SEE THIS LINK FOR BLOG SUMMARY AND SOME REASONS TO REJECT ORTHODOX JUDAISM

Click this link for TOPICAL INDEX OF POSTS

About Me

A fairly accurate, but incomplete INDEX of Posts & good overview of this blog READ SOME REASONS TO REJECT ORTHODOX JUDAISM my April 2014 post or click link above. Highlighted words lead to other posts almost all in my blog. Born into an Orthodox Jewish family (1950's) and went to Orthodox Yeshiva from kindergarten thru High School plus some Beis Medrash.Became an agnostic in my 20's and an atheist later on. My blog will discuss the arguments for god and Orthodox Judaism and will provide counter arguments. I no longer take comments. My blog uses academic sources, the Torah, Talmud and commentators to justify my assertions. The posts get updated. INDEX OF POSTS SEE MAY 2017 or click link above.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Proof of God through Design (Part One) ?

UPDATED THRU 12/15/2015

Briefly this argument is as follows.  We know a house has an architect and  a shirt has a maker  etc : etc: . When studying say an eye we marvel at its design and fitness for focusing light rays.  Similarly for  numerous other biological organs and features.  Therefore  we should  conclude plants and  animals have a designer. 

This argument for god logically fails because it is a false analogy.  Humans have empirical experience and therefore know houses need  architects.  But we have no experience that  biological forms require a designer. 

The argument also logically fails because we could then ask who designed the designer of the eye ? We get into an infinite regress . Also there is a logical inconsistency between the premise a design needs a designer, yet god does not need a designer.

The argument also fails because of the fallacy of the god of the gaps. Briefly stated this is when  a lack of knowledge (for example how did the eye come to be)  is plugged with god doing it. Of course that contributes nothing to our knowledge and progress.

An important an empirical refute to the argument of god thru design is evolution . The scientific evidence for evolution is overwhelming and is the overwhelming scientific consensus of why there is an eye.  The eye evolved from previous  structures.
  
(Interestingly numerous biological organs or functions have the appearance of poor design and seem like make shift modifications or atrophies of prior organs. For example, why do humans have a remnant tail. These kinds of imperfections and anomalies betray the concept of an actual omniscient designer.)

{ETA 11/15/2014 Page 143 of Zoology by Burnett, Fisher, Zim 1958 "The fact of evolution is incontrovertible." Among other evidence the book presents is embryonic stages of mammals and birds  include fish like and reptile like stages. Fossil progression of say earlier forms of the horse to later forms. Vestigial organs found in many animals including for example horse splint bones. [The latter two examples also prove there was no omniscient designer. Why would a designer place vestigial organs or parts into a design ? Rather, they are there as vestiges of earlier animals from which later animals evolved from.}


Some apologetics try to inject god into the evolution equation. However, evolution operates completely independently of any supernatural beings, so there is no room for god in evolution.  God is simply superfluous. {ETA 7/25/2014 Evolution has no room for a designer. Species were and are still evolving without guidance and  not to some ultimate design. Evolution is governed by randomness, mutation, natural selection, changing environments, myriads of interactions...and is largely unpredictable.}

Some apologetics say the emergence of life forms as described in the Torah is consistent with evolution. However a careful reading of the Torah and an understanding of evolution refutes such a proposal. This would be a topic for another article but consider the fact that evolution is an on going process while the Genesis model is static.  Also,Genesis has god bringing forth land plants then flying creatures and then mammals. While evolution has certain types  land plants emerging  after the emergence of certain types of mammals. Then we have the major hurdle of how to explain away the temporal periods of Genesis.

Finally apologetics resort to alleged low probabilities of the emergence of life. Proof of God via the origin of life itself will be a topic for another post.

UPDATE: The second law of thermodynamics does not refute evolution, since the Earth is not a closed system and receives energy input from the sun.{ETA 10/31/2015 Also scientists explain the rays of the sun come in ordered and are then released by living things and the Earth disordered. And there is pollution/waste products created by living things which is also disorder. So Total Entropy in fact does increase and no violation of second law occurs. Finally, since the Universe is expanding the maximum total allowable entropy is increasing. Therefore small pockets of ordered structures can appear with no violation of the second law.} 

{ETA 12/15/2015 From http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CF/CF001.html "Several scientists have proposed that evolution and the origin of life is driven by entropy (McShea 1998). Some see the information content of organisms subject to diversification according to the second law (Brooks and Wiley 1988), so organisms diversify to fill empty niches much as a gas expands to fill an empty container. Others propose that highly ordered complex systems emerge and evolve to dissipate energy (and increase overall entropy) more efficiently (Schneider and Kay 1994). "}

Continued Proof of God from Design Part 2 or Disproof of Evolution

Also see Genesis and Evolution, Proof of God from Origin of Life Proof of God from Thermodynamics

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sabbath, Day Seven and Moon Cults or Fertility Cults

Updated thru 1/14/2015

The number seven (and eight as well) are ubiquitous in the Torah and the ancient near east.  This article will show the origins of the special day 7 and also the Sabbath are very probably derived  from the ancient fertility/moon cults. 

In the book Old Testament Parallels (OTP) by Victor Mathews and Don Benjamin we find numerous myths that are similar to the those in the Torah.  Regarding the  Gilamesh and Utnapish myth  (which has similarities to the Noah myth) on P. 25-28 we read that for 6 days and 6 nights winds blew and the seventh day the storm subsided and the sea grew quiet.  And the Story of Atrahasis on P 33-  At the new moon, the seventh day, the full moon,  Ea-Enkin bathed. And on page 39 -  7 nights the flood covered the earth.

Thus the OTP passages show an ancient use of day 7 in the context of quiet and subsiding of activity; within the context of the moon; new moon;  within the context of god. (The above is a very limited sample of the number 7 found in ancient near east myths and rituals.)

From the book Ancient Near East Texts edited by James Pritchard 1955 second edition - Page 68 Akkadian Myths and Epics the Creation Epic Enuma Elis Tablet five (of seven !) we find a reference to the moon and seven days - I quote;
"The moon he caused to shine, the night (to him) entrusting.  He appointed him a creature of the night to signify days; monthly, without cease, form designs with a crown.At the months very start rising over the land, though shall have luminous horns to signify six days, on the seventh day reaching a (half) crown..."

Then in the book The 7 Day Circle by E. Zerubavel (1985 edition) on P. 7 we read 7 in Ancient Mesopotamia played a prominent role in liturgy, ritual, magic and art. For an example in ancient Babylon -  the universe a 7 fold entity governed by fusion of 7 deities.  On P. 8 that 7, 14, 19, 21, 28 days of a Lunar month  in Assyria from the 7th century B.C as evil days. Days spaced 7 days apart had a prohibitive character including no chariot riding, no eating cooked meat by the King, which are very similar to Jewish laws. On P. 12 the author also suggests the 7 day cycle relates to the seven planets [ they did not have telescopes in ancient times ]. 

Thus the 7 Day Circle book documents the ancient use of 7 in the context of magic and ritual and within the context of deity; and within the context of the Lunar cycle. Most importantly it documents the concept of prohibited activities on every seventh day, very similar to the Jewish Sabbath.

In the article about the Sabbath in the Jewish Encyclopedia (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com) we find - 

1) "It [Sabbath] was probably originally connected in some manner with the cult of the moon...." 

2) "The moon, however, has four phases in approximately 28 days, and it seemingly comes to a standstill every seven days. Days on which the deity rested were considered taboo, or ill-omened. New work could not be begun, nor unfinished work continued, on such days. The original meaning of "Shabbat" conveys this idea." [ Note the moon seemingly resting every seven days. This should sound familiar since according the Torah god rested on the seventh day after the six days of creation.]

3) "Dissociated from the moon, the Sabbath developed into a day of rest for the workers and animals on the farm (Deut. v. 14; Ex. xx. 10). Traces of the old taboo are, however, still found. In Amos viii. 5 it is the fear of evil consequences that keeps the impatient merchants from plying their wicked trade. The multitude of sacrifices (Isa. I. 8; Hosea ii. 11) on Sabbath and New Moon indicates the anxiety on those particular days to propitiate the deity.”

4) Every festival in the Biblical scheme is associated with a historical event. The connection of the Sabbath with the Exodus, in Deut. v. 14-15, was altogether vague; and to supply a more definite relation to an event in Israel's history the Sabbath was declared to have had an important significance in the desert when manna fell (Ex. xvi. 27 et seq.). The Decalogue of Exodus supplies a theological reason for the observance of the day; its phraseology reflects that of Gen. ii. 1 et seq. Both—this explanation and the story in Genesis—are among the latest additions to the Pentateuch. [The reason the connection to any historical event is vague is because Sabbath origins have nothing to do with historical events - See for example Briffault below. However, the connection of Sabbath to creation myths makes some sense. Since it is very probable that Sabbath relates to moon deity(s), such deity(s) could well be associated with creation myths.]

Robert Briffault in his book called The Mothers : a study of the origins of sentiments  v.2 provides numerous facts regarding observance of Sabbaths and new moon days. Here is an extremely brief sampling. Page 433-434 is very noteworthy.

Page 422 "With a large number of African peoples the day of the new moon is observed as a day of general abstention from work. Thus, the Zulus abstain on new-moon days from work of any kind,  thinking if anything is sown on those days they can never reap the benefits thereof."  And "Among the Baziba, a tribe dwelling to the south-west of LakeVictoria, the day of the new moon is  a recognised day of rest. ".

Page 423 "In southern Nigeria every eighth day is sacred to the goddess Nimm, and is called the ' Women's Day.' No work must be done on that day. " Should any transgress the law and go to work on the farm, Nimm would be angered, and send her servants, the beasts, to destroy it.  The two great monthly festivals of ancient Hindu religion, on which, after preparatory fastings and abstinences, the sacrifice of the ' soma,' or moon-plant, was celebrated, took place on the days of the new moon and of the full moon."

Page 433- 434 "The Jewish Sabbath was, in the form in which we know it, similar to that of the Babylonians. The name ' Shabattu,'' shabattum,' or ' sapattu,' was that of the Babylonian tabu days, and is explained in a cuneiform vocabulary as " a day of abstinence,"
or "of propitiation." The Babylonian tabu days are also referred
to as the "evil days." In the calendar of Elul II, on a tablet in
the British Museum, " every month is divided into four weeks,
and the seventh days, or ' Sabbaths,' are marked out as days on
which no work should be undertaken."  All other days are set
down as' favourable ' ; the term ' evil day ' is applied to the seventh,
fourteenth, twenty-first, and twenty-eighth days of the lunar month."

[Briffault also believes that originally there was only one Sabbath day per month. Eventually the month was  subdivided to provide additional Sabbath days.  This could be why certain religions only had one Sabbath day per month].


{ETA 3/2/2014 Page 6-8 The Mothers Volume III by Robert Briffault 1927 - Regarding other cultures we find "Fire must in like manner be extinguished on inauspicious, or Sabbath days". "During the observance of the Hawaiian Sabbaths all fires were extinguished, and only cold food could be eaten." 

[Compare this to Exodus 35:3  Ye shall Kindle no fire Throughout your Habitations upon the sabbath day. ] }

Finally In the book Ancient Judaism by Max Weber (second printing 1960) on P. 149 "Clearly the highly important institution of the Sabbath is related to the Shabattu day of the moon cult which also prevailed in Babylon....the Sabbath in both countries is hardly due to a genuine borrowing but to a common tradition".  On P. 150 in Ancient Israel there was the sacredness of the full moon. Beer assumes Shabbath original meant full moon day Ex23:12, 34:21. On P 151 The number 7 as a division of the moon cycle. The Shabbath rite could be detached from the moon cult and integrated into the Yahwe religion. [Max Weber is correct in that eventually the Yahwe religion only has vestiges of the moon cult, but it is also almost certain that originally Yahwe/EL/Elohim/Shadaii  were related to sun/moon/Steller cults.] 

Thus we have very substantial evidence that the 7 day cycle and the Jewish Sabbath are rooted in the lunar cycle and the ancient fertility/moon cults.  Future posts will provide other evidence of the origins of Judaism  in the ancient moon/fertility cults.

{For more on the number 7 in relation to fertility cults and pagan worship see Proof of God from Fallow Part One


Collected below for reference are some the many biblical versus where the Sabbath , moon and new moon are found more or less linked - just like in other ancient near east texts. Sacrifice is also frequently linked to them as well.  Sacrifice an integral part of the Jewish religion was also rooted in ancient fertility cults including sun and moon cults. There are a few added comments to.

Kings 4:23 And he said: Wherefore wilt thou go to him today? it is neither new moon nor Sabbath

Hosea 2:13 I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feasts, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her appointed seasons. .

Isaih 66:23 And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before Me, saith the Lord

Psalms 81: 2 Sing aloud unto God our strength; shout unto the God of Jacob.
3 Take up the melody, and sound the timbrel, the sweet harp with the psaltery.
4 Blow the horn at the new moon, at the full moon for our feast-day.
5 For it is a statute for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob.
[Psalm 81:2-5 is interesting in that it links up horn noise with both moon and Jacob.  Recall the horn noise heard a Mount Sinai at the revelation. Mount Sinai was related to the moon cult and I intend to discuss it more fully at a later date.  I believe the Talmud says Jacob is said to have gone to the moon after death. Also could the horn and horn noises be a reference to the Bull god El, when god was alleged to reveal himself at Sinai ? Could the Jewish ritual use of the horn also be related to the Bull god El ? ]

Ezekial 45: 17 And it shall be the prince's part to give the burnt-offerings, and the meal-offerings, and the drink-offerings, in the feasts, and in the new moons, and in the sabbaths, in all the appointed seasons of the house of Israel; he shall prepare the sin-offering, and the meal-offering, and the burnt-offering, and the peace-offerings, to make atonement for the house of Israel.

Ezekial 46:1 Thus saith the Lord GOD: The gate of the inner court that looketh toward the east shall be shut the six working days; but on the sabbath day it shall be opened, and in the day of the new moon it shall be opened.

Nehemiah 10:34 for the showbread, and for the continual meal-offering, and for the continual burnt-offering, of the sabbaths, of the new moons, for the appointed seasons, and for the holy things, and for the sin-offerings to make atonement for Israel, and for all the work of the house of our God.

Chronicles I 23:31 and to offer all burnt-offerings unto the LORD, on the sabbaths, on the new moons, and in the appointed seasons, in number according to the ordinance concerning them, continually, before the LORD

Chronicles II 2: 3 Behold, I am about to build a house for the name of the LORD my God, to dedicate it to Him, and to burn before Him incense of sweet spices, and for the continual showbread, and for the burnt-offerings morning and evening, on the sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the appointed seasons of the LORD our God. This is an ordinance for ever to Israel

2 Chronicles Chapter 31:3 He appointed also the king's portion of his substance for the burnt-offerings, to wit, for the morning and evening burnt-offerings, and the burnt-offerings for the sabbaths, and for the new moons, and for the appointed seasons, as it is written in the Law of the LORD.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Proof of God via Jewish Survival, Jewish Suffering, and the Bible Predictor (Part One) ?

Updated thru 3/23/2016 

Some people believe Jewish suffering and survival suggests a god. (The related bible predictor is discussed later on in this post.)

{From the book Ancient Israel in the Sinai by Hoffmeier 2005 

Beginning on Page 79 "The Egyptians wrote history and understood events in the light of divine planning and intervention.";  "Several studies have been made of Mesopotamian Literature to show there was a relationship between history and divine involvement in human affairs."}


The Jewish people have had a fair amount of suffering and more so for the European Jews, especially with the holocaust. The middle eastern Sephardic Jews have faired better, for example being better treated in Muslim controlled territories over all, and not suffering the holocaust as severely as European Jews of all types. In other words, not all Jewish sects have suffered terribly or any more than some non Jewish ethnic or religious groups. My goal is not to judge the relative degree to which ethnic groups, religions or nations have suffered. Lets assume as a whole the Jews have suffered terribly.

Does Jewish survival or Jewish suffering imply there is a (Jewish) god ? Besides being a non sequitur, many nations, religions and ethnic groups have suffered terribly and survived, while others did not survive. The latter case being arguably a worse outcome than for the Jewish people. The gypsies left their homeland about 1500 years ago and have survived. They have also suffered great deal persecution, suffered in the holocaust and have survived. Should we suggest this proves there is a gypsy god ? 

{ETA 8/20/2015 The African Pygmy of the African Congo are essentially prehistoric and their culture has survived to this day. Moreover they have survived in Africa for thousands of years. Are the Pygmy god(s ?) protecting them and ensuring their survival and culture as a people and in their native land ? } 

Similarly, despite numerous campaigns to wipe out rats or cockroaches they have survived. Does this mean there is a God of the Rats or a God of the Cockroaches ? The answer is negative since there are natural explanations for both the gypsy and  Jewish experience as well as for rats and and cockroaches. (The mention of rats and cockroaches is to make a point and there is no intent whatsoever to insult Jews or Gypsies.)

So why did the Jews suffer ? 

Books have been written about it. Some of the reasons offered include xenophobia, racism, scapegoat theory, jews have different customs than the local population, saying they are god's chosen, 
accused of being Christ killer, stole land from and slaughtered various ancient middle eastern tribes ( according to torah), maybe some jews offended their hosts, greedy neighbors wanted their homeland and just about any reason any other ethnic, religion or nation may have suffered. 

{ETA 3/23/2016 The Jews claim their God who has chosen them is superior to other Gods. That their religion is superior to the religions of others. The Jews would not adopt the gods of their conquerors. 

The Jews separate from others. For example can not eat meals of their gentile neighbors, cant marry gentiles etc: This can be interpreted negatively by the gentiles.


A significant proportion of the leadership or active/outspoken individuals  of the  Leftists, Liberals, Anarchists, Communists, and Socialist were Jewish. For example, the early Russian communist leadership, anarchist Emma Goldman,  Abbie Hoffman in the 1960's USA, the civil rights movement in the USA, and today the Socialist leaning Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. This may alienate some people. ETA - Let me be clear. I am not saying most Jews belong to such categories, merely that many outspoken members or leaders happen to have been Jewish.  Nor am I making a value judgments regarding those categories.}

Why did Jews survive ? 

They relocated, went underground (for example in Spain), they bribed, begged, used political machinations, made positive contributions to society, etc:. After they lost Israel, they evolved and changed with the situation. They kept their culture alive, they indoctrinated their children from a very young age. Being in 
a ghetto just made them hunker down - there was no place else to go. Not every one wanted to kill the Jews. In other words there was no world wide plan to kill Jews.  { The Jews had spread to many different geographic regions so it would have required a coordinated effort to exterminate the Jews. But many of the countries the Jews lived in were not on friendly terms with each other, nor did all those countries simultaneously want to kill the Jews. It was inevitable that many Jews would thus survive.}  They enjoyed many peaceful times as well. ( Three more explanation for jewish survival: a) Their  belief that god will eventually restore their kingdom and this gave hope and resolve.  b) Being an outsider as for example during the Babylonian exile gave the jews the opportunity to advance within the government hierarchy because they had no local obligations and could give advice untainted by the diverse native constituent interests. c) Since they had different beliefs and even skills than the native population they could fill niches unavailable to the locals. Items a) and b) have been advocated in the book The Bible and the Ancient Near East by Gordon and Rendsburg 1953). 

{ It was not that a God had any role in the survival of the 'Jewish' people. Rather the 'Jewish' people's belief in the Torah and God helped preserve them.  In other words, it was their belief that eventually God would bring them out of exile/diaspora back to the promised land as per certain Torah passages. The  hope that redemption was just around the corner allowed them survive trials and tribulations. The Rabbinic tradition added the promise of  rewards in an afterlife. This also provided comfort and hope to survive trials and tribulations. In short, the Priests and Rabbis evolved theology that would help Jews survive.}

{Lets read the prescient words and great wisdom from one of the greatest Jewish Philosophers 

A Theological-Political Treatise [Part I], by  Benedict of Spinoza (born 1632)  Translator: R. H. M. Elwes

(99) As to their [Jews] continuance so long after dispersion and the loss of empire, there is nothing marvellous in it, for they so separated themselves from every other nation as to draw down upon themselves universal hate, not only by their outward rites, rites conflicting with those of other nations,  but also by the sign of circumcision which they most scrupulously observe.
(100) That they have been preserved in great measure by Gentile hatred, experience demonstrates. 
(101) When the king of Spain formerly compelled the Jews to embrace the State religion or to go into exile, a large number of Jews accepted Catholicism. 
(102) Now, as these renegades were admitted to all the native privileges of Spaniards, and deemed worthy of filling all honourable offices, it came to pass that they straightway became so intermingled with the Spaniards as to leave of themselves no relic
or remembrance. 
(103) But exactly the opposite happened to those whom the
king of Portugal compelled to become Christians, for they always, though converted, lived apart, inasmuch as they were considered unworthy of any civic honours.
(104) The sign of circumcision is, as I think, so important, that I could persuade myself that it alone would preserve the nation for ever. 
(105) Nay, I would go so far as to believe that if the foundations of their religion have not emasculated their minds they may even, if occasion offers, so changeable are human affairs, raise up their empire afresh, and that God may a second time elect them.
(106) Of such a possibility we have a very famous example in the Chinese. 
(107) They, too, have some distinctive mark on their heads which they most scrupulously observe, and by which they keep themselves apart from everyone else, and have thus kept themselves during so many thousand years that they far surpass all other nations in antiquity. 

(108) They have not always retained empire, but they have recovered it when lost, and doubtless will do so again after the spirit of the Tartars becomes relaxed through the luxury of riches and pride. }


[ETA 3/23/2016 If I have not already mentioned these, here are other factors may play a role in Jewish Survival 

 * Antisemitism

 * The Jews in general would not adopt the gods of their conquerors nor of the people they were in exile with. They considered other gods inferior or false. 

* Family bonds

* Hope in this world - God  eventually help them.

* Hope for reward in the next world.

* Jewish role in the economy of their hosts.

* Medieval Church had a theological interest of vanquished Israel

* The Jewish individual’s decision to live and survive as a Jew.}

But did the Jews really survive ? Depends what Jews means. Depends what "survives" means. The Jewish religion today is very likely not the same Jewish religion practiced in ancient Israel. (Consider the many "Jewish" sects and different interpretations. 
Pharisees, Essenes, Sadducees, Karaites, Falashas, Rabbanic, and many others.) Also, the genetic make up of the Jews (if there ever was one) has been dramatically changed thru intermarriage/ rape and conversions to Judaism by some other peoples and assimilation (Jews leaving the "tribe"). So even the premise that the "Jews" have "survived" has to be better defined.

Rabbi Kelemen in his book Permission to Believe offers the solution to Jewish suffering and survival as Leviticus 26:3-39 (the Bible Predictor), that states god will punish jews if they break the commandments and protect them if they keep the commandments. 

But I have provided plausible non supernatural explanations for Jewish suffering and survival. Even if somebody does not find these explanations satisfactory, it does not mean there is a god behind it. It could be fortuitous, and that would be a lot more plausible than positing a supernatural being. Lets examine Leviticus 26:3-39. 

The verses seem more like broad warnings rather than a prediction. 

The verses often have almost the exact wording of  legal contracts in the ancient near east (ane) and therefore should not be considered prophecy anymore than the verses found in other ane contracts. They were admonishing threats for contract violation.

From the Commentary on the Torah with a New English Translation 2001 by Richard E, Friedman Page page 411 Regarding Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28:

“The blessings and curses are not rewards and punishments. They are a formal part of the biblical covenants (Levit 26, Deut 28) - with exact parallels in legal contracts of the ancient near east.”

From the Jewish Publication Society Torah Commentary Leviticus by Baruch Levine 1989  beginning on page 275  Regarding Levit 26:3-46 “The Epilogue to the Holiness Code is patterned after other biblical blessings and curses and after other similar ancient near eastern compositions”. The author also writes concerning  Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 epilogues that the Biblical curses and ancient near east curses are related in their diction. Levine offers several examples. These examples include among others - ‘scattering of the people’ common in ANE diction. The code of Hammurabi uses the same term. Levit 26:37 the inability to stand before enemies is paralleled in the vassal treaty of Esarhaddon: ‘may you not be able to stand before your enemies’.  Levine writes it is clear even from the sample he provided (see his book for others) the epilogue represents a genre of ane literature.

How To Read The  Bible James Kugel 2007  page 348-349 provide many comparisons Levit 26 and Deut 28 to the Vassal Treaty of Esarhaddon. Here are just a couple from his text..

From the Vassal Treaty of Esarhaddon  “May all the gods...turn your ground into iron, so that no one may plow it. Just as rain does not fall from a bronze sky, so may rain and dew not come upon your fields and meadows.”

And so Deut 28:23 The sky over your head shall be copper, and the earth under you iron

and Levit 26:19:... and I will make your skies like iron, and your earth like copper.

From the Vassal Treaty of Esarhaddon “May Shamash....deprive you of the sight of your eyes, so that they will wander about in darkness.

Compare to Deut 28:28-29  The Lord will afflict you with madness, blindness, and confusion of mind, you shall grope about at noon as the blind people grope  in darkness, but you shall be unable to find your way.

Kugel writes “All these resemblances suggest to scholars that the imprecations at the end of Leviticus and Deuteronomy were themselves rooted in the standard curses of the ancient Near East - not only the general idea of such curses, but the specific things the treaties invoked.” }

{From the Anchor Bible 2011 Leviticus by Milgrom Regarding Levit 26:33 I will scatter.. on page 2322 Violation of the Code of Hammurabi also threatened scattering people.}

{ Jewish Publication Society Deuteronomy by Tigay 1996. 
Page 491  "Siege, cannibalism, and exile were common experiences in the ancient world. They are mentioned in ancient near east treaties...". 

Page 495 From Hammurabi - "May Enlil...order...the destruction of his city, the dispersion of his people."

"May Enlil order...the scattering of his people."

From the Vassal treaties of Esarhaddan" "Keep this treaty...lest...you deliver your land to destruction, your people to be deported." Tigay lists many other parallels and states: "The forgoing parallels make it abundantly clear that the promises and predictions of blessings and curses were a common feature of ancient parctice and literature." }

Furthermore, those versus may have just been propaganda. 

Also, the predictor is stating the obvious, religion can be a uniting factor, i.e united we stand divided we fall. 

The predictor talks about rain and reasonable people do not believe rain fall is controlled by gods just because you do not or do not follow his laws. Furthermore, god would have to make it not rain just in Israeli's borders. The rain would have to miraculously stop just there and no place else. 

Same for fruit bearing miracles. The verse(s) are saying make god happy by following the commandments and in return you get all these goodies. This is similar to many ancient superstitions such as sacrifice to the gods to obtain favors.

Rabbi Kelemen's argument that Leviticus 26:3-39 makes valid "predictions" needs to be fleshed out much more into a testable hypothesis. This is almost impossible. For example: how do you figure out just when jews are not keeping enough laws and which 
specific ones to bring on gods wrath. When did the non observance occur - did god actually keep track of every commandment non obeyed by every jew in every second. Are there examples when jews did follow the law yet suffered anyway ? Are there examples when jews did not follow the law yet did not suffer ? You 
have to test each separate prediction - like no rain, no fruit etc; Because maybe jews get killed, but it rains anyway. We can not go back in time to see when it did or did not rain. We have to go back and examine each time the jews suffered. You get the point. 

Also, nobody has shown the bible predictor to be valid from a statistical viewpoint, therefore it can not be accepted.

Furthermore, since the bible has a lot of nonsense 
(contradictions, anachronisms, doublets, myths like women coming from Adam's rib/ (side in a minority of translations),  talking snakes...) the burden of proof is that much greater on the person saying we can deduce god from it. It is a credibility issue. Virtually all academic bible scholars say the bible was written by people and much of its history is suspect. Also, we have to examine every time the bible makes a prediction and see how well it was fulfilled. Kelemen's book only focused on one passage. If the over all predictive value of the Bible is poor then it could just be luck one passage got it right more times than other passages.

Rabbi Kelemen even asserts the preposterous Idea that the holocaust occurred  because many Jews began to abandon 
orthodox judaism. There are books written about the causes of WWII and the holocaust. The loss of WWI and heavy burden placed on the German people after WWI, world wide depression and German hyperinflation, xenophobia, racism, scapegoat theory, religious bigotry, many thought jews may have helped cause 
Germany's loss in WWI, some jews affiliation with communists, antisemitism had prevailed in Europe for centuries, many Germans believed The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Jews had different dress and customs, hatred was being used to unite a country, differences of Ideology,..... 

We then deduce from Kelemens theory that god caused millions of innocent non Jewish people (as well as observant jews) to be killed, just because some Jews decided not to practice Orthodox Judaism. (Side note: There was no  holocaust of  the Jewish Community in the USA, and Orthodox Judaism was and still is a minority branch of Judaism in the USA. If Kelemen  is correct then god should have heaped his wrath against the USA Jewish community, but did not.)

{ NOTE: Orthodox Jews were clearly the majority of the European Jews killed in the Shoah, somewhere between 50% and 70%. From page 22 Battling for Souls by Alex Grobman.} 

We have two explanations of Jewish Suffering and Survival. 
The bible predictor with god versus natural explanations. The more reasonable explanation is the latter. It explains the story in the context of human affairs and natural phenomena. The former explanation implies something supernatural and miracles which adds a level of unnecessary complexity. It creates more questions 
and more unsolved problems than it solves.

{From The Bible and the Ancient Near East by Gordon and Rendsburg 1953 

Page 264 "Long before Isaiah there had been a school  of Egyptian prophecy that dealt with a punishment to Egypt for offending gods. The punishment was to be in terms of foreign domination, widespread destruction, and in social upheaval. whereby classes would no longer retain their former relationships. These woes would be terminated by a godly king would be victorious  in temporal and spiritual affairs, so that he would  inaugurate the divine order".

Page 249 Regarding Assyria 745 BCE "The god Assur had willed that his country and his King should achieve world domination; and all other gods, kings, and peoples had to be subservient to Assur's will."
s
[This should sound familiar to Orthodox Jews.] }

{ Page 176 The Evolution of God by Robert Wright 2009 "The Assyrians had laid waste to Babylon in the early seventh century....the Babylonians ascribed their catastrophe to their chief god's displeasure with them." 

[Again, this should sound familiar to Orthodox Jews.] }


The interested reader may want to read the following articles at www.talkreason.org that address similar issues.

Do We Need God to Explain Jewish Survival
PROHIBITION TO THINK
Explaining the Unclear by the Incomprehensible 

And the book Bondage of the Mind by Gold.

{ From Gold - here are some salient issues regarding Jewish Survival:

A) The Basques have survived  even in their own homeland. The Parsi and Armenians have also survived. Are we compelled to posit a God to explain why those cultures and peoples survived for such long periods ?

B) Any people's history can be described as highly improbable. Consider the course of the British history where they defeat Rome and go on to become a world empire. 

C) Any given 10 year period of Jewish history requires no miracles for it's explanation. Rather each period can be explained thru natural explanations and events. So by adding up all the 10 year periods you have natural explanations for the entire Jewish history. }

Continued in Part Two

Related Posts Proof of God from Prophecy , Proof of God from Israel 

Circumcision by the Jews on the eighth day of life = Proof of God ?

Updated thru 1/27/2015

Some Rabbis argue how did the Torah know that the 8th day is the best day to circumcise? 

The Rabbi then provides the following response: 

 [Holt and McIntosh, in Holt Pediatrics, observed that a newborn infant has peculiar  susceptibility to bleeding between the second and fifth days of life. …  Hemorrhages at this time, though often inconsequential, are sometimes extensive; they may produce serious damage to internal organs, especially to  the brain, and cause death from shock and exsanguination (1953, pp.   125-126). It has been shown that it is on the fifth through the seventh days of  the newborn male’s life that vitamin K is present in adequate quantities for blood clotting. On the eighth day, the amount of prothrombin present is above one-hundred percent of normal (the only day in the male’s life in which this will be normally be the case). Therefore, the 8th day is the perfect day to do the circumcision … when the Vitamin K and prothrombin levels are at their peak.

The Rabbi then asserts the Torah had secret medical knowledge, and therefore it is god given.]

We must reject such a conclusion.

Other cultures did circumcise infants, some even on day 8. 

The Encyclopaedia Britannica 11th edition 1910-1911: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences ..., Volumes 5-6  Under Circumcision: "Some tribes in South America and elsewhere are said to perform the rite on the eighth day, like the Jews." ;  "Circumcision was known to the Aztecs (Bancroft, Native Races, vol. iii.), and is still practiced by the Caribs of the Orinoco and the Tacunas of the Amazon". 

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/4391-circumcision "The Caribs of the Orinoco and the Tacunas of the Amazon practise the rite, as well as the Automecos, the Salivas, and the Guemos, who perform it on the eighth day, the earliest time recorded among savage tribes".


From Medical Record, Volume 93 January 5,1918 - June 29, 1918  edited by George Frederick Shrady, Thomas Lathrop Stedman "The Susus near Timbuctoo and the Guemos of South America are also said to perform the rite [circumcision] on the eighth day." 


 Should we assert these tribes had secret divine knowledge as well ?

{ETA 12/31/2014 Although some cultures circumcised on day 8, most did it closer to puberty. In other words, most cultures were not intending circumcision to be done as soon as possible. Maybe if that was one of their goals, day 8 would be more prevalent.}

Lets assume that for Vit K and prothrombin reasons day eight is best (I did not check Holt Pediatrics or later medical texts. I doubt that on day 9 or 10 the levels drop, or if they do it is probably  by an insignificant amount.).  But what about other medical complications. If those are considered day 8 may not be the best day. It is more likely no day ever is best because of pain and potential medical complications, especially in ancient times.

But that is not all. Lets assume that day 8 is the best from a clotting perspective. That would be an average best.. There is significant variability around that average, for even on the eighth day many infants will have low clotting factors making circumcision an even more dangerous procedure. What kind of a god would want you to subject an infant to such a dangerous procedure. I shudder to think of all the infants that died a slow horrible death from circumcision.

But even if we assume day 8 is the best overall date from a medical viewpoint, it still does not imply secret knowledge. Could not the ancient jews find by trial and error that day eight was one of the better days. 
Moreover, ancient jews may have found within 6 days is too early (from experiments) and also the first six days may be off limits because the six days of creation. 

Circumcision is found to relate to creation myths and fertility cults in some cultures.  For example "The general trend of the evidence suggests that circumcision was practiced in the Sudan, as well as in Egypt, from time immemorial, that it had nothing to do with considerations of health, that it had a religious significance, and that it was originally connected with some kind of phallic worship." per the book OSIRIS AND THE EGYPTIAN RESURRECTION VOLUME II SIRIS AND THE EGYPTIAN RESURRECTION BYE.A.WALLIS BUDGE.

And "According to Egyptologist, E. A. Budge ('The Gods of the Egyptians': Dover Publications), there was a very early God of Circumcision whose job was to maintain the fertility of the Nile banks. Another early Egyptian myth contended that God circumcised himself and the blood from his penis fell and created the universe. This myth is thought by some to be the progenitor of the blood cults in which animals were sacrificed, as seen in the blood covenants of some modern Semitic religions. (http://www.circlist.com/rites/egypt.html)"

Interestingly the Falashas perform circumcision on day 7 as seen in the circumcision article from the Jewish Encyclopedia . Was seven one of the original days of Jewish circumcision ?.   So we are left with day 7 and later. Day 7 was the Sabbath of creation, so that day could have become questionable, plus further trial error may have shown day 8 or later is better.

Perhaps certain morphological changes in the genital region take place around day 8, but I plead ignorance on this issue.

It is certainly plausible a combination of experiment and or  superstition or even pure chance coincidently landed on one of the better days for circumcision, just like it did for some other cultures. Saying day 8 somehow implies secret knowledge and therefore a god is not compelling at all. 

Males are born with foreskin for likely good biological reasons, therefore it should not be cut off without good reason, not to mention the medical dangers. So why would the Torah say Yahweh wants Jews to perform a dangerous operation ? It truly makes no sense from a humanitarian viewpoint. Arguably, Yahweh requiring jews to undergo a dangerous operation seems to be an argument against Orthodox Judaism. One defense to circumcision maybe it provided some medical benefit in ancient times in the middle eastern climate. But no where in the Torah is that justification provided.

Circumcision is a very ancient practice and considering the body organ and the early Egyptian myths it suggests something related to creation, procreation and thus fertility cults and their sacrifices. The number 7 is ubiquitous in the Torah. Future posts will suggest that 7 was related to the moon cycle of 28 days and likely the sun or moon cult or fertility cults  from which Judaism evolved from. 

{ETA 1/21/2014 The Golden Bough by James Frazer , abridged edition 1979, page 75 "The Dieri also imagine that  the foreskins taken from the lads at circumcision have great power of producing rains". [Dieri of Central Australia]. }


{ETA 7/13/2014  Theodor Reik's  book  Mystery on the Mountain 1959. Page 90  "G. A. Barton assumes that circumcision was, in the beginning among the Semites, probably 'a sacrifice to, or a mark of consecration to the goddess of fertility, and was designed to secure her favor in the production of  offspring.' Semitic and Hamitic Origins (London, 1934), pp. 98 ff.}

{ETA 1/27/2015 We find God telling Abraham in  Genesis 17:6 And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee...11 And ye shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of a covenant betwixt Me and you.who will make Abraham fruitful.


The promises of fecundity in Genesis is reminiscent of fertility  cults.}

See The dangers of circumcision as found in the talmud, Circumcision and Maimonides

Friday, August 2, 2013

Bible Patriarch Ages

The lifetimes given for the Patriarchs in the Book of Genesis are: Adam 930 years, Seth 912, Enos 905, Kenan 910, Mahalalel 895, Jared 962, Enoch 365 (did not die, but was taken away by God), Methuselah 969, Lamech 777, Noah 950.[3] The lifespans given cause problems of chronology for Bible scholars,.... (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patriarchs_(Bible))

These ages sounded incredulous and not believable to me even as young child. Can anybody believe that ancient people lived over 200 years let alone over 900 years, that nature was so different and that human life spans were so much greater ?

It is possible the stated life spans are purely fictional or had some other metaphorical meaning. Still why would the bible authors use such fictional values ?

A plausible explanation is the lifespans are not in years, but in lunar months (a lunar month is 28 days). For example, in some parts Africa you may ask how old is that toddler and they will say 39. However, 39 lunar months is 3 years old. ( 39*28/365 is about 3 years). Ancient peoples reckoned time base on the lunar cycle. (I hope to discuss moon worship, sun worship and its relation to Judaism in future posts).

Similarly the lifetimes of the patriarchs are likely stated in lunar months, so for example Enos at 905 is only about 65 years old when he dies. (64.42 = 905*28/365).

If the bible is using lunar months for the patriarchal life spans, then anybody using years (365 days) to determine the age of the earth since Adam will be sorely in error.

UPDATE 10/7/2013 Some of the "years" in Torah may actually be Lunar months and others Solar.