Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Mesorah

"Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of a hundred and ten. And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.

After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals..."

-Judges 2:8-11

60 comments:

Rabban Gamliel said...

The new generation was the product of the one before. It doesn't mean they never heard of G-d. It means they didn't follow him.

"10. And also all of that generation were gathered unto their fathers; and there arose another generation AFTER THEM, who knew not the Lord, nor the works which he had done for Israel."

They were the children of the loyal ones.

Rabban Gamliel said...

It doesn't say they were unaware of the Exodus or the conquest of the land. They did not appreciate that there was the hand of G-d in everything.

Miri said...

I thought it was more literal; this was a generation that hadn't been taken out of Egypt or seen the revelation at har sinai. The land had already been more or less conquered and the people settled. I thought it just meant that they hadn't seen G-d perform miracles in their lifetime.

Orthoprax said...

RG,

"The new generation was the product of the one before."

Really? Wow.

"It doesn't mean they never heard of G-d. It means they didn't follow him."

Says you.

In the same form of phrase do the Israelites in other places follow after other gods whom they "knew not." I think it means that they lost the tradition, just like they had no tradition with those other gods.

Orthoprax said...

Miri,

"I thought it just meant that they hadn't seen G-d perform miracles in their lifetime."

And therefore they went straight to Baal and Ashtoreth? Strange.

G said...

What's your point?

Orthoprax said...

That the mesorah has a missing link...

Of course I realize that this verse can be read metaphorically, but the bigger issue is that the masses of Israelites were basically idol worshipers during the Judges era and therefore how much of the population remained true to the mesorah as required by the Kuzari argument to remain nominally viable.

Lubab No More said...

> mesorah has a missing link

I wonder if adherents of the Kuzari argument would accept that prophets filled in any gaps in the mesorah.

Rabban Gamliel said...

"In the same form of phrase do the Israelites in other places follow after other gods whom they "knew not." I think it means that they lost the tradition, just like they had no tradition with those other gods."
If their parents were loyal to tradition how could all that information get lost with the very next generation? And also every single person lost it? Are you taking it that literally? If we say everyone does something we don't mean every last person. How could we even know? Further if the tradition was totally lost how was it revived? Did they make up their past? Where did they come form then? Did they think they were always there? Their enemies could remind them more about their own history than them? Even with the foreign gods it doesn't mean they never heard of them. It just means they had no worshiping of them previously. According to your slavish literalism they had no experience with G-d previously or with the gods of the surrounding nations. So what did they have then? No traditions? No religion? Your hyper literalism leads to ridiculous results.

Rabban Gamliel said...

"and therefore how much of the population remained true to the mesorah as required by the Kuzari argument to remain nominally viable."

You also had all of those Kohanim and Leviim and a minority of loyalists. How many does it take in a tribe of Native Americans to pass down their traditions? Do we accuse them of having made it all up even if most of a tribe is assimilated? What you are arguing is that the Israelites had no traditions of their own so that if someone reported a tradition he wouldn't be believed. How many people from Native American tribes does it take to record their traditions? We don't accuse them of plagarism.

Frum Heretic said...

I agree that it is an absurd notion to posit that the nation's entire history could have been completely forgotten and then made up from scratch. But certainly this (and numerous other sources) suggest that our mesorah is likely a chain of many weak links that were fitted together at different times, not the unbroken one of iron-clad integrity that many folks like to tout.

Rabban Gamliel said...

I would have to say that assimilation running rampant is not a weak link. Perhaps there is other evidence for your side on this. In any event they were an unusual nation for sure as no other nation had a problem with abandonment of its traditions voluntarily and the traditional thing to do when in exile was to abandon your religion in favor of your host's. In any event such rebelliousness makes it that the people could not be as gullible as one would have thought to claims in the name of religion. If you wanted to make something up you would have had to work harder to get it accepted enmasse.

Orthoprax said...

RG,

I don't say that every single person 'lost' the tradition, but that there was only a small number of people who turned it into the story we know today. It was that story which the people then accepted as their history.

In this form, without a national tradition, does the Kuzari argument fail.

Rabban Gamliel said...

I realized I misunderstood you. Sorry. Still the Kuzari argument doesn't fail over this. The nation accepted its religion and then some strayed from it.

Orthoprax said...

"The nation accepted its religion and then some strayed from it."

And you know this how? Because the only records we have from the period are from those who pushed that story?

Rabban Gamliel said...

Oh and you have another set of records from the period? Maybe we should start doubting all records. Maybe everyone is lying and there is an alternative history to everything. You are generally more reliable if you have the benefit of at least a contemporary with the period you are dealing with and of course that becomes more true the more distant in time you are. The truth is what are you arguing? Are you arguing the Israelites had no religion or history of their own passed down? Who has more information about a people than that people? Do we know about the Egyptians less from them than others or more? With any other people if you made a new faith as supposedly their very own it would be considered disloyalty to it. Akhenatan's state religion was artificial and he was considered a heretic and his religion died with him. You don't have a religion in those days simply being uprooted as the tradition of the people because of the say so of some. There would be resistance. The Israelites would have known they were being lied to because there was always those who followed the traditions. The Israelites' problem was in being untrue to their faith only by worshiping other gods not in rejecting their faith. They had a problem in only being solely loyal to their faith. The Temple and the Mishkan and the Kohanim and Leviim still had their jobs through periods of idolatry and loyalty. If it is really so difficult to admit such a basic level of continuity in Judaism you are then weakening your arguments against the naturalness of its origins. Further if the story being pushed was one of continuity of tradition wouldn't it be more affective if they argued all were loyal to it throughout the previous periods. What is gained by saying King David sinned with Bat Sheva or Moses hit the rock? Is telling the people they are sinning and know better make sense if they know nothing? That is already nonsensical to postulate. On one hand you say that you are not saying everyone forgot their faith and on the other you are postulating that people who were loyal to it would just abandon it for a false history and make up a faith.

Orthoprax said...

"Oh and you have another set of records from the period? Maybe we should start doubting all records."

Yes, of course you should - especially if you know the source is biased.

I think there was an event in the desert that lead to the people accepting this new god but they didn't necessarily give up the idea of polytheism or belief in those other gods. You then had a small group who wanted YHVH to be worshipped exclusively and that lead particularly to the magnification and embellishment of the stories we now find in Tanach.

What they called 'rebellion' was just the people doing what they had been doing all along.

Rabban Gamliel said...

“Orthoprax said...
"Oh and you have another set of records from the period? Maybe we should start doubting all records."

Yes, of course you should - especially if you know the source is biased.”

Ok let’s start doubting our American records. You are assuming bias when the very question is the existence of an alternative history. Of course by definition a historian will be biased that what he is telling you is true or else he wouldn’t tell you his version but that doesn’t make it untrue.

“think there was an event in the desert that lead to the people accepting this new god but they didn't necessarily give up the idea of polytheism or belief in those other gods. You then had a small group who wanted YHVH to be worshipped exclusively and that lead particularly to the magnification and embellishment of the stories we now find in Tanach.”

So what you are saying is that the people had no religion of their own until Moses? Every other nation had but not them? You try and make our history look more natural but instead you make us even more different than every other nation. That’s exactly like what you criticized with Dawkins in his a willingness to entertain the notion of a whole multiverse to avoid one G-d.

Orthoprax said...

RG,

"Of course by definition a historian will be biased that what he is telling you is true or else he wouldn’t tell you his version but that doesn’t make it untrue."

Obviously. But that doesn't mean it's true either...

The people who wrote Tanach weren't historians as we understand the term. The historical portions of Tanach are infused with a particular religious ideological thesis. That things go well for the Israelites when they keep the Torah and go badly when they don't. It is extremely biased.

It's kind of like asking a Marxist about the conflicts in world history. He may report most of the facts, but he'll twist it to make everything a class conflict issue. And he might create a 'perfect' time when people lived in harmony before the problems of modern society.

"So what you are saying is that the people had no religion of their own until Moses? Every other nation had but not them?"

No, they had the same religious system as all their neighbors. Polytheism based on the ANE pantheon. El, Baal, Asherah, etc. YHVH was the newcomer from the south.

Rabban Gamliel said...

"Orthoprax said...
RG,

"Of course by definition a historian will be biased that what he is telling you is true or else he wouldn’t tell you his version but that doesn’t make it untrue."

Obviously. But that doesn't mean it's true either...

The people who wrote Tanach weren't historians as we understand the term. The historical portions of Tanach are infused with a particular religious ideological thesis. That things go well for the Israelites when they keep the Torah and go badly when they don't. It is extremely biased.

It's kind of like asking a Marxist about the conflicts in world history. He may report most of the facts, but he'll twist it to make everything a class conflict issue. And he might create a 'perfect' time when people lived in harmony before the problems of modern society."

The tanach doesn't say everything was ok when people were Frum. It makes cause and affect with this as an explanation after the fact not before. You don't dismiss everything a historian has to say like it is made out of whole cloth. We can learn from Israel's neighbor's accounts and not Israel?

""So what you are saying is that the people had no religion of their own until Moses? Every other nation had but not them?"

No, they had the same religious system as all their neighbors. Polytheism based on the ANE pantheon. El, Baal, Asherah, etc. YHVH was the newcomer from the south."

Israel's neighbors had their own distinctive national religions. You are though saying we had no distinctive religion.

Rabban Gamliel said...

What do you think Israel's neighbors had an unbiased account or an account glorifying the leadership and country?

Orthoprax said...

RG,

"The tanach doesn't say everything was ok when people were Frum. It makes cause and affect with this as an explanation after the fact not before."

My point is that they could bend the facts to fit the thesis. The reason why we have Tanach is for the thesis, not historical accuracy.

"You don't dismiss everything a historian has to say like it is made out of whole cloth."

Why do you strawman my position? That's not what I'm doing. The Tanach's writers were not historians and I'm not dismissing it as pure fiction.

"We can learn from Israel's neighbor's accounts and not Israel?"

Huh? We can learn from everyone, but you have to learn to read between the lines.

"Israel's neighbors had their own distinctive national religions."

Incorrect. They were all based on a common pantheon which they all recognized - and which left obvious marks throughout Israelite literature.

"You are though saying we had no distinctive religion."

During the Judges period, correct. Everybody was doing all sorts of things and there was no common Israelite religion. There may even have been no common Israelite identity since the tribes were unaligned. The time of the united kingdom under David and Solomon was likely when YHVH was officially accepted as the patron god of Israel. Though that didn't last very long.

"What do you think Israel's neighbors had an unbiased account or an account glorifying the leadership and country?"

I don't. Not that we have much of their accounts of things anyway.

Rabban Gamliel said...

“Orthoprax said...
RG,

"The tanach doesn't say everything was ok when people were Frum. It makes cause and affect with this as an explanation after the fact not before."

My point is that they could bend the facts to fit the thesis.”

So you see the language and context and see how much is simply historical recording.

“The reason why we have Tanach is for the thesis, not historical accuracy.”

True but the accuracy has been shown to a high degree. The Hittites were at first only known from the Tanach and their existence was laughed at. People are able to tell when something has a Midrashic quality to it. You can tell the Tanach is attempting to record records as not everything can serve as a story’s details if it is just a story.

"You don't dismiss everything a historian has to say like it is made out of whole cloth."

“Why do you strawman my position?"

That's not what I'm doing. I never do that. I always address issues head on. Ignoring an issue is not solving it. A strawman ignores an issue.

"The Tanach's writers were not historians and I'm not dismissing it as pure fiction.”

They gave a lot of history. You are arguing that the Israelites had no history preserved for themselves. Other nations did but the Israelites didn’t? I’m not strawmaning you. I am pointing out that you have to give the Tanach writers their due too.

“"Israel's neighbors had their own distinctive national religions."

Incorrect. They were all based on a common pantheon which they all recognized - and which left obvious marks throughout Israelite literature.”

No you are incorrect. Basic pantheon or not the fact is each had their own faith with its own distinctiveness and things not in common down to which gods were revered. Only later in history did peoples share religions.

“"You are though saying we had no distinctive religion."

During the Judges period, correct. Everybody was doing all sorts of things and there was no common Israelite religion. There may even have been no common Israelite identity since the tribes were unaligned. The time of the united kingdom under David and Solomon was likely when YHVH was officially accepted as the patron god of Israel. Though that didn't last very long.”

You are then arguing that the Israelites had no prior religion of their own. That is flatly impossible. Every nation had its own faith. It was jurisdictional. You are arguing that the Israelites lacked a faith of their own until slowly a minority of Israelites managed to have their own faith become that of the Israelites.

“"What do you think Israel's neighbors had an unbiased account or an account glorifying the leadership and country?"

I don't. Not that we have much of their accounts of things anyway.”

We have enough. They were literate unlike what had been claimed out of ignorance. Though last I read the only evidence so far for Amalek is in the Bible just like it was once with the Hittites.

Orthoprax said...

RG,

"True but the accuracy has been shown to a high degree."

No it hasn't. Like I said, it's like a Marxist's history. Accurate only up to a point because ideology shapes the reporting of history.

"So you see the language and context and see how much is simply historical recording."

Ok. How historical do you think the book of Joshua is? The book makes it seem like the conquest was rapid and huge where the Canaanites were literally wiped out. And yet they all come back again in Judges, Samuel and Kings. Go figure.

"Basic pantheon or not the fact is each had their own faith with its own distinctiveness and things not in common down to which gods were revered."

No, they literally shared the same faith - they just had different gods which they identified as particular to their people. The Moabites believed in the same gods as the Arameans, but one's national god was Chemosh while the other's was Hadad.

"You are then arguing that the Israelites had no prior religion of their own. That is flatly impossible. Every nation had its own faith."

Since the dawn of time? No, there was a period before a people organized themselves and had a common identity and common religious system. The tribal identities of the Israelites is testament to the fact that they developed separately for some time not under a common system.

"You are arguing that the Israelites lacked a faith of their own until slowly a minority of Israelites managed to have their own faith become that of the Israelites."

They had religious beliefs no doubt, but not an organized 'Israelitism.' The idea of a united Israelite identity and common Israelite religion was an evolved idea over time.

"We have enough."

We do? I, for one, would love to see thousands of more documents from their time period. We have scraps.

Rabban Gamliel said...

"True but the accuracy has been shown to a high degree."

No it hasn't. Like I said, it's like a Marxist's history. Accurate only up to a point because ideology shapes the reporting of history."

That's just not so. You are arguing that Israelites did not pass down enough information to be relied upon for their own history. This despite the fact that Egypt and other nations’ history were propaganda. The leadership of Egypt in Israel was not criticized and also unlike in Israel were only recorded for the sake of supposed victory. We all know though that we still extract most of the history of nations from themselves because they are not going to make up their whole history out of new cloth and have it not represent a lot of their real history. Even Marxist history which is far less reliable than most histories didn't create a whole alternative history devoid of using mostly real material. How much more so did the nations avoid that.

"So you see the language and context and see how much is simply historical recording."

Ok. How historical do you think the book of Joshua is? The book makes it seem like the conquest was rapid and huge where the Canaanites were literally wiped out. And yet they all come back again in Judges, Samuel and Kings. Go figure."

The book of Joshua does not make it seem the Canaanites were literally wiped out. It makes it that there was a war and afterwards Canaanites remained and even dwelt amongst Israelites.. In the book of Judges the conquest is continued but the Canaanites are a continuing presence. In the book of Samuel the Canaanites are finally through king David’s conquests no longer holding territory in Israel. There were of course Canaanites outside of Israel too. The Israelites had territory somehow in the very beginning..

“Basic pantheon or not the fact is each had their own faith with its own distinctiveness and things not in common down to which gods were revered."

No, they literally shared the same faith - they just had different gods which they identified as particular to their people. The Moabites believed in the same gods as the Arameans, but one's national god was Chemosh while the other's was Hadad.”

They did not share the same faith nor all the same gods. They believed in gods that had jurisdiction only over them. When a country was taken over it was a defeat for the conquered gods. Chemosh would be on the side of Moab and Hadad on the side of Aram in any battle between their nations. That made it that Chemosh was not a part of Aramean religion or Hadad a part of Moabite religion. But in any event you are arguing that the Israelites unlike these other nations had no distinctive god for their nation until later. So for these other nations we can trust that they are describing their religion with it being identified that they had distinctive features through their history but the Israelites no?

“You are then arguing that the Israelites had no prior religion of their own. That is flatly impossible. Every nation had its own faith."

Since the dawn of time? No, there was a period before a people organized themselves and had a common identity and common religious system.”

Yeah but then each was not yet a separate people and so shared another identity and faith.

“The tribal identities of the Israelites is testament to the fact that they developed separately for some time not under a common system.”

Peoples were divided into tribes and yet that didn’t mean they had no common identity as members of the peoples they were. Besides you are arguing that the Israelite tribes had no system different form their neighbors. The Israelites according to you were just worshiping other gods without their own religion or religions.

“"You are arguing that the Israelites lacked a faith of their own until slowly a minority of Israelites managed to have their own faith become that of the Israelites."

They had religious beliefs no doubt, but not an organized 'Israelitism.' The idea of a united Israelite identity and common Israelite religion was an evolved idea over time.”

Egypt consisted at first of not one organized Egyptian state but they still had a common ethnic identity. The organization reflected a common identity. It did not forge it. It was the same to an extent with the Israelites. Tribes did not unite into one organized people. Tribes had a common panidentity and that is how they were already a people and later politically it could be reflected as well. It’s called nationalism and that too you are denying the Israelites until later.

“"We have enough."

We do? I, for one, would love to see thousands of more documents from their time period. We have scraps.”

Enough scraps to make a whole history. We have a whole picture of the ancient world. We can always use more but it is there.

Rabban Gamliel said...

"The leadership of Egypt in Israel was not criticized and also unlike in Israel were only recorded for the sake of supposed victory."

Meant to be read as:""The leadership of Egypt unlike in Israel was not criticized and also unlike in Israel defeats were only recorded for the sake of supposed victory."

Orthoprax said...

RG,

It seems you are doing your best to not understand the points I'm making. It's like you're arguing with someone else.

"Even Marxist history which is far less reliable than most histories didn't create a whole alternative history devoid of using mostly real material."

I agree. I am making an analogy.

I am saying Israelite history is approximately as reliable as the histories of their neighbors, of which, excepting Egypt, we have only scraps. That Tanach criticizes the leaders is a valid observation, but the best conclusion is that the Tanach *wasn't written by the leaders* rather than it being a paragon of historical accuracy.

"The book of Joshua does not make it seem the Canaanites were literally wiped out."

Have you ever read Joshua? Do so.

"They did not share the same faith nor all the same gods. They believed in gods that had jurisdiction only over them."

Incorrect. They *believed* in the existence of all the gods of their neighbors. They only *worshipped* the gods they believed they had a special relationship with. This is basic ANE mythos.

"But in any event you are arguing that the Israelites unlike these other nations had no distinctive god for their nation until later."

Correct - because *ISRAEL* as a united people didn't exist until those other peoples were _already_ unified. How could the disunified Israelite tribes have a common religious cult?

"Egypt consisted at first of not one organized Egyptian state but they still had a common ethnic identity."

Yes, and some worshipped this god and others worshipped that god and others a still different god. Before the state there wasn't a state religion.

"Besides you are arguing that the Israelite tribes had no system different form their neighbors. The Israelites according to you were just worshiping other gods without their own religion or religions."

Because there was no "Israelite religion." There was the basic ANE religious mythos and segments of society picked different gods to worship. It was only when nations formed did they then have national gods represent them. Before then they didn't.

"Tribes had a common panidentity and that is how they were already a people and later politically it could be reflected as well. It’s called nationalism and that too you are denying the Israelites until later."

No, I agree that the Israelites had some early conception of common identity but they weren't unified and it wasn't based on religion. That emerged along with the nationalism.

"Enough scraps to make a whole history. We have a whole picture of the ancient world. We can always use more but it is there."

Ok, tell me about the origins of Moab from their point of view. What was their temple(s) like? Tell me about their culture. Heck, tell me about Israelite culture!

There are a lot of blank spaces.

Orthoprax said...

"In the Deuteronomistic History, from Joshua to Kings, there was clear evidence of Israel’s polytheistic roots, but readers often viewed the material as evidence of backsliding from original monotheism, because they followed the intimations provided by the final editors of these books. The editors were trying to promulgate monotheism in their own exilic age by projecting their religious values in idealized fashion back into the past. Some scholars went beyond the idealized portrait of the Deuteronomistic and Priestly editors and envisioned a religion more ideal and ethical than even those biblical editors suggested; Yehezkiel Kaufmann’s work would be a good example.

"The Deuteronomistic Historians …. Viewed their past through a Yahwistic lens and saw their history not only as it was but very much as it should have been. The guidelines by which they measured their past included strict allegiance to Yahweh, rejection of other deities, rejection of native cultic activities (such as golden calves, asherim and the bronze serpent), centralized worship in the Temple, and a great deal of egalitarianism and social justice in society. Their criteria for evaluating the past are laid out in their great manifesto the book of Deuteronomy. They evaluated the past as though their spiritual ancestors, the prophetic minority, were the true leaders meant to define the religious life of Israelites from the time of Moses onward when in reality they were but a progressive minority within society. Therefore, beguiled by the rhetoric of the redactors of the biblical text, readers sometimes missed the truly dramatic story in the Deuteronomistic History; the great struggle of the progressive thinkers in the ‘Yahweh-alone’ movement who gave birth to a new value system over the years and helped an entire people evolve toward monotheism.

"The Deuteronomistic Historians were not liars; they did not deceive more than historians of any age. All historians seek to craft a narrative of the past by selecting those aspects which they consciously or unconsciously consider most valuable in order to communicate a meaningful message to the present so as to shape the direction of the future…. The Deuteronomistic Historians were theologians and preachers who wished to achieve significant religious goals with their interpretation of history; they were above all preachers, and the Deuteronomistic History is primarily a sermon."

- "No Other Gods: Emergent Monotheism in Israel" by Robert Karl Gnuse, 177ff.

Rabban Gamliel said...

, ”Orthoprax said...

"Even Marxist history which is far less reliable than most histories didn't create a whole alternative history devoid of using mostly real material."

I agree. I am making an analogy.

I am saying Israelite history is approximately as reliable as the histories of their neighbors, of which, excepting Egypt, we have only scraps. That Tanach criticizes the leaders is a valid observation, but the best conclusion is that the Tanach *wasn't written by the leaders* rather than it being a paragon of historical accuracy.”
But those who said that about the leaders were those who were in charge of the religion of the Israelites that we now call Judaism. This involved not promoting secret material but material for the leadership to believe as well. If the leadership were to object how could it do anything but make Judaism an underground faith. Further if Israelite history is approximately as reliable as the histories of their neighbors and you fund Israelite history to be as unreliable as you claim we should not be able to say then very much of anything concerning that time period. All should be forgeries.

“"The book of Joshua does not make it seem the Canaanites were literally wiped out."

Have you ever read Joshua? Do so.”

I have read it from cover to cover.
Joshua Chapter 23
1. And it came to pass a long time after the Lord had given rest to Israel from all their enemies on every side, that Joshua became old and stricken in age.
2. And Joshua called for all Israel, and for their elders, and for their chiefs, and for their judges, and for their officers, and said to them, I am old and advanced in age;
3. And you have seen all that the Lord your God has done to all these nations because of you; for the Lord your God is he who has fought for you.
4. Behold, I have divided to you by lot these nations that remain, to be an inheritance for your tribes, from the Jordan, with all the nations that I have cut off, to the Great Sea westward.
5. And the Lord your God, he shall expel them from before you, and drive them out of your sight; and you shall possess their land, as the Lord your God has promised to you.
6. Be you therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Torah of Moses, that you should not turn aside from the right hand or from the left;
7. That you come not among these nations, these who remain among you; nor make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause to swear by them, nor serve them, nor bow yourselves to them;
8. But cleave to the Lord your God, as you have done till this day.
9. For the Lord has driven out from before you great nations and strong; but as for you, no man has been able to stand before you to this day.
10. One man of you shall chase a thousand; for the Lord your God, he is who fights for you, as he has promised you.
11. Take good heed therefore to yourselves, that you love the Lord your God.
12. Else if you should at all turn back to attach yourselves to the remnant of these nations, these who remain among you, and shall make marriages with them, and go in to them, and they to you;
13. Know for a certainty that the Lord your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps to you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good land which the Lord your God has given you.
14. And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth; and you know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing has failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spoke concerning you; all have come to pass to you, and not one thing has failed of it.
15. Therefore it shall come to pass, that as all good things have come upon you, which the Lord your God promised you; so shall the Lord bring upon you all evil things, until he has destroyed you from off this good land which the Lord your God has given you.
When you have transgressed the covenant of the Lord your God, which he commanded you, and have gone and served other gods, and bowed yourselves to them; then shall the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and you shall perish quickly from off the good land which he has given to you.

“"They did not share the same faith nor all the same gods. They believed in gods that had jurisdiction only over them."

Incorrect. They *believed* in the existence of all the gods of their neighbors. They only *worshipped* the gods they believed they had a special relationship with. This is basic ANE mythos.”
Excuse me but that is not what I argued against. In those days and this what I was saying the nations had their own national deities. Remember I said that if Moab and Aram were to battle, Chemosh and Hadad were to battle on behalf of their respective nations. Nevertheless even though exclusivity in ancient paganism is absent nevertheless we still refer to them as having separate faiths as first of all acknowledging all faiths of the earth at a time in which they could not know of the contents or existence of all faiths meant that it was not that all those other gods were in the pantheon of your own nation or city or tribe or clan but that they existed in what was an alternate reality relative to it. You may have had contrary mythology to all others and yet it didn’t matter as it applied to your group. Nationalism combined mythologies too but it did not bind beyond the nation. Other groups’ gods and their truths did not have to exist for them. Only as an alternative reality over the others were they acknowledged. You didn’t have to learn other religions in order to say what was true and how many gods there were. they and their truths just applied to your group’s version of reality.
“"But in any event you are arguing that the Israelites unlike these other nations had no distinctive god for their nation until later."

Correct - because *ISRAEL* as a united people didn't exist until those other peoples were _already_ unified. How could the disunified Israelite tribes have a common religious cult?”
They were one ethnicity. Egypt had commonalties even when it was divided at first. Ethnicity made commonalities in religion independent of the political unity or lack thereof. The Canaanites had commonalities despite political disunity. Further according to you there was not even individual tribal religious cults for the Israelite tribes. They were just imitating their neighbors according to you.

“"Egypt consisted at first of not one organized Egyptian state but they still had a common ethnic identity."

Yes, and some worshipped this god and others worshipped that god and others a still different god. Before the state there wasn't a state religion.”
But they still had their own distinctive religions even before uniting into one state. They never existed in a state of no religious tradition for themselves.

“"Besides you are arguing that the Israelite tribes had no system different form their neighbors. The Israelites according to you were just worshiping other gods without their own religion or religions."

Because there was no "Israelite religion." There was the basic ANE religious mythos and segments of society picked different gods to worship. It was only when nations formed did they then have national gods represent them. Before then they didn't.”
They still had local traditions not just imitating their neighbors without any local distinctiveness. They had religion.

"Enough scraps to make a whole history. We have a whole picture of the ancient world. We can always use more but it is there."

Ok, tell me about the origins of Moab from their point of view. What was their temple(s) like? Tell me about their culture. Heck, tell me about Israelite culture!

There are a lot of blank spaces.”
Red herring because you acknowledge Egyptian history and that is enough for the points I made. I don’t have to be able to tell you about each and every culture. The Assyrians and Hittites and others we also know about more and it is the same demonstration of what I said whether they were Israel’s immediate neighbors or not.
Moabite Hebrew was closely related to Israelite Hebrew and so we see on King Mesha of Moab’s stone parallels to Biblical speech and the Bible’s descriptions of war with them. We still rely on Moabite self description with fewer material to work with.

“Orthoprax said...
"In the Deuteronomistic History, from Joshua to Kings, there was clear evidence of Israel’s polytheistic roots, but readers often viewed the material as evidence of backsliding from original monotheism, because they followed the intimations provided by the final editors of these books. The editors were trying to promulgate monotheism in their own exilic age by projecting their religious values in idealized fashion back into the past. Some scholars went beyond the idealized portrait of the Deuteronomistic and Priestly editors and envisioned a religion more ideal and ethical than even those biblical editors suggested; Yehezkiel Kaufmann’s work would be a good example.”
Friedman the DH guy himself says that the language of the earlier books differs from the later so how can they be later inventions by some exilic community? This is even stranger as it is being claimed that the Israelites had no religion of their own but it was invented as a national faith after the nation was off its land and remember that most Jews never lived in Israel since the First Exile.

"The Deuteronomistic Historians …. Viewed their past through a Yahwistic lens and saw their history not only as it was but very much as it should have been. The guidelines by which they measured their past included strict allegiance to Yahweh, rejection of other deities, rejection of native cultic activities (such as golden calves, asherim and the bronze serpent), centralized worship in the Temple, and a great deal of egalitarianism and social justice in society. Their criteria for evaluating the past are laid out in their great manifesto the book of Deuteronomy. They evaluated the past as though their spiritual ancestors, the prophetic minority, were the true leaders meant to define the religious life of Israelites from the time of Moses onward when in reality they were but a progressive minority within society. Therefore, beguiled by the rhetoric of the redactors of the biblical text, readers sometimes missed the truly dramatic story in the Deuteronomistic History; the great struggle of the progressive thinkers in the ‘Yahweh-alone’ movement who gave birth to a new value system over the years and helped an entire people evolve toward monotheism.”

"The Deuteronomistic Historians were not liars; they did not deceive more than historians of any age. All historians seek to craft a narrative of the past by selecting those aspects which they consciously or unconsciously consider most valuable in order to communicate a meaningful message to the present so as to shape the direction of the future…. The Deuteronomistic Historians were theologians and preachers who wished to achieve significant religious goals with their interpretation of history; they were above all preachers, and the Deuteronomistic History is primarily a sermon."

- "No Other Gods: Emergent Monotheism in Israel" by Robert Karl Gnuse, 177ff.”

You present me with nothing but DH hypothesis postulating indeed that the Israelites had no religion of their own and our history was just reinvented.. That’s hardly how their neighbors’ histories are treated. You present me with quotes proving nothing but just restating what you claim.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Honestly, I think RG and Miri are right about the simple sense of the verse in question. You may be reading too much into this one.

Orthoprax said...

RG,

I'm not arguing with you anymore. I'm talking about a time in the religious evolution of the ANE before any Israelite state existed. We have virtually no reliable data from that time period. We have scraps of sources which don't even represent a patchwork of knowledge.

Every ancient peoples' record of history goes back further than they have any right knowing and the further back the more unreliable. The earliest of Tanach's stories are about as reliable as the Aztec's story of origin or China's first rulers.

As the record gets closer to the time of composition then the facts may be more reliable, but the bias and ideology of the writers shape and warp the narrative.

You also don't seem to understand my position on the pre-Israelite State religion. What was the Aramean's religion before they became a united people? What was the pre-Moabite's religion? What was the pre-Ammonites religion? They all had the same or similar religions based on basic ANE concepts. This is the precise situation I say the pre-united Israelites were in.

The rest of what you write is so full of misunderstandings of my position, of the source I quote, the book of Joshua, Egyptian records of history and other nonexistent historical records of Israel's neighbors which you seem to think exists that I don't have the time or the will to untangle it all.





RJM,

"Honestly, I think RG and Miri are right about the simple sense of the verse in question. You may be reading too much into this one."

Please see what I said earlier:


"Of course I realize that this verse can be read metaphorically, but the bigger issue is that the masses of Israelites were basically idol worshipers during the Judges era and therefore how much of the population remained true to the mesorah as required by the Kuzari argument to remain nominally viable."

Rabban Gamliel said...

"Orthoprax said...
RG,I'm not arguing with you anymore. I'm talking about a time in the religious evolution of the ANE before any Israelite state existed. We have virtually no reliable data from that time period. We have scraps of sources which don't even represent a patchwork of knowledge.Every ancient peoples' record of history goes back further than they have any right knowing and the further back the more unreliable. The earliest of Tanach's stories are about as reliable as the Aztec's story of origin or China's first rulers."

But it is not simply dismissed. Further there is evidence for instance of Egyptian names for Israelites earlier conditions too. Also if our early history is rejected where did we come from. We had no history?

"As the record gets closer to the time of composition then the facts may be more reliable, but the bias and ideology of the writers shape and warp the narrative."

Within limits usually. We see what they are.

"You also don't seem to understand my position on the pre-Israelite State religion. What was the Aramean's religion before they became a united people? What was the pre-Moabite's religion? What was the pre-Ammonites religion? They all had the same or similar religions based on basic ANE concepts. This is the precise situation I say the pre-united Israelites were in."

But you give no tribe in pre-Israelite state days a faith of their own or in common with the other tribes. Instead you have for the Israelites a faith in the making by a minority with the majority having no faith to point to as the one they possessed. Second it was not a time for state religion independent of common ethnicity being the mechanism for unity in faith and nationalism. Each nation’s common faith was not dependent on the state as much as the amount of commonality achieved. If enough was achieved, a common faith would follow whether political unity was achieved or not. State religion independent of the lack of following for it was attempted by Pharaoh Akhenatan and the reform died with him, the priests exacting their revenge on the heretics memory.

"The rest of what you write is so full of misunderstandings of my position, of the source I quote, the book of Joshua, Egyptian records of history and other nonexistent historical records of Israel's neighbors which you seem to think exists that I don't have the time or the will to untangle it all."

Well you better elaborate because I’m not taking your word for it. As for historical records of Israel’s neighbors they exist enough to have a lot to tell us.

"RJM,"Honestly, I think RG and Miri are right about the simple sense of the verse in question. You may be reading too much into this one."Please see what I said earlier:"Of course I realize that this verse can be read metaphorically, but the bigger issue is that the masses of Israelites were basically idol worshipers during the Judges era and therefore how much of the population remained true to the mesorah as required by the Kuzari argument to remain nominally viable.""

Arbitrary on your part. It requires only a minority however small to pass down the traditions. The argument is about the nation having accepted Judaism and from there on in it is passed down by those who do. Second there was the tribe of Levi and also there were the Kohanim.

Orthoprax said...

RG,

You're killing me. There are so many things I want to clarify and respond to in your post but you'll just end up mixing things up even more. I don't have the will to play.

Rabban Gamliel said...

I won't take your word for it. If you don't respond with your points it is the same as you not responding.

Rabban Gamliel said...

If you really have such a strong case then on the contrary me mixing things wouldn't matter for you. You get upset when you are cornered and introduce ad homonyms that are irrelevant to backing you up. You land up questioning the competence of the one you are dealing with. But that doesn't help answer the questions and challenges. It just makes you look like you are losing. I looked up further and a national god was not shared in those days. Also Upper and Lower Egypt when they were not united had their own separate gods still but not shared by each other at least not all of them. Further for someone who tells me to read between the lines you backing such literal readings that don't allow for any subtlety shows that you do nothing of the kind with the Bible.

Orthoprax said...

RG,

I can't discuss stuff like this with you because you argue in these unbroken streams of consciousness that I actually have difficulty breaking into relevant intelligible chunks. I try to tell you things but you misconstrue what I say. I feel like I'm talking past you and I get frustrated.

My argument is simple. The original Hebrews were essentially the same kind of people as everyone else who lived in the region and had a similar religious system.

This _must_ be the case because we know that the Exodus and Sinai event could not have involved the hundreds of thousands of people as recorded in the Torah and if the Hebrews didn't come from Egypt then they had to come from somewhere else. I suspect the eventual Israelites had their origins among the much talked about Apiru, which were a set apart people from the typical feudal system in the ANE but who still took part in the basic ANE world view.

The Exodus and Sinai stories were not baseless creations, but were rooted in the experiences of a relatively small portion of the eventual Israelite population. These people from Egypt were also Hebrews/Apiru and were the source of these new religious views and laws which were met with a mixture of acceptance and rejection by the wider Hebrew people.

Alternatively, if the group from Egypt was somehow large enough to be the source of most Israelites, then they had the same basic religious beliefs as all the other Semites in the area. They may have recognized YHVH in some early form but they still had an essentially polytheistic belief system which they simply maintained even while in Canaan.

avrum68 said...

there was only a small number of people who turned it into the story we know today.

Source?

avrum68 said...

I think there was an event in the desert...

Ah, I found your source, it was YOU.

Yes, of course you should - especially if you know the source is biased

You accuse the Torah of being biased, and yet your blog is entitled "Orthoprax". Your views are consistent, and have that skeptical twinge to them... so typical of folks in 2008.

Yet the Torah is not so consistent. For a book full of bias, it sure treats it's chosen in an unpopular light. Leaves out obvious details, too obvious to be taken literally. On and on and on.

Orthoprax, if anyone should heed the caution of "bias", would it be fair to suggest it is you?

avrum68 said...

This _must_ be the case because we know that the Exodus and Sinai event could not have involved the hundreds of thousands of people

Source?

I suspect the eventual Israelites had their origins

I'm confused. Do you "suspect" this to be true or is their a source? Particularly a source Dr. Dovid Gottlieb would agree with... or at least RJM?

Orthoprax said...

Avrum,

"Source?"

Obviously if I don't think the traditional explanations are valid then I'm going to have to take my thinking elsewhere. In the face of little data this is automatically speculative territory.

But regarding the unlikelihood of the Exodus involving hundreds of thousands of people there is a number of reasons why that is so.

"Yet the Torah is not so consistent. For a book full of bias, it sure treats it's chosen in an unpopular light."

Because, ironically, the bias is not towards the people. The bias is towards a religious ideology. And the religious ideology saw most of the "chosen" as abject idolaters and sinners.

"if anyone should heed the caution of "bias", would it be fair to suggest it is you?"

Of course. I genuinely would have no problem at all if the stories recorded in Tanach turned out to be hisorically accurate. I'd celebrate it, in fact. But I don't believe the data bears out that conclusion.

In fact, what I find myself doing more than anything else is how to fit the Tanach and the data together. I don't dismiss the Tanach out of hand. If anything, I am actually biased _towards_ the text.

"I'm confused. Do you "suspect" this to be true or is their a source? Particularly a source Dr. Dovid Gottlieb would agree with... or at least RJM?"

Like I said, it's speculative. Rabbi Gottlieb and RJM don't need to piece together a theory from the remnants of past civilizations. They think they already know how it all went down because they have the authoritative text.

But once one doubts its authority then one has to look elsewhere.

Daganev said...

Your focus on this "yaweh" god makes no sense.

Jews don't believe in a "yaweh" god, Jews believe in a "lord of hosts", a "powers", a "I am what I am" etc etc.

To focus on one name and say "aha see, this was -thier- national god" is just to be ignorant of the texts and of Judaism.

avrum68 said...

Obviously if I don't think the traditional explanations are valid

I hear ya. But how in the world can you live an Orthoprax lifestyle based on, at best, misunderstood phenomenon?

For example, circumcision... take revelation out of the picture, and it's child abuse. Plain and simple.

then I'm going to have to take my thinking elsewhere...

Right, so you made it up. Which isn't a problem per se, but this:

This _must_ be the case because we know that the Exodus and Sinai event could not have involved

sounds like you had something new to bring to the table.

Orthoprax said...

Dag,

"To focus on one name and say "aha see, this was -thier- national god" is just to be ignorant of the texts and of Judaism."

No, to focus exclusively on the more sophisticated views of later generations is to just be ignorant of the basic ANE worldview and the likely origins of Jewish monotheism.


Avrum,

"I hear ya. But how in the world can you live an Orthoprax lifestyle based on, at best, misunderstood phenomenon?"

I don't. I live an orthoprax lifestyle based on phenomena as I understand them.

"For example, circumcision... take revelation out of the picture, and it's child abuse. Plain and simple."

Clearly I'd disagree. I think it's a deeply meaningful religious symbol and cultural act. And since I don't feel abused - and I think the widest majority of Jewish men don't feel abused (no matter their religious beliefs) - the allegation of child abuse is baseless.

"Right, so you made it up."

Not exactly. This isn't just _my_ idea.

FedUp said...

Clearly I'd disagree. I think it's a deeply meaningful religious symbol and cultural act. And since I don't feel abused - and I think the widest majority of Jewish men don't feel abused (no matter their religious beliefs) - the allegation of child abuse is baseless.

I'd have to second that. Take out the religious symbolism and I'd whole heartedly agree. I'm very happy to be circumcised and I don't know a Jewish man that isn't. If they want a foreskin, there is surgery that can take care of that minor problem.

avrum68 said...

I'm very happy to be circumcised and I don't know a Jewish man that isn't.

One thing about skeptics, they want their cake and...

As a former child protection worker, I can tell you we placed children in care for far less than circumcision.

With respect to the "circumcision is painless" myth:

"...it causes harm. Anatomical, neurochemical, physiological, and behavioral studies confirm what mothers already know: infants feel pain"
http://www.jewishcircumcision.org/spectator.htm

My wife - religious and medical doctor - agrees that the practice inflicts great pain on the child, but supports the practice due to her theological beliefs. However she is clear: remove divine commandment from the picture, the practice is barbaric.

FedUp... as an atheist, I have no doubt you've used the following arguement to debunk the rational choice for God:

"Imagine being born without religious education, etc., would you come to the conclusion that a man received commandments on top of a mountain, etc., etc."

Here's a twist on an ol' atheist theme:

"Imagine you were born without any belief in the supernatural. You walk into a huge building, and an 8 year old baby is on a pillow. Standing next to the new born, a man dressed in black, grabs hold of the baby's foreskin, and with a scapel, slices off the skin. The baby shrieks in pain, blood oozes from the wound."

Your conclusion? Exactly, you'd call the cops.

Orthoprax said...

Avrum,

"With respect to the "circumcision is painless" myth"

I didn't claim it was painless. But on that note - I also don't recall any pain.

"Your conclusion? Exactly, you'd call the cops."

What's your point? That one's ignorance leads to incorrect conclusions? Of course.

This is rather different from an argument about religious indoctrination. (Which, by the way, is different from religious education.)

FedUp said...

Avrum,

I do want my cake and I want to eat it too. I don't see why not. I find it rather irrational in this respect to not take the benefits that religion has brought to humankind while pursuing knowledge through the trusted means of science and reason.

I do realize that circumcision is a painful procedure for infant boys. Ask your wife, the medical and religious doctor, if there are any benefits to circumcision. I'm sure she'll know of them. Social, medical, cultural, etc. Provided the pros and cons for circumcision, I find that it is far better to circumcise an infant then to leave the possibility of needing it older in life when the operation is far more dangerous, embarrassing, and painful. If my son should be displeased with his circumcised member then he can get cosmetic surgery done to put one back on.

I've never used that ploy to convince people to give up belief in God. That one isn't very good and there are far more better and simpler ones.

Imagine you were from outer space and your super-intelligent-rational species reproduced through incubator machines, you find out there is a multi billion dollar industry called pornography on planet earth and that humans will go to great lengths to have sex. You'd probably be like WTF???

Like "Q" said from Star Trek, "The mating rituals of you humans is really quite repulsive."

Rabban Gamliel said...

But who is the alien to judge? Humans do not live in a vacuum and neither would the alien. There was a child who was literally a jungle boy brought back to society. He was never a completely normal human being because being raised in a society is a part of being a normal human being. You need to understand a language even if in sign form and experience the upbringing of a society. So there is no realistic way of judging humans without accepting culture despite its arbitrariness. The human devoid of cultural influence and still being a fully functional rational human being is a nice fantasy but it is not a reality.

Remember Q from Star Trek may have felt that way but Captain Picard by contrast has great respect for human and alien cultures. Q is by contrast viewed in Star Trek as the creature in need of enlightenment precisely for such superficial comments like the one you quoted approvingly.

Picard would disaprove of your black and white narrow mindeness.

e-kvetcher said...

Avrum68,

What's your deal, anyway? I recall you used to comment on XGH a while back and then disappeared. And then you came back like a bat out of hell, very emotional, truculent, angry...

As far as this thread goes, several things bother me:

1) You seem to paint "skeptics' with a pretty broad brush. I hope you realize that there is just as much variance in skeptics as there are in religious. Orthoprax(the blogger) is different from GH who in turn is different from FedUp, for example... If anything, Orthoprax is fairly "religious" on the skeptical scale (if I understand him correctly)

2) You seem to be very "touchy" on the subject of Biblical Criticism. You certainly have the right to your opinion, but I assume you realize that Orthoprax is not proposing some weird outlandish idea. A majority of people in the world do not believe that the Torah was literally written by God. And certainly not in the Oral Torah and Daas Torah. Certainly most Jews don't believe that. And certainly there is a body of scholarship to support Orthoprax's posts. Yet reading your rejoinders, I am left with a sense that you will not accord Orthoprax's position any merit at all.

3) Lastly, you keep accusing Orthoprax of being a hypocrite, yet you admit yourself that you are "not yet" fully frum (not sure what this means). Perhaps there is a bit of hypocrisy in Orthopraxy, but your position seems not only hypocritical, but frankly foolish. If Orthoprax is shomer mitzvot, he will have the s'char for those mitzvot. If you believe that Torah is divine and the Rabbis have the right to legislate halacha, yet you do not follow the halacha as defined by the rabbis, then you are in trouble theologically. Judaism is a religion of mitzvot...

This response may sound a bit like an attack, but I'd rather you not interpret it as such. If I am wrong in my assessment, let me know how I misunderstood you.

Thanks.

Rabban Gamliel said...

Orthoprax I thank you for what I now see as a compliment and a challenge. I do have a stream of consciousness and go from topic to topic without forgetting about where I was on any given topic and then I switch back to where I was. I don't even think in words if it slows me down. Though I do think in words to try to see how to express succinctly what I am thinking. I do try to accommodate those who read me whether successfully or not. As for your theory on Israelite origins indeed I can see from your mentioning about the Apiru/Habiru/Hapiru that you have done reading. They like Avraham had left from the north and went south into Canaan. The Pharaoh of Egypt received complaints of these invaders but to no avail. They were not native to the population but stayed anyway. Therefore Yosef said to the butler that he was stolen from the land of the Hebrews. Hebrews meant more than just his family. It meant Hebrew peoples altogether, Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites etc. Only some of the Hapiru/Habiru/Apiru/Hebrews went to Egypt. Amongst them were the Israelites. Egyptian is found in Hebrew as William Chomsky points out and says that some passages of the Torah, especially in the story of Yosef and in the book of Exodus are extremely difficult to explain except in light of the Egyptian language. He writes:"Thus for example, in asking Joseph to become the governor over Egypt, Pharaoh tells Joseph "we-al pikha yishshak kol ami" (Genesis 41. 40) in which phrase the word yishshak from the Hebrew stem nashak (to kiss) makes no sense whatsoever. In Egyptian, however, this stem means "to eat" and the sense of the passage at once becomes perfectly clear and obvious, "according to thy word all my people shall eat," since Joseph was appointed in charge of the granaries in Egypt. Numerous other such examples can be adduced. A number of familiar Hebrew names, such as Moses, Miriam, Phineas and, probably Aaron, are likewise of Egyptian origin." It is highly unlikely that a made up story from later on in history should be so dependent on earlier conditions irrespective of how many left Egypt or if it happened in exactly the manner described. Further the boundaries of Canaan as described in the Torah make no sense as the true boundaries of Canaan except in the period of Pharaoh Ramses' treaty of peace with the Hittite Empire after the Battle of Kedesh in which the boundaries of Canaan are precisely those specified in the Torah as the ones that the Israelites would find on arrival. The name Israel is early. Ramses successor Merneptah boasts of his supposed destruction of Israel in his famous stele, saying "Canaan is plagued by every evil. Ashkelon is carried off. Gezer is taken. Yanoam is like that which is not. Israel is desolate. It's seed is naught."

Rabban Gamliel said...

"You seem to be very "touchy" on the subject of Biblical Criticism. You certainly have the right to your opinion, but I assume you realize that Orthoprax is not proposing some weird outlandish idea. A majority of people in the world do not believe that the Torah was literally written by God. And certainly not in the Oral Torah and Daas Torah. Certainly most Jews don't believe that. And certainly there is a body of scholarship to support Orthoprax's posts. Yet reading your rejoinders, I am left with a sense that you will not accord Orthoprax's position any merit at all."

I think we have to separate different ideas. Contrary to what XGH thinks no one literally says G-d wrote the Torah. It is ascribed to Moses and/or other people but nobody says it was like the Ten Commandments "written with the finger of G-d." So whether it was written by one or more you can say G-d said what should be written or not but it is not affected by theories that say man took pen to scroll and wrote the Torah as we all say that. Even the Ten Commandments written by G-d cannot be subject to disproof on the grounds of texual precedent if there is any.

Also Biblical Criticism is divided into two parts. Higher Biblical Criticism which is hypothesis postulating an alternate history with the weaknesses involved and Lower Biblical Criticism which is stronger as it continues the task of seeking the correct text and is only weak to the extent it has been rash rather than patient in light of uncovered information.

Orthoprax said...

RG,

"Therefore Yosef said to the butler that he was stolen from the land of the Hebrews. Hebrews meant more than just his family. It meant Hebrew peoples altogether, Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites etc. Only some of the Hapiru/Habiru/Apiru/Hebrews went to Egypt. Amongst them were the Israelites."

Well now we don't seem too far apart. I don't know that much about the linguistic validity, but I do believe the Joseph stories are historically based. I suspect they were founded as the Hebrews went down into Goshen during the Hyksos' dominance of Lower Egypt and it made sense for a fellow Semite to take a high profile position in the court.

After the Hyksos were chased away, those Semites who remained in Egypt may very well have been put in bondage.

I only question whether the 'Israelite' identity actually crytalized while in Egypt, though I suppose it possible that there actually was an familial Israelite clan in Egypt whose name was taken later on generally by Hebrews in Canaan.

avrum68 said...

I recall you used to comment on XGH a while back and then disappeared.

It's hard to comment when your banned.

And then you came back like a bat out of hell, very emotional, truculent, angry

For the most part, I'd say I match the tone of the blogger.

You seem to paint "skeptics' with a pretty broad brush

If the shoe fits...

I hope you realize that there is just as much variance in skeptics as there are in religious

Seriously, I agree. Though the similarities between atheists are striking. Orthoprax doesn't fall into the XGH/FedUp camp.

H who in turn is different from FedUp,

I disagree.

You seem to be very "touchy" on the subject of Biblical Criticism

I took the classes, and read the material in university. So I guess I'm not that "doe eyed" with respect to the hypotheses. It bothers me that people treat the material like a fact, when IN FACT, it is a theory put forward by intellecutals with a bias against religion.

This happens in my field everyday. And it's disheartening.

A majority of people in the world do not believe that the Torah was literally written by God.

A majority of the people watch too much tv, and eat too much junk food.

One should be cautious of drawing conclusions from the majority...

you will not accord Orthoprax's position any merit at all

No, I do. I wish their was more humility and elasticity for mystical/spiritual possibilities. The intellect is only way to explain phenomenon.

Lastly, you keep accusing Orthoprax of being a hypocrite

My main beef is that he believes Orthopraxy is a valid, and viable practice. It is not.

yet you admit yourself that you are "not yet" fully frum

I'd say I'm open to many possibilities. One of which is a growth in observance. A Rosenzweig "not yet" philosophy.

hypocritical, but frankly foolish

My position is my position. In general, I believe in feeling over behaviour.

If you believe that Torah is divine and the Rabbis have the right to legislate halacha

I do not believe the Oral Law is divine, and that most definitely informs what I do on a day to day basis. If the Conservative Movement would've developed into a spiritual satisfying community i.e. worried more about souls than the politics of various groups, I'd be hanging my hat there.

e-kvetcher said...

>>I recall you used to comment on XGH a while back and then disappeared.

>>It's hard to comment when your banned.


I was talking about when you used to comment like a year or two ago, not recently...

>I took the classes, and read the material in university. So I guess I'm not that "doe eyed" with respect to the hypotheses. It bothers me that people treat the material like a fact, when IN FACT, it is a theory put forward by intellecutals with a bias against religion.

This happens in my field everyday. And it's disheartening.


It's perfectly valid for you to hold that assessment. I am puzzled why you think that anyone who disagrees with you is "doe eyed" or biased against religion. As a matter of fact you will see that the people that came up with the initial ideas of Biblical Criticism all came from theological backgrounds, often being ministers, and holding teaching positions in Seminaries and Schools of Theology. I can name sources if you wish.

A majority of the people watch too much tv, and eat too much junk food.

One should be cautious of drawing conclusions from the majority...

This is not a valid comparison. These people do not "think" that watching TV or eating junk food is good for them. You have to be cautious, but at the same time you cannot ignore the majority opinion. This is how most of the world works.

My main beef is that he believes Orthopraxy is a valid, and viable practice. It is not.

Three separate issues. One is whether it is valid. Two is whether it is viable. Three is whether your opinion or his is correct. What I don't understand is why your disagreement over these opinions turns into a "beef"? Why the vitriol?

>I'd say I'm open to many possibilities. One of which is a growth in observance. A Rosenzweig "not yet" philosophy.

>>hypocritical, but frankly foolish

>My position is my position. In general, I believe in feeling over behaviour.

>>If you believe that Torah is divine and the Rabbis have the right to legislate halacha

>I do not believe the Oral Law is divine, and that most definitely informs what I do on a day to day basis. If the Conservative Movement would've developed into a spiritual satisfying community i.e. worried more about souls than the politics of various groups, I'd be hanging my hat there.


Thanks for clarifying your position. It's always better to understand where a person is coming from when having a conversation...

FedUp said...

Avrum68,

Skeptics are very different and are the analogy of herding cats comes to mind.

The thing about skeptics that is often hard for people like your self to understand is that we are not bound to a holy book and therefor we all think quite differently and we don't have such a book to answer for. This allows for a huge variety.

I am VERY different from XGH. A few points to cosider.
1. I'm an atheist he's agnostic.
2. He wants to stay involved in Orthodoxy through Orthopraxy. I have no desire to be part of Orthodoxy. though I'm interested in and support Orthopraxy, I'm highly skeptical of it's success.
3. He has a yeshivish/hareidi influence clinging him to like a leech. I was not so influenced.
4. I swing from polite to rude depending on the blog and the particular subject. XGH is more balanced.

and much more.

Rabban Gamliel said...

E-Kvetcher said:
"It's perfectly valid for you to hold that assessment. I am puzzled why you think that anyone who disagrees with you is "doe eyed" or biased against religion. As a matter of fact you will see that the people that came up with the initial ideas of Biblical Criticism all came from theological backgrounds, often being ministers, and holding teaching positions in Seminaries and Schools of Theology. I can name sources if you wish."

Yeah and Paul went to Rabban Gamliel HaZaken's Yeshiva and Stalin went to seminary to become an Orthodox priest. It doesn't make the founders of DH religious but it did provide leftover theological motivation. There was a theological motivation by the DH founders to make Christianity greater than Judaism and to make Judaism be groping towards Christianity in the past. So they developed a theory having Judaism be developing slowly from idolatry and be all concerned with the law and then Prophets come along and so DH puts prophet against priest (although in reality prophets were against prophets too calling them false prophets.) Finally Judaism becomes all law and then Jesus comes along and shows the light.

Rabban Gamliel said...

FedUp said:"The thing about skeptics that is often hard for people like your self to understand is that we are not bound to a holy book and therefor we all think quite differently and we don't have such a book to answer for. This allows for a huge variety."

Religious people have a great variety. In any event XGH says something I said in the past that amongst exChareidim there are those who are still into a black and white thinking that they had personally developed when they were Chareidim. If Orthodoxy was something we should believe in before with all our hearts and souls now it is utter evil to be overthrown. This often happens at the price of actually knowing or caring what Chareidim actually say. It is reminiscent of posters by fellow Chareidim denouncing the Viznitzer Rebbe being at his grandson's wedding on the grounds of the Rebbe being a blasphemer against G-d and an eater of treif. That callousness towards actually seeing what your opponents really say is carried over to their secular life. In the case of Baal he was more educated but Baalei Teshuva that come unto Orthodoxy fast and leave fast without the knowledge that could give them the right to speak as much can be more suseptable to an attitude of all out war towards Orthodoxy as if they personally can destroy it.

Rabban Gamliel said...

Also FedUp while I have no doubt skeptics think very differently form each other there is still a herd mentality to overcome as society becomes the Holy Book although a changing one. The variety for skeptics usually comes from the fact that they now have two Holy Books to choose from unless they slavishly uphold whatever society tells them to.

E-kvetcher said:"You have to be cautious, but at the same time you cannot ignore the majority opinion. This is how most of the world works."

Why do you have to take notice of majority opinion? The minority can't think as well? I'm all for cultural influence but what does the accident of being a majority have to do with truth? On the contrary if so many people think the same thing it is because of a lack of individual thought on the issue. At last we argue about XGH’s primary dogma.

Anonymous said...

"And you know this how? Because the only records we have from the period are from those who pushed that story?"

What a strange argument to make considering your post is an attempt using the very sources left by "those who pushed that story" to convince everyone that those "who pushed that story" embedded blatantly obvious indications (based on your interpretation) of the inaccuracy of their own story within this story.

If they were truly the "propagandists" you insist that they were, then you are certainly misintrepreting (and distorting) this passage that you wish to present as the "smoking gun" that mesorah was broken.

Orthoprax said...

Anon,

An important distinction is that those who wrote Exodus were not the same as those who wrote Judges. But in any case, it's a simple matter to read Tanach and realize that the authors were not interested in making it seem like everyone was an expert in national history as the Kuzari proponents would have perhaps preferred.

The author(s) argued that the whole nation was of one mind and one religion and then strayed, but even they did not commit to everyone maintaining knowledge of their own history. So, in fact, I'm only using the passage to argue against a much later supposition rather than the position of the author(s)'.

And even then, I acknowledged that I was only using this particular passage as a talking point of a larger theme rather than a "smoking gun" in itself.