June 17, 2010

The Jewish Prophecy of Exile

In a previous post, "An Unserious Response to the Theist's Guide", I poked fun at a religious apologist - apparently a Jewish rabbi -

FYI, I'm not a rabbi, just a typical religious Jew in Israel - who may have the distinction of enjoying discussing and debating religion in a respectful, cordial and friendly manner, with non-Jews.  I extend that courtesy to you and I expect the same courtesy in return.

who made a set of obviously insincere demands for what evidence he would require to become an atheist. So much for that. But our friend the rabbi also thinks that he has convincing evidence for the existence of God. In this post, I'll consider his claims and see how they hold up.

The following quotes were given before the Israelites entered the Land of Israel and promised them that they'd settle into their homeland and get comfortable, but in time they'd pursue other gods and be kicked out of the Promised Land as a result:

(Deut 4:25-26 GW) "Even when you have children and grandchildren and have grown old in that land, don't become corrupt and make carved idols or statues that represent anything. I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today: If you do this thing that the LORD your God considers evil, making him furious, you will quickly disappear from the land you're possess on the other side of the Jordan River. You won't live very long there. You'll be completely wiped out."

...In this case we have a prophesy of Moses predicting that the Israelites would enter the Promised Land and be well situated and in time they'll be expelled from their homes and land. What seer would dare predict doom and disaster and get away with it?

The obvious answer to this question is: a "seer" who was writing after the events he claims to foretell and knew that they had already happened. And that's almost certainly what happened here. Our apologist friend assumes something not in evidence: that this prophecy was given "before the Israelites entered the Land of Israel".

Opps. I neglected to give evidence that this prophesy was given BEFORE the entry of the Israelites into the Land of Israel. Sorry about that. Ok, so I’ll give you evidence that it was not written as a result of the Babylonian Captivity, the reason is that the prophesy of destruction, exile and return to the land of Israel fits far better with the Roman expulsion rather than the Babylonian Captivity. See below.

He goes so far as to uncritically attribute the authorship of Deuteronomy to Moses, something that no reputable textual scholar has believed for decades.

It seems that there are disagreements between archeologists and the Wellhausen school of textual studies:

"The Mosaic tradition is so consistent, so well attested by different Pentaeuchal documents and so congruent with our independent knowledge of the religious development of the Near East in the late Second Millennium B.C. that only hypercritical, pseudo-rationalism can reject it's essential historicity." William F. Albright, "Archeology And The Religion Of Israel" p 96.

 He presents no evidence for either of these claims.

As far as our debate goes, this an irrelevant issue. Whether the Torah or books within it were written by Moses or by multiple authors is not directly the issue at hand. Your challenge to us theists is to provide a document with prophesy, and see if it was fulfilled according to your standards.  As far as your challenge goes it doesn’t matter if 1, 10 or 10,000 authors put their hand to it.  If we establish prophesies within the Torah which meets your criteria AND they turn out to have been fulfilled, then we have met your challenge and answered it according to your requirements.

(Mr. Atheist has introduced this as an issue to reduce the validity of the work, and thus give the impression that God did not write it.  I would like to avoid this issue because it’s really off-topic. However, I’ll give a short summary of the problems of the Multiple Authors Theory since he brought it up.

(As far as reputable scholarship goes, what scholar worth his salt would study an ancient text and concoct a revolutionary theory on the basis of the language of the text, when he can not read the original? What reputable scholar would develop a far-reaching theory primarily on the basis of a translation of the original? Julius Wellhausen did. He put forth his theory of multiple authors despite having at least one serious handicap: fact is that he could not read or speak more than a smattering of Hebrew. Not only was he ignorant of he original language of the Torah he was not alone for at the time that he put together his theory no scholar in Europe studied Hebrew texts in the original language because they were ignorant of the language, scholars studied Hebrew texts in Hebrew much later, so Wellhausen and his students who worked on it were completely dependent on a German translation of the Torah. Now for of us who are fluent in two or more languages we know from experience that different languages impart a different mentality to the speaker or reader. Languages have certain assumptions about life that assumptions are part of the grammar, syntax and construction. So when you shift to another language you change mentalities and assumptions about life. Being that Wellhausen was a cripple in Hebrew how much credibility can be given to him and his work? For reading a text in translation leaves one open to a slew of errors.

 (Those who are able to read, say, Tolstoy in both Russian and in an English translation understand this completely because when they then read the English translations know that is a pale reflection of the original. But it doesn’t take a scholar or one with extreme erudition to recognize this because anyone ho speaks or reads more than one language knows this as a matter of course. (BTW Mr. Atheist have you ever experienced this? Do you speak and/or read more than one language fluently? Czy mówi a pan po polsku? Jeden język nigdy nie wystarcza!) The Italians have an expression that illustrates this from another angle:” traduttori traditori” meaning “translators (are) traitors”. Although it was standard operating procedure in Wellhausen's day to work from a translation of the Hebrew wouldn't fly today and whatever theory that would be based on it would be disregarded as a matter of course because the scholar didn't have an essential tool to work with.

 (When we read the text in Hebrew the Multiple Authors theory just doesn’t fit the text even when one tries hard to see it, it just doesn’t go because there are so many contradictions to it. So Wellhausen developed his core theory of 4 authors and that’s the part of it that was popularized, but as time went on he and his students applied his assumptions to their logical conclusions and “discovered” 30 authors!  So why do the disciples of Wellhausen only mention 4 or 5 of the authors when he discovered so many more? Why to they hide the fact that he improved his theory and carried on his work and took his theory to it's logical conclusions? The reason was that his assumptions and the logic behind his theory was flawed and he himself recognized plenty of contradictions to it, but dismissed them out of hand. To explain the contradictions to others Wellhausen contended that there was a master forger or interpolator at work who rearranged the Torah.  He believed that this self-same master forger anticipated Wellhausen's theory and so he inserted passages and mixed up verses so as to refute it. His students continued to use his assumptions and logic and discovered within their teacher's J, E, P, and D documents at least thirty additional documents! In order to justify this hypothesis they had to rationalize the existence of the many places that contradicted it.  So they assumed a Redactor-Author whom, they claimed, must have hidden the evidence of all the other authors!  Now that's a self-confirming theory.  And BTW, how many of his students were fluent in reading Biblical Hebrew? None. In addition, this theory promotes the notion that different authors can be detected by different styles in the text – the assumption here is that it’s impossible for one author to write in different styles for different purposes. So the Wellhausen Theory is all based on odd assumptions and peculiar logic, combined with a self-sustaining and self-justifying logic that artificially answers all objections to it by inventing more authors.  Besides, there is no independent support of this theory from other texts. So this is conjecture at best. And this you call the “critical" theory?)

As critical scholars have long recognized, the biblical books collectively known as the Deuteronomic history were only completed sometime after the destruction of the First Temple in 587 BCE. This was a catastrophe where the Babylonian Empire swept down on the Israelite kingdom of Judah, destroyed Jerusalem, and sent much of the population into exile. To account for why an omnipotent God had permitted such a disaster to visit his chosen people, the Deuteronomic historians wrote new verses - such as the one my correspondent quotes above - which explained the destruction and exile as God's punishment for idol worship and other sins the Israelites had not ceased to commit. (See, for example, Richard Elliott Friedman's Who Wrote the Bible?)

(Again, for the purpose of satisfying your challenge it doesn’t matter if the least if Deuteronomy was written at that late date or at Sinai. If the prophesies that were contained therein are fulfilled according to your standards what of it?

(Again, even though this is off-topic, since it was brought up I'll give a capsule reply. This business about forged verses written into the text of Deuteronomy at that time is pure conjecture. This notion is based solely on the assumption that there was a conspiracy to pull the wool over others.  Fact is that due to the discovery of Deuteronomy the people had new burdens imposed upon them. Considering the stiff-necked and argumentative nature of the Israelites why weren’t there hints of grumbling and protests at a national level by the common people? Where was the resistance or the rebellion?  The Hebrew Bible ("Old Testament") is rife with the prophets complaining about the people not acting as they should and not following the Torah. All of a sudden the burden of observance is increased and no one complains. Again, were they just passive sheep willing to submit without a complaint? That doesn’t jive with the mentality of the Israelite people that is displayed in other parts of the Bible. Israelites were a cantankerous and feisty people. So where is there outside evidence that supports this? More about this below.)

In any case, you’ve done me a favor by admitting that the Torah, the Five Books Of Moses, was in existence around the time of the Babylonian Captivity which lasted from 597-538 BCE. I originally chose to establish the earliest date extant at the time of the translation of the LXX at 246 BCE as I was reluctant to use that earlier date of the 5th Century BCE thinking that you would not accept that as it might be construed as internal evidence. Ok, very good, we both agree on the 5th Century BCE as the time the Torah was extant.

But my correspondent tries something audacious. After establishing that the above verse was in existence by Roman times (which I don't doubt), he argues that these verses were actually a prediction of the later Roman destruction of Jerusalem, which occurred in 70 CE, not the earlier Babylonian invasion.

 Deut 28:49 "The LORD will bring against you a nation from far away, from the ends of the earth. The nation will swoop (literally: "descend") down on you like an eagle. It will be a nation whose language you won't understand." The Roman army did this very thing in the first century, and the symbol of the Imperial Rome was the eagle. In contrast to the Babylonians who spoke Aramaic which is closely related to Hebrew, the Latin is in a different language family and was unintelligible even to those Jews who spoke Greek as a second language. This is the same sort of exegetical wordplay that religious apologists and Nostradamus devotees alike have used for centuries, trying to turn a vague prediction into a specific one by identifying "hidden" correspondences in the text. There's nothing to indicate that "like an eagle" is anything more than a metaphor for the strength and fierceness of the enemy. But there are several other things my correspondent has overlooked.

So Mr. Atheist contents that someone wrote predictions about an exile of the Israelite people based on the experience they had in the Babylonian Captivity.  If that be the case then how do those same verses explain the Roman Exile, which started more than 400 years after the Babylonian Exile?  The Israelites had a vastly different experience that resulted in enslavement, exile rather than living a comfortable life as they did in Babylon. I’m really sorry that I didn’t put in the full quote from Deuteronomy that indicates that the prophesy was not limited to the Babylonian Captivity. That was an oversight on my part. Here’s the entire passage so you can get some idea of the context.

Deu 28:14  Do everything I'm commanding you today. Never worship other gods or serve them.
Deu 28:15  Obey the LORD your God, and faithfully follow all his commands and laws that I am giving you today. If you don't, all these curses will come to you and stay close to you:
Deu 28:16  You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country.
Deu 28:17  The grain you harvest and the bread you bake will be cursed.
Deu 28:18  You will be cursed. You will have few children. Your land will have few crops. Your cattle will be cursed with few calves, and your flocks will have few lambs and kids.
Deu 28:19  You will be cursed when you come and cursed when you go.
Deu 28:20  The LORD will send you curses, panic, and frustration in everything you do until you're destroyed and quickly disappear for the evil you will do by abandoning the LORD.
Deu 28:21  The LORD will send one plague after another on you until he wipes you out of the land you're about to enter and take possession of.
Deu 28:22  The LORD will strike you with disease, fever, and inflammation; heat waves, drought, scorching winds, and ruined crops. They will pursue you until you die.
Deu 28:23  The sky above will look like bronze, and the ground below will be as hard as iron.
Deu 28:24  The LORD will send dust storms and sandstorms on you from the sky until you're destroyed.
Deu 28:25  The LORD will let your enemies defeat you. You will attack them from one direction but run away from them in seven directions. You will become a thing of horror to all the kingdoms in the world.
Deu 28:26  Your dead bodies will be food for all the birds and wild animals. There will be no one to scare them away.
Deu 28:27  The LORD will strike you with the same boils that plagued the Egyptians. He will strike you with hemorrhoids, sores, and itching that won't go away.
Deu 28:28  The LORD will strike you with madness, blindness, and panic.
Deu 28:29  You will grope in broad daylight as blind people grope in their blindness. You won't be successful in anything you do. As long as you live, you will be oppressed and robbed with no one to rescue you.
Deu 28:30  You will be engaged to a woman, but another man will have sex with her. You will build a house, but you won't live in it. You will plant a vineyard, but you won't enjoy the grapes.
Deu 28:31  Your ox will be butchered as you watch, but you won't eat any of its meat. You will watch as your donkey is stolen from you, but you'll never get it back. Your flock will be given to your enemies, and no one will rescue it.
Deu 28:32  You will watch with your own eyes as your sons and daughters are given to another nation. You will strain your eyes looking for them all day long, but there will be nothing you can do.
Deu 28:33  People you never knew will eat what your land and your hard work have produced. As long as you live, you will know nothing but oppression and abuse.
Deu 28:34  The things you see will drive you mad.
Deu 28:35  The LORD will afflict your knees and legs with severe boils that can't be cured. The boils will cover your whole body from the soles of your feet to the top of your head.
Deu 28:36  The LORD will lead you and the king you choose to a nation that you and your ancestors never knew. There you will worship gods made of wood and stone.
Deu 28:37  You will become a thing of horror. All the nations where the LORD will send you will make an example of you and ridicule you.
Deu 28:38  You will plant many crops in your fields, but harvest little because locusts will destroy your crops.
Deu 28:39  You will plant vineyards and take care of them, but you won't drink any wine or gather any grapes, because worms will eat them.
Deu 28:40  You will have olive trees everywhere in your country but no olive oil to rub on your skin, because the olives will fall off the trees.
Deu 28:41  You will have sons and daughters, but you won't be able to keep them because they will be taken as prisoners of war.
Deu 28:42  Crickets will swarm all over your trees and the crops in your fields.
Deu 28:43  The standard of living for the foreigners who live among you will rise higher and higher, while your standard of living will sink lower and lower.
Deu 28:44  They will be able to make loans to you, but you won't be able to make loans to them. They will be the head, and you will be the tail.
Deu 28:45  All these curses will come to you. They will pursue you and stay close to you until you're destroyed, because you didn't obey the LORD your God or follow his commands and laws, which I'm giving you.

Deu 28:46 These curses will be a sign and an amazing thing to warn you and your descendants forever.
Deu 28:47 You didn't serve the LORD your God with a joyful and happy heart when you had so much.
Deu 28:48 So you will serve your enemies, whom the LORD will send against you. You will serve them even though you are already hungry, thirsty, naked, and in need of everything. The LORD will put a heavy burden of hard work on you until he destroys you.
Deu 28:49 The LORD will bring against you a nation from far away, from the ends of the earth. The nation will swoop down on you like an eagle. It will be a nation whose language you won't understand.
Deu 28:50 Its people will be fierce-looking. They will show no respect for the old and no pity for the young.
Deu 28:51 They'll eat the offspring of your animals and the crops from your fields until you're destroyed. They'll leave you no grain, no new wine, no olive oil, no calves from your herds, and no lambs or kids from your flocks. They'll continue to do this until they've completely ruined you.
Deu 28:52 They will blockade all your cities until the high, fortified walls in which you trust come down everywhere in your land. They'll blockade all the cities everywhere in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
28:53 Because of the hardships your enemies will make you suffer during the blockade, you will eat the flesh of your own children, the sons and daughters, whom the LORD your God has given you.
Deu 28:54 Even the most tender and sensitive man among you will become stingy toward his brother, the wife he loves, and the children he still has left.
Deu 28:55 He will give none of them any of the flesh of his children that he is eating. It will be all that he has left, because of the hardships your enemies will make you suffer during the blockade of all your cities.
Deu 28:56 The most tender and sensitive woman among you-so sensitive and tender that she wouldn't even step on an ant-will become stingy toward the husband she loves or toward her own son or daughter.
Deu 28:57 She won't share with them the afterbirth from her body and the children she gives birth to. She will secretly eat them out of dire necessity, because of the hardships your enemies will make you suffer during the blockade of your cities.
Deu 28:58 You might not faithfully obey every word of the teachings that are written in this book. You might not fear this glorious and awe-inspiring name: the LORD your God.
Deu 28:59 If so, the LORD will strike you and your descendants with unimaginable plagues. They will be terrible and continuing plagues and severe and lingering diseases.
Deu 28:60 He will again bring all the diseases of Egypt that you dreaded, and they will cling to you.
Deu 28:61 The LORD will also bring you every kind of sickness and plague not written in this book of teachings. They will continue until you're dead.
Deu 28:62 At one time you were as numerous as the stars in the sky. But only a few of you will be left, because you didn't obey the LORD your God.
Deu 28:63 At one time the LORD was more than glad to make you prosperous and numerous. Now the LORD will be more than glad to destroy you and wipe you out. You will be torn out of the land you're about to enter and take possession of.
Deu 28:64 Then the LORD will scatter you among all the people of the world, from one end of the earth to the other. There you will serve gods made of wood and stone that neither you nor your ancestors never knew.
Deu 28:65 Among those nations you will find no peace, no place to call your own. There the LORD will give you an unsettled mind, failing eyesight, and despair.
Deu 28:66 Your life will always be hanging by a thread. You will live in terror day and night. You will never feel sure of your life.

 Deu 29:22  Then the next generation of your children and foreigners who come from distant countries will see the plagues that have happened in this land and the diseases the LORD sent here.
29:23  They will see all the soil poisoned with sulfur and salt. Nothing will be planted. Nothing will be growing. There will be no plants in sight. It will be as desolate as Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, cities the LORD destroyed in fierce anger.

The above verses that were highlighted in yellow are the ones that do not match the Babylonian Captivity but they have been part and parcel of our present Roman Exile.

(Note: these Biblical verses were obtained by a program called E-Sword, a free downloadable program that can be had from www.e-sword.net. Not that I endorse this program or approve of any of the translations therein, I don't. I'm only offering it for the sake of our discussion and to allow you easy verification of the verses I cite.)

Consider the above block of verses from Deuteronomy 28. Notice that the passage predicts the destruction of Israelite cities by siege (verse 52), which involved starvation to the point where women ate their afterbirth and fathers also ate their own children (verses 55-58), once captured they would have to endure extremely hard labor (verse 48). Note also that it prophesies that the Israelites will be expelled to the far ends of the earth (verse 64). These prophesies were unusual even at the time they were given (even if it was produced after the Babylonian Captivity) because conquering nations, especially empire-building nations, saw no advantage in  out the population they were out to conquer.  They weren't out for wanton destruction just for the sadistic cruelty of it.  Such nations conquered in order to receive economic benefits from the nations they conquered, benefits mostly in the form of taxation. This as the method of Rome, Babylon an Assyria. Their method was to destroy the army of the defenders, since the defending army was a small %age of the population, so when the conqueror subdued of dispatched or the defenders the conquerors then took over and taxed the population. Subduing the population by starving or working them to death made them useless economically and even resulted a great burden upon the attacking country. It was dumb to destroy a people because there was no profit from them after that, and the Babylonians weren’t dumb.

Know that the Babylonian Captivity did not involve this kind of merciless cruelty against the cities that involved slaughter of the inhabitants, not to the extent that Rome inflicted.  The Babylonians held Jerusalem in siege for 2 years but after the Israelites surrendered they were handled fairly amicably after that as the conquerors wanted them for their benefit. The Babylonians told the Israelites that they were to be transferred as a whole to Babylon because the Babylonians wanted the economic benefits from the Israelite population. So a while before the actual population transfer happened, the Babylonians welcomed representatives from the Israelite community who went to Babylon and set up social infrastructures so that when the Israelites arrived they picked up their lives with a minimum of fuss, got on with rebuilding their lives, then they literally got down to business and helped develop the Babylonian economy and empire. The Israelites were successful and found Babylon quite a comfortable place to live. So much so that after the 70 years of their stay in Babylon, when the Persian King Cyrus allowed the Israelites to return to the Land of Israel only about 10,000 made the trip back, a very small minority.  The vast majority stayed behind because they were very comfortable and content living and making money in Babylon.

Furthermore, these prophesies above foretell of being scattered to the ends of the earth (verse 64), but that didn’t apply to the Babylonian Captivity because the known world at the time was far bigger than the stretch of land between Israel and Babylon. Israelites also knew of India, Africa and southern Europe, so hat prophesy wasn't fulfilled in Babylon. If the writer of the prophesy knew that their exile would have been Babylon it would have made sense to specify that detail in the prophesy to make it seem like a sure thing, but this didn't happen. Thus the prophesy couldn't have been created with the Babylonian experience in mind.

Instead the Roman occupation and destruction of the Land of Israel was nothing more than sadistic ruelty and so it was the complete fulfillment of them. Since you agree that Deuteronomy was extant in 4th Century BCE, it means the prophesies were in writing at least 400 years before their fulfillment by the expulsion by Rome in 136 CE, and obviously the events that led up that period were not an already existing trend that the author could extrapolate.

So what’s the probability of all that having happened? Well, being conquered is not unusual. Every nation gets conquered sooner or later. But back then nations were conquered neighboring nations. So in ancient days it was standard stuff to understand and speak languages of nearby peoples, so logically, at the time of writing it was standard to expect a conqueror to come from nearby. So what’s the likelihood of a far-away nation doing it? Not likely at all. The Romans sent in 3 separate waves of their legionaries to destroy the Judean State. We lost all 3 of those battles. For the 3rd and final round, the Romans brought an entire legion from the British Isles to do the fighting. The commanding general of that Roman legion was a Briton and the soldiers who did the conquering were Britons, and at that time the British Isles were at the end of the known world. What’s the probability of a nation conquering whose language was unknown? Even less likely. In the case of the Romans, Jews spoke Greek, not Latin, so they had to talk to the Romans via Greek interpreters. On the third round of the war the Judeans were utterly clueless about the language of the attacking Britons. Not only that, the legion of Britons came from the every end of he known world back then, in explicit fulfillment of Deut 28:49. So these highly unlikely prophesies were fulfilled. Like I mentioned earlier, it was dumb to destroy a nation, the Romans weren’t dumb considering the extensive empire they had built. Yet they completely lost their rationality when they decided to destroy Judea.  They wasted resources of the Roman Empire to a serious degree, and it was almost childish for the Romans to have put down the cantankerous and feisty Judeans. In the end it was a stupid move, and highly extremely unlikely from a probability standpoint.  Who would have thought, at least 400 years before, that a foreign nation from the end of the earth would stupidly go for wanton and complete destruction of the Israelite nation in such a way that caused serious harm to themselves? No one with any rational sense. So the criteria of Mr Atheist which demands an unusual prophesy - and I say this wasn't just an unusual prophesy it was a prophesy to the point of absurdity - was fulfilled by Imperial Rome.

First: The official language of the Neo-Babylonian Empire was not Aramaic but Akkadian, a rather different tongue which was derived in part from ancient Sumerian, a language isolate unrelated to Hebrew. Akkadian could easily stand in for the "language [the Jews] won't understand".

Second: Even if we do interpret the "eagle" reference as meaning something about the identity of the conquerors, it's still an ambiguous clue. Of particular relevance is that the Bible specifically compares Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar to an eagle [Ezekiel 17], as well as comparing Babylon's horsemen to eagles [Habbakkuk 1:8].

Feel free to call it an ambiguous clue. Although, having mentioned that the blocks of the prophesy of the curses and blessings allow for multiple fulfillments, did you notice that it’s even more coincidental that both of the countries that involved in two separate expulsions had both their national symbols as eagles? Obviously not a conclusive prophesy but oddly ironic just the same. Or maybe it's just that conquering nations in ancient days preferred to have a predatory bird as their symbol.

Third: The facts of the biblical prophecy fit Nebuchadnezzar's invasion much more closely. The chapter my correspondent quotes goes on to say that the Israelites will be punished by being returned to Egypt [Deut. 28:68], and that's just what happens in the aftermath of the Babylonian invasion [2 Kings 25:26]. In sum, my correspondent has no clear evidence that this or any other passage is meant to refer to Rome, and that fatally weakens his argument.

Imagine that I find an ancient document which reads, "A great American president will be assassinated by a lone gunman." If I want to prove that the author had miraculous foresight, it's not enough to prove that the document was written before the assassination of John F. Kennedy. After all, it could also have been written after the death of Abraham Lincoln as a false "prediction" of that event. To disprove this, I'd either have to show that the document was specifically intended to refer to Kennedy, or that it also predates the death of Lincoln. My correspondent has done neither.

Finally, my correspondent makes one last attempt to argue for the veracity of a biblical miracle:

"What I call the Sinai event was where the Israelites were at Mt Sinai and the entire nation was recorded to be ear-witnesses to God having spoken to them from the top of the mountain, and where God gave the Ten Commandments to the entire Israelite nation... Now one may argue that the Children of Israel experienced a mass hallucination. Well, if everyone had a hallucination there was nothing to make certain that 2+ million people had the exact same hallucination. How could something like an identical mass hallucination occur?"

Have you ever noticed that religious apologists only ever consider the most improbable natural explanations for their myths, even when much more probable ones are available?

I have a much simpler explanation: no identical mass hallucination is needed because the Sinai event never happened. There is no archaeological evidence of either an Egyptian captivity of the Israelites or an Israelite conquest of the Promised Land - and Moses' supposed conversation with God falls right in between those two events. The overwhelming likelihood is that it's part of the myth, a pious fiction invented by later authors and editors as the Hebrew Bible took the shape it has now. The written account may be based on oral folklore, but regardless, there is no evidence for it or for any of the surrounding events in the story it's part of.

Regarding the prophesy about the destruction of the land (Deut 29:22 - 23), the infertility of it once the expulsion happened is also a prophesy that is wildly absurd yet was fulfilled.  Before the Romans expelled the Jews the Land of Israel was fertile and supported a population of at least a half million people. The Jews were exiled and the land went completely stale. Considering that Israel is a geo-political gem, the strategic crossroads between the 3 continents, it was a highly desirable land for any nation to conquer and control.  Eight separate times since the beginning of the Roman exile, Jerusalem was conquered by various nations, sometimes twice over, but none of them could hold onto it for long and establish a permanent occupation. One reason was that the land of Israel had undergone an ecological disaster and nearly nothing grew.  Mark Twain, in is travels to this area described the complete destruction and desolation of the land. www.mtwain.com/Innocents_Abroad/57.html    Wrote Twain: “ "...[a] desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds-a silent mournful expanse....A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action....We never saw a human being on the whole route....There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of the worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.” “Palestine is desolate and unlovely. And why should it be otherwise? Can the curse of the Deity beautify a land?"

The Report of the Palestine Royal Commission Report, p. 233. quotes an account of the Maritime Plain in 1913: "The road leading from Gaza to the north was only a summer track suitable for transport by camels and carts...no orange groves, orchards or vineyards were to be seen until one reached [the Jewish village of] Yabna [Yavne] (a distance of 48 km or 30 miles - Narabelad)....Houses were all of mud. No windows were anywhere to be seen....The ploughs used were of wood....The yields were very poor....The sanitary conditions in the village were horrible. Schools did not exist....The western part, towards the sea, was almost a desert....The villages in this area were few and thinly populated. Many ruins of villages were scattered over the area, as owing to the prevalence of malaria, many villages were deserted by their inhabitants. www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/myths/mf1.html#13  Then in the late 1800s the Jews started to return to the land and within 60 years they made the dessert bloom – also in the sight of the nations. 

As far as evidence for the Sinai Event goes, there are plenty of historical experiences in history that have left their mark on a nation, to the point were the story of the event was handed down.  When an entire nation witnesses or experiences a mass event AND it changes their lives thereafter, the people typically remember it and a vast majority of the time they will pass stories about it down for generations to come. Now this doesn't have to be a religious experience, it can be a war, a natural disaster or even a man made disaster at the scale that we can produce them today with our technology.  In the case of the Israelites it was a unique religious experience. Such transformative events became part of our nation's history, both oral and written. More about this below.

One reason that was popular in the minds of ancient writers is that they did not want to leave records that were unfavorable to the ruling monarch. So there's a strong tendency for ancient historical records strongly tend to ignore shameful defeats. The escape of a million-plus slaves from Egyptian control would have been highly shameful and reflect badly on Egypt, so there was would have been a strong tenancy to ignore and try to forget the Exodus, or change the account of the event so that Egypt would have been justified in kicking them out.  There are a few records left behind. Note Wikipedia on "Exodus":

 "The earliest non-biblical account of the Exodus is by Hecataeus of Abdera (late 4th century BCE): the Egyptians blame a plague on foreigners and expel them from the country; Moses, their leader, takes them to Canaan, where he founds the city of Jerusalem.[41] More than a dozen later stories repeat the same basic theme, most of them with a marked anti-Jewish tendency.[41] The best-known is that by the Egyptian historian Manetho (3rd century BCE), quoted by the 1st century AD Jewish historian Josephus in two passages. In the first Manetho describes the Hyksos, their lowly origins in Asia, their dominion over and expulsion from Egypt, and, according to Josephus, their subsequent foundation of the city of Jerusalem and its temple. Josephus (not Manetho) identifies the Hyksos with the Jews.[42] Josephus later quotes a second story from Manetho which tells how 80,000 lepers and other "impure people," led by a priest named Osarseph, join forces with the former Hyksos, now living in Jerusalem, to take over Egypt. They wreak havoc until eventually the pharaoh and his son chase them out to the borders of Syria, where Osarseph gives the lepers a law-code and changes his name to Moses.[43] Manetho differs from the other writers in describing his renegades as Egyptians rather than Jews, and in using a name other than Moses for their leader[41] - many scholars regard the identification of Osarseph with Moses as a later addition to the text,[44] although the question remains open.[45]" In the early 19th Century an ancient papyrus was found in Egypt. It was taken to the Leiden Museum in
Holland and interpreted by A.H. Gardiner in 1909. The papyrus describes violent upheavals in Egypt, starvation, drought, escape of slaves (with the wealth of the Egyptians), and death throughout the land. 

The papyrus was written by an Egyptian named Ipuwer The account has a strong parallel to the Book of Exodus where it describes the Ten Plagues. This is an abbreviated list of the Ipuwer Papyrus, for complete details go to www.cbcg.org/franklin/The_Plagues_Of_Egypt.pdf

 “If the miraculous history of the Sinai experience and the Exodus from Egypt were contrived by story tellers who spun the tale around a campfire, or an act of deliberate myth-making then asking the elders for confirmation would be fatal to the contrivance. If it didn't happen then grandpa would say "My grandparents said that they never heard of such a thing. It's bogus."

 The problem with this apologetic is that it explains too much. You could use a similar argument in favor of every miraculous event recorded in the annals of every people, from the Roman rain miracle of Marcus Aurelius to Native American stories about invulnerable shamans. How did any of these stories get started?

As far as the Rain Miracle goes, there's little to compare it to the Exodus Event.  It originated from of a group of soldiers, not an entire nation, and they spread this story. That’s very easy to pull off.  Soldiers are under command; they're given orders they're supposed to obey those orders.  It's easy for a commanding officer to order his troops to spread this story, all he had to do was give the order.  However, nations are not like that. There can be plenty of dissenters within a nation and tyrant's must have Thought-Police to keep contrary ideas from spreading. Besides, it's entirely likely that the soldiers were under orders to promote this story. That story would have been extremely useful as a psychological warfare tactic against other enemies.  Psychological tactics were common methods in ancient days.  The reason for circulating this story wanting to warn their enemies 'Don’t mess with us! The gods are on our side! They’ll use lightning bolts to defeat you!' And the fact that the leaders were telling it without confirmation by the actual soldiers themselves does not compare with the Sinai Event of the Israelites. And the fact that this miraculous occurrence did not make an impression sufficient to cause the soldiers who supposedly witnessed it to convey it as a family tradition or story down through the ages also says much. It suggests that the story was invented for a short term purpose, such as a psychological tactic, and once it fulfilled its purpose there was no need for the story as it was no longer an issue.

Mr. Atheist lumps the Sinai Event, which we claim had 3 million witnesses, with Shamans interpreting events about single individuals in maybe multiple events to a small group of hearers who were not about to ask questions. (Say, didn't anyone of the listeners to that shaman think to request that  all the other warriors should have a magic headdress like the chief had?  Boy, if all the braves had a magic headdress like the chief they'd all be invincible in battle!  I dunno about you but I'd regard that as an obvious question for the shaman while sitting around the campfire. Maybe in their culture no one dared ask questions, but  our Hebrew Bible encourages us to query our elders.)  Those were a headdress that produced miraculous events AND miraculous claims by a small group of soldiers. The reason Mr. Atheist's examples do not compare with the Sinai Event is that the difference between them is also profound.  Oral traditions of this kind are about historical events are passed down through the generations of a nation when the ENTIRE NATION experiences it AND it significantly changes the lives of all the people. The Exodus from Egypt combined with the Sinai Event did just that because they were not only profound experienced in their own right, they also changed the lives of every individual in the nation from then on.  The Exodus event transformed an entire nation from one of abject and abused slaves to free people.  At Sinai, for example, the Ten Commandments were given then and at that time it was established that the Israelites were commanded to have a holiday every seven days, on Saturday, forever. If only for that one law the Sinai Event changed them all down to this day, and then consider the other nine commandments and how they changed the nation. Historical events that are witnessed and experienced by entire nations AND they change the living patterns of that nation are the ones that are passed down orally. It isn’t just claimed events of claimed experiences of a mass religious
experience, because natural disasters do that and so do wars.  Are any of you going to disbelieve the American Civil War? Oh, there are a few books about it that were written at the time but it's possible that could have been mere campfire stories, folklore.  There were also a number of documents that are claimed to have survived from the time about the event, but they could be forgeries obviously written much later. There was a photographer who CLAIMED to have taken pictures of battle scenes, the photographs displayed at the Antietam battlefield I once visited comes to mind, but they could have been battles that occurred in some other country. The thing that makes the US Civil War credible was not simply because of the books and surviving documents. Those documents are credible to us 140 years later because people that experienced it also passed down personal stories and vignettes of the Civil War event to their descendants.  They didn't have to be detailed accounts. “Your great great granddaddy fought under General Sherman" would have been enough. In fact, even if we don't hear specific oral traditions about the Civil War how many of us have heard statements that contradicted the accounts? How has heard their grandparents discount or disbelieve this event saying something like: "Civil War?  Who says? Never heard of it in my day, then when I was in my 30s they started claiming there was this 'Civil War' what started back in 1860. Well, I told 'em I never heard of such a thing. Musta been made-up. It was just a crock, nuthin' but BS"?  The people of Atlanta, Georgia, still have oral traditions about how General Sherman wantonly burned down their city.  In my home area in the US a Civil War colonel bought land and built a farm and his family thrived there. His farm house built in the 1860s has been recently restored. The man’s descendants once lived there and have since moved on, but they told their neighbors and friends about what their father experienced. We knew the man’s regiment, some of the battles he fought in. It’s part of the area history, an oral history, not gotten from books or records, but from the descendants of the colonel who lived those experiences as part of the overall American experience. If there were only documents and books about the Civil War, without family stories passed down the Civil War could be easily doubted as "folklore" or "myth".

I suggest you confirm these words and the prediction that that no other nation would even create a rumor that God produced a revelation to an entire nation.  For example, you can go to Bullfinch’s Mythology and look through it and see if there’s even one myth that had an entire nation was said to have eye- or ear- witnessed a god or goddess perform some act and lived to tell about it.  But I’ll save you the trouble, because I know someone who has already done that – gone through all 700+ pages – and found nothing done en masse with any god.

If it's so easy to invent a myth that claims that an entire nation witnessed God or a god appearing to all of them, all at once, it stands to reason that if other nations should have done it, and would have done it often and again.Ok, to further illustrate this lets try to invent a myth. Let's assume I am at a party with friends and acquaintances and I start to tell others that it's a fact that the United States, by the year 1640, successfully conquered all of Central and South America and held it under US rule for 50 years. How credible would that be? What would Americans say? They'd say they never heard of that in school nor as stories passed down from grandparents. Although Americans aren't big on history there are those who pride themselves on their family origins and pass it down. The Daughters of the American Revolution do just that. Who will argue that that the stories about arriving on the Mayflower or great granddaddy so-and-so having fought the British during the Colonial Occupation in the 1700's are all utter fabrications, just campfires stories told by shamans or priests? If I would sit down with my English friends and could I tell them with a straight face that in the early 1700s England conquered western Europe from the shores of France all the way east to the Urals? How would that go over? Would they accept it blindly? Now I?m trying to convince them of an event that supposedly happened to their own people, I?m not trying to convince them of what other countries or peoples did. The British are big on tradition and history, unlike many Americans. It's easy for, say, the Italians to make up stories about the Chinese centuries back because the Chinese usually aren't around to argue these things one way or the other. How far would I get?  It’s such great way to establish credibility. Why has the Sinai Event been the only mass-revelation to a whole nation on record where the nation has lived to tell about it?

A similar God-encounter is the very thing that Mr. Atheist would like in order to be forced to believe in God.  He would need to experience a God-event together with a whole nation because that's what it would take to confirm it in his own mind. He would need a vast number of other witnesses that would confirm that they had experienced the same revelation, then he would be convinced that he hadn't been hallucinating.

My correspondent's confident claim that the Jews wouldn't accept a newly-invented law or story, because they had no historical traditions of such a thing, is disproven by an example from the Bible itself: King Josiah's "discovery" of the "book of the law" (probably Deuteronomy) hidden in the temple [2 Kings 22:8]. According to the text, Josiah's discovery made him rend his clothes in grief, because it contained so many laws that had been forgotten. Did the Jews reject this book because they had never heard of it before? On the contrary, it's now part of their canon. All this goes to show is that when those in power find it convenient to wage a propaganda campaign to convince the people to believe certain things, they very often succeed.

(Despite the fact that this issue is off-topic I will give a reply. Ok, so how did anyone then know that the found book was in fact the “Book of the Law by the hand of Moses” (Deuteronomy, it is assumed) and was an authentic document? Mr. Atheist assumes that there was no way that they could have confirmed the authenticy of the book. The historical context about the discovery of the book is an important factor in this whole story and to ignore it is to rip it all out of context, and removing it from the historical setting can easily result in spurious conclusions. Manasseh of Judah reigned for 55 years and in that time he completely eradicated all religious worship and practice in Judea and the Temple was in very serious disrepair. After he died in 643 BC King Josiah took over and he reversed the extreme policies of Mannasseh. When clearing out the Temple a book was found and it was recognized as a lost book. Now Mr. Atheist just assumed that because the book was found that caution was thrown to the wind, belief took over and they uncritically accepted the book as the 5th in the Five Books of Moses as a pure act of faith. Now you also assume that the book must have been a forgery.  To justify that you also must assume that they had no historical traditions about that book.  Now it’s not told exactly how they knew it was authentic, and there’s also no indication from the text that they just laid down their rational thinking and accepted it on the basis of blind faith.  But as far as traditions go,there was a common practice, one that was part of many ancient societies back then, that would have given them good and rational reason to accept that book. Since there were no printing presses nor computers back then, books were scarce and very expensive. We all know that they had to be laboriously copied by hand. To illustrate this know that even today we copy Torah scrolls by hand, they're copied by scribes by the same methods that were used 2,500 years ago.  It takes the scribes working full-time 2-3 years to complete one handwritten copy - just to give you an idea how rare and expensive manuscripts were back then. Due to the rarity of books there were people who committed entire books or large sections of books to memory. This was not just in the Jewish world, the Greeks also committed their epic stories and lengthy poems to memory. The Iliad and the Odyssey were transmitted strictly by memory early on. We know that their epics would be converted into hundreds of pages of text. One ancient Greek intellectual notable (I forget who) who even boasted that he could recite the Iliad BACKWARDS he knew it so well. Be that as it may, it was just common for people to commit large portions of important books to memory even at an early age.  And remember, a maximum of 55 years passed that Deuteronomy would have been out of circulation so enough people would have been alive to remember that book and the days before Manasseh. It's not as if 250 years had passed that they had been without that lost book and everyone who could have confirmed it was long dead and gone. With this in mind it’s quite reasonable that many people remembered many different sections of Deuteronomy sufficient to confirm that it was authentic without having to resort to blind faith.  

(In fact the mere presence of so many elders who could remember sections of Deuteronomy would have been the thing that would keep people from even attempting a forgery.  The fact that some of the laws were indeed forgotten means that not all was committed to memory, ok fine, no problem there, but enough of Deuteronomy would have been remembered to at least allow them to authenticate the found book. The fact that the people undertook some hardships because of laws that were reinstated means that our stiff-necked and cantankerous Israelites had to be convinced as a nation that it was authentic.)

To summarize, I want to match Mr. Atheist's criteria for prophesy and their fulfillment and consider how the prophesies I have provided measure up to his standards.

1. The prophesies I have provided are clear and unambiguous.  Prophesies within Deut 28-29 explicitly foretell the destruction of a national home and the exile of its people.

Other prophesies first describe the Sinai Event and then in Deut 4:32-33 it predicts that never again would a nation experience a first-hand encounter with God and live to tell about it, neither would anyone make a similar claim.  Not even rumors of a similar God-encounter to a whole nation ever surface. This has been fulfilled from the time of it's giving, at least 2,500 years ago, to the present.

2. The prophesies are far from trivial. The destruction of a nation and the exile of its people are profoundly painful events for all.

Mass kidnappings of Jewish children and them having been sent to the far corners of the world by the Romans as well as King John of Portugal, who shipped all Jewish children they could get their hands on to St. Thomas Island in the Caribbean, were far from trivial events, Deut 28:32.

The Sinai Event has been unique, in fact the essence of the prediction in Deut 4:32-33 is that it would remain unique for all time.

3. The prophesies and their fulfillments must be unusual.  The prediction of wanton destruction of Land of Israel by foreigners from the ends of the earth goes beyond the unusual, it was completely absurd at the time it was given. The prophesy that the people would then be exiled all over the world was also absurd.  The prophesy that the Jewish people would be abused, persecuted, yet survive within that exile as a recognizable people very small in number living amidst hostile nations borders on the impossible. The fact is that the Jewish people survived under such extreme conditions that we should have disappeared. The fulfillment of all of those prophesies is not just unusual, they have been events that have been completely unprecedented in all of human experience.

 4. The prophesies were not contrived for other reasons.  Who would want to contrive prophesies that foretell such a miserable course of events like exile, slavery and abuse?

Why contrive the story of a God-encounter at Sinai when all the rest of the world has been content with inventing their gods with myths and stories that are unconfirmable?  Especially considering that Israelites/Jews do not proselytize as a matter of principle what was there to gain by it?

5. The prophesies must not be self-fulfilling.  No nation would willingly provoke and antagonize another nation with the hope that their army would rise up to destroy it, plunder its land, enslave them, and then happily send them off on a lengthy exile of abuse and death.

What people would work to have their children kidnapped en masse? 

In the case of the Sinai Event, the prophesy is that no other nation will ever dare to claim witnessed the appearance of God to a whole nation and survive to tell about it is out of the hands of the Jews. If other religious groups would like to try this out, or make a similar claim, that an entire nation all witnessed an identical mass-revelation and lived to tell about it, then they're more than welcome to try.

6. The prophesy didn't predict an event that was about to happen or happened.  Even if one maintains that the prophesies in Deuteronomy were written and inserted around the time of the Babylonian Captivity, that doesn't explain their greater fulfillment in the Roman Exile that started approximately 400 years later and has continued until this very day.

 Who would expect beforehand that a deity would lead their nation to a mountain and deliver a revelation in the form of a colossal display - especially because it never happened before then?

7. The prophesies I cited have been verified by independent agents.  Enough non-Jews have written histories of Rome and Babylon and have confirmed the experiences of the Jewish people many times over. Flannery, a Catholic priest, wrote the book "The Anguish Of The Jews" was quoted in my original post. His book details the extreme abuse of anti-Semitism throughout the period of this Roman Exile.

Consider that his church, the Roman Catholic Church, was responsible for a large measure of that abuse.

8. Those aren't lone success amidst plenty of failures.  All of the curses in Deuteronomy chapter 28 and 29 have been fulfilled in the sight of the nations, if it wasn't the nations that fulfilled them!

The prophesy that no one will ever try to fabricate that a similar mass-God-experience occurred, or create a rumor similar to the Sinai Event, and also claimed to live through the experience. So Deut 4:32-33 remains fulfilled to this day.

The ball, Mr. Atheist, is now in your court.

February 07, 2010

Answering Ebonmusings

Sunday 25 April 2010

1.1 I came across a website written by atheists and was extremely intrigued by their page
which set out conditions in which they would become theists, and offered a similar challenge to all theists, and asked for what would convince them to give up their belief in Theism. Since I enjoy such challenges, and since the Jewish POV rarely gets an airing I thought I’d put in my 2-cents worth.

Part 1:

1.2 What would it take to get me to abandon my belief in God?

1.3 In response to Mr. Atheist’s request that we Theists present our conditions upon which we would abandon their belief in God, I offer my own for his inspection and perusal.

1.4 There is a way that someone could convince me to give up my belief in God, and after giving it a great deal of thought, the way someone could convince me can be summarized into two words:

1.d Explain existence.

1.5 That's all. Just come up with an alternate explanation of existence and how it all came into being in a way that does not involve a master creator, designer, or organizer.

1.6 Simple, isn't it? Or is it?

1.7 After giving it some thought, I noticed that existence is composed of a number of components that are subdivided into many other components, and those can be further subdivided into many levels. The problem here is that without one central "address" that organized and ordered existence we must, out of necessity, assume that it all came into being by way of some various forces or multiple agents. Thus, one must then, come up with an explanation for the existence of every aspect of the entire universe. But if we do not assume any external force or creator(s) then it means that separate explanations are required for every aspect and every single smidgen that exists, has ever existed or will ever exist. This is obviously a daunting undertaking. For if one gives this some thought to the components of the universe the number of them is quite beyond counting. Here's a very abbreviated list of general categories that are part of existence for consideration:

1.8 First, the material component. To convince me that God doesn't exist, please come up with an alternate explanation for the existence of every single physical particle in the universe. Everything - down to the minutest sub-atomic particle known or surmised presently, to everything yet to be discovered in the future - must be accounted for up-front each with its own individual explanation. Since we can not assume that an agent that has one address, so to speak, like a Supreme Being, will organize and order our material universe, so any convincing explanation of existence must, out of necessity, account for each individual particle in the universe separately and distinctly, each one by itself. Just out of curiosity, how many particles are there in the universe? I, personally, would not dare hedge a guess.

1.9 Second, the energy component. The alternate explanation must account every individual packet/photon/wave/electron/what-have-you of energy in existence, each one separately, in a similar way to the material component. So too must the alternate explanation account for every bit of interaction between one energy wave/packet/photon/what-have-you with any other, as well as for every single particle of the material component.

1.10 Third, the laws-of-nature component. There must be an explanation for the existence of laws-of-nature such as gravity, centrifugal force and the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics to name only four. For me to abandon my belief in a Creator I not only require a separate explanation for the general existence of such laws, but also with every single occasion where the laws-of-nature apply and interact among both matter and energy.

1.11 Fourth, the process and structure component. It’s clear that the universe operates within a structure and organization. Our bodies, being one example, are clearly organized and structured and there are many many processes that run it. This component that I call "process” are organized systems o above and beyond that of mere laws-of-nature which is only a small component of an overall structure. When cells divide in a process of mitosis there are coordinated processes that are far more complex and integrated than can be explained by a series of material and energy interactions combined with the laws of nature. Stars shine by way of many processes all in a coordinated fashion So all those processes, individually and separately, must be accounted for by any explanation that would convince me to become an atheist.

1.12 Fifth, I require an explanation of how the four dimensions of our existence came into being. Those four dimensions of existence are 1.) length, 2.) width, 3.) depth and 4.) time. Although these four dimensions of existence are not in themselves physical they apply to the physical components, the energy components and structural components equally and are a reality in our existence, thus must be accounted for. Those four dimensions are non-physical and non-energy components of the universe it makes sense that any attempt to explain existence that does not include a Supreme Designer must also include an explanation of these aspects, too. Oh, and I’ll need a separate explanation of how these dimensions happen to apply to every physical particle and every bit of the energy component within the totality of existence.

1.13 Sixth, I require an explanation of how human beings have developed a consciousness. For even if one can account for all the above aspects of nature, how does one account for the existence of such consciousness in Homo sapiens? How did it come into being and how is it maintained? And then I would require an explanation for the consciousness not just one person, but of each and every individual human being and separately, if you wouldn’t mind.

1.14 Seventh, please explain the existence of emotions. It is indisputable that humans are emotional beings, and there are people who believe that at least some animals possess emotions as well. Please explain what emotions are, first of all. If you can answer this you will provide the psychological community a great service by giving them a satisfactory definition of emotions as they have been struggling for one even to this day. It’s curious how they have not been able to adequately define what emotions are yet clinical psychologists and psychiatrists daily work on and try to manipulate the very thing they can barely conceptualize! Once you define emotions then please explain how they came into being and demonstrate how they are maintained, even though they are often quite counterproductive to people’s well-being and sometimes even their influence on us is contrary to the survival of our species.

1.15 Eighth and finally, please explain how “chance” and “luck” came into being and how are they maintained. Many people claim that things came about by “chance”, well, it seems to me that if “chance” and “luck” are real mechanisms that operate in our world then they require an explanation. Now if one posits a Supreme Being that guides and directs the entire universe, logically there can be no “chance” or “luck.”

1.16 So that’s it. That’s what it would take to get me to drop my position that a Creator designed, created and maintains our universe – just come up with an adequate and alternate explanation for everything in this universe and that should be quite sufficient to replace my reasoned conviction that a Supreme Being that is completely outside our world, entirely separate from our universe, was the one who brought it all into being.

1.17 The ancient Greeks believed that the entire universe was in existence forever, that it was primarily a static entity so the question of how the universe came into being was not a question at all, as they used to maintain that there was never a time when the universe didn’t exist. The scientific community assumed that Greeks were right until, almost overnight, evidence for the Big Bang came along and now science says that the universe had a definite beginning. The Big Bang theory says that the entire universe had a beginning and it started from a compressed a tiny speck maybe as big as a poppy seed and it had infinite mass. Then that tiny speck exploded. Well, if an object of infinite mass exploded then it would have taken infinite energy to detonate it. For all that matter to have been flung outwards at the colossal speed that the Big Bang Theory said it had then that would have taken infinite energy. So two questions come to mind: 1.) how did that primordial speck of matter come into being? And 2.) where did all that energy come from to detonate it? Scientists are so stumped at those 2 questions that they have not idea of how or where to start probing and investigating. They are utterly clueless about what came before that primordial speck, and just as clueless as to the mechanism of and where the energy came from to touch off the explosion. That’s the dead-end that science has reached thus far. But there has been progress, for science has come down from believing that the universe was eternal to the idea that the universe had a definite beginning.

1.18 Now Mr. Atheist has noted that some people have rigged the conditions under which they would give up religion to be so impossible that, of course, their beliefs could not be touched. Now I’m not into those kinds of games. For none of my demands are rigged in such a way to make an explanation impossible as some people might try to do. My questions are the very same of the scientific community as they explore our universe. How does the scientist explain the origins of reality? Either they have no clue whatsoever or they attribute lots of it to ‘chance’. At best they can claim it was ‘chance’ while I say it was God. It seems that the God-option is more logical because chance can’t happen unless there’s a reality already in place to allow ‘chance’ a framework to operate within.

1.19 I have simply stated that for me to give up my religion would require an alternate explanation that would replace my present conviction that accounts for the sum totality of the universe, present, past and future, without resorting to God. That's all. The notion that ultimately the act(s) of God answers all questions as to the origin of existence in one fell swoop is sufficient. For that to be replaced you’ll have to come up with something at least as comprehensive and as good.

1.20 To claim that there was no creator or designer or first-cause involved in existence allows only the option that it all spontaneously generated. The first problem with that is that we have never seen or experienced anything that has spontaneously generated. Science gave up the notion of spontaneous generation more than 150 years ago, and now it is regarded as simply irrational to claim that anything came into being by such means. But even if there was such an event of spontaneous generation is it logical to say that since that primordial event that produced our universe, spontaneous generation has not happened ever since? Was spontaneous generation a one-time event?

1.21 My position that God created the universe is logically based on the premise that everything has had a cause in our experience, thus existence itself must have a cause - or maybe even several causes. But the idea that a plurality of causes may have brought existence into being is not reasonable because existence is so well coordinated and structured that it all dovetails together and harmonizes so well, with no loose ends. There are no laws of nature that contradict. But if several causes had their hands it forming existence then they’d botch the job, and the result would be loose ends in the universe, and would just like committees that had contrary methods or designs which screw things up. So logically speaking, existence requires a single source for the origin of the structure of existence to operate in a ongoing dynamic fashion. Even if there were multiple causes and creations they would trip over one another as a matter of course. Obviously, the simplest explanation for everything in the universe is that it originated from one first-cause. But is that so outlandish, so bizarre of a concept? The notion that everything originated from one source is too absurd to consider? Are you aware of the principle of Occum’s Razor? This principle of scientific reasoning says that if we are beset with a number of complex explanations to a phenomenon then the simplest one is to be preferred. With that in mind, the simplest explanation for the complexity and structure of existence lies in that of a single Supreme Being, who exists outside our universe and was the force that brought it all into being.

Part 2

2.1 Providing prophesies which satisfy Mr. Atheist’s requirements. Mr. Atheist wrote that the conditions that would cause him to abandon atheism and become a theist.

2.2 First and foremost, I must maintain that I 100% support Mr. Atheist’s conditions for accepting prophesy. Every one of his conditions are entirely reasonable.

2.3 In response, I would like to offer Mr. Atheist a number of prophesies from a Jewish POV which answer his objections with provide prophesies that have been fulfilled. Although there are many prophesies that are found in the Torah, the Five Books of Moses (specifically Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers & Deuteronomy) and many have been fulfilled, yet I offer only those that have been fulfilled and do not need extensive or esoteric sources to confirm their fulfillment. I trust that prophesies that I provide will be readily found with an ordinary Christian Bible. As far as their fulfillment goes, at most one may need to consult a book or two on history which treats of this subject which should be found in most public libraries in the west.

2.4 Now Mr. Atheist objected to the one prophesy from our Hebrew Bible had been fulfilled but he discounted it because, in his mind, it was too easy to stage:

2.5 “The Jewish people returned to their homeland in Israel just as the Bible said they would, but this isn't a genuine prediction - they did it because the Bible said they would. The predicted event can't be one that people could stage.” (Emphasis is mine.)

2.6 Now his point that a prophesy is not genuine if it can be consciously fulfilled is well taken. He’s absolutely right on that as a principle. But unfortunately the example he used does not apply in this case. It appears that Mr. Atheist is very much in the dark about the conditions and processes that unfolded that even allowed the Jewish people the possibility of returning. The return of the Jewish people that are spread out to the four corners of the world couldn’t have just happened simply because the people wanted it or because the Bible said so. Yet this is a detail that I’ll deal with later on.

2.7 The first matter in dealing with whether a prophesy is authentic is whether the supposed prophetic book was in existence before the predicted takes place. In the case of the Torah we Jews have a tradition that says it was given on Sinai approximately 3,200 years ago, but for the purpose of confirming its existence for the sake of this discussion we need to go back into the historical record to the year 246 BCE when King Ptolemy of Greece desired a copy of the Torah for his library and the rabbis at the time were forced to comply with his request. Ptolemy got what he wanted and that translation of the Torah was known as the Septuagint or LXX for short. In addition, Greek writings affirmed that the Torah was known to be an ancient document even in Ptolemy’s time. So the mere fact that a translation was made of the book by the Greeks confirms its existence at least back to 246 BCE. So we have confirmation from a people other than the Jews that this book and the prophesies contained therein were extant at least 2,255 years ago.

2.8 Another aspect that Mr. Atheist requires, which is vital to the confirmation of authentic prophesy, is that it must predict something other than the mundane or easily predictable. It must not predict events that are simply the continuation of ongoing trends. Predicting future events by extrapolating from past trends is definitely not prophesy. As Mr. Atheist rightly put it, "The prophecy must predict something surprising, unlikely or unique". True enough - but I'll go even one step farther. To demonstrate that a Supreme Being gave prophesy the predictions must go well beyond simply being unique and unexpected. For there to be evidence that this Being gave those prophesies they should also demonstrate that the Supreme Being controls nature, controls history, controls the process of events in time, and thus has knowledge of future events. To effectively demonstrate that It, the Supreme Being, has such complete control, the prophesies should be ridiculous and even utterly absurd at very least at the time they were given. So incredibly unlikely should the prophesies be, and imbued with such a high risk of failure, that no mere mortal in his right mind would dare concoct them, much less take the ultimate risk of writing it down in a book that is expected to span the ages. However, if a Supreme Being handed those prophesies down, if It truly has complete control of the universe, then there's no risk whatsoever and the prophesies can be wildly absurd. If the Supreme Being handed them down so there are no worries that they will come to pass. So specific, objective, high-risk prophesies are the only way to go if the Supreme Being actually exists and handed them down.

2.9 So let's start with the prophesies. I have chosen a Christian translation known as “God's Word”
which has a clear and straightforward reading. Its translation is one of paraphrasing and is not literal, although rest assured that the translated quotes that I bring forth accurately reflect the sense if not the literal meaning of the original Hebrew verses that I have selected. On the whole, it must be stated that reading the Hebrew Bible in a translation is only an approximation of the original. The Israeli poet, Bialik, said "Reading the (Hebrew) Bible in translation is like kissing one's sweetheart through a scarf." But despite that limitation, using the "God's Word" translation is good enough for our purposes.

2.10 The following quotes were given before the Israelites entered the Land of Israel and promised them that they’d settle into their homeland and get comfortable, but in time they’d pursue other gods and be kicked out of the Promised Land as a result:

2.11 Deut 4:25-26 “Even when you have children and grandchildren and have grown old in that land, don't become corrupt and make carved idols or statues that represent anything. I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today: If you do this thing that the LORD your God considers evil, making him furious, you will quickly disappear from the land you're possess on the other side of the Jordan River. You won't live very long there. You'll be completely wiped out.”

2.12 Well, here's a prophesy that satisfies Mr. Atheist's condition of
"If the prophecy is obviously contrived for other reasons. No official seer or court astrologer ever predicted that the king he worked for would be a brutal, evil tyrant who would ruin the country." In this case we have a prophesy of Moses predicting that the Israelites would enter the Promised Land and be well situated and in time they’ll be expelled from their homes and land. What seer would dare predict doom and disaster and get away with it? Well, Moses did, and the prophesies were written down and carried through the generations by the very people to whom the disaster would inflict!

2.13 Deut 28:49 “The LORD will bring against you a nation from far away, from the ends of the earth. The nation will swoop (literally: “descend”) down on you like an eagle. It will be a nation whose language you won't understand.”

2.14 The Roman army did this very thing in the first century, and the symbol of the Imperial Rome was the eagle. In contrast to the Babylonians who spoke Aramaic which is closely related to Hebrew, the Latin is in a different language family and was unintelligible even to those Jews who spoke Greek as a second language.

2.15 Deut 28:32 “Your sons and daughters will be dragged off to a foreign country, while you stand there helpless. And even if you watch for them until you go blind, you will never see them again..." One fulfillment of this occurred in the 1400s in Portugal. The Spanish King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1492 ordered the expulsion of all Jews who refused to convert to Catholicism. Flannery fills us in on what happened there: “Most refugees went to neighboring Portugal, hopeful of a speedy return to the land they had occupied for over 1,500 years. But theirs is another and, if possible, more painful story than the preceding. Our limitations permit only summary. Refugees were allowed to enter Portugal for a price and only for a limited time by John II (1481-95). Many, unable to quit the country when the allotted time was over, were enslaved and deprived of their children who were sent to St. Thomas’ Island (located in the Virgin Islands in the Caribbean - David). King Emanuel, under the Spanish sovereigns’ influence, after freeing the enslaved, ordered them out of the kingdom. Unwilling to forgo their economic benefit, however, he determined upon the mad plan – disfavored by the clergy – to force all the Jews into the Church. This was done with utter savagery. So that none might be concealed, all children were ordered baptized on one day. Whenever necessary, children were torn from their parents, baptized, and scattered throughout the land for Christian upbringing.” (Edward G. Flannery, The Anguish Of the Jews – Twenty Centuries of Antisemitism (Revised & Updated), Paulist Press, 1985, ISBN 0-8091-2702-4 , p. 140)

2.15a Deut 28:33 "As long as you live, you will know nothing but oppression and abuse.” Flannery's book, mentioned just above, is an in-depth record of the fulfillment of that the prophesy that foretold the abuse and persecution of the Jewish people - persecution that has been experienced like no other people on earth. His book is 350 pages long with 55 pages of notes and references.

2.16 Another fulfillment of this happened after the Romans conquered the Land of Israel, the invading army destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 CE. The Romans began their occupation of the Land of Israel more than 200 years after Ptolemy got his copy of the Torah, so it can not be said that the Roman occupation and destruction occurred before the Torah was written.

2.17 Over the course of the next 60 years the Jews fought back. With the failure of the Jewish Bar-Kochba Revolt of 132–136 CE the Romans had killed hundreds of thousands of Jews and then out of those who survived the Romans had expelled a vast majority of the remaining population and sent them packing all over the Roman Empire as slaves. The Coliseum in Rome was built by 20,000 Jewish slaves. Jews were enslaved to work in the salt mines, enslaved as oarsmen on ships; Jewish young women were enslaved as prostitutes in brothels, children enslaved as household servants, some enslaved to fight in the stadiums for the ghoulish entertainment of the people of the Roman Empire. In the Greco-Roman Empire slaves constituted a distinct social class and estimates are that about 25% of the Roman Empire were slaves. And part and parcel of selling a person was put up for auction in a slave market, and there was a time when a price of a horse was more than that of a Jewish slave, and at another the price of slaves collapsed due to the excess Jewish slaves put up for sale. The prophesy that says that Israelite children will be wrenched away from their parents, never to be seen or heard from again, and this was fulfilled at the slave markets due to the Roman expulsion. Let's see, is it really credible to claim could this have been a self-fulfilling prophesy? Did the Jewish people all read about this in the Bible and then work hard to make those disasters come to pass? Did the Jews of Judea really want to have their homeland destroyed with them scattered over the whole of the Roman Empire, to be abused, dehumanized and enslaved under horrendous conditions for the rest of their wretched lives? Oh, and were the Romans good Bible-believers? Did they read the Torah and the verses that predicted this and so decided to initiate a major upheaval in the Roman Empire when they sent 12 Legions and their support services to destroy Judea as the Jewish state, just to make this prophesy come to pass?

2.18 Hardly.

2.19 As far as prophets not daring to make negative prophesies Mr. Atheist should read the biblical books of 1st & 2nd Samuel. There’s an account of one disaster after another recorded. The Jewish people were recorded as having done one wrong after another. If Mr. Atheist would read those books carefully he will note that there are whole hunks of time about which nothing was recorded, and obviously the Children of Israel were doing the right thing during those times, yet not a word was written about that. It has been said that the Hebrew Bible (“Old Testament”) was written either by God or an anti-Semite because the criticism of the Israelites has been legion.

2.20 Gen 17:7 “I will make my promise to you and your descendants for generations to come as an everlasting promise. I will be your God and the God of your descendants.”

Lev 26:44 “Even when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them or look at them with disgust. I will not reject or cancel my promise to them, because I am the LORD their God.”

Deut 4:27 “The LORD will scatter you among the people of the world, and only a few of you will be left among the nations where the LORD will force you to live.”

2.21 The notion that Jews will continue to exist at all while scattered among the nations is patently ridiculous in itself. There are many ancient nations (eg, the Basques) but no other nation speaks the same language as it did more than 3,000 years ago. In fact Hebrew was the only dead language to be revived and spoken by a whole nation. Truth is, if Moses could be resurrected he could walk the streets of Jerusalem today and converse comfortably with the average Israeli. No other nation occupies more or less the same territory, and most important, no other nation maintains a continuous literary record of its history – and that means that the Jews have an uninterrupted national consciousness. Which group other than the Jews have been expelled from their homeland, a remnant survive and kept their identity intact at all for more than 200 years much less that for 2,000 years? Only the Jews have accomplished this. In fact, it should be pointed out that the Roman Expulsion was the second time that the Israelites have been removed from their land. The first expulsion was by Nebuchadnezzar II after the siege of Jerusalem in about 600 BCE, that one lasted 70 years and many returned to the Land of Israel once the ban was lifted. Yet when every other ethnic group that immigrates to other lands they are only able to maintain their collective identity for 3 generations, maybe 4. For example, the Hispanics in the US have only been able to maintain their cultural identity for 3 generations and after that they fade into the American melting pot. Yet Jews have survived as a tiny minority for the last 2,000+ years in every country that they have wandered into, a feat that no other people have accomplished. I hope that Mr. Atheist would avoid objecting that the Jews were able to do it because of sheer force of will, originating from believing in the Bible prophesies. After all, if wishing-makes-it-so then other groups should have written such absurdly wild prophesies in their holy books and accomplished feats equal to or greater than that. Truth is, wishing does not make it so.

2.22 As far as the prediction that they will remain "few in number" goes, the Jewish people have been estimated to have been about 4 million in number 2,000 years back and they constituted about 9% of the population of the Greco-Roman Empire. Curiously, the Chinese people also numbered about the same at the same period. But look how the Chinese people have multiplied and expanded over the course of 2,000 years as they’ve been left relatively unmolested in a land of their own over the course of 2 millennia. So that shows the demographic growth potential that a people have. Yet, the Jewish people today did not attain the numbers that the Chinese did, instead Jewish population since Roman times has dropped to about 0.2% of the world's population. Did this happen because Jews have always been into small families from the time that the Torah was committed to writing at least 2,246 years ago?

2.23 Deut 28:37 “You will become a thing of horror. All the nations where the LORD will send you will make an example of you and ridicule you.”

2.24 And then there's the reality of anti-Semitism that is uniquely applied against the Jewish people. In fact historians have been puzzled at the intensity, universality and persistence of anti-Semitism. No other ethnic-religious hatred has endured those three qualities to the extent that the Jewish people have. Anti-Semitism is unique in that it spans time and cultures. In fact, the Jew-hate culminated in the genocide of 6,000,000 Jews at the hands of the Nazis. But then the early Catholic Church unwittingly fulfilled this very prophesy as they claimed that the Church had a covenant with God that superseded that of the Jews, and as a punishment for “deicide” the Jewish people were condemned to be the scapegoat for the ills of the world, destined to be cursed with perpetual wandering, no property with occupations heavily restricted which would essentially allow only those of money-lending and intellect. The Church pushed its doctrine that the Jew represents the quintessential example of what will happen to those who do not believe in Jesus. Now one may claim that the Church simply looked into the Bible, saw those verses and decided to fulfill it. Not so, for the Church claimed that the “old dispensation of the Jews” which the Old Testament contained was abolished by God and that the Church took over with a “New Covenant”. If the Church authorities would have consciously fulfilled that verse it would have indicated that the “old dispensation of the Jews” was still in force contradicting Christian doctrine. But the Church unwittingly fulfilled that one - not because they looked it up in their Bible – but rather their intense hatred of the Jews took over. Since the Church was out to show the superiority of the “New Covenant” over that of the “Old Testament” it certainly wasn’t about to consciously lend credence to it by fulfilling such a prophesy. Instead, they did it unwittingly, as a result of their passions.

2.25 (Deut 4:28 GW) “There you will worship (bow down to) wooden and stone gods made by human hands. These gods can't see, hear, eat, or smell.”

2.26 This was fulfilled particularly at very least by with many of the Jews of Spain and Germany who wanted to assimilate into non-Jewish society. In Spain and Portugal many turned to Christianity and converted to Catholicism by pain of death or under various degrees of duress and so willingly or unwillingly bowed down to statues made of wood and stone as a fulfillment of this prophesy. In Spain and Portugal most Jews were given 3 options, to convert to the Catholic Church, to leave the Iberian Peninsula and all of the territories held by those countries, or to die a as heretics or “Judaizers”. In those days many could not make the dangerous trek to relocate to other countries, or were barred from them, and so chose to outwardly accept the RCC and genuflect to their statues outwardly, while inwardly they rejected Christian doctrines and beliefs, and they practiced Judaism secretly as and called themselves ‘Conversos’. As far as For an account of this miserable period in history see Edward G. Flannery, The Anguish Of the Jews – Twenty Centuries of Antisemitism (Revised & Updated), Paulist Press, 1985, ISBN 0-8091-2702-4 chapter 6 entitled "An Oasis And An Ordeal".

2.27 In Germany, the Lutherans held sway and from then to this very day the Lutheran Church has no problem with displaying statues in their churches and their people bow in reverence toward them, so the Jews who assimilated did likewise and bowed down to their statues as well.

2.28 (Deut 4:31 GW) “The LORD your God is a merciful God. He will not abandon you, destroy you, or forget the promise to your ancestors that he swore he would keep.”

2.29 Despite all the horrors over the course of centuries the fact that the Jewish people have survived is evidence enough for a God that has kept that promise and kept at least a remnant alive.

2.30 Concrete evidence for this was when the establishment of the State of Israel was declared on 14 May 1948 and all the Arab states around her immediately went to war against her. It’s wildly improbable that such a state would come into being at all considering the condition of it’s people who endured WWII with many having been European refugees still traumatized by the Holocaust, with no formal standing army, should have beaten back the Arabs in the Israel’s Independence War of 1948, but that’s exactly what happened. Then in 1967 nine Arab armies lined up to crush the State of Israel and Israel countered them and beat them back in just 6 days, and non-Jewish journalists at the time were calling the Israeli victory a “miracle”. In 1973 the same armies took Israel by surprise on Yom Kippur, the day when Israel took off and was most defenseless because most of her regular and reserve soldiers were home for the holiday and a skeleton crew was left to defend the country, but Israel beat them back just the same. So God has not abandoned the Jewish people, and that should be clear if one has knowledge of history.

2.31 The following are prophesies that refer back to the post-Exodus Sinai event of the Israelites, but first a bit of background.

2.32 What I call the Sinai Event was where the Israelites were at Mt Sinai and the entire nation was recorded to be ear-witnesses to God having spoken to them from the top of the mountain, and where God gave the Ten Commandments to the entire Israelite nation. Now it was also recorded that when the Israelites left Egypt in the Exodus there were about 600,000 men on foot, besides the women and children:

2.33 Exod 12:37 GW “The Israelites left Rameses to go to Succoth. There were about six hundred thousand men on foot, plus all the women and children.”

2.34 If we assume a normal demographic distribution, 600,000 adult men would have women and children sufficient to make the number of Israelites to at very least 1.2 million people. Since it was recorded that the Israelites were reproducing quite vigorously despite their Egyptian slavery it would be safe to assume that the families had at least a couple of kids in tow…

2.35 Exod 1:7 GW “But the descendants of Israel had many children. They became so numerous and strong that the land was filled with them.”

2.36 …which would take the number of Israelites well over 2 million. So then in Sinai Dessert the narrative has it that God informed Moses that It was going to make an appearance to the entire nation all at once.

2.37 Exodus 19:9 GW “The LORD said to Moses, "I am coming to you in a storm cloud so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always believe you. Moses told the LORD what the people had said."

Exodus 19:16-20:1 GW “On the morning of the second day, there was thunder and lightning with a heavy cloud over the mountain, and a very loud blast from a ram's horn was heard. All the people in the camp shook with fear. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. All of Mount Sinai was covered with smoke because the LORD had come down on it in fire. Smoke rose from the mountain like the smoke from a kiln, and the whole mountain shook violently. As the sound of the horn grew louder and louder, Moses was speaking, and the voice of God answered him. The LORD came down on top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses went up. Then God spoke all these words:”

2.38 From there in Exodus 20:01-20:17 God gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments. No need to include the text here as Mr. Atheist can look it up and read it all himself. But the points I want to emphasize are:

2.39 Exodus 20:18-20 GW “All the people heard the thunder and saw the lightning. They heard the blast of the ram's horn and saw the mountain covered with smoke. So they shook with fear and stood at a distance. Then they said to Moses, "You speak to us, and we'll listen. But don't let God speak to us, or we'll die!" Moses answered the people, "Don't be afraid! God has come only to test you, so that you will be in awe of him and won't sin."”

2.40 So that was the Sinai Event where the entire Israelite nation heard the voice of God speaking out of the fire on Mt Sinai.

2.41 Now that prophesy was couched in rhetorical questions. The prophesy was that no other religion has ever, or will even so much as claim that God had talked to an entire nation directly and that every one of them heard it all; and no other religion has ever or will ever again claim that God took them out of slavery en masse:

2.42 (Deut 4:32-36 GW) “Search the distant past, long before your time. Start from the very day God created people on earth. Search from one end of heaven to the other. Has anything as great as this ever happened before, or has anything like it ever been heard of? Have any other people ever heard God speak from a fire and lived? You did!Or has any god ever tried to come and take one nation away from another for himself? The LORD your God used his mighty hand and powerful arm to do this for you in Egypt. He did this using plagues, miraculous signs, amazing things, and war. He did his great and awe-inspiring deeds in front of you. You were shown these things so that you would know that the LORD is God. There is no other god. He let you hear his voice from heaven so that he could instruct you. He showed you his great fire on earth, and you heard him speak from the column of fire.”

2.43 Here the writer of the Torah has taken a great risk. The text here uses the idea that only God would ever take a whole nation out of slavery and present Itself in a powerful demonstration to that entire nation, and that one could check all of history throughout all time and never find another example of this happening, not even a rumor of such an event. Now if either of those two events had ever happened to other than the Israelite nation before or since, then that would completely invalidate the Torah’s claim of a record of the experiences of the Israelite people with the Divine, and all would be required would be to throw the Torah and the entire Bible into the garbage. What I think is remarkable is that not only does the author of the Torah ask the reader to check things out and confirm the truth of it, but the beginning of verse 32 in this chapter even begs the reader to do so. For the Hebrew has the word "please" in it and it so much as challenges the reader to do so. Verse 32 starts out with "Ki sho'el na..." The word "Ki" translates into "for" in English, "sho'el" is "ask" or "search" and "na" is "please" in both ancient and modern Hebrew. For some reason that I can not explain no English translation acknowledges the existence of the word "please" in this verse. Not even Jewish translations mention it, but it's as clear as day to those who read it in Hebrew and it's significant as makes the risk of failure even greater. As far as you confirming the word "please" in this verse you don't have to take my word for it, just go to the rabbi of your choice or to one who reads Hebrew fluently and ask if Deuteronomy 4:32 has the word "please" in the first phrase of the verse.

2.44 The fact is that every other religion and philosophy has started with essentially one person. That person claims to have had a revelation of some sort, he convinces others, who convince others, who convince others. Sometimes the method of convincing is by the sword, sometimes by political pressure, and sometimes the naive and incredulous are taken in by a wild story and believe that somehow God confirmed it to them. The exact method of convincing is not important, but the fact that with every other religion their devotees believe because they accepted the words of someone via hearsay. In the case of the Jewish people this was not the case. In the case of Israelites, the both the Exodus and the Sinai experience happened to an entire nation all at once, The Israelite people saw and experienced something so unique and profound that it left a powerful and indelible impression on them and that has been transmitted down through the generations.

2.45 Now one may argue that the Children of Israel experienced a mass hallucination. Well, if everyone had a hallucination there was nothing to make certain that 2+ million people had the exact same hallucination. How could something like an identical mass hallucination occur? Maybe we can speculate that the entire nation came across a field of hallucinogenic mushrooms and everyone ate them at the same time and the hallucination started at the same time, but what would make everyone have the exact same hallucination? Then it stands to reason that everyone would have had different hallucinations and not the exact experience.

2.46 I had one person claim that the entire Sinai experience was contrived. He asked me to suppose that somehow Moses had contacts in China and they supplied him with pyrotechnic equipment sufficient to make the mountain appear to be on fire. And maybe Moses could have obtained explosive charges that were bored deep into the mountain with drilling equipment so to make the mountain quake. And maybe Moses could have obtained extremely powerful public address amplifiers and enormous hidden speakers, to make a voice boom out at 50,000 decibels “I AM THE LORD YOUR GOD WHO BROUGHT YOU OUT OF EGYPT TO BE YOUR GOD!!!” to give the Israelites the impression that God was speaking to them. So maybe that was the way Moses “did it”, and maybe he was cagey enough so that no one else was the wiser. So if it really happened that way, assuming that the technology was available to Moses, and, in collaboration with outsiders unknown to any Israelites, Moses pulled off a huge hoax that completely fooled 2+ million people in one fell swoop - then why hasn’t it ever been repeated? If it was done once, it could be done again. And for someone trying to concoct a religion the claim that God spoke to him/her in front of 2+ million people would be the strongest claim imaginable. That sort of performance would make the claim to whatever religion or philosophy one would want to sell to be nearly air-tight. Every founder of a religion would give their eye-teeth to have a start like that - but no other religion has ever even claimed nor will any religion ever convince an entire nation in go that God talked to them all, all at once. And for this reason the Sinai experience couldn’t be faked. No one can get 2+ million people to be completely convinced, without the slightest doubt at all, that they heard God’s voice boom from a mountain - unless it really happened.

2.47 And the Torah records that the Israelite people were not passive sheep that followed, believed and accepted everything that was told and given to them. There were a number of examples of the Israelites having complained and groused that their conditions were not comfortable enough. One place records that they complained that the drinking water was bitter in Exodus 15:24, that the food was dull Exodus 16:3, there was a minority who rebelled and attempted to foment an insurrection by claiming that Moses was just gathering power around himself Numbers 16:3. The Israelites were perfectly capable of resisting and complaining. The feistiness and rebelliousness of the Israelite people was described in the Torah as being “stiff necked”, yet despite that stiff-neckedness there is no record of anyone doubting the Sinai experience or the Exodus from Egypt.

2.48 In any case, toward the end of the Torah, Moses gave a final discourse when he told the Israelites of the future to ask their grandparents whether it all really happened:

2.49 (Deut 32:7) "Keep in mind the days of the past, give thought to the years of generations gone by: go to your father and he will make it clear to you, to the old men and they will give you the story."

2.50 Now if the miraculous history of the Sinai experience and the Exodus from Egypt were contrived by story tellers who spun the tale around a campfire, or an act of deliberate myth-making then asking the elders for confirmation would be fatal to the contrivance. If it didn’t happen then grandpa would say “My grandparents said that they never heard of such a thing. It’s bogus.” OTOH, every generation of Jews (well, at least up until 3 generations ago in Europe as many Jews hankered to assimilate into Christian or atheist gentile society) all had grandparents that confirmed that they received those accounts as fact from their grandparents as a tradition. And that the tradition of the Exodus and the Sinai experiences went all the way back.

2.50 Mr. Atheist has one other condition:

2.51 “And finally, if the prophecy is the lone success among a thousand failures. Anyone can throw prophecies against the wall until one sticks. The book or other source from which it comes must have at least a decently good record on other predictions.”

2.52 The Torah has a bunch of other predictions that have come to pass, some of them pretty horrendous. It provides a list of curses that will befall the Israelite people and those can be found from Deut 28:15 to Deut 28:68. Those curses have all come to pass throughout the history of the Israelite people. Obviously I can’t verify and give specific examples here of the individual fulfillments but it can easily be seen that many of them were fulfilled during the Holocaust, especially the one that predicts…

2.53 Deut 28:34 “The things you see will drive you mad.”

2.54 …was definitely fulfilled during the Holocaust as nearly all who survived suffered from permanent psychological damage that couldn’t be healed.

2.55 A number of the curses in that section obviously describe the effects of a siege on a city where the method by the attacking army was to slowly starve the population into complete helpless submission or death. Jerusalem was under siege a number of times, and those events are all recorded in history.

2.56 Admittedly, there are prophesies yet to be fulfilled. The section of blessings from Deut 28:1 to Deut 28:13 were fulfilled to a great extent during the reign of Kings David and Solomon but due to our tradition from Sinai we expect them to be fulfilled once again in the upcoming messianic age. Ok, so about 50% of he prophesies in the Torah have been fulfilled, but my point here is that it wasn’t "one out of a thousand". Not only those prophesies that I have offered were among the few success while all others have not come to pass.

2.57 One final thought. Mr. Atheist wrote:

2.58 “The Jewish people returned to their homeland in Israel just as the Bible said they would, but this isn't a genuine prediction - they did it because the Bible said they would.”

2.59 Just for the record, the return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel was not as simple as that, for many returned even though they were atheists, socialists and communists with social doctrines that didn’t allow them to take the Bible seriously. After the Bolshevik Revolution in Russian there were those Jews who had thrown off their religious beliefs and observances and enthusiastically joined the Communist Party. The problem was that there remained substantial Jew-hate in the ranks of gentile communists and Jews were only permitted very limited participation in political life, if at all. So a significant number of those Jewish socialists and communists saw no choice but to leave Russian and Poland, go to the Land of Israel. They would have gone elsewhere but there were fewer travel restrictions for Jews to there and the Land of Israel was severely undeveloped so they could easily express their socialist ideals by building the collective settlements known as the kibbutz in the Land of Israel. BTW, nearly all of the kibbutzim at that time were atheistic and anti-religious out of principle.

2.60 And today we have many “ultra-Orthodox” Jews who live in New York and Belgium who condemn the State of Israel because it was established and was established and is today maintained today by successive governments of non-religious and many anti-religious Jews. Since the State of Israel doesn’t come up their religious standards they have announced that they will not return to Israel until the messiah comes.

2.61 After WWII ended there were hundreds oft thousands of Jewish refugees still in Europe with no where to go. For some they didn’t have homes due to the destruction of the war. For others they had homes intact but non-Jews took them over and refused to return them to their rightful owners, and there was still a lot of Antisemitism and the courts would not help even if proof could be submitted. For other Jews just having experienced the trauma of the war in Europe with all the residual Jew-hate they refused to remain there. Yet, the European countries didn’t want them, the US, Canada and South America didn’t want them, so in 1947, when the UN voted for the establishment of a Jewish State it was moved by less than noble motives. The Jewish state provided a convenient dumping ground for the refugees. Yet many European Jews did not want to go to the Middle East because it was a backward and primitive place with millions of hostile Arabs. Yet there was no other choice because no country wanted the European Jews. Although it may be hard to believe to those who know little about Jewish history as it applies to the State of Israel, but only a small minority of Jewish immigrants to the State of Israel arrived willingly and out of choice. A vast majority were compelled to go there due to circumstances quite beyond their control.

2.62 On another occasion, after the creation of the Sate of Israel in 1948 and after the Arab armies failed to snuff out the fledgling state, Arab governments decided to expel the Jews that had been living in Iraq, Yemen, Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, etc. with the expectation that Israel would collapse under the burden of being swamped by Jewish refugees. To promote that end they confiscated all the property of the Jews and everything of even slight value, and expelled them with only what meager belongings they could carry in their hands. A vast majority of them, about 850,000 Jews from Arab lands, arrived in Israel over the course of the first 7 years of the State of Israel. The State had to incorporate and assimilate and enormous number of Jews who had no choice but to live in dire poverty in tent camps for the first few years as the State of Israel worked to assimilate and incorporate them into society. The arrivals were utterly penniless as the substantial property that they had accumulated over the centuries of living in Arab lands were all confiscated.
True, those Jews were religious and certainly did believe that sooner or later they would return to Israel, but if given a choice they wouldn’t have gone at that time and certainly not under those conditions!

2.63 So to say that Jews returned just because the Bible says so is a claim born out of simple yet understandable ignorance of the facts.

2.64 So there’s a curious irony in those two groups that returned to the Land of Israel as Torah prophesy. The one returned willingly but did not believe in the Bible as the revealed word of God, while the other believed but would not have gone at that time and under those circumstances.

2.65 Over 300 years ago King Louis XIV of France asked Blaise Pascal, the great French philosopher, to give him proof of the supernatural. Pascal answered: “Why, the Jews, Sire —the Jews.” We don’t have to speculate what Pascal meant when he gave this answer, because he took the trouble to spell it out. (See Pensees, para. 620, p. 285.) Pascal said that the fact that the Jewish people survived until the 17th century—to the time period when he was living—was nothing short of a supernatural phenomenon. If he was convinced by everything that kept the Jews alive up to his time, think of what he would have said had he lived to see the Holocaust.

2.66 There simply was no logical explanation for it, yet it has all come about according to prophesy.

2.67 So you want evidence for God? Consider both the existence of the natural world as well as “The Jews, Sire - the Jews!”


2.68 Addendum:

2.69 Question of the Week to Rabbi Moss:

2.70 Due to my business, I travel a lot and meet many people from different religions. I have met Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Christians of all denominations, and each and every one believes that their religion is the one true religion and it is the right one to follow.

2.70 We can't all be right. So how are you so convinced that you are not going to burn in hell by not following Catholicism? Or get Allah angry by not being a good Muslim? Ultimately should we pick a religion like we choose our lotto numbers; just hoping that when it all comes to an end we have made the right choice?

2.71 Best regards and may the right god be with you.

Imagine there was one belief that Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus all accepted as true. Wouldn't that be amazing? For these very different religions to agree on something - anything - is nothing short of a miracle. If all the major religions would concur on one divine revelation, there could be no stronger indication that this revelation is true.

2.73 Well, it exists. There is one revelation that all believe to be true. All religions agree that the Torah was given to the Jewish people at Mt Sinai. This fact is written clearly in the Christian and Muslim scriptures. And the eastern masters have veneration for the Torah and its divine wisdom, to the point that they actually send Jewish seekers back to Judaism. The Dalai Lama is known to have told Jews who come to him "Why do you come to me? Go home and study Torah!"

2.74 So all major religions believe in the divine origin of Judaism. The same cannot be said for any other belief system. This is an incredibly significant point. It means that while so many Jews walk around unsure of their beliefs, most of the world today believes that G-d gave the Torah to the Jews.

2.75 But there's more. Believing Judaism is true does not mean negating other spiritual paths. Judaism teaches that while Judaism is the way for Jews, it is not for everyone. We are not out to convert the world to Judaism. Unlike almost every other religion, Jews do not missionize. This is because we believe not everyone needs to be Jewish.

2.76 A non-Jew can be close to G-d, go to heaven, and lead a moral and meaningful life, all the while remaining a non-Jew. Spiritual paths other than Judaism can be valid, as long as they conform to the seven basic laws for all humanity, known as the Laws of the Children of Noah (Noah being the father of all humankind). The seven laws are: do not serve idols, do not curse G-d, do not murder, do not commit acts of sexual immorality, do not steal, set up a fair justice system, and treat animals mercifully.

2.77 This is amazing. All religions believe in Judaism, and yet Judaism leaves room for other religious expressions. I am proud to be part of a belief system that can accept others, and is accepted by others. Not that this is the basis of my faith. Judaism doesn't need outside confirmation to be acceptable. But this is a strong argument against those who think that faith is a zero-sum game. And it provides a vision for how the world can live in harmony - many paths, one divine truth.

2.78 Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Moss