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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.

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.

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