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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, December 29, 2015

Kuzari Part 11

This is a continuation of the Kuzari Argument begun here,  I would suggest skimming all my prior Kuzari posts. 

Here is one version of the Kuzari argument, but similar sentiments  permeate many versions of the Kuzari argument.

“Where the ‘Exodus-Sinai story’ false, it wouldn’t have gotten beyond the innumerable other people - like us but who came before us - who heard it.” Moreover, so many people can not be wrong.

It may surprise where this version of Kuzari argument (the portion in bold face) came from. It is a direct quote and readings from page 103 of the book Rumors by Jean-Noel Kapferer 1990  I simply replaced the book’s word ‘rumor’ with ‘Exodus-Sinai story’ !

[Rumor, myth, legend, urban legend, national tradition,  collective memory, group think overlap sharing much in common and are not a reliable source for truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. ]

Beginning on page 103 from Kapferer  and in regard to the previously cited bolded 'proof'  he has this to say: “ The group is thus assumed to have filtered the rumor before it reaches us.”  This is one reason rumors can spread even amongst intelligent and educated people. In addition: “To believe in a rumor is to manifest one’s allegiance to the group voice, i.e. to collective opinion.” Rumors contribute to social cohesion. [ Tribal allegiance would be very important in ancient times,  and provides ample motivation for beliefs even in the absence of  evidence. Survival of the tribe may depend on widespread beliefs.]


[Kapferer's  book is based on social psychology, crowd psychology and behavior, marketing, individual psychology and other academic disciplines. It is rooted in empirical evidence, in empirical studies of numerous rumors, some in real time as they are evolving. It is rooted  in actual human behavior. It  behooves people who give credence to the Kuzari arguments/principles to spend some time reading such books.]

Page 139 Often rumors have no original truth.  Rumors may result from a constructive process by a group faced with an ambiguous event. [Could a major Volcano eruption be conflated with God(s) by ancient people ? Yes. My prior Kuzari posts documented this amongst several different cultures. Somehow some escaped Israelite slaves manage to survive in the desert.  This could be ascribed to divine intervention. There were probably other  ambiguous events that could lead to the the construction of the Exodus-Sinai stories by a cadre with certain interests.]

Page 178 The book explains regarding rumors of movie stars  “We prefer a story that does us good to a truth that gives nothing.” [And there is no reason why the same should not apply to some rumors, legends, myths and the Exodus - Sinai stories.]

Page 243 “The resistance of certain rumors to facts sometimes surprises observers. For a rumor to spread, it must survive the legitimate objections inevitably raised by the first people who hear it. Reality must thus at least not have been an obstacle to the rumor.”  The book goes on to explain - "But the proliferation of absurd rumors prove rumor is able to surf on the surface of reality and absorb counter-arguments that people put forward. Proofs and counter arguments are turned around allowing the rumor to persist.” [ This is true today, but how much more so in ancient times with widespread belief in supernatural beings interacting with people and other motivations to accept rumors.]

Page 264 “And what we find is that altogether unfounded information can circulate in society as founded information and has the same mobilizing effects” ;

“Social knowledge is based on faith not proof.”


Page 82 The most important reason we believe rumors is the rumors convey information we want to believe. It may overturn our usual criteria of realism, plausibility, the latter being governed by our desire to believe, not the other way around.

Page 84 Rumors we hear often find an echo in us - this due to belonging to a social group whose opinions, values, and attitude we share. The psychological benefits reaped in adopting and participating in rumors clearly justifies our not being punctilious about their plausibility. However, rumors must include a certain dose of realism - meaning given the state of knowledge of the public the rumor was not improbable.

Page 81 A rumor being narrated may have crucial fallacies, but the audience is not in a critical set, but in a participatory set. The story need only recount events that seem possible while we hear the story. In a social setting the unconvinced generally remain silent and no counter-argument put up.

Page 77 “It is the structural ambiguity of most events which makes them a screen upon which we project previously existing images, hypotheses and opinions: the perception of events is self-validating.” 

Then there is the pleasure of grand explanations to win us over - to provide a framed order. [And what a grand tale the Exodus- Sinai stories are. No wonder they become smashing films.]

Page 79 “ A rumor is an explanatory system, i.e a hypothesis that gives order to observations. In general, when a rumor is far fetched or sophisticated, people like it.” 

Page 80 “ As a rumor spreads it becomes more convincing.” Meaning to say - If people are saying the same thing it must be true right ? [One way a rumor gains a wider number of believers. A small group may start a story pass it along until it becomes widely heard.] 

Page 76 Rumors are often accompanied by ‘proofs’ to endow undeniable credibility.  It provide explanatory power for facts around us and satisfies a need for order in the world around us.
[ And is that not what large portions of the Bible are about  ? How the world came to be. From whence the diversity of the various tribes and nations  in the Ancient Near East.  The Israelite's origins and role on Earth. How to maintain the good relations with G-d...] 

Page 65 Rumor credibility is related to specific characteristics of the person we hear it from and the message transmitted to us. [ Would my Father lie to me ? Would Rabbi XYX lie to me ? ...] [ The Jews are the chosen people protected by the warrior god Yahweh who reveals himself at a mountain has a nice ring to it, especially if you are from that tribe.]

Page 70 What is plausible keeps getting broader and broader. [Consider Hammurabi’s claim of a code given to him by god. This can become a whole tribe got the law from god. Or consider some of the extra miracles and fanciful tales added by the midrashim to Exodus story.]

Page 36 The proverb 'where there is smoke there is fire' is ABSURD. Rumors can be 100% false. They may start in the fertile imagination of witnesses, message receivers, people who deliberately start and spread rumors. Also page 45 one reason people spread rumors are to convince. [Think propaganda for example. Could the Exodus - Sinai stories  serve as propaganda ? Sure.]

Page 36 Rumors may begin in a newspaper article that though written with good intention was false. People read it and then begin to believe it. [So the Exodus story was written in a holy text with good intention, yet it was false. It could then become widely believed. The scrolls written up by the Kings and Priests was the press. Many people who found such scrolls or who read them would treat them as truth.]

Page 34 Manipulation and disinformation can spread rumors. [ Could anyone of ancient Israel’s heroes, leaders, scribes desire to manipulate and spread disinformation ? It is not beyond plausibility.]

 Page 32 Rumors may start due to faulty interpretations of messages. The hearers add to or modify the message. Example: WWI the Germans newspaper reports the fall of Anvers into German hands, bells were rung.  This eventually is written up in the paper Le Matin as: It has been confirmed Anvers barbaric conquerors punished priests for heroically refusing to ring church bells by hanging them upside down in the bells. [Certain anti German biases provided a fertile ground for such evolution and belief  in the story. FYI Le Matin was wrong about Anvers.] “Error in fact consists in constructing information according to a plausible scenario, and rumors reflect images and stereotypes that have gained currency.” [ Biases and prior beliefs may determine what is plausible.]

Page 27 “ Sometimes there are no incident or fact or thing seen to spark a rumor."  “The rumors created the fact.” [Portions or potentially all of the Exodus - Sinai  story's may have no basis in reality.]  

Page 24 “A troubling event/fact may give rise to a rumor. The most ‘satisfactory interpretation’ to the group [this can depend on the sort of people in the group. Ancient or Modern. Superstitions or Not. Etc: etc: ] circulates and  in general is PASSED DOWN TO POSTERITY. IT IS THE ONLY INTERPRETATION THAT IS REMEMBERED." [ My caps. For example the Sinai revelation reads like a short official  scripted version of the event rather than a report of all of what actually occurred. It is that version  of events that get passed down. No dissenting voices are recorded. No alternative views are presented.]

Page 23 Rumors arise when info is scarce. Information has value. [ So rumors about one’s history would be welcome in ancient times. Stories about the Israelite's a grand Exodus  would be welcome. ]

Page 21 Rumors can be started by Authority figures such as Pastors. [ The Scribes could thus spread rumors about a people’s history as in the Exodus.  Why should people reject it ? Because the people did not hear such history from their parents ? That presumes the parent would know their own history better than the Authority figure presenting the history. It also presumes knowledge of one’s history was widely known. Such was not the case thousands of years ago. It also presumes people are skeptical. And if we have learned anything from studying  rumors it is that people today and yesteryear are often not skeptical enough. It also presumes that people will reject an Authority figure presentation over a parents. Maybe, but if covered with enough sugar and application of stick the Authority figure’s presentation can gain traction. Authorities also have the means to perpetuate a story.]

Page 27 Testimony can be a source of rumors. Witnesses provide false information with the same self assurance, with same good intention as they provide true information.  What we sustain sometimes reflects more our mental stereotypes that what we have really seen.  Other considerations are the extent of biases, physical state of the witnesses, and their stress level. [Did the ancient Israelites have biases ? High stress levels ? Mental stereotypes ? Yes, Yes and Yes]

I will now switch to another text- Rumor Mills by Fine, Heath Editors 2005.

Page 141 “Collective memory is thus related to rumor in at least two ways. First Collective memories create fertile ground for the reception of rumor, within the structures of collective memory, certain claims ‘make sense’, are linked to a set of beliefs and attitudes about the nature of the social order, and thus appear plausible to the audience of the rumor.”

“Second, Collective memories, including memories of past rumors, can actually contribute to the production of new rumors; speaker may draw upon or refer to past events in their creation of rumor narratives.”

[Recall,  Judaism really starts with Avrahum Avinu (Abraham our Father), not at Mount Sinai. God makes a covenant with Abraham. This could be part of the ancient Israelites collective memory providing fertile ground for new stories such as a new covenant with God at Mount Sinai. In addition, in developing the Exodus- Sinai stories the author(s) could draw on past memories of a law giver such as Moses, the slavery, escape and survival of some of the Israelites in the desert.  These provide pieces of a story to build the grand story of Exodus-Sinai.]

I will now switch to another text- Rumors That Changed The World E. Chirovici 2015.

Beginning Page IX - In ancient times people, ( in part because of their geographical constraints) people did not distinguish between rumor and information. Recent research has revealed that our brains are not designed to make so clear a distinction, using the same cerebral region for the cognitive integration of both. 

Page X - The human psychical world includes 'magical thinking'  and this type of thought is the perfect ecosystem in which rumors can evolve and multiply - and this is still true today. 

Page XII - Rumor can be used to manipulate, dis-inform and  propagandize. 


 I have cited only some of the numerous facts regarding rumor formation, rumor spread, rumor acceptance, rumor use. (There is so much more if you read the literature regarding national tradition, collective memory, rumor, myth formation and marketing.)   Much of what I have posted can be applied to the many potential and plausible natural ways the Exodus and Sinai mythology began, spread and eventually allegedly became to be accepted as true stories by many Jews. At times I  have provided some hints as well.

We need only provide a single natural explanation consistent with ancient near east beliefs, rumor theory and human beings how a story such as Exodus - Sinai could have gained traction. In pasts posts I have already done this. Yet we can provide other scenarios. Given a choice between a natural explanations over a supernatural explanations we choose the former, even if we can not prove exactly which scenario or combinations therof actually occurred. 

The Exodus - Sinai stories could have been sparked by some real historical events, a maximalist approach if you like. Or the stories could have been made up but with some plausible elements to lend credibility, a minimalist approach. Even some works of fiction have factual elements. Also, it is possible the story began amongst a small tribe of people, and the story was passed down generation after generation until it was codified by the scribes and Priests. By then the small tribe had grown in size lets say with 600000 males.  That figure gets codified into the scribal story. Even Kuzari proponents don’t deny a small group of people can be mistaken. Overtime the small population grows it becomes a larger population. 

Continued Kuzari Part 12

Monday, December 28, 2015

Kuzari Argument Part 10

Rabbi Gottlieb (RG) Kuzari Principle: Let E be a possible event which, had it really occurred, would have left behind enormous, easily available evidence of its occurrence. If the evidence does not exist, people will not believe that E occurred.

Some of my previous Kuzari posts (begun here ) have specifically discussed this version of  the Kuzari argument. In addition, some information in  my prior Kuzari posts directly or indirectly apply to the RG version as well. 

This post will now argue the principle is flawed for reasons I may not already have discussed (I can’t remember, as you get older you become more forgetful) and by a new example. 

We find the following in the book Rumour in Orleans by Edgar Morin 1971.

“A rumour of vanishing women that shook an entire town, though not one disappearance was actually reported to the police, the near certain belief, held by thousands of Orlean’s citizens, that a white slave trade was being run from the very heart of town, in the fitting rooms six of dress shops - all Jewish  though neither press, radio, nor television had one word say in support of it; a kind of medieval panic that for several days held a modern town in it’s grip, in the age of mass media; a fantastical sexual threat that suddenly conjured up the grim spectre of anti-Semitism here was story that fascinated me when I first read the account of it in Le Monde, L’Express and Le Nouvel Observateur.”  Edgar Morin had studied this rumor in depth and wrote a book about it. How it starts, spreads etc: 

What is important is the false story came to be believed by thousands  including numerous educated people in the 1960's. The story  consisted of numerous vanishing women,  at one point the count was over 60. At this point I am not sure of the final tally nor if the story began to spread to other regions in France.

(Fortunately the government, police, press, media, and other groups mount a counter offensive to repudiate the story and though the story trickled away, there were still some believers. It is my understanding that even about 20-30 years later (or is it even more ?)  there are French (and others ?) who think the story was true. Some claiming it was 'even written up in the news.' )

Imagine the believers in the story telling the story to their children. Potentially thousands and thousands of their descendants could potentially be believers. Would my Father lie to me ?  How could so many of  my relatives, and community believe it ? Such a story could not gain traction and come to believed by so many people unless there was evidence,  right ?  

Lets apply the RG principle to the initial recipients of the story. 

Event = numerous women have been kidnapped.

Is this an event of type E ? Should there be ‘enormous, easily available evidence of its occurrence” ? Yes. A large number of women disappearing in 1960's Orleans would result in hundreds if not thousands of complaints to officials, the police, the press, the radio, TV, neighbors  etc: etc Such a story would be all over the  newspapers,  radio, TV, police bulletins. Friends and families of the kidnapped women would be coming forward with pleas. All sorts of warnings would be issued by the authorities, churches etc:. Nonetheless, the story becomes believed  by thousands and it took a concerted effort to bring the rumor to a halt.  

One reason the RG principle is problematic is what ‘left behind enormous, easily available evidence of its occurrence’ consists of. How do we evaluate when evidence qualifies as such or does not ?
Easily available to whom ? Who are the people that are determining the evidence ? Who are the people looking for it ?  How would different people interpret the evidence ? Etc: Etc: Arguably very few if any events 'leave behind enormous, easily available evidence' that unambiguously suggest a specific event. This relates to the issue what events qualify as type E.

Another reason the principle is problematic is that people (even large groups of people) do not behave the way RG principle thinks they should. There are many who are not cool, rational,  unbiased and skeptical enough. Especially when it comes to group behavior. Thus such a group may come to believe in a story of an event regardless of the sufficiency of the evidence. Once the story has traction it is passed down to the group’s progeny and even becomes accepted by people outside the group  until we may have thousands and thousands who come to believe the story is true. 

 Maybe the Exodus - Sinai story became accepted by a small group  even without sufficient evidence, (just like the Orleans story began with a small group of people). Eventually the story becomes accepted by thousands.  

Would the Exodus - Sinai stories even qualify as an event of type E ? What sort of evidence was available to the Israelites ? Would that evidence suggest supernatural interventions ? As discussed in Part 9  miracles in the Torah point to natural causes. Even the revelation does so, and  I would suggest reading Part 9 regarding Spinoza's commentary regarding miracles in the Bible, what was reported, how they were reported, why they were reported and how the ancient Israelites perceived events and more. 

The RG principle depends on a link between event and evidence. But this only makes sense for events for which we are familiar with. For events that we know leave behind certain sorts of evidence or for evidence that we know points to certain sorts of events.  Events such as say a fire burned down a house. But we have no experience with supernatural events. What sort of evidence points to supernatural event(s) ? What sort of event(s)  points to evidence of supernatural ? Because that crucial link between event and evidence is broken for something involving supernatural, a case can be made supernatural is outside the scope of the  RG.

What would   'enormous, easily available evidence'  for  supernatural event(s)  such as Exodus-Sinai consist of in ancient times ?  Since the ancient Israelites had  no experience (I am speaking prior to the Exodus-Sinai stories) with supernatural events they would not know what such evidence would consist of. How would anybody be able to determine if the evidence they had corresponds to supernatural or perhaps something else ? The ancient Israelites could also confound natural events with supernatural causes. This is not far fetched since ancient people  would ascribe supernatural involvement for all sorts of natural events. 

Continued Kuzari Argument Part 11

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Proof of God from Miracles or Kuzari Argument Part 9

When writing this post I was not sure to label it Kuzari Part 9  or Proof of God from Miracles because there is overlap. Hence the combined title of the post.

It may be helpful to skim my Kuzari posts first begun here 

When very young in Yeshiva learning the Bible about all the open miracles G-d allegedly wrought on behalf of his chosen people  it was almost like a proof of G-d. We had a tradition of those miracles occurring, so they must of happened right ?  Plus,  G-d he could do anything right ?

But even when quite young there was this nagging doubt - why did all these open miracles only happen in ancient times ? 

Some religious people argue - but there are miracles still to be observed - like the birth of a child. But those sort of examples are not what a miracle is supposed to represent, something unnatural. Nor do they alleviate my doubt why  no open miracles in more recent times.

Some religious people then argue but G-d does do miracles for the Jews - events such as Gaza rockets or the rise of Israel also Proof of God from Prophecy (includes some Israel discussion) . My previous posts explain why such events are not convincing and in addition they are not open miracles.  Related discussion is also found in Proof of God from Miraculous Recoveries...

Religious people then resort to apologetics why G-d does not perform miracles anymore. I do not find the excuses convincing. 

If an open  miracle could be established to have occurred beyond a shadow of a doubt I would be open to something beyond known nature exists. For example, if under scientifically controlled conditions a ‘man’ can successfully walk on water whenever we request it. That would mean the ‘man’ is a person with ‘supernatural powers’ or person able have the supernatural demonstrated thru him or an alien with powers we have no knowledge of. 

So in a way even a bonafide miracle would only prove something beyond our known experience and knowledge is occurring. It may not be supernatural being(s). It may be super technological sophisticated alien  beings -  a better explanation than supernatural beings. But to many people the aliens would appear as ‘gods’. 

Later in this post, Hume provides an example of a type of a miracle that needs to be discussed in relation to the Exodus stories. This post will also be citing some of Spinoza on Miracles. As Spinoza will demonstrate we must be careful when reading the Bible stories, that they should not be taken at face value. Also, ancient documents like Bible, were not meant to be ‘history’ as we understand the term today. They had theological, economical, local and international political purposes. Many Ancient Near East cultures would ascribe events, including natural events to the will of the God(s) - the ancient Jews being no different. 

Based on Hume’s discussion of Miracles 

Our everyday experience shows nature operates according to certain ‘laws’ of nature with a very high probability ( arguably 100%, since we are aware of no violation of the ‘laws’ of nature as science now understands those laws).  We read about  miracles in ancient texts and sometimes from reports of living witnesses or stories relayed to us by people. Yet we know there is a  probability of error, a high probability of error within those ancient texts, living witnesses and stories relayed to us.

We may compare the probability of the ‘laws’ of nature of being violated versus the probability of the testimony of miracles being in error. We find the probability of the former being much less than the probability of the latter,  so we reject the testimony of miracles.

Does this mean Hume intends we never accept testimony of ‘miracles’ ? Does not Hume himself propose we accept miracles under certain circumstances ? Later I will propose an answer.

I will not be citing all of Hume’s  reasons and arguments to reject miracles, the interested may read his books - for example An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding, from which the following is extracted from Section X - Of Miracles. All the following are quotes  from Hume. I urge the reader to read every word of Hume carefully. 

“...That no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavours to establish...”

[We hear a story of a Priest turning a stick into a snake. 
Could the story be false ? Would it be miraculous if the story was false ? What would be more miraculous the stick turning into a snake or the story being false ? ]

“For first, there is not to be found, in all history, any miracle attested by a sufficient number of men, of such unquestioned good-sense, education, and learning, as to secure us against all delusion in themselves; of such undoubted integrity, as to place them beyond all suspicion of any design to deceive others; of such credit and reputation in the eyes of mankind, as to have a great deal to lose in case of their being detected in any falsehood; and at the same time, attesting facts, performed in such a public manner, and in so celebrated a part of the world, as to render the
detection unavoidable: All which circumstances are requisite to give us a full assurance in the testimony of men.”

[ Lets begin to apply Hume’s criteria to the Bible miracles. Do we know there a sufficient number of men witnessing the miracles ? No. We only have a story in a book alleging a certain number of men. Were they unbiased ? No. Educated enough ? No. Anything to gain by the stories ? Yes. Was it public enough ? No. It was in a desert hidden from view from everybody except the very people making the claim they are chosen by God. More can be written, but enough has been said.] 

[And here comes  Hume’s alleged loophole to accept a miracle.]

“I [Hume] beg the limitations here made may be remarked, when I say, that a miracle can never be proved, so as to be the foundation of a system of religion. For I own, that otherwise, there may possibly be miracles, or violations of the usual course of nature, of such a kind as to admit of proof from human testimony; though, perhaps, it will be impossible to find any such in all the records of history. Thus, suppose, all authors, in all languages, agree, that, from the first of January 1600, there was a total darkness over the whole earth for eight days: Suppose that the tradition of this extraordinary event is still strong and lively among the people: That all travellers, who return from foreign countries, bring us accounts of the same tradition, without the least variation or contradiction: It is evident, that our present philosophers, instead of doubting the fact, ought to receive it as certain, and ought to search for the causes whence it might be derived. The decay, corruption, and dissolution of nature, is an event rendered probable by so many analogies, that any phaenomenon, which seems to have a tendency towards that catastrophe, comes within the reach of human testimony, if that testimony be very extensive and uniform.”

[Does this mean Hume would accept the ‘dark’ event as a miracle ? He seems to hedge by writing we may accept the event has having happened, but the cause needs to be researched. Anyway, would the Exodus stories qualify for an ‘acceptable’ miracle(s) ala Hume    ? NO. He goes on to explain.]

“Here then we are first to consider a book [Bible], presented to us by a barbarous and ignorant people, written in an age when they were still more barbarous, and in all probability long after the facts which it relates, corroborated by no concurring testimony, and resembling those fabulous accounts, which every nation gives of its origin. Upon reading this book, we find it full of prodigies and miracles. It gives an account of a state of the world and of human nature entirely different from the present: Of our fall from that state: Of the age of man, extended to near a thousand years: Of the destruction of the world by a deluge: Of the arbitrary choice of one people, as the favourites of heaven; and that people the countrymen of the author: Of their deliverance from bondage by prodigies the most astonishing imaginable: I desire any one to lay his hand upon his heart, and after a serious consideration declare, whether he thinks that the falsehood of such a book, supported by such a testimony, would be more extraordinary and miraculous than all the miracles it relates; which is, however, necessary to make it be received, according to the measures of probability above established.”

[Hume was aware of the Exodus stories and rejects them. And for good reason. Those Kuzari proponents who think they have an ally in Hume are grossly in error.]

[ To paraphrase some other reasons Hume rejects miracles include:  people’s propensity for wonder, surprise and the love of the tale. Also, the unreliability of the witnesses of the miracles who are ignorant and not skeptical enough. Also, the numerous miracles found amongst Hindus, Muslims, pagans etc: etc: opposes the miracles in a single other religion say Christianity.  The Christian will probably argue all those other miracles from  religions and pagans are all false for one reason or another, unreliable for one reason or another  or perhaps some were real but done by Satan or even done by God for them. But our Christian miracles are reliable. Can you hear the Hindus or Muslims responding in kind ?  Convinced ? ]

Based on Spinoza’s discussion of Miracles 

I have mentioned Spinoza several times on my blog; he was  perhaps the first Bible Philosopher to help break the bondage of my mind. We will consider Spinoza's discussion on Miracles http://sacred-texts.com/phi/spinoza/treat/tpt10.htm as found in A Theologico-Political Treatise, by Benedict de Spinoza

[We have good reason to believe the ancient Israelites were predisposed to believe in the supernatural.  Confounding the situation is even natural occurrences amongst ancient peoples, including the ancient Israelites are attributed to the supernatural. So for example, if the ancient Israelites are wandering in the desert  and a flock of quail  happen to come their way (Exodus 16:13)  they would attribute it to supernatural. Or if  water issues from a rock (Exodus 17:6) that could be ascribed to supernatural.  Even today many Jews attribute everyday events and the most mundane coincidences to the working of G-d.] 

Here are some relevant highlights but see Spinoza for more support and examples for his contentions. I urge the reader to read every word of Spinoza carefully: 

(5) In fact, the common people can only adore God, and refer all things to His power by removing natural causes, and conceiving things happening out of their due course, and only admires the power of God when the power of nature is conceived of as in subjection to it.
(6) This idea seems to have taken its rise among the early Jews who saw the Gentiles round them worshipping visible gods such as the sun, the moon, the earth, water, air, &c., and in order to inspire the conviction that such divinities were weak and inconstant, or changeable, told how they themselves were under the sway of an invisible God, and narrated their miracles, trying further to show that the God whom they worshipped arranged the whole of nature for their sole benefit: this idea was so pleasing to humanity that men go on to this day imagining miracles, so that they may believe themselves God's favourites, and the final cause for which God created and directs all things.
(7) What pretension will not people in their folly advance!....

(68) In Psalm cv. 24 it is said that God changed the hearts of the Egyptians, so that they hated the Israelites. (69) This was evidently a natural change, as appears from Exodus, chap.i., where we find no slight reason for the Egyptians reducing the Israelites to slavery....

(74) If, therefore, events are found in the Bible which we cannot refer to their causes, nay, which seem entirely to contradict the order of nature, we must not come to a stand, but assuredly believe that whatever did really happen happened naturally. (75) This view is confirmed by the fact that in the case of every miracle there were many attendant circumstances, though these were not always related, especially where the narrative was of a poetic character....

The circumstances of the miracles clearly show, I maintain, that natural causes were needed. (77) For instance, in order to infect the Egyptians with blains, it was necessary that Moses should scatter ashes in the air (Exod. ix: 10); the locusts also came upon the land of Egypt by a command of God in accordance with nature, namely, by an east wind blowing for a whole day and night; and they departed by a very strong west wind (Exod. x:14, 19). (78) By a similar Divine mandate the sea opened a way for the Jews (Exo. xiv:21), namely, by an east wind which blew very strongly all night...

(81) Wherefore we may believe that, although the circumstances attending miracles are not related always or in full detail, yet a miracle was never performed without them....

(82) This is confirmed by Exodus xiv:27, where it is simply stated that "Moses stretched forth his hand, and the waters of the sea returned to their strength in the morning," no mention being made of a wind; but in the song of Moses (Exod. xv:10) we read, "Thou didst blow with Thy wind (i.e. with a very strong wind), and the sea covered them." (83) Thus the attendant circumstance is omitted in the history, and the miracle is thereby enhanced...

I have shown that Scripture does not explain things by their secondary causes, but only narrates them in the order and the style which has most power to move men, and especially uneducated men, to devotion; and therefore it speaks inaccurately of God and of events, seeing that its object is not to convince the reason, but to attract and lay hold of the imagination....

Lastly, in order to understand, in the case of miracles, what actually took place, we ought to be familiar with Jewish phrases and metaphors; anyone who did not make sufficient allowance for these, would be continually seeing miracles in Scripture where nothing of the kind is intended by the writer; he would thus miss the knowledge not only of what actually happened, but also of the mind of the writers of the sacred text. (106) For instance, Zechariah speaking of some future war says (chap. xiv;7):  "It shall be one day which shall be known to the Lord, not day, nor night; but at even time it shall be light." In these words he seems to predict a great miracle, yet he only means that the battle will be doubtful the whole day, that the issue will be known only to God, but that in the evening they will gain the victory: the prophets frequently used to predict victories and defeats of the nations in similar phrases...

In this way many occurrences in the Bible are to be regarded merely as Jewish expressions. (112) There is no need for me to go through them in detail; but I will call attention generally to the fact that the Jews employed such phrases not only rhetorically, but also, and indeed chiefly, from devotional motives. (113) Such is the reason for the substitution of "bless God" for "curse God" in 1 Kings xxi:10, and Job ii:9, and for all things being referred to God, whence it appears that the Bible seems to relate nothing but miracles, even when speaking of the most ordinary occurrences, as in the examples given above."

[It has been a long time since I studied Spinoza who wrote in the 1600's.  His words still ring so true and are a breathe of fresh air.]

[There have been some scholars who have assumed some kernel of truth in the Bible stories and have used the Bible to provide clues of  natural causes and thus derive some natural explanation of what may have occurred. For example - explanations of manna have ranged from various sorts of mushroom, insect, insect secretion, plant, plant  secretions. So did actual miracles actually happen in the Exodus, or were natural occurring events attributed to G-d ? Even the Sinai revelation could refer a storm/ earthquake/volcano or some combination thereof.]

Continued Kuzari Argument Part 10 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Proof of God from Thermodynamics

Updated thru 12/21/2015 12/19/2016 

{Prior to 12/22/2015 There was a short discussion involving 'nothing' that may not have been accurate and moreover there are disagreements among cosmologists how 'nothing; should be defined. It has been deleted.}

Second Law of Thermodynamics is that for natural processes entropy tends to increase.  By entropy is meant disorder and highly related to entropy is information content.

{ETA 12/20/2015 Page 321, 324 God and the Multiverse 2014 by Physicist Victor Stenger - Our universe began from a tiny sphere of total chaos. The universe was in a state of complete disorder or maximum entropy. Page 310 "While empty of particles, quantum fluctuations in vacuum energy density or, if you prefer, the curvature of space-time, caused the sphere to expand and contract. At some unknown time, usually taken at about 10^(-35) second, a positive fluctuation was large enough to trigger inflation."} 

 Some Theologians may even argue this is the ‘chaos’  that G-d worked with in creating our Universe. Genesis 1:2 Now the earth was 'unformed and void' [= 'chaos'] , and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters. For more on Genesis 1:1-2 see Kalam Cosmological Argument Repudiated By Theology   However, Genesis is speaking of a Earthly watery chaos so the theology is an attempt to retroactively fit Genesis into some models of scientific cosmology which speak of a Universe arising from ‘nothing’.  

But after the Big Bang occurs how could order form ?  Would that not violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics ? Does this not require a G-d to intervene and create order ? My response based on page 323 God and the Multiverse 2014 by Physicist Victor Stenger : As the universe is expanding the initial maximum entropy is also increasing. In other words the maximum allowable entropy today is much larger than the maximum entropy about 14 Billion years ago. With such a large entropy, order can form in certain parts of the Universe as long as the entropy of the universe as a whole has not been reduced.  Thus no violation of Thermodynamics has occurred. 

From Black holes, Tides, and Curved Spacetime: Understanding Gravity by Benjamin Schumacher 2013

Beginning on page 164 he asks How did we get the complexity we see today out of a uniform early universe ? He  answers Gravity. Gravity caused local parts of the Universe to contract  and heat up, for galaxies to form and within them stars.  The Second Law of Thermodynamics was not and is not violated because entropy can decrease in one place as long as it increases someplace else.  Yet the universe seems more ordered now than it did initially. Does this mean gravity itself made entropy decrease ? He answers no. Because of Gravity smaller and hotter can sometimes mean a higher entropy than larger and cooler. “In other words, Gravity can change the entropy equation so that a less uniform distribution of matter and energy is actually favored by the Second law of Thermodynamics.” ; “Because of gravity, a smooth and early universe can develop into the clumpy and varied universe we live in.  Because of gravity, increasing clumpiness can also increase entropy. That fact about gravity is the ultimate reason for the order and complexity around us.”


{ETA 12/19/2016 Page 35 Quantum Field Theory In  A Nutshell by A. Zee 2003. "The universal attraction of gravity produces an instability that drives the formation of structure in the early universe."}

I will conclude - this discussion also repudiates the Argument from Design. Gravity itself can be the reason for order as opposed to an active intelligent Designer. 

Also see additional and related discussion in Proof of God from Design, Kalam Cosmological Proof of God Premises and Conclusion Repudiated, Proof of God from Origin of Life, Proof of God from Big Bang

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Who Wrote the Bible Part One

First a short  tribute to Spinoza who was one the key philosophers to  break the bondage of my mind in two ways.  I have mentioned Spinoza on my blog before. When  much younger still in Beis Medrish and before I ever heard of the Documentary Hypothesis I came across some of  Spinoza’s works. Except for some Rabbis who taught perhaps a few of the last verses of  Deuteronomy were from Joshua, we were taught that the Torah was all  from G-d, and Moses was more or less just a transcriber.   

Spinoza provided strong  evidence that was not likely the case. He hypothesized the Torah was a compilation of various scrolls that get compiled and edited {ETA and some portions authored} at a later date by someone who he theorized was Ezra. His theory is remarkably close to what virtually every, if not every  Bible Scholar today concludes.  Modern Bible Scholars also refer to multiple redactors and authors and may differ on who the final redactor may have been. 

Spinoza also encouraged me to be wary of superstitions.  I would suggest people believing the Torah is from the Mosaic period should begin by studying  Spinoza’s work, then move on to modern Bible Scholarship. These two chapters are essential reading, but I recommend starting from the beginning of the book.  http://sacred-texts.com/phi/spinoza/treat/tpt12.htm http://sacred-texts.com/phi/spinoza/treat/tpt13.htm  My post is not a copy of Spinoza’s writing and I suggest reading his work to see why he writes it is as clear as sunshine at noon that the Torah is not from Moses [or mosaic times.]

The interested reader may want to read http://kefirahoftheweek.blogspot.com/2015/12/does-torah-say-that-moshe-wrote-it.html which may have been prompted by a discussion between one individual and myself on another one of Kefirah’s blog posts. My post is written independently of Kefirah’s.

The Torah itself never gives us reason to believe Moses actually wrote the entire Torah. In fact it’s own words  provides evidence that is not likely the case.

There are many verses wherein the Torah writes that Moses was to record or recorded certain specific material. But that is not license to extrapolate to the entire Torah. Perhaps if the Torah BEGAN with the words: “And G-d told Moses to write...” or if the Torah began “And  Moses wrote.... “ Or if the Torah ended “And  Moses wrote all the words from... to....”  at least then there would be some basis to claim the Torah itself meant to indicate the entire Pentateuch was from Moses.  But on the contrary, time and time again the Torah specifically writes that Moses only wrote certain passages. The Torah is all but saying - this part is from Moses/G-d , and the implication others portions may not have been from Moses or G-d. 

This post will discuss a minuscule amount of Hebrew, but the reader should not have any difficulty following the post. It is going to focus on Deuteronomy.

Preamble

Beginning on page 83 in Moshe Weinfeld’s commentary on Deuteronomy (Anchor Bible 1991):
Today a book refers to a composition written by a single person. Such was not the case in the Ancient Near East or ancient Israel. The author in ancient times was generally a collector and compiler of traditions, not an author in the modern sense.   Deuteronomy contains laws from the period of the Judges or even from the times of Moses. But it also contains elements from the period of Hezekiah - Josiah. In the second Temple period and onward every letter [of the Bible] was considered sacred. However prior to that it was not the case. Rather the principle content of the books were considered sacred. 

Beginning on page 357 Jewish Publication Bible - Berlin and Brettler 1999  Pseudegraphy - was a convention of authorship in the times of Josiah around 622 BCE.

[ My note - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudepigrapha “There have probably been pseudepigrapha almost from the invention of full writing. For example, ancient Greek authors often refer to texts which claimed to be by Orpheus or his pupil Musaeus but which attributions were generally disregarded. Already in Antiquity the collection known as the "Homeric hymns" was recognized as pseudepigraphical, that is, not actually written by Homer.” ]

Evidence From Deuteronomy that the Torah is not likely from Mosaic Period

Lets begin where Spinoza begins in his Theological-Political Treatise http://sacred-texts.com/phi/spinoza/treat/tpt12.htm ,  Deuteronomy 1:1

Jewish Publication Society Bible (JPS) 1917 Deuteronomy 1:1 These are the words which Moses spoke unto all Israel beyond [  עבר  ] the Jordan; in the wilderness, in the Arabah, over against Suph, between Paran and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Di-zahab.

The word ‘beyond’ is the translation of the Torah’s actual Hebrew word shown in brackets. 

Or Moshe Weinfeld’s version:

Deut 1:1 These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel on the other side of the Jordan...

Or 

Commentary on the Torah - Richard Friedman 2001

Deut 1:1 These are the words that Moses spoke to all of Israel across the Jordan...

Or

JPS Tigay’s commentary on Deuteronomy 

“....on the other side of the Jordan....”

Or

 Soncino’s Chumash 1950 

“....beyond the Jordan...”

Or 

The Stone Tenach 1998 edition

“...the other side of the Jordan....”

Or

 Jewish Publication Society Torah 1962 edition:

“...on the other side of the Jordan...”


Page 1468 Eerdman’s Analytical Concordance 1988 has for the Hebrew word [  עבר  ] -  across, beyond, other side. 

In the appendix to this post we will see the Hebrew word is used to indicate direction and will demonstrate that is the most likely intention of   עבר in Deut 1:1

Page 383 JPS Berlin and Brettler translates  Deut 1:1 “These are the words that Moses addressed to all Israel on the other side of the Jordan....” and then explains to us - The geographic frame of reference places the speaker west of the Jordan and thus already in Canaan. It is an anachronism.

And Moshe Weinfeld has the same conclusion - the stand point of the Author is on the west bank [ of Jordan].

In other words, the author of Deuteronomy is providing a third party narration to the Israelites who are on the west side of Jordan. But according to tradition the Israelites are East of Jordan during the Mosaic period.  So this strongly suggests that Deuteronomy was written after the Mosaic period. ( I must clarify - not that the whole Deuteronomy  was written from scratch by a single person at a later date. See Weinfelds comments included in this post.). The introductory verse to Deuteronomy helps place the temporal period for Deuteronomy's redaction after the Mosaic period. 

Now one verse alone may not convince, but there are other verses and evidence that Deuteronomy  as we have it was most likely  finalized after the Mosaic period. 

JPS Berlin and Brettler discusses  Deut 2:12 And in Seir dwelt the Horites aforetime, but the children of Esau succeeded them; and they destroyed them from before them, and dwelt in their stead; as Israel did unto the land of his possession, which the LORD gave unto them.--

And explains as follows: The Israelite conquest of the land is presented as already having been completed. It is anachronism.

And on the same book discusses  Deut 3:11 For only Og king of Bashan Remained of the Remnant of the Rephaim; behold, his bedstead was a bedstead of iron; is it not in Rabbah of the children of Ammon? nine cubits was the length thereof, and four cubits the breadth of it, after the cubit of a man....

And explains as follows: The emphasis that the bed is NOW there places the historical perspective of the narrator long after the events here recounted. Cubit is given as about 17.5 inches. [ If so, that would put the bed at 13.13 feet by 5.833 feet - a bed for quite a large individual.]

{ETA 12/11/2015 Spinoza writes that knowledge of the bed in Rabbah was most likely obtained in the times of David when he captures Rabbah as described in 2 Samuel}

Besides these and other verses we may add the following content from JPS Berlin and Brettler:

JPS tells us that Deuteronomy  is not likely of Mosaic origin. The reforms of King Josiah and Deuteronomy have numerous points of contact and similarity. Josiah reforms represented an important bid for cultural, political and religious autonomy in the face of threats from Neo Assyria and a resurgent Babylon.  Also, the Deuteronomy  covenant structure resembles Neo Syrian State Treaties, Ancient Near East Legal collections and Wisdom literature. 

Lets look at some additional verses strongly implying Deuteronomy is likely not written during the Mosaic period.

Deut 34:1 And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho. And the LORD showed him all the land, even Gilead as far as Dan; 2 and all Naphtali, and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah as far as the hinder sea; 3 and the South, and the Plain, even the valley of Jericho the city of palm-trees, as far as Zoar. 4 And the LORD said unto him: 'This is the land which I swore unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying: I will give it unto thy seed; I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither.' 5 So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD. 6 And he was buried in the valley in the land of Moab over against Beth-peor; and no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day. 7 And Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated. 8 And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; so the days of weeping in the mourning for Moses were ended. 9 And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him; and the children of Israel hearkened unto him, and did as the LORD commanded Moses. 10 And there hath not arisen a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face; 11 in all the signs and the wonders, which the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh, and to all his servants, and to all his land; 12 and in all the mighty hand, and in all the great terror, which Moses wrought in the sight of all Israel.

Verse 1-4 could not have been written by Moses. He went up the mountain but never returned.

Verse 7 - ‘unto this day’ Moshe could not have written this because he was not alive. It also implies a long period after he was dead.  

Verse 10 - ‘not arisen a prophet since’ also implies a very long period since Moses is dead.


Deut 31: 1 And Moses went and spoke these words unto all Israel....2 And he said unto them.... 9 And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests the sons of Levi, that bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and unto all the elders of Israel. 10 And Moses commanded them, saying: 'At the end of every seven years, in the set time of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles,  


Verse 9 - Tigay writes  “...Moses could not have written this verse in the past tense, in the Teachings because when he was writing the Teachings he had not yet given it to them.”


I think the following verses provide a very interesting puzzle that has some bearing on the authorship of Deuteronomy. It will involve the Book of Numbers, Deuteronomy and Judges.

Numbers 26:52 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: 53 'Unto these the land shall be divided for an inheritance according to the number of names. 54 To the more thou shalt give the more inheritance, and to the fewer thou shalt give the less inheritance; to each one according to those that were numbered of it shall its inheritance be given. 55 Notwithstanding the land shall be divided by lot; according to the names of the tribes of their fathers they shall inherit.... 

Deut 34:1 And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho. And the LORD showed him all the land, even Gilead as far as Dan;...... 

Judges 19:40 The seventh lot came out for the tribe of the children of Dan according to their families. 41 And the border of their inheritance was Zorah, and Eshtaol, and Ir-shemesh; 42 and Shaalabbin, and Aijalon, and Ithlah; 43 and Elon, and Timnah, and Ekron; 44 and Eltekeh, and Gibbethon, and Baalath; 45 and Jehud, and Bene-berak, and Gath-rimmon; 46 and Me-jarkon, and Rakkon, with the border over against Joppa. 47 And the border of the children of Dan was too strait for them; so the children of Dan went up and fought against Leshem, and took it, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and possessed it, and dwelt therein, and called Leshem, Dan, after the name of Dan their father. 48 This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Dan according to their families, these cities with their villages 49 When they had made an end of distributing the land for inheritance by the borders thereof, the children of Israel gave an inheritance to Joshua the son of Nun in the midst of them; 50 according to the commandment of the LORD they gave him the city which he asked, even Timnath-serah in the hill-country of Ephraim; and he built the city, and dwelt therein. 51 These are the inheritances, which Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of the fathers' houses of the tribes of the children of Israel, distributed for inheritance by lot in Shiloh before the LORD, at the door of the tent of meeting. So they made an end of dividing the land.  

Do you see the problems ?

Numbers 26 specifies there will be a lottery to determine the tribal territory allotments of  Israel to tribes.

Deuteronomy 34 - Lord shows Mosese some tribal allotments including Dan’s.

Judges 19 performs the lottery, including one for Dan.

Problem A) - Recall a lottery was performed in Judges 19:40. So did the Lord know what the results of a random lottery was going to be way in the future ?  

Problem B) Dan's tribal area changes after the allotment. Was the future battle of Layish and it's results also known at the time of the Lord showing the tribal areas ?

Problem C) If Deuteronomy  was written before the Judges Lottery, then Moses would have known the tribal areas. After all the Lord showed them to Moses. If so, why hold a lottery - the Lord showed the tribal areas to Moses and he could then relay the Israelites the specifications.

To which believers will reply - G-d was involved and his ways are a mystery and moreover G-d knows the future even the results of a future random lottery and a future war. Or perhaps since G-d can control nature he can force the lottery and wars to end in a certain desired way.  See how all problems go away if you invent miracles, prophecies, mysteries and unlimited powers to G-d ?  This what is known as a non falsifiable position. There is no amount of evidence you can present to such an individual that would convince him their position untenable. They will invent/assert  prophecies, miracles,  G-d’s powers and works in mysterious ways.  But are there not natural explanations ? I am going to speculate and is a topic I need to research further. 

1) Numbers and Joshua are from a similar narrative as to how the lands are assigned, which is via lots.  The Deuteronomy portion may have come from an unrelated  different narrative that G-d told Moses the territory allotments. However, the full details were  not provided in Deuteronomy.  As the Torah is being compiled multiple traditions are being respected.   

2) Numbers and Joshua are an Etiological myth, a true one or a false one. In other words, portions of the tribes had already been extant in Israel. Any tribal bickering over territory  could be quelled by claiming there was a lottery held in ancient times.  It is  possible a lottery was held.  Alternately  bickering could be quelled by claiming G-d had already shown Moses the allotments. 

3) Deuteronomy portion never happened. It was about boasting and glorifying an ancient hero Moses. Also, that  G-d sanctioned the land of Canaan for the Israelites. ‘Proof’  that G-d can control / predict the future. The Deuteronomy section  provides a lead into the next book which is Joshua. 

This post although titled 'Who Wrote the Bible' , is really about why it is very likely Deuteronomy is not from the Mosaic period. My post  Some Reasons to Reject Orthodox Judaism discusses reasons why the Torah is most likely not a divine text.  Now some people may not find my reasons convincing.  But that does not mean the Torah is divine. People who make such an assertion need to provide valid extraordinary evidence.  I am still waiting. 

Continued at Who Wrote the Bible Part Two

Appendix

Numbers 36:13 These are the commandments and the ordinances, which the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses unto the children of Israel in the plains of Moab by [  על   ] the Jordan at Jericho. 

The Hebrew word in the brackets is translated as ‘by’ or ‘on’. By referencing Moab which happens to be East of Jordan,  this verse is consistent with being written on the East side of the Jordan, in contrast to Deut 1:1

Deut 4: 22 but I [Moses] must die in this land, I must not go over  [  עבר  ] the Jordan; but ye are to go over, and possess that good land.

Here  [  עבר  ] Is being used to denote a direction. Since Moses did not enter Canaan and is depicted as speaking on the East of Jordan,  the direction is referring to the West of Jordan.

Examples can be multiplied.  A person standing west of the Jordan who says  ‘[  עבר  ] Jordan’ will be referring to East of the Jordan.  A person standing East of the Jordan who says  ‘[  עבר  ] Jordan’ will be referring to West of the Jordan.   This is especially so when the speaker mentions other location that happen to be on the side of Jordan they are referring to.