Sunday, July 12, 2009

A UFO Analogy


[a flying saucer]

People sometimes ask how Judaism is different from any other religion. Many religions claim to represent the true will of God. Why do Jews believe that they are right and others are wrong?

I think that this can be answered very simply.

Imagine that a UFO supposedly landed in a farmer’s field in Nebraska one day for ten minutes. One person claims to have witnessed it.

Alternatively, imagine that a UFO supposedly landed in Central Park in New York City and remained there for two weeks. Millions of people claim to have witnessed it.

Obviously the second UFO sighting would be far more credible than the first.

Similarly, the Torah was revealed by God in front of millions of witnesses (see Exodus 20). The New Testament and the Koran however were revealed only to an individual.

One may ask that considering this, why are Islam and Christianity more popular than Judaism? The answer is simple: Most people prefer to lead an easy life and Judaism is perhaps the most burdensome of all religions. Therefore it is the least popular. Additionally, Judaism has never pressured people to convert, as has been the case with other religions.

One may ask, doesn’t the Torah contain clear factual errors which disqualify it from being the true word of God, for example doesn’t the Genesis creation story contradict paleontology? I have explained elsewhere that this is not the case.

Another argument sometimes advanced is that the account of the revelation at Mount Sinai is an ancient story and people in ancient times were extremely gullible. Therefore ancient stories lack any credibility. The problem with this assertion is that first of all it seems to be baseless. Second of all, if this were the case, then we would assume that many other ancient religious leaders would have convinced their incredibly gullible followers that they had all heard God affirm the truth of their religion. Of course, that is the not the case.

Some people may say that they cannot believe in anything supernatural regardless of the evidence. This is equivalent to saying that one cannot believe in extraterrestrial life regardless of the evidence. This is known as an argument from personal incredulity .

44 comments:

Anonymous said...

Scientists say that subatomic particle do magical things all the time. That's what quantum physics is. And they consider multiverse an acceptable explanation for the universes fine tuning. Multiverse is magical, it just says that the magic is happining somewhere else. Oh, and magic soup can turn into life.

Ahavah Gayle said...

You said: "Therefore ancient stories lack any credibility. The problem with this assertion is that first of all it seems to be baseless."

The modern generation has seen photoshoped pictures used as "evidence," has read their kids revisionist history schoolbooks which tell a completely different (and very PC) history than what they read when they were children, they have seen "discoveries" of supposedly ancient texts or artifacts that turned out to be fakes, why, within the living memory of many Russian elders Trotsky and others were airbrushed right out of the Revolution. If the Hebrew scriptures are just somebody's mythology from their own point of view, it would be neither the first nor the last.

So I would have to say that your assertion that they have no reason to disbelieve a 3500 year old episode straight out of unverifiable foreign literature is itself "baseless." Certainly their skepticism has a great deal of basis, both historically and in their own modern experience.

jewish philosopher said...

If you want to deny the Apollo moon landing
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_Moon_Landing_hoax_conspiracy_theories

or the Holocaust
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holocaust_denial

as millions do, then by all means feel free to deny the Torah.

Abe said...

...Similarly, the Torah was revealed by God in front of millions of witnesses (see Exodus 20)...

Why should I believe this ?

Anonymous said...

JP,

Does it specify in a possuk that millions or even thousands of people saw mottan torah (as opposed to saying "the nation" or somthing like that) if yes were is the possuk?

jewish philosopher said...

"Why should I believe this ?"

Why not?

"Does it specify in a possuk that millions or even thousands of people saw mottan torah"

Sure. Deut. 5:18

http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0505.htm#18

ari said...

Jp,

It dosnt say a number there it says the assembly or congregation ("These words the LORD spoke unto all your assembly" deut.5-18) does it specify anywere in a possuk the size of this congregation or assembly?

jewish philosopher said...

There is a census total in Numbers 2:32.

http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0402.htm#32

Abe said...

...Similarly, the Torah was revealed by God in front of millions of witnesses (see Exodus 20)...
Why not (believe this).

For the same reaason that I don't believe that there are little green men living in the center of Uranus.

jewish philosopher said...

If little green men would appear in Manhattan in front of millions of people would you believe it?

Abe said...

I would probably believe that they appeared in Manhattan but perhaps not that they originated in the center of Uranus withiut further scientific proof.
But you still havn't satisfactorily answered the question as to why I should believe ... that the Torah was revealed by God in front of millions of witnesses (see Exodus 20)..., since neither I nor anyone observed millions of witnesses.

bankman said...

Is that not a circular argument?

the torah is true, because the torah tells me it is true (that 2 million people were revealed to at Sinai).

that is not a logical argument sir, you'll need something better.

jewish philosopher said...

The Torah is true because millions of people witnessed its revelation.

I think you and Abe are engaging in "question begging". This is a logical fallacy in which the proposition to be proved is assumed implicitly or explicitly in the premises.

You seem to be saying:
There is no God because He has never revealed Himself.
And we know He did not reveal Himself at Mount Sinai because there is no God.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begging_the_question

Anonymous said...

The Revelation was accepted as the authentic history of the Jewish people as far back as there exists any record. Why would people believe something so unbelievable, and so easily falsifiable, if it wasn't true?

bankman said...

anonymous - hashem gave you a brain that can do amazing things - including using reason and logic. he would be very dissapointed to learn that you have squandered that.

Sir, you made a claim that several million people stood at a mountain in the desert and heard Hashem speak to them and witnessed him hand over a scroll and 2 stones with writing on it - i asked how you know that happened and you told me that it says so in that scrll.

I am just trying to follow your story here and it seems a bit farfeched an circular is all.

jewish philosopher said...

How do you know that the first president was George Washington? It's history.

Anonymous said...

The revelation at Sinai was accdpted as the authentic history of the Jewish people. If it didn't happen then it means that somebody approached the entire nation and said to them "You have to follow all the laws and restrictions in this book because G-d appeared to your Grandfathers." And nobody said "Then why didn't my Grandfather tell me?" That's what I would do if somebody told me something. Thats what I meant by easily falsifiable.

Abe said...

...The Torah is true because millions of people witnessed its revelation....

What is your evidence that millions of people witnessed it?
You still havn't offered any definitive proof. You cite the torah as proof that there existed millions of witnesses. That is circular reasoning. That you can't recognize the falacious nature of your argument is evidence that the torah has seriously addled your mind.

Abe said...

...The revelation at Sinai was accdpted as the authentic history of the Jewish people...

Wrong! You and a your indoctrinated fundies believe that. Most Jews don't.

...If it didn't happen then it means that somebody approached the entire nation and said to them "You have to follow all the laws and restrictions in this book because G-d appeared to your Grandfathers...

Wrong again ! It probably occured via a evolutionary process where the mythical narrative slowly was transformed into a defacto declaration from God. It never happened and you can't prove that it did.

Abe said...

...How do you know that the first president was George Washington? It's history...

Its history because we have thousands of independent decisive confirmations of his existance.
On the the other hand, you have only the torah to butress your argument of millions of witnesses. Hardly proof of anything. The torah might be a fashionable validation to a programmed fundie but you would be laughed out of court if you ever tried to use your foolish logic as evidence.

jewish philosopher said...

Imagine that a UFO supposedly landed in Central Park in New York City and remained there for two weeks. Millions of people claim to have witnessed it. You could also say that they just made it or the story evolved - maybe a few people claimed they saw something and then the story just got embellished, more people claimed they saw it, etc.

I don't understand exactly what would prove anything to you. Any evidence for anything can be brushed off as just a lie, exageration, fraud, conspiracy, hallucination, etc.

Millions of people deny the Apollo moon landing
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_Moon_Landing_hoax_conspiracy_theories

and the Holocaust
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holocaust_denial

jewish philosopher said...

As far as a court of law goes, I think you'll find that a document, such as a deed, birth certificate, marriage certificate, etc is generally accepted as evidence. The Torah is a document.

Anonymous said...

Abe:

Maybe most modern jews don't believe it, but all jews believed it until modern times. Even schismatic groups like the Tzdukim believed in it. And at some point in the evolution of the revelation narative, if that's what happened someone must have noticed that the narative contains a national revelation that nobody heard of, yet they accepted it as their national history anyway. At some point it had to swtich from, for example, a privat revelation to Moses to a public revelation with nobody noticing the switch but everybody accepting.

Anonymous said...

And there is actually little contemporary evidence that Alexander the great lived. The only accounts of his life were written centuries after his death.

Anonymous said...

The Novi is repleat with references to an older book called the Torah which was clearly accepted by the nation as the law of the land.

Anonymous said...

"Some people may say that they cannot believe in anything supernatural regardless of the evidence. This is equivalent to saying that one cannot believe in extraterrestrial life regardless of the evidence."

Do you mean that you consider "supernatural" events to be proven events and that you consider unidentified flying objects to be piloted extraterrestrial craft based on evidence in our hands?

Surely you know that videos and other evidence offered have been far from conclusive or even compelling, and that, even if they were authentic, there is no evidence at all of extraterrestrial intelligent origin. The development of photographic and video hoaxes of "UFO"s like this one are simple fare for someone with even a minimal knowledge.

Similarly, there is no evidence of the supernatural, historically or currently. We have only dogmatic tradition. That does not refute it, but it simply means that there is no physical evidence based reason to accept it. One accepts it as a matter of dogmatic faith.

Y. E. Goldfarb

Anonymous said...

"As far as a court of law goes, I think you'll find that a document, such as a deed, birth certificate, marriage certificate, etc is generally accepted as evidence. The Torah is a document."

This is known as false syllogism.
Documents are acceptable as evidence.
A is a document.
Therefore A is acceptable as evidence.

The New Testament is document. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a document. The communist manifesto is a document.

Nor is the premise alone any better. The reason documents are acceptable in court is that we certify the form of their origin. President Obama's birth certificate is a document. It was not accepted in court, until it was certified authentic by the State Department of Hawaii. IOW, it was verified by outside source evidence.

The Torah has no outside source evidence, so it would not have been accepted in court, just as the birth certificate alone was not accepted. Again, this is not to say anything at all about the truth of Torah. It is dogmatic declaration, not supported by any outside evidence in any of it main themes. For instance, the creation, the ark, the forefathers, Moses' origin, the exodus, the giving of Torah, the invasion of Canaan and even the existence of various cities at the time in question are not supported by any outside evidence. They are accepted dogmatically, not that there is anything necessarily wrong with that, but it's a fact.

Y.E. Goldfarb

Anonymous said...

Your argument about the million of witnesses to the giving of Torah assumes that the Torah was written and accepted contemporary with its origin in its current form. If it grew as a bunch of traditions, and then was confabulated hundreds of years later, and then taught to children in its final form as indoctrination, it would be similar to things that happen all the time in history. The Aztec legend of Qezalcoatl, the Greek pantheon on Olympus, or more modern versions like the lady of Fatima or similar stories all are examples where large numbers of people were claimed to be present but the legends were developed and accepted much later in their final forms. Every urban legend could be said to have started this way.

A clear example of this phenomenon is kabbalah. By definition, no one can know it but an elect few. Yet, it was universally accepted in halacha and modern orthodox Judaism, and it changed the fabric of theology significantly, based on "millions of witnesses" to the giving of Torah, and yet it clearly had no witnesses other than the school of the Ari. Again, Jews accepted it universally based on appeal to authority, but built on consensus long after the fact, and a completely different fact, at that.

Y. E. Goldfarb

PS. I am a history professor.

Anonymous said...

In all the examples you sited the miracles were witnessed by someone else, not yoru grandfather. And the Kaballa is just part of the
Torah.

jewish philosopher said...

Dr. Goldfarb, thank you very much for your intelligent and well thought out comments. However let me ask a hypothetical question.

Instead of “Jews” let’s substitute the words “Australian aborigines”. Instead of “God” let’s substitute “space aliens”. Instead of “commandments” let’s substitute “suggestions”.

Let’s say that the all Australian aborigines since time immemorial claimed that space aliens had appeared to them at Ayers Rock http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uluru one spring day 3,300 years ago. Those aliens left the aborigines with a book which contained unique, wise advice for living (just as the Torah contains unique wisdom http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2009/06/gods-wisdom.html). The later history of the aborigines was also unique and indicated some massively influential, ancient event (as does Jewish history http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2007/03/extraordinary-history-of-jewish-people.html http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2006/10/judaic-literature-providing-proof-of.html).

Wouldn't most people, including most scientists, regard this as credible evidence that intelligent life does exist elsewhere in the universe? Indeed even with much less evidence some seem to be convinced now http://www.cnn.com/2009/TECH/04/20/ufo.conference/index.html http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,629411,00.html

However, once we mention “religion”, everything changes. No matter what evidence is presented, the majority of the scientific and academic community rejects it as being insufficient and unconvincing.

I think the explanation for this is very simple: massive denial. http://www.egetgoing.com/drug_addiction/denial.asp The wise book of suggestions left by the space aliens would not obligate anyone to do anything. The Torah makes demands, sometimes huge demands, on people. Suddenly, all evidence is “only dogmatic tradition.” “ not physical evidence” and there is “no outside source evidence”, so it’s all just fiction.

In my humble opinion, you are guilty of special pleading.
http://www.fallacyfiles.org/specplea.html


Incidentally, kabbalah actually helps to validate my theory. It is well known and acknowledged that the Zohar originated with Rabbi Moses de Leon under controversial circumstances http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moses_de_León. Why couldn’t Rabbi Leon fabricate a mass revelation story to lend credibility to the Zohar? For that matter, why didn’t Jesus or Mohammed or any other religious founder? Apparently, because doing so is impossible.

Anonymous said...

Jacob, I think this is one of the most potent (yet misunderstood) arguments for Judaism. In a nutshell, it's the claim that the Sinai revelation is an 'impossible lie.'

Anyway, the idea originated in the Kuzari, but it's been articulated, particularly well by Rabbi Kelemen.

Anonymous said...

While the Zohar might have been written by the Ari, the Talmud mentions esoteric knowledge like the Sfer Yetzira and the Maase Mechova.

alex said...

...by Rabbi Kelemen...
And Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb. Readers of JP should make sure to see the rebuttal, which he included on his website, as well as the counterrebuttal. That will avoid a lot of the repetitious arguments.

Anonymous said...

The Kuzari proof only works under the assumption that the Torah was written or known in its current form at the time that it speaks of. however, even a few generations later, it would not obtain at all. The references to cities and powers in the Torah suggest a date in the 7-8 centuries BCE rather than 12 centuries. This is similar to the time difference between us and Columbus.

Here are some facts known by every school student:

1) George Washington chopped down a cherry tree and admitted it to his father.
2) Everyone thought the world was flat until Columbus postulated that it was round and set off to prove it.
3) The New Deal effectively ended the Depression.
4) Mordechai was Ester's uncle and Moses was Pharoah's step brother, assuming he was the son of the pharoah when Moses was born.
5) Nothing, even light, can escape a black hole.
6) Columbus was the first European to discover America.

Before the Internet, if one were not inclined toward the reference area of a library, there would be no way to vet these facts easily. In fact, if one were a grade schooler hearing this in class, and no one disputed the facts directly to you, you would have no reason to ever examine them. They are facts known to every grade schooler. As evidenced, most grade schoolers and adults would absolutely relate to these facts, and before 1950, almost universally. Yet every one of them is false.

Similarly, 500 years after the facts, something of a Torah was written. The Tanach itself and the Talmud both relate that it was not what we have today as a Torah. It was likely a confabulation of facts that everyone believed because that was the traditional way that zaydi learned it and he taught to his grandchildren that way. Zaydi had no more basis to know it than did his eynicklach. Traditional rabbis answer this objection by saying that what we have as a Torah is "hashgacha protis", whether or not it is the original. Again, I have no particular objection to this type of belief. Still, it is not more or less credible than any other myth of the same type. (Please note that myth does not mean that it is false or bad. I mean the word as the word is defined. The definition of myth is another thing that people learn and do not ever vet.) The myth of Tenochtitlan, the Olympian gods, our lady of fatima, and the healing pool at Lourdes France are all examples of similar myths. There are many people in the story, but there is no third party verification.

Incidentally, astronut Mitchell was also a fan of ESP and other pseudoscience. In fact, he failed so miserably at ESP that he felt the results were significant that he failed so much. Look up "psi missing" for more details. None of the other astronauts, Armstrong, Aldrin, Glenn etc. were convinced that any UFO was a piloted extraterrestrial craft.

Y. E. Goldfarb
(No need for doctor. Multiple Masters Degrees, ABD)

Anonymous said...

"While the Zohar might have been written by the Ari, the Talmud mentions esoteric knowledge like the Sfer Yetzira and the Maase Mechova."

Implied false syllogism:
1) The Torah sources mention secret knowledge.
2) The Zohar is secret knowledge.
3) Therefore the Zohar is mentioned by Torah sources.

The Ayuveda is secret knowledge. The workings of avodah Zara is secret knowledge.
The nuclear launch codes are secret knowledge.

Taking the LSAT practice exams might help you understand the subtleties that unhinge your logic.

Just to the point, the Sefer Yetzira is a very short pamphlet in at least 4 known versions. It appears to be commentaries on suggested meditations. Aryeh Kaplan discussed these in depth. Yet, no one who bases halacha on kabalah is quoting SY or MM. they are quoting Zohar (Moshe DeLeon), Pri Etz Chayim (Vital) or Kisvay Ari (Luria) or other personalities of the late middle ages.

YEG

Anonymous said...

"Why couldn’t Rabbi Leon fabricate a mass revelation story to lend credibility to the Zohar? For that matter, why didn’t Jesus or Mohammed or any other religious founder? Apparently, because doing so is impossible."

MDL did one better than fabricate a mass revelation. He fabricated a legend that the book originated with a Tanna Shimon Bar Yochai. Chasidim swear the book is authored by the Tanna, based on appeal to authority.

The New Testament, in acts, claims that Jesus appeared to hundreds of people, in public. In Matthew, it claims that 100s saw other tchiyas hamaysim. In Baal Shem Tov stories, there are similar public miracles.

Mohammed was supposed to be illiterate. All Mulims believe it, but it does not stand up to simple vetting. But the believers are not interested in vetting it. So the lack of vetting is proof of nothing.

Similarly, the lack of vetting in the origin of the Torah is also proof of nothing (given its likely being written centuries after the fact), except that its adherents did not want to vet it.

All of this could be established with one outside source that verified the major facts of the Torah's history. Yet no such source exists. That is too bad. Until it is produced, the Torah remains an unremarkable dogmatic history. Its laws are noted very similar to those in Hammarabi's code. Its mythology is simply an attempt to credential the origin of the tribal names and caste positions (e.g. why levites are special and why it is better to be in Yehudah than Naftali). There is nothing unusual about this in ANE mythology.

YEG

jewish philosopher said...

Mr. Goldfarb, thank you again for you interesting comments. I would be curious to know where you teach.

In any case you mention "The references to cities and powers in the Torah suggest a date in the 7-8 centuries BCE rather than 12 centuries." Could you please cite examples? And I'm sure you're aware that particularly in archeology, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. In this post I have discussed a little further the issue of archeology and Torah. http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2008/02/torah-and-archaeology.html

“Similarly, 500 years after the facts, something of a Torah was written.” What basis is there for this assertion?

“The Tanach itself and the Talmud both relate that it was not what we have today as a Torah.” Sources, please.

“Traditional rabbis answer this objection by saying that what we have as a Torah is "hashgacha protis", whether or not it is the original.” Sources, please.

Please note that one of the The RAMBAM's Thirteen Principles of Jewish Faith is “8. I believe with perfect faith that the entire Torah that we now have is that which was given to Moses.”
http://www.ou.org/torah/rambam.htm

“MDL did one better than fabricate a mass revelation. He fabricated a legend that the book originated with a Tanna Shimon Bar Yochai.” I don’t understand why that’s better than convincing all Jews that their grandparents had personally heard God authenticate the Zohar.

About the hundreds of witnesses to the resurrection, I think you’re referring to 1 Corinthians 15:6 “After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep” http://nasb.scripturetext.com/1_corinthians/15.htm

Corinthians is a letter written by Paul to the church in Corinth. Paul could easily have fabricated this because the Corinthians themselves saw nothing. If Paul had convinced the Corinthians that they themselves had seen Christ raised, that might be comparable to the Jewish tradition of Mount Sinai. Obviously, Paul could not have pulled that off.

“All of this could be established with one outside source that verified the major facts of the Torah's history.” I’m not sure I follow this one. Are you saying that because everyone who witnessed the revelation at Mount Sinai believed in it and therefore was by definition a Jew, this invalidates the Torah? You would need an “outside source” – someone who was there but remained unconvinced of the revelation and therefore a gentile – to convince you? Wouldn’t the presence of such witnesses weaken the argument for Torah?

Please bear in mind that the Torah is not mentioned in any other historical chronicles from the period of 1300 BCE because there are no historical chronicles from 1300 BCE. Likewise we have no contemporary accounts of the eruption of Thera although no one disputes that it happened. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minoan_eruption

“Its laws are noted very similar to those in Hammarabi's code.”
Can you find one law in the Torah http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/Torah.html which matches one law in Hammarabi’s code http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/MESO/CODE.HTM?

As far as I can see, your comments seem to be simply a string of factual errors and non sequiturs. Perhaps you can clarify?

I continue to feel that your entire approach is hypercritical and is based on special pleading for a human origin for the Torah.

Anonymous said...

Mr.Goldfarb:

I'm not sure what your point is. My point is that the Kaballah is and always was, part of the Torah, and it is not the result of a separate national revelation. The Zohar,in its curretn form is just a codification of the esoretic knowledge that always exsisted. Its like the Shulchan Oruch is a codifitin of the halacha

Anonymous said...

My intention was not to rewrite the myriad book that show that the Torah was later editted if not entirely changed. I simply meant to point out that such an occurrence invalidates your "proof" based on the need for "conspiracy". The truth is that it makes no personal difference to me.

The story in Kings II 22 of Melech Yoshiah discovering the sefer Torah should be sufficient to at least give skepticism to the "unbroken chain" ideology. In the Talmud, Kidushin, I remember learning that we are not bekiyin in Maeleh and Chaser. Later acharonim, including the Ramah, state this clearly, and that we do not have any authoritative sefer today, that it will have to wait for moshiach.

The Rambam principle 8 seems to fighting the idea of taking certain verses and saying that they are editions, rather than part of a coherent whole. It matters not to my argument whether this is true or not.

Having said all of that, I point out that references to cities like Ninveh (capital of Assuria), Cheshbon (Moabite, Amorite capital), Jericho (Cana'anite city), Ai (unknown), and Kedar and Nevayot (Arabian) are all places that where prominent in the 7th century BCE, not the 12th. The Assyrians kept documentation and did the Egyptians, and archaeology is quite developed in this area.

But let's go ahead and say that the history is wrong or spotty, and that all of archeology is misinterpreted. You certainly still do not have any third party evidence of the Torah history. You have merely discounted the counter-evidence, and I'll grant that in argument. But there is still no evidence that there was a cohesive Torah in the Bronze age that bore any similarity to the scroll of the same name that we use in synagogues today. The oldest copies we have go back 2000 years, to a period that is far better documented.

There is no outside evidence (and there is internal counter evidence in Tanach, Talmud and poskim) that a tradition was passed down that bears any resemblance to what we have today. Therefore the "Kuzari" proof fails to prove anything. It also does not prove against anything in the Torah or even that the Torah is cohesive. It proves preciely nothing.

YEG

Anonymous said...

"The Zohar,in its curretn form is just a codification of the esoretic knowledge that always exsisted."

OK, I'll bite. Where do you have any evidence of principles espoused by the Zohar in the Torah? Where do you have any reference to the Zohar or any predecessor to the Zohar, previous to Moshe DeLeon? Without that, you have no basis to make your statement.

(Again, do not use the false syllogism that the Torah had secret knowledge and Zohar is secret knowledge, Ergo, the Torah had the Zohar.)

YEG

Anonymous said...

"I'm not sure what your point is. My point is that the Kaballah is and always was, part of the Torah, and it is not the result of a separate national revelation."

My point was just that, in refuting the efficacy of the "proof". The Zohar was fully accepted without a national revelation. You said that the Torah could only be accepted through such a revelation and no one would have accepted it without such a revelation, had it not happened. The Zohar was universally accepted, and yet no one questioned its provenance, even though they claimed, as you do, that it was always there.

It proves my point clearly that holy writ can be fully accepted without any sort of revelation, despite claims of that revelation. The key is to disassociate the revelation from time relevance to the audience. I am proposing that the same could have easily happened to the Torah itself, in order to refute the Kuzari proof.

Anonymous said...

I said the Gemora refers to esoteric knowledge, which is what Kabala is. The Zohar is nothing new, anymore than the Shulchan Oruch is. And the point is that not that the Torah was accepted, but that the national revelation was accepted as the authentic history of the Jewish people.

jewish philosopher said...

“The story in Kings II 22 of Melech Yoshiah discovering the sefer Torah should be sufficient to at least give skepticism to the "unbroken chain" ideology.”

And Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe: 'I have found the book of the Law in the house of the LORD.' And Hilkiah delivered the book to Shaphan, and he read it. (II Kings 22:8)

http://www.mechon-mamre.org/e/et/et09b22.htm

I don’t see how someone finding a manuscript invalidates Jewish tradition. Also, I wonder why you consider the book of Kings to be authentic but not the book of Exodus.

“we do not have any authoritative sefer today”

Have you ever tried to copy an entire book by hand without making any errors whatsoever? It’s understandable that after thousands of years some small spelling changes would have entered the Torah scroll.

“all places that where prominent in the 7th century BCE, not the 12th”

I think a lot of this is very speculative.
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/14/health/14iht-snedom.1974388.html

“But let's go ahead and say that the history is wrong or spotty, and that all of archeology is misinterpreted.”

Actually, I think that archeology and Torah pretty much agree.
http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2008/02/torah-and-archaeology.html

“The oldest copies we have go back 2000 years, to a period that is far better documented.”

As far as I know, no parchment documents date back over 2,000 years ago. They decompose.

“There is no outside evidence”

So that’s the problem. I have no idea why this is so crucial; however let’s say tomorrow the New York Times prints an article about a newly translated hieroglyphic. Archeologists date it to be about 3,300 years old and it reads “There has been a terrible plague. The dead are everywhere. The Israelite slaves have escaped.” Would you then immediately become an Orthodox Jew? I hope you’re keeping up with all the latest developments in archeology.

Anonymous said...

The posuk in Melachim that discusses the find of the sefer torah during Yosia's reign says 'Sefer HaTorah." A book of THE Torah. The use of the definte article indicates that it was known to them.