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.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Proof of God from Israel

Updated 2/9/2015 ; Updated 2/27/2016 to add a link to amazing military victories. 

Essentially the proof is something like this:

The rise of the State of Israel in 1948, over 2000 years  since the Jews lost independent statehood,  is so remarkable that God must be involved. Moreover, it was a fulfillment of Bible prophecy.

For refutes to the above See  both Proof of God from Jewish Survival, Suffering and the Bible Predictor  and Proof of God from Prophecy 

A related argument is Israel's victory in the 1948 Arab- Israeli was due to a miracle.

Let  me preface this discussion by saying my intent is not to denigrate the brave, heroic, resourceful  Israeli soldiers, nor the sacrifices they and others made during the war of Independence. Nor should this be construed as taking sides against Israel. My only goal is to determine the degree to which we can attribute supernatural involvement in the war. 

Was Israel’s victory in the War of Independence a miracle ?

I may reply throughout history there have been occasional significant military upsets where the ‘underdog’ wins or holds out much longer than expected against overwhelming odds. Here are just three examples:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Annual 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_War 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Thermopylae

 Are not those battles amazing miracles ?

{ETA 2/27/2016  Came across this list of many amazing  military victories see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_military_disasters }



Remarkable military events do occur in history and they do not require invoking supernatural beings for explanations. Sometimes even chance can play a role. 

Moreover, experts have provided numerous reasons for the success of Israel during the war, negating the need to cite supernatural intervention. 

"On May 14, [1948] the State of Israel was proclaimed and immediately recognized by the Soviet Union and the United States. On the following day, as the British announced the end of their mandate in Palestine, the armies of Egypt, Transjordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq entered the country with an estimated total of 21,500 troops - no match for Israel's estimated 65,000. Within less than a month the failure of the Arab intervention became certain."
Source History of Syria and Palestine page 961 Encyclopaedia Britannica volume 17, 15th edition 1974

A different evaluation of the relative number of troops  and a more balanced view is found in the Yoev Gelber link below

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During WWII there were thousands of well trained Jewish soldiers who fought on the side of the Allies, including the British trained Jewish Brigade. Some of those soldiers assisted in the formation of Israel. 

{ Jewish Ghetto fighters from WWII also assisted Israel}

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From our great Jewish Leader Golda Meir  (http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Golda_Meir)


  • We have always said that in our war with the Arabs we had a secret weapon — no alternative. The Egyptians could run to Egypt, the Syrians into Syria. The only place we could run was into the sea, and before we did that we might as well fight.
    • As quoted in LIFE magazine (3 October 1969), p. 32

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Israel Studies An Anthology: The Israeli-Arab War of 1948
by Yoav Gelber (July 2009) found at this link http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/isdf/text/gelber.html provides a good discussion of some of the issues. Here are some excerpts

"In war, the stronger belligerent almost always wins and the Israeli War of Independence was no exception to this rule. A detailed examination of the balance of power reveals that throughout most of the war, excluding the period from the outset of the invasion on May 15 until the first truce in June 1948 the Jews were superior in personnel, equipment, logistics and organization. However, in the first month after the invasion the Arab armies enjoyed a considerable superiority in the air, artillery and light armor.

Moreover, the Jewish troops were exhausted after six months of combat and had already sustained heavy losses in manpower and equipment. By contrast, the invading Arab formations were fresh and complete. Nonetheless, even at this stage, the expeditionary forces and their local auxiliaries were quantitatively inferior to the Yishuv’s mobilized manpower. Throughout the rest of the war, the Haganah and the IDF remained stronger both qualitatively and quantitatively.

This statement deserves an explanation. As in most statistics, a comparison here is unfair. The figures on the Israeli side include the entire military to the last clerk of the Second Echelon. The Arab troops dispatched to Palestine consisted of combat and combat-support troops while their logistic infra-structures, GHQs and base depots remained behind. In a comparison of the numbers of combatants and fighting-support troops, adding the Palestinian auxiliaries to the Arab expeditions, the Israeli superiority would shrink considerably and the ratio would be close to equality."

“The Israeli narrative of “few against many” has been based on popular myth. Ben-Gurion had denied it during the war and repeated the denial long after it ended. Nonetheless, this popular narrative reflected an authentic anxiety in the Yishuv.”

“.... Israel’s military superiority was still insufficient to explain the final outcomes of the war. Ultimately, the enormous Jewish advantage laid in the social, organizational and technical infrastructure behind the troops and the successful transformation and application of these factors in the military sphere.”

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A History of Modern Israel Colin Shindler 2008

Beginning Page 44 Israel feared annihilation if they failed. Arab Invading force - 22000 to 28000 troops + several thousand irregulars. Israel -fielded 27000 to 30000 troops plus a home guard of 6000 and 2000-3000 Irgun.  Arabs had overwhelming superiority of aircraft and heavy weaponry. 

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A History of Israel - Sachar 1996

P 317 -  By May 12 - Israel mobilized 30000, not much smaller than Arabs.   Arabs have superior fire power plus an air force. But Jews have better military experience and are dedicated. Israel has other military advantages. For example - Israel’s  Yigael Yadin who had expert knowledge of the terrain. The Jews were excellent street fighters.  Arabs also had other advantages as well. 
The book explains the overall poor training, or poor motivation, or poor morale of most of the Arab armies. 

Page 325  June 11, 1948  - truce. By this date Israel has been fighting a bit under 4 weeks since the start of the entrance of the Arab armies into the war, and during this truce many new recruits, fighter planes, bombers, armaments and more come into Israel.

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Under Fire Israels 20 year Struggle for Survival 1968  Donald Robinson Editor

Beginning Page 91 How Israel won the War of Independence 1948-1949 by George Herald

Egyptians - brave but poorly trained.

To avoid being bombed to death Israel had underground shelters including at least one with an underground hospital. [I recall reading another source that Israel had  safe munitions factories, some antitank and some anti aircraft weapons.] 

Israelis- obstinate courage, surprise commando raids. Had made better use of psychological tactics such as bluffing and propaganda.

 Israelis - a long tradition of self defense and military leaders and trainers since at least 1907.

During the siege of Jerusalem  Fritzel developed a superior range  mortar, perhaps the longest range available. Brigadier Dori - “God knows whether we would have won the war if Fritzel had not developed the superior mortar”. 

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Mordechai Bar-On an  Israeli Company commander says Israelis victory as a divine miracle is a false image. He goes on to explain why. (Beginning Page 37 Making Israel 2007 - Edited by Benny Morris). 

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Avi Shlaim - “The final outcome of the wars was thus not a miracle but a faithful reflection of the underlying Arab-Israeli military balance.”  (Beginning Page 134 Making Israel 2007 - Edited by Benny Morris). 

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To summarize some history I have read, and reasons I have read for Israel’s success. 

Israel initially had a big disadvantage - virtually a non existent air force and lack of big fire power, (the Israelis had some anti aircraft weapons and anti tank weapons.)  The Arabs had superior air force and fire power, had some geographic strengths such as controlling key arteries. There was probably British Hostility towards Israel.  Initially, Israel was at risk of losing the war against the combined armies of the Arabs.

 What are some of the factors playing a role in Israel’s victory - Maybe the  Fritzel, determination not to be driven into the sea, fighting ability they had developed since early 1900's, external and internal help from WWII and ghetto veterans, superior propaganda and bluffing, ability to get significant human reinforcements - planes- arms, taking calculated but risky operations, shorter communication lines, united politically and militarily.  The Arabs were mostly poorly trained, poorly motivated, (lacked military experience ?) , had longer communication and land supply lines, were not coordinated, were not united, had poor military intelligence of the Jewish fighting forces, and had conflicting interests (this is still true today). 

The Orthodox Jewish claim that Yahweh is fighting on behalf of Israel, is no different than the claims of other ancient peoples claiming their own god(s) fight on behalf of their own side. For example the Mesha Stele - Moab's god  Kemosh fights on Moab's behalf  against  Israel. 

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."}

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Proof of God from Prophecy

Updated 2/27/2015 

A text or individual makes a 'prophecy' for an event. The event came to occur. Thus the text must be of divine origin or the individual had divine information. Thus, God exists.

(I am using the term God to include something supernatural.)

Related posts are Proof of God from  Jewish Survival, Suffering and the Bible Predictor ;  Proof of God from Guarantees or Holy Sage Statements ;  Proof of God from Israel ; and a series of posts began with Proof of God from Fallow.

Many ancient cultures had 'prophets'. 

Section One will discuss the requirements for a text passage(s) or individual statement(s) to qualify as a prophecy. A failure to match any of the requirements disqualifies the text passage(s) or individual statement(s) from being considered evidence of a prophecy. There may be some overlap amongst the requirements.

Section Two will apply the requirements to Bible passages that are claimed by some Orthodox Jews and others proves the Torah is Divine.

Section One - Prophecy requirements

1) Open Ended. The prophecy must not be open ended or something inevitable. For example ‘There will be a great flood in China.' Given enough time a flood may occur in China.

2) Vagueness. The event being prophesied cannot be vague. The event must not be subject to retroactive interpretation so that many different outcomes may fit the event. For example 'a great war will erupt in Europe.'  Many great wars could qualify.

3) Impressiveness. The prophecy must be impressive. For example. ‘A great ruler Joe will arise in the North America'. Joe is a common name and given enough time a Joe (or a variant of the name Joe) may become a ruler someplace in North America. By luck or chance a 'prophecy' can  become fulfilled. 

Could a reservoir of available knowledge allow a text or individual to make a prediction that has a good chance of occurring.  Consider a  geographic region gathering momentum towards becoming independent. If a  text or individual makes the prophecy of nationhood that actually does become fulfilled, it would not be impressive. Or consider a nation surrounded by numerous powerful enemies. The prophecy is 'the nation will succumb to a violent destruction.’ 

4) Prophecy Date. We must be certain the date of the prophecy of an event is made before the event occurred. We must be certain the prophecy was not modified or written after the event. 

5) Controllability. The event being predicted cannot be susceptible to being controlled. This is similar to self-fulfilling prophecy wherein there is control of the event's occurrence or the possibility of influencing  the chance of it occurring.  

6) Fulfillment. A prophecy is made for a certain described event. Yet the outcome does not match the details of the description of the event.  

7) False Prophecies. If the text or individual makes many prophecies, were any not fulfilled ? If so, it suggests the non divine nature of the holy text, or the individual lacked supernaturally derived information. It suggests chance may have played a role regarding prophecies that are fulfilled. 

8) Intent. It must be certain from the holy text verses or from the individual making the statement that an actual prophecy was intended. Are they just warnings ? Are they just opinions ?  Are they propaganda for a certain agenda ? Are they to give hope ? An example -  'If nation XYZ  does not worship the nation's God, it will be destroyed.' 

9) Fulfillment of contingent conditions. Some prophecies are contingent on fulfillment of certain conditions. Have those conditions been met ?  Is it even possible to evaluate if the conditions have been met ?

For example - 'Unless America repents, a disaster will strike it'. How can we evaluate if America repents or not ?  What percentage must repent to avoid the disaster ?  If the disaster occurs, defenders of the prophecy will say it was because America did not repent. If the disaster does not occur they will say America repented 'enough', or God works in mysterious ways.

Some times there may be a 'prophecy' about a past event. This would be similar to Proof of God from Secrets in Holy Texts . We mention here that this kind of backward looking prophecy requires that the 'past event' be something that could not be known to the book or person making the prophecy.

Every ‘prophecy’ offered as evidence of something supernatural suffers from one or more flaws. Some readers may disagree with some of the standards as being too stringent. Considering we are using prophecy to establish supernatural things, stringency is required.

Section Two - a Sample Torah Prophecy 

Some Orthodox Jews and others argue the rise of Modern Israel is fulfillment of  a Biblical Prophecy - Deuteronomy 30 - passages cited below.  

{Indeed, the rise of Modern Israel after 2000 years appears remarkable. Though this post is about prophecy I will briefly discuss this remarkable event. First related discussion is found in my posts Proof of God from  Jewish Survival, Suffering and the Bible Predictor , Proof of God from Israel 

In addition, remarkable historical events do not prove god(s). It would be an argument from ignorance or incredulity. Moreover, there are natural explanations that can account for many remarkable events of history. Discussion providing plausible reasons for the rise of Modern Israel are also found later on in  throughout this post. 

{Lets read the prescient words and 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. 

See (105) Spinoza's 'prophecy'}

Deuteronomy 30:1 And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt bethink thyself among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee, 2 and shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and hearken to His voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul; 3 that then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the peoples, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee. 4 If any of thine that are dispersed be in the uttermost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will He fetch thee. 5 And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and He will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. 6 And the LORD thy God will circumcise thy heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live. 7 And the LORD thy God will put all these curses upon thine enemies, and on them that hate thee, that persecuted thee. 8 And thou shalt return and hearken to the voice of the LORD, and do all His commandments which I command thee this day. 9 And the LORD thy God will make thee over-abundant in all the work of thy hand, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy land, for good; for the LORD will again rejoice over thee for good, as He rejoiced over thy fathers; 10 if thou shalt hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law; if thou turn unto the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul. {S} 11 For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not too hard for thee, neither is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say: 'Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?' 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say: 'Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?' 14 But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it. {S} 15 See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil, 16 in that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His ordinances; then thou shalt live and multiply, and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest in to possess it. 17 But if thy heart turn away, and thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; 18 I declare unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish; ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over the Jordan to go in to possess it. 19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed; 20 to love the LORD thy God, to hearken to His voice, and to cleave unto Him; for that is thy life, and the length of thy days; that thou mayest dwell in the land which the LORD swore unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them. {P}

I will argue the alleged prophecy violates or could potentially violate at least one of the prophecy requirements. My list is only a sample of the potential violations.

Violation of 1) Open Ended

Given sufficient duration, a country can lose it’s independence, regain it, lose it again etc:

Violation of 2) Vagueness

Was the prophecy referring to returning from the first exile or some other exile ? See Violation of 4) Prophecy Date 

Moreover, there are Chassidic (Ultra Orthodox Jewish)  denominations  who do not view the rise of Modern Israel as the fulfillment of Torah prophecy. In fact, some of them even whore after and consort with Israel's enemies. This is where theologians will debate and tell us what the Torah 'really' means.

Violation of 4) Prophecy Date 

Verse 1 - 'And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee...'

The Torah may have been redacted during the exile and so 'these things'  may have already came to pass.  

If the Torah was redacted within temporal proximity of the first exile or during the exile, then the promise of eventual return could be  propaganda. In fact, the Torah may well be referring to a return from the first exile. This is what many Bible Scholars agree on. I will provide only a sampling.

From the book - Self Fulfilling Prophecy - by Jacob Neusner 1987

Page 1  - Regarding the Exile beginning 586 BC: At the that time the exiles, drew together whatever stories, laws, prophecies and other writings and produced the 5 Books of  Moses. The experience of the Exile became part of the Torah in that the promise of the land of Israel is conditional. 

Page 20 "It was only after the destruction of the first Temple of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. that the Torah, that is, the five books of Moses, came into being. A pastiche of received stories, some old, some new, all revised for the purpose of the final authors. It was in the aftermath of the destruction of that Temple and the later restoration of the exiles to the land that the authors wrote the origins of Israel, the Jewish people." 

"From the exile in Babylon in 586 B.C., the authors of the Torah recast Israel's history into the story of the conditional existence of the people; their existence was measured in their possession of the land on condition of God's favor. Everything depended on carrying out a contract: do this, get that, do not do this, do not get that - and nothing formed a given and nothing was unconditional." 

From Jewish Publication Society Deuteronomy Jeffrey Tigay 1996 

Page 432 - Discusses Deuteronomy 4:29-31; 30:1-10 and goes on to explain they were probably not part of the original text but were interpolated during the exile to assure the Jews of that time that if they abandon sinning and return to God, he would return them to their homeland.

However, Deut 30 was written before the rise of Modern Israel. And most bible scholars would probably say before the end of the first Exile.

Violation of 5) Controllability

In the ancient near east certain  god(s) were often associated with certain regions. This was also true for ancient Israel, but eventually Yahweh/El  was freed from a specific region, perhaps as a result of the first exile and destruction of the first Temple. The Jews believed there was a special relationship between the Jews, God, and the promised land. Many still do. After an exile the hope of return developed in full force. It was that hope that leads to self fulfilling prophecy. 

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.  

{Myths and Facts A Guide to the Arab - Israeli Conflict by Mitchell Barb 2006 edition

Page 1 “ A common misperception is that all the Jews were forced into the Diaspora by the Romans after the destruction of the second temple in Jerusalem in the year 70 C.E. and then, 1,800 years later, suddenly returned to Palestine demanding their country back. In reality, the Jewish people have maintained ties to their  historic homeland for more than 3,700 years.”

“Even after the destruction of the second Temple in Jerusalem, and the beginning of the exile, Jewish life in the land of Israel continued and often flourished. Large communities were established in Jerusalem and Tiberias by the 9th century....” The book goes on to explain there was uninterrupted Jewish settlement from the time of Joshua onward.

Page 8 - Late 19th century antisemitism in Eastern Europe and Russia stimulate Jewish immigration to Palestine. Simultaneously - a wave of Jews from Yemen, Morocco, Irag, Turkey motivated by the dream of the ‘Return to Zion’ and a fear of intolerance.}

Violation of 6) Fulfillment 

Verse 3 -  It is likely some of the 10 lost tribes are lost forever. They have not been gathered in as per prophecy. Millions of Jews still reside outside Israel.

Violation of 7) False Prophecies

A valid argument may be made there are ‘prophecies’ in the Tenach that have not been fulfilled. This would require a long post.

Violation of 8) Intent 

The Torah is making vague threats and rewards. Some of them are associated with ancient near east contracts. The rewards are most likely meant to influence behavior or give hope. (See Jewish Survival, Suffering and Bible Predictor. Also see above -  Tigay and Neusner in Violation of 4), 5)). Though the Jews were in exile, God would redeem them if only they maintained there separateness and returned to the code.

Violation of 9) Fulfillment of Contingent conditions

The rise of modern Israel is inconsistent with the Torah's 'prophecy'.

Verse 2-3 explain that if the Israelites return to the Lord and his laws God he will restore Israel's fortunes. But no such 'teshuva', meaning the return to the Lord and his laws ever occurred ! Rather the rise of Modern Israel was probably the result of long latent and overt anti-semitism in Europe which assisted in the birth of both secular Zionism and the Holocaust. After WWII there were many Jews displaced. The world, especially the powerful post WWII Christian nations thought a Jewish homeland would be a solution. Holocaust guilt and Christian theology likely played a role. Israel would also be a useful ally to the USA.

Proof of God from Guarantees or Holy Sage Statements

Updated 1/28/2015  

A holy text / holy sage issues guarantees or commands or orders or advice. It is even possible some of those may entail great risks, national or otherwise. 

It is then claimed the text or individual would not issue such unless they could be backed up. Otherwise, it would falsify the text or individual.  Only God could who could fulfill them or an individual with divine insight would do so.

Hence the text is divine or the individual had divine knowledge. 

My post Proof of God from Fallow discusses that sort of argument

Some discussion is also found in my posts:

Proof of God from Jewish Survival Suffering and Bible Predictor


Proof  of God from Prophecy

Sometimes the individual is just giving opinion/interpretation of holy texts. Or perhaps has reasons to influence his flock's behavior for political, theological or other reasons. They are not meant to be guarantees. 

This is a short post and perhaps I will come back and discuss it more.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Proof of God from Fine Tuning

Updated thru 12/19/2016

Consider the Sun. If it was much closer to the Earth there could be no life on Earth. It is claimed that if various other distances or physical constants such as the charge of an electron were different life could not exist. The conclusion is a Fine Tuner (God) has fine tuned the Universe for Life.

I consider this argument for God one of the least compelling and will not spill much ink discussing it. The argument may be  refuted based on theology, science, reason and logic. Professor of Physics Victor Stenger devotes an entire book The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning on this topic and his refute includes much science. The interested may read his book.

Theology 

The implication of the argument is the Universe is designed for life, in particular Humans. Rambam puts this vanity to rest.

The following two paragraphs are quotes from Rambam's book Guide to the Perplexed. My copy is  translated from the original Arabic text M. Friedlander,second edition, revised throughout.

Page 268 What we have, in truth, to consider is this : The whole mankind at present in
existence, and a fortiori, every other species of animals, form an infinitesimal
portion of the permanent universe. Comp." Man is like to vanity’(Ps.cxliv. 4) ;
" How much less man, that is a worm ; and the son of man, which is a worm "
(Job xxv. 6) ; " How much less in them who dwell in houses of clay"
(ibid. iv. 19) ; “Behold, the nations are as a drop of the bucket”(Isa. xl. 15).
There are many other passages in the books of the prophets expressing
the same idea. It is of great advantage that man should know his station,
and not erroneously imagine that the whole universe exists only for him.
We hold that the universe exists because the Creator wills it so ; that mankind
is low in rank as compared with the uppermost portion of the universe,
viz., with the spheres and the stars ; but, as regards the angels, there cannot
be any real comparison between man and angels, although man is the highest
of all beings on earth ; i.e., of all beings formed of the four elements.

Page 274 Those who hold this view, namely,
that the existence of man is the object of the whole creation, may be asked
whether God could have created man without those previous creations, or
whether man could only have come into existence after the creation of all
other things. If they answer in the affirmative, that man could have been
created even if, e.g., the heavens did not exist, they will be asked what is the
object of all these things, since they do not exist for their own sake but for
the sake of something that could exist without them ? Even if the Universe
existed for man's sake and man existed for the purpose of serving God, as has
been mentioned, the question remains, What is the end of serving God ?
He does not become more perfect if all His creatures serve Him and comprehend
Him as far as possible ; nor would He lose anything if nothing existed
beside Him. It might perhaps be replied that the service of God is not
intended for God's perfection ; it is intended for our own perfection, it
is good for us, it makes us perfect. But then the question might be repeated,
What is the object of our being perfect ? We must in continuing the inquiry
as to the purpose of the creation at last arrive at the answer, It
was the Will of God, or His Wisdom decreed it ; and this is the correct
answer.

{Rambam is one of the most respected Theologians. This is not to say all Theologians would agree with Rambam}

Logic and Reason

Does it not seem extremely inefficient  to 'create' billions of planets just so the conditions for life are appropriate on some planets ?

Why start the Universe and then wait billions of years to ‘make’ Earth and then wait billions of years more to 'make' life ?

It is not that the Universe is fine tuned for life, rather life is fine tuned to the Universe. If the Universe conditions were sufficiently different, then life as we know would not exist. Perhaps some other form of life would emerge.

In general the Universe is inhospitable to life. In the long run many Scientists write life in the Universe will end. Even on Earth the environment was hostile to life for billions of years. It is still hostile to living things.

There may be scientific reasons why certain physical constants must be what they are. Scientists tell us the laws such as conservation of energy, mass, momentums are a consequence of certain symmetries. For example there is no privileged place regarding when and where physics experiments are performed. Perhaps a principle will be discovered that will explain why the physical constants are what they are. It may be discovered some of the physical constants need to be correlated with each other, meaning they are not independent.

{ETA 12/19/2016 Page 38 Quantum Field Theory In  A Nutshell by A. Zee 2003. "So you can say that in some sense ultimately the inverse square law comes from rotational invariance !"

[The implication is the inverse square law as found in the force of repulsion or attraction of electrical charges is not given by God. It has to do with certain symmetries.]

Lets assume the unlikely premise that the Universe is fine tuned for life. Plugging God in to explain why it is Fine Tuned is known as the God of the Gaps fallacy.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Tree Animism in the Bible

Updated thru 9/9/2016

Many present day religious Jews, especially the so called ‘rationalists religious Jews’, think their lofty  philosophical conceptions and discussions of God-Judaism such as  Monotheism ,  The Transcendent, The Prime Mover, The Big Banger, Proofs of God,  (alleged) real ‘science’ in the Torah, (alleged) lack of mythological elements in the Torah, (alleged) absence of paganism, were always  part and parcel of Judaism.

This is because ‘embarrassing’ passages,  mythological and pagan elements in the Tenach are often  ignored, sometimes deceptively translated and reinterpreted away in homage to an evolved conception of God. In short, apologetics.

I hope to write a series of posts exploring  Animism, Polytheism, Totemism, Taboo, Magic, and Demonology within the Tenach  in relation to the roots of Judaism.

This post will focus on Tree Animism - Sacred Trees in the Tenach

I use the term animism to include the case where spiritual beings can take up lodging in things such as trees, bushes, streams/springs etc:, stones, mountains.

Some background 

{ETA 1/3/2015 "Oracles and omens from trees and at tree sanctuaries are of the commonest among all races, and are derived in very various ways, either from observation of phenomena connected with the trees themselves, and interpreted as manifestations of divine life, or from ordinary processes of divination performed in the presence of the sacred object."  Smith also explains that in ancient times - sacred energy, that is, a divine life, resided even in the parts of holy trees. (Page 195 Smith see below)}

Wiki Tree worship

“Trees have played an important role in many of the world's mythologies and religions, and have been given deep and sacred meanings throughout the ages”.

“The image of the Tree of life is also a favourite in many mythologies. Various forms of trees of life also appear in folklore, culture and fiction, often relating to immortality or fertility.”

“Other examples of trees featured in mythology are the Banyan and the Peepal (Ficus religiosa) trees in Hinduism, and the modern tradition of the Christmas Tree in Germanic mythology, the Tree of Knowledge of Judaism and Christianity, the Bodhi tree in Buddhism and Saglagar tree in Mongolian Tengriism. In folk religion and folklore, trees are often said to be the homes of tree spirits. Historical Druidism as well as Germanic paganism appear to have involved cultic practice in sacred groves, especially the oak.”

 “Often the tree is famous for oracles. Best known, perhaps, is the oak of Dodona tended by priests who slept on the ground. Forms of the tall oaks of the old Prussians were inhabited by gods who gave responses, and so numerous are the examples that the old Hebrew terebinth of the teacher, and the terebinth of the diviners may reasonably be placed in this category.”

“Many of the world's ancient belief systems also include the belief of sacred groves...”

“Trees were often regarded as sacred in the ancient world, throughout Europe and Asia.”

Wiki Wish Tree - “A wish tree is an individual tree, usually distinguished by species, position or appearance, which is used as an object of wishes and offerings. Such trees are identified as possessing a special religious or spiritual value. By tradition, believers make votive offerings in order to gain from that nature spirit, saint or goddess fulfillment of a wish.”

Tree Animism in the Tenach

Some of my comments may seem  speculative, but others are strongly suggested by the actual Tenach text. 

1) Early in Genesis we see traces of something supernatural with Trees.

 Gen 2: 8 And the LORD God planted a garden eastward, in Eden; and there He put the man whom He had formed. 9 And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. 

Gen 2: 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying: 'Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”

So how long after eating from the tree should Adam die - ‘...for in the  day ...” you eat it you die.
And why should you die ? Was it poison ? Ancient people would ascribe sickness and death to spirits. (Many  Orthodox Jews still do).  So a tree inhabited with spirits  could kill you if imbibed.  

Genesis 3: 4 And the serpent said unto the woman: 'Ye shall not surely die; 5 for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil.' 
 (Rashi explains shall be like Creators of Worlds !) . How can eating from this tree give you this power ? Perhaps because spirits had taken up home in the special tree and by eating from it you obtain supernatural powers.

2) Genesis 12: 6 And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Shechem, unto the terebinth of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land 7 And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said: 'Unto thy seed will I give this land'; and he builded there an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him. 8 And he removed from thence unto the mountain on the east of Beth-el, and pitched his tent, having Beth-el on the west, and Ai on the east; and he builded there an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD. 

Terebinth - a kind of tree.
Moreh - means teacher. 

Meaning Abraham traveled to what was already known as special tree a teaching tree - a kind of oracle, or sacred tree.  Abraham expects a manifestation from the spirit of the tree. No wonder the Lord appears there. Abraham builds an alter next  to the sacred tree.

Sacrificing by and anointing sacred trees was practiced amongst ancient near east cultures.

And we have another secret here. “And the Canaanite was then in the Land.”  Meaning, then in the land, but not when the author is writing the verse. This means the verse was written after the Israelites entered Canaan and so the Torah could not have been given at Mount Sinai.

3) Gen 13:18 And Abram moved his tent, and came and dwelt by the terebinths of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the LORD.

So again Abraham builds an alter by terebinth trees, just like in 2) above. Could it be these were also sacred trees before Abraham arrives there ? 

4) Genesis Chapter 18: 1 And the LORD appeared unto him [Abraham] by the terebinths of Mamre, as he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; 

Taken in conjunction with item 2) and 3) it appears these trees were some kind of sacred grove. The  Lord would manifest himself by the sacred trees.  

{ETA 3/9/2016 From the book Torah and Flora by Louis Rabinowitz 1977 - Beginning on page 5  Regarding Genesis 12-17 - most commentators regard the hebrew word eilon to refer to a tree [ as in the translation above which uses a terebinth]. Also, "It is obvious from the scriptural passage that the eilon of moreh [translated above as a kind of tree and teacher]  was a significant landmark even before the advent of Abraham, and that it's significance belongs to the Idolatrous pre-patriarchal Canaanite era." The word moreh means 'one who teaches' or 'gives instruction' and its a reasonable suggestion it was a sacred tree used for divination and soothsaying. "An oracle." }

{ETA 3/9/2016 The Torah A Modern Commentary by Plaut, Bamberger, Hallo 1981 Page 92 Regarding Genesis 12:6 explains a large tree famed as an oracle. } 

5) Genesis 21:33 And Abraham planted a tamarisk-tree in Beer-sheba, and called there on the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God

Genesis: 26: 23 And he [Isaac] went up from thence to Beer-sheba. 24 And the LORD appeared unto him the same night, and said: 'I am the God of Abraham thy father. Fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for My servant Abraham's sake.' 25 And he builded an altar there, and called upon the name of the LORD, and pitched his tent there; and there Isaac's servants digged a well.

What’s up in Gen 21:33 ? Why plant a tree in Beer Sheba ?  Why is The Torah is teaching us about Abrahams’s gardening activities ?  

'Beer' as in well - an association with water. I hope to write a post  regarding water animism and the Tenach.

What is fascinating ‘sheba’  means seven and we  know seven had mythological significance in the ancient near east. This suggests the location already had very early mythological connotations prior to Abraham planting. 

The significance is either the Beer-Sheeba  tree could have been a sacred tree and the Torah is claiming it was because of Abraham planting it on behalf of the Lord and not because of prior Canaanite beliefs. Or perhaps Abraham is planting a sacred tree in a sacred area or sacred grove.

Then in Gen 26:23 why does the Lord appear in Beer-Sheba ? Could it be the Lord is appearing by the already sacred tree of  Gen 21:33

6) Genesis 35: 2 Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him: 'Put away the strange gods that are among you, and purify yourselves, and change your garments; 3 and let us arise, and go up to Beth-el; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went.' 4 And they gave unto Jacob all the foreign gods which were in their hand, and the rings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the terebinth which was by Shechem. 

 ‘terebinth which was by Shechem’  - must be referring to the tree area from 2) 

So why is Jacob burying the foreign gods under a tree ? Why not crush them or burn them or just bury them any old place ? One explanation is Jacob and company are now with the Lord, who most likely is associated with the sacred tree. The presence of a deity (the Lord) in that tree would keep these other gods under control. Another possible explanation the Idols are being returned to a tree associated with them.

7) Exodus 3: 1 Now Moses was keeping the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the farthest end of the wilderness, and came to the mountain of God, unto Horeb. 2 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush; and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. 3 And Moses said: 'I will turn aside now, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.' 4 And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said: 'Moses, Moses.' And he said: 'Here am I. 5 And He said: 'Draw not nigh hither; put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.' 

Here we have a spirit being of Yahweh associated with a fiery bush. Yahweh himself associated with a mountain and the burning bush most probably on or near that mountain. Yahweh speaking out of the burning bush. 

Deut 33: 13 And of Joseph he said: Blessed of the LORD be his land; for the precious things of heaven, for the dew, and for the deep that coucheth beneath, 14 And for the precious things of the fruits of the sun, and for the precious things of the yield of the moons, 15 And for the tops of the ancient mountains, and for the precious things of the everlasting hills, 16 And for the precious things of the earth and the fulness thereof, and the good will of Him that dwelt in the bush; let the blessing come upon the head of Joseph, and upon the crown of the head of him that is prince among his brethren.

Verse 16 ‘and the good will of Him that dwelt in the bush’

So Deut 33 in conjunction with Exodus 3 has God dwelling in the bush, and is a  fairly clear suggestion of tree animism. 

{ETA 1/3/2015 We find a similar story in Tyre - it was believed that fire played about the branches of the sacred olive tree between the Ambrosian rocks at Tyre, without scorching its leaves. From Page 193 LECTURES ON THE RELIGION OF THE SEMITES -  WILLIAM ROBERTSON SMITH, third edition, 1927}

8)  Judges 4:4  Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, she judged Israel at that time. 5 And she sat under the palm-tree of Deborah between Ramah and Beth-el in the hill-country of Ephraim; and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.

Why does the Tenach go to the trouble of teaching us about a ‘palm-tree of Deborah’ under  which she sits ? The prophetess had a special tree under which she sat  and came up with decisions. A prophetess receives messages from the supernatural. This is suspiciously seems like a sacred oracle tree.

9) Judges 6:11 And the angel of the LORD came, and sat under the terebinth which was in Ophrah, that belonged unto Joash the Abiezrite; and his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites. 12 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him: 'The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour'...... 24 Then Gideon built an altar there unto the LORD, and called it 'Adonai-shalom'; unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites. {S}

Verse 11,24  - again we have an angel of the Lord associated with a tree/bush and an alter is built there.

Speculation - is it possible the original oral tradition had the Lord himself and not his angel ? {ETA 9/9/2016 Notice verse 24 - 'Adonai' may be used a name for G-d. }

10) Judges 9:6 And all the men of Shechem assembled themselves together, and all Beth-millo, and went and made Abimelech king, by the terebinth of the pillar that was in Shechem. 7 And when they told it to Jotham, he went and stood in the top of mount Gerizim, and lifted up his voice, and cried, and said unto them: 'Hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you. 8 The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive-tree: Reign thou over us. 

Why was the Abimelech made King at the terebinth of Shechem (see 2) above ? It is as if the God in the tree is witness or approving the kingship, as verse 8 intimates.

11) 1 Samuel Chapter 14: 1 Now it fell upon a day, that Jonathan the son of Saul said unto the young man that bore his armour: 'Come and let us go over to the Philistines' garrison, that is on yonder side. But he told not his father. 2 And Saul tarried in the uttermost part of Gibeah under the pomegranate-tree which is in Migron; and the people that were with him were about six hundred men, ....17 Then said Saul unto the people that were with him: 'Number now, and see who is gone from us.' And when they had numbered, behold, Jonathan and his armour-bearer were not there.

Why does the Tenach tell us Saul tarries under the Palm Tree ? He later dispenses advice from there. Is this a suggestion of an oracle tree ? 

And in 1 Samuel 31:13 13 And they took their bones, and buried them under the tamarisk-tree in Jabesh, and fasted seven days. Or 1 Chronicle10: 12 all the valiant men arose, and took away the body of Saul, and the bodies of his sons, and brought them to Jabesh, and buried their bones under the terebinth in Jabesh, and fasted seven days. 

Why bury Saul under  a tree ? And there is that magic number seven again.

12) 1 Kings 13:11 Now there dwelt an old prophet in Beth-el; and one of his sons came and told him all the works that the man of God had done that day in Beth-el, and the words which he had spoken unto the king, and they told them unto their father. 12 And their father said unto them: 'What way went he?' For his sons had seen what way the man of God went, that came from Judah. 13 And he said unto his sons: 'Saddle me the ass.' So they saddled him the ass; and he rode thereon. 14 And he went after the man of God, and found him sitting under a terebinth; and he said unto him: 'Art thou the man of God that camest from Judah?' And he said: 'I am.' 

And what does a man of God do ?  Dispenses information from God. And where is he sitting ? Under a Terebinth in Beth-El (maybe the same one as in 6) above). The Tenach goes out of its way to mention a specific tree. A reasonable conclusion the relationship here between a man of God under a Terebinth is suggestive of  tree animism.

13) II Samuel 5: 22 And the Philistines came up yet again, and spread themselves in the valley of Rephaim. 23 And when David inquired of the LORD, He said: 'Thou shalt not go up; make a circuit behind them, and come upon them over against the mulberry-trees. 24 And it shall be, when thou hearest the sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry-trees, that then thou shalt bestir thyself; for then is the LORD gone out before thee to smite the host of the Philistines.

‘sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry-trees’ must mean rustling the leaves and or branches.

This suggests the Lord is somehow within the trees and upon leaving them to do battle  the Lord is marching over the trees causing the  rustling.  To this day many Orthodox Jews believe their warrior God does battle for them. The idea that the tribal god or nation god does battle on their behalf was prevalent in ancient times and even thru modern times. Gott mit uns (meaning God with us) was commonly used on armor in the Nazi German military. See proof of god from gaza rockets ,  proof of god from jewish survival

Conclusion 

I could have supplied  other examples. The numerous examples are highly suggestive that traces of  tree animism, if not outright tree animism were associated with the early beliefs of the  ‘God’ of the Torah. In later times parts of Torah do condemn worship under trees.