Support for the idea that the Torah is divine.
Most of the ideas in this are not mine.† They come from a wide variety of sources and have been mixed together.† Normally I would attempt to give credit to the sources but Iím afraid that I canít.† This is also the first attempt and this summary.† Comments are welcome at Yaakov@Myadar.com.†††
Why I donít talk about proof.
Proof is a slippery notion.† Basically there are three kinds of proof.† One kind is witnesses.† If we are discussing the question of whether G-d created the universe or whether G-d exists, there are no witnesses in the commonly accepted meaning of the word.† There would have to be someone beside God who was around before the universe was created and who can testify now.† We do not expect to find someone like that.
The second kind is physical evidence.† Again that doesnít work.† Yes we have a physical world but we donít have Godís fingerprints showing that he did anything.†
The third kind of proof is logical or mathematical.† The reason why this doesnít work requires getting in the theory of language.† Basically all languages have built in assumptions.† Math does also.† We assert that 1 plus 1 equals 2.† We do not have a proof, we just assume it.† It makes sense to us but we have no proof.† We also assert that you cannot divide by zero.† We offer no mathematically proof.† We just assume it.† Obviously any verbal proof of the existence of God would get tangled up in the assumptions made in the language we are speaking.† Since we cannot speak in a language with no assumptions, we cannot offer a proof without assumptions.† The fact of those assumptions invalidates the poof.†
If we think about it, you have no proof
that I exist.† These words could have
been produced by random electrical impulses from a voltage spike in a server
somewhere.† The legal documents of my
birth, passports, marriage, tax returns etc. could all have been forged.† Iím sure that we could generate a conspiracy
theory to account for my existence if we wanted.
The bottom line is that we canít prove anything.† The best we can hope for is a good reason to suppose that something is true.† Since my goal at this point to give a good reason suppose that Torah is divine, I will move on to that.†
Structure of the Torah.
The Torah, for these purposes, consists of Genesis which a kind of preamble to the discussion of the generation that wandered in desert and got the revelation on Mount Sinai.† Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, which are the discussion of the events in the desert and the laws given there.† The last part is Deuteronomy which is a farewell address by Moses.†
If we assume that the Torah was not divine then we have to look at the pieces and figure out why anyone would have inserted them into the document.† The most common counterclaim is that the Torah was written or compiled centuries later in order to create a believable religion that rabbis could foist on the Jewish nation.† We will see why this doesnít make sense.†
Heroic literature is not unknown in the world but there are commonalities among those literatures.† The commonalities are on the left.† The Torahís response is on the right.†
Main hero protagonist is a firstborn male
Cain† a first born but is evil††††† Noah† first born††††††††††††††††††††††††††
Abraham†† second born††††††††††† Isaac† second born
Jacob† second born†††††††††††††††††† Reuven† first born but gets into trouble
The leader creates a dynasty
Moses, after going up on the mountain and talking to G-bringing down the 10 commandments, and leading the Jews for 40 years passes the torch of leadership to a second cousin.†
The heros are described as wonderful people, almost perfect.† Faults are rarely listed.
Abraham† argues with G-d saving the life of his nephew Lot who was a thoroughly
unsavory character.† Abraham sends a
wife and son out into the wilderness with insufficient provisions.† Divine intervention is required to save his
Jacobís sons sell their brother into slavery.† Judah visits someone he thinks a prostitute but who is actually his sonís widow.†
Miraculous events take place in private settings with limited numbers of witnesses.
The 10 plagues in Egypt are witnessed
by the entire population of Egypt and all the Jews.† Almost certainly upwards of 10,000,000
The problems with the commandments
Anyone inventing heroic literature would choose more heroic figures and would not risk unbelievers complaining that the events were fictitious.† Remember that we know that this book was around during times where Egypt was a dominant world power.† We have no evidence that they tried to wipe out the embarrassing story.† We know that the victors write the history.† The victors didnít try to rewrite this history.
The second problem with the idea of the
Torah as a mechanism to create a religion is that it is completely unappealing,
especially to a patriarchy.
The most obviously unappealing requirement is circumcision.† Adult circumcision without anesthetic is hardly something that men yearn for.†
Family purity restrictions make wives sexually unavailable to their husbands for significant amounts of time every month.† Biblically it can amount to 25% of the time for some women.†
In many cultures worldwide casual adultery is ubiquitous.† Not considered a big deal.†† Yet the Torah unaccountably makes it punishable by death.† Why?
The dietary restrictions forbid the cheapest and most easily accessible proteins.† Bottom feeding fish (like catfish), pork, shellfish, rodents, marsupials and any animals killed with a spear or bow and arrow are all forbidden.† Additionally many animals which were considered healthy by normal standards are not healthy by Jewish standards.† Today in the US only some 40% of beef cattle are healthy enough for Jews.†
Another issue created by the Torah is the financial problems of keeping Shabbath and holidays.† We tend to ignore them these days but for farmers and ranchers the restrictions could play havoc with their income.† The obvious potential downsides were disastrous.†
But worst of all, after going through all of these restrictions and obligations the Torah gives us the bad news.† In Leviticus there is a horribly crushing description of what happens when we screw up.† Anyone with a good imagination wants to not pay attention.† †But then in Deuteronomy we find out that we will screw up and all the horrible stuff will happen anyway.†
The bottom line is that nobody would consider the Torah a saleís pitch for doing what God wants.† So the question comes, who came up with this book and why is it popular?†
The obvious conclusion is that there is no good reason for anyone to have written the book or for the book to have stayed popular for 3300 years unless it was divinely ordained.†