Click this link for TOPICAL INDEX OF POSTS

About Me

Sorry no longer take comments. Post's 'labels' are unreliable for linking or searching. Use the INDEX OF POSTS instead. 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.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Some Reasons to Reject Orthodox Judaism

UPDATED THRU 3/23/2016, 8/27/2016 3/21/2017  , 5/27/2017  5/30/2017

{ETA May 27, 2017 Some religious people think Atheists and Theists share equal burdens of proof. Or some Orthodox Jews think that if an Atheist can not disprove Orthodoxy that there is parity. My  post Proof of God Burden explains the greater burden of proof falls on Theists. {ETA May 30, 2017 - The burden of proof falls more greatly on Theists.}In addition, my blog posts provide strong arguments against the Orthodox Jewish narrative.}

1) Archaeologists and historians do not think Jewish history happened the way described in the Torah.

For example: "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." Ancient Religions (Johnston Editor) 2007

And from page 102 of the book Slaying the Dragon 1992 by Bernard Batto "A more recent assessment recognizes that the biblical narrative in the book of Genesis through Joshua owes more to folkloric tradition of the ancient near east than to historical genre and cannot be used to reconstruct an authentic history of ancient Israel." And on page 126 Regarding the Exodus from Egypt "...we are dealing primarily with a developing literary tradition that owes as much or more to myth as to history."

{ETA 5/19/2014 The Bible Unearthed I. Finkelstein, N. Silberman 2001 Page 118 “There was no mass Exodus from Egypt. There was no violent conquest of Canaan.”}

{ETA 9/22/2104 "The scholarly consensus is that the story of Exodus is not historical." Page 15 The Bible A Biography by Karen Armstrong  2007 }

{ETA 9/28/2014 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 ." } 

(Not even Kenneth Kitchen or James Hoffmeier defends a mass exodus anywhere near the scale of of 600000 from Egypt.)

{Notwithstanding the above commentary above, it is very possible there was an 'Exodus' from Egypt, but on a much smaller scale. In short, Moses, Levites, a mixed multitude and some Israelites escape Egypt perhaps during plagues. They eventually make there way to Canaan where they probably had at least some kin.The large figures in the Torah are embellishments or uncertain translations or had some other significance.}  

{ETA 9/21/2014 Other problematic history of the Torah include:

See Noah Flood Story Apologetics - posts added 11/3 and 11/4 2016

Genealogy of mankind

Babel as origin of language diversity. }

2) Too many Torah ancient near east parallels: prayers, expressions, myths, rituals, laws, theophany, temple construction and rituals, and conceptions in general.

{ETA 6/13/2014 - Is the Torah divine or a result of ancient near east thinking ? Since the Torah has many indications of being the result of ancient near east culture, it is more likely it was a man made text and not divine. Surely a divine text would have been more creative.}

{ETA 6/23/2014 From the book Ancient Texts For The Study of The Hebrew Bible - Kenton Sparks 2005) Page 430 "The form and content of Hebrew laws are similar and sometimes include provisions that are nearly identical to their Near East counterparts."}

{ETA 6/23/2014 From the Bible and the Ancient Near East by Gordon and Rendsburg 4th edition page 88 "The Ugaritic tablets confront us with so many striking parallels to the Hebrew Bible that is is universally recognized that  the two literatures are variants of one Canaanite tradition"}

The Babylonians and Assyrians believed evil is punishment of a fault that angered the divinity. The Hittites believed the purpose of man was to serve the gods and in return for this service the gods provided various kinds of protections. Otherwise the gods would bring punishments. Both are similar to concepts found in the tanach and still sermonized by Orthodox Judaism to this day.

It appears the Torah author (s) surveyed the ANE (ancient near east) and perhaps other cultures and incorporated many of their laws, expressions, related myths and rituals into the Torah (for example circumcision, niddah taboo, scapegoat ritual, animal sacrifice, incense burning, holy of holy's, etc etc:). 

From page 121 of the book Slaying the Dragon 1992 by Bernard Batto - Yahweh as a divine warrior; from his station in the pillar of cloud can hardly be distinguished from similar descriptions of other ancient near east gods.

{ETA 6/9/2014 Sometimes the Torah’s given reason for a particular ritual parallels the reason other cultures had for it. For example, many of the Torah verses that discuss sacrifices or offering use the expression ‘a sweet savour’ unto the LORD. Similarly in the Gilgamesh Epic, Utnapishtim brings an offering and incense to the gods who smelled the sweet savor. Yom Kippur rituals are stated in the Torah to cleanse pollution , defilement and sin from the people and temple. This is the reason given for similar ancient near east rituals.It indicates a shared way of thinking between the Torah authors and the ane religions and peoples. 

That thinking also included magic potions, wasteful sacrifices, unfair laws, superstitions... all the markings of ancient near east religions and not divinity.

The Pagan posts referred to below show more of these common ways of thinking for example see the Tabernacle discussion Explanations of pagan customs in the Bible Part 3

I am not suggesting the Torah copied all these similar myths, rituals etc: from other ANE religions, but it is possible some borrowing may have occurred with or without modification. In addition, there was cross pollination and likely shared ancient traditions that finds its way into the Torah. A common memory of a great flood for example may have gave rise to the Noah story.}

{ETA 3/23/2016 From the Book Understanding Judaism - Jacob Neusner Editor- 

Beginning Page 35 The [Rabbinic Jewish] belief in the world to come with it’s concomitant belief in bodily resurrection is an importation from Zoroastrian civilization. Both stem from non Jewish sources. }

Many of my posts discuss these parallels. Here are just a few: 

Explanations of Pagan Customs in the Bible

Sabbath and moon-cults

Yom Kippur Origins

Passover Origins and Short Note on Human Sacrifice

Kuzari argument Part 2,  Kuzari Part 3

Tree Animism in the Bible 

Proof of God from Life; Genesis 2:7

Sukkos Feast of Tabernacles Pagan Parallels

Psalms, Ancient Near East Texts, Prayer, Science

3) Torah is not consistent with what we know about cosmology and evolution. 

Only by cherry picking certain commentator's commentary, ignoring those very same commentators scientific errors, at times speculating what those commentators may have meant, ignoring other contradictory commentators, and distorting the Torah text itself, can any sort of reconciliation be reached. The commentators themselves are often themselves speculating on what the Torah text itself means and do not claim they are speaking from divine authority. Apologetics engage in mental contortions to make the Torah fit with scientific knowledge. These gymnastics would not be required if the Torah was divine. 

{ETA 6/6/2014 Some apologetics claim some parts of the Torah are not meant to be factual or the story needs to be reinterpreted.  If so why did God write those deceptive parts in the Torah ? Furthermore, if some parts are not factual it is possible all the Torah's factual statements are not meant to be factual. The Torah provides no guidance when it means not to be factual and when it means to be factual. }

{ETA 7/24/2014 When conflicts arise between the Torah and science or other academic disciplines, some  apologetics reinterpret the Torah to resolve the disparity. But is this intellectually honest ?

A) The same approach can be used with any ancient text. We can creatively retrospectively reinterpret any ancient text or myth to be consistent with science.

B) Why would the Torah author (allegedly God)  place stumbling blocks before us ? Moreover, it would mean the Torah misled older generations with falsehoods.

C) How are we to know we now have the correct interpretation ? And of course as science changes the reinterpretation much change as well.

D) If everything can be reinterpreted, then everything that is written has no meaning. The Torah  becomes a useless document. Put another way, it becomes like clay to mold to suit one’s purpose.

E) It is non falsifiable. When a Torah verse  is consistent with science, apologetics say see the Torah was right all along. (Of course, just because a Torah verse may be consistent with science proves nothing, see   proof-of-god-from-secrets-in-holy-texts .But when a Torah verse is inconsistent with science the verse is reinterpreted. 

ETA 7/28/2015 F)  The stories in Genesis have parallels to ancient near east mythology, including a divine garden, tree of life, serpent myths.... And are those ancient near east myths also just allegory/lessons/metaphors ?  Probably not, nor was Genesis likely understood as metaphor by the ancient Israelites. It was the 'science' of the times which is why there are similarities to other ancient near east stories. ETA 10/27/2015 F) needs to be better supported and documented. Some scholars have related certain pagan rituals back to the pagan myths. But this has to be verified if this is true regarding tree of life, serpent myths...and it will require more research.}

See for example:

The Science of God by Schroeder - His Chapter 9. Also see Chapter 1 ,   Chapter 2 ,  Chapter 3  and Chapter 4

Proof of God from Life; Genesis 2:7

The Challenge of Creation (By Rabbi Slifkin) - my evaluation

4) No reason anybody should accept the extraordinary claims of the Torah without extraordinary evidence.

There is no extraordinary evidence for any of extraordinary claims of Orthodox Judaism or the Torah. 

For example see: 

A series of posts on the Kuzari Argument begun here.

Rabbi Kelemen Permission To Receive - Unusually Ethical Jews

Gematria as proof of divinity of Torah 

Proof of God From Hebrew

Proof of God from Coincidences in Bible and Hebrew 

Circumcision as proof of divinity of Torah

Proof of God From Secrets In Holy Texts

Proof / Disproof of God based on Fallow

Proof of God based on Claim of Prophecy of Nazis in the Talmud

Proof of God from Gaza Rockets

Proof of God from Prophecy

Proof of God from Guarantees or Holy Sage Statements 

Proof of God from Israel

Proof of God from Purim Fest 1946 or Prophecy of Nazis in Megillah 

Proof of God From Kosher Animals

Proof of God from Miracles

Proof of God from the Gaps, Sherlock Holmes, and Absence of Evidence

5) The Torah has doublets, triplets, anachronisms, contradictions,and third person reports. Not what is expected from a book claimed to be written by God and given at a single specific location and time at Mount Sinai around 1200 B.C. (eta - , some may say around 1300 BC or earlier. The date is of no relevance to this discussion). 

Orthodox Judaism attempts to explain the numerous Torah contradictions, doublets, third person reports and triplets through ad-hoc approaches. In addition, anachronisms may be interpreted as miracles of prophecy or Orthodoxy may argue against the existence of some of the anachronisms. Each 'problem' requires a separate  explanation.

But the consensus of academic scholars is there are real anachronisms in the Bible. A comprehensive explanation for the doublets, triplets, anachronisms, contradictions,and third person reports is provided by modern bible scholars that rely on some version of the Documentary Hypothesis. {ETA - I use the the term Documentary Hypothesis broadly and to include scholars who advocate 'multiple oral traditions' and the like.}

For a discussion of some of these doublets, triplets, anachronisms, contradictions,and third person reports see the book Who Wrote the Bible by Friedman. On Page 28 of the 1997 edition:

"At present however,there is hardly a bible scholar alive in the world ....who would claim that the five books of Moses were written by Moses - or any one person."

[Linguistic analysis has established the relative chronology of portions of the Bible. Some portions of Torah are as far from each other as Modern English is to Shakespearean]. 

{ETA  10/31/2015 And from Jewish Publication Society - the Jewish Study Bible copyright 2004 Berlin and Bretter Editors. Page 2065 Explains that the oldest Hebrew in the bible is found in several poems replete with archaic looking features of morphology. Amongst the most striking are Genesis Chapter 9 Blessing of Jacob, Exodus Chapter 15 Song of the Sea, Numbers Chapter 23-24 Balaam Parables, Deuteronomy Chapter 32 Song of Moses, Deuteronomy Chapter 33 Blessings of Moses.  However, most of the rest of books of the Bible from Genesis thru Kings and portions of prophets are in Classical Biblical Hebrew - the Hebrew of the first temple period.}

Bible scholars say the evidence supports the notion that Torah was written over many generations and by more than one author. Such a simple single notion explains all the doublets, triplets, anachronisms, contradictions,and third person reports in one fell swoopIt is the preferred explanation because of the Occam razor principle. In addition, it has the power to explain virtually all the  items listed in this post in one fell swoop, as opposed to all the ad hoc apologetic explanations, and so again by Occam's Razor it is the preferred explanation.

See my post Who Wrote the Torah

6) Torah has magic rituals, taboos and questionable laws. In short not what people would expect from a God given text. 

{ETA 6/13/2014 - Is the Torah divine or a result of ancient near east thinking ? Since the Torah has many indications of being the result of ancient near east culture, it is more likely it was a man made text and not divine. Surely a divine text would have been more creative.}

 See for example:

Explanations of Pagan Customs in the Bible and some notes on Rambam

'Cut Off' in the Bible

'Statute Forever' in Bible

Suspected Adultery and the Bible Remedy

The Bible the Priests The Female and Disabled

The Bible the Brother and the Widow

The Bible Serpent and Magic

7) Circumcision - Considering it was practiced in ancient Egypt in addition to other ancient societies and entails dangers it is virtually inconceivable circumcision was ordained by God.

{ETA 4/6/2014 Some apologetics claim circumcision improves the health. If so that would imply God created all people with an inborn defect, not something expected from God.} {ETA 10/28/2015 And if circumcision is beneficial,  is it not cruel of God to not reveal this information to non circumcising gentiles. Recall circumcision was for Abraham and his progeny. How can one defend such a cruel God ? If circumcision was beneficial to the  Israelites, they could have discovered it by observation of infections and trial and error. It was then attributed to their God's instructions. }

See for example:

9) The Shoah

Yahweh was put on trial and found guilty in the concentration camps of the 1940's (figuratively and I have heard 'stories' of actual trials). Moreover, Yahweh if  truly Omnipotent could have achieved his ends in a more humane fashion.  So either Yahweh is evil or not Omnipotent or non existent.

{ETA 4/3/2014 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.} 

{ETA 6/12/2014 Any god that could have prevented but allowed the holocaust to occur, is not a god anybody should make excuses for, nor one anybody should worship. For all practical purposes no evidence of gods interfering with human affairs, so why bother with gods ?}

10) {ETA 9/12/2015 Oral Tradition 

In many of my posts I have a limited discussion of  "Oral Traditional" and Orthodox Judaism with regard to the specific topics of the posts. I  intended to write a long post about it in general. Kefirahoftheweek together with the comment section is a good refute to the Oral Tradition-Orthodox Jewish narrative. There is much more to add and I hope to get around to it one day. For example: There are statements in the Talmud and Tenach to the effect that at least portions of Jewish Laws/ Torah/Traditions etc:  where lost only to to be rediscovered/ deduced/regiven etc:...Moreover, there is a Talmudic discussion that Moshe himself descends from heaven and witnesses a Talmudic session, and is unfamiliar with the session's discourse.  There is much more to be written. 

ETA See the sequence of posts begun at Jewish Oral Tradition Part 1 Introduction 

No comments: