Thursday, December 8, 2011

How do Orthodox Jews explain the Exodus?

Originally posted on The Skeptitcher Rebbe
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

One of the first things I came across that began my path towards doubt was the population problem of the exodus. The Torah tells us that 600,000 fighting men left Egypt during the exodus, which would amount to about 2 to 3 million people in total. What is the problem with this scenario? Egypt at the time only had about 2 - 3 million people in total! This would have meant that all of Egypt was practically gone at the time of the exodus, yet with all of the well documented history we have from Egypt and the surrounding nations at that time, not one thing mentions this, nor does it indicate that anything changed at all.

But it gets even better, apparently our tradition tells us that it was only 1/5, others say 1/50 and others say 1/500 of the Israelites left Egypt. So conservatively using the 2 million estimation that right before the exodus there were 10,000,000 or 100,000,000 or even 1,000,000,000 Israelites living in Egypt. Now if that isn't totally absurd I don't know what is.

Has any Jewish scholar addressed this issue? Do frum Jews simply blind themselves to this glaring problem? I know that I did for a long time, before I finally came to terms with its implications.
Posted by Skeptitcher Rebbe at 9:34 PM


Lisa said...
Well, there are a few things:

1) How do you know that Egypt at the time had about 2-3 million people? How much of that is based on conjecture from the average settlement in Egypt at the time (and we'll get to what "at the time" means in a bit), and how many settlements in Goshen (eastern Delta) were included in the survey?

2) When are you looking in Egyptian history? Are you looking at the 18th or 19th Dynasties? The two strongest dynasties in all of Egyptian history? Or are you looking at the end of the 6th Dynasty, as you ought?

3) Midrash is midrash. You can't use a literal reading of a midrash in that way. You might as well ask how Pharaoh's daughter got her magical stretching powers. חמושים means armed. That's simple pshat.

As far as your last question, yes, most Jewish scholars just ignore the issue. But in part, that's because the various disciplines of ancient near east history (Assyriology, Egyptology, Archaeology, etc.) take a lot of time to master. And most secondary sources in the field make assumptions that Orthodox Jews disagree with. Since they aren't qualified to discuss these assumptions, let alone challenge them, they step back and say either "Naarischkeit -- it's obviously prejudiced against us" or "It will eventually be explained, even if we don't understand it now." The first of those is obviously nothing more than intellectual bankruptcy. The second isn't.

I did some graduate work in Assyriology at Hebrew U back in the late 80s. And I can tell you that much of what's touted as a scholarly consensus is only really the consensus of a handful of scholars whose views can't easily be challenged if you want to continue on in the field. And there are many assumptions made in the field that pre-exist the field itself and are simply never seriously addressed.
October 6, 2010 12:34 PM

Skeptitcher Rebbe said...

First off thanks for the comments, I really appreciate them. As to your points:

1) I am basing this off of the work of Archeologists. I will get back to you on your points once I try to find out exactly how this figure was determined but I think you would have to argue that the population was vastly different than what has been determined which sounds like it would be a stretch.

2) To argue that the exodus occured during the 6th dynasty sounds pretty ridiculous. The 6th dynasty lasted from about 2345-2181 CE. Looking at Melachim I 6:1 "And it was in the four hundred and eightieth year after the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt, in the fourth year, in the month Ziv, which (is) the second month of Solomon's reign over Israel, that he did (begin to) build the house of the Lord." This tells us that the building of the first Temple under Shlomo HaMelech was 480 years after the exodus. Even using the latest date of the 6th Dynasty 2181 CE this would mean that the building of the first Temple would have occured at around 1701 CE! Do you think that is a reasonable? Based on Melachim the earliest the Exodus could have been would be around 1500s CE. Well after the 6th Dynasty.

3)Good point.

Also the practical implications of a group of 2.5 million Jews is very problematic as well.
October 6, 2010 4:38 PM

Lisa said...

A group of 2.5 million Jews is problematic in the sense that overseeing them is like herding cats.

As far as the date of the 6th dynasty is concerned, that's one of the assumptions I'm referring to. Did you know that the approximate date for the end of the Bronze Age and beginning of the Iron Age is based on a misreading of a biblical verse? That mistake predates modern archaeology as well.

You know I Sam 13:9, right? It says אין חרש בישראל and goes on to say that the Jews had to go to the Philistines to get their tools sharpened. And the King James translation gives that Hebrew as "There was no smith in Israel", which is commonly assumed to refer to a blacksmith. The division of human history into Stone and Bronze and Iron ages is as old as ancient Greece, so someone looked at this verse and concluded that they'd found the dividing line between the Bronze and Iron Ages in Israel, right? Because the Philistines had iron, and the Israelites didn't.

The problem, obviously, is that חרש doesn't mean blacksmith. A חרש ברזל is. But the verse doesn't say that. A חרש is anyone who takes a raw material and turns it into something refined. A חרש אבן is a stonesmith. A חרש זכוכית, if the term ever appeared, would be a glazier.

But the assumption was that the Iron Age started around the time of Saul. At least in Israel. And the chronologies of Egypt and Mesopotamia have coalesced around that. Egyptian kings and dynasties were once considered to be consecutive in all cases. As a result, Egyptologists put the start of the 1st Dynasty at about 6000 BCE. Eventually, they proposed overlapping dynasties and reigns in order to bring it down to where it is now, at about 3100 BCE. Largely (though not entirely) because of the Bronze/Iron thing.

But if you look at the archaeological history of the land without dates (and archaeology is without concrete absolute dates in this period; no coins that say 3000 BCE), you can see a series of settlements of the land by different cultures. You can see a lot about their level of material culture and about how levels of habitation began and ended. A layer of ash between two levels suggests strongly that the lower (earlier) one was destroyed in fire.

And what you get matches the biblical historical narratives. It's just that with the chronology of Egypt stretched out artificially like it's on some Procrustean bed (or Og's, if you like), everything gets labeled differently.

There are many reasons why the end of the Old Kingdom (end of the 6th Dynasty) should be dated to the time of the Exodus. And there are other issues as well. Shlomo's kingdom is utterly missing from the archaeological record. Unless you assume that the Bible was making most of it up. But there's archaeological evidence of a huge empire stretching from the eastern Nile Delta up to the Euphrates. Its inhabitants spoke Biblical Hebrew and used biblical weights and measures. And scholars are split on whether it fell apart due to invasions from Egypt or civil war. Which you'd think would be an obvious match. But since that empire was during the Second Intermediate Period in Egypt (right before the 18th Dynasty), it "couldn't have been Shlomo", and it gets called the "Hyksos Empire", despite the fact that ancient documents that mention the Hyksos (like Manetho) say that they ruled from Memphis, far to the south of the southernmost part of the empire, and don't even suggest that they ruled anywhere outside of Egypt.

Anyway, there's a short piece I ghostwrote about 15 years ago on the subject. It was for Jewish Action, so it's not exactly a scholarly piece, but if you're interested, I put the link in my initial comment.
October 6, 2010 5:27 PM

Rabbi Jeffrey Falick said...
"And what you get matches the biblical historical narratives."

Um, no, Lisa,

There is no material evidence whatsoever of an exodus taking place. There is real scholarship easily available on these matters, notably Finkelstein and Silberman's "Unearthing the Bible" is an excellent starting point. There is evidence of major population upheavals and settlement in the highlands around 1200 BCE. This is suspected to have been caused by a re-organization of Canaanite life. These were possibly the real ancestors of the Israelites. Again, see Finkelstein and Silberman.

It is true that there is archeological support for the events of the bible, broadly understood, from after David/Solomon and on. There is absolutely no evidence of an exodus or conquest as described in the bible. Egyptology, with tiny exceptions, is irrelevant.
October 7, 2010 2:36 PM

Lisa said...
Jeff, Unearthing the Bible is sitting on my bookshelf, about two and a half feet away from me right now. What makes you think I haven't read it?

What you don't understand is that their view assumes the conventional chronology of the strata. It can't be used as a support for that chronology without it being circular reason.

I laughed a lot while reading that book. Not because I don't respect their scholarship. On the contrary. The scholarship I disrespect is the sort that "broadly understands" the biblical historical narrative. If there's no room for the biblical account of Solomon's kingdom in the Iron Age or at the end of the Bronze Age, say so. People like Hershel Shanks who weasel around with their "broad understandings" in order to shoehorn the biblical account into the archaeological evidence are unfortunate.

But while I read that book, I did so with the question of the dating of the stratigraphy in mind. And all the way through the book, supposed "conflicts" turned out to be nothing but artifacts of an incorrect stratigraphic dating.

I've been meaning to post a commentary of the book on my blog, going over these "conflicts" point by point. You've given me some more impetus to do so.

Did you read the article I linked to above? Bear in mind that the biblical historical narratives being accurate doesn't in any way prove that the religious elements in the Bible are for real. Your atheism is safe on that count. But the royal inscriptions from Egypt and Assyria are just as replete with supernatural events and claims that their deities got involved with the events. Scholars don't throw out these inscriptions because of the religious aspects; they simply disregard them for the purposes of history.
October 7, 2010 2:51 PM

Skeptitcher Rebbe said...
The following comment is from gntessler

They were unable for some technical reason to post this comment themselves, so they e-mailed me and I am posting it on their behalf.

dear SR;
I tried to post on your site, but was unable to get past the 'select profle' part. bottom line: dont give up your skepticism! I would like to comment on Lisa's comments.

The date of the exodus of Israelites from Egypt is usually in the framwork of 1500-1200 BCE. A few opinions have pushed it back to the 1700 BCE era. This is the opinion of Immanual Velikovsky and David Rohl, whose theories on the dating of the exodus have been definitively refuted. Lisa would have you believe that the exodus was in the 6th dynasty ( 2323-2150 BCE ) because of the nonagenerian, Pepe II ( 2246-2152 BCE ). This date, you may notice is 1000 years earlier than the generally accepted date of the exodus !!
Secondly, as far as the number of Israelites, 600,000 men between the ages of 20 to 60, plus their wives, children and elderly would be, as you mentioned approximately 2,500,000 people. The statement: Midrash is Midrash is just a silly statement. Rashi states that during the plague of darkness, 80% of the Israelites died. Today, all, i.e. 100%, Torah-observant, God-fearing Jews absolutely believe this Midrash. It is irrelevant to Reform and Conservative Jews, since they generally don't believe the exodus even happened, ( See passover sermon of Rabbi David Wolpe, 2001 ). This would mean that there were at least 12,500,000 Israelites on the day before the darkness plague. Remember, although the Israelites may have been slaves, they were not in a concentration camp nor gulag, where a few guards could guard many thousands of prisoners. This was an active Egyptian civilization. Estimates or "guesstimates" of the Egyptian population at the time of the exodus was between 2-3 milliion up to 5 million people. Of course these numbers could be based on errant information disseminated by a coterie of conspiratorial egyptologists. Anyway, this would put the population of Egypt at that time to be close to 20,000,000!! An absolutely impossible number.
October 7, 2010 8:13 PM

Skeptitcher Rebbe said...
The following comment is from gntessler continued...

SR, if you wanted to use any of the above as a comment on your site, that would b OK. You should know that many, many, many dates and events in just the Chumash have been refuted by data and logic. Even in Nevi'im, the numbers of soldiers in Israelite armies are beyond credulity. Although we all agree that the Torah is not a "History Book", it does give dates and events that can be verified or falsified.
I would like to close with a "Vort" from this week's parsha, Noach.
The world was created in the year 3761 BCE ( 5771 CE, which we celebrated on Rosh Hashana , 5771 -2010 = 3761 ). Noach was born in the year 1056 , 2705 BCE. At the age of 600 yrs, Noach set sail in his ark with his menagerie and relatives, 2105 BCE. In the year 2104 BCE, Noach descended from the ark, presumably finding a world totally devoid of life, possibly plant but certainly no animals. All the events of the story can be explained by one word: Miracle ! except one.
In the year 2104 BCE , Egypt was in the First Intermediate Period ( 2181-2055 BCE ) There is absolutely no evidence of a sudden cessation of life in Egypt. History in Egypt was continuous as is well documented. Further east, 2104 BCE was the twilight years of the Sumerian civilization and the rising of the Akkadian civilization, which was called the Sumerian Renaissance. Again there is absolutely no evidence of an end to civilization in that year, and historical documention shows continuity. Further east we come to the Indus Valley in India. In the year 2104 BCE, the Harappan culture was in full swing. Again no sudden cessation of life. And finally, even further east, in China, the Xia dynasty existed. Although several decades ago, the Xia dynasty was thought to be only a legend, there now is documention of its existance. It was followed by the Shang dynasty.
The discrepancy between the dates and details of the Flood and historical continuity of these civilizations cannot be explained away by "miracles".
October 7, 2010 8:15 PM

Skeptitcher Rebbe said...

You claim that the Exodus occured during the 6th Egyptian dynasty, correct?

For clarification do you believe that the Exodus occured in the time around 2300-2100 BCE or do you think that the 6th Egyptian dynasty occured around 1500-1200 BCE?
October 7, 2010 8:25 PM

Lisa said...
SR, I think it happened in either 1476 BCE or 1310 BCE.

I'd like to reply to gntessler's comments.

Bringing up Velikovsky and Rohl any time someone suggests that the conventional chronology may be wrong is an ad hominem fallacy. For the record, though, Velikovsky was wrong because his chronology was unworkable, and because he was trying so hard to make the archaeology fit the biblical accounts that he made some embarrassing (for him) mistakes. He also had no familiarity whatsoever with Akkadian or Egyptian, and he came up with a lot of whoppers as a result.

"Midrash is midrash" is not a silly statement. You're unfortunately right that there are a lot of haredim who take midrashim too literally, too often. But it doesn't change the fact that Rambam and his son Avraham both referred to anyone who takes midrashim uncritically and literally is a fool. Which is a fairly strong statement.

I'm not interested in answering for the Artscrollists and DaatTorahists.

I'm a "Torah-observant, God-fearing Jew", and I don't take that 80% thing literally. And before you ask, I'm not one of those radical left-wing-barely-modern-orthodox Jews, either. So the 12.5 Million figure is nothing but a strawman argument. Please, by all means knock the strawman down if you like; it doesn't interest me.

And again, when you say "Estimates or 'guesstimates' of the Egyptian population at the time of the exodus was between 2-3 milliion up to 5 million people", you're begging the question of what "at the time of the exodus" means, and what the source of that estimate is. Your comment about "a coterie of conspiratorial egyptologists" is yet another strawman. I didn't say that, and I don't believe it. I think the men and women working in this field and related fields are honest and intelligent and seeking the truth just as much as anyone else. I also think they're hampered by an incorrect chronology.

Hidden assumptions are insidious, because they never get addressed. Not to prove them and not to disprove them. They're taken for granted the way fish take water for granted and we take air for granted.

And "many, many, many dates and events in just the Chumash have been refuted by data and logic" is a vague claim that I don't think you can substantiate.

Lastly, in terms of the Flood happening during the FIP in Egypt, you're again relying on the conventional chronology. I'm certainly not suggesting that there was a global flood during the FIP. Did you see someone else making that claim, or is it a third strawman?

See, I'm not interested in proving the Bible right. Though it seems to me that you're very interested in the converse. "dont give up your skepticism!" comes across as the sort of thing a kiruv worker or missionary might say. I certainly wouldn't want SR to ever give up using his mind critically, but I get the feeling that you want him to be a "skeptic" (in the sense that you use it) uncritically.

I'm like 90-95% convinced that it's all true. Which is enough for me until evidence to the contrary comes along. It was a lot less before I started studying ancient history. And gntessler: there's a difference between studying a field and rummaging through books trying to find talking points that can be used as bludgeons against those with whom you disagree. I'm just saying.
October 8, 2010 11:36 AM

Skeptitcher Rebbe said...

Thanks for your comments again. Since you seem to be fairly involved with this subject could you inform me how the archeologists came up with their current chronology and what assumptions they made that were evidently false, in your opinion? Is there any place, preferable online, where I can read up on what the archeologists discovered as well as the ancient documents that these archeologists used?

I see what you are saying about how archeologists may have been basing their findings on mistaken assumptions, I just find it difficult to accept that Egyption history as it is currently determined by the majority of educated archeologists in the field could happen to all make a mistake of this magnitude, ie essentially shortening Egypts history by at least 700 years or so. Also do you have anything from archeologists who have seen and rejected this view so I could see both sides of the argument, because you seem to be saying that archeologists of today are refuting another view of history not the one you are supporting. If they have not refuted this view, why is that? Has it not been presented to them?
October 8, 2010 12:39 PM

David said...
There's a bit of a trick, here. People (and, Lisa, correct me if I'm wrong) who believe in the Torah don't generally do so because archaology has proved some or all of it to be accurate. They accept the truth of the Torah as an a priorii fact. People who approach it from a scholarly perspective generally don't accept the Torah simply because there's little archaological evidence to support the history therein. However, those who both accept the Torah as "true" and have some interest or acceptance of modern scholarship will generally find (and often go to great lengths to find) some way to reconcile-- at least in their own minds-- the archaeological evidence with the Torah.
October 12, 2010 8:29 AM

Skeptitcher Rebbe said...

The problem isn't the lack of evidence for the Torah, it's the evidence that has been found which plainly contradicts the Torah's account.
October 12, 2010 9:38 AM

Anonymous said...
great dialogue -- LISA, for all of us who have no idea what to think, and are trying for years to make sense of our Judaism, please consider some long form article or a book. If you want, I will put you in contact with some publishers who could be interested. You write very clearly, you have done a lot of research, you have much to say. If you are persuasive, it could really help us all in our profound confusion over Torah, history, accuracy, archaeology, etc.

Tuvia (Todd)
October 13, 2010 9:07 PM

Lisa said...
Tuvia, I've been working on a book for a while now. But a full time job and a 10 year old daughter aren't conducive to research and concentration. If you're interested, you could email me at lisa at starways dot net.
November 2, 2010 12:46 PM

Skeptitcher Rebbe said...

abele derer said...
There are a couple of points that I will focus on, the stronger ones that you mentioned.

1. The Aztec myth does not mention the number of witnesses. In fact, according to one version I read, all of them met in a cave. Most caves aren't too big. So it MAY have been a small number of people who were believed to have been on the journey.
Second, how do you know anyone believed the myth? In fact, according to a Lous Weisburton in "Aztec Civilization" the Aztec's are known to have deliberately REVISED their own history to glorify their past"(24). That means that no one believed it. They wrote a glorious history, after they were conquered by the Christians. Did anyone believe the sexy myths? We have no way of knowing, and the fact that each version of the journey contradicts the other versions tells us that no one believed it. Kinda like the Harry Potter myth.
Third do they have the ANY commemorations of the event?

2. I don't have the burden of proof to show that the chain never broke. Indeed, it is possible that the chain broke. It is possible that flying-spaghetti monsters convinced them to accept a false history. All I am saying is that the evidence I am presenting has never been wrong and nothing even remotely close to it has been shown to be wrong.

3. I will focus on one of the poins I mentioned, that the sinia events were a miracle. All I am saying is that we have no right to assume that God would have caused various beliefs about the miracles. Citing a non-miraculous event is of no use when trying to decipher HOW God makes people think when He perfoms miracles.

3. The Zeitoun apparitions are an interesting case, one which I actually wrote a paper on when I was in college.
So how should we deal with this case? The first thing skeptics of miracles (me included)is whether there is a plausible natural cause of this phenominon. There is: Someone either in the vicinity or in the Church itself used a flashlight or spotlight to create a "flashing intermittent light," the words used by one of the witnesses.
So, the believers respond, "but we searched the area and we didn't find a spotlight in the vicinity."
Skeptics: Who searched? How many people searched the church or the vicinity? The answers are not forthcoming.
In short, I BELIEVE THE EVIDENCE. I believe that there was a "flashing intermittent light." However, I merely claim that it was a natural event.
Do you believe that manna fell for 14,600 days? You don't. You simply ignore the evidence. And for no reason (you present an alternative naturalistic approach, which is also possible.)
The point is that optical allusions do exist. And hallucinations do exist. What is remarkable about the sinai history is that it is too extensive for it to be the product of a hallucination.

4. Regarding the Radak, that's my point exactly. Fifty-five years is too short of an amount of time for the chain to be broken. Also, the chain of miracles wasn't neccesarily broken -- so you haven't met your burden of proof.

5. Indeed, however, why did so many people forsake the Torah? Because, as the Rambam tells us, people are beholden to the beliefs of their neighbors. It is human nature. And it's very sad. God can bang you over the head a hundred times -- but you will still be more-impressed by what people around you do. A friend of mine, a frum guy, said that he was as devistated by the Jets recent playoff loss than he was by his broken engagement (which she broke)!! And I believe him. If every new yorker is into the Jets, we are into the Jets.
God realized that the only way for the Jews to believe was for other nations to believe in the historicity of the Torah. Before the Jews were exiled, God ensured that other nations would believe in the Sinai events -- Christians and Muslims.
January 25, 2011 2:12 PM

Skeptitcher Rebbe said...
1. I don't see why any of these questions couldn't be posed towards the Sinai myth. I don't see how a commemeration of the event adds or detracts anything from the likelyhood of any story being true.

2. If you are trying to claim that the story of the revelation at Sinai is true, simply because the story exists and was accepted as truth, then any break in the chain shows how this story could be made up, and the descendants of that group convinced about a story of this nature of which they never heard before. It seems that it is plausible that the story was made up, and that is the most rational thing to assume. Just because something hasn't been disproven (I think there is enough evidence to disprove the event though) doesn't make it true.

Can you prove that Mohammed didn't get a revelation from G-d? Can you prove that Jesus wasn't ressurrected? I think you get my point.

3) Again I am unsure about what you mean here. G-d isn't causing people to believe certain things about these events, the events themselves give rise to memories upon which people structure their beliefs. I don't see how a memory of an event should make a difference if it were miraculous or natural as long as it was an important event for the nation/group of people.

3(again)) Same skepticism could (and should) be applied to the sinai event. What sort of people investigated the Sinai event? How many?

Apparently most of the narrative seems to be based on natural events with additional (miraculous) things entering the story over a period of time. How do you know that it was G-d speaking and not some other person? Weren't the people forbidden from approaching the mountain? Could that possibly have anything to do with some trickery going on that Moses didn't want the people to find out about.

I agree with your skeptical analysis, I just wish you would be consistent in your approach to faith/miracle claims. I am skeptical of all such claims, and Sinai is no different for me.

4) Why is it too short of a time? When a chain of tradition is broken it is broken. If the people need to be taught about the Torah they should have known about and they accept it even though they hadn't heard of it before, this disproves the Kuzari argument whether it be 100 years or 1 year. 55 years definitely seems like more than enough time to me, I don't see why not.

5) Yes, they went after their neighbors culture, a convinient place to introduce an embellished story about a national revelation for which the nation of Israel "forgot" because of their attraction to the idols of their neighbors.

I don't see this as supporting your point that the Sinai event must be true. It sounds more like the opposite. Many of the Jews, (and others like the Samaritans, etc) will accept a myth like that of Sinai to be like their neighbors who believed in it, even though they never received any tradition of it.
January 30, 2011 2:47 AM

abele derer said...
1. The fact that the event was believed to have been commemorated with everlasting commemorations makes it MUCH harder for people to accept the event. Here, people shouldn't have merely asked: Why didn't we hear about the event from our ancestors but ALSO, "Why haven't we heard about the Sabbath if millions of our ancestors were commanded to keep it it forever?"
The Aztec myth does not claim any commemorations (and, again, it fails to mention the number of people).

2. I don't care if you think that it is plausible for this thing to have been made up, plausible that my evidence is fallible. Show me that it is indeed plausible for people to accept false national, heavily commemorated history. The only way you can do that is by showing a parallel event.
I don't know if Muhamed is lying. Buy I do know that the evidence he is presenting is fallible: People always lie. If I have fallible evidence for a miracle, I ignore it.
3. Again, you are claiming that God, even when performing a miracle, would SURELY not intervene to solidify the nation's unified and unanimous belief and acceptance of this event. How do you know? Please show me at least three confirmed miraculous events, and show me that these miraculous event lead to divergent beliefs about these events, and you will have made a relevant point. Until then, you haven't.
3 (again). OK. So you are claiming that you believe that manna fell for 14,600 days, but that you skeptically claim that it was a natural event? If that is your claim, then you aren't attacking Kuzari. You are presenting a different argument, which we can discuss.
4. If it was for 55 years, then IT IS NOT BROKEN. Broken, in this context, means that people believed in an event which they could not have checked its veracity from their ancestors. Here, they could have. SO YOUR POINT IS OF NO RELEVANCE.
January 30, 2011 4:54 PM

Skeptitcher Rebbe said...
1. I think the entire Aztech nation is said to have witnessed these miracles, and as it was a myth about their origins, I have no reason to assume that they didn't believe it. Most of the myths of ancient peoples were believed to be true by the populace, I see no compelling reason to assume the trend was changed in this situation.

2. You are trying to prove the event of Sinai out of the story itself. History shows that people are extremely gullible and ancient peoples were especially so, not to mention they were also very superstitious and had little to no access to check facts, nor the motivation to.

If the statement "People always lie" (which btw isn't true, but I understand your point, that people will often make up or exaggerate stories) is enough to dismiss Mohammed, then I see no reason that the evident statement "People are very gullible" can not equally dismiss the Sinai event.

3. I find it funny that your use of evidence against the Sinai event (that there aren't any divergent claims) you claim is a result of G-d's tampering with our brains. If that is the argument you use, then why should I accept the stories of people who's minds are so easily tampered with. Why would G-d need to tamper with peoples brains anyhow? It seems a rather suspicious presumption, one that could prove any event and doesn't add weight to the Sinai story, but rather weakens it.

3 (again) I never said I accepted the event as stated. You don't accept the story about The Zeitoun apparitions exactly as stated, but rather ignore the religious aspects of the story and understand them of exaggerations of a natural event. I see it the same way with the manna. There was probably some food that the Israelites (or some other people) may have had access to in the desert. They found it in the morning and assumed it had fallen from heaven. This happened sporadically from time to time, but eventually the story was told as if it happened every single day, except Shabbos.
January 30, 2011 10:02 PM


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