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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.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Proof of God from Life; Genesis 2:7

Before getting to the proof lets discuss Genesis 2:7

Genesis2:7 Then the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

Rashi explains the dust came from the four corners of the Earth so that wherever he may die the Earth would accept him. Alternately from the Earth  from where the future Temple would be built.  That man was made of both earthly and heavenly matter. Animals have an inferior soul. Mans has understanding and speech.

Rambam - Guide for the Perplexed Chapter L : “It is one of the fundamental principles of the Law that the Universe has been created ex nihilo, and that of the human race, one individual being,
Adam, was created. As the time which elapsed from Adam to Moses was not more than about two thousand five hundred years,....”   {ETA In Rambm's Beit Habechirah - Chapter 2 Paragraph 2 - Adam, the first man, offered a sacrifice there [the location of King David's alter] and was created at that very spot, as our Sages said: "Man was created from the place where he [would find] atonement." }

Per modern science there was no original Adam, mankind arose much more than 2,500 years prior to Moses, and Man was not created from earth/clay. There was no breath or soul from a supernatural being required for human life to come about - more on this later.

Not only is Genesis most likely a false myth it has numerous pagan parallels.

Here are just a sampling from the book Myth Legend and Custom In The Old Testament by Theodor H. Gaster 1969 

Beginning Page 9 “This fancy [referring to Man formed from Clay/Earth] is, however, by no means confined to scripture. The Mesopotamians too conceived man to have been fashioned in such a manner.”  The goddess Aruru is said to have pinched him out of clay.  The mother-goddess Mama/Mami  formed seven primeval males and 7 primeval females out of clay. [There is that magic number 7 again.]

Egyptian Mythology - the potter god Knum molds man on the wheel.

Greeks - Prometheus molds the first man out of clay and water.

Similar types of stories are found among the aborigine Australian Blacks, the New Zealand Maoris, the Indian classic Satapatha Brahmana,  and on and on. 

Beginning on Page 19 “The rude clay, we are told, was animated by  the breath of God. This Idea too is by no means exclusive to the Bible.”

Here are a sampling of examples from the book.

Hindu myth has creator god Prajapati bring life to man in the same way thus imparting to him mental and spiritual faculties.

Yorubas of West Africa have the supreme god Olorun give life to an insensate clod in a similar manner.

Similar stories are found among some native American tribes, some Eskimos etc: etc:
------------------------------------------------

Is the Genesis false myth consistent with the hypothesis that the Torah is true ? That the Torah is from God ? In other words, does this verse increase our confidence that the Torah is true ? That it is from God ? I would say no and no. Not just that. I would argue it is evidence against both those hypotheses. 

Now onto the argument Proof of  God from Origin of Life. (Related to this argument see Proof of God from Origin of Life,  Proof of God from Free Will, Justice, Consciousness, BLANK )

It is obvious that say a rock is different in so many ways from a living moving human being or animal or perhaps even plants . There must be a thing that differentiates inanimate things from the animate and give living things the ability move etc: and that thing must be spiritual since we can not detect or see that thing as we would regular physical things. The thing may be called a spirit or soul - something that animates the inanimate. Moreover, death can be explained by that spirit or soul leaving the Human/Animal/Plant. (The above is similar to Animism a widely held ancient belief.)  To the argument we may add humans have consciousness, self awareness, feelings, memory etc: and a spirit or soul can account for such things.
It is a short leap to add god giving the soul or spirit or breath.

It could be ancient man came up with similar reasons for the existence of souls or spirits and may be the basis for the commonality of the ghost/soul/spirit/supernatural breath  mythology. 

{Wikipedia Life - Life is a process, not a substance. Life is a self-sustained chemical system.}

A rock is not living because it’s type of atoms and arrangement of atoms is not in a configuration to provide the appropriate chemical reactions as in life. 

There is no evidence for souls or spirits or supernatural breaths. There is nothing in physics, biology or chemistry that allows for the introduction of spirits/souls/supernatural breaths into any of the equations or any of the theory.

Near Death experiences, memories, feelings can all be accounted for by modern science thru materialistic biological effects. There is no need for ghost, spirits and souls to explain any of it. 

Jewish Oral Tradition - Part 1 - Introduction

Updated Thru 9/11/2016

Orthodox Jews claim there is the written Bible and an associated Oral Tradition going back to the Moses. 

Which religious books (if any) are included as the Oral Tradition of Judaism ?

What is meant by the Oral Tradition of the Jews ?

Which Rabbis speak the Oral Tradition ? How do we know their opinion is authentic Oral Tradition ? 

Those questions have no easy answers. I am not sure there are agreed upon answers by Orthodox Jews. If so, the assertion of an Oral Tradition is virtually undefined and almost useless.

Is there an unbroken chain or Oral Tradition back to Moses ? Is it a reliable chain or does it have some weak links ?  

I am going to assume the Mishna and Talmud are essential parts of the Oral Tradition according to Rabbinic Jews. Those books have shaped the beliefs of most of ‘Rabbinic’ Jews, by which I mean ‘traditional’ Jews or ‘Orthodox’ Jews who claim to be following the Oral Tradition.

There is an enormous amount of what is most likely 'nonsense' in the Talmud. This has prompted the ‘rationalist’  Orthodox Jews  to distance themselves  (from at least some of ) the ’nonsense’, usually citing some Rabbi, perhaps Rambam for support.

Too bad the architects of the foundations of Rabbinic Judaism never heard of those Rabbis or Rambam; since the latter are born after the compilation of the Talmud. Moreover,  Rambam was  disparaged by many. and even his books were initially burned by some Rabbinic  Jews.  {ETA 9/11/2016 - Correction -  The actual burning of the books may not have been done by Rabbinic Jews. I am not sure if any Rabbinic Jews actually burned his books. However, it seems clear some Rabbis wanted a ban placed on some of his writings.} Those Jews probably did not consider at least some of Rambam opinions as authentic Oral Tradition.  

 Many Rabbis cited in the Talmud most likely believed their ‘science’, astrology, magic, amulets, demons, apparitions, golems, reincarnations, and probably some of their other assorted legends/fables, previously referred to by me as 'nonsense'. By putting such material into writing the Talmud authors implicitly validated at least some of  it  and so followers of Rabbinic Judaism for the most part accepted it.  It also raises several other issues.

To what degree were those Talmudic Rabbis relating authentic ‘Oral Tradition’ or just making up things or citing information  that is not really part of Oral tradition ? How can we separate the strands ? 

How much reliance and trust should we have in such ignorant people ? That they would accurately understand an Oral Tradition (even assuming an authentic one existed)  and be able to transmit it faithfully ? That they could  make correct deductions from the Torah ? 

We also know that as oral information is passed on and shared it becomes corrupted over time. There is a high probability that even if there was an authentic Oral Tradition it became corrupted. 

It is patently clear that on almost every issue discussed in the Talmud there are divergent and contradictory opinions.  So which one is the real Oral Tradition ? They all can not be correct.

Another major issue is that large portions of the written Bible have no Mishna/Talmud commentary. This is suggestive that Oral Tradition is incomplete and thus there must be portions of the (alleged) authentic Oral Tradition as well as the written Bible that are impossible to be understood fully. It also suggests that there were people 'developing' the Oral Tradition and they never got around to finishing the job. 

There is a section of  Talmud (Menachot 29b) that conflicts with the notion that ‘Oral Tradition’ goes back to Moses.

“Rab Judah said in the name of Rab, When Moses ascended on high he found the Holy One,
blessed be He, engaged in affixing coronets to the letters. Said Moses, Lord of the Universe, Who
stays Thy hand? He answered, There will arise a man, at the end of many generations, Akiba b.
Joseph by name, who will expound upon each tittle heaps and heaps of laws. Lord of the Universe,
said Moses; permit me to see him. He replied, Turn thee round. Moses went and sat down behind
eight rows {and listened to the discourses upon the law}. Not being able to follow their arguments
he was ill at ease, but when they came to a certain subject and the disciples said to the master
Whence do you know it? and the latter replied It is a law given unto Moses at Sinai  he was
comforted. There upon he returned to the Holy One, blessed be He, and said, Lord of the Universe,
Thou hast such a man and Thou givest the Torah by me!  He replied, Be silent, for such is My
decree. Then said Moses, Lord of the Universe, Thou hast shown me his Torah, show me his
reward...” 

If the Oral Tradition goes back to Moses should he not be cognizant and understand the lecture  ? 

Based on this Talmud alone we have reason to be skeptical that the Rabbinic Oral Tradition is authentic and goes back to Moses. 

And if there was an authentic Oral Tradition going back to Moses why is it that the Sadducees, Samaritans, Beta Israel, (and the Essenes ?)  did not accept the Oral Tradition as found in the Mishna/Talmud or were unaware of it or had an alternate oral tradition ? 

Continued Jewish Oral Tradition - Part 2,  Treatment of Women

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Human Sacrifice ? in the Bible Part 3

There is an interesting story in the Tenach,  II Samuel 21. Other ancient cultures myths, legends  and customs can provide interesting parallels and insights into this story as well as most of the Tenach and even Jewish customs.  This has been my  mantra from over 35 years ago when I accidentally discovered parallels to the numerous rituals and stories of the Tenach amongst the pagans. I am aware of the Rambam style apologetic responses and have written a little about them  in Cut Off in the Bible ; Statute Forever in the Bible ; and Explanations of Pagan Customs in Judaism with some notes on Maimonides  especially part 4 of the last post.  (Side note: In addition, Rambam’s theory is contradicted by the Tenach  itself as well as by numerous other traditional Jewish opinions.)

II Samuel 21:1 And there was a famine in the days of David three years, year after year; and David sought the face of the LORD.  And the LORD said: 'It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he put to death the Gibeonites.' 2 And the king called the Gibeonites, and said unto them--now the Gibeonites were not of the children of Israel, but of the remnant of the Amorites; and the children of Israel had sworn unto them; and Saul sought to slay them in his zeal for the children of Israel and Judah-- 3 and David said unto the Gibeonites: 'What shall I do for you? and wherewith shall I make atonement, that ye may bless the inheritance of the LORD?' 4 And the Gibeonites said unto him: 'It is no matter of silver or gold between us and Saul, or his house; neither is it for us to put any man to death in Israel.' And he said: 'What say ye that I should do for you?' 5 And they said unto the king: 'The man that consumed us, and that devised against us, so that we have been destroyed from remaining in any of the borders of Israel, 6 let seven men of his sons be delivered unto us, and we will hang them up unto the LORD in Gibeah of Saul, the chosen of the LORD.'

And the king said: 'I will deliver them.' 7 But the king spared Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul, because of the LORD'S oath that was between them, between David and Jonathan the son of Saul. 8 But the king took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, whom she bore unto Saul, Armoni and Mephibosheth; and the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul, whom she bore to Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite; 9 and he delivered them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them in the mountain before the LORD, and they fell all seven together; and they were put to death in the days of harvest, in the first days, at the beginning of barley harvest. 10 And Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth, and spread it for her upon the rock, from the beginning of harvest until water was poured upon them from heaven; and she suffered neither the birds of the air to rest on them by day, nor the beasts of the field by night. 11 And it was told David what Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, the concubine of Saul, had done. 12 And David went and took the bones of Saul and the bones of Jonathan his son from the men of Jabesh-gilead, who had stolen them from the broad place of Beth-shan, where the Philistines had hanged them, in the day that the Philistines slew Saul in Gilboa; 13 and he brought up from thence the bones of Saul and the bones of Jonathan his son; and they gathered the bones of them that were hanged. 14 And they buried the bones of Saul and Jonathan his son in the country of Benjamin in Zela, in the sepulchre of Kish his father; and they performed all that the king commanded. And after that God was entreated for the land.

The story begins with a 3 year unabated famine that prompts King David to seek an explanation from Yahweh and hopefully end the famine (presumably thru rain. Recall, Yahweh controls rain fall.)

Yahweh explains it was because of a past sin of King Saul who killed some Gibeonites. (Rashi seem to explain it was 7 Gibeonites). My first concern is that this hardly seems fair to famine an entire nation for some past sins of a single or a few individuals. After all most of the nation had nothing to do with it. But it gets worse.

Rather than Yahweh informing King David how to rectify the situation, David asks the Gibeonites for their solution which is to give them 7 (there is that magic number yet again) of Saul's male descendants who it seems will be killed as some sort of human sacrifices (?) to Yahweh. - i.e. in verse 6 let seven men of his sons be delivered unto us, and we will HANG THEM UP UNTO THE LORD in Gibeah of Saul, the chosen of the LORD. Here is a time in the Biblical world when it was better to be a female.

Rather than objecting, David selects 7 of Sauls male offspring and provides them to the Gibeonites. It seems the human sacrifices (?)  are offered to Yahweh, at the beginning of the barley harvest. Speculation: Why the beginning of the harvest  ?  Could this be related to fertility cult concerns. ? {Sacrifice or Human Sacrifice at the time of harvest as well as other periods of the growing season are found amongst various cultures -  for examples  see James George Frazer's the Golden Bough.  1922 Abridged edition :  Here are just a few examples from chapter 47 section 3 "The people of Canar (now Cuenca in Ecuador) used to sacrifice a hundred children annually at harvest. The kings of Quito, the Incas of Peru, and for a long time the Spaniards were unable to suppress the bloody rite. At a Mexican harvest-festival, when the first-fruits of the season were offered to the sun, a criminal was placed between two immense stones, balanced opposite each other, and was crushed by them as they fell together. His remains were buried, and a feast and dance followed. This sacrifice was known as 'the meeting of the stones.' We have seen that the ancient Mexicans also sacrificed human beings at all the various stages in the growth of the maize, the age of the victims corresponding to the age of the corn; for they sacrificed new-born babes at sowing, older children when the grain had sprouted, and so on till it was fully ripe, when they sacrificed old men. No doubt the correspondence between the ages of the victims and the state of the corn was supposed to enhance the efficacy of the sacrifice."}

Amazingly, rather than Yahweh being offended by all this, he is placated and ends the famine !

By studying ancient near east and other ancient cultures we may perhaps gain deeper insights, including the Rizpah vigil see verse 10.

From the Book Myth Legend and Custom In The Old Testament by Theodor H. Gaster 1969 

Beginning on Page 482 - The book suggests the possibility the “...the story revolved around the widespread notion that the essential vitality of a person lies in the bodily fluids so that a corpse must be ‘watered’ before it can be assured of eventual resurrection.” For example the Arabs often would bury the dead near water and there is an ancient Arab poem that the dead man’s spirit  prays to drink from rain . There is an English proverb “Blessed is the dead the rain rains on.”  There are also beliefs that the dew revives the dead. 

Regarding the famine - the Book explains  un-avenged spirits of the slain can affect soil fertility by causing drought or blight. For example a plague broke out in ancient Rome and the Pythian oracle advised the wrath of Saturn and the spirits of those unjustly slain should be appeased. Unlike the Tenach story, no humans are killed to Saturn/spirits, but rather a temple was built to Saturn. (A similar notion is found on page 66 -  The Idea that blood of a murdered man thus demands satisfaction is attested  in the modern and ancient near east.)

Beginning page 71 - The book relates the story to  Cain and Abel and other verses in the Old Testament.  For the Cain and Abel story - the earth polluted by blood and offended by the crime would not let seed sown by the murderer to sprout.  In the Ugaritic Poem of Aqhat a murder entails drought and crops become blighted. This ideas appears repeatedly in the Old Testament - for example Numbers 35:33  So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are; for blood, it polluteth the land; and no expiation can be made for the land for the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it. 

Or as David prays in II Samuel 17 And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son...21 Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew nor rain upon you, neither fields of choice fruits; for there the shield of the mighty was vilely cast away, the shield of Saul, not anointed with oil. The book  lists many other examples. 

Similar notions are found amongst the ancient Greeks - for Example: “In the Eumenides of Aeschylus the goddess Athene warns the people not to incur blight or sterility through bloodshed.” The book lists other examples.

Related Posts are Human Sacrifice in the Bible Part I and Part II

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Who Wrote the Bible Part Two

This is a continuation of Who Wrote the Bible Part One

Suppose we have an ancient Japanese history book from Japan that writes:

 “Now these are the kings that reigned in the land of Fujian China, before their reigned any king over the children of Japan: Xian,....”

The plain meaning is that Fujian China had kings before Japan did. Also, the plain meaning is the text is being written after there was at least one king in Japan. Because “before”  there was no Japanese king , but at the time of writing there must have occurred a least one king in Japan. Implicitly the text is marking  two periods for the reader. One period is prior to Japan having a king, and one after Japan had a king. The marker ‘before their reigned any king over the children of Japan’ does not make sense unless Japan experienced a king already.

It seems very reasonable to conclude the history book, or at least this section was written after Japan experienced a King.

What does this have to do with the Bible ?

There is a ancient Israelite history text:

I Chronicles Chapter 1: 43 Now these are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom, before their reigned any king over the children of Israel: Bela the son of Beor; and the name of his city was Dinhabah...

Using the same reasoning as for the Japan text, we would deduce  this portion of I Chronicles is being written at a time in Israel’s history when they have already experienced a king. Our deduction would be correct since Chronicles was written after Israel  already experienced a King.

We read in Genesis 36: 31 And these are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom, before there reigned any king over the children of Israel. 32 And Bela....

Again, applying the same deductions as for the Japanese history book, we can deduce at least this section was most likely written after Israel experienced a king.  Meaning it was not written during the Mosaic period.

Most traditionalist basically hold the entire Torah except a few verses are  from the Mosaic period and this verse creates a ‘problem’ to be solved.

Ibn Ezra argues the Genesis reference to ‘any king over Israel’ is referring to Moses as a the king. This would solve the ‘problem’ except that Moses is never referred to as a king any place in the Tenach. Saul was the first Israelite king.  {The Radak commentary explains that Saul was the first Jewish king}. Also, the Torah could have simply wrote king Moses some how and avoid confusion, but it did not. Ibn Ezra has contrived an ad-hoc explanation to fit an apriori dogma.

Another explanation that there is an embedded prophecy. Again it is a ad-hoc contrived explanation to fit an apriori dogma. Plus, the Genesis verse gives no indication, no clue  it is making a prophecy at all.

The Genesis author just writes the verse as a matter of fact history with no pretenses and with no concern that the verse implies not from the Mosaic period.  Why not ? Most likely the authors and redactors of the Torah did not ‘know’ the Torah was supposed to be from only the Mosaic period. It was a later innovation to claim that essentially the whole Torah was from the Mosaic period.

That this Genesis section was not written during the Mosaic period is the conclusion that is the most parsimonious and consistent with the Israelite texts. Now one verse may not convince. But when other ‘problems’ (anachronisms, contradictions, doublets, triplets, stylistic differences,  third person reports etc: ) are considered the evidence becomes very strong that the Pentateuch most likely is not from Moses, but it is possible some parts of it are from Moses/Mosaic period  or prior.

Continued Who Wrote the Bible Part Three


{Side Note  "And these are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom, before there reigned any king over the children of Israel. 32 And Bela...."; Some scholars translate / interpret this as "before there reigned a king of the children of Israel over Edom. This to would have occurred much later than the Mosaic period, and leads to a similar 'problem' for traditionalists}