Rabbi Lawrence Kelemen (RK) Kuzari style argument from RK’s book Permission to Receive 1996
RK seems to explain on page 21 that his book assumes the existence of G-d and builds on that premise. If you need intellectual comforting for that premise, RK mentions his other book Permission to Believe: Four Rational Approaches To God’s Existence.
In other words, he seems to be of the opinion that his version of Kuzari argument does not ‘prove’ the existence G-d. Yet in conversations I have had with many Orthodox Jews they opine the Kuzari argument is proof of G-d. Maybe RK knows something they do not. I have read Permission To Believe and I am still not intellectually comfortable with the premise and have written why in numerous blog posts.
Most of RK’s Kuzari argument has been repudiated in my Kuzari posts and it would help to read, or at least skim them for more details and support. Begin with Kuzari Argument Part One. I think there is some new material in this post.
RK assumes “potential recruits” to a religion would like to know how the religion obtained it’s superlative knowledge and or methodology.
However, there are a plethora of reasons people will come to accept mythology or religion. There are nation foundation myths, etiological myths, myths told by authorities or ruling parties, myths and rumors that surface amongst the people etc: Why does he assume ancient near east people would be so skeptical ? From all appearances ancient people (even numerous modern people) are not that skeptical.
RK’s words ‘potential recruit’ colors his perception of the origins of religion and mythology. This is confirmed by his comment about asking about the difficulty of “selling “ the revelation narrative of the particular religion.
Ancient near east religions, gods, mythologies are often associated with the nation. Moab had their state god(s), Egypt theirs etc: It need not require or be about selling. Ancient people would welcome stories and explanations about their history, why events unfold this way or that etc: They would adopt/adapt religions, myths, folklore from neighbors and sometimes evolve it. RK is a professional missionary thus he thinks in terms of ‘selling’ and ‘potential recruits’. (BTW You, the non Orthodox Jew or the questioning Orthodox Jew are amongst his potential ‘recruits’. I suggest due diligence before committing to any cult or religion. If now in a cult or religion do research on it's origins. What real evidence is there for it ? What do academic scholars write about it ? Is there evidence repudiating your religion or cult ? )
Alternately: myths, etiological myths, foundation myths , legends etc: were circulating amongst parts of the population. The mythology is growing and becoming embellished. Eventually, the Priests/Kings have them recorded. Nothing was ever sold by anybody. (The Torah’ redaction implies such a possibility since it strongly suggests the recording of disparate traditions/myths that are sewn together.)
When critiquing ‘many’ modern religions RK writes they are built on objectively unverifiable stories. Yet the same applies to the Exodus/Sinai stories which are also objectively unverifiable stories !
Not only are the Exodus/Sinai stories not verifiable, there is evidence the stories could not have happened as described in the Torah.
RK summarizes that for many new and old religions (Christianity is treated separately by RK) there were few people witnessing anything miraculous. RK seems to then imply the reason is the difficulty of having a mass conspiracy based on a lie. (RK writes Christianity basis is also impeachable.)
RK did not discuss religions and myths of the Ancient Near East. Perhaps religions and myths were just accepted by many back then. King/priests claimed god willed it perhaps for one reason or another and that was enough for the public. In general, maybe there was no desire or need to creates religions / myths using conspiracies or alleged mass revelations. That is not to say it did not ever happen. We have very limited data from ancient times so it is possible the Israelite claim of mass revelation is not the only such story.
RK writes the ancient Israelites being slaves will accompany even a liar to escape. Has he considered the possibility that such a liar could convince them to accept a religion if the appropriate methods are used ? Actually there is no need to posit deceivers to rationally explain why people may come to accept a divine revelation, even though in reality there was no divine revelation.
RK gives reasons why the biblical accounts of pre Egyptian prophecy do little to enhance Judaism’s credibility.
I agree that the accounts do little to enhance Judaism’s credibility, and for additional reasons RK has not provided. ‘Judaism’ did not start at Sinai. In other words, the ancient Israelites were already predisposed to belief in supernatural. Also, long before Sinai, per the Torah there already was a preexisting relationship and covenant with a deity. Moshe could have used that prior ‘religion’ to evolve a new one for the Israelites, just like the early Christians evolved Judaism.
Could The Sinai Story be False ?
That is possible. For example, Kings/Priests/Scribes/Redactors may have recorded oral stories, folklore, legends that eventually become accepted by many as true history. Or perhaps, leaders proclaim study these stories and follow the commandments or else. The stories are then taught to children and after a few generations they are accepted as happening. Is it not a wonderful feeling being the chosen people and having the greatest divine warrior on your side ?
RK writes if Judaism is a lie, the lie must have been launched generations after the events described in the Torah. I am not so sure and have provided plausible scenarios where something did happen at Sinai. Nor must Judaism be a ‘lie’ ‘launched’. That is not how myths or religions necessarily emerge or necessarily why people accept them. RK is thinking used car sales mode which is probably not the correct model in general for ancient near east religions, gods, mythology, legends etc:
Alternately, there could have been a ‘collective memory’ of historical event(s) that gets embellished upon. People may have heard grandpas and grandmas tell stories about some thunder, noises at a quaking mountain many moons ago. Perhaps they heard stories of Egyptian slavery with some slaves escaping. The stories get embellished upon. On this kernel, mythology and religion can be built. Kings/Leaders/Priests eventually record the mythology in the Torah. This responds to RK’s question why is there no ‘leader‘ who reminded the Israelites/Jews of the Sinai. It was not that a leader ‘sold’ a story, it is almost as if the other way around. The people had stories that are used by King(s) and Priests.
RK asks why has no other nation or religious movement claim a mass revelation ?
Why does RK think they would want to ? Maybe other ancient nations/religions had no need to. Maybe the Israelites/Jews needed such a mythology for one reason or another. Other nations had other reasons why they accepted their religion/mythology/legends. Maybe there were such claims but we have no records of them. Maybe the conditions when Christianity is evolving are different than the conditions of ancient Israelites. For in ancient Israel we are speaking of a nation under conditions significantly different from when Christianity evolves. Maybe, other nations did not have folk memories of their ancestors at a quaking smoking thundering mountain or something like that. Historical conditions, events, resources, political or religious needs etc: differ from one tribe to another, from one nation to another, from one period to another. It is not comparable to a science experiment conducted under similar conditions and for which we expect more or less similar outcomes. Nevertheless, almost all the features of the Torah story may be found amongst other cultures.
Some of my Kuzari posts discuss some ‘mass’ revelations/miracles and other analogs of the Exodus Sinai Story. Even if the Torah story is in class by itself, that is all it means. One can argue the rise and spread of Islam is in a class of itself. Will that convince RK Islam is miraculous ? One can argue the Miracle of the Sun is in a class of itself. Will that convince RK that a Miracle really happened ?
There is an interesting verse:
Per Jewish Publication Society Jewish Study Bible (Editors Berlin and Brettler 2004)
Deuteronomy 4:33 “Has any people heard the voice of a god speaking out of a fire, as you have, and survived?”
[ I ask why does the Torah write and ‘survived’ ? Does it mean to imply ‘other people’ , even a mass of them, have heard the voice of a god speaking out of a fire, but unfortunately they died. However, the Israelites were special because they survived while others did not. Is this evidence that the Israelites where aware of the existence of other divine revelations that occurred amongst other peoples ? ]
Continued Kuzari Argument Part 17 - Apple White Theorem, Rabbi Kelemen
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Tuesday, March 27, 2018
Kuzari Argument Part 16 - Permission To Receive Rabbi Kelemen
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