Tuesday, July 21, 2009
One objection which is occasionally made against belief in the divine origin of the Torah is that there does not exist any additional documentation supporting the account of the revelation at Mount Sinai other than the Torah itself. Some argue that in order for an historical event to be accepted as authentic, there must be numerous books, government records, journalistic accounts, diaries and so on attesting to it. One book is not reliable evidence of anything.
That’s an interesting point; however it seems to me that applying this standard of evidence would mean that little if anything can be known about pre-modern history.
Bear in mind that prior to the publication of the Gutenberg Bible in the 1450’s, books were almost nonexistent. For example, in 1424, Cambridge University library owned only 122 books—each of which had a value equal to a farm or vineyard. The ability to read in medieval England was a proof that one was a member of the Catholic clergy. Our entire knowledge of pre-modern history is based on only a handful of texts which were recopied by monks hundreds of times by hand.
There is a school of thought that so few physical records have survived hundreds, let alone thousands of years that it casts even the most conventional understanding of what really happened into doubt. The dominating historical discourse in its current state was essentially crafted in the 16th century from a rather contradictory jumble of sources such as innumerable copies of ancient Latin and Greek manuscripts whose originals had vanished in the Dark Ages.
Henry Ford famously said “History is more or less bunk. It's tradition.”
Few people, however, would go that far. It seems clear that if one is willing to accept that Aristotle and Alexander the Great were real people, there is no reason to doubt the existence of Moses and Abraham and if one can believe that the Peloponnesian War happened, there is no reason he cannot believe that the Exodus and the Mount Sinai revelation happened.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 12:06 PM