Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Modern Kuzari Argument

Parshat Va'etchanan

The "Modern Kuzari" argument is one of the most standard arguments used by modern day apologists in favor of Judaism.  While it has its roots in the Kuzari, a 12th century apologetic work, the modern incarnation has really only been popular recently.  I'm not sure exactly when it first became formulated, but I do know that it was around 15 years ago when I was religious.  Like many thoughtful and religious Jews, I used the argument to defend Judaism.  In a sense, the argument was the last plank that I hung on to when my belief in the rest of the religion started falling away all around me.  However, after a lot of deep introspection, and a little bit of research, I concluded that the argument was false.

I will only briefly touch on the reasons that I came up with for rejecting the Kuzari argument.  There are a lot of posts online, ones that didn't exist fifteen years ago, that essentially make the logical arguments I used at that point.  I'll put a list of them at the end.  Instead, I want to focus on two specific counter-arguments.  One of which, I've seen posted in many places, but never with the level of detail I tend to desire, so I'll shore up that argument to the best of my ability.  The second argument is one that I think is entirely new.  Or at least, it's one that I haven't seen before.  First we need to describe what I mean by the modern Kuzari argument is.

The Argument

Here is the most succinct formation of the Modern Kuzari that I could find, it comes from Rabbi David Gottlieb:
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.
Earlier he applies this to Judaism in the following way:
Again, oversimplifying, (this is only the outline): There are two broad possibilities. One: the event at Sinai took place and people witnessed it, and that caused their belief. Or two: the event did not take place. If the event did not take place, then someone invented the story and convinced the people to believe it. 
The Kuzari's argument proceeds by investigating the second alternative, that the event didn't happen, that the story was made up and was sold. The argument shows that the second alternative is not credible. It is not credible to believe that the story was made up and then sold. If you can defeat the second alternative, that leaves only the first alternative, that it happened and was witnessed. That is the structure of the argument. 
Most refutations, and the one I came up with some 12 years ago, point out that this is a false dichotomy.  There are many other alternative paths besides the invention of the argument at a later point.  You can read about these in some of the sources below.  Some other refutations, like this one, mention that it's actually fairly easy to get people to believe in myths and legends and provides a modern example.  There are tons of examples like this, one of my favorite being the Angel of Mons.  But this is not what I wish to discuss.

Before we get to the two main points, we need to examine one issue as a preamble.

How Many People?

One of the claims of the Kuzari argument is that its the size of the population at the Sinai revelation that lend credence to its believability.  The Torah claims a very large number of people, well over 100,000, experienced direct revelation from God.  However, as we've seen here, that number conflicts with every single archaeological survey of the region.  In other words, if you are relying on the large number claim as a piece of supporting evidence, you must first explain why that claim is deemed impossible by archaeology.

In that discussion in Parshat Bamidbar, I also noted that most modern apologists seek alternate explanations for the impossibly large numbers quoted in the Torah.  If you go this route, but still maintain that the Sinai revelation happened, then you must agree that it's possible to increase the number of people involved in a mass revelation claim.  Because, even if you think that the Torah actually is talking about lower numbers, for the next 2000 years afterwards, everyone thought it was talking about large numbers.

The point in this preamble is to show that the large number of people cannot be a prerequisite for acceptance of national revelation.  And if you wish to rely on it, you have a lot of work to do with regard to explaining the archaeological evidence.  (I recommend not using this argument!)

Refutation One - Wohpe

The first refutation is essentially a counter-example, one that supposedly does not exist according to Kuzari supporters.  It's a case where another group of people experienced a national revelation, that was instrumental to their religion and culture.  As with Sinai it claimed to involve the entire group, and it includes a large number of parallels.  An adherent to the Kuzari argument must also, if they're being honest, conclude that this story must also be true.  Either that or the main argument falls apart.

First let's see where this myth comes from.  Between 1896 and 1914, James Walker was a US appointed physician to the Lakota Indian tribe.  While there he recorded many of the oral traditions of the culture.  During one of his conversations, he recorded a discussion from one of the village elders named "Finger" who was about 80 at the time. He discusses the tribe's encounter with Wohpe, the White Buffalo Calf Woman.  While I've seen this referred to with respect to the Kuzari in other sites, I've never been satisfied with how it was presented.  That's why I dug up the original source as best I could.  You can read the full account here, complete with reference.  In case you don't want to read the full thing, I'll summarize now.

The story begins with Wohpe encountering two individuals.  One of them attempts to capture the woman and is killed.  The other is instructed to prepare the rest of the tribe for her arrival.  Compare this to the initial encounter between Moshe (Moses) and God with the burning bush.

After the tribe preparation, which is similar in idea to the preparation of the Israelite nation at Har Sinai, Wohpe arrives and teaches the nation important rituals.  She teaches them to smoke the peace pipe and informs them that she will protect the tribe as long as they practice this ritual.  Compare this to the Sinai story, where the Israelites essentially sign a contract with God.

Finally, after Wohpe finishes visiting the tribe, she instructs all the people to gather together and build a fire, which she vanishes into.  At this point the tribe knows that she is Wohpe, a divine god.  Here we have a display of supernatural powers, similar to the Sinai narrative.

The story of Wohpe includes all the important ideas described in the modern Kuzari argument.  It includes, a national event with the entire tribe, a transference of divine commandments, and a public display of supernatural powers.  This represents a perfect example of a Sinai-like narrative at one of the early stages. A legend passed down among a tribe orally, by tribal elders.  Had the Lakota tribe lasted another hundred years, who knows what this legend might have evolved into. 

Refutation Two - From the Tanach Itself

The Kuzari argument is in actuality a weak argument because it claims that there is no other way for a story like the revelation at Sinai to arise without the event actually occurring in a manner very similar to what is recorded in the Torah.  Instead of refuting it by showing one of the many alternate paths, we can instead look at what the Kuzari argument's positive claims are, things that would have to be true for the very premises to make any sense.  These are:
  1. The Sinai revelation story was known to every generation from the original event until the modern day.
  2. The Sinai revelation was considered "foundational" for every generation until the modern day.
It's pretty clear why if the first is false, the Kuzari argument falls apart.  If it could be shown that a generation did not know the Sinai revelation story, then it must have been introduced later regardless of the actual truth of the event.  If the second statement is false, that the event was not foundational to Judaism, the Kuzari argument also fails.  This is mainly because the "foundational-ness" is what is generally used to reject similar mythical stories of other cultures.  In actuality, this winds up being weasel words.  However, what we're getting at here, is that every generation would consider such a thing so important that they would have expected to hear about it from a previous generation.  For example people might believe a myth, such as the story of Samson or Hercules, without actually having an oral tradition because these are not foundational.  This foundational nature of the myth under discussion is at the heart of the Kuzari argument.  If it could be shown that the Sinai narrative was not foundation for any given generation, then it's easy for anyone, even staunch adherents to this argument, to see how a myth could have been generated.

How do we go about attacking these arguments?  The answer is to look at the Tanach itself. Specifically we will look at the Nevi'im (prophets).  Here I mean the actual writings of the prophets, Yishayahu (Isaiah), Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah), Yehezkel (Ezekiel) and the 12 minor prophets.  I'd normally remove Yonah (Jonah) from the twelve, since it's a different type of book, but we'll see that it's not relevant.

I think looking at the prophets is a good approach because they're the best witness to the Israelite culture in the latter half of the first temple period and the exile. They are attempting to persuade the Israelites to worship God properly, and in doing so, they use everything at their disposal.  For example, a great many of them describe a sojourn in Egypt, or a time in the desert.  Some reference stories about the patriarchs.  From the great many references to an Egyptian exodus, we can conclude that this was a well known origin story to the Israelites.  If a prophet said, "remember when we left Egypt," as many of them did, all the population would presumably know what he was talking about.

So, the question is, what do the prophets say about Sinai?  The answer is, nothing.  They don't even mention the word.  Yishayahu mentions it zero times in his work. Yirmiyahu mentions it zero times in his "jeremiad".  You might think that Yirmiyahu, when trying to convince people not to worship other gods might say something like, "Hey, remember that time where you head God specifically tell you not to do worship idols?"  But he doesn't.  Yehezkel, despite talking a lot about the exodus from Egypt and the desert sojourn, and despite describing a great many laws like those of festivals and sacrifices, somehow fails to mention Sinai even once.  There are no references to Sinai or its alternate name Horeb in those major prophets or, in fact, in any of the minor prophets until a single mention in the very last sentence in the very last prophet, Malachai.  But it's even worse, some of the prophets seem to even know the contents of the "ten commandments" (Amos 4:2)
Swearing and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery! they break all bounds, and blood toucheth blood.
yet, Amos makes no attempt to tie these laws to any sort of Sinai revelation.  The closest we get to anything resembling Sinai is in Yehezkel (a late prophet, we should note) who says (Ezek 20:10-13):
10 So I caused them to go forth out of the land of Egypt, and brought them into the wilderness. 11 And I gave them My statutes, and taught them Mine ordinances, which if a man do, he shall live by them. 12 Moreover also I gave them My sabbaths, to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD that sanctify them. 13 But the house of Israel rebelled against Me in the wilderness; they walked not in My statutes, and they rejected Mine ordinances, which if a man do, he shall live by them, and My sabbaths they greatly profaned; then I said I would pour out My fury upon them in the wilderness, to consume them.
But even here, Sinai is not mentioned by name.  All that exists is a vague claim that God gave his ordinances somehow.  No mass revelation described.  No mention of Sinai or Horeb.  This account doesn't even align with the Torah since there is no description of the Israelites desecrating the "Sabbaths" as a nation.

What to make of this? Here are some options.  Neither the prophets nor the people knew about the Sinai revelation.  In this case assumption 1 above is false and the Kuzari argument falls.  Another option: the prophets knew about the Sinai revelation but the people didn't, in which case both 1 and 2 are false and Kuzari falls.  How about: the prophets knew about it, but didn't think it was important, in which case assumption 2 is false, the revelation just wasn't all that important and Kuzari falls,  Perhaps you can salvage something by saying that both the prophets and the people knew about it, and thought it was foundational, but the prophets didn't mention it for some ulterior motive.  For example, they didn't want to encourage people to think that they too could experience prophecy, so they just elided this mass revelation idea from their narratives.  To save the Kuzari, you throw the prophets under the bus.  But if you go this route, you lose far more in Judaism than you gain from the Kuzari.  Furthermore you still have to explain why the prophets didn't decide to focus on a revelation at Sinai but only to a specific prophet, like Moshe.  What other options are left?  How to explain this glaring absence of this purportedly foundational event in every one of the prophets?

To conclude, while this isn't the best refutation of the modern Kuzari, it is at least one that I don't think has been mentioned before.  If you want additional refutations, I've cataloged some below.

List of some of the Kuzari refutations that I've come across throughout my days on the internet.  If only these had been around fifteen years ago.

Larry Tanner's refutation (multiple parts, link is to index)

Avi Norowitz's refutation (comparison to Irish myths)

Martin Winer's refutation (the fallibility of mass experiences)

Naftali Zeligman's refutation (Judaism has no mass revelation tradition)

Alter Cocker's refutation (multiple-parts, link is to first one)

Baruch Pelta's refutation (Uses Aztec revelation mythos)

Some criticisms from religious Jews

Eliyahu Fink's critique (Argument only useful if you believe in God in the first place)


  1. I'm shocked! I didn't know the neviim don't mention Sinai revelation. I just assumed that they must discuss it all the time. I need to learn more Navi, another reason to continue Kefira blog into Neviim ;)

    1. I was surprised as well. I only uncovered this by accident. I was curious whether various prophets preferred using Sinai or Horeb, or if they alternated between the two. It turns out that they used neither!

    2. Accident? It was min hashomayim! ;)

  2. I think what irks me the most about the Kuzari argument (and, admittedly it once held great sway for me) is how adherents - and Gottlieb is especially adept at this - continually refine it so that it only applies to the Jewish experience. Even if there are similarities with another foundational myth, the differences will be emphasized to show how the Jewish one is unique in the context of the (still evolving) argument. It becomes a tailor-made, ex-post factor argument.

    I see the one of the biggest problems in Gottlieb's formulation is his claim that the Sinai event is "An event which, if it had happened would have left behind an enormous amount of easily available evidence of its occurrence." The problem is, there simply IS no enormous amount of such evidence; the only thing he can use for evidence is the story itself! That a PhD in philosophy is so lacking in critical thinking and basic logic is appalling.

    1. I also relied on it for a bit, until I tried to defend it to myself, at which point I found the various holes in it. I think it does best, as most apologetics arguments, for people who either want to believe, or need a sort of flotation device for the beliefs they want to maintain.

      Also, I wouldn't be too hard on Gottleib. We all have critical thinking blind-spots when it comes to stuff like this. Religious people aren't stupid for believing in the Modern Kuzari, they are just victims of their own brains, like the rest of us.

    2. My main objection to Gottlieb is that his Ph.D (mathematical logic) and Professor of Philosophy credentials are often cited in support of his arguments. It can be intimidating to argue against a so-called expert in logic, not realizing that he resorts to common logical fallacy traps as false dichotomy, straw man, etc etc.

    3. > ... adherents - and Gottlieb is especially adept at this - continually refine it so that it only applies to the Jewish experience.

      When I first stumbled across Gottleib's formulation of the Kuzari argument, for a couple of days I really thought there was something to it. Then I realized that he defines "extraordinary national event" (or whatever the exact term he uses) as, "matan Torah," so that by definition no other event can be comparable.

    4. @G*3 I think this post directly refutes Gottlieb 'National Tradition' version of the Kuzari argument.

  3. Kefira, does Sinai / Horeb start showing up in Ezra? Earlier? Later?

    I agree about gottlieb not being stupid, just blind. We all are highly intelligent (from what I can gather here) but were blind for so many years. I personally considered myself a 'kiruv professional ' and thought I was different than the blind believers.


      Nehemiah 9 is the first reference to Sinai in a historical context.

      Kudos again to kefirahoftheweek! Another excellent article.

    2. As "e" notes, you don't see Sinai spoken outside of a poetic context until very late. It does appear in some early poems like Ha'azinu and the Song of Devorah. Horeb appears earlier. There's a reference in 1 Kings 8 where it seems to reference the "Horeb" revelation. There are also stories of Eliyahu who is holed up on Horeb when he fled Ahab. The use of Horeb is not surprising if you believe that these stories were written by the same author of Deuteronomy (who also exclusively uses Horeb).

  4. Just stumbled on this blog. Thought provoking and informative.

    I'm wondering if you (or someone else) can help clarify a few things about the Lakota legend. I apologise for not organising my thoughts and research properly; I confess that I speculate that there's more of a chance of getting a response/s the earlier I get this comment in.

    When I look here
    I see that it speaks of both four categories of stories and a continuum of stories. I'm not clear on in which category (or where on the continuum) this mass revelation legend would fit. I'm also not clear on what exactly the Lakota do and don't believe about the category/categories which they don't fully believe. The difference this would all make is whether the mass revelation legend here indeed qualifies as a counter-example. (A transition between different "levels" of belief might be extremely trivial, but I think that still wouldn't qualify this as a counter-example.)

    One thing I notice is that here
    at the beginning of the page there is a quote which is ostensibly about all the categories of stories _in general_, but it seems to me to only be about the stories in Charles Eastman's book.
    So I'm confused about that, too.

    I'm also wondering if it's correct that this legend only exists in one subgroup of the Lakota - the Oglala - and not any other of the seven. If that is correct, I wonder if the mas revelation story would qualify as a nationally accepted story - do the Oglala qualify as a nation (for the purpose of the topic at hand)? This would perhaps depend on the details of their interactions with the other subgroups of the Oglala. (If they *do* qualify as a nation, it's presumably irrelevant that the legend is about *many* nations - all seven - rather than one.)

    I only noticed any of this because of an article by Lawrence Kelemen which someone showed me. Putting aside the issue of how one rates Lawrence Kelemen's apologetics in general and/or here, I want to acknowledge that it's his article which brought any of this to my attention.

    1. Thank you for your comments!

      As for the first statement, it essentially makes a claim that the Lakota tales weren't meant to be believed per se, but were meant as allegorical stories. This may very well be true for this specific case, but it's irrelevant for the main argument. After all, it's certainly possible that the story of Matan Torah began in the same manner, and it was only after hundreds of years that it moved from unbelievable allegory to history. Kuzari claims that none of these stories can exist at all, but they do.

      I think in general you are trying too much to place things into neat categories. I'm not sure this is possible, or even useful.

      Also there is no indication that the myth needs to be believed by everyone. Certainly, if you polled people who identify as Jews today you will come across many who think the Sinai revelation was mythical. You might find the same 2500 years ago, but we cannot ask them. Certainly, according to Tanach, there were plenty of individuals who disbelieved it enough to think that Ba'al worship was worthwhile. All it really takes is a small group to believe it, and write about it.

      The same thing can be said about the question of whether this myth only is in a small tribe, and that's certainly true. It is a myth of a small tribe. But that's the point. The Sinai narrative must have also been from a small tribe (the claim of a million plus is impossible to maintain).

      I admit that it is completely possible to add more and more conditions to the Sinai narrative such that it's unique. But you could do the same to any of the stories. I could say that the Lakota story is superior because in that story the people interacted with the "divine" in an actual conversation, whereas at Sinai, it was only one sided. But these sort of details weaken the case a lot. If you make the Kuzari argument general enough, you find lots of events that qualify.

    2. I hope I pressed the correct "reply" button.

      Thanks for your response.

      Hmm. Let me try it this way. What is stopping you from bringing as a counter-example a superhero movie where a hero performs something remarkable in front of the masses? After all, if we wait for the future, this can evolve into a largely held belief. (And I agree – it can.) I await your response. But whatever your response is, I invoke your response as a response to your paragraph “As for the first statement,...” minus the last sentence.

      As for the last sentence of that paragraph – “Kuzari claims that none of these stories can exist...” Firstly, it seems to me that you’re suddenly changing things. I’m also surprised: is it your genuine opinion that proponents of the mass revelation argument don’t distinguish between stories which are believed and are not believed? Similarly, do you genuinely think Dovid Gottlieb’s formulation which you quote doesn’t recognise a distinction between stories which are believed and are not?

      Tongue in cheek prediction: You will inform me that you wrote your response in a big hurry? ;)

    3. Yisroel you got the reply to work correctly.

      I'm not going to say that I wrote my response in a hurry, however I will say that I had the expectation that you had read some of the other responses to the Kuzari argument. I recommend you do this. This post is merely designed to be a supplement to an already crowded field of refutations. To put it simply, to reject the Kuzari all one has to show is that there is a reasonable path for the generation of the Sinai mythology that does not require the actual event to take place.

      But let's talk about belief for a second.

      To talk about belief, you need to show convincingly that the Lakota revelation myth was not believed by the Lakota tribe (from the time of the myth to its recording by Walker) and that the Sinai revelation myth was believed by *all* generations subsequent to it (at least from the time of the revelation to the Talmudic period or at least Malachai). To be more specific, you need to set a threshold belief necessary for the argument and show that the Sinai revelation meets that threshold and the Lakota does not. Unfortunately, this can't be done, the information has been lost to time. And with that any exclusivity property of the Kuzari cannot be proven. But it's even worse for the Kuzari. There is strong case based off the prophetic writings (who do not reference Sinai) and the disobedience of the 10 commandments (specifically the 1st and 2nd one) that there were generations during the first monarchial period that did not believe in a Sinai revelation at whatever relevant threshold you choose.

      To put it bluntly, you cannot prove that the people who thought the Sinai generation was non-mythical were a small minority of the population at some point who just happened to write some of the definitive works.

      Surely you'd agree that a later generation may believe in a fact that an earlier generation considers myth. Dov Bear's example of the War of the Worlds myth is an example of that, and there are myriad others. So you can't use the Talmudic generation as a substitute for an earlier one.

      Like I said in the last post, it's easy to add additional conditions to make the argument "true" but every time you lose generality you lose arguing power for the Kuzari. In order to eliminate such myths as the Lakota myth, the Aztec founding of Tenochtitlan myth, the Ladies of Fatima and Zeitun, the Angel of Mons, Mohammed splitting the moon, the ancient wars of Ireland, and many others, you reduce the force of the argument to naught.

    4. @ Yisroel Levin see and the comment section even provides which Chief was involved. WBCW was believed to have happened. The Aztecs is also an example to refute the Kuzari see 11c) in this link to see how it works. My blog provides numerous different repudiations of Kuzari. Most people will find at least one the repudiations convincing.

    5. I think what I'll need to do is sit down at some stage and think through things thoroughly, before clarifying where I'm coming from. I don't know when that will be. But let me write two things:

      1. I'm pretty inclined to say that the mass-revelation argument fails. (I feel like I'm actually *disappointing* you guys!) I'll leave it at that for now.

      2. AK, I think it will help the communication if you could answer a question I asked - "What is stopping you from bringing as a counter-example a superhero movie where a hero performs something remarkable in front of the masses? After all, if we wait for the future, this can evolve into a largely held belief. (And I agree – it can.)" (Well, either that, or tell me that actually you would just as easily have used a superhero movie as your counter-example.)

    6. YL regarding the comic book hero. It's hard to predict if any of today's stories will become the myths of the future, but I think the superheroes are unlikely. There's something that exists in modern culture that did not exist in the time of the writing of the Torah (or NT, Koran, or at this period in Native American culture) but that does exist now. The difference is that we have a well defined genre of writing deemed as fiction, and the superhero stories you are thinking of are squarely in the middle of the fiction section. They were introduced to everyone as being "not real" just as Harry Potter or Star Wars were.

      A better comparison would be ancient "superheroes," people like Hercules and Achilles from Greek culture. Or possibly even more recent folk heroes like Davy Crockett (or the Lubavitcher Rebbe). These stories blur the line between fiction and fact and they don't belong squarely in either genre. They properly belong to the genre of myth, which is its own thing. The best Jewish example of stories that are clearly meant to blur the line between truth and fiction are the Midrashim.

      Perhaps this isn't the best answer. It is indeed an interesting question. I think it's far more fair to compare the Lakota myths to some of the stories that surround Davy Crockett than it is to Superman. And there it's easier to see how some of the more fanciful stories about him could get accepted as truth without actually being real.

      I should probably clarify a final point. I'm rarely of the opinion that these stories are invented from scratch at a given point in time. They usually have something prompting them. Sometimes, what prompts them is a place name (like the Yaakov and the Ladder story) or a geographic feature (like S'dom and Amorah). But sometimes what prompts them is some event that gets amplified over time and merged with other traditions. I recommend reading my post on the Exodus to get a feel for how I see these things developing. Sinai is no different here. I think it's likely that some group of people had some sort of desert experience on a mountain. We know that mountains were common pilgrimage sites in the Bronze age, so it's not unlikely that a group traveled into the desert and saw something. The best candidate I have for what they saw was a massive storm, which fits the description of a thick cloud and voices (=Biblical thunder). I've seen volcanoes suggested but this is highly unlikely IMO. That's where the legend could have started, and over the years it grew, and eventually kings and prophets started attaching their own additional events to it (sometimes rewriting previous stories, see my post on the "original" ten commandments).

    7. Thanks A Kefirah for being so inviting.

      I think I’ve had some miscommunication with both of you. I’ll try to clarify some of how I think about the topic.

      In this comment, I’m not going to discuss the specifics of what the evidence has to say about the WBCW mass revelation, nor am I going to discuss any other legends – I’m just going to try to explain what I see as the context in which to discuss these things.

      In my first comment above, I wrote about two topics – belief and demographics. I’ll only discuss the first one in this comment because there’s a lot on the table.

      I’ll write about:


      I’m interested in how much the Oglala believe in the white buffalo calf woman mass revelation for 3 reasons:


      I’ve been arguing with a friend who finds the mass revelation argument convincing. I brought the mass revelation legend of the white buffalo calf woman to the table. He contacted a website affiliated with Lawrence Kelemen and obtained an article L Kelemen had written about it, and sent it to me. The article speaks about a number of things, but most relevantly, it claims that the people themselves don’t believe the legend. If he’s right, I don’t automatically lose the argument, but it would make things a lot more tedious. I put some effort into researching the issues, but I didn’t get full clarity on them. Recently, it came to the fore of our argument again, and then, by perfect timing, I accidentally stumbled on your blog, and the most current post was about the very topic! I also sensed that you were interested in the details of the case in question! So I thought to try to ask for help. I quickly tried to find some relevant links for the topic, and commented asking for help.

      Also, my friend and I have discussed the reliability of Lawrence Kelemen and others who write similarly. I’ve said that I’ve seen L Kelemen badly misrepresent facts both elsewhere and in this article itself. So that’s another context for which the discussion of belief is relevant – it might add to the list of L Kelemen’s misrepresentations.

      I also think there is a good enough chance Kelemen is wrong about this. One reason is his track record both here and elsewhere; another reason is based on the research I’ve done so far. I won’t elaborate here, mainly because I don’t even know how interested you (A Kefirah) are.


      There are perhaps two ways to react to the mass revelation argument/s: one is to bombard the proponent with arguments and facts; the other is to focus on individual points. The first both has its place and can be tempting, but I think the second has value, and generally might be a more efficient way to get the opponent to come around faster and more easily, with just small intermittent reminders that you have many more points you are refraining from saying because you are trying to focus on one thing at a time. I think in this context it is clearly more powerful to have a case where the people believe the legend.


      There are, of course, many variations of the mass revelation argument. Indeed, often the same proponent will keep changing the argument. But usually (if not always), the argument being made will fall into one of two categories: appealing to what is (ostensibly) undeniably universal human nature, and appealing to the (ostensible) absence of other examples of mass revelation.

      When it comes to the former, I think the proponent of the argument will rely on many unjustified claims about human nature, i.e. they will knowingly or unknowingly rely on many claims without sufficient evidence to support those claims.

      Furthermore, I think there is a lot of evidence *against* some of those claims. Seemingly, that would make things even worse for them, but I think there is a way in which it makes it better:


    8. Cont’d

      Based on what the evidence has to say about human nature, and also making a few assumptions, I would make a prediction: The assumptions are that anthropologists have documented many examples of myths which pretty much entire large groups believe about their collective past at times when they were large (unlike Romulus and Remus etc). The prediction is that for a significant number of those myths, a significant portion of the population will subscribe to versions involving miracles observed by the group. If this prediction proves false, I think the intellectually correct thing to do is to reconsider things. (That doesn’t necessarily automatically mean changing my mind.)

      (Quite a few of the phenomena I’ve discussed in the assumptions and prediction are vague. But I move on for now.)

      (Based on slightly different assumptions, I would also make a few other slightly different predictions. For example, I would make a similar prediction about all current beliefs, - even those not documented by anthropologists; I would also make one or two predictions not specifically about the present; Et cetera.)

      There are many potential details which are not part of this prediction. Examples include: two-way dialogue with the divine, the group having names of past great teachers but no name for a teacher who taught the group that there had been a mass revelation, a massive number (e.g. 600,000 males aged 20-60), a tradition of having resistance to authority, etc. I don’t have any prior expectation that the myths have these features, and therefore, it is not meaningful when they *don’t* have them. By contrast, belief *is* something which I would predict, and therefore it *is* meaningful if it turns out that we don’t have a significant number of myths with them.

      If I don’t have any such myths, there are a few possible explanations. One possibility is that I haven’t researched enough. Another is that it is false that we have many examples of groups with myths about their collective past at times when they were large. Another is that it is false that groups usually believe their myths. But there is also the final possibility that my picture of human nature is wrong.

      (One reason to hesitate to take the last possibility is if there are examples which are not believed today but were believed in the past.)

      (Even if it turns out that human nature is such that usually groups don’t emerge with the respective mass revelation myths, I’m not saying it necessarily follows that there can’t be natural exceptions to the rule.)

      So to recap, there are perhaps two categories of arguments - appealing to what is (ostensibly) undeniably universal human nature, and appealing to the (ostensible) absence of other examples of mass revelation. Because the first one seems to fail so badly, I think that paradoxically ends up supporting the second one. Thus, even though it is of course trivially true that (to quote you) “To put it simply, to reject the Kuzari all one has to show is that there is a reasonable path for the generation of the Sinai mythology that does not require the actual event to take place,” (and indeed, technically you might not even necessarily need that,) I don’t think that means that we should be closed to a case that the Sinai myth didn’t emerge by the normal process/es.


    9. Cont’d


      Firstly, if we’re contrasting whether the path towards belief in mass revelation of a present-day comic book superhero with that of the other examples, I agree that the former path is most probably rockier. Indeed, I think there are a number of reasons for this; you mention a significant one.

      Okay. So if I understand you correctly, the reason you discuss the Lakota mass revelation legend is not because it is an example of a legend comparable to the Sinai one, - rather, you discuss it because it is an example of a legend which has gone through the first half (or 1/3 or 2/3 or whatever) of the process of becoming (full-blown) comparable to the Sinai one. (Correct me if I’m wrong.)

      Next. If I understand you correctly, the reason you are unsatisfied with the level of detail you’ve seen given for it so far is because the details of the legend show just how few steps remain for the legend to become Sinai-like. Specifically, it is to point to four details in which it is *already* Sinai-like - (1) the prior meeting between one or two people and the divine; (2) that the tribe prepares for the mass revelation; (3) that at the mass revelation they get told their customs; and (4) it is a 2-way deal between the group and the divine. (Correct me if I’m wrong.)

      Some things I don’t understand:

      If I understand correctly, you wouldn’t use a comic book hero as an example because it has more steps remaining until it becomes Sinai-like, as compared to the Lakota myth. You’re even ambivalent about whether comic book mass revelations will reasonably make it *at all*. Specifically, the barrier at issue is the transition out of the genre of fiction. But in that case, I would think you would find it useful to explore whether the Lakota legend is believed, treated as myth, not believed, or anything else – if it is believed, it is more Sinai-like than if not, and that would decrease the number of remaining steps. Likewise, if it is not on par with fiction, then you don’t need to be ambivalent about whether it would make it at all.

      I am also confused as I wrote in a paragraph a few comments ago, which I’ll paste again right here:

      As for the last sentence of that paragraph – “Kuzari claims that none of these stories can exist...” Firstly, it seems to me that you’re suddenly changing things. I’m also surprised: is it your genuine opinion that proponents of the mass revelation argument don’t distinguish between stories which are believed and are not believed? Similarly, do you genuinely think Dovid Gottlieb’s formulation which you quote doesn’t recognise a distinction between stories which are believed and are not?

      I’m speculating that you didn’t actually mean “Kuzari claims that none of these stories can exist at all” literally, and what you meant was just that it’s relatively trivial to make the transition from myth to full belief. You would also say that when scholars speak about the WBCW mass revelation not being believed, they don’t mean that they disbelieve it as much as we disbelieve stories of the fiction genre. Am I correct? (But even if I am, I feel that it should nonetheless interest you to explore it, as I just wrote just above.)

      I think that when you point out that a binary model of a dichotomy between belief and non-belief is too simplistic, (and probably so is a continuum model,) your point is both valid and useful. But I don’t see that as a reason to disengage from exploring it further – on the contrary, - I see that as a great *start.*After all, you are looking to minimise the remaining steps to becoming Sinai-like, and you are also ambivalent about whether comic book mass revelations can reasonably make it to becoming believed.

      @ A Kefirah, a question: Is discussing the details of whether the Oglala believe the mass revelation of the WBCW and similar things something you are interested in? (I *think* ACJA *is*.)

      All done! :)

    10. Based on the sources I had read (see my blog), WBCW was believed: including her giving them a special pipe which has been preserved and is still visited; her giving them special rituals including at least one painful one. Also see "The 1994 birth of a white buffalo in Janesville, Wisconsin is a sign that White Buffalo Calf Woman is returning to fulfill a prophesy held sacred by many Native Americans. Generations ago, she promised she would bring back spiritual balance and harmony." from BUT there may be sources I am not aware of having the tribe saying they did not believe the story. So Sure Yisroel if you have such sources I would be interested.

    11. @Yisroel,
      Wow that was quite a lot. I'll try to answer as best I can.

      My main issue with the WBCW legends is that they weren't sourced well. I'd found various different descriptions online and I wanted to present what I thought was the original one. So that was where I was coming from there.

      Now, regarding belief. One of the biggest issues I have with the argument that you're paraphrasing is that it both cases (Sinai, WBCW) have significant unknowns regarding how the population interacted with the myth. We have a very limited number of accounts of Sinai, and when they were written (and for what purpose) is highly questionable. Similarly, most of our knowledge about the Lakota myths come from the documentation efforts of this one doctor who wrote down a ton of stories over the course of 20 years. The previous periods are inaccessible.

      The argument that you bring from Kelemen assumes the most critical possibilities for the Lakota, while holding the most favorable possibilities for Sinai. As such it is unsurprising that he comes out with the conclusion that he does. On the other hand if you use the same favorable or critical possibilites for both cases, you come up with the situation where both myths look similar. To see what I mean, let's apply the critical "the Lakota didn't really believe it" to Sinai and see where it gets us.

      A critical view of the Sinai myth starts with the first writings we have. Again, being critical, we take the academic consensus and date these to the monarchial period. We have two types of writings, the Torah/histories, and the prophetic writings. The first has an unclear audience. Some of it does appear to be the stuff of legends, put other parts are clearly written for judges, kings and priests. The prophetic writings are written for a more populous audience. The prophetic writings never mention Sinai, the historical writings do. This is in contrast to other events, like the wandering in the desert or the Exodus from Egypt that appear in both. What does that say about the popular view of this particular myth?

      Can we say anything about whether the population believed in the historical account at Sinai? How much of the population believed in it? We know that a sizable fraction did not believe in it due to the historical accounts which mention repeated instances of worship of other gods. At very least this means that the population held the Sinai myth as some sort of "in-between" belief, maybe somewhat true, maybe somewhat false. They certainly could not have believed it with the same certainty of the Talmudic Rabbis. If they did, worshipping other gods would not be entertained.

      So when we're talking about this period in history, where we expect some overlap with the Lakota myth, we can't even say for sure whether the general population knew about the Sinai myth, and even if they did, they certainly didn't fully believe it.

      Finally, I want to focus on a point you made about how Kelemen seems to be imposing a sharp dichotomy on belief when it isn't applicable. There are plenty of grey areas between full belief and full disbelief. In fact, Judaism furnishes us with very nice examples in the form of Midrash. Perhaps you've heard advice from one of your Rabbis regarding Midrash, "you're a fool if you believe them and you're a fool if you don't believe them." If Midrash can easily fit in this gray area of belief and disbelief today, why can't the various stories in the Torah have fit in that area some 2500 years ago? This is why it's impossible to say whether the Lakota believed or didn't believe in the WBCW (and why I thought it wasn't important). Even if we had statements from every member of the tribe, circa 1800, that yes, they did believe in it, it would be of limited utility in actually determining whether they did. A critical outsider could argue that they only believed it in the same allegorical way that Jews today believe in Midrash. And they'd have a convincing case!

    12. Ideally I’d want to research more, but I think it’s time to “check in” to give the conversation some momentum.

      ACJA, for convenience I’ve made a list of the sources appearing on the page on your blog.
      Mythology An Illustrated Encyclopedia 1980 Richard Cavendish, p 234
      Native American Religious Traditions by Suzanne Crawford 2007 p 90, p 43
      The Encyclopedia of Native American Religions A. Hirschfelder, P. Molin 1992, p 318, “The 1994 birth of a white buffalo in Janesville, Wisconsin”…

      I’ll paste the most relevant paragraph from Lawrence Kelemen’s article. (I couldn’t find it online anywhere.) I assume I’m not violating any copyright. Here it is:

      To properly comprehend the Lakota worldview, it is crucial to step out of the Western mindset that assumes cultures place literal faith in their mythology. Ella Cara Deloria (1889-1971), herself a Lakota Indian who mastered English and became one of the first to publish written records of Lakota mythology, clarifies for those outside of the Sioux culture that "The purpose of such tales was to amuse and entertain, but not to be believed" (Elaine A. Jahner, p.26). Deloria wrote in 1938, only six years after the story was first told, that the Legend of the Sacred Pipe is "the work of a clever Lakota storyteller… The stuff of which they are built is Lakota, but the tale as such had never been in oral tradition" (ibid, p. 22). Jahner, professor of English and Native American Studies at Dartmouth, writes, "Deloria recognized the many kinds of oral creativity that characterized a vital traditional community... She also documented the adoption of European tales into the folklore of Lakota communities" (ibid., p. 23).

      Let me first attack the second half of the paragraph. The quote “the work of a clever...” is on p 22 here:
      She's referring to the stories by George Sword, and saying that they’re not part of the Lakota tradition of stories. In contradistinction, the mass revelation of the white buffalo calf woman comes from one of the leaders (as Kelemen even says explicitly earlier in his article). Kelemen’s even changed “tales” to “tale”. The next quote is on the next page page 23. It’s clearly irrelevant because, without getting into details, bottom line, the WBCW mass revelation is from the leader. (I’m not double-checking my claims in this paragraph at present.)

      That leaves the first quote – “The purpose of such tales was to amuse and entertain, but not to be believed” from page 26. Walker is quoting Deloria here. The original is here:
      Search on the page for “intended to amuse”.

      3 questions:
      1. There are 2 categories of stories – ohunkakan and woyakapi. Which one does the WBCW mass revelation come under?
      2. Does “to amuse and entertain, but not to be believed" entail not being believed?
      3. How are things influenced one way or the other by considering that “belief versus non-belief” is a simplification?

    13. To help with question 2:
      Here’s a link to David Martinez' Dakota Philosopher: Charles Eastman and American Indian Thought.

      On page 30, he begins a discussion about 4 categories (and a “continuum”).

      Perhaps helpfully (I haven’t looked at it properly recently), page 38 speaks about a subtle transition from the woyakapi to the ohunkakan.

      I’m confused about something (and I mentioned this briefly in my original comment):

      On one hand, starting from the end of page 31 and going into page 32, he writes, “Moreover, with regard to the continuum that exists between woyakapi and ohunkakan, Eastman also states, ‘The main incidents in all of them, even those which are unusual and might appear incredible to the white man, are actually current among the Sioux and deemed by them worthy of belief.’”

      On the other hand:
      The source is Charles Eastman’s Red Hunters and the Animal People.
      Search on the page for “incidents”.
      I would have thought that it’s just saying that those stories are authentic Lakota stories, and I would assume they all come under one category – either the ohunkakan or woyakapi. (I haven’t checked properly.)

      Anyway, as I said, this comment/s is mainly intended to add momentum to the discussion.

    14. Yisroel Levin thanks for the info.

      Regarding Kelemen:

      Kelemen 1 - “To properly comprehend the Lakota worldview, it is crucial to step out of the Western mindset that assumes cultures place literal faith in their mythology.”

      I doubt that Western cultures place literal faith in their mythology. Some myth were thought to be true and some not. The same is probably true for every culture.

      Kelemen 2 - “Ella Cara Deloria (1889-1971), herself a Lakota Indian who mastered English and became one of the first to publish written records of Lakota mythology, clarifies for those outside of the Sioux culture that "The purpose of such tales was to amuse and entertain, but not to be believed" (Elaine A. Jahner, p.26). “

      Kelemen is misleadingly quoting out of context. Her book Dakota Texts Volume XIV goes on to say “ The second group of ohq/kakq,contains stories not so universally known; at least, they are not referred to in the same way as the real ohy! kakq,. These tales are of the novelistic type. The
      gods have stepped out of the picture ; and while miraculous things
      continue to take place, they are accepted as something that might
      have been possible, at least a long while ago, among a people not so
      different from us. The stories contained in the second part, from no. 40 on to the end,
      are regarded as true.”

      Could there be another revelation or miracle amongst those stories that could refute Kuzari - need to check them out.

      Kelemen 3 - “Deloria wrote in 1938, only six years after the story was first told, that the Legend of the Sacred Pipe is "the work of a clever Lakota storyteller… The stuff of which they are built is Lakota, but the tale as such had never been in oral tradition" (ibid, p. 22).”

      I need to check the book out - Google does not display the required pages so I can not verify if the quote refers to WBCW story in general or just the sacred pipe portion of WBCW story.

      The sources I have seen indicate WBCW came to be believed and in my comments on Part 1 Kuzari even the Indian Chief involved is named. But lets assume there was no oral tradition for WBCW. Yet, the story comes to be the rational for : The origin of the sacred pipe (still visited) and other rituals. So at some point the story did become believed by many Dakota.

      And so to the Sinai story may have been a story told by a clever Israelite leader that comes to be believed by some ancient Israelites.

      Wiki White Buffalo Calf Women “White Buffalo Calf Woman (Lakota: Pte Ska Win / Pteskawin / Ptesanwi) is a sacred woman of supernatural origin, central to the Lakota religion as the primary cultural prophet. Oral traditions relate that she brought the "Seven Sacred Rituals" to the Teton Sioux.”

      Wiki is not 100% reliable, but how reliable is it here ? It would helpful to have a panel of Dakota experts to get to the bottom of it.

    15. The only real addition I have is to say, why can't, instead of this:

      "To properly comprehend the Lakota worldview, it is crucial to step out of the Western mindset that assumes cultures place literal faith in their mythology."

      We say this:

      "To properly comprehend the Ancient Israelite worldview, it is crucial to step out of the Western mindset that assumes cultures place literal faith in their mythology."

      This is what I was getting at earlier. Kelemen assumes the most critical view of Lakota mythology while accepting the broadest view if Israelite mythology. That is inconsistent.


    16. @ Yisroel Levin I have checked a few more books regarding WBCW and have updated my post for the new information. It still seems to me the story is important and came to be believed by some or many of the Dakota. See my post for more evidence but also consider consider this fact: Oglala Religion by William Powers 1975, 1977 - Page 116 During the 1950's a Catholic Priest initiates the use of the sacred pipe as part of the Christian Mass. The idea to make Christianity more appealing to the Native Americans. However the scheme sort of backfires. The Oglala became impressed because THE PRIESTS finally saw the light and the efficacy of the Scared Rituals first brought to the people by the sacred WBCW. [ This is fairly good evidence that many Oglala themselves came to believe that WBCW had given them ceremonies. The Priest must have known this was their belief, which is why he initiates it’s use in Mass.]

  5. Yisroel Levin "What is stopping you from bringing as a counter-example a superhero movie where a hero performs something remarkable in front of the masses? After all, if we wait for the future, this can evolve into a largely held belief. (And I agree – it can.)"
    You have just agree that even in modern times a mass of people can come to believe in a false story. Then this applies even more so in ancient times (kal v'chomer). That is one way the Sinai mythology could have developed. But it is not the only way. See my blog for scenarios.

    1. Thanks both AK and ACJA.

      ACJA, I pretty much agree that this is one way in which the Sinai mythology could have developed, and also that it is not the only way.

      I hope at some stage to reply to both of you in the sub-thread above and clarify where I'm coming from. I'm not sure when.

    2. Yisroel, I do hope you continue to comment. I always like hearing voices, especially critical ones.

      I will note that if you accept that a naturalistic explanation for the Sinai story is *plausible* then the Gottleib/Kelemen formulation of the Kuzari argument loses its main arguing force. They essentially use a process of elimination for all the naturalistic explanations and settle on the supernatural explanation after deeming all the other ones implausible.

    3. Yisroel Levin thank you. A Kefirah Suppose naturalistic explanation for Sinai are implausible, meaning the natural explanations have a very low probability. We must compare that to the probability of a supernatural being which is unknown or zero based on actual evidence for it. Hence we can not make a choice or choose the 'unlikely' implausible natural explanation. I discuss something like that in my Kuzari posts.

  6. The attempted execution by firing squad of the Bab, one of the founders of the Bahai Faith, was a miraculous event that occurred in 1850, witnessed by ten thousand people. It was written into the official Bahai literature in 1944, less than 100 years after it occurred. (see the seventh paragraph) (see "The Execution of the Bab")

  7. @ Anonymous - see Wiki Bab - [After the first firing squad shoots] When it cleared the Báb was no longer in the courtyard and his companion stood there unharmed; the bullets apparently had not harmed either man, but had cut the rope suspending them from the wall.[34] Numerous eye-witness reports, including those of Western diplomats, recount the result.[33]. In the Bábí–Bahá'í tradition, the failure of the first firing squad to kill the Báb is believed to have been a miracle. My 2 cents - just like there are natural explanations for the Sinai story, there are natural explanations for this story. Kuzari proponents could opt for one or another natural explanation or argue - yep it was a miracle, but not a direct revelation by a supernatural being. Many Kuzari proponents do not rule out real magic can be performed.

  8. @ yisroel levin updated my post for more info about WBCW giveing the sacred pipe. Still seems the story was part of traditional lakota religion. I am in the process of contacting living experts to get their opinions.

  9. @ Yisroel Levin From Legends of the Lakota by James LaPointe 1976, the Indian Historical Press.James a Lakota was born in 1893.
    Page 23 In ancient times White Buffalo Women brought the Sacred Pipe to the Lakota. She also gave laws by which the Lakota were to live a moral life. “This memorable drama is regarded as a factual event.” The book also tells the story of WBCW.

    Tonight I have updated my post for this and more. Kelemen is misquoting the book he cites. See

  10. @ Yisroel Levin Another source that strongly suggests WBCW story was believed. American Indian Myths and Legends - Erdoes and Ortiz 1984
    Page XV - “In the end, however these legends are not told merely for enjoyment, or for education, or for amusement: they are believed.”
    Page 47 Crow Dog, a Sioux medicine man explains WBCW - “This holy women brought the sacred buffalo calf pipe to the Sioux. There could be no indians without it. Before she came, people did not know how to live. They knew nothing. The buffalo women put her sacred mind into their minds.”
    The book prints the WBCW story as per Lame Deer 1967.

    1. Thanks heaps for all the info! Keep it coming! Also looking forward to hearing about your exchange/s with the experts.

  11. 1) Kuzari isn't a false dichotomy. Rather, we are claiming that beliefs about nationally-experienced nation-transforming events are always true. Thus, such traditions about our ancestry are a form of evidence which MAY be incorruptible. If you claim that it is surely corruptible, you need to show that it is corruptible. Until then, we have no reason to assume that our evidence is fallible. Indeed, all evidence is theoretically corruptible. But we trust evidence until we see such evidence is indeed corruptible. As far as I'm concerned, the evidence for Sinai is, practically, as strong as if we'd experienced the miracles ourselves. Thus, your speculative arguments against the Sinai events will be ignored by me, just as even you'd admit it would be ignored by those who experienced the miracles.

    2) Even if we'd be willing to accept counterexamples from nations that weren't literate, the Lakota myth: a) doesn't mention the number of people, b) a significant duration of the miracles (which would allow us to confirm that it wasn't a hallucination or optical allusion, unlike Sinai which was 14,600 days of manna,), c) there are no burdensome commemorations nor commandments never to forget the event and to teach the event to the entire population, and d) some versions don't mention the public miracle at all. Is this the best you have? Is this a national event, a burdensomely COMMEMORATED event?

    3) The fact that the prophets don't refer TOO OFTEN to Sinai isn't proof that they didn't believe in Sinai any more than the fact that the book of Esther doesn't mention God doesn't imply that they didn't believe in God. Rather, each books had a specific and particular purpose. If mentioning the Sinai miracles didn't fit into that purpose they wouldn't mention it. And, once again, if you'd experience the miracles yourself, as we did as a nation, would you concern yourself with what other prophets say?

    1. 1) I have higher requirements for evidence than you.

      2) What you're doing here is called "moving the goalposts." It is always possible to add additional restrictions on to the argument so that the Jewish experience is unique. However, each restriction makes the argument less impressive. Furthermore, each other religion can provide their own different uniqueness arguments.

      Even worse, your points are, for the most part, false. a) The number of people at the Sinai revelation is also unknown because the claim of 600,000 (adult men) is impossible. I talk about that briefly above. b) Manna and Sinai are separate unrelated events. You've moved the goalpost onto a different field with this one. c) Most of the burdensome mitzvot already existed in many nearby cultures prior to Sinai, including dietary laws, circumcision and animal sacrifices. In fact, Judaism removed one of the most burdensome religious rites, human sacrifice. d) As noted below, when the prophets talk about the desert experience none of them mention Sinai at all. If you want to go further, the descriptions in Devarim and Shmot also differ in many ways.

      3) "The fact that the prophets don't refer TOO OFTEN to Sinai" No, it's not that they don't say it TOO OFTEN, It's that they don't mention it AT ALL.

      If this is Are Roster, it would be nice if you didn't sometimes respond as anon and sometimes as you. I would like to know who I'm talking to, so as not to repeat myself. If it's not Are Roster, ignore this.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. @Anonymous see the pygmies also have a tradition about a god giving laws at a mountain.

    4. @Anonymous I think my blog posts on the Kuzari discuss a few other mass revelations. Ancient peoples are not very reliable experts - they could have easily been fooled or eventually come to believe in foundation myths. Even modern people can be fooled. You need better evidence than claims of ancient people.

    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    6. @Anonymous "b) a significant duration of the miracles (which would allow us to confirm that it wasn't a hallucination or optical allusion, unlike Sinai which was 14,600 days of manna",

      Its a story in a book - no evidence it actually occurred. BUT some people have advocated various natural substances for manna. The Israelites may have interpreted the find as from G-d. MAYBE it was a white lie, the kind some Rabbi(s) say it is OK to make.

    7. @Anonymous "Rather, we are claiming that beliefs about nationally-experienced nation-transforming events are always true."

      Can you name a single historian who believes that would holds,let alone for supernatural claims ? And if you can, what would the consensus of historians say ?


    8. It was Are Roster. I was having trouble logging into my account, so I did it anonymously (Alter, I will respond to your points eventually):

      1) Assuming, for the sake of the argument, that I have a form of evidence that has never shown itself to be fallible, how and why would you demand a higher form of evidence?

      2) 600,000 isn't IMPOSSIBLE for two reasons. First, the argument from "absence of evidence" is, at best, a probabilistic argument. The argument goes, if the Exodus happened, the Egyptians probably would have recorded it (or probably not, as we can discuss later). Second, we have to be open to the possibility that God removed any and all archaeological evidence for his miracles, just as he removed the remaining manna from the desert. Why would God do that? In order to make us, those who perpetually commemorate his miracles, the sole carriers of the tradition (and thus we have the task and privilege of perpetuating God's existence to the rest of the world). God, and we know this concept even before modern science, wants to remain the hidden God. He doesn't like to leave in your face evidence. (I don't think this second argument is necessary, as the "absence of evidence" argument can disprove many ancient events. But it might be necessary to justify my belief in a young earth.) Third, even if we conclude that there wasn't 600,000 people there, though the Kuzari argument would lose some force, it wouldn't lose all of it. The point is that people believed that millions were there. So whenever this story got off the ground, people should have asked why have we never heard of manna from the millions of descendants that they left? If 10,000 people ate manna, they wouldn't have asked this question. But if zero people ate manna, they would have asked, why haven't we heard of it?

      3) Regarding adding additional restrictions to Kuzari, I am merely focusing on the specific and blatant elements of the Kuzari argument. Obviously, one can get a population do believe a false national event. Thus, I can convince you that three years ago, two feet of snow fell on NYC (even if snow didn't fall then). The point is that it's impossible to convince people of a false nation-changing event. I onlyknow of two such events in Jewish history: a) The Sinai events; b) The Second Temple (which was commemorated by Tisha B'av), though I know of tens of public miracles in Jewish and Talmudic history (the latter wouldn't count, since they aren't nation-changing events). If we could prove that there wasn't a Second Temple, I'd start doubting the Sinai history as well.

      4) Regarding your point that other cultures have burdensome commandments, I agree that you might be right (in my chapter, I claimed that Judaism is the most burdensome religion, but I no longer believe that it's necessarily true [although, I don't think that child sacrifice is a difficult commandment, especially when the child is young, and many cultures have practiced infanticide for more mundane reasons). But that's not my point here. My point is that these burdensome commemorations were believed to have been done because of a false national event. The point, then, is that there would have been a motive for them to reject this false national event. Now, I'm sure you will respond, "Maybe the Jews kept these burdensome commemorations [of what?] and they later appended the Exodus myth to them?" And you might be right. But the point is that you'd need to show that history operates this way regarding national events. Until then, we accept, with all our hearts, the historicity of the Sinai events.

    9. 1) Any evidence you propose goes through the same rigorous treatment as any other evidence.

      2)"The argument goes, if the Exodus happened, the Egyptians probably would have recorded it (or probably not, as we can discuss later)."

      That's not the argument I made, and you know that.

      "Second, we have to be open to the possibility that God removed any and all archaeological evidence for his miracles, just as he removed the remaining manna from the desert."

      On suggesting this you remove this from the realm of science and any question of reliable evidence goes out the window. You cannot make an evidential statement like the Kuzari and then propose ad-hoc supernatural reasons for the parts that don't fit.

      "God, and we know this concept even before modern science, wants to remain the hidden God. He doesn't like to leave in your face evidence."

      How do you distinguish a "hidden god" from one that doesn't exist at all? You can't. If you can, then it is no longer a "hidden god" since we can use scientific analyses to investigate it. Russel's teapot (or Sagan's dragon) argument applies here.

      "So whenever this story got off the ground, people should have asked why have we never heard of manna from the millions of descendants that they left? "

      Because myths grow over time, as they're told around the campfire from generation to generation. Every culture has such myths and the same argumentation applies for them as well.

      3) The Lakota myth is a "nation changing" event according to your outline. It is literally describing the foundation of the Lakota mythos and cultural practices much like Sinai.

      4) "So whenever this story got off the ground, people should have asked why have we never heard of manna from the millions of descendants that they left?"

      What I need to show is that there are other cultures that attribute their laws and morals to divine instruction. That's easy enough. The Lakota example does that. But if you want something closer to home, most of the ANE law codes (Hammurabi, Ur-Nammu) include a prologue where the laws are claimed to come straight from whatever god that particular group worshiped.

      I noticed you dropped the point about the prophets not mentioning Sinai at all. Do you have any response to that? It argues against Sinai actually being viewed as a nation changing event at that time period. If you can't argue against that, I have no reason to even believe that the ancient Israelites thought that Sinai was a nation-changing event, and that view only happened in Exilic times or later.

    10. @Are Roster "Third, even if we conclude that there wasn't 600,000 people there, though the Kuzari argument would lose some force, it wouldn't lose all of it.”

      The Kuzari would lose plenty of force. It would mean the story contains false information. Given that the story has one important error, then maybe there are others. The point is if you are presenting a story to prove a supernatural being the story needs be supportable.

    11. @Are Roster u say “Third, even if we conclude that there wasn't 600,000 people there, though the Kuzari argument would lose some force, it wouldn't lose all of it. The point is that people believed that millions were there. So whenever this story got off the ground, people should have asked why have we never heard of manna from the millions of descendants that they left? If 10,000 people ate manna, they wouldn't have asked this question. But if zero people ate manna, they would have asked, why haven't we heard of it?”

      You are assuming people hearing a nice story about their ancestors and moreover making the people chosen by G-d would be questioned by the people. Maybe some people did question but they were brushed aside. Their opinions did not get recorded. But many would not question such a story. Many people just accept what is told to them by Authority figures.

      Actually, we really don’t know how many ancient Israelites originally believed the story. The story got written up by the Authorities and eventually becomes accepted perhaps by some Israelites, but we don’t know by how many either.

      Ancient people were not as skeptical as we are today. Actually, it seems many modern people even today are not skeptical enough.

  12. 1) I am not sure what you mean about the evidence that I am presenting. I am presenting evidence which, as far as Iv'e checked, may be infallible. If that's not enough, why?

    2) I meant that all the "absence of evidence" arguments are mere probabilistic arguments (even if you buy the "absence of evidence" canard). Thus, if I have powerful evidence that shows that an improbable event happened, I trust the evidence. I am not sure what you mean about science going out of the window. If, for argument sake, we witness the Exodus ourselves with our own eyes. Then, a year later, we go back to the desert and we, despite checking for evidence of this Exodus, find nothing. Why can't we answer this contradiction in evidence by stating that God removes archaeological evidence for his miracles? How is my argument illogical (it is actually Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb's argument to substantiate a young earth) Then, you claim, that myths grow over time. If so, can you please find one myth about a nationally-witnessed nation-changing event?

    3) The Exodus has over thirty commemorations which were commanded to be kept forever. The Lakota myth, smoking a pipe in a particular way, isn't a commemoration of the event. If Exodus has thirty commemorations, and the Lakota has none (or one), how does that prove that my evidence, which is 30 times that, is fallible? Nor did she command them to PASS THAT INFORMATION for all subsequent generations. Most importantly, we aren't told regarding the number of Lakota. Finally, in some versions, she doesn't perform a single public miracle. So maybe the event is true. And even those that record the miracles, the miracles could easily have been optical illusions.

    4) I know other cultures claimed divine laws. But what we need is burdensome laws that were commanded via a false national event. Of course people will believe nonsense. But not when they have to change their lives based on these stories.

    5) I dealt with the prophets issue (when I said prophets, I meant the sifrei neviyim, not what is commonly referred to as "prophets"). My point is that they are written for a particular purpose. They weren't Neanderthals that wrote whatever came to their minds. They had a particular, specific purpose when writing their works. Thus, if mentioning Sinai didn't fit into that purpose, they wouldn't mention Sinai, just as the Book of Esther not mentioning God doesn't prove that the author was an atheist. Finally, even if your argument was a valid one, it isn't strong enough to disprove national history.

    1. 1) I stand by my original statement

      2) You don't get to play on both sides. If you want to argue probabilistically, then you have to throw out all claims of miracles, since miracles have an undefined probability of occurrence. Therefore, any natural explanation, no matter how improbable, is the automatic choice over a supernatural one.

      The Kuzari argument avoids this problem because it is not a probability argument. You've done this song and dance before, and I've called you out there too.

      "Then, you claim, that myths grow over time. If so, can you please find one myth about a nationally-witnessed nation-changing event?"

      I already have. You won't accept it because it would contradict a conclusion you've already reached that Sinai must be the only such event.

      3 & 4) By continuing to move the goalposts on what constitutes a "miraculous event" that is impossible to "invent" you make the argument weaker and weaker. It is already terribly weak by this point.

      5) You did not deal with it at all. I recommend actually reading the argument and replying to it directly. My argument is clearly laid out. If the Sinai miracle was indeed this "nation-changing" event the prophets would have used it to get their claims across. You need to explain why they didn't. In other words, you need to actually prove that the ancient Israelites, at the time period of the first temple (where we claim these myths originated) actually viewed Sinai as a "nation-changing" event. Because I don't think they did.

    2. @Are Roster - the more requirements you add, the weaker the Kuzari argument becomes. Texas Sharpshooter fallacy.

    3. @Are Roster - there are natural explanations how the Exodus-Sinai foundation myth may have come to be accepted by some Ancient Israelites. Those explanations are consistent with ancient (even modern) people' s behaviors, beliefs, and superstitions. That all you need to repudiate the Kuzari.

    4. I want to dig into point 1 a little more, since I'm not sure what I'm saying is understood.

      You say: "I am presenting evidence which, as far as Iv'e checked, may be infallible. If that's not enough, why?"

      How do you know the evidence is "infallible." Usually when I think something is well supported it's because I can find many different supporting pieces that all support to the same conclusion, not just because the argument is on solid foundations. So I have faith in stuff like carbon dating, not because the physics is accurate (it is) but because we have multiple tests of results and calibrations that all point to it working properly. So where are the tests and calibrations of the Kuzari argument?

      Specifically, how many pre-literate "national events" have you found from cultures around the world that you've checked and found to be true? How did you determine that they were true? Now you start running into the same problems that you use to dismiss stuff like the Lakota myths. For every piece of supporting evidence you can come up with, I can indicate a manner that it's different from the Kuzari. I'd be committing a logical fallacy, for sure, but it's the same logical fallacy you are using when you ignore the myths of other cultures. That line of thinking never leads to discovering objective truth, only confirmation of what you previously believe.

      This is why I say we have different standards for evidence.

    5. I don't know the evidence is infallible. I have never claimed that the evidence is infallible. I am claiming that it MAY BE infallible. Why? Because Iv'e yet to see a single case where anything remotely similar to my evidence was false. The belief in Sinai is much harder to foist upon a nation than other other belief that I have seen.

      So how many ancient myths did I check? Very little (not that I need to, since you have the burden of showing that my evidence is fallible). But if there are other false nation-changing events, they'd be in every high school world history textbook. If, for example, the Greeks believed that they have to worship Zeus and commemorate his miracles because of a belief about a national event, it would be inexcusable for the textbook not to mention the event. So the fact that the textbooks don't include that belief tells me that either: 1) they didn't believe in that event, 2) It was a tiny nation (i.e., the textbook doesn't focus on tiny tribes). So by merely perusing a world history textbook one can conclude that there are no false NATION-changing events (although, I agree, there might be false TRIBE-changing events, smaller groups of people). (Interestingly, the textbooks that I have checked do mention the Aztec myth. But that myth has the same flaws that the Lakota one does.)

    6. 2) I am arguing that I have a form of evidence which hasn't ever shown itself to be fallible. I have no reason to assume that it's fallible. Similarly, if we'd experience the Exodus ourselves, and you'd claim, "Maybe we are hallucinating?", I would respond the same way, by saying, "I haven't hallucinated before, and thus I have no reason to assume that I am hallucinating now." If we have powerful evidence for an event, any event, we trust it. Thus, for example, if the scientific community claims that the current evidence suggests that the world popped into existence, we trust the evidence. If one claims, "Maybe the scientific community colluded to create this story about the evidence?" we'd respond, "Can you at least provide one other situations where the entire scientific community colluded to this degree?" Now, I'm not claiming that the evidence for Sinai is similar to the evidence for a big bang. My point, rather, is that if we have good evidence for an otherwise unexpected occurrence, we trust it. Evidence which has never shown itself to be fallible is the best evidence one can hope for. In fact, at least personally, I am sometimes surprised at how much evidence God provides for His existence. I wonder, to myself, "How is this the Hidden God?" If I was God, I would provide much less evidence.

      3 AND 4) I am not moving goalposts. If my evidence hasn't been shown to be fallible, and all you can come up with is something which is a thousandth of my evidence, why should I think that MY EVIDENCE is fallible. Thus, if my history claims that there were a million people at the event, and the Lakota myth might have been a handful of people, why should I assume that MY EVIDENCE is fallible? If my evidence includes numerous ETERNAL commemorations (which would prevent a latter-day prophet from creating this story), while the Lakota myth contains no eternal commemorations, why should I even suspect that my evidence is fallible. What you are doing is akin to one who claims, "Of course 600,000 people can lie, since I know of a story where three people made up a story.

      5) If they are writing for a particular, specific purpose (which we CANNOT necessarily uncover), then we have no reason to assume that they'd mention the event. You claim that mentioning the event would convince people not to worship idols. But what that their particular purpose? Maybe they were trying to inspire, rather than convince? Maybe they were trying to terrorize rather than persuade? In other words, we can't assume that they felt that mentioning Sinai would have achieved their purpose.

      There's a second flaw in your reasoning. The prophets, unlike the historic books, claimed to have heard their voices from God (if not necessarily the exact wording) . Thus, your argument about human psychology -- that human beings would want to convince the population through mentioning the Sinai story doesn't hold up. We can't psychoanalyze God. Thus, we can't presume what He would want or wouldn't want to include in His message.

      In fact, at least in my opinion, the fact that the prophets don't mention the Sinai events tells me that everyone agreed that the events happened. There was no need to tell them the obvious. So why did they worship idols? Because the idols ALSO PERFORMED MIRACLES. So the Jews who worshiped idols reasoned that, apparently, both are true.

      I don't need to prove that those who lived during the First Temple believed that Sinai was a nation-changing event. Today, Jews believe that it's a nation-changing event. Thus, you need to show that a nation-changing event can be believed by the population.

    7. @Alter: I agree that there's a point where adding additional requirements would weaken the argument. Thus, if I'd claim, "You can only bring a counterexample from a nation that has the highest average IQ," that wouldn't necessarily be appropriate, But if I say, that one can only bring counterexamples from literate nations -- ones that can check ancient documents to determine whether the ancient events took place -- how does that overly weaken the argument?

      @Alter The naturalistic explanations simply don't fit into the text in any reasonable way. Their explanations essentially claim that the Jews lied. I don't feel the need to distrust my evidence.

    8. @Are Roster think the naturalistic explanations do fit the text fairly closely. They are consistent with ancient people belief. The the explanations dont reduce to lying. But even lying is a superior explanation - i.e nation building boasting and propaganda is a superior explanation than all the miracles and ad hoc apologetics.

    9. @Are Roster U say - "I agree that there's a point where adding additional requirements would weaken the argument. Thus, if I'd claim, "You can only bring a counterexample from a nation that has the highest average IQ," that wouldn't necessarily be appropriate, But if I say, that one can only bring counterexamples from literate nations -- ones that can check ancient documents to determine whether the ancient events took place -- how does that overly weaken the argument?"

      Again this is the Texas Sharper Shooter Fallacy. You are designing the Kuzari argument to exclude many ancient cultures or even some more modern ones. Many ancient cultures or even relatively recent ones did not keep written records. And we no longer have enough written records from those ancient societies.

      Also, by reducing the possible sample space you are left with few ancient cultures. With such a small sample space you cant draw meaningful conclusions.

      Regardless, I think I provided in my blog examples of ancient written records regarding literate people claiming ‘divine’ revelations. Written records or oral traditions regardless of where they come from do not make the stories anymore compelling.

    10. @Are Roster and if I found an ancient culture with a written record of divine interaction you can redesign the Kuzari to require the interaction be nation changing. An if I found a story including that you would say it has to involve XYZ number of burdensome laws and rituals. And if I then find that sort of story you will say find a story with (alleged ) very intellegent people like ancient Jews. And If I found that sort of story you will say find a story that has the claim a sufficient mass of of people in it. And on and on and on, leaving you with only one story fitting the bill. If so then how can you claim that one story is true since there is nothing else like it ?

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    1. 2) You don't have good evidence. As I've pointed out before. You can argue until you're blue in the face that your evidence is good. But every historian looks at you askance. They don't consider the evidence "good." Maybe you should figure out why.

      3 & 4) You are moving the goalposts, you just don't realize it. Also,iIf you want to rely on the 600,000 number then you have to prove convincingly that the number is reasonable.

      5) The prophets are often very clear on why they are writing. They say it outright. I include such a discussion in my post, so if you had read it (which you obviously didn't) you would know what you should be refuting.

      If you want to assume that the prophetic writings are divine, then you need to provide evidence that they *are* divine. There's no reason to accept this assumption a priori. I've given some methods that can be used to determine divinity of a text. If you want to convince me, then I would recommend using that, or at least propose what methodology you would use. Here's the post on the divinity of texts.

      You absolutely do need to show that the first temple Jews believed it was a nation changing event. The Kuzari argument relies on any generation rejecting the event if it was introduced to them and they didn't have a collective memory of it. Therefore, it's an implicit assumption that every generation held it in high importance. If you can't show that this is true for every generation (or at least that it is not false) then the argument is worthless. I provide evidence, based on the Tanach, that the first temple generation at the time of the major prophets didn't care much about Sinai, and it was not considered a nation-forming event to them. (unlike the Exodus from Egypt, or the wilderness wandering.) You can't dodge this and expect anyone to think your argument has any merit.

      Deep down I think you are misunderstanding what the Kuzari argument is actually saying. The argument is saying that there is no sequence of natural events that could have led to the Sinai myth being accepted by the Jews. Therefore, the only possible solution can be a supernatural event. In other words, Gottlieb is arguing that it would require a supernatural power to convince the Jews that the Sinai event would happen. Every supernatural event is of equal probability (since they are all undefined) so we might as well accept the one that is written about in the Torah. That is the argument you are defending whether you realize it or not.

      To refute it, all someone needs to show is that there is a sequence of events, improbable or not, that would allow the myth to take place. Any will do, since a natural explanation always trumps a supernatural one. There are numerous possible natural sequences that would produce the Sinai myth, therefore the Kuzari argument is refuted. Just for fun here's one sequence (continued).

    2. 1) Small band of nomads experience violent storm during desert pilgrimage

      2) Nomads return, and say that they saw god (or a storm god)

      3) The story spreads around the campfire, with many people claiming, yeah I was there, I saw the storm god

      4) After 150 years, no one remembers who actually saw the storm god, they are all dead. Everyone thinks they're ancestors saw the storm god.

      5) Another several hundred years later, the population has grown to support a small kingdom

      6) The storm god becomes the national god of the nation

      7) Priests pick up on the ancient story of the nomads seeing the storm god in the desert

      8) Priests use that account to justify various religious rites and commandments, like religious festivals and the like. They write this down in a holy document.

      9) Later groups of priests also use the same event to justify different commandments, they also write this down.

      10) The documents are combined to become the Torah story.

      Is this how it happened? I don't know. It's certainly plausible, and does not require anything supernatural. Can you refute that this sequence of events may have happened? Probably not.

    3. I can make the same outline regarding our belief in the Second Temple. Yet, any who claim that the Temple never existed, and that our numerous commemorations regarding the Temple are latter-day additions, would be considered crazy. Why? Because nations simply don't act in the way you outlined. The evidence we are presenting may very well be infallible. Could it be fallible? Possibly. But your outline doesn't increase that possibility. We have to look at how nations act, empirically.

    4. I don't need to prove that the prophet heard their account from God. Again, here YOU are making the argument. If so, you have no right to assume that it wasn't written by God. We claim we have powerful evidence for Sinai. You respond that you have evidence against our tradition. But your evidence against our tradition PRESUMES that our tradition is false. That is a circular argument.

    5. "Yet, any who claim that the Temple never existed..."

      These are not in question. We have external evidence that the second temple (and the first temple for that matter) existed. We don't have any external evidence of Sinai.

      "We have to look at how nations act, empirically."

      Ok, good. Provide me with the work by a qualified anthropological historian that shows the proper anthropological models that identify clearly that the natural explanation for the Sinai myth is impossible. Then show that this historical explanation is well received in the community. Only then will I believe there's anything here worth considering.

      (The problem is there are plenty of works that fit my description. And every single one of them, to an author, considers the Sinai myth, exactly that, a myth. Not one buys into the Kuzari argument. Again, maybe it'd be a good idea to figure out why that is. Could it be that they know a bit more about myth formation than you or Gottlieb does? Have you considered the possibility that people who spend their lifetime working on these things, just might know a little more than you do?)

      "I don't need to prove that the prophet heard their account from God. Again, here YOU are making the argument."

      Sorry, that's not how it works. You're the one with the positive claim here. You want to apply a special case to the prophetic works to make them immune from any inspection. You have to show that they indeed merit that special case.

      Hammurabi claims that his laws were given to him by Marduk. Do you feel like you need to prove that it wasn't? Or do you think the Hammurabi partisan needs to prove that it was?

      Honestly though, this is becoming yet again a waste of my time. It is clear to me that you aren't even familiar enough with what the Kuzari argument is actually saying...

    6. 1) Even if there wasn't external evidence for the Temple, the mere fact that you'd present an outline regarding how our cherished belief and mourning over the temple evolved over time wouldn't give anyone the slightest doubt about the existence of the Temple. There are an infinite number of false beliefs out there, but no false beliefs regarding nation-changing events. Thus, our evidence may be infallible. Presenting an outline regarding how such beliefs could "easily" develop isn't grounded in the reality of human experience.

      2) Yes, I have to prove that miracles happened. But if your argument against miracles presupposes that God doesn't communicate with us, that's not an argument against our evidence. Assuming that the prophets were written by humans can't be an argument against our tradition.

      3) Why should I assume that scholars know the Bible any more than I do? Iv'e read through the bible with its commentaries numerous times, and I have read a handful of biblical criticism books. So their expertise shouldn't overwhelm me. They do, however, present arguments WHICH THEY KNOW TO BE FALSE. Read, for example, Who REALLY Wrote the Bible (there are two with the same name). They present a case that Friedman simply made things up. So, no, we are having an intellectual argument here. If these experts never present a detailed and convincing argument against the Sinai miracles or divine authorship, I don't need to take them seriously.

    7. 1) It's the external evidence that moves something from "possible" to "probable." For example, most people thought the story of the Iliad was entirely fiction, with Troy being a fictional invention. However, once external evidence was uncovered of the existence of the city, then the war behind the Iliad became historical. In other words, without the external evidence, we would still be considering the Iliad fictional, as well we probably should!

      2) The null hypothesis is that the books of the Tanach are no different from any other books of the period. If you want to claim otherwise, that they deserve special consideration, then you have to prove it.

      3) Sigh. If I say there are between 1 and 10 people in the room. And Observer A says, I think there are 3, and Observer B says I think there are 6, does that mean that I am wrong? If the evidence is only sufficient to fully support my estimate, is it wrong for Observer A to say, I think there are 3 because X, and Observer B to say, I think there are 6 because of Y? Friedman may think there are 6 and defend it the way he wants, Whybray (or anyone else) may think there are 3 and might attack Friedman's results. But at the end both agree that there are between 1 and 10.

      Once you realize this, maybe you can start actually learning how to approach the Tanach. But I'm guessing you won't understand this, because of our previous conversation on population estimates.

    8. 1) True, finding physical remains increases the likelihood that an event took place. But why do you claim that until we find physical remains the event remains improbable? Indeed, let's assume that there was no evidence for the temple (I have no position on whether there is physical evidence). If someone were to present your outline regarding how belief in the second temple and how the daily mourning over the temple evolved over time, would anyone take him seriously? Of course not. We would respond to that skeptic, "Though you claim to have an outline how the temple belief and commemorations and mourning evolved over time (including Chanukah and Tisha bav), since you are making a claim about NATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY, claiming that national history is a fallible form of evidence, how can you know this when we don't find a SINGLE case where this evidence was disproven." I don't claim to be an expert on national psychology. Thus, I never claimed that my evidence is infallible, but I have no reason to assume that it is fallible. Until we find one counterexample (in the billions of false beliefs out there) we can't question our evidence based on an outline regarding what we think is national psychology. Can we be empirical, or must we rely on our intuitions (and campfires) regarding national beliefs

      2) There must be something seriously wrong with my understanding of your argument regarding the prophets. When you make a positive argument against our tradition, based on the assumption that the prophets were liars/lunatics who claimed to be reporting what they heard from god, I simply can't see your point. When attacking a system, you can't assume that the system is false. I really don't see your side at all. Furthermore, you haven't adequately dealt with my other critiques of the lack-of-Sinai-in-the-prophets-argument: 1) Everyone already believed in the Sinai accounts and thus it wasn't important to mention the event in their sermons (they weren't atheists, they were either polytheists or they, possibly, thought that Moses created some laws on his own, which was common in the Second Temple era); 2) We need to know their specific purpose. You claim, thus, they they were trying to "persuade" the Jews not to worship idols. But maybe their goad was rather to FRIGHTEN the Jews not to worship idols; 3) The prophets were believed to have performed miracles or foretold events. Thus, there was no need to refer to the Sinai apparition; 4) We aren't bringing proof from the Voice they heard on Mount Sinai, which was indeed brief and, though unlikely, might have been the product of a hallucination. We are bringing a proof from the manna and all the varied miracles that the Jews saw which, in total, couldn't have been the product of a hallucination. 5) How do you know that the books of the prophets contains all their sermons? Indeed, it can very well be that some of their unrecorded sermons referred to the Sinai events; 6) There are additional flaws but my fingers are getting tired.

      3) I wonder whether bible critics are willing to consider divine authorship of the bible. If not, then their points aren't relevant to my claim of divine authorship of the torah.

    9. 1 and your comment to ACJA) I'll try one more time to try to get you to understand where your reasoning goes faulty, then I guess I'll give up. You want to be "empirical" and that's good. So that means that presumably you have examples that are similar to the Sinai experience that we know to be true. What are they? Make sure you only bring actual comparable events not faulty analogies like you accuse us of doing.

      2) Your explanations of why the prophets don't mention Sinai are not convincing. Here's why. 1) They already believed in the Exodus from Egypt, yet that was mentioned. Why that and not Sinai being that Sinai is more pertinent to the commandment of not worshipping idols. 2) I see no difference between persuasion and frightening in this regard. 3) Same as 1, why refer to the Exodus then. They shouldn't need that either. 4) This is not the argument that is made. Kuzari refers to the Sinai miracle, not to the manna. If you want to argue something different, then do that. 5) We don't know that they contain all their sermons, but we don't need to for the argument to be correct.

      3) They do. Here's a quote from Friedman on the topic, "The question all along was not "Who inspired the Bible?" or "Who revealed the Bible?" The question was only which human beings actually composed it. Whether they did so at divine direction, dictation, or inspiration was always a matter of faith."

    10. @Are Roster you speak of “NATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY”

      So lets examine the national psychology of the ancient Israelites a bit. Superstitious, unscientific, worshiped Idols and fetishes over and over again. You think they are reliable witnesses ? Sure you do. But I am not sure skeptics would.

    11. 1) I am not sure what you mean by asking, empirically, for another event similar to Sinai. Do you mean that I need to provide an additional miracle? I’m not sure why you are asking for another miracle. If you mean to apply Hume’s argument against miracles (since they are so rare and counter to what we have experienced about the laws of nature), then I don’t think you have proper argument—for two reasons. First, many philosophers have criticized Hume’s argument (I only read one book on his argument [Hume, Holisim and Miracles, by an utterly brilliant author, in my opinion], and I’m not a trained philosopher, so I’m not equipped to argue for or against his subtle argument). Furthermore, Hume himself admits in his writings that if exotically-powerful evidence of a miracle—e.g., the historians of the 16th century reporting that the world went dark for eight days straight—then we should enthusiastically trust the evidence, according to Hume. The Kuzari argument is of similar stature, since it has never been shown to be fallible.

      2) As explained previously, we can’t determine what the SPECIFIC motivation of the ancient prophets was. True, they wanted to end idolatry, but their specific aim was presumably a bit more nuanced—so all we can do is speculate. Now, the prophets merely reminding the populace that God forbade idolatry 500 years earlier doesn’t help their argument, for two reasons. First, God—in the present moment, in the times of the prophet—issued a command against idolatry and backed it up with a miracle (the issue here isn’t whether the miracle happened, but rather that people generally believed the prophets did miracles or predicted the future). Second, other idols also performed miracles and were also just as jealous—and presumably less loving—than the biblical God. So why listen to Him, commanding 500 years earlier, rather than Baal who is demanding to be worshiped? Invoking the Exodus is a two-pronged response to that claim: a) The Biblical God saved you from Egypt, thus you owe more to Him than to Baal; b) In Egypt, the Biblical God showed that He could punish the other gods, proving that He stronger than them, and possibly even proving that they never existed in the first place (See, e.g., Second Samuel where David states, “There are no other gods other than You as we have heard with our ears,” and in the next verse he thanks God for “miraculously” saving the Jews from Egypt and destroying “their gods” (7:23)). So invoking the Exodus is a response to polytheism, or at least to polytheistic worship.

      3) My proof isn’t from the Sinai apparition. My proof is from the totality of the 14,600 days of various miracles. My evidence can’t be from the Sinai event alone, since an atheist might be able to argue that it is too brief an event for us to conclude that it couldn’t have been a mirage or hallucination. Proving that the Sinai apparition didn’t occur doesn’t disprove the other 14,599 days.

    12. 1) You repeatedly state stuff like this, "Thus, I never claimed that my evidence is infallible, but I have no reason to assume that it is fallible." and then later in the paragraph plead, "Can we be empirical?" So I'm allowing you to be empirical. In order to be empirical you must relate the Sinai event to other similar events in order to determine whether the claims can be trusted or not. So I'm asking you to be empirical about it.

      2) I don't buy it. The prophets weren't just arguing against polytheism, they were also arguing against idolatry, specifically the golden calves at Dan and Bethel. These weren't worship of other gods, they were worship of God by means of a representative symbol. Something normal in the ANE, and something forbidden explicitly at Sinai. Nevertheless, I don't agree with your argument that prophetical references to the Exodus is a proper refutation of polytheism rather than the Sinai. But I don't see any further we can go here, so I'm going to drop it.

      3) Then you are arguing a different situation. This is contrary to the Modern Kuzari which hinges on Sinai rather than the broader desert experience. If you want to hang your hat on God feeding a large nation in the desert for 40 years as being a real event, then you really do need to provide some evidence that such a large nation existed in the Sinai desert during that period. Once you provide that evidence, we can start the discussion.

  14. @Are Roster "Presenting an outline regarding how such beliefs could "easily" develop isn't grounded in the reality of human experience."

    I suggest you read all of my kuzari posts carefully. Many if not all the pieces of the Sinai story have known empirical grounds. Supernatural and mountains, Supernatural speaking, Supernatural giving laws, seeing Supernatural, masses of people being misled or mistaken to believe inaccurate information, myths or stories becoming embellished over time, nation boasting etc: etc: Maybe the Torah is boasting /propagandizing about all the miracles , number of people involved, revelation - and it is known nations engage in boasting and propaganda.

    Given all that and under certain conditions the Exodus - Sinai Nation Foundation Myth could have developed or evolved over time. Maybe it is was not EASY and the Torah hints at that - all the Idolatry, rebellions... Also, many scholars have no problem with the evolution of mythology of a small group coming to being believed by a larger group. It may take time though.

    Thus there are reasonable ways consistent with the Torah text and with known human experience how the Sinai story may have come about and it does not require invoking Supernatural.

    At best the Kuzari may be a good argument to distinguish Judaism from say Christianity to the extent the former makes a larger claim. But the Kuzari is not enough to prove the Sinai revelation likely or actually occurred. You cant base history on ancient tribal traditions, especially traditions involving supernatural.

    1. @alter I find that those who like to present counterexamples will present numerous counterexamples. The problem with this is that all you need to prove your point is merely ONE counterexample. It seems to me that the kuzari critics are aware that each counterexample is woefully insufficient to disprove kuzari. Thus, by presenting numerous non-counterexamples they hope to confuse the kuzari proponent with the large numbers of non-counterexamples. Please, present a counterexample. But only present one. Be sure that it is a belief regarding a national event (which necessitates that it mentions the number of ancestors who witnessed the event) and that it is a nation-changing event. You don't need 613 commemorations/commandments in your counterexample, but you need something at least remotely similar to my evidence before I can assume that my evidence is fallible.

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    3. @Are Roster U say “I find that those who like to present counterexamples will present numerous counterexamples. The problem with this is that all you need to prove your point is merely ONE counterexample. It seems to me that the kuzari critics are aware that each counterexample is woefully insufficient to disprove kuzari. Thus, by presenting numerous non-counterexamples they hope to confuse the kuzari proponent with the large numbers of non-counterexamples. Please, present a counterexample. But only present one. Be sure that it is a belief regarding a national event (which necessitates that it mentions the number of ancestors who witnessed the event) and that it is a nation-changing event. You don't need 613 commemorations/commandments in your counterexample, but you need something at least remotely similar to my evidence before I can assume that my evidence is fallible.”

      I don't have to provide you with even one single counterexample to prove my point. A premise is not demonstrated to be true just because we don't have a counterexample. However a counterexample will disprove a premise.

      You just don’t get it do you. All the counter examples and documented information in my blog posts indicate many if not all the pieces of the claims found Sinai puzzle exist in similar form amongst other cultures and are consistent with ancient human culture and behavior. It is not required to show a combination like found in the Sinai story.

      Also see how you build a wall around the Sinai story - you require nation changing event (whatever that means) and I am not sure Sinai was a nation changing event to the degree you claim. WBCW story is an alleged witnessed tribal changing event at least one onerous ritual. I can also argue the Pygmy claim is also tribal changing because they claim God gave them certain laws to follow.

      To reinforce your wall - you require mentions number of ancestors. Many tribal/nation traditions not related to this issue fail to mention number of ancestors - they did not keep a tallies in their stories. So with that requirement alone I am pretty certain there are very few ancient tribal/nation stories REGARDING ANYTHING UNDER THE PLANET that mention the number of ancestors. In short you are advocating the Sinai is “unique”

      If Sinai is unique that does not in any way imply it is likely true. And if it is unique how can you show the story is likely true ? You have nothing to compare it to. So it would be better if the Sinai story is claimed not to be unique and show other similar stories are true. Then you can claim the Sinai story is also likely to be true. My Kuzari part 6 post takes a generalist approach..

      Just because the Sinai story has more claimed alleged miracles, more alleged people witnessing an alleged event, more alleged onerous commandments, more this or that does not make the story likely to be true.


    4. @Are Roster Can you name even a single historian that claims the Sinai story is historical - you know the big Exodus, the miracles, the 600000 plus, a divine revelation on at a mountain... ? If not, why do you call it national "history" ? Sinai revelation story is not supported by external sources - the story is like a legend. And even if parts of the story can be supported as being history that does not mean all of it is historical. Just so you know.

    5. @Are Roster

      Premise 1 - All national traditions involving nation changing events are true or likely to be true.

      How can somebody support this Premise ? Because we examine many of examples of such traditions from actual history and they all turn out to be true or likely true. . Yet, every one of those examples did not involve supernatural. Hence Premise 1 is limited to traditions not involving supernatural. In short, one can not extrapolate beyond the sample experiences that support Premise 1.

      If one tries to support Premise 1 based on ‘logic’ how people ‘should’ behave, it becomes a very weak premise. People or even masses of people do not behave based on alleged logic or how people ‘should’ behave. For example, if an important Authority tells a nation a good story about it’s people how many people are going to use ‘logic’ and argue, especially if the story is encouraged. This is true today even with widespread information, and would be truer in ancient times


    6. @Alter I’m not sure how you can claim that the Sinai events, had they happened, wouldn’t have left some mark on the nation for subsequent generations. If God commands that you refrain from work on the Seventh day of the week (and the story reports that the Jews began to observe it in the desert—as we say on Friday Night before Shemona Esrei), and to never to forget the Exodus’ miracles, and never to forget the manna, and to teach these miracles to all the millions of generational lines that ensued from the millions of witnesses, and the story concludes that the Jews swore to observe this law, how could it not have some effect on subsequent generations? Now, I agree, everyone believed in miracles then. So God performing a miracle wouldn’t necessarily remain on the national conscience—BUT HERE GOD COMMANDED THAT THEY PERPETUATE THIS EVENT TO THEIR GRANDCHILDREN. Isaiah, for example, when discussing the singing of the messianic era states that the song will be similar to the singing of the night of Passover. So there must have been some effect on subsequent generations.

      Regarding your second point—that I’m arbitrarily and unreasonably demanding that the counterexample be similar to my evidence—I beg to differ. I have evidence. I don’t know if it is fallible or not. You claim, “The evidence is surely fallible. People can believe false national events.” But if you don’t know of anything similar to my evidence being fallible, why do you assume that it is fallible? If my story contains millions of people, which would produce millions of generational lines to subsequent generations, and your story only contains a thousand witnesses –which makes your evidence a thousandth of my evidence—why should I assume that my evidence is fallible? To offer an analogy: If I claim that global warming is a hoax, that the hundreds of scientists who claim to have evidence for it are liars, and all I can offer is a case where three scientists doctored info, that would be an improper counterexample. Similarly, if I’d offer a counterexample where a hundred people lied, but these people aren’t respected scientists, it would be proper to respond: The mere fact that conspiracies do happen doesn’t imply that respected and cultures scientists would do the same. If you claim that a hundred scientists can lie, YOU HAVE TO SHOW ME SOMETHING REMOTELY SIMILAR TO THAT BEFORE ASSUMING THAT THEY CAN LIE.

      Similarly, if you claim that my evidence is surely fallible, you’d need to provide something similar—not a thousandth of my evidence (and surely not a counterexample which doesn’t even venture to state the number of ancestor witnesses believed to have seen the event, so there would be only a few generational lines to subsequent generations).

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    9. @Are Roster

      ACJA Response

      Regarding your first point -

      Can you please source where I claimed “...that the Sinai events, had they happened, wouldn’t have left some mark on the nation for subsequent generations.”

      Just so you know: First - Even if one were to claim the Sinai event would leave rituals or commandments such as remember Sinai or whatever, and that tribe practices such rituals it would not at all imply the Sinai event actually occurred.

      Second - That a certain tribe practiced rituals and tied those rituals back to an ancient story, does not at all imply the story is true.

      Regarding your second point -

      I think my blog post Kuzari Part 6 which please read again - it has been updated, discusses why adding more restrictions weakens the Kuzari argument. I also may have discussed some reasons here at Kefirah. I also think Kefirah responded with some comments as well.

      Also you are straw manning my numerous arguments against the Kuzari - see my Kuzari posts. Additionally, as far as I am concerned an ancient unscientific superstitious tribe of peoples who found themselves often under duress with good motivation to boast or believe in legends do not make for a strong base to create an argument. Maybe we just disagree on this.

      Just because one story has a claim of millions and another only claims of a hundreds or perhaps just a tribal claim without numbers does not necessarily make the million claim superior. As an example - if the story involves millions and we suspect there can not be millions, then the story that involves millions loses credibility. Some alleged 'miracles', divine revelations involved hundreds or thousands or likely hundreds or thousands. At what figure do we cut off their claim ? You cant pull this figure out of the hat.

      Maybe if you put your version of the Kuzari argument in terms of premises and conclusions it would help move the discussion forward instead of going around in circles. I will wait for you to do this. Until you do so thanks for chatting and Shalom.

    10. This is my last reply regarding the Kuzari argument, so you guys can dice my response to little cubes. I see that this isn't getting anywhere, perhaps because I lack the skills necessary to persuade you, perhaps because kuzari is a weak argument, or perhaps because you've invested so much into your atheism that you simply can't see through the forest.

      1) Why would I need to relate the Sinai event to another event? Please be specific. Why would you need to see a similar event in order to know that the Sinai event happened? If, for example, you witnessed the Sinai events, would feel compelled to scurry to the historical encyclopedia in order to confirm that you weren’t hallucinating? If I have evidence which may be infallible, why are you asking for more?

      2) Kuzari focuses on all the miracles (R’ Gottlieb, indeed, focuses specifically on the manna). Thus, for example, we have possibly-infallible evidence that manna—edible food that fell from the sky six days a week—sustained the Jews. The only way for you to avoid this event is to REWRITE the clear narrative stated in the bible. And even then we can focus on ALL THE OTHER MIRACLES AS WELL.

      Why do I have to prove that there were 600,000 people in the desert? It is you, dear kefirah, that needs to prove that my evidence is fallible. Until then, all you have is a blog full of the speculation and guesswork of “scholars,” based on an archaic methodology founded in the 1800s, who aren’t willing to accept evidence that is smacking them over their heads.

      3) Regarding your earlier point that the scholars are willing to accept divine authorship, when I read their arguments, all their arguments presuppose a human (usually, sinister) motivation for the composition of a particular text. Indeed, most, if not all, of their arguments—doublets, contradictions, commandments that wouldn’t apply until future generations—presuppose a human author (we duked this out elsewhere on this blog). Friedman’s claim that he has nothing against divine authorship is a claim that doesn’t jive with his arguments. I suspect that he made this claim because in the 90s it was deemed rude to push atheism on the unlettered masses (Dawkins’ God Delusion remained unpublished for a long time for this reason—it was considered coarse to dash the masses’ belief in a heavenly father and an afterlife).

    11. "If I have evidence which may be infallible, why are you asking for more?"

      How are you determining that your evidence is trustworthy.

      "Until then, all you have is a blog full of the speculation and guesswork of “scholars,” based on an archaic methodology founded in the 1800s, who aren’t willing to accept evidence that is smacking them over their heads. "

      This is humorous, especially since the first people to look into this (in the 20th century mind you) were very much under the impression that the Torah was mostly accurate. It is only the *evidence itself* that convinced most academics today otherwise.

      3) At this point you are suspecting motives of individuals that are contradictory to what they actually state. It's a defense mechanism so that you can continue believing that your preconceived ideas are correct. Instead of allowing new information to influence your views, you find ways to discount or discredit anything that contradicts the conclusions you already have arrived at. This is just one more example of this textbook case of confirmation bias. It's also why you will never be able to determine truth from fiction.

    12. I will respond to your points that aren't related to Kuzari, but rather to the argument from authority:

      1) The scholars might very well not be aware of the Kuzari argument, or they might not fully appreciate the logic behind it. They can, and they must, before I need to take them seriously.

      2) I was referring to the documentary hypothesis when I said the 1800s. Regarding archaeology, I believe the issue is the following. Most people, both believers and otherwise, assume that there MUST be archaeological evidence for gigantic historic events. When they go into the field, they are then disappointed by finding very little, and then begin to question their faith. This questioning then gets reinforced when they find remains of relatively minor events. Voila--the major events never happened. You see this logic clearly. Interestingly, I was perusing a travel blog and a woman asked where she might find a museum on the Persian Wars, a historic event she found fascinating (we spoke about this before, the war that had somewhere between 500,000 and a few million Persian soldiers). A local Greek responded that there's no such museum. The Persian Wars left no archaeological remains, so the museum would have to be an empty building. We are biased to assuming that there would be so many remains since we live in an information age (the library of congress has over 50,000 books on the civil war).

      3) There is no doubt that I am biased. But I think that atheists are more biased than I am. Why? I would have no problem admitting that our evidence isn't absolute. There is some possibility that despite the overwhelming evidence (not just Kuzari, there are other pieces of evidence, as I'm sure you know), the Sinai narrative was made up. But I can live with that possibility. An atheist scholar like Finkelstein is FORCED to ignore (and hide) any and all evidence that contradicts his worldview, since once he admits "There's a 5% chance that the Sinai miracles took place," he is logically required become religious (Pascal's Wager). So, in fact, if we are claiming that people are biased it's the atheist researchers, not the religious ones.

    13. So you refuse to provide any supporting evidence for why you think the Kuzari argument is good. Ok.

      1) Maybe it's because historians think the argument is so bad it's beneath consideration?

      2) The Documentary hypothesis has literally nothing to do with the topic. Anyway, we are not talking about layman misunderstanding what should leave evidence and what shouldn't. We are talking about experts in the field who have spent their entire life excavating and analyzing evidence, who come to this conclusion. This is not an "argument from authority" fallacy any more than you would take medical advice from a doctor or legal advice from a lawyer. Your comments about the Persian wars are silly. Perhaps if you had something from a historian devoted to that region and that period in history who found the lack of evidence of the campaign odd, then I would listen. And, do you know what, I bet that historian would probably come to the conclusion that the estimates of 1 million or whatever are way too high, just like they do with the Exodus.

      3) This is perhaps the silliest thing you've written so far, which is saying quite a bit. The idea that Finkelstein reaches his conclusion because of an unwillingness to deal with Pascal's Wager is so far beyond a reasonable argument I'm not sure you've even spent two seconds thinking about it. What does it say about individuals who do believe in God like Hoffmeier and Dever who come to the same conclusion?

      The people who are qualified to deal with Pascal's Wager arguments are not archaeologists, they are philosophers. And the agreement is universal, even among theist philosophers, that Pascal's Wager is a terrible argument. I've already given you some articles on why (I think) but I'm guessing you either didn't understand them, or I dunno.

      Dever and Hoffmeier are not atheists. Hoffmeier is evangelical. You can't pin all the contradictory evidence on an "atheist conspiracy."

    14. Briefly: Since I'm not claiming that the kuzari is fallible or not I have no burden. You are claiming that the evidence is fallible so you need to bring evidence for that claim. Regarding the one religious historian (dever, as I said before considers miracles to be impossible, he distrusts the Torah BECAUSE it contains mirackes. Hoffemeir relies on Finkelstein and company regarding Israel 3) I explained above that even if we accept the archeological claim regarding the small numbers, kuzari still stands. I won't rehash the arguments. Either take it or leave it. Check wikipedia regarding the Persian wars and the frendo book I linked elsewhere.

    15. "Briefly: Since I'm not claiming that the kuzari is fallible or not I have no burden."

      It is hard to imagine a denser statement from an individual. You are essentially declaring something true by fiat.

  15. @Alter
    I won’t reply to all your points. I would like to respond to one of your points, however. You claim that the Jews were superstitious. But that’s not enough to disprove my claim. How do you know that were superstitious enough to believe in a false national history? Many ancient and contemporary societies are superstitious, so one would assume—based on your logic—that we’d be inundated by false nation-changing events. So please provide one.

    But I think your point is an important one. Not only are we presenting evidence we may be infallible, the bearers of that evidence—the Jews—are the one of, if not the, most reliable of ancient nations. All other nations believed in a plethora of idols, while many Jews were pure monotheists (though not all)—as numerous verses, from many biblical authors, indicate. All other nations believed in astrology, while many Jews mocked the idea (Isaiah 47:13; Jeremiah 10:2). Agreed, relative to today’s know-it-alls they are less skeptical (they are also less skeptical than people who still doubt the moon-landing). But RELATIVE to other ancient nations, they appear to be MORE skeptical. Thus, they are the last ANCIENT nation that would be duped into believing a false national history. To quote the last two paragraphs of the linked chapter:

    The Psalmist praises God for the miracles that “our fathers have related to us” (78:3). Ibn Ezra, the great medieval biblical commentator, explains the relevance of the fact that we have heard those miracles from our fathers: “We heard about these national miracles from many [of our ancestors], people who we know were exceedingly righteous . . . they loved us, they are our fathers, and they would never wish to trick us.”

    As mentioned in this chapter, the ancient Jews were exceedingly righteous, literate, moral, intelligent, skeptical, unbiased, genealogically-astute, historically-proficient, and they wouldn’t have any reason to be tricked into believing in a false history, or to trick their descendants into believing a false history. They are the most reliable source of history. They were not barbarians. It is we who are the barbarians, if we irrationally evade evidence whenever it happens to point to the existence of God.
    Alter, someone once asked me, “If I would present a clear counterexample, would you throw away your yarmulke?” I said no, for three reasons (one of which I will present here). Even if our evidence is a fallible form of evidence, I trust our devoted ancestry. True, the objective and cold logic of the Kuzari argument would lose its force, but on a subjective level we can still say, “Though we found other nations who—in rare cases—believed false national events, I refuse to therefore assume that our ancestors, who were righteous and devoted, would lie to us in such an egregious fashion.”

    In fact, I often wonder: The evidence of Kuzari is so compelling, that it’s too compelling. Where is the free will NOT to believe in God? How is God the Hidden God when He provides such overwhelming evidence? Thus, I suspect that a day will come when we will find the “unholy grail,” when we will find a counterexample that shows that another nation can believe in a false national, nation-changing event. Then, and only then, would be able to use our free will to accept the subjective kuzari argument. Until then, we have no choice but to accept the objective kuzari argument.”

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    2. @Are Roster I will try to respond next week - but regarding the Persian example did we not discuss this someplace earlier. I gave reasons why it may be a poor analogy. But you never responded.

      U say "Though we found other nations who—in rare cases—believed false national events, I refuse to therefore assume that our ancestors, who were righteous and devoted, would lie to us in such an egregious fashion.”

      I think this goes to the heart of the matter. This argument preceded the more modern versions of the Kuzari. Would my father lie to me ? The problem is it can be used to justify almost any religion or mythology. Also, people can potentially lie to their children if it is for the 'greater good'. Nor are we required to say lying is involved. People can be mistaken. People can be misled. People can come to want to believe in mythology.

      That is one crucial problem with the Kuzari argument - it assumes people acting as cool questioning individuals. But we know that is not how people or tribes or nations behave.

      Good Shabbas

      P.S. Give some thought to arrange the Kuzari into premises and conclusions. I find this very helpful to understand arguments better. I tried this in Kuzari Part 6 and even started doing this as early as Kuzari part 1 first paragraph.

    3. Mr. Roster,

      I can understand where you are coming from. I, too, was once a believer, and I understand the mental gymnastics that you undertake in order to sustain your belief. The Kuzari argument once allowed me to maintain my belief. However, once I looked at ancient myths I noticed that there isn't necessarily too much that is unique about the Revelation at Sinai. Now, I do admit, I can see your side as well. There is definitely something special regarding the Revelation. The number of people and the number of commemorations isn't found in other myths, as far as I'm aware. Thus, I do see your side. There may be something unique about the Sinai history. But I can also see the other side of the coin as well--the may be nothing particularly unique about the revelation to force me to accept your claims.

      This alone, however, didn't lead me to become an "apikorus." It wasn't the biblical criticism or the archaeological arguments (there are good arguments, I will admit, for and against the historic events recorded in the Torah). The Jewish nation probably left Egypt, and then went to Israel. I surely can't disprove that claim. But what I can disprove is the absurd claims made by the Torah that the earth is 6,000 years old, and other events recorded in Genesis. If those events have been *conclusively* shown to be false, I am entitled to question the rest as well. The delight and inspiration I once found in the Kuzari argument, and the archaeological arguments for the Exodus, no longer carry sufficient weight. I'm sorry, Are Roster, for being so frank, and I know it must be difficult reading my response, but I think you need to see the truth.

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    5. @Are Roster

      I already responded to some key errors of your statements.

      But will add a few more comments.

      U write “Many ancient and contemporary societies are superstitious, so one would assume—based on your logic—that we’d be inundated by false nation-changing events. So please provide one.”

      Maybe you are not reading what I have written or more likely inventing straw men to knock down.. I never implied we would be inundated by national tradition of nation-changing events whether false or true. However, there are some pertinent ones: WBCW, Pygmy, Castor and Pallux, Temple of Perseus, Aztec (see BOTH baruchpelta links) , and other related ANE myths. Please read my Kuzari posts where I provide reasons why we may not have reference to all legends similar to Sinai and why such an argument is not convincing. Nevertheless - almost all the pieces of Sinai are found in legends.

      U write “How do you [ACJA} know that [the ancient Israelites] were superstitious enough to believe in a false national history?”

      They were very superstitious and unscientific. They were not unbiased and they were under duress. That is enough to cast doubt for them being valid witnesses and moreover casting doubt if later generations would question what their father tells them. These sort of witnesses do not make for a strong case for the Sinai stories legitimacy. Nor does it inspire confidence that the progeny of the ancient Israelites would provide adequate skepticism to prevent myth evolution. Perhaps for a less fanciful tale we may be inclined to hear, but not necessarily accept the tale of ancient biased, under stress, superstitious unscientific people may provide. Even then historians would likely need more than just the tale to fully accept it.

      U Write “Thus, they [the ancient Israelites] are the last ANCIENT nation that would be duped into believing a false national history.”

      Why do you keep repeating this tripe and straw man. We don’t have to invoke duping to explain how the Sinai legends may have come about. Myth formation accounts for it well. However, as written in my biog. posts, according to some Scholars the Sinai revelation may have involved a staged event. This is supported by the Torah text and I have analyzed the text in some detail to show why. And if the manna legends have a kernel of truth they could be accounted for by natural substances. The ancient Israelites like some other ancient cultures would ascribe events (including natural occurrences) as being directed by the God(s).

    6. @ s weinberger

      Regarding Are Roster. He would claim that even if the Torah contained false information and that information was intentionally put in there by G-d he would still conclude the Torah could have been written by G-d. I told him it it was very unlikely it was written by G-d; and who wants to worship such a trickster ? for more see the discussion here

    7. @ s weinberger

      Don't forget the flood myth in the Torah. A wonderful story but it never happened.

    8. I am not responding to ACJA's Kuzari points not because they aren't worth exploring, and certainly not because I can't answer them, but because I realize that these attempts are futile. If ACJA can't find the flaws that (at least I think) abound in his points, he certainly won't accept them if I point them out.

      Mr. (Mrs.?) Weinberger,

      1) I claim that there is no evidence whatsoever that nationally commemorated history is a fallible form of evidence. I do admit - however - that there is no evidence that it's infallible. Thus, I claim that there is a 50% chance that the Sinai miracles "MUST" HAVE HAPPENED (although the odds that it did happen would be significantly higher than that, but we can discuss this point later). Those who claim that they have a counterexample will argue that national history is surely a fallible form of evidence and thus there's a ZERO percent chance that it MUST have happened. You claim that you can see both sides of the argument -- you can see the argument of I who claim that there's no evidence that national history is curroptable, but you can also see the argument the myths are proper counterexamples. If so, applying basic mathematics, YOU SHOULD AT LEAST ADMIT THAT THERE IS A 25% CHANCE THAT THE SINAI MIRACLES MUST HAVE HAPPENED.

      2) Kefirah and ACJA are very aware of this point. They, unlike you, are experienced atheism-pushers. They realize that if they even give in an inch, if they "see both sides of the argument," if they admit that there might be something uniquely unique about the Sinai miracles, there would be some significant chance that the Sinai miracles MUST have happened. Thus, they are never willing to give in an inch.

      3) Regarding the events recorded in Genesis, we didn't experience them as a nation. Thus, we need to take God's word regarding these events. We can extrapolate, however, that since God told us the truth regarding events that He told us (e.g., that we would get the Torah in three days hence), we ASSUME that He told the truth regarding prehistoric events. If the evidence shows that this PRESUMPTION is false, that in no way proves that the Bible wasn't written by God, and nor does it prove that the Kuzari proof is bunk. All the Kuzari proves is the following two public events: a) Public miracles took place; b) Moses and Joshua (on large stones) wrote and read from the Torah in the presence of the entire nation of Israel (Exodus 17:14, 24:4, 34:27; Numbers 33:2; Deuteronomy 4:8, 44, 31:9, 22, 24, 26, Joshua 8:32, 8:31, 32, 34; 22:5; 23:6, 24:26).

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    10. 4) There is a more basic flaw with your point. You imply that, had God created the earth 6,000 years ago, he would have created an earth that also appeared to have been created 6,000 years ago. But why do you assume that arbitrary claim? Similarly, ACJA claims that had a flood occurred, God would have certainly made it appear that a flood had just occurred. I see no evidence for that claim. Rather, the opposite is more likely. God needs to remain the Hidden God. He can't provide open evidence for his miraculous creation and flood (just as He made the manna disappear). There are many reasons for this. The best, in my opinion, is that God wants to provide us with the duty and the privilege of perpetuating and commemorating His miracles. So the evidence which points that God didn't perform miracles might be something we should suspect all along.

      5) You allude to the archaeological evidence for the Exodus. I am not aware of any direct evidence for the exodus. What I am aware of, however, is the archaeological evidence for the surrounding reality. This has three effects: a) It counters the "absence of evidence" argument (since we do find some evidence); b) it adds additional credence to the rest of the story and MOST IMPORTANTLY c) it shows that the Jews were capable of keeping a proper records of the most minor and inconsequential historical data, and that takes the Kuzari argument and puts it on steroids (the following facts are mentioned in Kithen and Hoffemeir's works). If the Jews were historically-astute enough to know the price at which slaves were sold (twenty shekels), and the gifts that one would receive from a Pharaoh (a gold chain and silk), and the duration of the mummification process (forty days), and where the Patriarchs lived (Southern Israel), and how Egyptian women gave birth (on birthstones), and the names of cities during the patriarchal era (Nachor and Laish), and the marital customs during the patriarchal era (using a subordinate wife), and the name of the city during the Exodus (Rameses) and many other facts, how could they have had their nationally-experienced, nationally-commemorated, relatively-recent Sinai history become so horribly corrupted?

    11. @Are Roster "I [Are Roster] claim that there is no evidence whatsoever that nationally commemorated history is a fallible form of evidence. I do admit - however - that there is no evidence that it's infallible. Thus, I claim that there is a 50% chance that the Sinai miracles "MUST" HAVE HAPPENED (although the odds that it did happen would be significantly higher than that, but we can discuss this point later).

      Can I rephrase your statement as follows: There is a 50% chance a 'national tradition involving a nation changing event' is true, and a 50% chance it is false. Is this capturing what your intending to say ?

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    14. 1) First, I wanted to apologize for my claim that your claims are obviously flawed. While I still believe that it's true, I shouldn't be making these claims if I'm not willing to continue our debate regarding Kuzari.

      In fact, while I think that you and kefirah are doing a tremendous sin promulgating atheism (which goes without saying, from the religious perspective), kefirah and you do deserve credit for subjecting your views to comments and replies. The Gemara says that when we die, we will be asked, "nasata vinata be-emunah?," which some translate (allegorically) as "did you discuss faith?" The question isn't whether you had faith, but rather whether you dialogued regarding faith. Sadly, there are thousands of OTDs out there who aren't willing to discuss these issues, so it's refreshing to find two who are willing to debate.

      2) Your rephrasing isn't an accurate presentation of my view (that was probably because of wasn't clear). My point, rather, is that there's a 50% chance that a national tradition regarding a nation changing event MUST be true, because there's a 50% chance that this evidence simply CAN'T be corrupted. Even the other side of the coin, that the evidence is fallible (which I agree there's a 50% chance that the evidence is fallible), there's still some evidence that the event took place. In short, there's a 50% chance that there's infallible evidence for the miracles and there's a 50% chance that there's fallible evidence for the miracles. Regarding the term "nation-changing," I would refine that term. It isn't nation-changing per se, because nations changes back and forth constantly. Rather the point is that it was immediately and perpetually commemorated (or at least the belief stated that). If I'm accused of moving the goal-posts, I stand convicted.

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    16. Are Roster, or other readers may be interested in my latest post on the Kuzari Argument. IMHO there is a major flaw Gottlieb's version that has only been hinted at in my prior posts. My latest post directly Kamakaze's Gottlieb's version.

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