Project Genesis

Jewish History

Biblical History

Accuracy of the Torah

Question: 2Kings 22.8-20 and 2Chronicles 34.15 speak about Jews finding forgotten book of the Mosaic Law. Thus if Jews managed to somehow lose and forget a set of the written law, how on earth could they have kept the Oral one in its accuracy?

Answer:  This is an interesting question that can be addressed by taking a good look at the verses themselves. What’s important is to note what both passages DON’T say. There is no mention of ALL Torah scrolls being lost or forgotten, or even of any kind of shortage of scrolls. All it says is that Chilkiya the Kohen (whose signet ring I once saw in an archaeological exhibit, by the way) FOUND a scroll and had it brought to the king who was deeply impressed by what he saw written there. Now, logically, it is POSSIBLE that this indicates the complete absence of Torah scrolls in that and previous generations, but is that the MOST LIKELY explanation? Let’s consider the larger textual context: King Yoshiayu was still a very young man at this point (likely only 18) and had been raised by both his grandfather and father to fanatically hate God’s Torah. It’s very likely that his education and general upbringing would have given him no exposure to Torah or Torah scrolls. It’s even possible that the royal neighborhoods of Jerusalem were places where Torahs might not be found.

Under the circumstances, Chilkiya – whose job description involved teaching Torah (Gen. 23:10) – would have seen the unusual discovery of a Torah within Jerusalem as an opportunity to introduce the young king to his heritage. This introduction would be especially powerful if, as seems likely, the Torah they found was the one that was normally kept in the Holy of Holies – the one that was written by Moshe himself more than a thousand years previously (Deut. 31:26). I think it’s obvious that, taking Occam’s Razor into account, the traditional interpretation that I just described is far more likely to be correct than the one you quote.

I hope this helps.

With my best regards,
Rabbi Boruch Clinton

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