What is Torah?
The word Torah also has a variety of meanings depending on the context. Within the Pentateuch itself (the first five books), torahmeans an individual teaching, instruction, or law. In later sections of the Hebrew Bible, torahmay refer to the entire Pentateuch, which is often how we use the word today. Torah can also be used to refer to the entire Bible, the Oral Torah, and even all subsequent Jewish thought.
Up until the 17thcentury, both Christians and Jews related to the Torah as a divine document somehow transmitted to human beings through Moses. Additional assumptions about the Hebrew Bible, especially in the formative period of Judaism and Christianity, included that the text was cryptic, perfect, and relevant.
Beginning in the 17thcentury, a few Europeans, most notably Baruch Spinoza, begin to take tentative steps toward understanding the Torah as they might any other text.
By the mid-19thcentury, biblical criticism was established in Germany and slowly made its way to England and the United States.