Joshua Berman – Inconsistency in the Torah

Episode: Dru and Joshua Berman discuss his bold claims in his book—Inconsistency in the Torahthat suggest source-criticism might erroneously ignore cognate literary forms in the ancient Near East, favoring notoriously slippery histories behind each source in the Torah instead. Working through Egyptian and Mesopotamian parallels, Berman discusses how the old paradigm of sources might be insufficient in the face of other comparable literatures. We talk through the book’s core arguments, krav maga, Judaism in Israel, Fijian vacations with Seventh Day Adventists, and more!

Guest: Dr. Joshua Berman is an associate professor at Bar-Ilan University. His books include Created Equal: How the Bible Broke With Ancient Political Thought and The Temple (OUP) and Inconsistency in the Torah: Ancient Literary Convention and the Limits of Source Criticism (OUP). Dr. Berman is an ordained Orthodox rabbi with a B.A. in Religion from Princeton University and a Ph.D. in Bible from Bar-Ilan University in Israel.

The Book (Inconsistency in the Torah,* from the publisher): “This book proposes a new approach to the Pentateuch’s narrative and legal inconsistencies that scholars have taken as signs of fragmentation and competing agendas. … The recent pivot to empirical models constitutes a major challenge to traditional historical-critical method, mandating a review of its premises. The book includes a critical intellectual history of the theories of textual growth in biblical studies tracing how critics were influenced first by the fascination with science in the eighteenth century and then by Romanticism and Historicism in the nineteenth. These movements unwittingly led the field to adopt a range of commitments and interests that impede the proper execution of historical critical method in the study of the Pentateuch. It concludes by advocating a return to the hermeneutics of Spinoza and adopting a methodologically modest agenda.”

*Oxford University Press has given OnScript listeners an exclusive discount. Just use the code AAFLYG6, to enter at checkout at, for a 30% discount on the book.

Give: Visit our Donate Page if you want to join the big leagues and become a regular donor.

4 Replies to “Joshua Berman – Inconsistency in the Torah”

    • Dru Johnson

      Hi Rick, my questions were not intended to be “gotchas” and I don’t think Dr. Berman took them that way. I’m not sure if you’ve listened to OnScript before, but those questions were part of a “speed round” and intended to be tongue-in-cheek mixed with serious. We always prep the interviewees that this portion of the interview is meant to be lighthearted and they (usually) play along as Dr. Berman did.

      For the record, I have lived in Israel while a research fellow for the Shalem Institute for Advanced Studies and I now help direct the Jewish Philosophical Theology project for a all-Jewish institute in Jerusalem (

      I’m sure I never asked “Have you ever met an anti-Semite?” or any question like that. I also didn’t ask “How Jewish is Israel, really?” I know the answer to the latter, but I did want to help our mostly non-Jewish non-Israeli audience understand the complexities of Judaism in Israel today (as well as the complexity of practices within biblical scholarship). All of those questions were meant to help our audience understand the context within with Dr. Berman works (which we barely scratched the surface of the complexities of Israeli higher education and biblical studies).

      Hope that clarifies the point of that section of questions.

      • Rick Strassman

        I’ve listened to quite a few OnScripts, and usually enjoy them a lot. I’m familiar with the speed round of questions at the end. I’m not referring to the exact wording of your questions, but what you were expressing by them. And of course, living in Israel counts for little regarding anti- or philo-semitism.

        • Dru Johnson

          The “I’ve lived in Israel” wasn’t meant to refer to anti- or philo-semitism. It was meant to refer to the fact that I feel like most people do not know what Judaism looks like in Israel, which in some ways, is dramatically different than where I work in NYC. Bottom line, I’m trying to paint a picture of religion and scholarship and how they intersect in Judaism, something many of our listeners won’t be familiar with.

          One of the goals of this series of interviews with Jewish (and Israeli) thinkers that I’m doing is to help our audience understand Jewish scholarship (and the markedly different world of biblical scholarship practiced in Israel). I’ve already interviewed a few friends and colleagues (Unterman, Brand, and Berman) and have a few more on deck with North American Jewish scholars (Michael Carasik, James Diamond, etc.). So I hope that you’ll read my questions in the interview and response to you with some charity. I’ll certainly ask Josh if he felt the way you do.

          Honestly, I have no idea what you’re referring to in my tone that would indicate “have you ever met an anti-semite”. I’m completely blind to what you’re referring to there, so you’ll have to fill me in. Feel free to respond to me by email, where such a misunderstanding can be clarified more easily than a comments section. And, stay tuned for future episodes with top-flight Jewish scholars!

Leave a Reply

Please share the OnScript goodness :)