Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Monday, 11 January 2010

The Moving Line of Denial

It's always fun to watch when true believers in something demonstrably false have to adjust their principles in order ot maintain their original belief.
The great example is that of the great global warming fraud.  Only a few years ago we were assured the Earth was getting measurably warmer.  Suddenly it turned out that this wasn't happening so "global warming" was rebranded to "climate change".
A similar process has been happening for a couple of centuries now when it comes to so-called academic analysis of the Bible in general and the Torah in particular.  An entire field of study has arisen dedicated to proving that the Torah was written relatively late in Jewish history, after the return from Bavel, and that it is composed of segments from 4-5 different pre-exisiting manuscripts, most likely written during the late First Temple period.
Yet as time goes on, more and more evidences accumulates that shatters the basic assumptions of the Documentary Hypothesis school of thinking.  Some brief examples:
1) For a long time it was held that camels were introduced into the Levant long after the time period claimed for Avraham Avinu, surely proof of late authorship of the stories about him.  Then it turned out that there were camels in use at that time.  Oops.
2) Avraham Avinu could not have met a Philistine either, we were told since the Philistines of the Bible were known to have arrived around or just after the putative time of Yehoshua entering Israel.  Only later it turned out that there was a smaller, earlier wave that settled north of 'Aza just before the time of Avraham.  As well, it seems "Philistine" derives from the root "P.L.Sh" which means "invader" and was a generic term for the various waves of sea peoples that reached the shores of Israel over the centuries.  Oops.
And now Shemarya at FailedMessiah reports on the latest find, a piece of pottery with Hebrew on it dating way back to the 10th century BCE, long before Hebrew should have existed as a distinct language.  What's more, it appears to be quoting from the Torah.
Naturally Shemarya falls back on the academic orthodoxy (irony of ironies) and concludes that all this proves is that Hebrew became a distinct language from Canaanite earlier than previously thought.
What I see is different - yet another piece of proof of the antiquity of the Torah, another piece of evidence that shows that all the theories and suppositions of the Documentary Hypothesis school are just that - theories and suppositions with increasingly less evidence.
But don't expect them to admit it, of course.


SJ said...

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a demand for proof.

David said...

Whoa-- the text of the inscription is clearly not quoting from the Torah (or, not any version I've seen).

Moreover, the only thing you've shown here is that, when shown to have been in error on something (and I'm not sure that you've really made the case for scholarly error in points 1 & 2 of your post), modern scholars will acknowledge the error, and develop a new theory to address the facts.

Frankly, I find that an impressive response-- when Torah scholars are shown to be in error, the generally loudly denounce their refutation as evil or "assur." Or else they simply mischaracterize evidence.

Shalmo said...

Shalmo said...

Your post still does not save the Torah Garnel.

Perhaps you are not aware but most scholars attest that post Solomon-David period while inaccuracies do exist most of the jewish books do have some valuable history in them.

Its the period before the 10th century BC which is where most of the mythology overpowering history exists in Judaism.

I showed you how assyrian sources show how the bible is wrong on Kng Hezekiah.

And we also discussed how all the contemporary records of Egypt and Babylon show there were no 10 plagues, no exodus, no egyptian reforms by Joseph, etc. In fact the Torah contradicts the clear reality of that period by stating that Egypt's army was damne for 40 years post Moses which indeed would have provided their enemies ample opportunity to destroy them. But no such invasion took place.

And if you want to go even further back in history, then please address why Genesis plagarizes the babylonian creation accounts (literally taking words right out of the babylonian language to boot!)? If the Torah trully was written 3300 years ago that would not have happened, but since it was indeed written during the babylonian exile the text having babylonian loan words in their creation account makes all the more sense since this was the time the hebrews had to reinvent their religious identity.

Finally the Documentary Hypthosis is the only thesis available that takes in to accounts all the historical inaccurisms and contradictions in the Torah text. Just recently even the catholic church accepted it in a nuanced fashion. That most jewish denominations and now growing christian denominations are accepting it shows just what massive proof the DH has; otherwise it would not have such strong support from almost all biblical scholars.

And even if you reject the DH at minimum you do at least have to accept the Two-Source hypothesis to explain the various doublets in the Tanakh.

I suggest you be more honest with biblical scholarship!

Garnel Ironheart said...

> I showed you how assyrian sources show how the bible is wrong on Kng Hezekiah.

No you didn't, as other readers can testify. That's why I find demeaning you far more productive than arguing with you.

> then please address why Genesis plagarizes the babylonian creation accounts

Actually that's also a lie. See what I mean?

> when Torah scholars are shown to be in error, the generally loudly denounce their refutation as evil or "assur." Or else they simply mischaracterize evidence.

Not entirely true. Yes there are many Torah scholars who will act that way and one reason I'm not in their "camp" is because of that. However, there are many Torah scholars who are prepared to look at academic findings and work on ways of reconciling history with Torah. Don't let the Chareidi dismissal of those authorities undermine their legitimacy.

David said...

"However, there are many Torah scholars who are prepared to look at academic findings and work on ways of reconciling history with Torah. Don't let the Chareidi dismissal of those authorities undermine their legitimacy."

Ah, but all they're willing to do is "reconcile" history with Torah where there is a contradiction. As you have shown, secular scholars are willing to accept that their basic premise has been refuted and move on. You have indicated that no factual evidence could persuade you that the Torah is incorrect, so I'm not sure I understand the point of trying to reconcile Torah with reality (save for kiruv purposes) when you're starting from a standpoint that is not quite so far from the Chareidi view as you're trying to suggest. As to Torah scholars you mention, what gives them their "legitimacy?" Certainly not a willingness to follow the evidence where it leads... Certainly not the Chareidim, who would cheerfully denounce them as less than authentic. I get the impression that you are rather too preoccupied with conferring (or withholding) an imprimatur of "legitimacy" (witness your recent post demanding that 90% of the Jews in the world start calling their religion something else) which I don't believe is in your power to confer.

Garnel Ironheart said...

It is one of the principles of our faith that the Torah is true. This is not something based on a currently observable phenomenon or scientific evidence. It's based on faith.
Given that on faith I believe the Torah is true, then when I am confronted by scientific evidence that contradicts a literal reading of the Torah, I have three choices:
1) The lazy one is to say "Well, so much for the Torah" and give everything up.
2) The ghetto option is to say "Well, scientists are all full of it" and ignore what I don't like.
3) The reasonable option which is to question my understanding of the Torah and see how the text reflects what science is telling me.
Pure secular scholars, on the other hand, have no faith aspect to their work. If a hypothesis is refuted, they don't have to try and reconcile it with the new reality.
And I used the word "pure" because climate change scientists are exactly in the same position as believing Jews are. They have an article of faith - the world is getting warmer - that was confronted with a lack of data to support the claim. But since their faith-based position is so simple, they couldn't approach it from a literal vs interpretative position. They had to falsify the data which is how they dealt with it.
As for following the evidence, so far it's leading towards the Torah being true so I'm quite happy to follow it. And because of my faith, I'm quite confident I won't get into trouble doing that.

Off the Derech said...

Falsify the data... Now where have I seen that before

E-Man said...

The scientists here with the belief that the Torah is false will continue to look for evidence that the Torah is false even after their "proofs" have been proven wrong. That is exactly what people who believe in the Bible do, when their simple understanding of the bible contradicts facts, they just move onto an understanding that reconciles facts with the Torah. Therefore, neither side will ever agree to the other.

We should all just admit, there is nothing, at least today, that can absolutely prove or disprove the bible. Anyone who thinks there is is just being foolish.

I think Garnel's post just points out that neither side will EVER agree with the other. Therefore, the whole debate is pointless because there is not enough evidence for either side to PROVE their point. Believing in the Torah takes a level of faith, that is it.

David said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David said...

It's a favorite (and rather unimpressive) trick of the kiruv set to accuse the "scientists" of exactly what they're doing. A scientist makes a theory and follows the evidence (if he's a good scientist). If the evidence proves that the Bible is correct, then that's what the scientist concludes. If the evidence doesn't bear that out, then the scientist's conclusions reflect that.

You, on the other hand, insist that the Torah is true, and only accept evidence that can be reconciled with your preconceived notions (which is what, incorrectly, you allege the scientists do). Moreover, you keep insisting that science has failed to "disprove" the Torah. Well, great; science has also failed to disprove the theory that I'm God. Does that mean that we should assume that I am in the face of lots of evidence to the contrary? Obviously not.

In the case of the Torah, donkeys don't talk, oceans don't part, people don't live 900 years, a wooden boat couldn't hold two (or seven) of all types of animal, rabbits don't chew their cud, and human ancestry does not bottleneck at one couple 6,000 years ago. Is that conclusive proof that the Torah is false? Maybe not, but it'll do...

Garnel Ironheart said...

I don't need science to prove you're not God, David. I just need to remind you that the classic definition of "God" is "the first cause of all that exists". Being born of a woman (I'm going out on a limb but the odds are in my favour this time) disqualifies you.
Too often people mix science and non-science together and come up with all sorts of wacky conclusions. Your final paragraph is an example of this.
Donkeys don't talk. Only man was created with the ability to speak. (Then women got the ability and it's been downhill since but I digress)
Ah, but the Torah says the donkey spoke? That's called a miracle, something that happens outside of what we understand the laws of nature to be. If God wants to temporarily suspend the laws of nature and hand the donkey its 15 minutes of fame, He can do that. If He wants to split the sea, then he can do it. This has nothing to do with scientist because the frummest scientist will admit that laws of nature generally firmly hold no matter what the situation. Miracles are exceptions.

E-Man said...

David, are you denying that this is what the biblical minimalists are doing? They continue to look for evidence that proves their point while ignoring the evidence that points the other way. If you think that is incorrect then you are ignoring the biblical minimalist camp.

Off the Derech said...

Saying science and religion are separate things is ridiculous as soon as you posit the existence (and even posssibility) of miracles. It takes you straight from the realm of the metaphysical to the um, physical. You believe miracles happened? Well, then which ones? The flood? How about the sun holding in the sky for a day in the times of Joshua? Why is there no historcical evidence of such an event? And most importantly, why wouldn't you welcome the scientific method to test if those miracles ever happened?

You're shooting yourself in the foot...

Off the Derech said...

Besides, frum non-scientists/atheists such as yourself don't believe in the laws of nature anyway. Everything comes from God, and we're at his mercy every second... Toleh eretz al blimah, mischadesh bechol yom tamid maseh bereishis...

David said...

No, E-Man, I'm saying it's what you're doing. The Biblical minimalists are people who believe that the Bible contains relatively little of use from an historical perspective. However, Biblical minimalism isn't a religious or faith-based view. Thus, if a Biblical minimalist (and I don't presume to speak for all of them) is honest, he will, when confronted with evidence proving his views incorrect, adjust his views accordingly.
Now, for argument's sake, what would you do? Are you really prepared to follow the evidence where it leads, or is your commitment to the Torah such that the evidence (whatever it turns out to be) could never change your views? If the latter, then you have no business taking the minimalists to task for your own failings.

E-Man said...

David, if the bible was proven false then why would I follow it? All I am saying is that biblical minimalists come up with theory after theory of why the bible is wrong and those are continuously shot down. First it was that King David never existed. Then it was Israel was a more recent nation. So on. These things have been disproven so they have to come up with other theories to say why the bible MUST be wrong.

I am not saying they should believe in the bible, but they clearly have an agenda.

Why the ad hominim attacks? Can;t you have a discussion without the ad hominim attacks?

Garnel Ironheart said...

E-man, David's tried the same line with me.

My response: I'm happy to follow where the evidence leads because I'm confident it'll lead towards proof of the truth of the Torah's beginnings. Am I expecting proof that God dictated it to Moshe? No, of course not. How could one prove it to anyone's satisfaction? There are parts of the Bible that can be verified (historical parts) and parts that can't (supernatural/miraculous parts). Like I said, the latter can't be but are taken on faith. The former, so far, have not been disproved and in many cases have been verified. So what's there to fear?

E-Man said...

OTD- to answer your questions, according to the Maharal miracles do not occur within the physical reality of the world so no, they would not leave empirical evidence behind. Even according to the Ralbag, one of the most rational of Jewish thinkers, I am unsure whether he would say miracles leave "prrof" behind.

When discussing miracles everything becomes conjecture because we just do not know.

Shalmo said...


"No you didn't, as other readers can testify. That's why I find demeaning you far more productive than arguing with you."

YES I DID. I showed you how your bible claims the invading army was destroyed by the angel of the Lord resulting in Hezekiah victory. The assyrian sources show this is pure myth since Hezekiah paid them a huge tribute. He would not have done that if that angel of the Lord trully intervened

"> then please address why Genesis plagarizes the babylonian creation accounts

Actually that's also a lie. See what I mean?"

That Genesis plagarizes Enuma Elish is no hidden matter:

•The reference to the initial state as being a disordered chaos of water.
Genesis 1:1 refers to the “darkness” upon the face of the deep. In the Babylonian myth, in the beginning there was only Apsu, the sweet water ocean and Tiamat, the salt water ocean. In fact, archaeologists have generally acknowledged that the Hebrew word for the chaos of the waters or “the deep”, tehom, is actually derived from the Akkadian Tiamat.

•The creation of a firmament to separate the waters above from the waters below.
In Genesis 1:6-8 God is said to have created the firmament on the second day of creation. In the Babylonian myth, Marduk, son of the Ea the god of wisdom, killed Tiamat and split her into two. The upper half of Tiamat was fixed onto the sky to keep the waters above in place.

•The sequence of successive acts of creation.
In the Babylonian myth, after Tiamat was killed, the firmament was created by Marduk to separate the waters above from below. Then he created the sun, the moon, the planets and the stars. Finally man was created. This order is very closely paralleled in Genesis I where the firmament was created on the second day, the sun, moon and stars on the third day and man on the sixth day.

The Sumerian paradise is called Dilmun. (It should be noted, however that Eden (edinu) was also originally a Sumerian word, meaning ‘plain’ or “steppe’.) Dilmun was a divine garden where sickness and death do not exist:

The similarity betwen the above myth and that of Genesis’ is obvious to see. The similarity include:

•The setting- a garden in paradise.
•The watering of the gardens with water from the earth.
•The consumption of forbidden fruits, by Adam and Eve in Genesis and by the god Enki in the Sumerian myth.
•The curse upon the person (s) who ate the fruit.
•The creating of a female from the rib of the male in Genesis and the creating of a female to heal the rib of the male in the Sumerian precursor.
•The name of the female thus created. In Genesis, Eve, or in its original semitic form Hawah, means life. In the Sumerian myth, the word ti from the name Ninti has a double meaning; it could mean either ‘rib’ or ‘life’. Thus Ninti can be rendered as “lady of the rib” or “lady of life”.

case closed !!!

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

I got all excited when I saw the number of comments beside this post this morning and then I remembered: OTD doesn't seem to take his meds until noon so most of them are probably vulgar one line attacks. And I was right.
What he doesn't understand is that I'm actually doing him a favour by deleting his comments, sort of like putting a coat on a flasher so people don't stare as much.
At any rate, if the 5WPR medication isn't working, try the upgraded 6WPR instead. It's injectable!

As for you Shalmo, if you're really going to law school, I have even less respect for the profession than I used to.
No wait, that's not possible.
Anyhoo, none of your points above prove anything in a conclusive fashion. It's all along the lines of "Native Americans invented tools, Europeans invented tools. The Europeans must have been copying the Native Americans!" The idea of similarities along creation myths isn't limited to the Torah and Babylon. Creation myths around the world have several similarities which implies one of three possibilities:
a) incredible coincidence
b) a common story which, over time, was corrupted by other cultures
c) plagiarism, except that doesn't explain how creation stories from cultures far from the ancient MiddleEast have similarities with Genesis.
You have already shown your willingness to misread and malign the Torah based on understandings no normal thinking person would share. If you want to take a few superficial similarities and conclude that the Torah plagiarized, I'm not going to be able to change your mind. But I do suggest you read Rav Hertz' chumash and see how he specifically addresses the Babylonian creation myth and demolishes your entire thesis.

David said...

You ignore evidence you don't like, and accuse biblical minimalists of having an agenda, rather than a conclusion.

There is no good reason to believe that the stories in the Torah are largely factual, and (key point here), the burden is with you, not with the minimalists, as you are asserting the truth of something.

Finally, you (and Garnel) keep arguing that the minimalists are being proven wrong-- but I don't get how old Hebrew writing establishes Biblical truth. In this case, it's old Hebrew writing that proves that the lettering in the Torah was not in use at the time believers think the Torah was written. Moreover, the text itself is similar in theme to texts found in the Torah, but is clearly not from the Torah. So, how does this undermine the basic notion that the Torah is historically inaccurate, and how does it prove that someone (other than believers) has an agenda?

Off the Derech said...

>laws of nature generally firmly hold no matter what the situation.

You don't believe in talking fish and Skype exorcisms?


How about souls and reincarnation? Is that also part of the laws of nature?! Not to mention Heaven and Hell? (if they're not capitalized, they're not true.)

Bartley Kulp said...

Shalmo said...

"That Genesis plagarizes Enuma Elish is no hidden matter:"

Correction, that academics believe that Genesis plagerizes the Emuna Elish is no hidden matter. Part of this comes with the assumption that the book of Genesis was written much later. Hence they assume that the story of creation in Genesis was a changed and diluted version of the Emuna Elish. Where as we would say that our tradition might be as old or older than the Babylonioan one.

The Rambam in Mishna Torah hilchos avoda zara claims that origionally all people had the same belief in God and then they started to dilute that tradition. He wrote this a 1000 years before there was Bible criticism.

On the one hand you could say that neighoring cultures sometimes bear similar stories of rememberance. I might claim that the Babylonian version is an idolatrously diluted version of the origional memory.

This just re-enforces what Garnel is saying. Archeologits keep working on the assumption that a lack of found evidence for Jewish accounts renders them complete mythology. Not to long ago there were many academics who did not even believe that there was Hebrew civilization in what we call the Land of Israel before what we call the second temple period. That has since been debunked by evidence. They also did not believe that there could have been a large Hebrew speaking civilization as we claim that there was during the time of King David. This has been debinked by the findings of a large fortified wall near Beit Shemesh at where Jewish accounts claim the border was with the Philistines. Then there is the matter of pottery with Hebrew writing on it found from that same period. 1000 CE. Yes! There was a large Jewish civilization in Israel at the time we claim to be the reign of king David.

Academics like to point out to the fact that there is no physical evidence that we were ever in Egypt. Hint, they will not find the remanents of a Jewish resturaunt that says eat a Moishe's Deli in heirogliphics. They also will not find writings discussing Jews because we were not known by that name.

The seven clay tablets found bearing the story is from around 1200 CE. According to Jewish sources Genesis was written 200 years earlier than the tablets that were found.

david e. said...

Debating over some specific point derived from some obscure archaeological discovery is just nonsense. It satisfies no-one and certainly proves nothing.

The basic question is “Did God write the Torah?”

An honest and rational person starts with the fundamental premise (as held by traditional Jews) that the Torah is a perfect and precise book and then looks at the full gamut of evidence, not just one meaningless point to decide the matter. We all know that there is no “smoking gun” type evidence to prove it one way or the other. However, in recent times reams of arguments and evidence have been put forward that the book is highly flawed, scientifically, historically/archaeologically, legally, morally, with unjust and faulty commandments, etc. most of it well-known to anyone that can read. Additionally, there is a powerful and compelling argument to be made for multiple authorship or the Torah, which of itself implies non-Divine authorship. I have yet to see anybody provide a point by point rebuttal of all these overwhelming arguments.

So, for many, the book is closed on the debate of Divine authorship and the matter has been shown well beyond a reasonable doubt. And only those capable of having blind faith will keep denying this truth. They likely will become akin to the Flat Earth society.

If one cares about the long term future of Judaism, (as I do, believe it or not), the question to be debated is how to handle this reality, not to keep insisting it’s not true.