A recent statistical analysis of the Pentateuch that indicates multiple texts underlying the single document (link) do not place Orthodox Jewish dogma in jeopardy. Orthodox Jews believe in a single, divine Author of the Pentateuch, not multiple authors whose writings were redacted by one or more editors into a single document. The recent study ostensibly challenges this belief but on further examination fails to pose a significant challenge.
The first and most important reason is that a single study never conclusively ends debate. Over a decade ago, a statistical study was published in a peer reviewed journal proving the “Torah codes.” This analysis was later refuted with another (link). I doubt that this study is the final word on its subject, either. Later researchers may find hidden flaws in the methodology or contrary results in other applications. The shifting sands of academic consensus are unsafe foundations on which to build, or launch an attack on, a house of faith.
But perhaps more importantly, a lesson from my freshman college course on Probability explains a lot. I remember the first day of class, when the professor assigned us the following simple task for homework: Either flip a coin twenty times and record each result or manufacture fake results. By the end of the semester, the professor promised us, we would be able to prove to a high degree of probability which were real results and which were fake. The key, we learned, was analyzing the number of doubles and triple in a row and comparing them to what would be expected from random tosses. Artificial results usually do not conform to statistical expectations. Except, of course, if the person creating the results knows the expectations and conforms to it. Knowing the trick, I can now easily mimic the results of a real coin toss.
A divine Author knows the probabilistic expectations of the recent study and can conform to it. In fact, a human can do so as well by carefully choosing his word combinations. All the study shows is that similar language is used in distinct sections of the text, something biblical critics pointed out long ago. The study does not show, and does not claim to demonstrate, whether literary and commentarial reasons exist for the different language choices. The results could easily have been intended by a single Author, and perhaps with more difficulty by a single human author.
If anything, within the Orthodox world this study provides ammunition for the advocates of R. Mordechai Breuer’s approach against his critics (see this post: link). Where his critics had complained the he accepted too quickly the stylistic claims of biblical critics, he (or rather his students) can now counter with this statistical analysis. That is, until a contrary study is published.
See here for Prof. Moshe Koppel’s comments on this study, which he spearheaded: link.