Even if we could somehow resolve the problem of which version of the Torah is authoritative, we would still have the problem of contradictions within the text. Here is one example:
It is clear from the account of Hagar and Ishmael in Genesis 21:14-19 that Ishmael was a young child, perhaps a baby, when they were sent into the desert:
Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba.It is possible to calculate the approximate age of Ishmael when he was sent into the desert with his mother. According to Genesis 16:16, Abraham was 86 years old when Ishmael was born:
When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes.
Then she went off and sat down about a bowshot away, for she thought, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And as she sat there, she began to sob.
God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there.
Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”
Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.
Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.And according to Genesis 21:5, Abraham was one hundred years old when Isaac was born:
Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.It follows that Ishmael was already fourteen years old when his younger brother Isaac was born. According to Genesis 21:8-10 the desert incident took place after Isaac was weaned:
The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son…”According to tradition, Isaac was two years old when he was weaned. Three years is the age of weaning mentioned in 2 Chronicles 31:16 and 2 Maccabees 7:27. Thus, it follows that when Hagar and Ishmael were taken away Ishmael was a fully grown teenager, around sixteen or seventeen years old. The problem is that the profile of Ishmael in Genesis 21:14-19 is a small child and not a fully grown teenager:
Remember that it is Hagar that carried all the supplies into the desert (Genesis 21:14). If Ishmael were a teenager then surely Abraham would have made him carry at least some of the supplies to lessen the burden on his mother.
She put the boy under the bush (Genesis 21:15). Now the original Hebrew used is the word “shalak” which has the meaning ‘to throw, cast, hurl, fling’ acording to Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon. One does not “throw”, “cast”, “hurl” or “fling” a teenager, especially when they are a woman and suffering from the fatigue of a harsh desert environment.
Even though it was Ishmael that was crying, God consoles the mother (Genesis 21:17). This could be taken to imply that Ishmael was too young to converse with.
She is asked to lift up the boy (Genesis 21:18). Again, one would not expect a woman suffering from the fatigue of a harsh desert environment to be able to lift up a fully grown teenager.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that the Septuagint version of the Torah has the following for Genesis 21:14:
And Abraam rose up in the morning and took loaves and a skin of water, and gave them to Agar, and he put the child on her shoulder, and sent her away, and she having departed wandered in the wilderness near the well of the oath.There is simply no way that a woman would be able to carry both the supplies and a fully grown teenager on her shoulders, so the Septuagint is even more explicit in conveying that Ishmael was a young child when he was sent into the desert.
All of these points imply that Ishmael was a small child and not a fully grown teenager, so there is a clear contradiction in the text.
If the original Torah is divinely inspired and has been preserved, then we should not expect find any contradictions within the text as God’s words are perfect. Since there are contradictions present in the text then this represents additional evidence that the Torah has been corrupted.