus chapters 7 through 11, the Samaritan Torah contains whole conversations between Moses, Aaron, and Pharaoh that the Masoretic text does not."

Interestingly, the LXX, a Greek translation of the Torah, shares 6,000 commonalities with the ST and less with the MT [4]. This has led some scholars to conclude that the ST is closer to the original than the MT. [3]

One final example is in Deuteronomy 32 between the MT, the ST, and the LXX

Deuteronomy 32.43, MT Deuteronomy 32.43, DSS Deuteronomy 32.43, LXX
1 Shout for joy, O nations, with his people
2 For he will avenge the blood of his servants
3 And will render vengeance to his adversaries
4 And will purge his land, his people.
1 Shout for joy, O heavens, with him
2 And worship him, all you divine ones
3 For he will avenge the blood of his sons
4 And he will render vengeance to his adversaries
5 And he will recompense the ones hating him
6 And he purges the land of his people.
1 Shout for joy, O heavens, with him
2 And let all the sons of God worship him
3 Shout for joy, O nations, with his people
4 And let all the angels of God be strong in him
5 Because he avenges the blood of his sons
6 And he will avenge and recompense justice to his enemies
7 And he will recompense the ones hating
8 And the Lord will cleanse the land of his people.

As you can see, there is a significant difference between the three. How did these three changes occur?


Due to the presence of hsitorical anachronisms in the Torah and variations between manuscripts, we are forced to choose one of two conclusions:

1. The Torah was not written by Moses, but at a much later date than the traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs would support; or
2. The Torah underwent significant revision throughout history.

Either one of these two conclusions is enough to negate the resolution.



Debate Round No. 2


In C1, con shows how in Judges, the city of Laish is renamed Dan after it is conquered. Then con proceeds to use this as a justification to show that Genesis 14:14 cannot have an origin before Laish was conquered and named Dan.

Why this argument is lacking.
The Jews in order to make sense of their own text would have labeled the city whatever the current generation would have understood it to mean. Just as no one refers to New York as New Amsterdam because though its only been less than 400 years, no one would have any idea what you are talking about.

Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews book 1 chapter 9 states:
"AT this time, when the Assyrians had the dominion over Asia"
Yet during the time period Josephus is referring to, there was no area referred to as "Asia" though we all know what Josephus is talking about.

The point of the scripture is to give a geographic understanding for as to where Abraham traveled to for people to understand. There also is another argument here.
The city of Dan recorded in Genesis 14:14 isn't necessarily the city Con wants it to be. There are numerous instances of cities mentioned that simply don't even exist anymore throughout the biblical text. There are also multiple names for various places. For example the land of Egypt is also referred to as Mizraim and Ham.
If Con can demonstrate the city above has to be the former "Laish", feel free to refer to my previous argument here.

As to the remarks of Gen 36:31, I give the following:
Genesis 35:11King James Version (KJV)
And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins;

Deuteronomy 17:14-15King James Version (KJV)
14 When thou art come unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me;
15 Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother.

Gen 36:31 is merely a prophetic saying from the same author who also wrote the two books listed above. If the author is expecting Kings to come from Abraham and also says directly to the people of Israel that they will put a king over themselves, I'm confused as to what manner it would be contradictory for him to make a statement like "before any king reigned over the Israelites" especially in light that hes personally expecting a king if not multiple kings to come.

Con inquires as to which version of the text I would put my backing behind. That would be the MT. I will let Cons own 3rd source do the talking for me on this one.
"But some Bible critics side with the Masoretic version, citing it as older and, indeed, more authentic. Referring to a principal of textual criticism called lectio difficilior potior, which states that a harder reading of a text is preferred to an easier reading, Yeshiva University"s Aaron Koller said some scholars believe the Samaritan Torah"s text, which presents fewer interpretive problems, proves that it had been tampered with. "Some scholars believe someone took an original version of the Torah and simplified it to the Samaritan version," he explained. "It"s hard to believe a difficult reading of a text is original, because why would someone change a text to make it unclear? Rather, when a text is simplified, it"s easier to believe that the text was altered in order to make it simpler." [1]


"Koller noted that the consensus view held by most Bible scholars is that the Masoretic version of the Torah is the older, original version. The structural changes of the Samaritan Torah give reason to believe it"s been changed, he said, but that should not stop people from studying it. Both should be studied, he said, to understand the history of interpretations of the Torah"a book that continues to unfold with meaning as time goes on.
"Outside of the Samaritan community, most believe the Samaritan Torah was an editorial revision of the Masoretic text,"' [1]

Critics and bible scholars agree the Masoretic version is older. Its reading is more difficult where as the Samarian text seems to fill in certain gaps and add things, just as con kindly pointed out in Deuteronomy 32:43. Which speaking of this particular passage. I would be interested in seeing in what matter any of these additions constitute Cons own outlined "major textual variations"

I think too it makes more sense to stick with the text of the rabbis. Using Cons 3rd source again:
"Ulrich said after the destruction of the Second Temple, the people split into three groups, each with their own text: The rabbis took the Masoretic text for their own, the Samaritans took theirs, and the early Christians used much of a different version called the Septuagint"a Masoretic version translated into Greek in the 2nd century BCE"in what later become the Christian Bible." [1]
If Con is interested in defending the Septuagint or holds that is a better translation and line for the Hebrew bible, I will be more than willing to show why it isn't.

It will be up to Con to show where the Masoretic line has been broken, inconsistency's within the Masoretic text of the Torah over time and where it is disqualified as having no possible roots to the original writings given its done by a people that have a habit of keeping around something like the Biella scroll, a 800 year old scroll to read from in just their daily service and the practice of scroll keeping/writing I have outlined in argument one.
Thank you



Unfortunately I must skip this round.
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Debate Round No. 5
20 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by bigotry 5 months ago
ok I will
Posted by ThinkBig 5 months ago
OK. Message airmax and have him reset this debate and then challenge me.
Posted by bigotry 5 months ago
Send it to me
Posted by ThinkBig 5 months ago
I'm ready to restart the debate.
Posted by ThinkBig 5 months ago
I should have time to complete the debate after this weekend.
Posted by bigotry 5 months ago
Whats up?
Posted by bigotry 5 months ago
Sure, as long as your sure you have enough time to do this debate.
Posted by ThinkBig 5 months ago
I'm sorry for the forfeit. I thought I had more time. Would you want Airmax to reset this debate and just copy and paste what we have done so far?
Posted by bigotry 5 months ago
Sure thing
Posted by ThinkBig 5 months ago
Yes. Please wait a few days.
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