Now, I admit that cherry picking quotes out of context is not the fairest way to do things. If you want to argue that had I presented the full picture it would be far easier to sort things out, neicha, I'll grant the point. Still, you would think that at least with respect to Orthodox vs. Reform/Reconstructionist ideology, what I think is fair to call opposite ends of the spectrum, there could be no possible way to conflate the two -- or could there be?
Is the glass is half-empty or half-full? Should we be thrilled that even Reform and Reconstuctionist leaders speak of Torah in ways that are not so different than their Orthodox counterparts -- perhaps there is far less that divides us theologically than some might assume -- or should we be distressed that even those who self-identify as Orthodox in fact subscribe to a theology that is for all intents and purposes indistinct from the other branches within Judaism?
If most historians say that there is no evidence for Israel gathering at Mount Sinai in the 13th century B.C.E. or thereabouts (they do), and if they say that there is ample evidence that Israel did not even exist as a cultural or political entity at that time (they do), then how should we reconcile those observations with the teachings of the Torah? The answer for most --xxxx-- thinkers is that the revelation at Mount Sinai in Exodus is a story that teaches great truths about the way that God is revealed in our lives, not facts about an historical incident.
Given the data to which modern historians have access, it is impossible to regard the accounts of mass Exodus from Egypt, the wilderness experience or the coordinated, swift and complete conquest of the entire land of Canaan under Joshua as historical…
The stories of the Torah reflect the ways the prophets of old refracted their encounters with divine wisdom through the prism of mnemohistorical narrative. Adam is the story about why humans are here, and Noah is the story about the precariousness of our position and the existential need to be good people in order for our existence to have meaning. The stories of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs are about who we (Israel/Jews) are as a people and how we found God/God found us; the Exodus and Conquest tell us about Israel’s mission as a nation and our covenantal relationship with God.
It is precisely the sacredness of these texts that requires of serious students to employ every piece of scholarly equipment to unpack their contents... Judaism does not seek to limit our thinking, only our actions.
The Torah is not divine.... Is the Torah authoritative? Absolutely. But is it divine? No.
In the coming discussion of Torah I make no literalist assumptions about the historicity of the text or its revealed origins. I speak out of deep relationship with the Torah text as we have it, out of unceasing engagement (including moments of outrage and frustration), but not as a believer in it as resulting from divine dictation. The biblical scholar’s understanding of the text’s complex origins and editing are a level of truth that I recognize as valid. In my religious life, however, I continue to embrace the text as a whole, a sacred artifact rather than as historical document. I enter into the text as a participant in an unending conversation among generations of Jews, enriched but essentially unfazed by critical perspectives.