Tuesday, January 18, 2011
[Jesus walks on water as Peter approaches Matthew 14:29 - is the Torah more credible?]
This coming Saturday morning, Orthodox Jews will read in their synagogues the story of the Ten Commandments being revealed at Mount Sinai. This event was the most momentous in world history since it was the public revelation of God's identity and His instructions to mankind, known as the "Torah" or "instruction" in Hebrew.
What is dismaying is that atheists tend to dismiss the Torah by claiming it's just a bunch of nonsense, no different than the New Testament or the Koran.
In reality, however, there are clearly fundamental differences.
The author of the Koran, Muhammad, and the subject of the New Testament, Jesus, were both individuals who merely claimed that God spoke to them (or, in the case of Jesus, he may have claimed he was actually God). The Torah however was revealed to an audience of millions.
The atheist rebuttal is that the Torah is also in fact merely the fabrication of a single person, most probably Ezra.
The most plausible scenario according to atheists might be something like this:
A group of a few thousand Semitic slaves escaped from Egypt about 3,300 years ago under the leadership of an Egyptian nobleman named Moses. After they settled in the highlands of Palestine, these Israelites as they called themselves, began retelling and embellishing the story of their escape. [Which is in itself a little bizarre – wouldn’t escaped slaves rather not advertise that fact?] Numerous different versions arose. Other Canaanites joined the Israelite community. The community grew. Versions of the story became more and more fantastic. Moses became a great lawgiver and miracle worker. Ten Plagues struck the Egyptians. Ten Commandments were given at a mountain in Sinai. Finally Ezra the Scribe wrote the Torah based on these legends, which was then universally accepted by Jews (Nehemiah 8:1). Ezra had the power (Ezra 7:26) to punish all those who disagreed with him. The Samaritans as well, enemies of Jews (Ezra 4:1), for some reason also decided to accept the Pentateuch.
There are, however, a couple of problems with the "Ezra was our Jesus" theory:
First of all, it implies that the acceptance of the Torah was uniquely instantaneous and unanimous - there is no record of any dispute and struggle concerning it. Regarding Jesus, his fellow Jews killed him and to this day deny him. Only over centuries did European gentiles accept him. Regarding Muhammad, he was opposed by many Arabs and he won them over through armed conflict - jihad, an Islamic tradition unfortunately still practiced today. Joseph Smith as well, the founder of Mormonism, was murdered by his fellow Christians. Starting new religions tends to be a very high risk business. The new founder is of course an arch-heretic in eyes of the existing orthodoxy. Regarding Ezra presumably, other Jewish leaders, dispersed throughout the Persian empire, would have had their own texts and would have fought tooth and nail against Ezra's scroll for centuries, however history records nothing of the kind.
Secondly, Jews and Samaritans never credited Ezra with founding their religion. He is not credited with discovering any new text. In fact, I don't believe the Samaritans revere him in any way. A devout Christian could spend all day talking about Jesus, as a devout Muslim could about Muhammad. However the average devout Jew could probably tell you perhaps three sentences about Ezra.
Therefore, the atheistic theory of Judaism's origin is clearly incorrect and Ezra was nothing like Jesus or Muhammad, singlehandedly founding a new fake religion by mixing and modifying earlier traditions. Rather, the Torah clearly originated exactly as Jews have always claimed it did, as it's explained in this week's synagogue reading.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 1:39 PM