Thursday, May 31, 2012

Archeology and the Bible


Dear Reader,

About a month ago I began a discussion with one of our readers (Elemir) regarding archaeological proofs for the authenticity of the Bible. My protagonist claimed that there were many examples of archeological discoveries that contradict the timeline mentioned in the Torah. I offered refutations to his examples and provided several of my own that, I believe, support the events, people, and sometimes even timelines listed in the Torah. Our debate is ongoing. At the behest of one of my colleagues (Rabbi Lampel), I am beginning a new thread entitled Archeology and the Bible. The original conversation began, oddly enough, in the comment section of our post entitled Yom HaAtzmaut. Rabbi Lampel has compiled a document with all of the relevant comments from that post. The document can be viewed here. Alternatively, you may view the comments in the original post here.

SC    

86 comments:

  1. To Lisa:

    First, to answer your question. Archaeology, is only one area of human knowledge that contains arguments against the precision of details in the Torah and hence against divine authorship of the Torah. There are other reasons to view the Torah as flawed and hence impossible to be have been divinely authored. Unless ones argues that we can’t know how God would write a book, so we can never prove it one way or the other. So even if archaeology totally did not exist, it would not turn the Torah into a document that every dot and crossed T is absolutely true. There are just too many contradictions, anachronisms, scribal oddities to accept the unity of the document. At some point the remnants of traditional Judaism is going to have to come to grips with the Rambam’s 8th principle. . (Plenty on that for another discussion.)

    As for your suggestion that the 3100-1500 BCE persons and events be dated to 1800-1000 BCE. One need not be an expert in Arch. to realize that it simply does not work. Where do you then place all the kings and events between 1500-1000 BCE. As RSC points out in a comment, we have Tenach corroboration of Shishak (Sheshonk I) who is standard-dated at circa 950 BCE or circa 800 BCE by Seder Olam. His existence provides an upper limit and then the entire New Kingdom including the great Ramses II must be dated to this very narrow period. Not very reasonable.

    Further, all the well documented battles involving the Egyptians and Hittites and their hegemony over western Canaan and Syria would have affected the Jewish monarchy. And nowhere, neither Tenach nor elsewhere , is this so recorded.

    If anything, if one wants to salvage some credibility for the Book of Joshua, the New Kingdom’s dating has to pushed further back in time, not brought forward. Or how else does one explain the conquest of Canaan accomplished without engaging the Egyptians.

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  2. should have more for Reb Simcha this weekend

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  3. Elemir, thanks for the clarification. So basically, you're pretty set on picking at the historicity of the Bible. If you can't do it one way, you'll do it another. I wanted to understand. Some people are actually open minded on the subject. So I guess my reply will be for any of them who may be reading this.

    You wrote "There are other reasons to view the Torah as flawed and hence impossible to be have been divinely authored." That sort of begs the question. First of all, are we talking about the divine authorship of the Torah, or are we talking about the historicity of Tanakh in general? Because they aren't connected. You can completely dismiss the Torah as a patchwork of legends and still accept that the biblical historical accounts are accurate. After all, I'm sure you're aware that Egyptian and Mesopotamian (and Hittite and Elamite and so on) historical inscriptions contain references to their deities, and descriptions of miracles and such. We don't dismiss these documents because of the religious parts of the text. If we were to do that for Tanakh, we would be treating it as a special case. Someone who is predisposed to want to tear it down might do that, but someone looking at things objectively wouldn't.

    That said, I'll just say one thing about the composition of the Torah itself. The documentarist idea that the Torah was redacted into its current shape (more or less) either in the time of Ezra (classical Wellhausen-style DH) or in the time of Josiah (Neal Asher Silberstein and company) have to contend with the Samaritan Torah, which is substantially the same as ours, except for places where they stuck Mount Gerizim in. How did they get it? I mean, Josiah led a violent campaign up into Samaritan territory and burned the bones of Jeroboam. It's a little hard to see the Samaritans watching things burn and calling out, "Hey Josiah, nice job on that Torah thing! We're going to copy that, if you don't mind. Maybe tinker with it a bit, though." And I don't have to tell you how friendly the Jews and Samaritans were at the time of Ezra, do I? So the whole patchwork theory doesn't really work in practice.

    Okay, make that two things. The literary structures in the Torah, chiasms and the like, show it to be a many layered document. Most of the arguments about the text being inconsistent or the like rely on treating it in a very one-dimensional way. The arguments along those lines are embarrassingly bad.

    But back to... (cont'd)

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  4. (cont'd) But back to our actual topic, which is Archaeology and the Bible. You wrote "As for your suggestion that the 3100-1500 BCE persons and events be dated to 1800-1000 BCE. One need not be an expert in Arch. to realize that it simply does not work. Where do you then place all the kings and events between 1500-1000 BCE. As RSC points out in a comment, we have Tenach corroboration of Shishak (Sheshonk I) who is standard-dated at circa 950 BCE or circa 800 BCE by Seder Olam. His existence provides an upper limit and then the entire New Kingdom including the great Ramses II must be dated to this very narrow period. Not very reasonable."

    I'm not sure where to start. One *does* need to be an expert in Archaeology, to one extent or another, in order to speak intelligently about the subject. The way you phrased the question demonstrates that you didn't really read what I wrote. Leaving aside the Shishaq / Shoshenk equation, which isn't really solid, let me walk you through this.

    Early Bronze Age
    Description: First urban settlement, fortified cities, no writing, warlike, ended with major destruction at most sites
    Conventional dating: 3150-2300 BCE - Canaaneans, or Proto-Canaanites
    Better dating: 1850-1476 BCE - Canaanites

    Middle Bronze I
    Description: A new culture replacing the one destroyed at the end of Early Bronze, agrarian settlement without any centralized authority
    Conventional dating: 2300-1950 BCE - Amorites, time of Hammurabi
    Better dating: 1436-1060 BCE - Judges period

    Middle Bronze II
    Description: A sudden shift from decentralized agrarianism to centralized empire with building on a massive scale, uniform fortresses stretching from the Nile to the Euphrates, maritime activity reaching as far as the British Isles. Literature in Biblical Hebrew appears, biblical weights and measures are used.
    Conventional dating: 1950-1550 BCE - Hyksos Empire
    Better dating: 1060-960 BCE - United Monarchy

    Late Bronze I... (cont'd)

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  5. (cont'd)
    Late Bronze I
    Description: The empire falls apart in the wake of Egyptian invasions and/or civil unrest/war. Level of material culture is lowered significantly. Biblical Hebrew literature continues to flourish.
    Conventional dating: 1550-1400 - 18th Dynasty in Egypt, Hatshepsut, Thutmose III
    Better dating: 960-870 BCE - Divided monarchy up until Jehu/Athaliah

    Late Bronze II
    Description: More of the same, but ending with waves of massive invasions, mostly from the north, which depopulate much of the region.
    Conventional dating: 1400-1200 BCE - 19th Dynasty in Egypt, Ramsses II
    Better dating: 870-785 BCE - Divided monarchy from Jehu until the Assyrian invasions

    Iron I
    Description: A new (third) culture appears, migrating into the depopulated lands in waves and adopting some parts of the local culture for themselves. A remnant of the second culture remains in the southern hill country.
    Conventional dating: 1200-1000 BCE - Sea Peoples destructions, Israelite emergence/settlement
    Better dating: 785-720 BCE - Assyrian invasions, fall of Samaria, settlement of Samaritan tribes by the Assyrians

    Iron IIA
    Description: A somewhat uniform style of administrative building appears in half a dozen cities throughout the area. Material culture is low.
    Conventional dating: 1000-900 BCE - Solomonic period, highly exaggerated in the Bible
    Better dating: 720-680 BCE - Assyrian administration of the conquered land

    Iron IIB
    Description: More of the same, but with conflict between the north and south.
    Conventional dating: 900-800 BCE - Divided monarchy up until Jehu/Athaliah
    Better dating: 680-640 BCE - Assyrian occupation, Samaritan consolidation of the north, Manasseh, Amon

    Iron IIIA
    Description: A rise in material culture, and some cooperation (and some war) between the north and south
    Conventional dating: 800-700 BCE - Divided monarchy from Jehu until the Assyrian invasions
    Better dating: 640-605 BCE - Recovery under Josiah

    Iron IIIB
    Description: Invasions from powerful Mesopotamian armies
    Conventional dating: 700-587 BCE - Assyrian invasions
    Better dating: 605-587 BCE - Babylonian invasions

    So we aren't talking about moving one big chunk of history down on top of another. It all slides. And the duration of the archaeological periods using the better dating works just as well, if not better, with the material remains.

    As far as wars between the Hittites and Egyptians not being recorded, I refer you to II Kings 7:6. But it wouldn't matter if that little mention didn't exist. The Bible isn't a history book. What's recorded is recorded because it's intended to teach something. Things that didn't serve that purpose simply wouldn't have been included.

    And we conquered Canaan during the Egyptian First Intermediate Period, following the disastrous fall of the 6th Dynasty and the Old Kingdom. They had other things on their minds.

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  6. Elemir,

    Welcome back! Nice to hear from you again. I hope you enjoyed a spiritually uplifting Shavuos holiday. Ok. So let’s get down to business.

    what I am saying is that if your target audience believes something, and here is the point: “because they have many reasonable arguments to sustain or reach that belief”, you cannot or should not ignore this, it must be addressed.

    Yes. Of course. I spend endless amount of time addressing arguments that, in my opinion, do not have any merit at all. Kal va’chomer that I would not ignore a belief based on reason! I agree with your point 100%!

    But, for example, you do not brand someone a kofer because he thinks the earth/universe is more than 6000 years old.

    You know me better than that my friend. This blog is not about branding anyone. It’s about one thing and one thing alone; the truth. My aim is to support the veracity of our received traditions while defending them from external (and internal) attack. I have no desire to engage in politics and the like.

    There simply is enough compelling reasons for one to believe in an old universe.

    Really? I don’t think so. I challenge you to produce 2 or 3 compelling reasons for an old universe. But remember: in order for your “reasons” to compel belief in an old universe, they must be more consistent with a materialist view than a Creation view. So for instance, you can’t claim that our world must be old because it must have taken billions of years for the earth to form. This is an invalid argument because it begs the question. An example of a valid type of argument for an ancient universe would be that we have evidence that animal life evolved over millions of years from the fossil record which shows a slow transition from, say, land mammals to cetacean mammals. (This claim happens to be false but the argument per se is valid because if the claim were true it would support the evolutionary paradigm more reasonably than the Torah paradigm).

    Authentic, again maybe, but here is the spoiler. If there is only one version extant of an ancient document/book, and this copy is thought not to be the actual original (as is the case of the Torah), we simply would not know if the copy on hand is a true copy of the original or has been modified. And of course, nor do we know the extent of this modification.

    Yes, of course. Lucky for us, there are thousands of copies of the Torah over the world. And they’re all identical. So a Torah scroll written in Hungary is exactly the same as one in Poland or Kansas City. In fact, we have Torah scrolls that are hundreds of years old and they are identical to what we have today. This demonstrates that the “version” we have is authentic. More on this shortly.

    continued...

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  7. Further, if a book is considered sacred by a people and represents to a certain degree their seat of authority, it would only be natural, that if the powers that be wish to amend this authority, they would add to this book. I realize that you absolutely do not believe that this is possible with the Torah and our mesorah, but again that’s simply your faith.

    No, it’s not. It’s my conclusion based on reasoned consideration. You know who made an argument like yours? Mohammed. He claimed that the Jews took him out of the Torah in order to “amend its authority”. The Rambam scoffs at this claim, but not because the Rambam had simple faith. The Torah was in the hands of the gentiles long before Mohammed ever came around. The Greeks translated the Torah 2400 years ago! The Jews couldn’t amend the Torah even if they wanted to! So at this point we are not discussing a 3300 hundred year old document. We have clear evidence from the Septuagint that the Torah as we have it today existed 2400 years ago. So now the gulf that has to be bridged is only 900 years, not 3300 years. And what about the Dead Sea Scrolls? If you and I were having this conversation 75 years ago, you would claim that I have no right to attribute authenticity to a document that is 3300 years old. But now it is much younger! The DSS are over 2000 years old. We are much closer to matan Torah.

    Let me ask you something. Do you think that the “powers that be” can amend the United States Constitution to suit their purposes? And if not, then why do you think this about the Torah? The Torah was an inheritance for the entire nation. Every Jew knew the Torah. And every Jew knew that the Torah could not be tampered with. Precisely how do you envision a modification of the Torah that would be universally accepted by the entire nation with no record of such a modification at all? It’s impossible!

    No, you have a copy of a book that you (and of course others) claim to be 3300 years old.

    Not just “others”. The entire Jewish nation up until about 150 years ago. And all of the Christians and Islamists too. The vast majority of the world accepts this claim.

    I’m (and many others are) not convinced that the 3300 yr-age is anywhere near accurate.

    The burden of proof lays with you. I’ve provided you with plenty of evidence that the Torah is a very ancient document, older than 2400 years. I’ve provided you with evidence corroborating the events and dates mentioned in Tanach (e.g. Sancheirev). I am capable of providing you archaeological evidence along the entire gamut of Tanach. The books of Tanach quote the Torah frequently which demonstrates that the Torah existed before the Neveim and Kesuvim. This proves that the Torah is as old as I claim it is. If you doubt the age of the Torah, you need to provide counter-evidence. Otherwise you can’t expect your doubts to be taken seriously.

    I’m also not convinced that when the initial version of this book first appeared, it’s contents were anywhere near what we read every Shabbos.

    Why not?

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  8. Unbroken, as stated, that’s just a claim based on faith.

    The Jewish nation possesses precise records of peoples and events going right back to Sinai. These records have been corroborated countless of times in the records of other nations and in archaeological discoveries, and is accepted by the vast majority of mankind. It’s not faith; it’s historical fact.

    The truth of the matter is, it is hard for me to relate to your issue (although I am trying). Every morning I sit in a Kollel surrounded by thousands of seforim authored by people that you no doubt would agree, more or less, to the time-period within which they lived. There are sifrei acharonim from hundreds of years ago who quote the Torah precisely as we have it today. There are books of Rishonim (e.g. Rashi) and even Gaonim (e.g. Rav Saadia) that quote the Torah we have today verbatim. And further back, we have Chazal. The Talmud Bavli quotes thousands of verses from Tanach, just as we have it today. In addition, there are several Tanaic Midrashim (e.g Medrash Rabba, Tanchuma etc.) which were written directly on the Chumash and they too quote the verses as we have them today. So for at least the past two thousand years we have an unbroken tradition amongst our nation regarding the authenticity of the Torah and its contents. And in the works of Chazal (e.g. Seder Olam) the preceding 1000 years of peoples and events are listed in exhaustive detail. No one amongst our nation ever contested these details! Even the Sadduces did not contest the past history of the Jewish nation. And then we have Josephus who records our history in detail for the 400 years preceding him and even brings proofs for everything he says! (Contra Apion). So 2 thousand years ago the entire nation had our Tanach and they all universally accepted its contents as true. Where did these Jews come from? Did they just fall from the sky like the Manna? They came from somewhere. They had ancestors who passed along information to them about the previous generations. They accepted the contents of Tanach because they lived not that long after the events depicted there, especially the books of Yeshaya, Yechezkel, Yirmiya, Trei Assar, Ezra and Nechemia. It was impossible to make up stories about the Babylonian and Persian empires and have it all believed by the nation uniformly with no known dissenters. They were aware, as are we, of the destruction of the first temple and the people who lived at that time and the books they authored (e.g. Yechezkel and Yirmiya).

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  9. These books are part of our national tradition and comprise an unbroken record of peoples and events right back to Sinai. Divrei haYamim lists all of the events from Creation right down to the Churban in vivid detail. The post-Sinai people listed there are all corroborated by the record of the gentiles and more and more by recent archaeological discoveries. I’ve already mentioned to you that I have over five dozen examples of archaeological discoveries which verify the events and people of our Tanach in the clearest terms. I’ve already provided you with several examples but you seem unimpressed. For the life of me I can’t figure out why. You claim that my assertion re an unbroken tradition is purely faith. Perhaps you can explain to me precisely where you believe this tradition broke down? And while you’re at it, perhaps you could also explain how it is that the entire nation of the post temple era accepted the Tanach as authoritative without any dissenters? Were they all blind unquestioning people who simply accepted some fairy tales cooked up by a nefarious individual(s) with an unknown motivation to fool the Jews? And then passed along these fairy tales to their progeny in the most guarded manner imaginable such that we have their exact Torah today? Don’t forget, the Five Books of Moses were translated by the Jews for the Greeks not long after the destruction of the second temple. And not long ago we found all five books of the chumash dated to over 2000 years ago with only minor variations to what we have today.

    Here’s a helpful exercise. Assuming you believe in, say, Alexander the Great and the basic events that occurred in his time, could you kindly supply me with a principled distinction as to why you accept this figure as historical fact and yet question the Jewish Nation’s clear and lucid tradition of its own history?

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  10. Actually, that’s not quite correct. I chose 2100 (2104) only because it was easier than getting side tracked and trying to nail the best date for the Mabul according to our tradition. The date 2104, as you well know, is based on the timeline as provided by Seder Olam, which says we are in now in 5772 as counted from the creation. However, there are many problems with this time line. The most prominent 2, as you well know, are (a) the missing 165 years, i.e. our tradition says that the first Mikdosh was destroyed in 425 BCE, while the entire rest of the world dates this at 586 BCE which would make the starting point, i.e. creation, 5772+165=5937 and the flood at year 1656 from creation being 5937-1656=4067 years ago=2269 BCE. (2) The second problem is the gap between when Yaakov arrived in Egypt and the subsequent Exodus. One verse says that this is about 400 years. (Exod. ), while the generations delineated in the Torah seem to indicate a much shorter interval (based on Chazal, we use 210 years). And, sure, I know the Meforshim reconcile the 2 counts, but the fact is that Torah has this contradiction.

    OK. This is off the topic but since you broached these issues, I feel compelled to respond to them for the edification of our readers. Let’s start with your #1.

    Yes, you are correct. Our tradition maintains that Cyrus conquered Bavel in 371 BCE whereas the secular historians date it 167 years earlier (538 BCE). There is a similar inconsistency regarding the length of the Persian Empire which is considerably shorter in our traditions than in those of the secular historians. These discrepancies have been noted by many Jewish scholars as far back as Rav Sa’adya Gaon. Some provide resolutions (e.g. Abarbanel) whilst some simply state that the Biblical narrative is decisive. For the sake of brevity, I will go with the latter approach. Here are Rabbi Hersh Goldwurm’s comments on this matter. (Rabbi Goldwurm o.b.m. was a Talmudic Scholar and a historian of note. He authored several books on history for Artscroll). He writes as follows:

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  11. “As in all such cloudy areas, it is essential – but difficult – for modern people to understand that the everyday historical tools we take for granted simply did not exist in ancient times. We, who know that World War II broke out in 1939 or that the Six Day War took place in 1967 find it hard to understand how there could be such gaping discrepancies regarding the years of such major epochs s the Second Temple and Persian Empire Eras. However, in ancient times, events were dated from the year a king assumed the throne. When a new man became king, it was as if the world had been created anew, and all the documents were dated from the year 1 again. Furthermore, people did not think of their own countries as part of a large world; to a Persian, his country was the only one that mattered, whether Persia was a province or the globe’s mightiest empire. As country after country assumed center stage as the most powerful, each tended to impose it version of events upon its victims. The result has been a scarcity of historical material and the dilemma of choosing between conflicting versions. If modern scholars disagree sharply on lavishly documented events that occurred within memory, how much more so must me realize that events of two thousand years ago and more are far from clear. On the other hand, none of the ancient documents have the authority or were as scrupulously preserved by so many as the Tanach, Seder Olam and the Talmud.”

    As far as your #2, the meforshim do indeed reconcile the two accounts, as you admit, making your purported “contradiction” no contradiction at all.

    I don’t see this as an argument for the veracity of the narratives or the dqating. All it says is that the author was intelligent enough to understand that “history” requires a uniform time line.

    Uniform with what? The “author” had nothing to compare to. He just wrote down a timeline. But it was written with the utmost clarity, detail, and unambiguousness. There are absolutely no ancient documents whatsoever that can even begin to compare to the objective historical detail outlined in the Torah. No ancient author ever dared to compile such a book. All of the ancient documents you delineated in your original post related to local events. The truth is, World History, as a discipline, did not come into its own until the time of the Greeks. Before then, the records of the nations were random and often-times self-serving. The Torah is the only ancient document which provides an objective history of the world during pre-historic and immediate post-historic times.

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  12. OK, but why, in your view, is Manetho and his Egyptian king-list any different than the genealogies in Breishit, objectively speaking? Aside from your “reliable mesorah” claim, which might be ascribed to the Egyptian priests, as well. They claim they maintained their history. From the archaeologists point of view the final version of the Torah was completed only a few centuries before Manetho.

    You’ve gotta be kidding… How is Manetho different than the Chumash, objectively? How many reasons do you want? Let’s start with the most obvious. The Chumash is the most carefully preserved and widely disseminated work in the history of mankind. Manetho’s work was never fully preserved and was fraught with controversy from its very inception! But there’s another obvious issue here. Assuming Manethos was indeed Egyptian, there are no more Egyptians around today! It’s not like the ancient Egyptian nation maintained its identity, culture and traditions for the past 3500 years. Arabs live in Egypt now, not ancient Egyptians. On the other hand, the Jewish Nation is still here thousands of years later and they possess their own unique historical traditions just as any other nation does. As far as your claim that From the archaeologists point of view the final version of the Torah was completed only a few centuries before Manetho, this is not true. From Wellhausen’s POV the bible was written during Ezra’s time. But 20th century archaeology has clearly refuted his DH over and over again. It’s amazing how the canards of the Bible critics continue to be circulated in the media and textbooks and taught to kids in college despite evidence to the contrary. It is reminiscent of the theory of evolution which also continues to be taught regardless of the lack of evidence, indeed, contrary evidence.

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  13. In summary, with regard to all these documents, thanks for commenting on them, but the point was not to debate each and every one, but to show that established and well populated civilizations existed in the middle east with differing languages, cultures, life styles, and infrastructure in the period just before and just after the Flood and all before the Tower Bavel (circa 1750 BCE). And thus there appears to be continuity contradicting the occurrence of a flood in this time period

    My jaw dropped when I read this comment. So, if I have you right, the point is not to discuss the validity of the proofs you attempt to bring from ancient documents (“not to debate every document”) but to be impressed with the sheer number of documents you quote and accept that they must point to a thriving civilization during the flood period claimed by the Bible (“with regard to all these documents…the point was…to show that established and well populated civilizations existed in the middle east”.) I’m afraid I have nothing to say on this. If I am not allowed to challenge your arguments, or the relevancy of your proof-texts, then you and I have nothing to talk about. And if I am allowed to challenge them, then you cannot claim that you’ve shown that “established and well populated civilizations existed in the middle east with differing languages, cultures, life styles, and infrastructure in the period just before and just after the Flood” Until you address my issues with your sources, you haven’t shown anything.

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  14. How credible is archaeological dating of Ancient Egypt, Sumer, Mesopotamia, etc. between 2000-3000 BCE? Are archaeologists completely nuts and the wealth of information that has been uncovered is so badly misinterpreted and mis-dated by them. Are the king-lists that correspond to names in pyramids and temples, and the thousands of documents cross-referencing names and places and events so off that they all really belong in the middle of 2nd millennium not in the early 3rd or late 2nd ???

    What’s “off” about them? The king-lists and the pyramids and temples, and the thousands of documents cross-referencing names and places and events are perfectly fine. No “misinterpretation” here. The only thing you and I are debating is the dating adopted by mainstream archaeology. If you have something up your sleeve, I’d like to see it. Otherwise, I don’t recall an official Gregorian date stamp found attached to archaeological discoveries. Dating is a matter of speculation, as I’ve mentioned to you several times already.

    In my picayune library, I have Donald Redford “Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times”. It lays out (I guess his conclusions) on the “history” of that region from 3000 BCE and through to the end of the Hebrew Kingdoms. He supplies many, many references for his take on things. I have neither the time nor the resources to follow up on how all these sources “date” the era of our discussion. But, and here's the key, he fills the 1500 years (3000 to 1500 BCE) with extensive names and places and events. For the Torah timeline to be true, all this massive account would have to be squashed into 1750-1500 or 1400 BCE.
    It just doesn’t seem do-able or likely.


    This comment is meaningless. You refer to unnamed events and admit ignorance re their method of dating and expect me to accept your impressions from a book you read as a compelling argument that there are too many generations to squash into a specific time-period. Sorry Elemir but I’m not biting.

    I must say, your past several comments reveal a tendency to cave into currently accepted norms in academia. I enjoin you to break free from these self-imposed shackles and entertain the possibility that the Bible Critics / Archaeologists are wrong re their dating. This is the only way you and I can possibly carry on a meaningful conversation. It is the only way my counter-arguments and my proofs from archaeology have a chance of being considered by you. Of course, you can say the same thing to me. But the difference is, each time you bring up a proof, I address it. On the other hand, you say things to me like “the point was not to debate each and every one”. I am willing to hear your proofs. But if I counter them with a rational argument, you must respond in kind. You cannot content yourself with meaningless responses such as “It just doesn’t seem do-able or likely”

    Anyway, I’m happy you responded to me and I hope you will take my arguments under advisement before responding again.

    Also, I think you have your hands full with Lisa. I don’t know who she is but she obviously knows a considerable amount about archaeology. I’d like to see your responses to her comments too.

    Be well my friend…

    SC

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  15. Actually, that’s not quite correct. I chose 2100 (2104) only because it was easier than getting side tracked and trying to nail the best date for the Mabul according to our tradition. The date 2104, as you well know, is based on the timeline as provided by Seder Olam, which says we are in now in 5772 as counted from the creation. However, there are many problems with this time line. The most prominent 2, as you well know, are (a) the missing 165 years, i.e. our tradition says that the first Mikdosh was destroyed in 425 BCE, while the entire rest of the world dates this at 586 BCE which would make the starting point, i.e. creation, 5772+165=5937 and the flood at year 1656 from creation being 5937-1656=4067 years ago=2269 BCE. (2) The second problem is the gap between when Yaakov arrived in Egypt and the subsequent Exodus. One verse says that this is about 400 years. (Exod. ), while the generations delineated in the Torah seem to indicate a much shorter interval (based on Chazal, we use 210 years). And, sure, I know the Meforshim reconcile the 2 counts, but the fact is that Torah has this contradiction.

    I'm sorry, but I just had to go back to this comment. Two points:

    1) According to Seder Olam, the year we're living in is 5774; not 5772. See, this is part of what bothers me. I've had discussions like this with people who really knew their stuff. They were wrong, but at least they were accurate. The fact that you're unaware that our current counting system calls the first 5 days of creation Year 1 and starts Year 2 with the creation of Adam on the 6th day (as opposed to Seder Olam, which labels that as Year 0) is a demonstration of how knowledgable you are in the areas you're discussing. You've made it clear that you have no expertise in the various disciplines of ancient history. I question your good faith here, elenir. It's you, I think, who have shot an arrow into a wall and are trying to paint a target around it.

    2) "...but the Torah has this contradiction." Do you write? I mean, prose, poetry, non-fiction, anything like that? I've written all of the above, and I put things into my writing that I know only some people will ever notice. Sometimes I deliberately say things that will seem contradictory on the surface, because I don't want everyone limited to the surface. The surface is boring.

    Have you ever learned Gemara? Mishnah? If you have, than you know how it works. The Sages deliberately used terse language in order to pack a lot of information into a small amount of text. The Amoraim treated the words of the Tannaim that way. The Tannaim treated the words of Tanakh that way. Where do you suppose that technique started? Did the Tannaim invent it? Where's any evidence for that? Absent any evidence for that technique popping into existence, what reason can you possibly have for supposing that it wasn't used in Tanakh? I mean, other than an emotional need to view Tanakh as fiction.

    I find it truly ironic that the fallacy you find most useful when attempting to undermine Judaism and rabbinic authority is the appeal to authority. Are you afraid that your faith in the falsity of Judaism might be undermined?

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  16. Oops. I meant to write that according to Seder Olam, this is the year 5770. Sign errors; the bane of my existence.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Dear Elemir,

    I’d like to make two comments.

    First I’d like to refer to a comment Lisa made re the Samaritan Torah scrolls. In my previous comments, I strove to provide you with an unbroken Jewish tradition dating to Sinai and managed to arrive at about 2300 BCE. After that I basically relied on the Scriptural narrative as a continuation of our rabbinic traditions (supported, of course, by archaeological evidence). However, Lisa brings up a valid point, one that my Rebbi mentioned but I had entirely forgotten. The Samaritan Torah is extant! The Samaritans were Cusim that were forcibly displaced from their land (Cutha) by Sancheirev and settled (by Sancheirev) in the capital of the Israelite Kingdom Shomron (Samaria) after the exile of the ten tribes. The Gemara refers to them as gerey arayos because they accepted a form of Judaism due to the infestation of lions in their new home which they interpreted as a sign that the God of Israel was displeased with how they behaved in His land. All this occurred in 555 BCE! This race of people is very old and still exists today along with their traditional writings. So now, not only do we have acharonim, Rishonim, Gaonim, Chazal, Josephus, and the Greek Septuagint (which was translated by our nation), we also have the Samaritan Torah which is similar to our own and dates back to the mid sixth century BCE. We’ve just pushed back our tradition another 250 years while simultaneously destroying any vestige of Wellhausen’s documentary nonsense. This is a very important point. We are now 700 years away from matan Torah with direct evidence from currently existing documents which date to over 2500 years ago! If this doesn’t convince you, nothing will!

    Speaking of convincing you, here’s my second comment. I am a hopeless optimist. No matter how obvious it seems that someone will not accept my arguments, I try anyway with the hope that the truth will eventually prevail. On the other hand, our newest commenter, Lisa, seems to feel that your mind is closed to objective dialogue. Frankly, her observation seems to be supported by the evidence (although I refuse to accept it). You write:

    Archaeology, is only one area of human knowledge that contains arguments against the precision of details in the Torah and hence against divine authorship of the Torah. There are other reasons to view the Torah as flawed and hence impossible to be have been divinely authored. Unless ones argues that we can’t know how God would write a book, so we can never prove it one way or the other. So even if archaeology totally did not exist, it would not turn the Torah into a document that every dot and crossed T is absolutely true. There are just too many contradictions, anachronisms, scribal oddities to accept the unity of the document. At some point the remnants of traditional Judaism is going to have to come to grips with the Rambam’s 8th principle.

    This a pretty damning assertion. We’re not discussing other arguments. We’re discussing archaeology. Yet you somehow feel compelled to mention that there are “other” reasons to reject the authenticity of the Torah. Why?

    Cont’d

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  18. Cont’d from previous comment

    When I wrote that “I am beginning to compile archeological data that supports the bible.” you responded that “I am very interested. I believe the Torah is based on actual events and its very important to show this as much as possible. I hope you publicize this work.” I took you at your word (and still do) but your above paragraph is disheartening. It seems that no matter what I do to prove the unity of the Torah from an archaeological perspective you will continue to remain unconvinced because archaeology alone cannot prove the authenticity of the Torah – as a unified document – as Jews have historically seen it. So which is it Elemir? Are you open to objective argumentation or is your mind already made up? Not that it really makes a difference. As you are no doubt aware by now, I respond to the comments section regardless. But on a personal level it would be nice to know that I am communicating with someone who is at least willing to consider the merit of my arguments.


    One more thing. I hope you forgive me but the following is a sharp criticism. You write:

    So even if archaeology totally did not exist, it would not turn the Torah into a document that every dot and crossed T is absolutely true. There are just too many contradictions, anachronisms, scribal oddities to accept the unity of the document.

    I am actually angry at you for writing such nonsense. Such comments do not belong in any dialogue dedicated to the pursuit of truth. If after discussing archaeology you’d like to discuss scribal anomalies, that’s fine. If you’d like broach the existence of apparent contradictions, that’s fine. But to blithely repeat the asinine assertions of the Bible critics as if they are forgone conclusions is entirely unwarranted. We are involved in an advanced discussion about crucial issues, not some plebian discourse on irrelevant matters. We must be careful what we say. We must be cognizant of the fact that our topic is of monumental importance and as such must be attended by thoroughly considered argumentation and attended by supporting evidence.

    Please forgive me for the mussar schmooze…

    Sincerely,

    SC

    ReplyDelete
  19. In response to Elemir’s comment that:

    Or how else does one explain the conquest of Canaan accomplished without engaging the Egyptians.

    Lisa wrote:

    And we conquered Canaan during the Egyptian First Intermediate Period, following the disastrous fall of the 6th Dynasty and the Old Kingdom. They had other things on their minds.

    Color me naïve but according to the Torah Egypt was just devastated by the ten plagues. There was nothing left of this former superpower. It was reduced to shambles. And as it happens, the Ipuwer Papyrus tells of events that are remarkably similar to those described in the Torah. Now I know that most Egyptologists choose to date this papyrus to a different time but who cares? As far as I’m concerned, the IP is direct evidence for the events depicted in the Torah. As far as the dating, as soon as any archaeologist has proof that it did not happen when the Torah says it happened (1312 BCE), I am willing to listen.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Whoa, whoa Reb Simcha…hold your horses, you’ve got to slow down. I’m still due to comment on last week’s material. I can’t keep up.

    Lisa threw a monkey wrench in the works with her personal question about my beliefs and that has become the 800-lb elephant in the room. So, before I go back to the Flood and archaeology and to better answer her question and also to respond to your mussar schmoozen, let me briefly, tell you about myself and my beliefs.

    I come from parents that my father characterized as “moderne chassidishe”. In practice they were RWMO, but in hashkofo more MO in the sense of living in the world and wanting their 3 sons to have a full secular education.

    I learned in Yeshiva until age 20, the last 4 years at Ner Israel and getting my undergraduate college degree in night school from John Hopkins. I am Shomer Torah u’mitzvit, an ohev Israel and Yiddishkeit and, of course, an “apikores” in some of my thinking.

    God, gratefully, gave me an above average intellect, but, I suffer from a “genetic defect”; a constant search for the truth and have been at it for over 45 years, post Yeshiva. I'd like to think that I look at "evidence" objectively and that I will follow to where this conclusions lead.

    As to my beliefs, some are based on faith but most are based on logical conclusions derived from reading and observing.

    ReplyDelete
  21. cont'd

    So here is where it stands for me:

    I believe God created the world and that He has imbued us with a Neshomo that survives us upon death and that the current existence is a prelude for the other. (on Faith)

    I don’t really know when creation occurred, but have concluded that it was more than 6000 years ago. Ditto for the emergence of life and humankind.

    I believe that Am Yisroel has a special relationship with God, (on Faith) but have concluded it’s just as likely that we chose Him than He chose us.

    I don’t know if God gave us any Torah, but if yes, I have concluded that the Torah that we have now isn’t it.

    It is reasonable to state that since our understanding of God as being true, just, beneficent and perfect, we should expect that His book should be the same. Yet, my conclusions, based on a confluence of documentary arguments, archaeology, science, laws that are unjust, unfair, and inadvertently detrimental, are that it is not so so God could not have authored all, if any part, of this book. Further and independent of this, the Torah that we have appears as a multi-authored composite document (and BTW, this conclusion was reached long before I ever heard of the DH).

    Despite this, it is sacred and precious to me as it forms the basis of our constitution and source of our continued existence as a people. I also don’t think anybody can dispute that the Torah is in fact the greatest document ever produced.

    So that’s it in a nutshell.

    BTW, I was very sincere about the importance of showing that archaeology supports our history and that the Torah is more than some book that falls into the same category as say, Greek mythology.

    Please let me know if after this comment we can still continue on the topics underway.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Elemir,

    Please let me know if after this comment we can still continue on the topics underway.

    Most definitely!

    The remainder of this comment is entirely irrelevant to our topic. Feel free to skip it.

    I try and avoid dialogues of a personal nature on this blog but it’s late at night here and I can’t sleep so I’m giving in to my ta’ava. Here are some of my musings re your comment above.

    I believe God created the world and that He has imbued us with a Neshomo that survives us upon death and that the current existence is a prelude for the other. (on Faith)

    I don’t believe in faith. What’s so good about faith? Anyone can believe. Christians also believe. So do Islamists. Emunah (as used in hashkafa) does not mean faith. It means loyalty. It means to stick to one’s traditions through thick and thin. (I know this flies in the face of all the derashos everyone hears about emunah/faith but I can’t help ignorance). If information is not available, then a Jew should rely on the well-established traditions of his nation and be loyal to them. But if one can fortify his emunah with empirical evidence (deah) he is obligated to do so. This elevates his emunah to emunah chushis, palpable “belief”.

    But here’s the problem. You do not subscribe to our rabbinical traditions (the Oral Torah) as the unmitigated expression of the Mind/Will of the Divine, so why do you believe in olam habba? Why do you believe in an eternal neshoma? Neither one of these is stated openly in the chumash so what are you basing your belief on? Actually, come to think of it, even the chumash is not an expression of the Divine (according to you). So in what way is your belief any more rational than believing that pink elephants populate your attic? In fact, why do you believe in Hashem? I’m not being facetious; I really want to understand. (Either that or I am being facetious and its really late at night now… :-)

    I believe that Am Yisroel has a special relationship with God, (on Faith) but have concluded it’s just as likely that we chose Him than He chose us.

    Well, I have the same question to you regarding your faith in the special relationship God has with us but I’d like to mention that your second comment is actually true. God didn’t choose us; we chose Him! Only then did He choose us. This dynamic is openly stated in the Torah (e.g. Devarim 26: 17-18) and is the only logical way to explain why it took God 2000 years to finally choose someone (Abraham).

    Cont’d

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  23. I don’t know if God gave us any Torah, but if yes, I have concluded that the Torah that we have now isn’t it.

    Oy vey! You’ve already concluded? That’s it? Why would you do such a thing to yourself? Why would you not at least remain open-minded?!?

    May Hashem open your eyes to the truth of His Torah.

    Despite this, it is sacred and precious to me as it forms the basis of our constitution and source of our continued existence as a people.

    What’s so good about our “continued existence as a people”? Let’s all become Americans. Or Hungarians. Or maybe Africans. Let’s assimilate. We’re only 12-15 million strong and everyone hates us. Let’s just throw in the towel and blend in with the rest of humanity. What’s so sacred about resisting the collective opinion of mankind and maintaining a national identity that the whole world would like to wipe out?

    But wait; you believe in the special relationship between Jews and God. So obviously God wants us to continue to exist. You also believe that the Torah is the source of our continued existence. Yet you believe that Torah and God have nothing to do with each other.

    Elemir, you are conflicted. Here’s some advice (sincerely). Pray to Hashem to help you understand the truth. After all, you do believe in Hashem. So pray to him. It can’t hurt, right? Hashem is close to all those who cry out to Him in truth. May He heed your prayers and enlighten your mind with the truth of His Torah.

    I also don’t think anybody can dispute that the Torah is in fact the greatest document ever produced.

    Huh? According to you the Torah is full of laws that are unjust, unfair, and detrimental, and in fact, is not a unified document at all but rather a compendium of various documents written over different periods of time. According to Richard Dawkins, the God of the Old Testament is… well, I refuse to grant Dawkins a hearing in this venue. But you understand my meaning. There are plenty of atheists that contest the greatness of the Torah.

    BTW, I was very sincere about the importance of showing that archaeology supports our history and that the Torah is more than some book that falls into the same category as say, Greek mythology.

    Why? Why is it important to show that the Torah is more than just a book? After all, it is not Divine. How is it distinguished from the New Testament or the Koran? Do you believe that it is also important to show that the New Testament and the Koran are important books?

    Elemir, please feel free to ignore everything I’ve said herein. It has nothing to do with our current thread and is merely a product of my insomnia. It’s not important. I’m just mouthing off.

    Please respond to my arguments re archaeology at your earliest convenience.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I don’t know if God gave us any Torah, but if yes, I have concluded that the Torah that we have now isn’t it.

    With all due respect to R' Simcha, I have a different reaction to this. Because obviously, you think that you reached your conclusion because you had an open mind. Which I don't have a problem with. But I'm curious... this isn't the first time you've said this. And you never seem to give any details about why you've concluded that. Are you concerned that your reasons won't stand up to open scrutiny?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. >>> But I'm curious... this isn't the first time you've said this. And you never seem to give any details about why you've concluded that.

      Because the list is long that it can’t be expounded on in a single comment. If you are interested and give me time, I’ll get around to providing more details.

      Quick overview,

      1) Narratives in the Torah that are contradicted by archaeology and science.
      2) Some statements that appear indicate an ignorance of science by the author.
      3) Unjust or unfair laws, detrimental laws
      4) The Torah’s morality seems to be directed for ANE times, and thus many aspects are simply immoral in contemporary eyes
      5) Textual arguments: Anachronism, scribal errors, oddities, and contradictions
      6) Sefer Devarim is totally different in hashkofo than the rest of Chumash and also has many commandments that contradict like commandments in the rest of Chumash and in my view simply could not have been written by the same author.
      7) Imperfection as a result of what should rationally be found a Jewish national guide book..

      Delete
  25. Lisa,
    Thank you for providing an interesting alternate time line which allows for civilization to commence at the Torah’s starting time. Where did you get this? Does it also come with “dating” mechanisms?

    To respond: The main objection that I state without debating the legitimacy of the dating mechanisms is two-fold.
    1) If your TL is correct, we then have the following anachronisms in the Torah’s text:
    a) Archaeology claims that the Philistines (aka the “sea peoples”) are not a very ancient people but arrived at the shores of Canaan c. 13th cent. With your timeline bringing history forward, would you also then move their arrival several centuries forward.? And then would Avrohom and/or the B’Y (Israelites) have the possibility of encountering them??
    b) Chariots. Arch. is very strong in its opinion that chariots were introduced into Egypt post Hyksos, i.e. early NK. With your TL, the escaping B’Y could not have been chased by chariots
    c) According to your TL, what does the world “barzel” mean in the Torah.
    d) Would your TL also bring forward the age of the Hittites. If so, then it’s unlikely that Avrohom would have found a Hittite settlement in Canaan as giben in Breishit.
    e) The Torah's TL dates the destruction of Sodom c. 1700. When would you then date the Ebla tablets, (thank you Reb Simcha for reminding me about them), which reference Sodom, apparently as a living city.

    2) Arch. is of the very strong opinion that the NK of Egypt, at least the early portion, was a military power for several hundred years, simultaneously with the Hittite Empire. There is a wealth of artifacts that confirms this and their constant warring and contesting and at alternate times occupying western canaan and southern Syria. Arch. date it circa 15th -11th Cent. If your TL moves everything, then these conflicts and hegemonial conflicts move to the time of, any of Saul, David, or Solomon and maybe even later. None of these monarchs would have been able to establish and/or maintain their kingdom without major encounters with either the Egyptians, Hittites or both.

    BTW Lisa: your reference to II Kings only confirms a known fact that the Egyptians and Hittites were commonly available as mercenaries.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Actually, I like to restate my point 2. It is precisely because I think that the times, people, places and events as given in Kings are very historical (with allowance for some incorrect details) as archaeology is proving, and since the Hittites and Egyptian empires as occupiers of Canaan, (I repeat, as occupiers) are not found, whatsoever in Kings this alone nullifies your time line.

      Delete
  26. Hi Elemir,

    Thank you for providing an interesting alternate time line which allows for civilization to commence at the Torah’s starting time. Where did you get this? Does it also come with “dating” mechanisms?

    I don't understand the question.

    To respond: The main objection that I state without debating the legitimacy of the dating mechanisms is two-fold.
    1) If your TL is correct, we then have the following anachronisms in the Torah’s text:
    a) Archaeology claims that the Philistines (aka the “sea peoples”) are not a very ancient people but arrived at the shores of Canaan c. 13th cent. With your timeline bringing history forward, would you also then move their arrival several centuries forward.? And then would Avrohom and/or the B’Y (Israelites) have the possibility of encountering them??


    Who says the Philistines were the Sea Peoples? That's a conclusion that's actually based on the conventional dating. Using it to support that dating is circular reasoning. Take a look at http://www.starways.net/lisa/essays/philistines.html and consider that even without the dating I'm proposing, the Sea Peoples still arrived a very long time after Abraham and Isaac.

    The Sea Peoples settled in the Philistine coast in the early part of the Iron Age. A point at which, btw, the Bible describes Philistines migrating into the Negev (II Chron 28:18). What pushed them inland? A lot of Greek immigrants.

    b) Chariots. Arch. is very strong in its opinion that chariots were introduced into Egypt post Hyksos, i.e. early NK. With your TL, the escaping B’Y could not have been chased by chariots

    You're assuming that "rechev" meant "chariot", as opposed to simply "riders". It's true that in later times, "merkavah" (from the same root) was used for "chariot", and that in the highly poetic Shirat Hayam, it actually says "markevot Par'o". But that's not evidence that the "shesh me'ot rechev" Pharaoh sent after us were chariots.

    ReplyDelete
  27. c) According to your TL, what does the world “barzel” mean in the Torah.

    Iron. I think you're making a common mistake. The Bronze and Iron ages aren't called that because of metal usage. The Hittites of Asia Minor were using iron during the Bronze Age, and the Egyptians didn't really get into using iron until pretty late in the Iron Age. Those terms are left over from the days before Near East archaeology really got going. Today, they only mean certain pottery styles and technologies.

    d) Would your TL also bring forward the age of the Hittites. If so, then it’s unlikely that Avrohom would have found a Hittite settlement in Canaan as giben in Breishit.

    Why? Oh, I see. No, you have it backwards. The Hittites in Canaan weren't a remnant of the Hittite empire of Asia Minor. Ip'cha. They were a Canaanite people who migrated to Asia Minor after we booted them out at the time of Yehoshua.

    e) The Torah's TL dates the destruction of Sodom c. 1700. When would you then date the Ebla tablets, (thank you Reb Simcha for reminding me about them), which reference Sodom, apparently as a living city.

    Pettinato claimed to have found references to Sodom in the Ebla tablets. No one else agrees. In all honesty, more damage has been done by "biblical archaeologists" who try and force the evidence to fit a time they don't belong to than anything else.

    2) Arch. is of the very strong opinion that the NK of Egypt, at least the early portion, was a military power for several hundred years, simultaneously with the Hittite Empire. There is a wealth of artifacts that confirms this and their constant warring and contesting and at alternate times occupying western canaan and southern Syria. Arch. date it circa 15th -11th Cent. If your TL moves everything, then these conflicts and hegemonial conflicts move to the time of, any of Saul, David, or Solomon and maybe even later. None of these monarchs would have been able to establish and/or maintain their kingdom without major encounters with either the Egyptians, Hittites or both.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Really? I disagree. The Bible isn't a history book. That doesn't mean that what it records didn't happen, but it does mean that it cherry picks events, because its purpose is a didactic one, and not a historical one in the way we think of it. We know, for example, that Ahab led a coalition against the Assyrians at Qarqar. No mention of it in the Bible. Jehu paid tribute to Shalmaneser III (the same one Ahab fought). Also no mention of that. The person of Jehu is used in Kings and Chronicles to present a person who killed the prophets of Baal and wiped out the house of Ahab, but who continued to sin like Jeroboam I (preventing Jews from going to Jerusalem, sponsoring golden calf worship, etc). Showing him groveling to the Assyrian king wasn't part of that message.

    What we know about things in the Bible is pretty sketchy at best. I mean, consider Abraham. We see maybe a week out of his entire 175 years of life. We don't know what he was like. Did he have big ears? Did he tend to shout when he got excited? What were his favorite foods? More to the point, what did he do between the death of Sarah and his own death? We know he married Keturah. We know he had more sons. But we don't know a thing about that. Were there more famines in the land? Were there invasions from the north or the south? Silence.

    The same thing is true here. I know it's a cliche that absence of evidence isn't evidence of an absence, but it's true nonetheless.

    One thing we do know is that territory wasn't solid like it is now, with clearly demarcated boundaries. Rule was based in cities, and they controlled what they could control. A real map of a country back then would look like a bunch of bubbles, sometimes overlapping, sometimes popping, sometimes inflating. We know that Egypt tried campaigning into the north at the time of Josiah, because it was relevant. That's how he died. How many other times did that happen? It's anyone's guess.

    BTW Lisa: your reference to II Kings only confirms a known fact that the Egyptians and Hittites were commonly available as mercenaries.

    "Kings of Hittites." "Kings of Egypt." Not bands of Egyptians and Hittites. There's a context here. Judah had, only a century earlier, hired the king of Aram to attack Israel from the other side. This was common practice back then.

    And they weren't "occupiers". They'd campaign in, leave a stele, and go home. That's hardly occupation.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Lisa,

    Shalom Aleichem! Welcome to our blog and thank you for taking the time to write. I’ve looked over your comments and you seem quite knowledgeable in the field of archaeology. I especially enjoyed your redistribution of mainstream archaeological dating for the Bronze and Iron Ages and your explanation that “we aren't talking about moving one big chunk of history down on top of another. It all slides. And the duration of the archaeological periods using the better dating works just as well, if not better, with the material remains.”

    Having said that, I have several issues I would like to discuss. The first is your apparent dismissal of our Mesora’s dating system in your revised timeline. Let’s start with that. Note: all dates provided by me follow Chazal’s timeline as it appears in the Talmud and in Seder Olam. Sources available upon request.

    Middle Bronze I
    Description: A new culture replacing the one destroyed at the end of Early Bronze, agrarian settlement without any centralized authority
    Conventional dating: 2300-1950 BCE - Amorites, time of Hammurabi
    Better dating: 1436-1060 BCE - Judges period


    Period of the Judges was hundreds of years later from 1244-884 BCE. Also, it lasted 360 years, from the death of Yehoshua to the anointing of Shaul. Your relative timeline adds 15 years to the period of the Shoftim.

    Middle Bronze II
    Description: A sudden shift from decentralized agrarianism to centralized empire with building on a massive scale, uniform fortresses stretching from the Nile to the Euphrates, maritime activity reaching as far as the British Isles. Literature in Biblical Hebrew appears, biblical weights and measures are used.
    Conventional dating: 1950-1550 BCE - Hyksos Empire
    Better dating: 1060-960 BCE - United Monarchy


    You write that Literature in Biblical Hebrew begins to appear between 1060-960 BCE. This is not correct. First of all, the Jewish nation never produced any literature until well after the destruction of the first temple and even then it was done sparingly. The only publicly disseminated literature we ever had were the books of the bible (although people made private notes for themselves) and these appeared long before 1060 BCE. The first Biblical work appeared in 1312 BCE (the Torah) and the second appeared about 70 years later (Sefer Yehoshua). As far as pre-Biblical times, we have a tradition that Abraham composed books on Monotheism (See Rambam, Yad, Hil. AZ 1:3) and although I can’t prove to you they were in lashon hakodesh it is the most reasonable assumption to make. So strictly speaking, literature in Biblical Hebrew actually appeared 800 years before 1060 BCE.

    Late Bronze I
    Description: The empire falls apart in the wake of Egyptian invasions and/or civil unrest/war. Level of material culture is lowered significantly. Biblical Hebrew literature continues to flourish.
    Conventional dating: 1550-1400 - 18th Dynasty in Egypt, Hatshepsut, Thutmose III
    Better dating: 960-870 BCE - Divided monarchy up until Jehu/Athaliah


    Yehu/Atalia were c. 700 BCE, 170 years after you place them.

    Cont’d

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  30. Lisa,

    Late Bronze II
    Description: More of the same, but ending with waves of massive invasions, mostly from the north, which depopulate much of the region.
    Conventional dating: 1400-1200 BCE - 19th Dynasty in Egypt, Ramsses II
    Better dating: 870-785 BCE - Divided monarchy from Jehu until the Assyrian invasions


    Yehu’s reign began in 705 BCE, not 870 BCE.

    Iron I
    Description: A new (third) culture appears, migrating into the depopulated lands in waves and adopting some parts of the local culture for themselves. A remnant of the second culture remains in the southern hill country.
    Conventional dating: 1200-1000 BCE - Sea Peoples destructions, Israelite emergence/settlement
    Better dating: 785-720 BCE - Assyrian invasions, fall of Samaria, settlement of Samaritan tribes by the Assyrians


    Assyria invaded Israel in 558 BCE. Three years later Samaria fell, the Ten Tribes of Israel were exiled, and Samaria was repopulated by foreign tribes. Your dating is off by 162 years.

    Iron IIB
    Description: More of the same, but with conflict between the north and south.
    Conventional dating: 900-800 BCE - Divided monarchy up until Jehu/Athaliah
    Better dating: 680-640 BCE - Assyrian occupation, Samaritan consolidation of the north, Manasseh, Amon


    Menashe Reigned in 532 BCE and Amon was assassinated in 475 BCE, a full 165 years after their placement in your timeline.

    Iron IIIA
    Description: A rise in material culture, and some cooperation (and some war) between the north and south
    Conventional dating: 800-700 BCE - Divided monarchy from Jehu until the Assyrian invasions
    Better dating: 640-605 BCE - Recovery under Josiah


    Recovery under Josiah spanned the period of 475-446 BCE. You seem to be consistently off by about 160 years.

    Iron IIIB
    Description: Invasions from powerful Mesopotamian armies
    Conventional dating: 700-587 BCE - Assyrian invasions
    Better dating: 605-587 BCE - Babylonian invasions


    Babylonian Invasions of Israel c. 433-422 BCE. Temple Destroyed in 422 BCE.

    It seems that you are consistently off by 150-200 years in your timeline. It seems you’ve adopted the academic view and rejected the standard masoretic dating system in your revised timeline. Why?

    The remainder of my comments are random and have nothing to do with your timeline per se.

    Cont'd

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  31. Lisa,

    Oops. I meant to write that according to Seder Olam, this is the year 5770. Sign errors; the bane of my existence.

    Actually, according to Seder Olam it is the year 5771. Our current calendar adds one year to the cheshbon of Seder Olam as it considers the five days before Adam’s Creation as one virtual year and Seder Olam begins to count from Adam’s Creation. So there is a one year difference in the cheshbon, not two.

    You're assuming that "rechev" meant "chariot", as opposed to simply "riders". It's true that in later times, "merkavah" (from the same root) was used for "chariot", and that in the highly poetic Shirat Hayam, it actually says "markevot Par'o". But that's not evidence that the "shesh me'ot rechev" Pharaoh sent after us were chariots.

    I’m afraid Elemir is correct. Rechev means chariot. This is clear. Just before the Shira the Torah describes the story in detail. It says that the Egyptians chased the Jews with chariots, horsemen, and foot soldiers. Chariots are rechev, horseman are parashim, and foot soldiers are cheil. You can’t say that rechev means horseman. Also, The Torah states that Hashem removed the wheels of the chariots and caused them to be dragged on the ground.

    Pettinato claimed to have found references to Sodom in the Ebla tablets. No one else agrees. In all honesty, more damage has been done by "biblical archaeologists" who try and force the evidence to fit a time they don't belong to than anything else.

    Well, I’m afraid we’re going to have to disagree on that. Biblical Archaeologists, like the Christian Creationists, have contributed greatly to the general support of our mesora. And although their dating system is not always accurate, the issue here is not dating but rather events. Biblical Archaeology is constantly on the lookout for new discoveries which corroborate the events detailed in the Bible. And they have been hugely successful! As far as their dating systems, if they are not aligned with our traditions then we simply ignore them just as we ignore mainstream Archaeological dating systems. We are the only nation on earth that possesses an unbroken tradition all the way back to Avraham. We are the only ones who are not speculating. We are the only ones with a right to assign definitive dates to the events which occurred in our history.

    As far as the Ebla Tablets, Pettinato wasn’t the only one to claim that Sodom was written there. The tablets are written in Sumerian and can easily be translated. The issue is not whether SDodom appeared there or not. The controversy was over Biblical Archaeology’s claim that many of the events there correspond to the Bible. Academic archaeology just couldn’t accept that. Do you have a professional source which claims that an arms-length investigation of the Ebla tablets was made by experts I deciphering Cuneiform and they disagreed as to the inscriptions? After all, even a layman can go on the internet and learn what the various symbols mean. It seems highly unlikely that there is a “machlokes cuneiformists” what the tablet actually says but I might be wrong. I’d love to see the professional sources for such an assertion.

    I’d like to note once again that in general I think your presentation is excellent. I just think it needs to be tightened up a bit, especially re your timeline.

    I’d love to hear your responses to my comments if you can find the time.

    Be well,

    SC

    ReplyDelete
  32. Thanks, R' Simcha, for your comments. A few things.

    It seems you’ve adopted the academic view and rejected the standard masoretic dating system in your revised timeline. Why?

    If you'd like to see my view on the 166 "missing" years, you can see it here. The thing is, the issue of the Persian period and the issue of archaeological dating of the Bronze and Iron ages are two distinct arguments. I prefer not to mix them. It tends to muddy the issues. The dates I gave were approximate, and of course, need to be lowered uniformly by 166 years.

    First of all, the Jewish nation never produced any literature until well after the destruction of the first temple and even then it was done sparingly.

    Maybe there weren't any official books written, but it wasn't like people were illiterate. And it's a matter of fact, and not conjecture, that large caches of documents, including literature, appear at this time in these archaeological levels, and that the language in which they were written is Biblical Hebrew. I'm not saying either that no literature in Biblical Hebrew existed before this, but this is the earliest point at which it's been found.

    I’m afraid Elemir is correct. Rechev means chariot.

    Yes, you're right. Still, the fact that chariotry wasn't in regular use at the time doesn't mean that it was unknown or never used.

    Actually, according to Seder Olam it is the year 5771. Our current calendar adds one year to the cheshbon of Seder Olam as it considers the five days before Adam’s Creation as one virtual year and Seder Olam begins to count from Adam’s Creation. So there is a one year difference in the cheshbon, not two.

    No. There are two years of difference. Seder Olam doesn't actually give dates. It gives durations. But the normal way we understand it is by adding those durations together. So Adam lived 130 years before having Seth. Seth was born in 130. The Flood was in 1656. Abraham was born in 1948. The Exodus was in 2448. The First Temple was destroyed in 3338. These dates are all based on Adam's creation in 0. But as you say, the dating we use today has Adam created in 2. Which means that according to that dating, Seth was born in 132. The Flood was in 1658. Abraham was born in 1950. The Exodus was in 2450. The First Temple was destroyed in 3340. And it's currently 5772.
    (cont'd)

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  33. (cont'd)
    Well, I’m afraid we’re going to have to disagree on that. Biblical Archaeologists, like the Christian Creationists, have contributed greatly to the general support of our mesora.

    The people called "maximalists", who insist on twisting the actual evidence to fit the biblical account, while well intentioned, have only made things harder. Trying to bend the evidence of Iron I to fit the invasion of Canaan simply obscures the fact that this was the period of Samaritan settlement, and blinds people to the fact that the invasion was actually at the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age.

    As far as the Ebla Tablets, Pettinato wasn’t the only one to claim that Sodom was written there. The tablets are written in Sumerian and can easily be translated.

    No, they were not. Eblaite is a semitic language, akin to Hebrew and Akkadian. In fact, it's the only semitic language other than Hebrew which has a verb d-b-r meaning to speak. A bunch of the tablets were written using Sumerograms (single signs that stand for an entire word, the way we use & and @), but that's common in cuneiform writing throughout the ancient world. Sumerian the language is something else entirely. It's a horrible agglutinative language that makes German look monosyllabic by comparison. Also, no cuneiform writing is "easy to translate". Ever. I don't know how familiar you are with cuneiform, but there are 20+ signs that can have the sound "sha", and every one of those can have multiple other sounds.

    And again, as nice as it would be for the tablets to have mentioned Sdom, it's an iffy proposition at best, and it certainly doesn't indicate that the city was flourishing at the time.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Sorry, had a very preoccupied week and next doesn't look any better. but i must put in my 2 cents

    >>> And they weren't "occupiers". They'd campaign in, leave a stele, and go home. That's hardly occupation.

    you are welcome to your interpretation of what you’ve read, but it just ain’t so.

    ANE scholars have extensive documentation of activity by NK kings. Of course much of it may be bluster, but it hangs quite well together with other lands and kings, and events.

    Just reading in D. Redford’s book, about Thutmose III campaign in Canaan & Syria for 9 years. 9 years is not a “hit and run”. In general, the documents claim that after capturing a city or city/state, the Egyptians would set up their vassal king/governor, often leave a small garrison behind, and most importantly impose tribute and annual taxes. The are many, many docs that record this booty. One document has the Pharoah personally appearing every year to collect his taxes. Then there are the treaties between the Hittites/Egyptians, Mittanni/Egyptians which divide spheres of influence.

    There is no doubt, in my mind at least, that these three empires controlled Canaan. I grant that the dating is indeed questionable, but it doesn’t matter. Either Joshua would have had to take them on, or Saul or David or Solomon or maybe even later kings. But the fact is that Israelite sovereignty would have been is absolutely impossible without expelling any or all of these.

    Conclusion (to me): Nach was written much later than our mesorah claims, and by persons who simply were unaware of much of ancient history.

    ReplyDelete
  35. To RSC:

    I have many comments on what you wrote and also clarifications of what I wrote, but I have major time constraints.

    Let me at least go back to the Flood

    To review ….

    The Torah’s timeline says that all mankind, save Noah, was destroyed c. 2100 BCE and then Noah’s progeny spread out over the world and suddenly using different languages (our tradition puts this c. 1750)

    As we well know, Archaeology disagrees, providing a continuous history of the ANE from c. 3000 BCE straight through 2100, leaving no gaps to accommodate any such destruction. They base their history through the interpretation and dating of myriad artifacts in many languages, the dating being via a complex combination of historical lists, an elaborate database of pottery chronology, astronomical events, cross referencing and mutual corroboration of dates, persons, and events, and radioactive dating of artifacts, analysis of changing language, technology and culture, strata dating of excavations sites(have I left out anything??).

    Despite this, there is no doubt in my (and your) mind that the dating is NOT accurate and in many cases far from accurate and is quite appropriately questioned. However, it becomes a case of reasonableness, and to me, based on the wealth of artifacts, and despite their inaccurate dating, it is simply unreasonable that the data support the Torah’s contention that civilization in the ANE started c. 1800 BCE. (Lisa contribution, not withstanding)

    Further, as you well know, the absence of a flood for that era is supported by other observations in many differing scientific disciplines:
    a) Geological -
    the effect a flood would have had on any of, ice cores, annual layer of sediments, noticeable changes in salinity and oxygen isotope ratios, fractures from buoyancy and thermal stresses,. Polar caps, varves all been dated as unchanged for over 4000 years.
    b) botanical -
    trees and creosote bushes over 4000 years old
    c) human artifacts, .i.e. damage that would be expected especially to papyri and wall paintings.
    d) Genetics - geneticists claim that 4000 years is insufficient to account for the current genetic diversity in mankind.
    You don’t have to respond, I already know your opinion on measuring anything historical. But the rest of the scientific world disagrees.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Elemir, Joshua would not have had to contend with anyone, because even according to conventional scholars, the period just after the end of the Early Bronze Age was one where Egypt was just starting to recover (look up the end of the 6th dynasty, and the First Intermediate Period), and in Mesopotamia, Sargon of Akkad and his son Naram-Sin had their hands full up there. Don't believe me. Look it up.

    Thutmose III was probably Solomon's father-in-law. And the whole issue of sovereignty is a matter of POV. Consider I Kings 22:47. There was no king in Edom: a governor was king. And yet we see him referred to as "Melech Edom" after this, before the Edomites rebelled. And Libnah, a city in Judah, rebelled as well at that time. You're reading Western/European styles of rule back into a time when they weren't applicable. To the Edomites, he was a king. To us, he was a governor and a vassal. The person who ruled Libnah was probably also considered a local king. The polyarchical system of rule in the ancient near east is parallel to the polytheistic beliefs. During the Amarna period, the various cities in Israel were considered as being ruled by governors. At least from the Egyptian POV. From our POV, things were otherwise.

    We know that Jehu paid tribute to Assyria. There's no mention of that in the Bible. To the Assyrians, Israel was not sovereign. To us, it was. Your "spheres of influence" is far too informed by 20th century politics.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Elemir, archaeology doesn't say anything about 3000 BCE. Archaeology says Early Bronze Age, or in the case of Egypt, either Old Kingdom or Pre-Dynastic. Historians, basing themselves on a dating scheme that's flawed, at best, translate that as 3000 BCE. You need to understand the difference between primary, secondary, and tertiary sources.

    As far as physical evidence of the Flood, approximately the same physical remains would be left by glaciers over millions of years or liquid water over a month and a half. You're looking in the wrong place. There's ample evidence of the Flood. You know it as the Ice Age.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Lisa,

    Hi. Thanks for the quick response. I have some further comments.

    If you'd like to see my view on the 166 "missing" years, you can see it here.

    I’d be interested to see what you have to say but unfortunately your hyperlink doesn’t work. I get “The requested URL /lisa/heifetzfix.html was not found on this server.”

    The thing is, the issue of the Persian period and the issue of archaeological dating of the Bronze and Iron ages are two distinct arguments. I prefer not to mix them. It tends to muddy the issues. The dates I gave were approximate, and of course, need to be lowered uniformly by 166 years.

    I’m glad to hear you say that. But most readers don’t understand what you mean so allow me to explain.

    What Lisa means to say is that our historical dating diverges with that of the secular one by 167 years. Secular history identifies 538 BCE as the year Cyrus conquered Babylon whereas we have it at 371 BCE. Furthermore, we have 3, possibly 4 Persian kings for the Persian Empire whereas secular history begins from Cyrus the Great and records another 9 kings for a total of 10 kings that ruled the Persian Empire! The duration of the Persian Empire according to secular history is 208 years whereas Chazal attribute only 52 years to its reign as most people already know. Lisa is not the first person bothered with this question. The issue has been addressed as far back as R’ Saadya Gaon and many subsequent writers after him. What she is saying is that her revising of the archaeological timeline is a separate question from the historical discrepancy between secular and traditional Jewish history. She understands that the historical timeline must be dealt with also but in order to preserve coherency, chooses not to mix kasha with borscht.

    So Lisa, can I take it that in reality you subscribe to the Seder Olam timeline?

    Cont’d

    ReplyDelete
  39. Lisa,

    And it's a matter of fact, and not conjecture, that large caches of documents, including literature, appear at this time in these archaeological levels, and that the language in which they were written is Biblical Hebrew.

    A matter of fact? Really? So you would like me to believe that, say, around Gideon’s time, just after Devorah, (i.e. 1060 BCE) the Jews composed literary works in Biblical Hebrew? And that somehow there is a firm dating method that puts these works squarely in that time? And that somehow we have no record of these works in our traditions? Do you have anything resembling a source for your contention? Can you provide me with the method by which these supposed literary works have been “factually” dated to this period?

    Here’s the way I see the facts. The Jews were an agrarian nation that spent their time tilling the soil and studying the Torah. They didn’t waste their time on empty and meaningless pursuits like literature. There was a ban against writing anything for public consumption. I just can’t see how literature began to appear in the time that you claim and that just after that time it began to proliferate in great number. We have no records of any such literature in our traditions so if you want to convince me, ha’motzee mey’chavero alav ha’raya. You could staret by identifying some of the numerous works you are referring to. The first time I have ever heard of Jewish literature, or something like it, was the apocrypha and these were largely composed during Bayis Sheni with some dating a hundred years before at most.

    I'm not saying either that no literature in Biblical Hebrew existed before this, but this is the earliest point at which it's been found.

    This is illogical. The Jewish Nation possessed thousands of Torah scrolls by the time 1060 BCE came about yet archaeology only finds some Hebrew literature documents, not found in our traditions, and continues to find a proliferation of them over the course of the next 150 years, and yet not even one single Torah scroll is found and dated to that period of time? Does that sound reasonable to you? Actually, it’s impossible! The archaeological dating is obviously erroneous.

    Cont’d

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  40. Lisa,

    No. There are two years of difference. Seder Olam doesn't actually give dates. It gives durations. But the normal way we understand it is by adding those durations together. So Adam lived 130 years before having Seth. Seth was born in 130. The Flood was in 1656.

    The opening statement of Seder Olam (SO) is that “From Adam to the flood is 1656 years”. The SO then goes on to prove that date in the manner you write i.e. Adam was 130 when Shes was born, Shes was 105 when Enosh was born etc. But regardless, mathematics is an absolute proof to the SO’s timeline. So whether the SO mentions a date or whether we add the durations and come to the date ourselves is irrelevant.

    These dates are all based on Adam's creation in 0.

    Says who? These dates are all based on Adam being created in the first day of Year #1 of Creation. There is no reason to say that the first year of creation is called Year #0. “0” is not a number. Besides, your thesis is inconsistent. If for some reason you believe that the proper way to begin counting is with the number “0”, then both systems begin with the number “0” in which case Adam was born in Year #1 according to our system, not Year #2. So we’re back again to a 1 year difference between the two systems, not a 2 year difference. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

    But as you say, the dating we use today has Adam created in 2

    Yes. Based on the year before Adam being called #1. There is no #0 in my system.

    More after Shabbos…

    ReplyDelete
  41. I’d be interested to see what you have to say but unfortunately your hyperlink doesn’t work. I get “The requested URL /lisa/heifetzfix.html was not found on this server.”

    Oops, my bad. The link is http://starways.net/lisa/essays/heifetzfix.html

    It's an article that appeared in Jewish Action back in the 90s.

    So Lisa, can I take it that in reality you subscribe to the Seder Olam timeline?

    Yes. Maybe not on a year-by-year basis, but since commentators like the Radak and Ralbag didn't consider that necessary, neither do I.

    Literature. Where to begin. First of all, sifrei Torah are written on parchment. There's no way for parchment to last that long. The material that lasts that long is either baked clay or stone. The only reason things like the Dead Sea Scrolls didn't completely disintegrate is that they were stored in a particularly arid location. And even so, they're incredibly fragile. So no, of course we don't have any sifrei Torah from back then.

    As far as the Jews tilling the soil and learning Torah all day, that's very Avigdor Miller, but it's more of an idealized picture. There was Baal worship. There was a laxity in terms of coming to Jerusalem for the 3 regalim. It's not like everyone was frum back then.

    And for the record, saying that there were works of literature at the time isn't being motzi anything from you, so that expression isn't relevant. However, there is, just as example, a great deal of literature from Ugarit, which is dated via references to reigning kings of Babylon and Assyria. And Egypt. And the Hittites. There's even one that's an obvious pastiche of a chapter of Psalms. Conventional scholarship sees Psalms as copying this poem, but the revised dating shows that it's the other way around.

    That said, I didn't say that we were necessarily the authors of all that literature.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Lisa,

    Gut voch,

    I wanted to make this comment erev Shabbos but I didn’t have time so here it is.

    No, they were not. Eblaite is a semitic language, akin to Hebrew and Akkadian.

    Yes. But the Eblaite which appeared on the tablets was written using Sumerian cuneiform. Incidentally, Eblaites are not the only people that utilized the pictorial symbols of Sumerian Cuneiform to represent their language. Many ancient people used it in one form or another until it was eventually replaced by consonantal alphabets. I’m sure you know all this already Lisa.

    Furthermore, the Ebla Tablets were also written in Sumerian. There were two languages that appeared on the Ebla tablets; Sumerian and Eblaite.

    A bunch of the tablets were written using Sumerograms (single signs that stand for an entire word, the way we use & and @), but that's common in cuneiform writing throughout the ancient world.

    Precisely. That’s the Eblaite that appears on the tablets. It’s the Eblaite language using Sumerian logograms.

    Sumerian the language is something else entirely. It's a horrible agglutinative language that makes German look monosyllabic by comparison.

    Yes. But as mentioned, it too appeared on the tablets.

    And again, as nice as it would be for the tablets to have mentioned Sdom, it's an iffy proposition at best, and it certainly doesn't indicate that the city was flourishing at the time.

    You might be right. But then again, the New York Times, a publication which is not exactly Bible friendly, had this to report (January 19, 1979):

    “Yet another strange parallel with the Bible is a list of five towns (Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Bela, also called Zoar.) Both the Ebla tablets and Genesis, written more than a thousand years later, give the same list in the same order. In the Bible, Sodom and Gomorrah, often assumed to be allegorical, are destroyed for their wickedness. In the Ebla tablets, they are thriving commercial centers.”

    So according to the Times, the same experts that decoded the Ebla cuneiform and discovered the cities of Sodom also discovered that it was a thriving commercial center.

    I have a question for you. Why do you doubt Pettinato’s word? He was a professional paleographer, specialized in Elbaite, and is universally recognized as the one who deciphered the Ebla Tablets. He was a professor of Assyriology and published scholarly works on Sumerian culture. At the time of his death (last year) he was emeritus of several important academic associations. Can you provide me with the name of an equally authoritative paleographer that directly contradicts Pettinato’s translation of the cuneiform symbols which make reference to Sodom? And if not, why the hesitancy on your part to accept his testimony?

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  43. Elemir,

    As we well know, Archaeology disagrees, providing a continuous history of the ANE from c. 3000 BCE straight through 2100, leaving no gaps to accommodate any such destruction.

    We’ve been over this ground already. Lisa has already explained to all of us in great detail that the relative juxtaposition of archaeological discoveries is entirely unrelated to the issue of dating. Archaeology doesn’t provide a continuous history of near east civilization from one specific date to another. It provides a continuous history of events that took place over a specific amount of time. Start dates and end dates are merely a matter of speculation and are perfectly conformable with the Torah’s timeline.

    Despite this, there is no doubt in my (and your) mind that the dating is NOT accurate and in many cases far from accurate and is quite appropriately questioned. However, it becomes a case of reasonableness, and to me, based on the wealth of artifacts, and despite their inaccurate dating, it is simply unreasonable that the data support the Torah’s contention that civilization in the ANE started c. 1800 BCE. (Lisa contribution, not withstanding)

    This is merely a repetition of your original argument, to wit, the “wealth of artifacts” makes it unreasonable that civilization began anew 2100 BCE. But the question is why? Why does it make it unreasonable? You don’t believe that the hundreds of millions of people that lived in ancient Mesopotamia and adjacent districts could have generated a wealth of artifacts over a period of hundred’s of years? That’s your whole argument? Say it ain’t so!

    Cont’d

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  44. Elemir,

    Further, as you well know, the absence of a flood for that era is supported by other observations in many differing scientific disciplines… You don’t have to respond, I already know your opinion on measuring anything historical. But the rest of the scientific world disagrees.

    It’s not that I don’t have to respond. It’s that I can’t respond. Here’s the thing Elemir. You and I are cut from different cloths. When I come across a scientific field that claims to contradict the Torah, the first thing I do is learn everything I can about that field from the professional literature. I then consider the arguments one by one and if I am able to counter them, I am satisfied. My attitude is that no scientific field is ever greater than the sum of its parts. So if I’ve investigated the “parts” of a particular field of science and determined that they don’t contradict the Torah, then I do not allow myself to be influenced by the unsupported claims of the practitioners of that field. Unfortunately this is not your attitude. You come to the table with a huge amount of pre-conceived baggage that you’ve swallowed from the academic world lock, stock and barrel, and refuse to accept arguments that unseat the mainstream accepted view of the scientific establishment. You are impressed by numbers! You no doubt are bristling with indignation over this accusation but I’ll prove it to you!

    You asked me to provide you with a theme for Devarim and when I did you challenged me with 16 mitzvos. I answered each one of your mitzvos but at the end you just couldn’t break free from the mainstream Biblical criticism view that Devarim was a separate book and wrote: “I’ll grant that some things may have been non-existent or irrelevant . But enough mitzvot do not match your criterion to leave me unconvinced that this was Moishe’s theme.” 14 out of the 16 mitzvos matched the criterion perfectly yet you remained unconvinced!

    You claimed that the flood couldn’t have happened because there were documents from that time that did not mention it. I challenged you to provide the documents in question and you did. I then responded to each and every document you quoted but once again you just couldn’t break free. You wrote: “In summary, with regard to all these documents, thanks for commenting on them, but the point was not to debate each and every one, but to show that established and well populated civilizations existed in the middle east with differing languages, cultures, life styles, and infrastructure in the period just before and just after the Flood and all before the Tower Bavel (circa 1750 BCE). And thus there appears to be continuity contradicting the occurrence of a flood in this time period” But here’s the problem. If we debate each and every one and I provide you with a counterargument that eliminates that particular document, then the sum of the documents can’t show what you want it to show! But this doesn’t enter your mind. The number of documents is what impresses you, not their individual ability to support your argument.

    You claim that the flood is contradicted by a multitude of scientific fields but instead of picking one field at a time and investigating it with me, you satisfy yourself with meaningless claims about “support” from “many differing scientific disciplines”. Once again, you are impressed by numbers. You are impressed by claims. You go so far as to say that I shouldn’t bother responding to you. I hate to say it Elemir but Lisa was right. You’ve made up your mind and that’s all there is to it. Of course, this doesn’t mean that I will ever stop responding to you. But I think you need to know this about yourself. You touted yourself as a seeker of truth and I know you believe that about yourself but as a friend I enjoin you to question your motives.

    Please note: Everything I said here was l’toeles. I mean no disrespect whatsoever. I am offering what I believe to be constructive criticism and I hope it is taken that way.

    Your friend,

    Simcha

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  45. Lisa,

    Literature. Where to begin.

    I have an idea. Why don’t you start by responding to my request. Please provide several works of literature composed in Biblical Hebrew that have been dated to 1060 BCE (according to the revised “Lisanian” timeline of course).

    As far as the Jews tilling the soil and learning Torah all day, that's very Avigdor Miller, but it's more of an idealized picture. There was Baal worship. There was a laxity in terms of coming to Jerusalem for the 3 regalim. It's not like everyone was frum back then.

    Oh boy. As you would say; where to begin. Actually, this is not the time or place. In order to develop a proper POV of Jewish history, it takes years of study. Suffice to say that you are lacking a true understanding of the nature of our great nation in ancient times. It’s not the “idealized” view of Rav Avigdor Miller. He’s merely revealing the truth of our history as it has been viewed by our mesora all these years. You flippantly claim that not everyone was “frum” back then yet Chazal say just the opposite. Sefer Shoftim is called “The Book of Righteousness” (AZ 25a). They did not require a king. Each person strove to do what was righteous in his eyes. And when they finally requested a king Hashem was very displeased. Up until then the nation had related directly to Hashem as their King. Now they were sinking to the level of intermediates. “Hashem is your King” cried Shmuel! “You have sinned greatly to request a king”! The Jews who lived from the Dor Midbar to the end of the period of the Shoftim (1060 BCE, the time you claim for Biblical Hebrew “literature”, was smack dab in the middle of that period) were the noblest people that ever lived on the face of the earth. Any of the sins attributed to these people are only relative to their enormous spiritual state. All this is well known to students of Jewish history from the POV of Chazal but as I said, now is not the time and place.

    However, there is, just as example, a great deal of literature from Ugarit, which is dated via references to reigning kings of Babylon and Assyria. And Egypt. And the Hittites.

    Ugarit? We’re talking about literature in Biblical Hebrew that began to appear from 1060 BCE and on and “flourished” 100 years later. Ugaritic is not Biblical Hebrew. If we are going to resolve this, you can not make nebulous statements about a “great deal of literature”. You are going to have to refer to specific literary works written in Biblical Hebrew that have been dated to 1060 BCE and that I can verify. If you can’t do this, you need to retract your statement.

    That said, I didn't say that we were necessarily the authors of all that literature.

    What are you talking about??? Which other nation spoke Biblical Hebrew during the times of the Shoftim? And even if a few people from the surrounding nations were somewhat familiar with the language, they certainly wouldn’t compose literary works in the Jewish tongue!

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  46. SC:
    There was a ban against writing anything for public consumption. ...The first time I have ever heard of Jewish literature, or something like it, was the apocrypha and these were largely composed during Bayis Sheni with some dating a hundred years before at most.... The archaeological dating is obviously erroneous.

    The Baal priests and Samaritans were not necessarily held back from writing books. Additionally, our sources report that frum people during biblical times also wrote and published works that were apparently approved of:

    במדבר פרק כא פסוק יד
    עַל-כֵּן יֵאָמַר בְּסֵפֶר מִלְחֲמֹת ה' ...

    אבן עזרא במדבר פרק כא
    בספר מלחמת ה'. ספר היה בפני עצמו ושם כתוב מלחמות ה' בעבור יריאיו ויתכן שהיה מימות אברהם כי ספרים רבים אבדו ואינם נמצאים אצלנו כדברי נתן ועדו ודברי הימים למלכי ישראל ושירות שלמה ומשליו

    רבינו בחיי
    על כן יאמר בספר מלחמות ה'. על חניה זו ונסים שנעשו בה. בספר מלחמות ה' ספר היה בפני עצמו וכתוב שם מלחמות ה' בעבור יראיו. ויתכן שהיה מימות אברהם, כי ספרים רבים אבדו ממנו בגלות ואינם נמצאים אצלנו, כדברי נתן ועידו ודברי הימים למלכי ישראל ושירות שלמה ומשליו, כך פירש הרב ר'אברהם ז"ל

    רמב"ן
    ודרך הפשט בספר מלחמות ה', שהיו בדורות ההם אנשים חכמים כותבים ספר המלחמות הגדולות, כי כן בכל הדורות, ובעלי הספרים היו נקראים מושלים, שנושאים בהם משלים ומליצות, והנצחונות הנפלאים בעיניהם מיחסים המלחמות ההם לה' כי לו המה באמת...

    רשב"ם
    על כן יאמר. על אלו המסעות שחזרו לאחוריהם והקיפו את ארץ אדום. כדכתיב ונסב את הר שעיר ימים רבים וחזרו עד שפגעו בבאר שכתוב למעלה אז יאמר בספירת דברים ששיבחו להקדוש ברוך הוא והזכירו נסי ים סוף ונסים שנעשו בנחל ארנון ובאר וגם אז ישיר ישראל. בראותם עתה את הבאר כי מתחלה לא אמרו שירה עליו לפי שאז נענשו עליה משה ואהרן

    ReplyDelete
  47. Hi, Reb Simcha.

    From a recent comment it seems that you are quite upset that I never continued on your clever idea, and to me it was novel, the “frequency” suggestion to explain Moshe list of mitzvoth in Devarim. The reason for dropping it is that from your responses there was not point in pursuing the matter. You decided for many in the list as to what was considered frequent and what was not. And frankly many of the claims were dubious at best.

    The moment you said that there were no divorces in the midbar or no false witnesses, that ended the discussion. I simply don’t believe it about the divorces, and saying that the dor hamidbar was the greatest dor in history, while maybe supported by various medroshim, its however, not supported by (a) the constant complaints Moshe had about them and (b) quoting a medrash, especially when there are contradictory and when it counters common sense, is simply not convoncing (another discussion, I guess) . And (c) what does "being a great dor" have to do with divorce, people make mistakes.

    You stated: “Even when they were in Egypt, the ervas ha’aretz, never did any of the Jews fraternize with the Egyptians. This is a remarkable fact! They were entirely gedurim mey’arayos. Never mind “infrequent”; the divorce rate was probably nil in the midbar.” Oh please what utter nonsense. Besides this is completely and utterly contradicted by other medroshim on how they descended to the 49 th level of Tumah and how 80% of them were killed because the refused to follow Moshe.

    Also, remind me again who Yoseph married … .Furthermore, You actually believe that the first generations of the B’Y in Egypt only married their sisters and cousins.

    As for the idea of witnesses you mean to tell me that Moshe’s judiciary only had truthful testimony given? OK, possible but not very reasonable.Who needs a judge then

    ReplyDelete
  48. cont'd

    However, if you truly want to further comment, I went to the trouble of compiling a list of miyzvot taken from the 70 new mitzvoth in Devarim as delineated by RSRH in his commentary on Chumash (with those obviously related to Eretz Yisroel omitted). And, if your are going to repeat your basic argument that the generation of B’Y was so holy that many of these mitzvoth are not applicable, don’t waste your time.

    1. Shema
    2. Not to intermarry
    3. Not to benefit from idolatry
    4. Birchat Hamozon
    5. 2nd paragraph of Shema
    6. Not to destroy God’s temple
    7. Sh’chitah
    8. Blood and meat for Olot
    9. Not to add nor substract from list of mitzvoth
    10. False prophet
    11. Instigator of idolatry
    12. Rebellious scholar
    13. Charity
    14. Asherah tree
    15. Individual who has served idols
    16. Law of Witnesses
    17. The Benefit to the Priest
    18. Concept of a True Prophet
    19. False Witnesses (Zomeimim)
    20. Laws of War (calling out Peace to the enemy)
    21. Laws of War including not destroy fruit trees
    22. Law of rights to the first born
    23. Female war captives
    24. Rebellious son
    25. Not to leave an executed body hanging overnight
    26. cross dressing
    27. sending off the mother bird.
    28. accusing a new bride of infidelity
    29. Infidelity of an engaged girl
    30. not marrying your father’s (ex)wife
    31. rape
    32. not marrying a person with damaged testicles
    33. not marrying a mamzer
    34. not marrying Ammonite
    35. not marrying Moabite
    36. not marrying Edomite
    37. not marrying a Egyptian
    38. More laws of War..holy camp
    39. Prostitution
    40. Value of dog as a donation
    41. Divorce bill
    42. Not remarrying your divorced wife if she remarried first and became free
    43. pledge laws
    44. laws of lashed
    45. Levirate marriage or divorce
    46. Remenbering Amalek
    47. Writing a sefer Torah

    And if you want you can a few more, mitzvoth that “add” to previous stated ones, like tzitzit and returning lost items.

    ReplyDelete
  49. I included the Rashbam's comment to show another possibility. He disagrees with Ibn Ezra's, Ramban's and Rabbeynu Bechaye's understanding, and says the "Book of Wars of Hashem" is simply referring to known passages in the Torah, not outside works. He does not address, however, the issue of the other works the other rishonim mentioned.

    ReplyDelete
  50. Please transplant this discussion to a different thread.

    ReplyDelete
  51. Please transplant this discussion to a different thread.

    I'm referring to the Devarim mitzvos discussion.

    ReplyDelete
  52. Zvi,

    Hi. Thanks for commenting. Sorry for the delay in responding. I am in the process of moving. It is extremely stressful and time consuming. Not to mention the fact that we are leaving to the Catskills in a week! My time is severely limited so my responses for the next few weeks will be sporadic at best.

    Before I respond to your comments, let’s establish precisely what Lisa claims. Here’s what she wrote:

    “Literature in Biblical Hebrew appears… Better dating: 1060-960 BCE…Biblical Hebrew literature continues to flourish…Better dating: 960-870 BCE”

    So, the initial appearance of literature written in Biblical Hebrew and its subsequent “flourishing” is dated almost entirely to the period of the Shoftim (the period of the Shoftim ended in 884 BCE with the anointing of King Saul).

    Now let’s see your comment.

    The Baal priests and Samaritans were not necessarily held back from writing books.

    Let’s start with the obvious. According to our traditions, the Samaritans did not come into contact with the Bible until they were settled by Sancheirev in Shomron after the exile of the ten tribes. This occurred approximately five hundred years after 1060 BCE! Ditto for the Baal priests (50 years earlier).

    Second of all, we are familiar with works by Samaritans. Their version of the Torah and their books of the law are still extant today. But that’s not what Lisa meant by “literature”. We’re not talking about religious texts that have been transmitted from generation to generation. We’re talking about relatively recent archaeological discoveries of literature which are preserved on tablets (stone or clay) like, for instance, the Ebla Tablets. In any case, any books that the Samaritans or Baal priests may have written would not be preserved. As Lisa points out, parchment disintegrates. So, we’re talking about stone tablets that first appear in 1060 BCE containing “literature” (not Biblical law) written in Biblical Hebrew. I’ve asked Lisa to provide me with concrete and verifiable examples but thus far I haven’t received a response.

    Additionally, our sources report that frum people during biblical times also wrote and published works that were apparently approved of

    This is irrelevant to our discussion. The Sefer Milchamos Hashem (SMH) was a scroll written on parchment (copied and recopied from generation to generation as information was added) and as I mentioned before we’re not talking about books. These types of writings would not survive. We’re talking about tablets. But in any case, the SMH is irrelevant for another reason.

    Cont’d

    ReplyDelete
  53. Zvi,

    From Avraham Avinu on, the Jewish people had scrolls in their possession. Avraham wrote about monotheism and handed it down to Yitzchok etc. In fact, according to some opinions, he even wrote a version of Sefer Yetsira. These writings were passed down amongst the progeny of the Avos. In addition there was the SMH which documented military triumphs and scrolls that documented mankind’s traditions from Adam down through the generations. These scrolls recorded the traditions that Adam handed down to his progeny and were studied by the great people of every generation. Shem and Ever established a Yeshiva and taught these traditions to a select body of students. These teachings are referred to as Toras Derech Eretz. Hundreds of years later the Jews in Egypt still possessed some of these writings. All this is as pertains until matan Torah. After matan Torah there was a ban placed on writing. Only specific things could be written down and only by the consensus of the leaders. The 24 Books of the Prophets were written down and canonized. Alongside the canon the SMH continued to be expanded as a parallel to the Bible because it had already existed long before and its express purpose was to document the military victories and divrey hayamim of the various kings of klal Yisrael. This was also the purpose of the Sefer Divrey Hayamim and the purpose of the divrey hayamim documented by Edo and Nasaan. All of these writings fit into one basic category; history. However, the only one that ended up being canonized was the Divrey Hayamim written by Ezra and Nechemia. That’s why the rest ended up going lost.

    So SMH has nothing to do with Lisa’s claim that in 1060 BCE literature in Biblical Hebrew began appearing. Literature was banned, period. Only specific writings were permitted. For the first five hundred years the only publicly disseminated books the Jews had were the Torah and Yehoshua. Shmuel was written about a hundred years before the ten tribes split off from Yehuda and was not yet widely disseminated. That’s why the Samaritans only have the Torah and Yehoshua; because that’s all the ten tribes in Shomron possessed. The Samaritans don’t have the SMH, Baal writings, or anything like that. These type of writings, if they even existed, did not circulate amongst the nation. Special scribes maintained the scrolls of the SMH but it was not available to the public like the Torah and Yehoshua.

    So, my point is that frum people did not compose “literature” in Hebrew and it certainly didn’t flourish, especially not during the times of the Shoftim. In any case, as I mentioned above these writings were not imprinted on tablets. They were written in portable scrolls and passed down to the next generation of scribes who added new information as it arose. Lisa is talking about a flourishing of Hebrew literature on tablets! I would love to see examples of such a thing dated to the times of the Shoftim.

    Sorry for my long-winded presentation Zvi. I hope you managed to stay up until the end. My wife can’t figure out how anyone can read more than one line of my stuff without dozing off…

    ReplyDelete
  54. Elemir,

    Hi. Sorry for the delay. I’m very busy for the next few weeks so my responses will be sporadic at best.

    …to me it was novel, the “frequency” suggestion to explain Moshe list of mitzvoth in Devarim… there was not point in pursuing the matter. You decided for many in the list as to what was considered frequent and what was not. And frankly many of the claims were dubious at best.

    I didn’t decide anything. I stated my opinion and provided my reasoning. If you disagreed with my reasoning, you could have countered with your own.

    The moment you said that there were no divorces in the midbar or no false witnesses, that ended the discussion.

    I didn’t say that there were NO divorces in the midbar. In fact, IIRC I mentioned that there must have been at least one divorce, that of Moshe Rabbeinu’s. What I said is that divorce was infrequent. Please address this line of reasoning directly. Do you think that divorce was a frequent affair in the midbar, yes or no?

    As far as false witnesses, so, precisely what are you imagining here? Reuven snuck into Shimon’s tent and stole his sandals and two witnesses came and bore false testimony that Reuven was visiting his cousins in machine Yehuda that day and couldn’t have stolen the sandals? How often would circumstances arise that could engender the bearing of false testimony??? They weren’t in business and didn’t own any land. They sat and learned the Torah all day long and travelled around the midbar. The Shechina’s presence was palpable to this generation. How frequently do you think they bore false testimony? Please respond directly to this question directly. How do you see that the Jews likely bore false testimony on a frequent basis?

    I simply don’t believe it about the divorces,

    So, you think the divorce rate was high in the midbar? You think divorce was a frequent thing? Please explain to me why you think this. And remember, we are talking about a generation of neveim! Each and every one of them was a prophet. So, you think that divorce was a frequent occurrence amongst such people. Why?

    and saying that the dor hamidbar was the greatest dor in history, while maybe supported by various medroshim, its however, not supported by (a) the constant complaints Moshe had about them

    There were ten complaints in all. Almost all of them occurred in the first year or so and were the result of growing pains combined with the negative influence from the eiruv rav. For the next 38 years nary a word of criticism was heard about this great nation. Not one single word! They lived in cramped quarters and wandered around in the wilderness and yet Moshe can find not one negative word to say about them. This is the most remarkable phenomenon in the history of our nation! Please explain to me why you think differently.

    Cont’d

    ReplyDelete
  55. Elemir,

    and (b) quoting a medrash, especially when there are contradictory and when it counters common sense, is simply not convoncing (another discussion, I guess).

    I agree. So, please produce the contradictory medrashim and please produce the “common sense” that would lead one to conclude that divorce and lying was a frequent affair in the midbar. This I gotta see…

    And (c) what does "being a great dor" have to do with divorce, people make mistakes.

    The greater a nation is, the less “mistakes” they make. People don’t get divorced because they “made a mistake”. They get divorced because they have no clue about the sanctity of marriage. Obviously there are exceptions to that rule but they are exceptions, not frequent occurrences. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever to imagine that divorce was anything but infrequent in the midbar.

    You stated: “Even when they were in Egypt, the ervas ha’aretz, never did any of the Jews fraternize with the Egyptians. This is a remarkable fact! They were entirely gedurim mey’arayos. Never mind “infrequent”; the divorce rate was probably nil in the midbar.” Oh please what utter nonsense. Besides this is completely and utterly contradicted by other medroshim on how they descended to the 49 th level of Tumah and how 80% of them were killed because the refused to follow Moshe.

    You are in error. The medroshim are unanimous about the chastity of the Jews in Egypt. They are also unanimous regarding their descending to the lowest level of tumah but it is no contradiction. The impurity discussed here was caused by the tumah of avodah zara, not arayos.

    Also, remind me again who Yoseph married …

    According to Chazal, the daughter of Dina his sister.

    Furthermore, You actually believe that the first generations of the B’Y in Egypt only married their sisters and cousins.

    Yup. Not just the first generation either. 130 years into the Egyptian exile Moshe’s father married his aunt, remember?

    As for the idea of witnesses you mean to tell me that Moshe’s judiciary only had truthful testimony given? OK, possible but not very reasonable.Who needs a judge then

    You’re doing the same thing you did the first time around. You’re erecting straw men. I never said that “Moshe’s judiciary only had truthful testimony given”. I said that false testimony was infrequent.

    Gotta go Elemir. I’ll try and respond to the rest of your comments later.

    ReplyDelete
  56. Dear Reb Simcha,

    What I wrote was in response to your blanket statement, "The first time I have ever heard of Jewish literature, or something like it, was the apocrypha and these were largely composed during Bayis Sheni with some dating a hundred years before at most." That's why I countered with writings on all types of surfaces from the times of the Ahvos. I now understand the context was about literature from the period of Shoftim and on. Thanks for your clarification and erudite presentation of the facts.

    ReplyDelete
  57. SC: I didn’t say that there were NO divorces in the midbar. In fact, IIRC I mentioned that there must have been at least one divorce, that of Moshe Rabbeinu’s. What I said is that divorce was infrequent.
    There's also the Midrash about a (mass?) divorce among the Bnei Yisroel when Moshe told them about the new prohibitions against staying married to arayos. Again, however, as your approach says, this was a one-shot occurrence, not a frequent one--and also another demonstration of the general righteousness of the people, who obeyed the new commandments despite the strong emotional difficulties for themselves and their families.

    ReplyDelete
  58. Zvi,

    There's also the Midrash about a (mass?) divorce among the Bnei Yisroel when Moshe told them about the new prohibitions against staying married to arayos.

    I don’t remember that medrash Zvi. If you Have some time can you look it up and let me know where it is? I’d like to review it. Thanks…SC

    ReplyDelete
  59. במדבר פרק יא

    י וַיִּשְׁמַע משֶׁה אֶת-הָעָם בֹּכֶה לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָיו אִישׁ לְפֶתַח אָהֳלוֹ וַיִּחַר-אַף יְהוָֹה מְאֹד וּבְעֵינֵי משֶׁה רָע: יא וַיֹּאמֶר משֶׁה אֶל-יְהֹוָה לָמָה הֲרֵע


    רש"י
    בכה למשפחתיו. משפחות משפחות נאספים ובוכים לפרסם תרעומתן בגלוי ורבותינו אמרו למשפחותיו על עסקי משפחות על עריות הנאסרות להם--ספרי

    סיפרי פרשת בהעלותך פיסקא צ
    וישמע משה את העם בוכה למשפחותיו היה רבי נהוראי אומר (מנין) [מלמד] שהיו ישראל מצטערים בשעה שאמר להם משה לפרוש מן העריות (מלמד שהיה אדם נושא את אחותו ואחות אביו ואחות אמו ובשעה שאמר להם משה לפרוש מן העריות היו מצטערים):

    ReplyDelete
  60. Reb Simcha

    Just want to say I am enjoying the fact that you are back.

    Will keep following along and as I told you not that long ago I am a follower and don't post, now that I see you are back :-)

    An old friend
    DaBear

    ReplyDelete
  61. Zvi,

    רש"י
    בכה למשפחתיו. משפחות משפחות נאספים ובוכים לפרסם תרעומתן בגלוי ורבותינו אמרו למשפחותיו על עסקי משפחות על עריות הנאסרות להם—ספרי

    I’m not so sure Zvi. I’ve always learned this Rashi that they were upset regarding the additional issurim of arayos that became assur to them after matan Torah (as the Gemara in Yoma is mashma) but the Gemara doesn’t say that if they happened to have gotten married before matan Torah they would have to now divorce. It seems that they were complaining about mikan u’lehaba. Also, the Sifri you quote could mean that they were complaining that from here on in they could not marry their sisters although in the past they could if they wanted to. But even if it means the way you present it, a divorce would not be necessary. Kidushin is not tofes in a sister so there is no marriage in the first place. In fact there was no kiddushin before matan Torah anyway. The function of a get is to dissolve kidushin so a get is irrelevant. What the Sifri seems to be saying is that Moshe told certain men that the women they were living with were now considered arayos so they had to be poresh from them and this was the source of their tza’ar. Like the gemara says in Yoma, they were not allowed to lay with each other. I don’t think we are talking about technical divorce here. I don’t know… maybe I’m wrong. But the Sifri and the Gemara do not mention gittin, that’s for sure.

    ReplyDelete
  62. Elemir,

    However, if you truly want to further comment,

    I think I’m gonna pass on this one. Your original 16 mitzvos was a lot for me to comment on. 47 is way too much. Besides, I’m pretty sure you will not accept my line of reasoning so what’s the point? It’s too much effort with too little yield. Let’s move on to greener pastures.

    ReplyDelete
  63. SC: What the Sifri seems to be saying is that Moshe told certain men that the women they were living with were now considered arayos so they had to be poresh from them ... I don’t think we are talking about technical divorce here.... But the Sifri and the Gemara do not mention gittin, that’s for sure.

    You are right. And this raises another interesting subject. What about non-arayos couples upon Mattan Torah? Probably, the woman would not be able to marry another man without a halachic get. But were these couples allowed to continue living together as man and wife without undergoing kiddushin?

    ReplyDelete
  64. >>> I think I’m gonna pass on this one.

    I concur… but look, the idea was novel, I liked it, but upon review, IMO it was not true. 2 so, last points

    1) as soon as one notes that the basic daily mitzvoth of ours, shema, tallis, teffilin, and birchat hamotzen are not in the Sinai list (except tallis), your definition became problematic.
    2) About “get”, even if you are right that not a single divorce occurred in the desert era. If moshe gave them the laws of kiddushim, reason says that this should have been accompanied with the laws of gittin. It makes no sense that B”Y should not be informed about the fact that to get married they need kiddushin and not be told they can divorce and how.

    ReplyDelete
  65. >>>> According to Chazal, the daughter of Dina his sister.

    I don’t mind you quoting medroshim as your source of history. You believe them to be true. So fine. but there must be a rational limit to the credibility of this apparent nonsense, as to what you actually expect me to even consider, let alone believe.

    This is one of those examples. This medrosh clearly and unequivocally contradicts Gen 41:45, where it states that he married Osnat Bat Potifera, the priest of Oin. And if you are going to tell me that Osnat was Dina’s daughter, I ask
    1) what was Dina doing in Egypt – she is counted as one of the 70 descendees with Yaakov.
    2) how come she never told her father that her brother was alive?
    3) And besides, according to those days “rules”, a person’s family status followed his/her father, so the niece would’ve been Egyptian in any case.

    ReplyDelete
  66. Elimir,

    1) as soon as one notes that the basic daily mitzvoth of ours, shema, tallis, teffilin, and birchat hamotzen are not in the Sinai list (except tallis), your definition became problematic.

    You know, I’m sorry but I had to laugh when I read this sentence. You’re trying to provide a list that doesn’t conform to my criterion so you list shema, talis, tefilin and birchas hamazon and then you say “except talis”. It’s like you are trying to make your original list more impressive so you throw in something that you know doesn’t belong and then you surreptitiously remove it at the end. Well, here’s another item you can remove; tefilin.

    Tefilin is mentioned twice(!) in Sefer Shemos, once in the parsha of kadesh li, and once in the parsha of v’hahya ki yeviacha (the first two parshos that are in the boxes of tefilin). As far as why the monei ha’mitzvos list the pasuk in Sefer Devarim as the source of the mitzvah, I already explained that to you before! Tefilin was an evolving mitzvah. In the beginning they only had two parshiyos in the boxes. By the end, when the two additional parshiyos were finally given in Sefer Devarim, they added these two parshiyos to the boxes and all four parshiyos now became the new mitzvah of tefilin. This did not happen until Sefer Devarim. I explained all this to you already. I wish you would read my responses.

    So, out of your list of four, we’ve knocked out two right off the bat. Let’s proceed to the third; birchas ha’mazon. Actually, that one is the easiest to explain. The mitzvah of birchas hamazon only applies to bread produced from one of the five grains. They didn’t eat bread in the midbar; they ate man! The reason it is given in Devarim is because the Jews were about to enter the land and this mitzvah now became relevant.

    So, we’ve now eliminated three out of four of your list. The only one left is Shema and I’ve already addressed this mitzvah in my previous comments. Also, the fact that you may have one or two mitzvos that don’t conform to my criterion does not invalidate it. You challenged me with 16 mitzvos and 14 out of the 16 passed. That’s a very good track record! Shema by itself cannot invalidate such an obvious commonality amongst the remaining mitzvos.

    So, in the end you have only one mitzvah that possibly doesn’t conform, not four. But I know I am wasting my time. You’ve got this list stuck in your head and my definition is forever problematic in your mind because of it. Ah well…

    2) About “get”, even if you are right that not a single divorce occurred in the desert era. If moshe gave them the laws of kiddushim, reason says that this should have been accompanied with the laws of gittin. It makes no sense that B”Y should not be informed about the fact that to get married they need kiddushin and not be told they can divorce and how.
    Yeah, you’re right. And that’s precisely why the mitzvah of kidushin is followed directly by the laws of gitin in Sefer Devarim! Both kidushin and geirushin appear in parshas Ki Seytzey.

    So Elemir, I’ve responded to all your issues above quite definitively (in my arrogant opinion :-) Are you going to continue to grumble or will you admit that perhaps there is indeed some merit to my approach?

    By the way, now would be a good time for me to admit that my basic approach was “plagiarized” from the Ramban. I didn’t want to tell you that in the beginning because I didn’t want you to think I was forcing you to accept the approach by an appeal to authority. Also, I modified the Ramban’s approach a bit to accommodate for your questions. But the basic approach is his. Just so you know…

    ReplyDelete
  67. Elimir,

    I don’t mind you quoting medroshim as your source of history. You believe them to be true. So fine. but there must be a rational limit to the credibility of this apparent nonsense, as to what you actually expect me to even consider, let alone believe.

    OK. You’re right. I shouldn’t have mentioned that medrash. You’re looking for a rational explanation which conforms with the pashtus of the pesukim without an appeal to drashos. This is a valid request and I retract my medrash. Here’s a rational answer to your question.

    The Jewish nation is defined as the progeny of Avraham Yitzchok and Yaakov. Avraham had eight sons but his “Jewishness” was only passed on to Yitzchok. Yitzchok had two sons but his Jewishness was only passed on to Yaakov. Yaakov had twelve sons and his Jewishness was passé don to all of them. But here’s the problem. These twelve sons had to marry somebody, right? The twelve sons of Yaakov all married Canaanite women because that’s all that was available. I’m sure they picked the best women available but there simply were no Jewish women available yet. So they did exactly what their three forefathers did; they married non-Jewish women. Now don’t tell me that there is a medrash that each of the shevatim were born with twin sisters and they married their twins. That’s a medrash, not the pashtus of the pesukim. Besides, it states openly by Yehuda that he married a Cannanite woman. And then subsequently he married Tamar. Now don’t tell me that Tamar was the granddaughter of Shem and was therefore something special because that’s a medrash! The pashtus of the pesukim is that Tamar was a regular woman who lived in Canaan. So, Yoseph was no different. He too needed to get married so he took the best available non-Jewish woman. However, once the nation grew sufficiently, they ceased to intermarry.

    So, this a rational response to your question.

    By the way, for those readers who do take medrashim seriously; I am not being disrespectful to Chazal by dismissing the medrash that says that the Shevatim married their sisters because that is only one opinion. The other opinion in Chazal is that they indeed married Canaanite women. So I have the right to provide Elemir with a “rational” response to his question based on the pashtus of the pesukim since it conforms with at least one opinion in Chazal.

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  68. Zvi,

    You are right. And this raises another interesting subject. What about non-arayos couples upon Mattan Torah? Probably, the woman would not be able to marry another man without a halachic get.

    No, that can’t be. Their marriage was that of a ben Noach. A get is a document that is specifically designed to annul the marriage process of a ben Yisrael i.e. kidushin. If they wanted to get divorced, it seems reasonable to say that they did it the way a ben Noach does (however that is; probably they officially separate, she moves out of his house etc.)

    But were these couples allowed to continue living together as man and wife without undergoing kiddushin?

    I can’t see why not. At worse it’s a case of panuy haba al hapenuya which is mutar m’doraysa. Even according to R’ Eliezer who maintains that panuy haba al ha’penuya, asa’a zonah, that just means she can’t marry a kohen. But does it mean there is an issur? The only time there is an issur is if the penuya sleeps with more than one panuy. She then violates the issur of lo sihiyeh kideisha.

    What do you think Zvi?

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  69. What do you think Zvi?

    I think I need to brush up on the sugyas. But I must admit it irks me somewhat to think that all the couples of the entire am hakadosh, dor of the midbar who had joined together before Mattan Torah, would have decided to continue to live together and have children without undergoing kiddushin, under the status of panuy ha-ba ahl penuyah, even if it were technically totally mutar. At least it would be remarkable.

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  70. >>> However, once the nation grew sufficiently, they ceased to intermarry.

    And you know this, how? Where and when were they told to stop intermarrying. You'd think it was important enough for the Chumash to mention it.

    >>>> So Elemir, I’ve responded to all your issues above quite definitively (in my arrogant opinion :-)
    Yes, you did.

    >>>> Are you going to continue to grumble or will you admit that perhaps there is indeed some merit to my approach?

    No, not quite. First off, I’m not grumbling, I'm actually honored that you bother to respond.

    About Birchat hamozon. I too thought about manna, but the Torah tells us that somehow they did have plenty of wheat and flour. They ate matzot. They offered the “show-bread” weekly and then all those karbonot/minochot that involved flour. I presume some of it was eaten.

    As for Tzitzit. I purposely included it because it is an example of a dozen of so mitzvot stated in Devarim, whose promulgation doesn’t quite make sense.

    Imagine …In Num 15 (this week’s parshah) Moshe instructs B”Y about the requirement to attach fringes to the corners of their clothes.

    Then,40 years or so later he says..
    “Oh BTW, remember that law about fringes, it only applies to 4-cornerhes”. There are more like this

    And finally, there is the flip side of this whole issue. If “infrequent” commandments belong in Devarim, why does Moshe provide many mitzvot in Sinai that obviously don’t belong there??

    >>>> By the way, now would be a good time for me to admit that my basic approach was “plagiarized” from the Ramban.

    This statement, I have to tell you troubles me the most…. Because it means that I am losing my memory.
    40 years ago, during my yeshiva days, I learned Chumash daily and thoroughly with all the classic meforshim…. So I’m really starting to lose it.

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  71. Elemir,

    And you know this, how? Where and when were they told to stop intermarrying. You'd think it was important enough for the Chumash to mention it.

    You’re getting off point. I made a claim (based on Chazal) that the Jews did not fraternize with the Egyptians during their exile in Egypt. You countered my claim by pointing to Yoseph. I provided you with an explanation as to why Yoseph can rationally be understood as an exception to the rule. That ends this debate. You need to concede. You can’t ask me “how I know this”. It’s a claim, that’s all. You tried to disprove my claim and I demonstrated that your disproof was inadequate. If you choose to disbelieve Chazal, that’s your business. But you can’t claim that the events in the Chumash contradict Chazal’s depiction. That’s all I set out to address and I think I accomplished my mission.

    As far as your further claims, no, I don’t think it is important enough for the Chumash to mention it. Actually, check that. I have no idea what is and what is not important enough for the Chumash to mention. That’s putting the cart before the horse. I know what is important enough for the Chumash to mention based on what the Chumash actually mentions! But that’s just me…

    About Birchat hamozon. I too thought about manna, but the Torah tells us that somehow they did have plenty of wheat and flour. They ate matzot. They offered the “show-bread” weekly and then all those karbonot/minochot that involved flour. I presume some of it was eaten.

    Infrequent Elemir, remember? There were twelve breads baked every week and only three people ate them in the midbar (Aharon, Elazar and Itamar, and subsequently their sons who were born in the midbar). The rest of the nation ate man. Matzos are also infrequent. Actually, it could be that birchas haMazon was not even said on the matzos in the midbar. Maybe not even on the lechem haPanim! Here’s what I’m thinking. The pasuk re birchas haMazon states: “And you shall eat, and you shall be satiated; and you shall bless Hashem your Lord for the good land that he has given you” It looks like birchas Hamazon only applies when they were first able to satiate themselves from the bread of the land.

    As for Tzitzit. I purposely included it because it is an example of a dozen of so mitzvot stated in Devarim, whose promulgation doesn’t quite make sense.

    Sorry Elemir but you’re doing it again. Your list of mitzvos (and our original topic) was supposed to demonstrate mitzvos that first appeared in Devarim and not in the other seforim. I responded to each and every one of your examples. Now you’re changing the playing field. You want to know why certain mitzvos were repeated in Devarim. That’s a good question but it is not our current topic. In order for our discussions to yield any benefit, we must take things one at a time. First I need to know that I have satisfactorily responded to your current issue and if not, why not. Don’t bring in other topics. It muddies the water and causes a misdirection of focus, that’s all. This type of MO is a favorite with missionaries. If you answer them on one verse they switch tracks and quote another verse. I’m not accusing you of doing this intentionally but essentially this is what you are doing. Please stay on point.

    And finally, there is the flip side of this whole issue. If “infrequent” commandments belong in Devarim, why does Moshe provide many mitzvot in Sinai that obviously don’t belong there??

    Lovely question. But stay on point! Our topic is whether I can provide a general theme for mitzvos that first appear in Devarim and not in the earlier sefarim. So, did I succeed in responding to this issue satisfactorily, yes or no??? And if not, why not?

    This statement, I have to tell you troubles me the most…. Because it means that I am losing my memory.

    Join the club…

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  72. >>>>> So, did I succeed in responding to this issue satisfactorily, yes or no??? And if not, why not?

    Well, actually no. In order for me to accept your explanation (“infrequency” as the criterion), I would have to accept your Utopian-like view of the B”Y in the desert. No divorce, no intermarriage, no crime, no fraud, etc. I highly doubt if this view is true. It does not comport with the description of B’Y as found in Chumash.

    Further, the only source for your view is from a set of books whose historical credibility is very much in doubt, based on its own contents, i.e containing many statements that all reason argues to have been fictional, thus putting in doubt the rest of its historical accuracy.

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  73. Elemir,

    Well, actually no. In order for me to accept your explanation (“infrequency” as the criterion), I would have to accept your Utopian-like view of the B”Y in the desert. No divorce, no intermarriage, no crime, no fraud, etc. I highly doubt if this view is true. It does not comport with the description of B’Y as found in Chumash.

    I already addressed all this at length.

    It seems clear to me from your comment (especially the second paragraph which begins Further, the only source for your view…) that you and I are so far apart in our respective points of view that the chasm is unbridgeable. I honestly believe that no matter how much evidence I provide for you regarding the Divinity of the Bible and its unification, it falls on deaf ears. Your mind is made up. There is no point continuing this dialogue. However, I want you to know that I am grateful to you for giving me the opportunity to explore the field of biblical archaeology. My emunah has been fortified as a result of our discussion and for this I am thankful.

    My sincere bracha to you is that Hashem open your eyes to see the truth of His glorious Torah!

    Be well,

    SC

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  74. first, thanks for the brocho, but I'm quite satisfied with my beliefs (although, of course, still have many questions).

    And, of course the gap is unbridgeable... you accept (but refuse the recognize it as "faith") dubious statements of chazal as reality/truth and i don't.

    In any case, thanks for your dialogue. It made me realize that I am poor in presenting arguments. As for your part, the major complaints I have with the way you express your worldview is 1) you use the word "evidence" quite inappropriately, and 2) your sense of intellectual arguments are often not all that consistent.

    best wishes,

    elemir

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  75. One last word on Archaeology and the flood story and why I don’t think it happened, at least not in the time frame as suggested by the Torah and our mesorah.

    As depicted in Chumash, Noah communicates with the same God we refer to as “YKVK”, who Noah must have believed, as we do, to be the only real, true God, the creator of the universe. A God that is omnipotent and performs miracles, including all the miracles that must have been involved in the flood story. Further, it is most reasonable to assume that Noah’s three sons must have believed the same as their father. So, at one point in the history of mankind there was only one belief with respect to the existence of deities, our traditional monotheistic belief.

    Now, what did they pass on to their progeny? Certainly some or all of their descendants must have known about this One True God. Yet, of the hundreds of thousands of artifacts of all the major civilizations that have been investigated in the Middle Eastern region, there is not one single indication that the Babylonians, the Hittites, the Egyptians, etc, etc. believed in or even heard about this One True God.

    Seems extremely problematic to me.

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    1. That's an interesting challenge, but I don't think it holds up.

      The idea of God is really threatening. The real idea of God is, at any rate. It's an idea which reduces the importance of any individual or group to virtually nothing. It disempowers us in a big way. I always hear people going on about how religion is for the weak. How it's a big comfort. That's such a joke. Maybe in the case of Christianity, they're right. But that's not God; that's the Christian distortion of the idea of God precisely because the real one is so overwhelming.

      You can go with the story of the origin of avodah zarah that the Rambam gives at the beginning of Hilchot Avodah Zarah. You can learn the Beis Yaakov (the Ishbitzer). It's pretty clear that the early accounts in the Torah are one attempt after another to assert ourselves in the face of God.

      Why would anyone ever worship a piece of stone? Did you ever wonder that? I mean, were people morons? And don't tell me that they saw the idols as mere representations of a cosmic power. I don't buy it. That's a kind of sophisticated thinking that isn't reflected in any literature from the ancient world.

      They worshipped idols because they aren't above us. We make them, we can break them. They were like lucky rabbits' feet. You could stick them in your pocket. If one broke, you could get another. One of the most basic human psychological needs is visibility. It accounts for a huge percentage of things that people do. Without a really strong understanding of things, God makes us feel invisible. And OMG, the Flood? How threatening was that? Rainbow or no rainbow, can you really be surprised at people trying to bring the divine down to manageable proportions after God destroyed the whole world?

      Plus, you know, there's the whole chronology thing. We don't have much of anything written from before the time of Abraham.

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  76. Lisa,

    Lovely comment. Quick question. You mention the Beis Yaakov by the Ishbitzer. Please dilate on this. What does he say? (The Ishbitzer was the Rebbi of R’ Zadok Hakohen, who in turn influenced two of my (adopted) rabbeim, Rav Hutner and Rav Dessler. Ergo, I am profoundly interested in hearing anything he has to say regarding our current thread.)

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  77. Elemir,

    of the hundreds of thousands of artifacts of all the major civilizations that have been investigated in the Middle Eastern region, there is not one single indication that the Babylonians, the Hittites, the Egyptians, etc, etc. believed in or even heard about this One True God.

    I can’t think of any counter-examples as I read your comment and write mine. But frankly, I don’t believe you. I bet if I investigated I would find indications. But I don’t feel like looking. I know I won’t convince you so what’s the point? Besides, I’m in the middle of moving and have no access to my precious sefarim. Maybe next week sometime I’ll research this challenge.

    To Lisa;

    Are you not aware of any indications of monotheism in Early/Middle Bronze literature? I could use your help here… :-)

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    1. >>> The idea of God is really threatening. The real idea of God is, at any rate.

      Lisa, I would like to respond but I have no idea what you mean. Are you talking about God as depicted in the Torah/Tenach. or as viewed in Chassidut (you know the benevolent forgiving loving God) or as a modern educated but religious person might think of God? What are you talking about?

      As for the dating problem, do you have anybody or anything that corroborates your view of the chronology?

      To RSC:

      There might be, I certainly haven’t spent my life reading all of archaeology. The closest that I ever read about was the Egyptian Pharoah, Akhenaten and his sun god cult c. 14th century And that was more henotheism than monotheism. Also, I don’t think the name “YKVK” has yet been found outside the Torah/Tenach.

      elemir

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    2. "Also, I don’t think the name “YKVK” has yet been found outside the Torah/Tenach."

      As HKB"H told Moshe at the seneh, the name YKVK was only now being used in relation to mankind and was not revealed to the Avos, so its not suprising that its not found pre Torah or outside Torah/Tenach

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  78. Touche ... nice chap, but I think you are referring to the beginning of Parshat Va'eirah', not the "sneh" incident.
    in any case, the basic question still stands. how come, if it is true that at some point in time the only belief about God in existence was that he is the One God, creator of the universe, that this belief disappeared from mankind until centuries later.

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    1. You are correct, that is what happens when you don't take time to look things up. We know from the Rambam that idol worship started sometime after Odom, as a serif with HKB"H while Noach knew of HKB"H as One that does not stop Chom and Yefes from believing in seriff and perpetuating those beliefs after the flood.

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  79. Who says it did? We only really have documents from huge empires. Exactly where we'd expect concentration of power in a monarchy and a priesthood. What you're saying is a little like those people who see a bear when they look at the Big Dipper. You have a few dots, and you imagine the rest of it. But the fact is, we don't know anything about the people who lived at that time outside of the big concentrations of power.

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  80. >>>>Who says it did?

    The Torah itself. In addition to the absence of archaeological evidence (and I know the cliche about "absence of evidence"), the Torah seems to imply it, on at least several counts: 1) it would be reasonable that the Torah would've acknowledged anybody or any group that kept the tradition of Noah alive or at least mention that the narions discarded his tradition 2) and it seems to say often enough that ALL the nations in the ANE were idol worshipers and 3) when Avrohom comes into the picture, it makes it appear that his knowledge of God was novel and unique to him.

    BTW as an aside, another conflict with archaeology is that archaeology claims that circumcision was not unique to the Hebrews. Many ANE nations practiced it. and i know you might want to argue that it's a dating issue again and these nations copied it from Avrohom, but why should they copy from this one individual and not also take up his theology, or worse why copy something from someone who was just a "nobody" to them.

    >>> But the fact is, we don't know anything about the people who lived at that time outside of the big concentrations of power.
    Absolutely concur. But we do know that they incorporated into their pantheon many of the local city-state (albeit minor) deities, and the likelihood that YKVK or its equivalent name would have surfaced is very reasonable.

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