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About Me

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.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Proof of God From Fine Tuning Part IV

This post is a continuation from Proof of God From Fine Tuning Part I.  There is a Part II and III.  {ETA I removed Part II and Part III.} 

It would help to at least skim Part I, however this can be read as a stand alone.

Some Theologians argue some of natures parameters lie in an extremely narrow range that permit life and this means a fine tuner (God)  was involved in selecting the parameters.

This post will provide some alternate possible explanations  From Part 3 of  Cosmology: The History and Nature of Our Universe By Professor of Astronomy Mark Whittle 2008 

Beginning Page 38

1) Inflation can explain some apparent  fine tuning. In time we may come to understand the origin of the other parameters. For example their may be some deep symmetries that can explain the laws of physics.

2) If there actually was some flexibility in the parameters perhaps God did it. The book explains this is a 'God of the gaps' argument. 

3) Assume there actually was some flexibility in parameters. We exist, thus the  parameters had to be in the life giving range. It is an after the fact necessity.

4) "A strict statistical view says we have an after-the-fact probability of unity, so we shouldn't be surprised [that the parameters are life giving]. Furthermore, we can infer nothing about the 'before-the-fact' probability. There was Big Bang, and life giving parameters were chosen. End of story."

5) Assume there actually was some flexibility in parameters. Some  are bothered by the low before the fact probability of getting the parameters.  They respond that Inflation theories can generate a multiverse. "Both Inflation and String Theory can generate Universes with different laws of physics."  

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Kuzari Argument Part 22 or Miracle Of Sun Part 13c- Rabbi Gottlieb Review

Updated 3/21/2019 to include some (but not all)  of the relevant links supporting my comments.

Continued from Kuzari Argument Part 21

I want to thank Rabbi Gottlieb for reviewing my blog post on the Miracle of the Sun

See Rabbi Gottlieb's apparent counterexamples to kuzari

Retrieved 3/20/2019

If the Rabbi reads all my Kuzari posts he will see my reasons for rejecting Kuzari style arguments including his own. 

I am going to focus on only a few points the Rabbi makes.

G1) Here is what I wrote in my original post Miracle of the Sun: 

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

This can be briefly restated as: If  people believe an event occurred, then evidence must exist for the event's occurrence. 

The Rabbi critique : Let’s call the last paragraph AK. This is a gross mistake: RG and AK are very different in content. AK implies that if people believe that Muhammad ascended to the sky on a fiery horse, there must be evidence that he did. RG does not imply this. His mistake is to leave out the qualification: “event which, had it really occurred, would have left behind enormous, easily available evidence of its occurrence.” Muhammad’s ascent does not meet this condition.A great deal of his argument below is undone by this mistake.

My response to this critique: There is no AK intended. I have edited all my posts to reflect my original intention that the brief restatement was meant to be the RG principle. RG Can be briefly restated as: If  people believe an event of type E occurred, then evidence must exist for the event's occurrence. Do the alleged unnatural events at Mt Sinai qualify as an event of type E ? If they do why not those alleged unnatural events at Fatima ?

G2) The Rabbi writes: Here is a crucial mistake in logic. At no point do I say, imply, suggest, hint or otherwise indicate the judgment of the witnesses as to whether the event was a miracle. In my view that is irrelevant. All I take from the witnesses is their account of what they experienced. It is our judgment that the described phenomena are miraculous. They say the mountain was aflame, the ground was shaking under their feet, there was cloud and smoke, the sound of a shofar, and they all heard a voice. It is our judgment that if they really experienced all of that it was a miracle.

Similarly, we should accept the testimony that they saw something happen in the sky that astonished them and created the impression of a miracle. Since they do not report (so far as I have seen) how long the vision lasted, and how long they were in an ecstatic state afterwards, there is no difficulty in accepting their statement that the wet ground and clothes became dry. It is then up to us to decide whether having that experience is evidence that a miracle occurred.”

My Response to this critique: In  older Kuzari  posts I argued very similar to reject  the Mount Sinai story !  They say the mountain [Sinai] was aflame, the ground was shaking under their feet, there was cloud and smoke, the sound of a shofar, and they all heard a voice. It is our judgment that if they really experienced all of that it was a miracle or divine  revelation or not. I think it is plausible  the Mt Sinai event (even is there is some truth to the story)  did not involve an actual miracle or an actual divine  revelation.  I think it is plausible  the Miracle of Sun event(s)  did not involve actual Miracle(s) or an actual divine  revelation or unnatural things. 

G3) Rabbi Writes “And note that a vision of a religious figure is claimed only for the three children. The tens of thousands see astonishing behavior of the sun and perhaps other items in the sky. There is no reason to doubt that some natural phenomena can cause such an experience.” 

My Response to this critique:  They say the mountain [Sinai] was aflame, the ground was shaking under their feet, there was cloud and smoke, the sound of a shofar, and they all heard a voice. There is no reason to doubt that some natural phenomena can cause such an experience. 

G4) Rabbi writes: “RG only applies to an event that we would expect to leave behind enormous easily available evidence of its occurrence.”

My Response: I have written several posts discussing the problems with this “an event that we would expect to leave behind enormous easily available evidence of its occurrence”.  Those problems are a serious objection to the usefulness and merits of the RG.  Enemy aircraft over British South Africa ? Rumour in Orleans

G5)  Rabbi Wrote:

The first thing to note (as I mentioned above several times) that there are two different events in question here.

A.   The experience of the people of a phenomenon in the sky that awed and inspired them and appeared to them miraculous.
B.   G-d caused the phenomenon in the sky miraculously.

Let’s now try his argument for each event separately.

A: Would the event of tens of thousands of people having a vision that inspired them and seemed to them to be a miracle be expected to leave behind enormous easily available evidence? Sure! The people will tell it to others and a great many will believe that it happened. And that is indeed what happened. And therefore millions of people believe that event A happened. And they are right – event A really did happen.

My Response: The Rabbi writes the event he labled A:  “The experience of the people of a phenomenon in the sky that awed and inspired them and appeared to them miraculous.” Happened. Well of course it did but that is not the point. They had their evidence something  miraculous, something unnatural  actually occurred and it is their story and interpretation that gets passed down thru the generations,. Thus  later generation  claim a miracle occurred , something unnatural was witnessed by their ancestors.  Consider Mt Sinai. The ancient Israelites interpret the MT Sinai quaking etc: as a revelation from G-d, and that interpretation gets passed down and becomes G-d was at Mt Sinai. {ETA 3/21/2019 Some Ancient People related Mountains/Volcanoes with supernatural beings - this is documented in several of my Kuzari Posts. For example Kuzari Part 3,}

G6) The Rabbi  provides his rational for the RG. 

My Response:  The RG principle is not a reliable guide for determining the veracity of peoples beliefs. Justification for this comment is found in my Kuzari posts, it's links and including my posts on Rabbi Kelemens Kuzari style argument.

A important one regarding  'events of our type'

Kuzari Argument Part 21 Rabbi Kelemen Bomb April 23, 2018

G7) MY CONCLUSION The Miracle of the Sun shows the RG principle is flawed for determining the  veracity of peoples beliefs concerning current events or historical events. Per RG -   If  people believe an event of type E occurred, then evidence must exist for the event's occurrence. In the Miracle of the Sun let the event be the Sun danced and the other claimed unnatural things that occurred. Is this an event of Type E ? If Mt Sinai story is Type E, why not Miracle of the Sun events ?  People will see and experience  the event(s)  that happen. The story gets passed around and down.  We need not accept something unnatural happened at Fatima, despite the claims of a large mass of witnesses to unnatural events,  despite claims of a  large mass of their descendants and despite a large  mass of their fellow countrymen.  Much the same applies to the Sinai story.  I applaud the Rabbi for applying some good critical thinking skills seemingly to reject the veracity of the Miracle of the Sun. It seems to me some of his critiques of the Miracle of the Sun story apply to the Mount Sinai story.

Continued Kuzari Argument Part 23 or Proof of God from Miracles Part 3

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Historicity of Book of Esther and Purim, Origins of Purim

The purpose of this blog post is to document something I wrote years ago while discussing the Proof of God from Purim Fest 1946 or Prophecy of Nazis in Megillah

"Many academic scholars, if not the vast consensus consider the Purim story non historical, and for good reasons...."

That proof was repudiated for reasons having nothing to do with the question of the historical accuracy of the book of Esther. However, if the story in the Megillah is fictional or likely fictional then the proof is further weakened.  The post will assume the reader has some familiarity with the story in the Book of Esther.

I will cite many sources supporting my quote above and supply some possible origins of Purim. 

When judging if a story is fictional or likely to be fictional various criteria are used. Kenton Sparks below discusses some of these criteria. Please keep Kenton’s criteria in mind when doing your evaluation.  You do not start with an assumption the story is true then cherry pick supporting data and disparage and discard dis-confirming data. Rather, all the evidence needs to be weighed.  Sometimes it is difficult to weigh all the information “for and agin” and so there can be disagreement even among well informed people.  

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

Beginning Page 266 - Judging if a Story is Fictional

1) Fanciful and marvelous events in the narrative. [I want to add some other criteria which I discussed in this post Proof of God from Miracles (Part 1) or Kuzari Argument Part 9 and the follow up in part two.]

2) Internal historical improbability. The story itself seems improbable. Improbable plot.

3) External historical improbability. Events in the story do not match up to historical verification. [I want to add do not match up with other things we have confidence in.]

4) Sometimes fictional stories are put into the form of historical genre, but it is found to deviate from historical genre in important respects. This will count against the veracity of the story.

5) Generic Analogy - When a story’s motifs and themes appear in other texts that we have already appraised as fictional. Kenton points out this criteria needs to be used with care.

Kenton writes that Scholars have often identified the Book of Esther as fictional. 

K1) No evidence of a Hebrew Queen Esther.

K2) The story of Joseph in the Old Testament influenced the Book of Esther.

K3) The Character in the Book of Esther read as artificial. Here are just two examples Kenton writes about. (a) Persian Kings are not so easily entrapped by their own decrees as in Esther 8:9 (b) Unlikely a Persian to decree Jews could fight and kill thousands of Persian Soldiers as in Esther 8-9

K4) The character names correspond nicely with their narrative roles. Mordechai of Kish and Haman and Agaggite both correspond to earlier literary prototypes from I Sam 15 where Saul is a son of Kish and there is a king Agag.  

On page 380 Kenton explains Persia announcing to massacre it’s Jewish population eleven months before the pogrom to take place seems improbable (Est 3:5-15). Even more implausible is the jews slaughtered over 75,000 Persian (Est 9:1-17). Kenton does note some ancient Kings could announce ethnic massacred but the lead time announcement is no where near the eleven months.

The Bible Commentary The Book of Esther - Adele Berlin, Jewish Publication society 2001 

Adele supports and explains about the Book Of Esther:

A) It is a comedy.

B) It draws heavily on the literary motifs associated with Persia that were current when the book was written.

C) The story is implausible as history. Many Scholars now agree it is better viewed as imaginative story telling.

D) No known Jewish Queen of  Persia. Moreover, none are to be expected since Queens came from noble Persian families, not ethnic minorities.

E) Kings do not choose Queens based on beauty contests.

F) No known King acted or would act like King Ahasuarus

G) To govern a country in which law would never be changed makes governing impossible.

H) Ancient Persia was relatively benevolent to the various ethnic groups in it. They permitted Jews to return to Judah and rebuild the Temple, yet none of that is mentioned in the book of Esther. 

I) Plot hinges on improbable hooks: Everybody knew Esther was related to the Jewish Mordecai; yet she was able to hide her Identity.

J) The historical authentic elements is background and setting while the main characters and plot are farther removed from reality.

K) We can recognize the story as a form of imaginative story telling common in the Persian and Hellenistic Period,

L) Chap 9 of the book of Esther dealing with the slaughter of Jewish enemies is no more real than anything else in the plot.

M) The largest interpretive problems of the book of Esther melt away if the story is treated as a farce or comedy associated with a carnival like festival.

N) Exaggerated figures such as 127 provinces; 180 day party; 12 months of beauty preparation; Haman’s offer of 10000 talents of silver;   A 50 cubic high stake; 75,000 enemies dead.

O) Stylistic features reinforce the sense that the story is a farce.

P) One major purpose was to provide an etiology for Purim; to offer an explanation why the festival was already being celebrated. Most scholars date the book was written 400-200 B.C.

Q) Ahasuerus - Although scholars have identified Xerxes I (480-465 B.C.E) or as Artaxerxes (465-424 BCE) , Ahasuerus is not a real historical personage.

Adele also briefly mentions some suggested origins of Purim:

O1) Persian Festival of the Dead whose name sounds like Purim.

O2) The Babylonian “Pur” which Lot in the festival name. Also the Babylonians deities Ishtar and Marduk are like the names Esther and Mordechai. {Why were Jews naming their children after those deities ?]

O3) Greece - Esther has points of contact with Greek Literature: Motifs and comic form. The Greek Festival of Great Dionysia in March-April is marked with revelry, masquerading and comic performance.

O4) There are many [pagan] late winter or early spring holidays in the ancient world - some carnivalesque.  The Jews may have adapted from them. 

Adele mentions none of the various origins options are provable. 

The Anchor Bible Esther Carey A. Moore 1971

Beginning on Page XlV:  Carey mentions numerous evidences against the Historicity of the Story in the Book of Esther


180 day feast.

Queen Vashti refused to obey the King.

Kings ridiculous letter ordering men to be master’s in their own home.

Appointment of non Persians to the important post Prime Minister.

Letter sent out in all th languages of the empire instead of the official language of the Persian empire.

Kings permission granted a year ahead of time (III: 12-13) to wipe out an entire people of his empire and possessions plundered.

King’s sanction of fighting everywhere even within the palace complex.

Seeming Contradictions to Extra Biblical Sources

127 Providences contradicts Herodotus 20 satrapies

Esther arrives 480 BC into Susa where as Herodotus gas Xerexes still fighting in Greece.

Mordechai - was part of Nebuchadnezzars deportation in 597 BC( II -6) makes him and Esther too old to accomplish everything attributed to them.

II-16 and III-7 Esther as Queen 7th-12th year of Xerexes reign, but per Herodotus, Amestris was Queen. Per Herodotus the Persian Queen must be from seven noble Persian families ruling out an insignificant Jewess. 

Carey writes all the above objections lends support to two more serious objections:

1) The Legitimate suspicion that Purim origins are in a pagan festival adopted by the Jews.

2) A number of story elements of the  Book Of Esther are striking similar to certain legendary stories of the ancient near east.

Carey also has a section supporting non fictional elements in  the story. But later on page LI and LII per Carey:

“To the present writer, the contradictions, exaggerations, and inconsistencies of Esther argue against the story being taken at face value.”

“Thus when all the evidence is taken together, we conclude that Esther is neither pure fact nor pure fiction it is a historical novel”

The New Interpreter’s Bible Volume II 1999

Page 856 Regarding Book of Esther: “As either a novella or Festlegende {etiology of Purim}, the book is meant to be read as if it were history, even though it is clearly fictional. As Fox put it, it is a fictive text meant to be read by nonfictional conventions.”  

Page 859 The book is not an historical record. It is clear the book is a work of fiction that happens to contain some historical elements.

The Oxford Bible Commentary 2000

Page 325 Regarding the Book Of Esther:  “The blatant historical difficulties, the internal inconsistencies, the pronounced symmetry of the themes and events, the plentitude of quoted dialogue, and the gross exaggeration in the reporting of numbers (involving time, money, and people) all point to Esther as a work of fiction, it’s vivid characters (except for Xerxes) being a product of the Author’s creative imagination.” The Commentary goes on to write Esther has long been called a Diaspora Novella and is a fictional piece of prose.

From the Interpreter’s One-Volume Commentary On The Bible 1982

Beginning on Page 232

Esther is a historical novella written to explain the origins of Purim.

The author of Esther makes no mention of known historical events of Xerexes career. During the Persian invasion of Greece (in which Xerexes was most of the time in Asia Minor and in Greece), the Book of  Esther has the king in Susa testing for Queens.

Various historical and chronological inaccuracies and improbabilities lead one to conclude the book is not dependable history.  Herodotus has Xerexes queen being Amestris the daughter of a Persian General.

Most scholars agree celebration of Purim came first and the book was written to justify it. ”In all likelihood Purim was originally a non Jewish celebration.”

Esther (1:13-22) mentions the irrevocability of the Persians and the Medes. But this is contrary to historical evidence. 

 (Page 234 2:19-23 “Hanged on the Gallows refers not to strangulation by a rope as in modern times, but probably impalement on a sharp stake and slow death by starvation - Persian mode of execution from which the Romans got the idea of crucifixion.”)

Since the book of Esther is  fiction we not concern ourselves with 75,000 killed and no report of any Jewish casualties (9:11-19).

[Much more  can be written to support the  hypothesis that the book of Esther is likely fiction. A good start would be Adele's commentary. In any event, I feel my comment from years ago  "Many academic scholars, if not the vast consensus consider the Purim story non historical, and for good reasons...."  is fully supportable.]