Is there Torah inerrancy?
In other words, does the Torah contain no factual errors: the Noah flood did occur, Garden of Eden did exist, Adam and Eve did live there and were subsequently expelled, etc etc?
In short the answer is Yes.
Maimonides (also know as the Rambam) codifies 13 principles which are basic to Judaism. These principles are pretty much universally accepted as binding in all Orthodox forms of Judaism. Principle number 8 is, "The belief in the divine origin of the Torah." Principle number 9 is, "The belief in the immutability of the Torah."
This being said, it is important to differentiate between the idea of the Torah being perfect as understood in Judaism and the concept of "Biblical Inerrancy" as understood by many Christian groups.
Judaism believes that the Torah was revealed in two parts. The written text of the Torah was dictated to Moses exactly as we have it today. Together with this "Written Torah", much additional information about each commandment, as well as a complete system of Torah interpretation was was also given to Moses and passed down through the generations.
After the destruction of the Second Holy Temple in 70 CE, a process of collecting and recording these teachings was begun. The teachings of the Oral Torah were eventually codified in the Talmud, Midrash, etc. This process is explained in great detail in the Introduction of the Mishneh Torah by Maimonides.
This means that according to Judaism, one cannot just read the text of the Written Torah and fully understand what God wants from us. One needs to also consult the teachings of the Oral Torah. A classic example is the verse, "and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall serve as a symbol between your eyes". This verse cannot possibly be understood literally. According to the Oral Torah, it is referring to the practice of Tefillin. There are thousands of detailed rules regarding the preparation and use of Tefillin which are all detailed in the works of the Oral Torah.
This is quite different than the idea of "Biblical Inerrancy" as understood by many Christian groups. Those groups believe that the Bible is to be understood literally at face value. this is completely foreign to Judaism.
This is a matter of opinion, perhaps even amongst Rishonim.
For example, there is Ralbag, who says about the number of stars and Avraham's vision at the brit bein habetarim
Citing a post by Dr. Marc Shapiro:
As another example (from the same article), from Rav Kook, who refers to Rambam as a basis for the idea:
That is, based on the contemporary understanding of the world. The basis in Rambam is in factual errors in Yechezkel, so perhaps it would (according to Rambam) not extend to the Torah.
Another example is (same post) "[t]he fourteenth-century R. Eleazar Ashkenazi ben Nathan ha-Bavli". When discussing the extremely long lifespans, he suggested
For an example of a rishon propounding the idea that the Torah incorporates some necessary false beliefs, see Rabbi Yosef Ibn Caspi. So too Shadal. While I've written about it, so has Dr. Marc Shapiro. See this post on the Seforim blog. For instance:
I would note that various Rishonim are not accepted in the current ultra-Orthodox world. There is a no-true-Scotsman issue:
Various very religious and scholarly Jews held beliefs that nowadays are not standard frum theology, and the danger in rejecting them as non-Rishonim is that we first define who the Rishonim were based on theology and then assert we are following the Rishonim in matters of theology. (In similar manner, Abarbanel -- who rejected Ibn Caspi -- is himself considered 'not from our beis medrash' and Yes, some contemporaries strongly criticized him for taking philosophical positions that they disagreed with, but so were others criticized who are certainly considered Rishonim (e.g. Ibn Ezra, Rambam).
The dictionary defines inerrancy as "freedom from error", in which case, yes, the Torah has inerrancy. One of the cardinal beliefs of Judaism, according to the Rambam, is that God composed the Pentateuch; the others sorta imply he has inerrancy; combined, then, we get that according to the Rambam the Pentateuch has inerrancy. I have no source at the moment for the other books of Tanach, but I'm pretty sure they, too, have inerrancy.
If your question is, "Can the Torah be wrong?," then the Orthodox will tell you "no" and Conservative and Reform may vary from rabbi to rabbi.
If you're asking "Can the Torah be taken not as face value in regard to historical events?," even in Orthodoxy its a matter of great controversy with many strong;y-worded tshuvos (responsa) and strongly-held opinions.
My personal belief is that the Torah is not wrong although some details may be subject to interpretation and "speaking in the manner of people."
It's not all that unanimous. Very credible Orthodox Rabbis like R' Natan Slifkin will tell you that the Garden of Eden and Great Flood stories are not to be taken literally. See his blog, and description of the controversy that led to his books being banned.
After a generation of people have debated the Torah Codes,this should not be a question. The letters of the Torah are precise as are the words as are the characters.The details will not be known for now but the entire corpus should be seen by all of us as Divine ,not merely inspired. While there are legitimate concerns of the exactitude of minute detail,this is the best at preserving a text that can be humanly possible over 3323 years since first received.
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