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No longer take comments. Post's 'labels' are unreliable for linking or searching. Use the INDEX OF POSTS instead. A fairly accurate, but incomplete INDEX of Posts & good overview and understanding of this blog READ SOME REASONS TO REJECT ORTHODOX JUDAISM my April 2014 post or click link above. 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. IF YOU GET A MESSAGE THAT THE POST IS MISSING - LOOK FOR IT IN THE INDEX or search or the date is found in the address.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Kuzari argument part 2

UPDATED THRU 12/15/2015

This is a continuation of Kuzari Part 1  (and the comments at that post). Sources are stated through out this post and at end.

There are some reasoning and other flaws with the Kuzari argument.  Some of these may or may not apply depending on the arguments presentation. There is some repetition, interaction and overlap within this post and the prior post.

{Kuzari proponents claim the Sinai revelation was unique therefore it is true. Besides other fallacies here are two that should be stressed 1) They draw a target around the Sinai conditions to exclude every other myth. But you can do the same for almost every other myth. (The Texas Sharpshooter fallacy). 2) An hypothesis is not accepted as true because we have failed to provide a counter example}

1) Ad Ignorantiam fallacy - meaning an appeal to ignorance. The Kuzari argues we can not fathom how the Sinai story could have evolved, therefore it must be true. This argument is similar to the god of the gaps argument - just because we can not explain  XYZ to an individual's satisfaction does not mean XYZ is true. This fallacy is enough to reject the Kuzari.

2) Ad Populum fallacy  - meaning an appeal to popularity. Just because a certain number of people or a certain number of generations of a tribe believe a certain story is true does not mean the story is true. Otherwise  Christainity, Islam and other religions would qualify.

3) Special pleading fallacy - see Kuzari Part 1

4) Invalid authority fallacy - according to the Kuzari there was a tribe of people that witnessed a revelation from god. However, were those ancient Israelite slaves qualified to make such a statement ? Were they skeptical enough ?

Mind you, all we have in front of us is a story in the Bible and no witnesses to question.  

{ Yet, even if we did have a set of witnesses that agree that an event occurred we should not blindly accept their testimony. The more unnatural the claim the more evidence is required. Could the witnesses have been mistaken for one reason or another ? For the Sinai claim there is no corroborating evidence and there is evidence it could not have happened the way the Kuzari claims. }

5) Page 169 of Frank Moore's book Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic 1973
Referring to the Sinai revelation "That is Israel used traditional Canaanite language in early descriptions of Yahweh's theophany, and it is this traditional poetic language, objectified and historicized in excessively literal prose that we find in the epic accounts of the revelation of Sinai."

Page 177 "Baal's Characteristic mode of self-revelation is in the storm theophany". On the other hand El makes his will known in word or decree of the council of gods.

AR p 182
" But solar imagery is relatively rare in the Bible. YHWH is far more often depicted as a storm-god, in accordance with Canaanite imagery".

{ From Myths and Legends of the Ancient Near East - Fred Bratton 1993 edition Page 112 "The Ugaritic idea of a mountain as the home of a god is found frequently in the Old Testament"}

{ From Ancient Texts for the Study of the Hebrew Bible - Kenton Sparks 2005

Page 423 “It has long been recognized that the form and content of the code of Hammurabi are particularly close to the book of the covenant in Exodus 20:22-23:33. This applies not only to the content and order of the laws (see Wright) but also to matters of iconography, since Hammurabi , like Moses, is depicted receiving his laws directly from the deity atop fire-and smoke enshrouded mountain(Van Seters). The best explanation for this similarity is that the Biblical author knew the code  of Hammurabi and intentionally shaped his work to mimic the older more venerated text”}

Why would the ancient Israelite god reveal himself at Mount Sinai using Canaanite deity traits  and at a  mountain like in the Ugaritic myths of gods abode and like the Hammurabi theophany  ?

6) Page 232 How to Read the Bible by James Kugel 2007

"It is not hard to imagine, scholars say, that a similarly pious theme - God's miraculous intervention to save the Israelites from Egyptian slavery - came to be transferred from experience of a few to the foundation myth of an entire nation"

[The pious theme Kugel is referring to are certain foundation type myths of the USA.]

Contrary to Kuzari proponents, there are experts on this matter who have no difficulty accepting some sort of myth evolution for the Sinai stories.

7) "Anu and Bel called by name me, Hammurabi, the exalted prince, who feared Marduk, the patron god of Babylon (The Human Record, Andrea & Overfield 2005), to bring about the rule in the land." (From [King Hammurabi is claiming divine sanction].

AR - page 65 "It was axiomatic in the ancient world that gods could intervene in human affairs and implement their plans in history. Mesopotamian rulers often attributed their rise to power to the plan of their patron deity. Homer’s gods acted purposefully, even if they were often at odds with each other."

AR page 135 - "Although the official state cults of Rome and the Greek cities were not generally founded on divinely inspired or divinely written texts, in some noncivic cults—such as those of Orpheus and the Egyptian Hermes—the word of the god, as inscribed in sacred texts, did hold a central place."

AR page 227  - “In some respects at least, the religious situation of pagan Rome strikes a modern observer as familiar enough. Holy places had to be consecrated and cared for. Texts for prayers and vows had to be carefully preserved and pronounced. Processions were made through the streets, and divine images were
paraded from their temples on special occasions. Prophetic texts were preserved and consulted for advice. The divine beings were conceived of as concerned about human welfare and powerful enough to intervene on behalf of their loyal worshipers.”

The ancient Israelites could ascribe a violent storm and or a Volcano as Yahweh's revelation. Over time ‘god’s voice’ could provide a kernel to build a divine sanctioned code. As cited, claims of  divine sanctioned codes or divine intervention was not unique to the ancient Israelites.

8) Archaeological consensus - No mass Exodus, no Mass wandering in desert for 40 years, No mass invasion of Canaan. This well documented in the academic literature. Thus the Sinai stories should be rejected.

For example:

AR -page 182  
"The consensus of archeologists at the beginning of the 21st century is that the early Israelites evolved within the land and culture of Canaan. There is no archeological evidence that they came from either Mesopotamia or Egypt. If the story of the exodus has a historical basis, it can account for only a small segment of the Israelite population. The god El, worshiped by Abraham and later identified with YHWH, was the high god of the Canaanite pantheon."

The Bible Unearthed I. Finkelstein, N. Silberman 2001
Page 118 “There was no mass Exodus from Egypt. There was no violent conquest of Canaan.”

{ Page 68 of the Oxford Bible Commentary 2001 - "At most there could have been a small group which escaped from Egypt and passed on its traditions to related groups in Canaan ." And on page 76 "The 600,000 in Exodus 12:37 is obviously historically impossible, but is the standard biblical figure, repeated in th ecensus in Numbers 1 and 26." " was habitual for ancient scribes to exaggerate numbers"} 

{From the book Ancient Israel in the Sinai by Hoffmeier 2005 

Beginning page 153 - there is a discussion why the Torah's figures are impossible. He goes on to write 600,000 men is impossible. He writes studies on the issue leave little doubt and that maybe thousands or a few tens of thousands, but not hundreds of thousands let alone millions."}

9) Judaism did not begin at Sinai according to the Torah, for example, the Abraham stories predate Sinai. Per the Torah - circumcision, sacrificing, anointing and the prohibition of the thigh sinew are examples of customs that predate Sinai. A new religion did not just emerge ex-nihilo at Sinai. There was a previous alleged relationship between the patriarchs and Yahweh. 

{ see verse 5
GENESIS 26:1 And there was a famine in the land, beside the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went unto Abimelech king of the Philistines unto Gerar.
2 And the LORD appeared unto him, and said: 'Go not down unto Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of.
3 Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath which I swore unto Abraham thy father;
 4 and I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these lands; and by thy seed shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves;

5 because that Abraham hearkened to My voice, and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.' }

10)  One recent example of how a false story becomes accepted as true is the Angel of Mons. 

In addition, this story should not have gained traction since people could have fact checked it. 

Interestingly, this suggests the possibility that the Torah stories could have originally been known to be fiction just like the angel of mons. Then later became to be accepted as historical truth.

{ It is plausible the Exodus-Sinai stories are invented foundation myths with little or no basis in reality. They became  accepted over time and there are ample number Israelite leaders who for political reasons may have encouraged acceptance of such foundation myths. Recall, in ancient times nations had their  State  Gods and  foundation myths.}

11a) Another alleged mass revelation Castor & Pallux 
"The construction of the Temple of Castor and Pollux, located in the Roman Forum at the heart of their city, was undertaken to fulfil a vow (votum) made by Aulus Postumius Albus Regillensis in gratitude at the Roman victory in the Battle of Lake Regillus in 495 BC. The establishing of the temple may also be a form of evocatio, the transferral of a tutelary deity from a defeated town to Rome, where cult would be offered in exchange for favor.[36] According to legend, the twins fought at the head of the Roman army and subsequently brought news of the victory back to Rome.[18] The Locrians of Magna Graecia had attributed their success at a legendary battle on the banks of the Sagras to the intervention of the Twins. The Roman legend may in fact have had its origins in the Locrian account and possibly supplies further evidence of cultural transmission between Rome and Magna Graecia.[37] The Romans believed that the twins aided them on the battlefield.[9]"

11b) A  frequent  god revelation is found in Herodotus, with an English translation by A. D. Godley. Cambridge. Harvard University Press. 1920.  Herodotus Book II, Chapter 91

 "The Egyptians shun using Greek customs, and (generally speaking) the customs of all other peoples as well. Yet, though the rest are wary of this, there is a great city called Khemmis, in the Theban district, near the New City. In this city is a square temple of Perseus son of Danae, in a grove of palm trees. Before this temple stand great stone columns; and at the entrance, two great stone statues. In the outer court there is a shrine with an image of Perseus standing in it. The people of this Khemmis say that Perseus is seen often up and down this land, and often within the temple, and that the sandal he wears, which is four feet long, keeps turning up, and that when it does turn up, all Egypt prospers." 

I give credit to by Naftali Zeligman for this revelation.

11c) "...prophecies are fulfilled via miracles which are indeed witnessed by the Aztec people". - see and both by Mark Pelta

12) When  religion, geopolitics, nation-state Gods, nationalism, state politics, money, land, priests and superstition are thrown into a cauldron, just about anything may come out.  

13) Per Torah law - outspoken recalcitrants were killed or excommunicated - no wonder the Sinai myth self perpetuated. Also, for political reasons it is useful for all the tribe to ‘believe’ in the story since religion or myth can be used to unite a people. For example the mythical Nazi ideological propaganda (of master race) was used to unite. The Torah claim that god appears to a tribe in a desert and makes them his chosen may serve a similar propaganda function. 

And Rashi says as much on Genesis 1:1
For if the nations of the world should say to Israel, “You are robbers, for you conquered by force the lands of the seven nations [of Canaan],” they will reply, "The entire earth belongs to the Holy One, blessed be He; He created it (this we learn from the story of the Creation) and gave it to whomever He deemed proper When He wished, He gave it to them, and when He wished, He took it away from them and gave it to us.....

AR - P 74 “The appeal to the divine as the sanction of the moral order was a powerful tool of social control.”

{ETA 12/15/2105 Regarding the propaganda potential of the Exodus Story -  We read in A Theologico-Political Treatise, by Benedict de Spinoza, [1883] regarding Miracles

"...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." }

14) The Torah story contains etiological myths - for example the thigh sinew became prohibited based on a story of Jacob fighting with a supernatural being.  The ancient Israelites may have accepted these stories to explain why certain rituals were performed. For example White Buffalo Calf Women (see Kuzari Part 1story is used to explain certain certain Sioux rituals. These kinds of stories are most likely providing justification or explanations for an already extant practice.  

15)  Extreme and unusual natural events occur in the world. Perhaps the eventual acceptance of a false Sinai story was such an unusual event. Crop failure, enemy invasion, political strife, charismatic leaders or dictatorial authorities, propaganda, desperation  etc: created extreme conditions.  (These are not inventions for one familiar with ancient Israelite's turbulent  history.)

Those conditions combined with pervasive  strong previous superstitions beliefs could have fostered the eventual acceptance of the Sinai story. It is certainly one possibility and would be consistent with natural physical reality as opposed to all miracles in the Sinai story.  

  The Native American Ghost Dance evolved to the point people thought they would be immune to the white man's bullets. Tragically they were not and many died. In desperation people can come up with and believe falsehoods. The ancient Israelites were sandwiched between very powerful empires - what else could the Israeites hope for but Yahweh the Divine Warrior. It was very sad indeed. It could have gave rise to the entire State religion and a State God. Once the Jews were exiled - (meaning their God Yahweh had forsaken them) - the tribe invented an excuse - he had punished them for sins. This excuse for evil befalling a common ancient near east belief. And the rest is history.}

16) From this post here are some additional comments. 

Recall the golden calf Sinai incident, and the golden calves erected in Northern Israel by King Jeroboam. Exodus 32:4 and I Kings 12:28 say of them: This is / These are your God, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt. 

For Kuzari argument proponents:

A1) It is difficult to convincingly account for the Israelites  ‘witnessing’ god at Sinai and then almost  immediately making a golden calf and claiming  this is your god.

A2) It would also mean the Sinai Israelite's were not such good witnesses. Confusing G-d with Idols

B) How could the Northern Israelites accept the King’s affirmation ? Would not the Israelites say it is a false assertion and we have not heard such from our fathers ? 

C) Kuzari proponents argue for an unbroken oral tradition, yet so much of the Torah translation and Israelite tradition has been lost. The dietary laws a case in point.

17) { From this post Human Sacrifice in the Bible

Where was the unbroken chain of oral tradition when Jephthah sacrifices his daughter. Even if apologetics claims the daughter went monastic - such a tradition in not found in Judaism either.}

CONTINUED IN Kuzari Part 3


AR- Ancient Religions (Sarah Iles Johnston General Editor) 2007 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Suspected Adultery and the Bible Remedy

Updated thru 7/29/2018

This post will focus on the Torah ritual regarding the suspicion of your wife’s marital infidelity. 

We will see the Torah's way of dealing with such a situation is sacrifice and magical potions. 

Notice the Torah law does not discuss suspicion of a husbands infidelity. Is not what is good for the goose also good for the gander ? According to the Torah NO. (sources at end).

Sexual contact between a married man and an unmarried women was not considered adultery (page 294 JPS).

Numbers 5:11 and the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: 12 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them: If any man's wife go aside, and act unfaithfully against him, 13 and a man lie with her carnally, and it be hid from the eyes of her husband, she being defiled secretly, and there be no witness against her, neither she be taken in the act; 14 and the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be defiled; or if the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be not defiled; 15 then shall the man bring his wife unto the priest, and shall bring her offering for her, the tenth part of an ephah of barley meal; he shall pour no oil upon it, nor put frankincense thereon; for it is a meal-offering of jealousy, a meal-offering of memorial, bringing iniquity to remembrance. 16 And the priest shall bring her near, and set her before the LORD. 17 And the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel; and of the dust that is on the floor of the tabernacle the priest shall take, and put it into the water. 18 And the priest shall set the woman before the LORD, and let the hair of the woman's head go loose, and put the meal-offering of memorial in her hands, which is the meal-offering of jealousy; and the priest shall have in his hand the water of bitterness that causeth the curse. 19 And the priest shall cause her to swear, and shall say unto the woman: 'If no man have lain with thee, and if thou hast not gone aside to uncleanness, being under thy husband, be thou free from this water of bitterness that causeth the curse; 20 but if thou hast gone aside, being under thy husband, and if thou be defiled, and some man have lain with thee besides thy husband-- 21 then the priest shall cause the woman to swear with the oath of cursing, and the priest shall say unto the woman--the LORD make thee a curse and an oath among thy people, when the LORD doth make thy thigh to fall away, and thy belly to swell; 22 and this water that causeth the curse shall go into thy bowels, and make thy belly to swell, and thy thigh to fall away'; and the woman shall say: 'Amen, Amen.' 23 And the priest shall write these curses in a scroll, and he shall blot them out into the water of bitterness. 24 And he shall make the woman drink the water of bitterness that causeth the curse; and the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her and become bitter. 25 And the priest shall take the meal-offering of jealousy out of the woman's hand, and shall wave the meal-offering before the LORD, and bring it unto the altar. 26 And the priest shall take a handful of the meal-offering, as the memorial-part thereof, and make it smoke upon the altar, and afterward shall make the woman drink the water. 27 And when he hath made her drink the water, then it shall come to pass, if she be defiled, and have acted unfaithfully against her husband, that the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her and become bitter, and her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall fall away; and the woman shall be a curse among her people. 28 And if the woman be not defiled, but be clean; then she shall be cleared, and shall conceive seed. 29 This is the law of jealousy, when a wife, being under her husband, goeth aside, and is defiled; 30 or when the spirit of jealousy cometh upon a man, and he be jealous over his wife; then shall he set the woman before the LORD, and the priest shall execute upon her all this law. 31 And the man shall be clear from iniquity, and that woman shall bear her iniquity. 

The Torah custom has similarities to other cultures And Raises Some 'Problems'

1) Regarding the Number verses cited: (Page 294 JPS) "Water ordeals of varying types are attested from the ancient Near East." 
Regarding Numbers 5:11-31 “The ordeal, or more correctly, the trial of   the suspected adulteress, is a means of allaying or confirming the fears of a husband that his wife has been unfaithful.”  Due to lack of evidence , judgment and subsequent punishment is left to the Divine. “Most importantly, the priest administers the  women’s oath and utters the curse that takes effect if she is guilty.” The waters reveal whether she has been faithful or not.

 [If the bitter waters were a poison to induce abortions, then it would likely induce abortions or potentially cause problems for an  innocent pregnant wife. What kind of cipher is that ? Also, is the Torah advocating abortion ? Seems like the Creator of the Universe will have to interfere in the marital problems of the ancient Israelites]

Page 298 Myth, Legend and Custom in the Old Testament - Theodore Gaster 1969 - writes there is no doubt the ceremony washing off written curses into the water was a superstition that could not possibly produce the effect on an adulterous while leaving the faithful wife unharmed. The book explains: It is a widespread superstition that the magical influence of a written charm can be communicated to a person when the individual drinks the water that has the washed off characters in it.

[Is it possible the Torah 'author' and purveyors  knew the whole procedure was bogus ? Could be, but the Torah itself never remotely suggest such a thing.  Also, I am not aware that our tradition held the ordeal was  bogus.] }

2) Here are several similar trials sampled from Frazer 

Page 307 "In many parts of Africa it has been, and perhaps still 
is, customary to submit criminal charges, particularly poison in
accusations of witchcraft, to the test of poison : the accused
and sometimes the accusers also, are compelled to swallow
a poisoned draught, and according to the result a verdict
of guilty or not guilty is returned. As a rule, a man is
declared innocent if he vomits up the poison, but guilty if
he either retains it or evacuates it by purging. Death from
the effect of the poison is regarded as a sure sign of guilt"

Page 328 Sierra Leone: 
"From this account we learn that negro women demonstrate their fidelity to their husbands by drinking red water
 just as Hebrew women of old demonstrated their domestic
virtue quite as conclusively by drinking bitter water and calling
down curses on their heads, or rather on their stomachs
and legs, if they lied."

Page 331 "On the Gold Coast the wood which furnishes the poison 
for the ordeal is called odmn. The accused either drinks a 
decoction of the wood or chews a piece of the wood and 
afterwards drinks a bowl of water. The poison acts both
as an emetic and as a purge : if the accused vomits it up,
he is acquitted ; if he does not, his guilt is established.
Women accused of adultery, for example, have to drink a
brew of this poison in presence of a priest ; the draught is
believed to have power to burst the belly of an adulteress.
Fear of the consequences, it is said, often leads unfaithful
wives to confess their guilt."

Page 372 Thonga, a Bantu tribe:  "A woman charged with
adultery, for example, may say to her accuser, " Let us
go and drink the poison." Accordingly, they repair to a
medicine-man, whose business it is to prepare the decoction ;
he administers a little of the drug in a potion to both the
accused and the accuser, and the one who, after swallowing
the draught, shows symptoms of intoxication or loses consciousness, is declared guilty."

Page 378  Zambesi Area.
"This ceremony is called jnuavi, and is performed
in this way. When a man suspects that any of his
wives have bewitched him, he sends for the witch-doctor,
and all the wives go forth into the field, and remain fasting
till that person has made an infusion of the plant. They
all drink it, each one holding up her hand to heaven in
attestation of her innocency. Those who vomit it are considered
innocent, while those whom it purges are pronounced
guilty, and put to death by burning. The innocent return
to their homes, and slaughter a cock as a thankoffering to
their guardian spirits. The practice of ordeal is common
among all the negro nations north of the Zambesi."

India : Page 406 "Trial by the Cosha is as follows : The accused is made to drink three draughts of the water in which the images of
the Sun, of Devi, and other deities, have been washed for
that purpose ; and if within fourteen days he has any sickness
or indisposition, his crime is considered as proved." 

Page 413 "The notion, that the magical influence of a Common
written charm, whether for good or evil, can be com
municated to any person by making him or her drink the a charm
water into which the characters have been washed off, is 
widespread among superstitious people at the present time
and has no doubt been so since the days of antiquity"

[Some of the trials in Frazer involve 'poisons' some do not.  I do not know if the Torah's concoction contained of poison or not. [ETA - But floor sweepings are not safe to eat.]


Folk-lore in the Old Testament volume III 1918 James G. Frazer

JPS - Jewish Publication Society The Jewish Study Bible 2004 Berlin and Brettler

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Dangers of Circumcision as found in the Talmud

My prior Circumcision  post briefly mentioned the dangers of circumcision and more.

This post will briefly cite medical opinion and the Talmud itself documenting the dangers of the procedure.  

The medical opinion is for modern medicine. The point I am making through out this post is that in ancient times without adequate medical knowledge, tools,  antibiotics, ... circumcision had significantly higher rates of death and illness. It was a dangerous procedure. And there are severe complications occurring today ! 

Medical Opinion

From 'Circumcision of Infant Males' by The Royal Australasian College of Physicians September 2010 Paediatrics & Child Health Division

"Most complications of circumcision are minor, but some can be severe. The overall reported rate of complications after circumcision is variable, but depending on the situation
in which it is performed and the precise definition of complication, the complication rate is generally believed to be between one and four percent"

"Infant circumcision without analgesia is unacceptable practice in Australia and New Zealand." 

"Some of the risks of circumcision are low in frequency but high in impact (death, loss of penis); others are higher in frequency but much lower in impact (infection, which can be treated quickly and effectively, with no lasting ill-effects)."

{ETA 2/19/2014 In ancient Israel circumcision was performed with flint knifes.  Anesthesia, antibiotics and pain killers were probably non existent or not too effective even if any were used.}  

The Talmud

Shabbath 134a

"Abaye also said: Mother told me, If an infant is too red, so that the blood is not yet absorbed in him,28 we must wait until his blood is absorbed and then circumcise him. If he is green, so that he is
deficient in blood,29 we must wait until he is full-blooded and then circumcise him. For it was taught, R. Nathan said: I once visited the Sea-towns,30 and a woman came before me who had circumcised her first son and he had died and her second son and he had died; the third she brought before me. Seeing that he was [too] red I said to her, Wait until his blood is absorbed. So she waited until his blood was absorbed and [then] circumcised hini and he lived; and they called him Nathan the Babylonian after my name. On another occasion I visited the Province of Cappadocia,31 and a woman came before me who had circumcised her first son and he had died and her second son and he had died; the third she brought before me. Seeing that he was green, I examined hini and saw no covenant blood32 in him. I said to her, Wait until he is full-blooded; she waited and [then] circumcised him and he lived, and they called him Nathan the Babylonian, after my name."

The commentary notes:

“(28) Into his limbs, but it is still so the under-surface of the skin. This makes circumcision dangerous.
(29) Lit., the blood has not yet fallen into him’.
(30) Tyre, etc.
(31) A district of Asia Minor.
(32) The blood which circumcision causes to flow is so designated. Thus circumcision would be physically dangerous,
and furthermore even if performed it would be inadequate, as covenant blood is required.”

So by careful observation and probably  loss of infants some of our ancestors developed some rudimenatry medical knowledge when circumcision may be dangerous and fortunately some infants may have been spared a gruesome death.  

{ETA 2/18/2014 There is a minor typo in the above Soncino year 5771 edition regarding the word 'hini', which should have been 'him'.} 

Yevamoth 64b

"For it was taught: If she circumcised her first child and he died,25 and a second one who also died,25 she must not circumcise
her third child; so Rabbi. R. Simeon b. Gamaliel, however, said: She circumcises the third, but must not circumcise the fourth child. But, surely, the reverse was taught;26 now which of these is the
latter?27 — Come and hear what R. Hiyya b. Abba stated in the name of R. Johanan: It once happened with four sisters at Sepphoris that when the first had circumcised her child he died; when
the second [circumcised her child] he also died, and when the third [circumcised her child] he also died. The fourth came before R. Simeon b. Gamaliel who told her, ‘You must not circumcise [the
child]’ .28 But is it not possible that if the third sister had come he would also have told her the same!...."

"In the case of circumcision, one can well understand [why the operation is dangerous with some children and not with others] since the members of one family may bleed profusely46 while those of another family may bleed little;...."

These paragraphs establish Jewish infants were dying from circumcision and the operation was dangerous.

Gittin 57b

Updated thru 11/25/2014

"R. Joshua b. Levi said: [The verse, ‘Yea, for thy sake we are killed all the day long’] can be applied to circumcision, which has been appointed for the eighth [day]."

Levi is referring to the first part of  Psalms 44: 23 Nay, but for Thy sake are we killed all the day; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

Per Levi our infants were at risk from dying and some were dying  from circumcision.

{ETA 11/25/2014 Regarding Gitten 57b - Rashi and the Maharsha both say there is an increased risk of death to the infant from the circumcision.} 

Sanhedrin 110b

"It has been said: An infant — from when may he enter the future world?....R. Nahman b. Isaac said: From its circumcision, for it is written, I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up; while I suffer thy terrors I am distracted.32"

Rabina says from circumcision our infants could die.

Avodah Zarah 27a

"We must therefore say that they differ in the case of an Israelite whose brothers died in consequence of circumcision, so that he was not circumcised."

When there were deaths in a family from circumcision a brother need not be circumcised.


"Rabbah said: According to the words of R. 
Eliezer,22 [if there is] a healthy infant,23 one 
may heat water for him to strengthen him24 
and to circumcise him on the Sabbath, since 
it is fit for him. [If there is] a sickly infant,25 
one may not heat hot water for him to 
strengthen him and to circumcise him, since 
it is not fit for him.26 

Said Raba: But if he is healthy, why does he 
need hot water to strengthen him? Rather, 
said Raba, all are regarded as invalids in 
respect to circumcision: both in the case of a 
strong infant or a sickly infant...."

Raba explains a danger of circumcision for any infant.

Also see  my post  Circumcision and Miamonides

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Human Sacrifice in the Bible

My Passover post  briefly mentions Human Sacrifice in Ancient Israel and it will be helpful to read that article first. 

Judaism forbids human sacrifice. However, this post is discussing a very ancient period where it is possible human sacrifice was practiced by the ancient Israelites.

(Sources used are in Bibliography at end)

Leviticus 27:28-29

We will see the most likely meaning of verse 29  includes human sacrifice. {ETA 10/2021 In fact Talmud Taanith 4a states explicitly 

Jephthah sacrificed his daughter as an offering.}

Human sacrifice was apparently practiced throughout the First Temple period. (Page 537  JPS in discussing Judge 11:29-40 - see below)

Regarding Leviticus 27: 28-29 JPS explains on page 279 the word ‘herem’ [devote, proscribe] used outside of Priestly writings refers to those condemned to destruction : idolaters , defeated military enemies, those failing to comply with a communal oath. Also applies to spoils confiscated from those so condemned. However Verses 28-29 seems to mean another type of ‘herem’: a proscribing by an individual rather than by the community or God. Regarding Verse 29 - “The text shockingly says that one may sentence one-self, one’s slave, or a household member under one’s authority to death as a consecration to the Lord, and once this is done there is no reprieve or remedy. Commentators have interpreted the text differently, but there is little basis for this”.

In the Tenach there is an actual historical event that implements the Leviticus verse 28-29

Judges 11

29 Then the spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over unto the children of Ammon. 30 And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said: 'If Thou wilt indeed deliver the children of Ammon into my hand, 31 then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, it shall be the LORD'S, and I will offer it up for a burnt-offering.'

32 So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the LORD delivered them into his hand. 33 And he smote them from Aroer until thou come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and unto Abel-cheramim, with a very great slaughter. So the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel. 

34 And Jephthah came to Mizpah unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances; and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said: 'Alas, my daughter! thou hast brought me very low, and thou art become my troubler; for I have opened my mouth unto the LORD, and I cannot go back.' 36 And she said unto him: 'My father, thou hast opened thy mouth unto the LORD; do unto me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as the LORD hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even of the children of Ammon.' 37 And she said unto her father: 'Let this thing be done for me: let me alone two months, that I may depart and go down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my companions.' 38 And he said: 'Go.' And he sent her away for two months; and she departed, she and her companions, and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains. 39 And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed; and she had not known man. And it was a custom in Israel, 40 that the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year. 

In short - the text says Jephthah sacrifices his daughter to Yahweh.

Ibn Ezra can not accept the plain text and invents an interpretation - that his daughter became monastic.

But Ramban calls Ibn Ezra’s words empty and explains that indeed the daughter was sacrificed. Ramban interprets Levit 27:29 applying to killing victims of war, rebels, or individual guilty of crimes deserving the death penalty. And says this was the error of Jephthah, that Jephthah misunderstood the verses.

But there are gaping holes in Ramban’ interpretation. Jephthah could have asked one of the prophets, Judges or priests and thus saved his daughter. Also, if there was an oral tradition interpreting the versus (say as Ramban’s approach) then why wasn’t Jephthah or any in his army or his acquaintances or their acquaintances aware of it  ? Moreover, the daughter affirms her Father’s oath, and her companions were not aware Ramban’s interpretation. Finally see previously cited JPS. 

{ETA  Regarding Human Sacrifice - Jephthah daughter is an excellent example done by vow. (Page 174 The Role of Human Sacrifice in the Ancient Near East by Alberto Ravinell Whitney Green 1975, page 174)}

{ETA 3/8/2014  Page 470 The Jewish Publication Society Commentary Deuteronomy - Jeffrey Tigay 1996  Regarding  Deut  7:1-2, 7:17, 20:15-18 "Proscription [devoted in the translation I used above] was a well known practice in the ancient world". "One type of proscription was the religious practice of devoting property, cattle or persons (perhaps as victims of sacrificial vows, such as Jephthah's daughter) irrevocable to a deity, that is, to a sanctuary and the priests by destruction or killing. Another type was punitive proscription, which consisted of executing those who committed severe offenses against the gods". (The author references Exodus 22:17 and Deut 13:13-18 as examples). "Proscription of enemy armies and populations to the gods is known from various places in the ancient world." (The author cites Moab, Mesopotamia and ancient Europe.) }

For very important additional commentary see this link Parashat Korach which makes an even more convincing case than I.

[UPDATE 1/21/2014 

 - Tearing one's cloths is a Jewish custom when a person hears of the death of a close relative. 

- Monasticism and  nunneries  are foreign to Judaism. 

- It is hard to believe four days of lament per year for somebody going monastic. ]

Continued Human Sacrifice in the Bible Part 2


JPS - Jewish Study Bible 2004 Berlin and Brettler
Ramban - Translated by Rabbi Chavel 1974

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Proof of God from Kosher Animals Part 2

The main topic of this post is a continuation of  Part 1 and will provide the documentation for that prior post. It will also explore the argument against the Torah/Bible being divine. (The sources used for this post are listed at the end).

Origins of Torah Dietary Laws 

Eventually I want to explore the origins of the Torah Dietary laws but for now will just mention the following: 

1) Swine were taboo in Egypt - it was believed wicked souls migrate into the swine.  (See France’s book  in bibliography)

Swine were abhorred by Phoenicians .(Ferguson)

Recall Torah law forbids eating Chazir the swine.

{Update  2/9/2014 From Ancient Texts for the Study of the Hebrew Bible - Kenton Sparks 2005 Page 207 - Regarding Leviticus 11..Dietary laws of clean vs unclean are very close to ancient near east views.  The clean species - animals of domestic flocks and herds. The unclean- dogs and swine among the Hittites.}

2) The permissible Torah land mammals must cheweth the cud and have cloven  hoofs.  An hypothesis of mine to be researched is a link to the Totem or animals associated with the Deity.

Recall the golden calf Sinai incident, and the golden calves erected in Northern Israel by King Jeroboam. Exodus 32:4 and I Kings 12:28 say of them: This is / These are your God, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt. 

There is the Tallis and Tzitzit  hairy threaded cloaks reminiscent of haired ruminants and their tails. There is the CLOVEN hand signal of the Kohanim (adopted to be the Vulcan salute in Star Trek). The Kohanim (priests) salute their hands outwards as if to display their hoofs and also to cover and protect  the congregation with an emanation from the Deity. There are specific allowable sacrificial animals that  appeal to the smell of god. The cud chewing cloven hoofed bull was associated with El.  Patriarchal and tribal names can provide clues. Also see  Moshe getting horny; and the phylacteries. 

3) For Kuzari argument proponents:

A) It is difficult to convincingly account for the Israelites  ‘witnessing’ god at Sinai and then almost  immediately making a golden calf and claiming  this is your god.

B) How could the Northern Israelites accept the King’s affirmation ? Would not the Israelites say it is a false assertion and we have not heard such from our fathers ? 

C) Kuzari proponents argue for an unbroken oral tradition, yet so much of the Torah translation and Israelite tradition has been lost. The dietary laws a case in point.

Back to the main topic of this post.

Tenach Verses 

Recall the 4 listed animals with only one of the two features are the:

Gamal: Chews cud, no split hoof
Shafon (various English spellings that are irrelevant) Chews cud, no split hoof
Arnevus (various English spellings that are irrelevant): Chews cud, no split hoof
Chazir: Split hoof, does not chew cud.

The Shafon is mentioned only 4 times in the Tenach. Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 which  mention the name in a list of non kosher animals with one of the two features. It is also mentioned in Proverbs and Psalms and these provide important clues to it’s Identity.

Proverbs 30:24-28
24 There are four things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise:
25 The ants are a people not strong, yet they provide their food in the summer;
26 The Shafonim (plural for Shafon) are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the crags;
27 The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands;
28 The spider thou canst take with the hands, yet is she in kings' palaces.

Psalms104:18 The high mountains are for the wild goats; the rocks are a refuge for the Shafonim [plural of Shafon] 

From the Tenach verses the Shafon is: Small, wise, make their  homes in the rocky cliffs, are associated with wild goats of the mountain and seek safety among the rocks. Surely  the verses are referring to local known animals otherwise  what would the readers think ?  Do not eat the Shafonim making their homes in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York ?

These characteristics match the hyrax exactly and the hyrax is and was widespread in Israel.

The Arnevus is mentioned only 2 times in the Tenach. Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 only mention the name in the list of non kosher animals - chew’s it’s cud but is not cloven hoofed.  

The Torah Translations of 'ma'alat gerah'   Leviticus 11

 Cheweth the cud is the Mechon, Soncino, JPS  and NIV translation of the hebrew words 'ma'alat gerah'

But JPS adds it literally means brings up the cud.

Slifkin, Stone and Chabad  translates brings up the cud.  

Rashi on Leviticus 11:3 "It brings up and regurgitates the [ingested] food from its stomach, returning the food to its mouth, in order to thoroughly crush it and grind it thoroughly." 

{ETA 10/6/2015 The Rashbam commentary on Leviticus 11:3 states maalat gerah is about regurgitation of food into the foodpipe before finally digesting.}

Traditionally it meant a ruminant - See for example Jastrow under gerah (spelled with the hebrew letters gimmel -resh-heh). Jastrow says gerah relates to throat, larynx with windpipe, lungs and heart.  

Strong - gerah means the cud. Derived from the word spelled gimmel-resh-resh: to drag off roughly; by implication to bring up the cud (i.e. ruminants); by analogy to saw: catch,  chew

Hirsch - Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains as follows. Gerah derives from the word spelled ‘gimmel-resh-resh’ meaning “to saw”. Animals that chew the cud have 4 stomachs. The food is sawed at first then swallowed. It is brought up from the second stomach to the mouth and is called ‘heh-aiyon-lamed-tuf [spelled]’ gerah. He adds the Shafon and Arnevus  can not be the rabbit and hare unless both chew the cud which he says is difficult to claim.

Anecdotally, the ashkenzi litvak yeshivas I attended taught the kosher land mammals listed in the Torah chewed the cud.

We will see the overwhelming consensus of  bible-zoology scholars consider the Shafon a hyrax and it does not chew the cud. Arnevus is translated by virtually every bible-zoology scholar  as the hare and it does not chew the cud. Yet the Torah says the Shafon and Arnevus chew the cud.

Thus based on what seems solely that discrepancy some advocate novel meanings of what ‘brings up the cud’ can include and or novel interpretations of the animal identities. (Presworsky and Weinberger selection of animals for example).

For the remainder of the post the terms ‘chews the cud’ or anything similar,  ‘brings up the cud’ or anything similar are all used interchangeably.

Torah translations of Gamal, Shafon, Arnevus, Chazir

Chazir is translated as swine by some and others as pig. 

(The rock-badger and daman are hyraxes, and will be considered equivalent for this post.)

Gamal, Shafon, Arnevus are translated as camel, hyrax, hare respectively by:  Chabad, JPS, Mechon,Soncino, Stone, Slifkin, Freidman, Toperoff. 

NIV translates as camel, coney and it notes hyrax, hare.

Jastrow has camel, “cony,(rock-badger)",  hare 
Jastrow is not clear what he actually meant by the cony. The cony can be the pika of the rabbit family or it could be a hyrax. He has rock-badger parenthesized.

Shafon is the hyrax, according to Strong.

Arnevus is the hare per Hirsch, Jastrow, Strong.

Hirsch  has camel for Gamal.  

Also see the Hart, Wood, Pinney, Ferguson, France, Chrisensen who all translate Shafon and Arnevus as hyrax and hare. Short summaries are found at the end of this post.            

The Dissenters

Hirsch  has rabbit for Shafon. But see Rabbi’s Hirsch’s comment above. Also see Wood below why rabbit is an error.

Presworsky has: Gamal =  Arabian Camel,   Shafon =  Llama, Arnevus = Bactrian Camel 

Weinberger has Shafon = Mouse deer, Arnevus = Musk deer

Presworsky and Weinberger are discussed later.

Additional comments regarding the animal translations

Strong - Shafon means to conceal

 [The hyrax being defenseless is an expert in concealing itself when in danger and is hard to capture.]

Strong - Arnevus is the hare; uncertain derivation [of the root or word].

Rabbi Slifkin (the “Zoo Rabbi”):  the evidence is overwhelming Arnevus is the hare and the Shafon is the hyrax. The Shafon is not a rabbit, hare or jerboa which others have suggested. [Noteworthy: rabbit, hare or jerboa do not chew the cud]. Slifkin’s books (The Camel, The Hare And The Hyrax and his new book The Torah Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom) 
makes a much more compelling and comprehensive case than I for the animal identifications.  He cites Midrash, Talmud, Rabbinic commentary, scientific literature and so much more to support his conclusion.  Nevertheless,  my work is completely independent of his, very probably capturing  information and sources not found in his books. I have only seen  short samples of his books. 

Slifkin says the gamal is unequivocally known as the camel.

Hart -  Gamal includes all types of camels. The word Shafon signifies hider and he links the word to southern arabic thofan. He links the arabic word fore hare ‘arneb’ to Arnebus. 

On Presworsky Gamal =  Arabian Camel,   Shafon =  Llama, Arnevus = Bactrian Camel 

The Arabian and Bactrian camel have virtually indistinguishable skeletons. They look very similar but for the number of humps. Why would the Torah mention both ? Also as previously written ,  Hart explains Gamal includes all species of Camels, and so why repeat a 2 hump camel as the Arnevus ? And how would Presworsky respond to the similarity of Arnevus to the arab word for hare ?

And as Hart mentions there is the special word beker for the one hump camel.

The Llama would  not fit the Shafan description in the verses from Psalms and Proverbs. There is the linguistic evidence from arabic for the hyrax. The Llama was almost certainly unknown to ancient Israelites and did not live amongst  Israel’s  rocks. It is not a small animal.

{Note - Presworsky is drawing a tight circle around the Gamal and a tight circle around the Arnevus, but a large one around the Chazir}

On Weinberger Shafon = Mouse deer, Arnevus = Musk deer

Contrary to Weinberger,  Rabbi Presworsky’s book on page 56 says the musk  deer , mouse deer, and Chinese water deer are kosher !

The mouse deer and musk deer are not indigenous to Israel or surrounding countries. The mouse deer is associated with forests not rocks or cliffs. (see wikipedia Chevrotain and musk deer.)

And there is the problem of linguistic evidence concerning the hyrax and the hare. 

(I have only read Weinberger’s abstract, not his entire paper so perhaps he can respond to these questions).

Rabbi Presworsky's and Weinberger’s  stated motivations for their novel animal translation was to reconcile the problem of the hyrax and hare each not chewing the cud. They are not motivated based on an objective evaluation of all the evidence. Their translations oppose the consensus of scholars. Even with their translations there is the issue of ‘only’ four animals as previously explained in 'Fourthly' of my prior post.

Other solutions to the “Error” of the Torah

Some confront the argument maintaining the Shafon and Arnevus are not the hyrax and hare but some unknown extinct animals. I have not seen evidence for this claim and also it conflicts with the majority of  scholars. Slifkin also refutes this claim in his book The Camel, The Hare And The Hyrax.

Some say ‘chew the cud’ could include merycism. The hyrax may possibly engage in such a practice, but this is still to be determined to the best of my knowledge.  Then there are  other animals which do merycism (for example some macropods).  If  the hyrax does occasionally engage in merycism, this could provide the  reason the Torah listed it and the Torah need not list every such animal.

Some advocate that the digestive structural anatomy of the hyrax may share some similarities with cattle (or perhaps the camel) and so be  considered as if it chews it's cud. We may suppose hyraxes were butchered and in the process revealed gut similarities to cattle or camels. In other words,  there would be least 3 mutually exclusive anatomical structures (for example the ox, camel, hyrax)  having some similarities to each other and thus  considered chewing the cud. But similar digestive structures alone  can not be said to be chewing the cud, unless the animal actually does chew the cud. 

Others say the hare coprophages and perhaps this can be considered chewing it's cud. (I have also read the hare does not re-chew the excreted pellets but swallows them whole and so this could not be considered chewing it’s cud- but this needs more research on my behalf ). This explanation distorts traditional understanding as explained  previously and also the Torah's very written words. The known Torah’s kosher animals that chew their cud all do it in a similar fashion and this is most likely what chewing the cud means. Arguing cheweth the cud includes coprophage is tantamount to trying to swallow a horse.

Some claim the hyrax and or hare engage in chewing motions / throat movements that suggest chewing its cud. However, the Torah says the Shafon and Arnevus chew the cud, not that they ‘appear’ to chew the cud.

A response offered is the Torah speaks in the language of men. But then why mislead us by singling out the hyrax and hare saying they bring up the cud, the very same terms used for listed kosher cattle in Deuteronomy 14:6 ?  It should say 'appears' to cheweth it' cud and avoid confusion 

Advocating the Torah speaks in the language of men also creates interpretations problems. When are we to know when the Torah is merely speaking in the language of men versus telling us facts ? And how are we today able to know what the language of men was when the Torah was written ? And the language of which generation of men and of which local ? Recall,  according to tradition the Torah discussed events beginning around 6000 years ago to about 1200 BC and covers a wide geographic region.


1) The proof 4 the divinity for the Torah based on the 4 animals ‘udderly’ fails. 

2) The overwhelming consensus and evidence is the Shafon is the hyrax and the Arnevus the  hare. The most likely explanation of what occurred is the hyrax has chewing motions and throat motions that may appear like  chewing the cud. The hare has chewing motions that may appear like chewing the cud. The Torah warns do not be mistaken since you need two signs.  This highly suggests the Torah author(s) were not aware of biological facts/were imprecise. In other words, something to be expected from human authors prior to 2000 years ago.

I highly recommend  Of Hare and Hyrax of Torah and Science with a different emphasis including a discussion of related Talmudic portions and Slifkin’s  book.


Chabad -  The Complete Jewish Bible - at

Friedman - Commentary on the Torah - Richard Friedman 2001

Hirsch - The Hirsch Chumash - Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch Translated by Daniel Haberman 2010 edition

Jastrow - Dictionary of Targumim, Talmud and Midrashic Literature by Marcus Jastrow (1926)

JPS - Jewish Publication Society The Jewish Study Bible 1999

Mechon - Mechon Mamre -A Hebrew - English Bible according to the Masoretic Text and the JPS 1917 Edition

NIV - The Niv Interlinear Hebrew-English Old Testament 1977

Presworsky - Animals of the Torah by Rabbi Presworsky 2001

Slifkin - The Camel the Hare and the Hyrax by Rabbi Natan Slifkin 2011, The Torah Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom by Rabbi Natan Slifkin. 

Soncino - 1950 edition of the Torah

Stone - Tenach Stone Edition 1996

Strong - Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible -James Strong 

Toperoff  - The Animal Kingdom in Jewish Thought by Shlomo Toperoff 1995



Mostly in his own words.

Gamal - (Arabic  gcmel).  Gamal -  The word includes every creature
of the kind, whatever the species, sex, age, or breed.

Another word  beker ( bet-cuf-resh)  or its feminine  bet-cuf-resh-hey 
occurs twice, and is translated ' dromedary' (Isa. Ix. 6,
Jer. ii. 23).

Shafon - The Hebrew word signifies ' the hidcr.'
The animal intended is no doubt the Hyrax  Syriacus,
which is said to be known in South Arabia by the name
thofun, of a similar signification with shafan. It has a habit of sitting on
a ledge of a rock and working its jaws in mastication,
as if it really did chew the cud, so that a careless observer
would readily mistake it for a ruminating animal.

Arnevus The hare has neither the teeth nor
the stomach which are characteristic of ruminants, and
enable them to return the partially digested food to
the mouth and masticate it afresh. There can however
be no doubt the hare is intended, since arneb is the
present Arabic name for this animal, which is common
in the Holy Land . There are several varieties of hare in Palestine, if we
include the Sinaitic confines.

 Chazir - Boar, Wild (Heb. chazir; Arab, chanzir).
Both the above terms are also applied to domesticated


WOOD'S Bible Animals.Rev. J: G: WOOD, M.A., F.L.S., Etc.,1875

Mainly in his own words.

Arnevus is the hare - To a non-scientific observer the Hare really does appear to
chew the cud thru its tooth motions, and may readily be mistaken for true rumination.

The Hebrew word which is rendered as Hare is
Arnebeth, and that it is rendered in the Septuagint as Dasypus,
or the Hare,—a rendering which the Jewish Bible adopts.
That the Arnebeth is really the Hare may also be conjectured
from the fact that the Arabic name for that animal is Arneb.
In consequence of the rather wide sense to which the Greek
word Dasypus (i.e. hairy-foot) is used, some commentators have
suggested that the rabbit may have been included in the same
title. This, however, is not at all likely, inasmuch as the Hare is very plentiful in Palestine, and the rabbit is believed not to
be indigenous to that part of the world. And, even if the two
animals had been classed under the same title, the physiological
difficulty would not be removed.

Shafon - is the Hyrax. That it was also familiar to the Jews is evident from other [Tenach]
references which are made to its habits. This animal is the
Shaphan of the Hebrew language, a word which has very
wrongly been translated in the Authorized Version as Coney,
i.e. Rabbit, the creature in question not being a rabbit, nor even
a rodent. No rabbit has ever been discovered in Palestine, and naturalists have agreed that the true Coney or Rabbit has never
inhabited the Holy Land. There is no doubt that the Shaphan
of the Hebrew Scripture, and the Coney of the Vulgate, was the
Hyrax Siriacus. This in common with the rodents, and other animals which have
similarly-shaped teeth, the Hyrax, when at rest, is continually
working its jaws from side to side, a movement which it instinctively
performs, in order that the chiselled edges of the upper
and lower teeth may be preserved sharp by continually rubbing
against each other, and that they may not be suffered to grow
too long, and so to deprive the animal of the means whereby it
gains its food. But for this peculiar movement, which looks
very like the action of ruminating, the teeth would grow far
beyond the mouth, as they rapidly deposit dental material in
their bases in order to supply the waste caused at their tips by
the continual friction of the edges against each other.

The Hyrax,
does not chew the cud, but that the peculiar and
constant movement of its jaws strongly resembles the act ot
rumination. The Jews, ignorant as they were of scientific
zoology, would naturally set down the Hyrax as a ruminant, and
would have been likely to eat it, as its flesh is very good.


Animals in the Bible (Roy Pinney 1964) Shafan and Arneves are  the hyrax and hare  - Hyrax are hard to catch, weak, lives in holes of rocks to hide since it is defenseless. Rabbits are not indigenous to Israel or it’s surrounding countries.

Living Animals of the Bible Walter Ferguson - Shafan and Arneves a re the hyrax and hare. Were  erroneously thought to be a ruminant because of the way it moves it’s jaws. Hyrax jumps rock to rock and hide in holes. 

Chazir was abhorred by Phoenicians.  Hare are common in Israel.

Encyclopedia of Bible Creatures - 1965 Chrisensen, Jorgensen, Heinecken 
Saphon - the consensus it is the Hyrax.  Arvenus is the Hare.

Encyclopedia  of Bible Animals - Peter France 1986 Shafan  means hider. Modern Translators agree it is the rock hyrax or syrian hyrax. Don’t chew cud but move their jaw often. Are wise and feeble. Arenvet - no argument about its identity as the hare. Don’t chew cud, but grind teeth giving the appearance they do. Swine  were Taboo in Egypt - it was believed wicked Souls  migrate into the swine.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Proof of God from Kosher Animals Part One

The Argument

Four  animals are enumerated in Torah/Bible as having one and only one of the following two features: Cloven Hoof, Chew their cud. The claim is then made no other animal in the world has been found with one and only one of the attributes. Furthermore,  how could the Torah written at least 2000 years ago know that on the entire planet earth only four animals would qualify as having only one of the features. Therefore the Torah had secret knowledge and therefore it must be divine.

The Torah verses 

Leviticus 11: 3 Whatsoever parteth the hoof, and is wholly cloven-footed, and cheweth the cud, among the beasts, that may ye eat. 4 Nevertheless these shall ye not eat of them that only chew the cud, or of them hat only part the hoof: the Gamal, because he cheweth the cud but parteth not the hoof, he is unclean unto you. 5 And the Shafon, because he cheweth the cud but parteth not the hoof, he is unclean unto you. 6 And the Arnevus, because she cheweth the cud but parteth not the hoof, she is unclean unto you. 7 And the Chazir, because he parteth the hoof, and is cloven-footed, but cheweth not the cud, he is unclean unto you. 8 Of their flesh ye shall not eat, and their carcasses ye shall not touch; they are unclean unto you.

In summary according to the Torah:

Gamal: Chews cud, no split hoof
Shafon: Chews cud, no split hoof
Arnevus Chews cud, no split hoof
Chazir: Split hoof, does not chew cud.

I hope to fully document and discuss the following undisputed  facts in my next post, but for now please accept them. {ETA has been done - see Kosher Animals Part 2 eta for the documentation and much more.}

1) What qualifies as ‘cheweth the cud’ is uncertain according to some Orthodox Rabbis and others.

2) The Identity of the Shafon and Arnevus is hotly debated among the Rabbis and others. 

Refutation of the Proof of God from Kosher Animals

Firstly, building an argument from uncertain named animals and uncertain terms (cheweth the cud) is analogous to building a house on sand. The uncertainty alone is enough to refute the argument entirely. This also indicates our oral tradition tragically has significant breaks in it.

Secondly, observation, research and study could provide the four examples and it would not be extraordinary that by coincidence it turns out just these 4 animals (whatever they maybe)  meet the criteria. (Actually, the Torah does not extrapolate. Rather some Rabbi's made up the extrapolation argument).

Thirdly, we do not know the Torah authors were making a zoological statement to hold for the entire planet, past, present and future  They could just as well have been providing local examples of animals that fit the criteria. 

Fourthly  Are there only 4 animals that qualify ? As will be fully documented in my next post all these animals and more may qualify: Llama, Alpaca, Vicuna, Guanaco and Bactrian Camel. The  babirusa and peccary. Certain  macropods for example the kangaroo and koala. The, rabbit, mouse deer (maybe) and musk deer (maybe). There are more than 4 animals or even types of animals. (Now I realize Chazir can be argued to include all Suidae. This raises the question how inclusive or exclusive each Torah  named animal should be interpreted. Some Rabbi’s  inconsistently have a fairly tight circle around say the Gamal, but a larger circle around the Chazir. And so there is another level of uncertainty.  This will be discussed in my next post.)

Fifthly, just because the Torah or any ancient book may have some accurate scientific facts does not imply the book is divine. It depends on the nature of the facts and how compelling the book’s discovery is.  Many would not consider the 4 animals zoological statement in an ancient text  compelling evidence, especially when a strong argument can be made the that some portions of the Torah are inconsistent with modern science, archaeological evidence  and history. 

Sixthly - The overwhelming consensus is the Shafon is the hyrax. It does not chew it’s cud. (I hope to discuss in my next post) 

Seventhly  - The overwhelming consensus is the Arnevus is the hare; It does not chew it’s cud. (I hope to discuss in my next post post).

Therefore this proof for god is faulty.

The Proof can be reflected and become a proof against the Torah and will be discussed in my next post

(1) The Shafon and Arnevus according to the overwhelming consensus are the Hyrax and Hare. They do not chew their cud. But Torah writes  they do. How can a divine text get facts wrong ? 

(2) The Camel foot skeletal structure is split very similar to say the kosher deer. Saying a camel does not have a cloven  hoof has more  to do with superficial coverings than underlying skeletal structure. On the other hand,  Rabbis rightly argue as follows. Superficial coverings are important.  The camel’s ‘hoof’ is more of a small nail not covering the toe bones thoroughly as say an ox’s hoof. Also, the camel’s split in the foot is not completely through as in the ox. Moreover the camel walks on the two end toe joints,  while other ungulates (i.e the kosher ox)  on just one. 

Continued here: proof-of-god-from-kosher-animals-part-2