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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.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Kuzari argument part 2

UPDATED THRU 12/15/2015

This is a continuation of Kuzari Part 1  (and the comments at that post). Sources are stated through out this post and at end.

There are some reasoning and other flaws with the Kuzari argument.  Some of these may or may not apply depending on the arguments presentation. There is some repetition, interaction and overlap within this post and the prior post.

{Kuzari proponents claim the Sinai revelation was unique therefore it is true. Besides other fallacies here are two that should be stressed 1) They draw a target around the Sinai conditions to exclude every other myth. But you can do the same for almost every other myth. (The Texas Sharpshooter fallacy). 2) An hypothesis is not accepted as true because we have failed to provide a counter example}


1) Ad Ignorantiam fallacy - meaning an appeal to ignorance. The Kuzari argues we can not fathom how the Sinai story could have evolved, therefore it must be true. This argument is similar to the god of the gaps argument - just because we can not explain  XYZ to an individual's satisfaction does not mean XYZ is true. This fallacy is enough to reject the Kuzari.

2) Ad Populum fallacy  - meaning an appeal to popularity. Just because a certain number of people or a certain number of generations of a tribe believe a certain story is true does not mean the story is true. Otherwise  Christainity, Islam and other religions would qualify.

3) Special pleading fallacy - see Kuzari Part 1

4) Invalid authority fallacy - according to the Kuzari there was a tribe of people that witnessed a revelation from god. However, were those ancient Israelite slaves qualified to make such a statement ? Were they skeptical enough ?

Mind you, all we have in front of us is a story in the Bible and no witnesses to question.  

{ Yet, even if we did have a set of witnesses that agree that an event occurred we should not blindly accept their testimony. The more unnatural the claim the more evidence is required. Could the witnesses have been mistaken for one reason or another ? For the Sinai claim there is no corroborating evidence and there is evidence it could not have happened the way the Kuzari claims. }

5) Page 169 of Frank Moore's book Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic 1973
Referring to the Sinai revelation "That is Israel used traditional Canaanite language in early descriptions of Yahweh's theophany, and it is this traditional poetic language, objectified and historicized in excessively literal prose that we find in the epic accounts of the revelation of Sinai."

Page 177 "Baal's Characteristic mode of self-revelation is in the storm theophany". On the other hand El makes his will known in word or decree of the council of gods.

AR p 182
" But solar imagery is relatively rare in the Bible. YHWH is far more often depicted as a storm-god, in accordance with Canaanite imagery".

{ From Myths and Legends of the Ancient Near East - Fred Bratton 1993 edition Page 112 "The Ugaritic idea of a mountain as the home of a god is found frequently in the Old Testament"}

{ From Ancient Texts for the Study of the Hebrew Bible - Kenton Sparks 2005


Page 423 “It has long been recognized that the form and content of the code of Hammurabi are particularly close to the book of the covenant in Exodus 20:22-23:33. This applies not only to the content and order of the laws (see Wright) but also to matters of iconography, since Hammurabi , like Moses, is depicted receiving his laws directly from the deity atop fire-and smoke enshrouded mountain(Van Seters). The best explanation for this similarity is that the Biblical author knew the code  of Hammurabi and intentionally shaped his work to mimic the older more venerated text”}

Why would the ancient Israelite god reveal himself at Mount Sinai using Canaanite deity traits  and at a  mountain like in the Ugaritic myths of gods abode and like the Hammurabi theophany  ?

6) Page 232 How to Read the Bible by James Kugel 2007

"It is not hard to imagine, scholars say, that a similarly pious theme - God's miraculous intervention to save the Israelites from Egyptian slavery - came to be transferred from experience of a few to the foundation myth of an entire nation"

[The pious theme Kugel is referring to are certain foundation type myths of the USA.]

Contrary to Kuzari proponents, there are experts on this matter who have no difficulty accepting some sort of myth evolution for the Sinai stories.

7) "Anu and Bel called by name me, Hammurabi, the exalted prince, who feared Marduk, the patron god of Babylon (The Human Record, Andrea & Overfield 2005), to bring about the rule in the land." (From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_of_Hammurabi). [King Hammurabi is claiming divine sanction].

AR - page 65 "It was axiomatic in the ancient world that gods could intervene in human affairs and implement their plans in history. Mesopotamian rulers often attributed their rise to power to the plan of their patron deity. Homer’s gods acted purposefully, even if they were often at odds with each other."

AR page 135 - "Although the official state cults of Rome and the Greek cities were not generally founded on divinely inspired or divinely written texts, in some noncivic cults—such as those of Orpheus and the Egyptian Hermes—the word of the god, as inscribed in sacred texts, did hold a central place."

AR page 227  - “In some respects at least, the religious situation of pagan Rome strikes a modern observer as familiar enough. Holy places had to be consecrated and cared for. Texts for prayers and vows had to be carefully preserved and pronounced. Processions were made through the streets, and divine images were
paraded from their temples on special occasions. Prophetic texts were preserved and consulted for advice. The divine beings were conceived of as concerned about human welfare and powerful enough to intervene on behalf of their loyal worshipers.”

The ancient Israelites could ascribe a violent storm and or a Volcano as Yahweh's revelation. Over time ‘god’s voice’ could provide a kernel to build a divine sanctioned code. As cited, claims of  divine sanctioned codes or divine intervention was not unique to the ancient Israelites.

8) Archaeological consensus - No mass Exodus, no Mass wandering in desert for 40 years, No mass invasion of Canaan. This well documented in the academic literature. Thus the Sinai stories should be rejected.

For example:

AR -page 182  
"The consensus of archeologists at the beginning of the 21st century is that the early Israelites evolved within the land and culture of Canaan. There is no archeological evidence that they came from either Mesopotamia or Egypt. If the story of the exodus has a historical basis, it can account for only a small segment of the Israelite population. The god El, worshiped by Abraham and later identified with YHWH, was the high god of the Canaanite pantheon."

The Bible Unearthed I. Finkelstein, N. Silberman 2001
Page 118 “There was no mass Exodus from Egypt. There was no violent conquest of Canaan.”

{ Page 68 of the Oxford Bible Commentary 2001 - "At most there could have been a small group which escaped from Egypt and passed on its traditions to related groups in Canaan ." And on page 76 "The 600,000 in Exodus 12:37 is obviously historically impossible, but is the standard biblical figure, repeated in th ecensus in Numbers 1 and 26." "...it was habitual for ancient scribes to exaggerate numbers"} 

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

Beginning page 153 - there is a discussion why the Torah's figures are impossible. He goes on to write 600,000 men is impossible. He writes studies on the issue leave little doubt and that maybe thousands or a few tens of thousands, but not hundreds of thousands let alone millions."}


9) Judaism did not begin at Sinai according to the Torah, for example, the Abraham stories predate Sinai. Per the Torah - circumcision, sacrificing, anointing and the prohibition of the thigh sinew are examples of customs that predate Sinai. A new religion did not just emerge ex-nihilo at Sinai. There was a previous alleged relationship between the patriarchs and Yahweh. 

{ see verse 5
GENESIS 26:1 And there was a famine in the land, beside the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went unto Abimelech king of the Philistines unto Gerar.
2 And the LORD appeared unto him, and said: 'Go not down unto Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of.
3 Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath which I swore unto Abraham thy father;
 4 and I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these lands; and by thy seed shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves;

5 because that Abraham hearkened to My voice, and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.' }

10)  One recent example of how a false story becomes accepted as true is the Angel of Mons.  
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angels_of_Mons 

In addition, this story should not have gained traction since people could have fact checked it. 

Interestingly, this suggests the possibility that the Torah stories could have originally been known to be fiction just like the angel of mons. Then later became to be accepted as historical truth.

{ It is plausible the Exodus-Sinai stories are invented foundation myths with little or no basis in reality. They became  accepted over time and there are ample number Israelite leaders who for political reasons may have encouraged acceptance of such foundation myths. Recall, in ancient times nations had their  State  Gods and  foundation myths.}

11a) Another alleged mass revelation http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castor_and_Pollux Castor & Pallux 
"The construction of the Temple of Castor and Pollux, located in the Roman Forum at the heart of their city, was undertaken to fulfil a vow (votum) made by Aulus Postumius Albus Regillensis in gratitude at the Roman victory in the Battle of Lake Regillus in 495 BC. The establishing of the temple may also be a form of evocatio, the transferral of a tutelary deity from a defeated town to Rome, where cult would be offered in exchange for favor.[36] According to legend, the twins fought at the head of the Roman army and subsequently brought news of the victory back to Rome.[18] The Locrians of Magna Graecia had attributed their success at a legendary battle on the banks of the Sagras to the intervention of the Twins. The Roman legend may in fact have had its origins in the Locrian account and possibly supplies further evidence of cultural transmission between Rome and Magna Graecia.[37] The Romans believed that the twins aided them on the battlefield.[9]"

11b) A  frequent  god revelation is found in Herodotus, with an English translation by A. D. Godley. Cambridge. Harvard University Press. 1920.  Herodotus Book II, Chapter 91

 "The Egyptians shun using Greek customs, and (generally speaking) the customs of all other peoples as well. Yet, though the rest are wary of this, there is a great city called Khemmis, in the Theban district, near the New City. In this city is a square temple of Perseus son of Danae, in a grove of palm trees. Before this temple stand great stone columns; and at the entrance, two great stone statues. In the outer court there is a shrine with an image of Perseus standing in it. The people of this Khemmis say that Perseus is seen often up and down this land, and often within the temple, and that the sandal he wears, which is four feet long, keeps turning up, and that when it does turn up, all Egypt prospers." 

I give credit to http://www.talkreason.org/articles/list.cfm by Naftali Zeligman for this revelation.


11c) "...prophecies are fulfilled via miracles which are indeed witnessed by the Aztec people". - see https://peltarepublic.wordpress.com/2014/02/05/kuzari-a-response-to-dovid-gottlieb-david-greenberg-and-meir-goldberg/ and http://bpelta.blogspot.com/2010/12/kuzari-principle-proof-from-mass.html both by Mark Pelta


12) When  religion, geopolitics, nation-state Gods, nationalism, state politics, money, land, priests and superstition are thrown into a cauldron, just about anything may come out.  

13) Per Torah law - outspoken recalcitrants were killed or excommunicated - no wonder the Sinai myth self perpetuated. Also, for political reasons it is useful for all the tribe to ‘believe’ in the story since religion or myth can be used to unite a people. For example the mythical Nazi ideological propaganda (of master race) was used to unite. The Torah claim that god appears to a tribe in a desert and makes them his chosen may serve a similar propaganda function. 

And Rashi says as much on Genesis 1:1
For if the nations of the world should say to Israel, “You are robbers, for you conquered by force the lands of the seven nations [of Canaan],” they will reply, "The entire earth belongs to the Holy One, blessed be He; He created it (this we learn from the story of the Creation) and gave it to whomever He deemed proper When He wished, He gave it to them, and when He wished, He took it away from them and gave it to us.....

AR - P 74 “The appeal to the divine as the sanction of the moral order was a powerful tool of social control.”

{ETA 12/15/2105 Regarding the propaganda potential of the Exodus Story -  We read in A Theologico-Political Treatise, by Benedict de Spinoza, [1883] http://sacred-texts.com/phi/spinoza/treat/tpt10.htm regarding Miracles

"...among the early Jews who saw the Gentiles round them worshipping visible gods such as the sun, the moon, the earth, water, air, &c., and in order to inspire the conviction that such divinities were weak and inconstant, or changeable, told how they themselves were under the sway of an invisible God, and narrated their miracles, trying further to show that the God whom they worshipped arranged the whole of nature for their sole benefit: this idea was so pleasing to humanity that men go on to this day imagining miracles, so that they may believe themselves God's favourites, and the final cause for which God created and directs all things." }

14) The Torah story contains etiological myths - for example the thigh sinew became prohibited based on a story of Jacob fighting with a supernatural being. Sabbath  was sanctioned based on an etiological myth. The ancient Israelites may have accepted these stories to explain why certain rituals were performed. For example White Buffalo Calf Women story is used to explain certain certain Sioux rituals. These kinds of stories are most likely providing justification or explanations for an already extant practice.  

15)  Extreme and unusual natural events occur in the world. Perhaps the eventual acceptance of a false Sinai story was such an unusual event. Crop failure, enemy invasion, political strife, charismatic leaders or dictatorial authorities, propaganda, desperation  etc: created extreme conditions.  (These are not inventions for one familiar with ancient Israelite's turbulent  history.)

Those conditions combined with pervasive  strong previous superstitions beliefs could have fostered the eventual acceptance of the Sinai story. It is certainly one possibility and would be consistent with natural physical reality as opposed to all miracles in the Sinai story.  

  The Native American Ghost Dance evolved to the point people thought they would be immune to the white man's bullets. Tragically they were not and many died. In desperation people can come up with and believe falsehoods. The ancient Israelites were sandwiched between very powerful empires - what else could the Israeites hope for but Yahweh the Divine Warrior. It was very sad indeed. It could have gave rise to the entire State religion and a State God. Once the Jews were exiled - (meaning their God Yahweh had forsaken them) - the tribe invented an excuse - he had punished them for sins. This excuse for evil befalling a common ancient near east belief. And the rest is history.}

16) From this post here are some additional comments. 

Recall the golden calf Sinai incident, and the golden calves erected in Northern Israel by King Jeroboam. Exodus 32:4 and I Kings 12:28 say of them: This is / These are your God, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt. 

For Kuzari argument proponents:

A1) It is difficult to convincingly account for the Israelites  ‘witnessing’ god at Sinai and then almost  immediately making a golden calf and claiming  this is your god.

A2) It would also mean the Sinai Israelite's were not such good witnesses. Confusing G-d with Idols

B) How could the Northern Israelites accept the King’s affirmation ? Would not the Israelites say it is a false assertion and we have not heard such from our fathers ? 


C) Kuzari proponents argue for an unbroken oral tradition, yet so much of the Torah translation and Israelite tradition has been lost. The dietary laws a case in point.

17) { From this post Human Sacrifice in the Bible

Where was the unbroken chain of oral tradition when Jephthah sacrifices his daughter. Even if apologetics claims the daughter went monastic - such a tradition in not found in Judaism either.}

CONTINUED IN Kuzari Part 3

----------------------------

AR- Ancient Religions (Johnston Editor) 2007 

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