You may skip to the ‘Critical View’ portion, if you’d like, but it isn’t a very long read. Although I’m not a Rabbinical Jew myself, I respect alot of their views on things in the Old Testament. This Jewish belief already conformed with the belief I already had. It wouldn’t make sense for God and Noah, for that matter, to instantly favor this one son to be the ancestor of the Jews. ‘Shem’ is actually a metaphor. Maybe Shem’s ‘children’ were actually the grandchildren of Ham and Japheth. The author of the page used a Hebrew translation that further supports his views of why Shem wasn’t an individual.
Is this compatible with Catholicism? Must I believe that Shem was an individual?
I would imagine that if you asked one thousand Catholic priests who Shem was, only ten of them would be able to correctly identify him.
No Catholic truth rests upon believing Shem was an individual.
The names of Noah’s sons are generally considered prophetic or allegoric. Shem signifies name or renown (the Scriptures have been given to us through the family of Shem, and Christ was of that family); Ham signifies hot or black (his descendants mainly peopled Africa); and Japheth signifies either fair or enlarged (his descendants are the white-faced Europeans, who have gone forth and established colonies in all the other grand divisions of the globe).
I found nothing in the Jewish Encyclopedia article that indicated “Shem” does not represent an individual person who was a son of Noah. Only that, according to some views, it may have been a name that developed and was later on given to that individual son of Noah.
“Shem is not an individual, in the sense that one person by that name came forth with his father and brothers from the ark, and had a share in the scene described in Gen. ix. 18-27. Neither does the name in itself suggest geographical or racial entities. It recalls more probably some ethnic deity that had become the “heros eponymus” of his worshipers. As it now occurs, the name has no theophorous character; but it has been suggested that “Shem” must be considered a corruption or abbreviation of a name similar to Shemu’el (see Samuel), the element “Shem” meaning “son” in the combination. This suggestion—though none of the critics seems to have noticed it—receives a strong degree of probability from the blessing spoken over Shem (ib. verse 26). There is no doubt that the pointing of the text is incorrect. Budde proposes to omit the (which Grätz would read “ohole” = “tents”), and then vocalize: “Beruk Yhwh Shem” = “Shem is blessed of Yhwh.” This would at once place this “blessing” in the category, so numerously represented in Genesis, of name oracles. From the oracle the name is readily reconstructed as “Shemaiah” or “Shemu’el,” the “Elohe Shem” in the text indicating the latter possibility.”
Umm… really? Seriously? You completely discount the rest of the article – the sections entitled ‘Biblical Data’ and ‘In Rabbinic Literature’ – and assert that only the section entitled ‘Critical View’ is the truth?
You might do well to read the preface to the Jewish Encyclopedia, as found on that site:
"How to deal with the vast amount of literary material that offered itself to the pages of a Jewish encyclopedia was a serious problem. …
While all sides of Biblical research are represented in these pages, they are treated concisely and, in many cases, with little reference to disputed points. With regard, however, to two special aspects of Biblical subjects, it has seemed desirable to treat the Scriptures on somewhat novel principles. Among Jews, as among Christians, there exists a wide diversity of opinion as to the character of the revelation of the Old Testament. There are those who hold to the literal inspiration, while others reject this view and are of the opinion that the circumstances under which the various texts were produced can be ascertained by what is known as the Higher Criticism. It seemed appropriate in the more important Biblical articles to distinguish sharply between these two points of view, and to give in separate paragraphs the actual data of the Masoretic text and the critical views regarding them. …
In other words, they’re not saying that the “Critical View” is the unanimous opinion of Jews or some sort of dogmatic statement of Judaism, but rather, merely what those who espouse “the so-called Higher Criticism” would say.
So, while you might agree with the opinion you’ve found in that section, it would be inaccurate to claim even that this is the majority opinion among Jews.