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If I could summarize my entire blog into a few paragraphs it would be:
I am presented with an ancient book claimed to be written by a god. The book appears similar to many other ancient texts: beliefs, rituals, magic potions, incorrect science, worship and sacrifice to a god to obtain favors, fables etc:
I ask the individual is there anything in the text itself that points to a supernatural origin ? For example a math formula that could not have been known back then ? He can provide nothing.
I ask is there anything in the book that can be falsified ? For example the book writes a donkey spoke. Now in my world they do not. The man responds, nothing is falsifiable. Either your science is bogus or the donkey did talk (our god can make donkeys talk) or the text does not mean the donkey ‘really’ talked. In short nothing in the book is falsifiable.
I ask given your god exists, can I make any predictions as to what this god would write ? No. He is inscrutable and a total mystery.
I tell the individual we have nothing to discuss. I can not prove your god did not write this book. But is seems the better explanation your book appears the way it does is because it was written by ancient ignorant superstitious humans.
Suppose the individual claims his god is truthful, non deceiving and all knowing, If there are things in that book that seem inconsistent with that claim it suggests the book was not from his god. Rather, the deceptions are in there because the book was written by ancient ignorant humans.
The Torah has the look and feel of something developed over a time by people steeped in ancient near east culture and psychology, and that is probably what it is. If it looks like a duck, waddles like a duck, quacks like a duck, it is probably a duck, or at least that is the most reasonable hypothesis.
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. The burden of proof falls more greatly on Theists. In addition, my blog posts provide some strong arguments against the Orthodox Jewish narrative.
Most of my blog posts and portions within them do not apriori assume G-d wrote the Torah. Rather, given certain information or questions, the issue is whether the Torah is a human text or G-d given text. If it is apriori assumed G-d wrote the Torah, then somebody can respond he is unfathomable and so essentially no question or 'contrary' information is relevant to the issue. On the other hand, the questions or 'contrary' information may raise doubts - in light of so many questions and so much contrary information should I really apriori assume that G-d wrote the Torah ? A believer can respond it is still possible G-d put incorrect science in the Torah. But what is more likely, ignorant ancient people put it in there or G-d did ? Apologetics attempt to reconcile the Torah and Science. They put forth all sorts of speculations, each contradicting other so they all can not be correct and it turns the Torah into a meaningless document.
If an hypothesis is non falsifiable that is considered a strike against that hypothesis relative to another falsifiable hypothesis. Compare G-d wrote the Torah to humans did. The former can not be falsified since G-d works in mysterious ways and has infinite powers. The latter however can be falsified. For example there could be scientific or mathematical information in the Torah that could not have been written by ancient ignorant humans thus suggesting something way beyond ancient humans or even something supernatural.
It is possible to maintain G-d wrote the Torah, but is it probable G-d wrote it ? Is it plausible to maintain G-d gave the Torah ?
Regarding El/Yahweh he has the look and feel of something developed over a time by people steeped in ancient near east culture and psychology, and that is probably what it is. If it looks like a duck, waddles like a duck, quacks like a duck, it is probably a duck, or at least that is the most reasonable hypothesis.
From How To Read The Bible by James Kugel 2007 Page 766 - For those who know modern Scholarship and reckon honestly with it's findings, the Bible has ceased to be a great divine guide book. Instead, the bible looks more and more like a human work, pieces of ancient near east literature. Scholars have shown the bible imperfect and usually the obvious words of men from different periods and social strata and Ideological affiliation.
1) Archaeologists and historians do not think Jewish history happened the way described in the Torah.
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."
The Bible Unearthed I. Finkelstein, N. Silberman 2001 Page 118 “There was no mass Exodus from Egypt. There was no violent conquest of Canaan."
"The scholarly consensus is that the story of Exodus is not historical." Page 15 The Bible A Biography by Karen Armstrong 2007
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.
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) Many Torah ancient near east (ane) parallels: prayers, expressions, myths, rituals, laws, theophany, temple construction and rituals, and conceptions in general.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 G-d write those deceptive parts in the Torah ? Yes, G-d surely does work in mysterious ways. 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.
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 ? Why would the Torah mislead older generations with falsehoods ? G-d surely does work in mysterious ways.
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. Is the Torah divine or a result of ancient near east thinking ? Since the Torah has incorrect information of the kind ignorant humans would write, it suggests human authorship.
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.
A series of posts on the Kuzari Argument begun here.
Proof of God via Jewish Survival, Jewish Suffering, and the Bible Predictor 8/12/13
Proof of God from Israel 1/28/15
Proof of God from Prophecy 1/27/15 - also includes comments on proofs from Israel.
Proof of God from Circumcision by the Jews on the eighth day of life 8/12/13
Proof of God from Gematria ,Bible Codes 7/23/13
Proof /Disproof of God from Kosher Animals 1/10/14
Proof of God from Hebrew 5/15/15 Is Hebrew script divine ?
Proof of God from Purim Fest 1946 or Prophecy of Nazis in Megillah 3/17/15
Proof / Disproof of God based on Fallow 11/25/14
Proof of God from Secrets in Holy Texts (Part 1 and Part 2 3/22/2018} 5/16/14 Included are some examples: Life Span, Moon Renewal, Dead Stars
Kalam Cosmological proof of God repudiated by Theology 2/16/14 - Does Genesis even describe creation Ex-Nihilo ? If not, then the proof backfires.
Proof of God from Life; Genesis 2:7 8/27/16 Pagan Parallels, Genesis false myth
Proof of God from Morality 5/27/14
Circumcision as proof of divinity of Torah
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. 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."
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.
From How to Read the Bible by Kugel 2007 Page 86 - The linguists say Moses could not have written the Pentateuch in the form we have - "...virtually all of it's Hebrew is later than that which putatively existed in the times of Moses."
kefirahoftheweek often shows the Bible scholar explanation is superior than the traditional explanation.
Such a simple single notion explains all the doublets, triplets, anachronisms, contradictions,and third person reports in one parsimonious swoop. In additions it explains all the issues raised in this post in parsimonious swoop. Occam's razor.
See my post Who Wrote the Bible
6) Torah has magic rituals, taboos and questionable laws.
Explanations of Pagan Customs in Judaism with some notes on Maimonides 3/18/14 - includes refutes of Rambam style apologetics
The Bible, the Brother, and the Widow 2/4/14
Suspected Adultery and the Bible Remedy 1/18/14
The Bible, The Priests, The Female and the Disabled 2/17/14
'Cut Off" in the Bible 2/27/14 Are the laws and their punishments divine or just superstitions. Refutes Rambam style apologetics.
The Bible Serpent and Magic 2/26/15
7) Circumcision - It was practiced in ancient Egypt in addition to other ancient societies and entails dangers.
Some apologetics claim circumcision improves the health. If so that would imply God created all people with an inborn defect, not something expected from Omniscient designer G-d. 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. One response is G-d is inscrutable, thus anything that appears negative is due to our limited understanding, and thus the the claim G-d wrote the Torah is a non falsifiable Hypothesis.
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.
The Dangers of Circumcision as found in the Talmud 1/15/14
Circumcision and Maimonides 3/18/14
8) No empirical evidence for God exists. No Philosophical argument for the existence of God survives scrutiny.
See for example the list of proofs in Topical Index
Here is a sample
Proof of God from Thermodynamics 12/19/15 also includes additional refute that God must be the Designer.
Proof of God from Fine Tuning 1/16/15 I do not think Rambam would approve of this argument.
Kalam Cosmological Proof of God - Premises and Conclusion repudiated 6/11/14, includes Laws of nature from God ?
Proof of God from Big Bang 9/8/13
Proof of God from Morality 5/27/14
Proof of God from Origin of Life - 9/2/13
Proof of God through Design 8/20/13
Proof of God from Design Part 2 or Disproof of volution 1/18/16
Proof of God from Ontological Argument
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.
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) 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 http://kefirahoftheweek.blogspot.com/2015/09/lo-bashamayim-hi.html 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.
See the sequence of posts begun at Jewish Oral Tradition Part 1 Introduction