Sunday, December 25, 2005

Post from my friend Reb Aaron Berger

From my friend Reb Aaron: You can post responses as comments or email me for his address.

How does one maintain emuna in spite of all the corruption out there among frum society and its leaders? (By corruption, I am not referring to dramatic lack of integrity, as in lying, cheating, znus, etc. I think this exists, but is the exception. I refer to the absence of authenticity; i.e. the agenda, the cheshbonos, the apparent lack of running life decisions through the filter of rotzon hashem, etc.; the sum of which detract from the emes and shleimus of our religion, and therefore corrupt it). If you don't agree with my basic premise that there is such corruption going on, then we can agree to disagree. I do not care to argue that point. It is more than obvious to me.

When I face up to all this nonsense, at first it makes me wonder about the integrity of the mesorah handed down to me. Is all the trust that I had placed in that which was handed down from e.g. the Chazon Ish, the Chofetz Chaim, etc. misplaced? Is it possible that all these gedolim were really not that great but their image was bolstered by clever promoters? These doubts do not usually linger too long. I know enough products of these gedolim to restore my confidence. So I typically regain my bearings pretty quickly and my shaila becomes more focused. I wonder where the real leaders are that hashem must have (I had always thought) put here for us. My assumption had always been that every dor has its trusted leaders. If ours does not, how can we push forward our mesorah to the next generation. Can we exist as a believing nation without a set of trusted leaders?

My chizuk usually ends up coming from isolated events of integrity and righteousness which do exist among our rabbonim, great and small. What gets me, though, is that these are the exception rather than the norm. If a rav acts like a mentch, it is considered worthy of recording in an Artscroll biography. (look at some of the nonsense that gets recorded as acts of tzidkus). Why shouldn't we be able to hold our rabbis to the same standards of integrity that we hold ourselves?? If our religion can't foster the basic decency that is a given in other religions, what is it worth?? And even when there is no outright breach of integrity, there is almost always an agenda of some sort such as recruiting students, gathering $, or even influencing people to keep a particular brand of frumkeit. What happened to actually believing in g-d?? What happened to making believe we actually believe in g-d, and following through on all that that implies?? What happened to the simple "kiruv" work that our grandfathers did by welcoming another yid into their circle, without any agenda other than brotherhood and humanity??

I tend to think the real answer is that emuna comes from a place very deep in a person and it does not derive from leaders. It simply cannot afford to. It comes from our families; from a time before the whole daas torah rage, from a time when being frum was something deep in your genetics and did not depend on constant direction from "gedolim". It derives from the mesorah based on what all 600,000 of our parents saw; thus its transmission involves the whole klal, not just the leaders. This very basic, very real, very pious frumkeit (seems ridiculous to have to put the word pious before frumkeit) is what I observed in, and received from, my grandparents. They all had deep respect for rabbonim. But they did not appear to be deriving their whole belief system from the rabbis in the same obsessive manner that frum jews are doing today. If a rav did mess up it didn't shake their whole world because they understood that he failed as a man and that the religion itself is much greater than any one man. I remember remarking to a chaver in yeshiva that with all the rabbeim I had, all of whom were "good guys", I never met anyone as frum as my grandfather. To me he seemed to have the real stuff. No razzle dazzle, no frumeh cheshbonos, no nonsense. This emuna that I saw in all my grandparents had been injected very deep into their psyches by observing their own parents and grandparents, and was collective in the klal. I need to believe that we, as a dor, can push through without a reliable system of trusted leaders, based on the emuna that lives in the klal.

This is not a complete answer; just my theory for a framework of an answer.

As the very nature of my rant is about cutting the nonsense, I thought it would be counterproductive to polish up my rhetoric. I welcome all responses but ask that you keep them real; i.e. not party line verbiage or how you wished you believed, but stuff that would pass a lie detector test (unless of course it's funny). And please don't get hung up on my particular usages versus the spirit of what I am saying.

Gut voch,

Aaron

247 comments:

1 – 200 of 247   Newer›   Newest»
Bob Miller said...

There are times to focus on the "glass half empty" and times to focus on the "glass half full". Given the pervasive cynicism found today worldwide, this may be the time to take stock of all our people's assets---even the assets among our Torah leaders!

My perspective out here may be different, but I see many devoted leaders at all levels, in person, in books, on the web, and in the news, who are struggling in various ways to cope with the disintegration of Jewish society due to war and assimilation. Jews today lack many of the support systems that existed in the well-established, traditional Jewish communities of the past, and have the daunting task of filling in the spiritual gaps artificially.

Of course this increases the burden on our leadership; how could it not? If the leaders might not always be perfect angels (for sure, we're not!), they are still worthy of our active support and encouragement. Our nostalgia and our sitting in judgment of others may not be a productive use of time.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your sincere reply.

What you are saying would be relevant if the topic at hand were my judgment of the leaders. I do not care to judge them. It is not my business, nor am I qualified to do so. (Acually, to defend someone is just as presumptuous as judging them, if you think about it). For all I know each has a great terutz for his behaviour. I don't care. I am talking about the de facto effect on the klal.

What is your thinking that it is not productive to honestly assess the quality of leadership for what it really is? To me it sounds like a case of the emporor's new gaartel. How can you fix anything if you don't recognize the problem? How can you take stock of your alternatives without understanding the value of each?

To me, it is too easy, somewhat patronizing, and davka not productive to criticize the criticizer while avoiding the core issues at hand.

Examples of corruption I refer to include:

- Stinkbombs in Ponovezh yeshiva, over who yarshens the rosh yeshivaship (why are the people in chinuch???)
- Ugly public fighting in satmar and bobov over who yarshens the rebbe ship (caan the spiritual benefit achieved posssibly outweigh the damage down?)
- Endoresements and subsequent bannings of the same book (how is anyone supposed to take this stuff seriously??)
- suspect money practices in an upstate chasidic communitiy, condoned by leaders, and pardoned away in exchange for political favors
- A Torah lishmah ccommunity in Neew Jersey with an undue emphasis on gashmius, and a more than healthy tolerance for money shtik (do they actually believe in this stuff??)
- "respectable" centrist organizational leaders covering up for a sexual deviant rabbi
- Allegations of serious misbehaviour by all branches of the Israeli chief raabbinate

I am not saying there aren't terutzim to each of these, maybe all of these. Thing is, they aren't telling stories like that about you and me (at least not you).

As I said, if you don't agree with my initial premise, there is nothing really to discuss. Personally, I need to find another avenue toward emuna.

Love,
Aaron

Bob Miller said...

Dear Aaron,

No real problems, yours or the Klal's, will be solved by a memory dump of recent allegations.

Investigate and analyze the situation in private, then present a workable solution in public. Try leading.

Anonymous said...

This is a patronizing response.

Forget my problems. Mah nafshach, if you don't agree with my assessment,then that should be your point. And if you, that should be your point. Judging me or telling me what to do is surely not the point.

- Aaron

Anonymous said...

a gut gezukt

Rabbi Seinfeld said...

IMHO, a bigger problem than the shortcomings of some who are in leadership positions is the widespres dearth of kavod among the clal for talmidei chachamim. This great dearth can be felt in every Jewish conrner, and can explain, it seems to me, most of our problems from the tiem of the churban until present. If more of us sought and listened to daas Torah, that is to say if we truly loved tochacha, Moshiach would have already come.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jerry,

Who loves tochacha??

- Aaron

Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

My feelings are that in the past, every Jew living in a Jewish community/ shetl/ city had direct personal access to his or her Rav or local Gadol/Rebbe. There were no propaganda machines like Yated and artscroll because you saw it first hand. You got to see "the real thing" as you so eloquently noted in your grandfather. This is an irreplacable experience.
It is definitly one of the myriad side-effects of Chuban Europe that our communities spread so far and wide that we need to READ about what greatnes in Torah means- only to mostly see the opposite in real life.
The only cure I know is to mobilize and relentlessly track down that great Rav and don't quit until you see the consistent greatness for yourself.

Ezzie said...

Excellent post. (found you via Gil)

I find myself wondering the same... comes down to simply worrying about yourself and ensuring that you are passing down the proper attitudes; and trying to encourage as many others as possible to do the same. That's the simplest way I can think of saying it.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

You mention the integrity of the mesorah. I find that many of our rabbinic leaders lack the devotion to emes that is essential for us to view gedolim, rabbanim and talmidei chachamim throughout the ages as reliable bearers of our unbroken "chain of tradition."

One personal example is the unwillingness of rabbanim to openly confront challenges to our tradition. I have studied ancient Egyptian and Assyrian history and found an unbroken chain of monarchies and civilizations from 3000 BCE to the present, with no room for a flood that supposedly destroyed all life in the Near East (or, at a minimum, in Mesopotamia) c. 2105 BCE, the date derived from the Torah chronology. The physical evidence (e.g., inscriptions, among many other items) is staggering. There is no longer any room for doubt by any serious scholar. Even Orthodox Jewish scholars agree. The geological evidence is in agreement: many individual local floods, but no major flood during the time in question.

Yet I have approached rabbanim about this and find them too scared out of their wits to face reality. This is not to mention gedolim who seem to know only how to ban books, say "teiku" and terrorize others into remaining silent about real problems. It seems we lack leaders who can face emes and deal with it. To me, this is a form of corruption. And this is my personal source of despair about the integrity of the mesorah. If our past leaders were of the same mind--which may well have been the case--I could hardly trust them to pass on only emes from generation to generation.

YM said...

This comment that there is a 3000 year unbroken tradition of Egyptian and Assyrian history is impossible. Neither civiliation exists and it just proves how much bulls**t is on the net.

Anonymous said...

>This comment that there is a 3000 year unbroken tradition of Egyptian and Assyrian history is impossible. Neither civiliation exists and it just proves how much bulls**t is on the net.

Or perhaps you need a little work on your reading comprehension. The use of the word "chain" may have invoked standard Jewish masoretic imagery, but what "an unbroken chain of monarchies and civilizations from 3000 BCE to the present" means is that the entire period is accounted for in history for that part of the world.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

YM:

I would respectfully suggest that you reread my post carefully and then go to a good university library and check the treatises and journal articles on Egyptology, Assyriology and archaeology. You might also correspond with leading Egyptologists, as I have. It is amazing how much ignorance there is on the web.

I would add that I corresponded with one frum Assyriologist on this topic. He admitted that the Torah's account--notwithstanding further discoveries--may never be reconcilable with the archaeological and historical record.

Anonymous:

The entire period is accounted for in tremendous detail, supported by over one million artifacts. I don't think we need to quibble about the use of the word "chain." The evidence for continuous, large-scale civilization in Mesopotamia and Egypt is "harder" evidence than our chain of tradition.

I would recommend that both of you inhibit your knee-jerk reactions and do some serious study. At most you may find a period of 100 or 200 years where we don't know the names of the particular kings, but no gap in the continuity of cultures. There is no way that the descendents of Noach could have repopulated Egypt 200 years after a universally-fatal flood and restarted the culture, language, writing system, religion, etc. The very idea is absurd.

I should add that after studying this matter and addressing very pointed questions to world-renowned experts, I also consulted a number of frum scholars. Not a single one questioned my data or told me my conclusions were wrong. One did say that this is a topic he discusses with his wife at night but would not publish on. Another, who admitted the problem, refused to continue the e-mail correspondence for fear that he would be "outed."

So much for emes.

Anonymous said...

>I would recommend that both of you inhibit your knee-jerk reactions and do some serious study.

My "knee-jerk" reaction was to defend your post. My apologies, it won't happen again,

AL said...

Saul,

Have you the read the posts of "Godol Hador (GH)?" He brings up many of the same points.

But don't get too disheartened. There is still room to interpret the flood as a story seen from the viewpoint of Noach alone - meaning that the flood may have been local, but to Noach, it destroyed his entire physical world - the world that he was personally aware of.

Sure, there may be other problems with the history line lining up with our (limited) historical data, but in any case it is best to not worry about detailed historical accuracy (or moshol issues), and to concentrate on what the story is trying to teach.

There appear to be several areas of the torah that (according to some opinions at least) are not intended to be taken 100% literally. And there is no way that such an old story could be completely proven or disproven from the historical/scientific evidence available to us today.

The pure literalists are not going away anytime soon. Nothing you say will convince them. Since there is no clear resolution to the problem (we can't go back in time to prove history), it's kind of hopeless to spend too much time dwelling on the issue of historical accuracy. (Unless you are a kiruv worker, of course).

On the emes issue, I agree with you. But it is human nature for one to avoid confrontations that try to force a radical change in one's world view. Especially when the world view is based on tradition and belief, and not on scientific evidence.

As a "believer" myself, I don't enjoy science-belief confrontations, but I am very aware of them, and try to admit or consider what the truth appears to be, based on the strength of the available evidence. Sometimes it's acceptable to say that 2 ideas can't be reconciled at this time based on current Torah/mesora/scientific knowledge.

Despite my attachment for seeking the truth, I don't think there is anything that will make me give up my fundamental belief in the mesora. I will just store both ideas, leaving it for further investigation at some later time.

YGB said...

I do not believe I am "afraid." But I am strident. If the Torah says it happened, it happened. Period. V'im reik hu, me'chem hu reik.

YGB said...

From my friend Reb Aaron:

Hi
Here is something to think about: To feel the urgent responsibility to reconcile all contradictions between truths taught by the torah (e.g. the world's age) and scientific facts, is to say that absent our terutz we are in trouble. To me this is an arrogant approach; as it assumes that we can know all the answers and that our answers are the key to it all. I would rather take what I think is a frumer approach and apply the adage "you don't die from a kasha". Fact is, you need to come on to this approach as there is plenty of stuff in the gemara that doesn't square away with science that we all accept. If your belief in torah is strong enough you can live with the contradiction.
Good night -
Aaron

YGB said...

http://www.interhack.net/projects/library/antiquities-jews/b1c3.html

Antiquities of the Jews by Flavius Josephus


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Book I, Chapter 3
Concerning The Flood; And After What Manner Noah Was Saved In An Ark, With His Kindred, And Afterwards Dwelt In The Plain Of Shinar
1. NOW this posterity of Seth continued to esteem God as the Lord of the universe, and to have an entire regard to virtue, for seven generations; but in process of time they were perverted, and forsook the practices of their forefathers; and did neither pay those honors to God which were appointed them, nor had they any concern to do justice towards men. But for what degree of zeal they had formerly shown for virtue, they now showed by their actions a double degree of wickedness, whereby they made God to be their enemy. For many angels(11) of God accompanied with women, and begat sons that proved unjust, and despisers of all that was good, on account of the confidence they had in their own strength; for the tradition is, that these men did what resembled the acts of those whom the Grecians call giants. But Noah was very uneasy at what they did; and being displeased at their conduct, persuaded them to change their dispositions and their acts for the better: but seeing they did not yield to him, but were slaves to their wicked pleasures, he was afraid they would kill him, together with his wife and children, and those they had married; so he departed out of that land.
2. Now God loved this man for his righteousness: yet he not only condemned those other men for their wickedness, but determined to destroy the whole race of mankind, and to make another race that should be pure from wickedness; and cutting short their lives, and making their years not so many as they formerly lived, but one hundred and twenty only,(12) he turned the dry land into sea; and thus were all these men destroyed: but Noah alone was saved; for God suggested to him the following contrivance and way of escape : - That he should make an ark of four stories high, three hundred cubits(13) long, fifty cubits broad, and thirty cubits high. Accordingly he entered into that ark, and his wife, and sons, and their wives, and put into it not only other provisions, to support their wants there, but also sent in with the rest all sorts of living creatures, the male and his female, for the preservation of their kinds; and others of them by sevens. Now this ark had firm walls, and a roof, and was braced with cross beams, so that it could not be any way drowned or overborne by the violence of the water. And thus was Noah, with his family, preserved. Now he was the tenth from Adam, as being the son of Lamech, whose father was Mathusela; he was the son of Enoch, the son of Jared; and Jared was the son of Malaleel, who, with many of his sisters, were the children of Cainan, the son of Enos. Now Enos was the son of Seth, the son of Adam.

3. This calamity happened in the six hundredth year of Noah's government, [age,] in the second month, (14) called by the Macedonians Dius, but by the Hebrews Marchesuan: for so did they order their year in Egypt. But Moses appointed that · Nisan, which is the same with Xanthicus, should be the first month for their festivals, because he brought them out of Egypt in that month: so that this month began the year as to all the solemnities they observed to the honor of God, although he preserved the original order of the months as to selling and buying, and other ordinary affairs. Now he says that this flood began on the twenty-seventh [seventeenth] day of the forementioned month; and this was two thousand six hundred and fifty-six [one thousand six hundred and fifty-six] years from Adam, the first man; and the time is written down in our sacred books, those who then lived having noted down,(15) with great accuracy, both the births and deaths of illustrious men.

4. For indeed Seth was born when Adam was in his two hundred and thirtieth year, who lived :nine hundred and thirty years. Seth begat Enos in his two hundred and fifth year; who, when he had lived nine hundred and twelve years, delivered the government to Cainan his son, whom he had in his hundred and ninetieth year. He lived nine hundred and five years. Cainan, when he had lived nine hundred and ten years, had his son Malaleel, who was born in his hundred and seventieth year. This Malaleel, having lived eight hundred and ninety-five years, died, leaving his son Jared, whom he begat when he was in his hundred and sixty-fifth year. He lived nine hundred and sixty-two years; and then his son Enoch succeeded him, who was born when his father was one hundred and sixty-two years old. Now he, when he had lived three hundred and sixty-five years, departed and went to God; whence it is that they have not written down his death. Now Mathusela, the son of Enoch, who was born to him when he was one hundred and sixty-five years old, had Lamech for his son when he was one hundred and eighty-seven years of age; to whom he delivered the government, when he had retained it nine hundred and sixty-nine years. Now Lamech, when he had governed seven hundred and seventy-seven years, appointed Noah, his son, to be ruler of the people, who was born to Lamech when he was one hundred and eighty-two years old, and retained the government nine hundred and fifty years. These years collected together make up the sum before set down. But let no one inquire into the deaths of these men; for they extended their lives along together with their children and grandchildren; but let him have regard to their births only.

5. When God gave the signal, and it began to rain, the water poured down forty entire days, till it became fifteen cubits higher than the earth; which was the reason why there was no greater number preserved, since they had no place to fly to. When the rain ceased, the water did but just begin to abate after one hundred and fifty days, (that is, on the seventeenth day of the seventh month,) it then ceasing to subside for a little while. After this, the ark rested on the top of a certain mountain in Armenia; which, when Noah understood, he opened it; and seeing a small piece of land about it, he continued quiet, and conceived some cheerful hopes of deliverance. But a few days afterward, when the water was decreased to a greater degree, he sent out a raven, as desirous to learn whether any other part of the earth were left dry by the water, and whether he might go out of the ark with safety; but the raven, finding all the land still overflowed, returned to Noah again. And after seven days he sent out a dove, to know the state of the ground; which came back to him covered with mud, and bringing an olive branch: hereby Noah learned that the earth was become clear of the flood. So after he had staid seven more days, he sent the living creatures out of the ark; and both he and his family went out, when he also sacrificed to God, and feasted with his companions. However, the Armenians call this place, (GREEK) (16) The Place of Descent; for the ark being saved in that place, its remains are shown there by the inhabitants to this day.

6. Now all the writers of barbarian histories make mention of this flood, and of this ark; among whom is Berosus the Chaldean. For when he is describing the circumstances of the flood, he goes on thus: "It is said there is still some part of this ship in Armenia, at the mountain of the Cordyaeans; and that some people carry off pieces of the bitumen, which they take away, and use chiefly as amulets for the averting of mischiefs." Hieronymus the Egyptian also, who wrote the Phoenician Antiquities, and Mnaseas, and a great many more, make mention of the same. Nay, Nicolaus of Damascus, in his ninety-sixth book, hath a particular relation about them; where he speaks thus: "There is a great mountain in Armenia, over Minyas, called Baris, upon which it is reported that many who fled at the time of the Deluge were saved; and that one who was carried in an ark came on shore upon the top of it; and that the remains of the timber were a great while preserved. This might be the man about whom Moses the legislator of the Jews wrote."

7. But as for Noah, he was afraid, since God had determined to destroy mankind, lest he should drown the earth every year; so he offered burnt-offerings, and besought God that nature might hereafter go on in its former orderly course, and that he would not bring on so great a judgment any more, by which the whole race of creatures might be in danger of destruction: but that, having now punished the wicked, he would of his goodness spare the remainder, and such as he had hitherto judged fit to be delivered from so severe a calamity; for that otherwise these last must be more miserable than the first, and that they must be condemned to a worse condition than the others, unless they be suffered to escape entirely; that is, if they be reserved for another deluge; while they must be afflicted with the terror and sight of the first deluge, and must also be destroyed by a second. He also entreated God to accept of his sacrifice, and to grant that the earth might never again undergo the like effects of 'his wrath; that men might be permitted to go on cheerfully in cultivating the same; to build cities, and live happily in them; and that they might not be deprived of any of those good things which they enjoyed before the Flood; but might attain to the like length of days, and old age, which the ancient people had arrived at before.

8. When Noah had made these supplications, God, who loved the man for his righteousness, granted entire success to his prayers, and said, that it was not he who brought the destruction on a polluted world, but that they underwent that vengeance on account of their own wickedness; and that he had not brought men into the world if he had himself determined to destroy them, it being an instance of greater wisdom not to have granted them life at all, than, after it was granted, to procure their destruction; "But the injuries," said he, "they offered to my holiness and virtue, forced me to bring this punishment upon them. But I will leave off for the time to come to require such punishments, the effects of so great wrath, for their future wicked actions, and especially on account of thy prayers. But if I shall at any time send tempests of rain, in an extraordinary manner, be not affrighted at the largeness of the showers; for the water shall no more overspread the earth. However, I require you to abstain from shedding the blood of men, and to keep yourselves pure from murder; and to punish those that commit any such thing. I permit you to make use of all the other living creatures at your pleasure, and as your appetites lead you; for I have made you lords of them all, both of those that walk on the land, and those that swim in the waters, and of those that fly in the regions of the air on high, excepting their blood, for therein is the life. But I will give you a sign that I have left off my anger by my bow [whereby is meant the rainbow, for they determined that the rainbow was the bow of God]. And when God had said and promised thus, he went away.

9. Now when Noah had lived three hundred and fifty years after the Flood, and that all that time happily, he died, having lived the number of nine hundred and fifty years. But let no one, upon comparing the lives of the ancients with our lives, and with the few years which we now live, think that what we have said of them is false; or make the shortness of our lives at present an argument, that neither did they attain to so long a duration of life, for those ancients were beloved of God, and [lately] made by God himself; and because their food was then fitter for the prolongation of life, might well live so great a number of years: and besides, God afforded them a longer time of life on account of their virtue, and the good use they made of it in astronomical and geometrical discoveries, which would not have afforded the time of foretelling [the periods of the stars] unless they had lived six hundred years; for the great year is completed in that interval. Now I have for witnesses to what I have said, all those that have written Antiquities, both among the Greeks and barbarians; for even Manetho, who wrote the Egyptian History, and Berosus, who collected the Chaldean Monuments, and Mochus, and Hestieus, and, besides these, Hieronymus the Egyptian, and those who composed the Phoenician History, agree to what I here say: Hesiod also, and Hecatseus, Hellanicus, and Acusilaus; and, besides these, Ephorus and Nicolaus relate that the ancients lived a thousand years. But as to these matters, let every one look upon them as he thinks fit.


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interhack | library | antiquities

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Matt Curtin
Last modified: Fri Apr 17 11:41:27 EDT 1998

Saul Shajnfeld said...

>My "knee-jerk" reaction was to defend your post. My apologies, it won't happen again<

I'm so used to knee-jerk reactions that I almost expect them. My sincere apologies.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

>YGB said...

http://www.interhack.net/projects/library/antiquities-jews/b1c3.html

Antiquities of the Jews by Flavius Josephus<

YGB:

With all due respect, I'm not sure I see any point to your post. Obviously Josephus knew the Torah. The flood story, containing many similar details, was part of the literature of the ancient Near East. The Epic of Atrahasis, and later the Epic of Gilgamesh, include it. According to these epics, the flood took place during the time of Gilgamesh, who lived c. 2600 BCE (vs. the Torah's "date" of c. 2105 BCE). The ancient Mesopotamian legends had the first 10 doros living lives that lasted thousands of years each. None of this changes the fact that it is impossible anymore to argue reasonably that there was a massive flood when the Torah says there was. Even Josephus seems to say that you can believe in the chronology or not.

The story of the mabul is very ancient, and may have a basis in some real flood of SOME dimension. It is impossible, however, to argue that any truly massive flood occurred when the Torah says it did.

I would suggest you instead read what modern historians--who have the benefit of the massive discoveries since Josephus--have to say on this matter. It is convincing.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

Al:

I appreciate your thoughts on this, but I have a different viewpoint.

> Have you the read the posts of "Godol Hador (GH)?" He brings up many of the same points.<

I have. My research began over five years ago. GH, importantly, is spreading what all scholars in this area know. My problem is with those who wish to remain ignorant, and specifically with rabbanim, who are supposed to have some fondness for emes, though it is hard to tell nowadays.

> There is still room to interpret the flood as a story seen from the viewpoint of Noach alone <

Not according to the literal words of the Torah.

> in any case it is best to not worry about detailed historical accuracy (or moshol issues), and to concentrate on what the story is trying to teach. <

I am worried that our religious leaders have no regard for emes. If they were honest, they would say that it now appears that the flood is a moshol. Or, at a minimum, that perhaps it is a moshol. As it seems that the Torah’s account, read literally, is incorrect (at the least, as to chronology, and probably much more so), continuing to insist on a literal reading amounts to a distortion of the true meaning of the Torah.

> Sometimes it's acceptable to say that 2 ideas can't be reconciled at this time based on current Torah/mesora/scientific knowledge…Despite my attachment for seeking the truth, I don't think there is anything that will make me give up my fundamental belief in the mesora. I will just store both ideas, leaving it for further investigation at some later time. <

The point is that that time has come. If you ask many rabbanim just how much evidence they would require in order to convince them, they would say that no amount of evidence would ever convince them. I simply do not trust people of this mind-set—people who are willing to sacrifice emes for the sake of emunah—to pass on a tradition accurately. The weak link in the “unbroken chain” of our mesorah is people who are more concerned with the preservation of emunah than with the correctness of the mesorah. They are the cause of my despair. They would readily pass on things they had good reason to doubt. In my view, this undermines the entire mesorah.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

>From my friend Reb Aaron:

Hi
Here is something to think about: To feel the urgent responsibility to reconcile all contradictions between truths taught by the torah (e.g. the world's age) and scientific facts, is to say that absent our terutz we are in trouble. To me this is an arrogant approach; as it assumes that we can know all the answers and that our answers are the key to it all. I would rather take what I think is a frumer approach and apply the adage "you don't die from a kasha".<

Some kashas you do die from. In the Gemara, when the view of a particular Amora has been refuted, does the Gemara say he's correct anyway, as "you don't die from a kasha"? I don't think so. Following this approach, one can continue to cling forever to all manner of nonsense.

Is it "frumer" to continue believing in a discredited interpretation of Torah? I hope not.

>If your belief in torah is strong enough you can live with the contradiction.<

Personally, I hold demonstrable emes to be more important than an erroneous tradition. Torah is supposed to be truth. It cannot be interpreted in a manner that is demonstrably false. Otherwise it will, chas v'sholom, become an object of derision. There is room in Yahadus for reinterpreting the Torah when facts require it. This time has come with respect to the flood. You really should study the literature.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

Anonymous said...
>This comment that there is a 3000 year unbroken tradition of Egyptian and Assyrian history is impossible. Neither civiliation exists and it just proves how much bulls**t is on the net.

Or perhaps you need a little work on your reading comprehension. The use of the word "chain" may have invoked standard Jewish masoretic imagery, but what "an unbroken chain of monarchies and civilizations from 3000 BCE to the present" means is that the entire period is accounted for in history for that part of the world.<

Dear Anonymous:

I don't know how I managed to misread your extremely well-taken post. I must have been tired. My sincere apologies again. Thanks for the assist.

Anonymous said...

SS, your initial flood challenge is a tempest in a teapot. You start by attacking what sounds like the historicity of the mabul because of a lack of ancient sources - and end by conceding that the flood story is corroborated by other ancient sources and that the whole issue boils down to a silly little irrelevancy - the dating of the event.

The real issue here is addressed by your last post - "If you ask many rabbanim just how much evidence they would require in order to convince them, they would say that no amount of evidence would ever convince them. I simply do not trust people of this mindset..."

This is not an issue of rabbanim, so let's not make believe that it is - it is an issue of believers. I am a believer and I openly admit that there is no amount of evidence that would "convince" me because definitionally, that is belief. I believe in the truth of the Torah far more than anything written or "proven" by any other source. You are a nonbeliever. Your quest for "truth" by researching such irrelevancies is just a way to make yourself feel better about being a kopher.

You are a product of Enlightenment thinking which cannot be reconciled with faith - desperate attempts by numerous tortured bloggers notwithstanding.

Be honest, you don't believe in the reality of Neis Chanuka, or Kriyas Yam Suf or Ma'amad Har Sinai, either. Why would believers care to be bothered by the struggles of a nonbeliever? It's no sort of challenge. RYGB's answer is the obvious and only answer.

The same way you seem bewildered by belief, I am bewildered by your slavish devotion to secular scholarship.

YGB said...

I cited Josephus to demonstrate that the Egyptians have a "mesorah" on the Mabbul" as well

We discussed this issue years ago, both in MJ and on Avodah, long before the current contretemps, and again in '04 on Avodah.

Here's the beginning of the '99 Avodah discussion:

http://www.aishdas.org/avodah/vol03/v03n121.shtml

Date: Mon, 12 Jul 1999 08:59:18 -0500 (CDT)
From: "Shoshanah M. & Yosef G. Bechhofer"

Subject: Flood - Introduction
Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer

Flood
In the current issue of "Tradition" - that contains several
submissions by distinguished chaverim of Avodah/Aishdas, there is
a troubling essay about Gan Eden and the Mabul. The essay,
written by R' Shubert Spero, argues the case that these passages
are allegorical in nature. There was a significant correspondence
on the matter back in late 1994 (time flies when you are having
fun!) on Mail-Jewish. For the benefit of those who are unaware of
that correspondence, I am here posting some of the major posts.
For the benefit of those who are aware of that correspondence, I
have attempted to be brief and exclude as much of the
correspondence as possible. The selection, however, still had to
be divided over several posts. The balance is in the MJ archives:
"Dirshu me'al sefer Hashem v'kir'u."
I am not sure whether to write a Letter to the Editor of
Tradition or not. I would normally do so, but way back, I
believe, in 1991, I wrote a Letter to the Editor of "Jewish
Action" concerning R' Spero's review essay on R' Norman Lamm's
"Torah U'Madda", and I am loathe to attack him again, even in the
service of a cause that I feel integral and central to Yahadus.
As the Editor and Consulting Editor of Tradition are members of
our little society, I bring this to their respective attentions:
Perhaps the conversation that will ensue here (doubtless!) on
this point will be fodder for a reaappraisal in a subsequent
issue of Tradition.
While the names of the participants are explicit in the MJ
archives, I have nonetheless chosen to change those other than my
own to those of the Shevatim, for the benefit of those who will
consider the position opposed to my own as dubious to say the
least, and, if they choose then not to look up the MJ archives,
will be spared the knowledge of who said what when.
Although many points discussed then should probably be modified
for the purposes of discussing R' Spero's essay, I leave that for
a later date.
Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer

http://www.aishdas.org/avodah/vol03/v03n122.shtml

Avodah Mailing List
Volume 03 : Number 122
Monday, July 12 1999
< Previous Next >
Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
* Flood part 1
* Flood part 2
* Flood part 3
* Flood part 4 (concluded)
Date: Mon, 12 Jul 1999 09:00:55 -0500 (CDT)
From: "Shoshanah M. & Yosef G. Bechhofer"
Subject: Flood part 1
Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer

Flood
(Reuven Shimon)
In response to a couple of private letters, I would like to
clarify a few things I wrote in my posting re. the flood, and I
hope this will obviate the need to deal with this further, unless
there is a significant need.
First, I do not deny that God could, if he wanted, have created
the world 5755 years ago, created the fossils, signs of
civilization etc. For that matter, he could have created the
world 30 years ago and put memories into our minds and created
earlier books, buildings etc. However, the best of our religious
thinkers have taught us that we need not think in this fashion.
We need not adopt Tertullian's credo quia impossible -- I believe
because it is impossible. (Actually Tertullian really said certum
est quia impossible est -- It is certain becaaue it is
impossible).
It is preceisely because of this that great sages interpreted the
Garden of Eden story allegorically and refused to take literally
aggadot. Judaism doesn't require us to leave our intellects at
the door. E. g. Obviously it is possible for God to lift Mount
Sinai over the head of the Israelites, but must we believe this
literally. The whole endeavor to allegorize aggadot is based on
the fact that God (and the world) do not behave in a completely
outrageous fashion. We don't understand God, but we have an idea
about how he interacts in this world, at least that's was
Maimonides and his followers thought. Why else reject e. g.
demons, astrology and other superstitions. Couldn't God have made
the world this way? Obviously yes, but the real question is, is
it likely that he did so and must we believe this. Maimonides
answers no and I think modern Orthodox Jews agree, although
Haredim probably do not.
In my original posting I stated that believing in the truth of
the flood (and a 5000 year old world) is more extreme than
denying the existence of George Washington. Someone asked me if
it isn't the case that we have more evidence for George
Washington than for denying the flood. The answer is obviously
no. We know about Washington because of one type of evidence,
historical, and we have agreat deal of this. However, the entire
received body of knowledge in just about every field of human
study is dependant on the fact that the world is not 5000 years
old and that there was not a flood. These facts are the
fundamentals of biology, physics, astronomy, history,
anthropology, geology, palentology, zoology, linguistics etc.
etc. etc. Belief in a 5000 year old world and a flood which
destroyed the world 4000 years ago is a denial of all human
knowledge as we know it. It is a retreat into a world of belief,
rather than one based on any sort of fact, and one who believes
can believe anything he want to. The fundamentalist is not able
to prove that Washington lived, only to say that he believes that
Washington lives. It is because Modern Orthodox do not wish to
live in a world in which the entire accumulated knowledge of all
civilization is to be thrown out the window that they cannot take
this literally. Pay attention to what I am saying, it is
impossible to make sense of anything in this world, in any field
of science and many of the social sciences by adopting
funadmentalist position. If people wish to live this sort of
existence, fine, but one can't pretend that there is any sort of
compelling reason for anyone else to. They certainly shouldn't
try to put forth all sorts of pseudo-science to convince people
of the correctness of their view. I think that when it comes to
science, history etc. people would prefer the stated views of the
great scholars (and the not so great scholars) at every
university in the world. Since none of these people are
fundamentalists, doesn't it make sense for the fundamentalists
not even to try and touch these areas.
It is worth noting, I think, that although fundamentalism in this
country has always been accompanied by anti-intellectualism, this
has not been the case in the Jewish world. In fact, with the
exception of some hasidic trends, anti-intellectualism has no
roots in recent Jewish history. The people advocating
fundamentialist positions are the most intellectual we have.
People often say that they can hold the positions they do because
they are ignorant of science and history. This is incorrect. It
is not that they are ignorant of all these fields, it is rather
that they reject them. There is a difference. The proper word to
describe this is obscurantism. And I for one don't think it will
last forever. One can only go against the obvious facts of our
day for so long. Rabbis could declare that Copernicus's views
were heretical for only so long before the weight of evidence ran
over them. That will happen with fundamentalism, because if they
dodn't change, no one with any education will still be listening
to them.
One final point which is also relevant, since every thing I have
been saying touches on how one is to study the Torah. It appears
to me that the traditional approach of Bible study is in many
respects immature, at least in our day. What was adequate 50
years ago is now no longer so. I remember from my high school
days that to study a text in more depth meant to read more
commentators. That is, one increased the information intake, but
the method of analysis and the forms of questions asked didn't
change. When I got to college and studied the same sources again,
I was amazed at how the text could come alive, and questions and
issues were dealt with that never even entered my mind in high
school. I remember speaking to a number of yeshiva students and
they were so excited since in yeshivah Bible was taught in such
an immature, sometimes juvenile, fashion whereas Dostoevsky et al
were critically analyzed by the new approaches in literature. It
was only when they reached college and happened to take the
course we did (offered by Zevulun Yissaschar) that they saw the
depth and beauty of the Biblical stories. I realize that it is
probably impossible to implement these approaches in high school
but woudn't it be great if we could apply the same rigor to the
Torah (I am referring to the narratives) that we do to western
literature. We need not be stuck holding onto only medieval forms
of exegesis. The world of exegesis hasn't stood still, and the
same insights which modern theories of literature and modern ways
of reading text offer us about the great works, will assist us in
understanding the Torah.I think in many respects this was
Hirsch's message, that Torah, and everything about it, need not
be considered shallow when compared to secular studies. This was
also R. Hayyim's reason (or one of them) for his analytic method,
to show that Talmud study is just as rigorous as secular study.
Unfortunately, we need a new Hirsch and a new R. Hayyim since
traditional Bible study in our day does not have the rigor of
academic disciplines and we will not be able to atract the best
minds if we do not do something about it. Either they will prefer
Talmud study, which remains rigorous , or they will choose to
study Western literature (or other fields), and Bible study will
be left for the less skilled, who are only able to tell you about
one more commentary and one more peshat, those who cannot see the
forest because of the trees, that is, those who miss the big
picture of the Torah.
Reuven Shimon
Mesorah (Historical Tradition) and the Flood
(Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer)
In his recent posting on the "Flood" of Noach, my friend Reuven
Shimon sounds almost heroic in denying the historical veracity of
our Holy Torah. He claims that this approach has sources in
"Modern Orthodoxy." This alone is perhaps the most cogent
argument that the "Right" could muster to brand the Modern
Orthodox heretical :-). But I am sure that most Modern Orthodox
would not cross the line Reuven has unfortunately crossed.
Our sources do not sustain the allegorical interpretation of the
recorded facts of Parashas Noach. To state that God, Chazal and
the Rishonim were "pulling the wool over our eyes" with this
blatant - according to Reuven - falsification, is to accuse God
as much of caprice as to accuse Him of such were He, as Reuven
described and correctly rejects, to have created the world thirty
years ago with our intact memories.
I know that Reuven will counter that I may not like his approach,
but so long as he does accept that this "Allegory" was given by
God at Sinai he is within the traditional and normative realm of
Emunah - our core belief system. Unfortunately, this is not so.
Reuven undermines the very core of our belief system - Mesorah -
with his approach. Our entire religion is based on the Tradition
- and the accuracy that our Fathers and Mothers have vouchsafed
for it - in an unbroken chain back to Sinai. There can be much
new and original exegesis of Tanach (you are all invited to my
Wednesday Night Nach shiur, in which I think I engage in some),
but not exegesis of the sort Reuven engages in - factual
reinterpretation of Tanach that is not based on that Mesorah.
Reuven errs gravely in attributing such exegesis to RSR Hirsch.
RSRH's exegesis perhaps breaks new ground in Homiletics and
Philology, but he would never have broken with Chazal and the
Rishonim on facts. Indeed, by definition, as Torah-true, he could
not! I believe RSRH would have been horrified by the very idea
that he shed a "Secular" light on our Scriptures, as Reuven
claims.
I question if any of the luminaries that Reuven's brand of
"Modern Orthodoxy" regards in high esteem (who are they? - with
all due respect to Prof. Yissaschar, quoted by Reuven, he
certainly could not be classified as a leader of Modern
Orthodoxy) would have countenanced such breaches in the "Chomas
HaDas", the great fortification of our religion, the accuracy of
our uninterrupted historical record back to Sinai (so brilliantly
described and analyzed by the Kuzari and others), which, among
all the other great Truths it has imparted to us also imparts the
historical record of the Flood as literal and factual.
We - whom Reuven perhaps would disparagingly dismiss as
"Fundamentalists" - see no reason to raise difficulties with our
accurate (and sacred) Mesorah on the basis on the latest
scientific notion. Those of us who are somewhat beyond High
School Textbook Science know the flux and infirmity of scientific
"facts." Today it is thus, tomorrow it shall be otherwise.
It is only "Netzach Yisroel lo yishaker" - the eternal truths of
the exalted Chosen People, imparted to us by Moshe Rabbeinu,
Chazal and the Great Rishonim that have withstood the tests of
time with the resilience of the Divine.
We have been influenced by the aggresive assertiveness of the
secular world. In the service of Man's efforts to shake off the
shackles of Religious Restriction, the secular world has mounted
an unceasing attack on our Timeless Truths and Toras Emes. Let us
all take the time to contemplate the majesty of our Great Leaders
and Thinkers, and the majestic Mesorah, and the accompanying
sanctity, that they have passed down to us, and grasp, assert and
proudly proclaim and teach authentic Torah Judaism.
Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer

Date: Mon, 12 Jul 1999 09:01:35 -0500 (CDT)
From: "Shoshanah M. & Yosef G. Bechhofer"

Subject: Flood part 2

Subject: Reuven Shimon and the flood
(Gad Asher)
I feel surprised to come to the defense of Reuven Shimon. None
the less, it is not clear to me that his position in the matter
of the allegorization of the flood is so clearly beyond the pale.
Surely you agree that the first perek of Breishis is not to be
taken literally. Once we accept that, it becomes harder to draw
the line at the non-literal interpretation of any non-Halachic
portions of the Torah. What do you think Chazal meant, for
example, in the equation of the nachash and the yetzer hora? ,Did
the author of that maimra mean to preserve both the pshat and the
drash or to assert that the drash in this case is the pshat? I
would assert that one finds both positions among the rishonim;
this is especially the case among such Sepharadim as the Akedas
Yitzchok.
Similarly the Rambam's assertion that the 3 angels came only in a
vision, despite the simple meaning of the psukim, would be
consistent with the position that Reuven is taking. In sum, it
seems to me that there is enough evidence to let Reuven maintain
that his view is consistent with that of respectable predecessors
albeit a minority.
Personally I prefer to take the position that the Torah is
clearly not a source of scientific knowledge but of moral
instruction. I am prepared to take everyt hing literally unless
compelled to do otherwise (as is clearly the case in the first
perek) but if so compelled I would have no difficulty as long as
Halachic interpretation was unaffected. After all, Hashem could
have created us through evolution if he so chose and I have no
idea of what process he actually used.
I think evolutionary theory as I understand it is full of holes
but I could accept it if there were no alternative.
Reuven's references to the non-literal interpretation of aggados
are of course irrelevant since those discussions do not deal with
Torah Shebiksav but his case can still be made.
I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts. I'm writing to you
privately because I don't want to appear to be lending support to
the borderline kfira that often is posted on the list. I have a
problem with your suggestion that the Rishonim can tell us what
can be seen as allegory; why not say that they had no right to go
beyond Chazal? It would seem that you would have to say (as you
do)that the allegorization of a pasuk is not strictly prohibited
(presumably if it is not Halachic - otherwise gilui panim baTorah
shelo kaHalacha). If not prohibited, why not Acharonim - couldn't
the Gra, the Ari or the Rama suggest allegorization? How about R'
Chaim Ozer? I prefer to maintain (and I think it's implied in
your use of the slippery slope reference) that the further an
idea deviates from the mekubal the more essential it is that the
wisdom of gedolei Torah be applied to the question of
entertaining it.
I remain troubled by the idea, however, that there is no
prohibition against the allegorization of Torah. It is clear to
me (I think) that any suggestion of non-literality from Lech
Lecha on (that is, from the beginning of the explicit sacred
history of klal Yisroel) is asur.
Were Reuven to suggest that Avraham Avinu never existed it seems
to me that he he would be a kofer, at least in the category of
"makchish magideha". Were he to suggest that Maaseh Breishis is
non-literal he would be following in the steps of Chazal (a la
your position, though I would deny that right to the Rishonim). I
am unsure about the intervening prokim. Chazal clearly had some
members who saw the story of the nachash non-literally but the
mabul is more of a puzzle.
I suppose that we basically agree except for my inclination to
draw the line at Chazal rather than the Rishonim. The problem
with the Rambam is not in the question of how malachim are seen
but how you reconcile the concreteness of the psukim with his
position. The Ramban, after all, doesn't question the possibility
of the Rambam's case but its truth based on the text.
Gad Asher
My Responses to Gad Asher
(Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer)
Me:
I have a problem with your suggestion that the Rishonim can tell
us what can be seen as allegory; why not say that they had no
right to go beyond Chazal? It would seem that you, would have to
say (as you do)that the allegorization of a pasuk is not strictly
prohibited (presumably if it is not Halachic - otherwise gilui
panim baTorah shelo kaHalacha).
I only include the Rishonim because we know that certain Rishonim
- especially Rabbeinu Chananel and his Beis Medrash - are known
to have their own Kabbalos which are not necessarily recorded in
Chazal. Even Rashi will occasionally cite a Medrash that we do
not possess, which may qualify as well. Other than those who can
thus claim that they possessed a Mesorah, I too reject any
Chiddush in "Allegory" beyond Chazal regardless of the stature of
the individual in question.
Gad Asher:
I prefer to maintain (and I think it's implied in your use of the
slippery slope reference) that the further an idea deviates from
the mekubal the more essential it is that the wisdom of gedolei
Torah be applied to the question of entertaining it.
Me:
Ah, but whom do you mean by Gedolei Torah? Shades of the old "Who
is a Gadol question" - who is qualified to provide this kind of
guidance?
Gad Asher:
Were Reuven to suggest that Avraham Avinu never existed it ,seems
to me that he he would be a kofer, at least in the ,category of
"makchish magideha". Were he to suggest that, Maaseh Breishis is
non-literal he would be following in the steps of Chazal (a la
your position, though I would deny that right to the Rishonim). I
am unsure about the, intervening prokim.
Chazal clearly had some members who saw ,the story of the nachash
non-literally but the mabul is more of a puzzle.
Me:
What sources in Chazal make you unsure about the Mabul? I don't
know of any.
I suppose that we basically agree except for my inclination to
draw the line at Chazal rather than the Rishonim. The problem
with the Rambam is not in the question of how malachim are seen
but how you reconcile the concreteness of the psukim with his
position. The Ramban, after all, doesn't question the possibility
of the Rambam's case but its truth based on the text.
The Rambam is not alone. The Ralbag, and occasionally the Radak
on Nach make the argument of visions consistently when confronted
with Angelic encounters, etc. - even if the Pasuk seems quite
concrete.
Clearly they hold tha visions are concrete things too - after
all, Nevuah is one of the Ikkarim.
Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer

Date: Mon, 12 Jul 1999 09:03:05 -0500 (CDT)
From: "Shoshanah M. & Yosef G. Bechhofer"

Criticism of Reuven Shimon's submission on the Flood
(Levi Yehuda)
Whether one agrees with Reuven Shimon's non-literal
interpretation of the Flood or not, anyone familiar with the
broad outlines of traditional Jewish exegesis and thought must
admit that the right to such an interpretation is absolutely
within the parameters of our tradition. There have been numerous
interpretations expounded by Talmudic and Midrashic sages and our
great commentators that ran counter to what at least
superficially appears to have been the previously widely-accepted
opinion.
Reuven's example of another case of Rishonim allegorizing was the
Garden of Eden. Several additional examples will be helpful. The
Rambam, primarily because of his interpretation of prophecy as
occurring in a vision, allegorizes each of the following: G-d
taking Abraham outside and showing him the stars; the whole
passage of Abraham's three visitors; Jacob's wrestling with the
angel; the whole episode of Balaam's talking ass; Hosea's taking
a harlot wife; Ezekiel's resurrection of the dead (a Talmudic
controversy); Gideon's fleece of wool; and many other Scriptural
events (Guide 2: 42, 47). R. Yosef Ibn Caspi and others allow
allegorization of the great fish swallowing Yonah. Many Rishonim
felt science indicated that necromancy doesn't exist and rejected
a literal interpretation of the necromancer's conjuring up of the
deceased prophet Samuel and his ensuing conversation with King
Saul.
If there would have been a compelling scientific or philosophic
reason to support the Eternity of the Universe view, the Rambam
states he would have interpreted Genesis 1 in accordance with it,
but he believes Aristotle didn't truly make his point, so Mesorah
came into play. In our century R. Kook considered the doctrine of
evolution - modified to include the Creator's role - so
compelling and uplifting that he urged Torah only be taught that
way.
The "Mesorah", which some have thrown against Reuven, important
as it is, should not be glamorized into something it isn't. The
Talmudic sages and the Rishonim recognized that there are many,
many matters in Scripture that "Mesorah" even in their days did
not clarify and everybody had to do their best with whatever they
could garner from tradition, logic and available evidence. The
sages and commentaries are constantly arguing with each other
about how to understand thousands of matters of realia, events
and meaning of words, often having diametrically opposed views,
trying to reach truth. We should continue the process and use the
great tools of science, archaeology, philology, history, etc.
that are at our disposal today.
Let us not get bogged down with a misinterpretation of "Elu VeElu
- these and these are the words of the living G-d", and feel
untraditional every time we come up with an interpretation
contrary to the view of a Talmudic sage or a Rishon. Great as the
sages were, they were fallible and welcomed every opportunity to
clarify a matter. The misinterpretation of "Elu Veelu" and the
recently-developed concept of "Daas Torah" are stifling
legitimate Torah research and moving Orthodox Judaism into an
unenlightened age contrary to our glorious heritage.
Yosef Bechhofer commits a personal injustice to Reuven by
accusing him of stating that "G-d, Chazal and the Rishonim were
"pulling the wool over our eyes" with this blatant falsification"
[of an allegorical flood account], something Reuven never even
implied. Some readers may have received the impression from
Yosef's use of quotation marks around "pulling the wool over our
eyes" that those were Reuven's words. Although the marks indicate
a colloquial phrase, the sentence demonstrates that Yosef
completely misunderstands Reuven. Reuven, as great luminaries of
our tradition through the centuries, doesn't think of an allegory
as deceptive. We may say that on the contrary, Reuven is
combatting the view of those who posit literalness in the face of
overwhelming evidence, who sometimes are led to say the evidence
was put there by the Creator to fool us.
In conclusion we should recognize that a prophetic allegory is as
true and inspiring as any "actual" history.
Levi Yehuda
My Responses
(Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer)
From Levi Yehuda:
There have been numerous interpretations expounded by Talmudic
and Midrashic sages and our great commentators that ran counter
to what at least superficially appears to have been the
previously widely-accepted opinion.
Me:
That is of course true, but they are "Talmudic and Midrashic
sages and our great commentators," an dwe are not. Yes, we are
smaller less knowledgable and privy to less Ruach HaKodesh than
Chazal and the Great Rishonim, such as Rabbeinu Chananel, whom
other Rishonim testify had direct access to the Mesorah "shekol
devarav divrei kabbala" - "that all of his words were from the
Tradition." That doesn't mean we can't be creative - we just must
know our limitations.
Several additional examples will be helpful. The Rambam,
primarily because of his interpretation of prophecy as occurring
in a vision, allegorizes each of the following: G-d taking
Abraham outside and showing him the stars; the whole passage of
Abraham's three visitors; Jacob's wrestling with the angel; the
whole episode of Balaam's talking ass; Hosea's taking a harlot
wife; Ezekiel's resurrection of the dead (a Talmudic
controversy); Gideon's fleece of wool; and many other Scriptural
events (Guide 2: 42, 47).
I just taught Gideon's fleece of wool in my Nach class. With all
due respect to you and others who commented to me privately about
the Rambam, Ralbag and others' approach towards such events that
they say were visions or conveyed by prophets - THAT IS NOT THE
SAME AS ALLEGORY. The Rambam, who codified the reality of
prophecy as one of the 13 Principles believes that this is the
way angels appear and signs occur - in visions. The Tanach
accurately describes real events that actually transpired - in
the realm of prophecy. What I understood Reuven to have said is
that the Flood account is an allegory - i.e., it didn't take
place in the realm of vision either - it is, according to Reuven,
a symbolic story, much like a parable. Perhaps your closing
statement: "In conclusion we should recognize that a prophetic
allegory is as true and inspiring as any "actual" history" agrees
with me? (BTW, I would find the interpretation of the Flood as a
vision inacceptable. Miracles do occur - no one says, or can say,
that the Splitting of the Sea or the Giving of the Torah was a
vision, and the Flood I place in the same category. But that is a
separate issue.)
Levi Yehuda:
R. Yosef Ibn Caspi and others allow allegorization of the great
fish swallowing Yonah.
Me:
Rabbi Ibn Caspi was a controversial source. I reserve the right
to reject his interpretation as beyond the mainstream.
Levi Yehuda:
Many Rishonim felt science indicated that necromancy doesn't
exist and rejected a literal interpretation of the necromancer's
conjuring up of the deceased prophet Samuel and his ensuing
conversation with King Saul.
Me:
Again, not as allegory but as visions.
Levi Yehuda:
If there would have been a compelling scientific or philosophic
reason to support the Eternity of the Universe view, the Rambam
states he would have interpreted Genesis 1 in accordance with it,
but he believes Aristotle didn't truly make his point, so Mesorah
came into play. In our century R. Kook considered the doctrine of
evolution - modified to include the Creator's role - so
compelling and uplifting that he urged Torah only be taught that
way.
Me:
I fail to see why these points are relevant. Of course we can
accept science where it does not contradict Torah. it is where
there is a REAL clash that our debate begins.
Levi Yehuda:
The "Mesorah", which some have thrown against Reuven, important
as it is, should not be glamorized into something it isn't. The
Talmudic sages and the Rishonim recognized that there are many,
many matters in Scripture that "Mesorah" even in their days did
not clarify and everybody had to do their best with whatever they
could garner from tradition, logic and available evidence.
Me:
This is true, but it does not justify your next statement, in
which you leap to equate us with our "tools" with Chazal.
Levi Yehuda:
The misinterpretation of "Elu Veelu" and the recently-developed
concept of "Daas Torah" are stifling legitimate Torah research
and moving Orthodox Judaism into an unenlightened age contrary to
our glorious heritage.
Me:
You realize that I didn't quote either of these concepts in my
posting. I don't think they have anything to do with this
discussion, and I fear you bring them in to "pigeonhole" me as a
rabid right winger who can be dismissed out of hand. We can do
great research, and I hope that I do, and use all the tools at
our disposal. We are not discussing dispute with our
contemporaries, however, which would bring"Elu Veelu" and "the
recently-developed concept" of "Daas Torah" (as an aside, see
Rabbi Wein's article in the November "Jewish Observer" - "Da'as
Torah" is an new phrase, but not a new concept) - but our
attitude towards Mesorah and Chazal. I resubmit, one cannot
reinterpret as allegory that which Chazal - via the Mesorah -
accepted as fact.
Indeed, once you question the Mabul as fact, pray tell, what
leads you to believe that Mattan Torah and Yetzias Mitzrayim are
fact?
Levi Yehuda:
Yosef Bechhofer commits a personal injustice to Reuven by
accusing him of stating that "G-d, Chazal and the Rishonim were
"pulling the wool over our eyes" with this blatant falsification"
[of an allegorical flood account], something Reuven never even
implied.
Me:
I certainly didn't mean to insult Reuven. I generally agree with
much of what Reuven has to say and respect his scholarship. I
hope we can continue to discuss these matters unemotionally and
in a friendly fashion!
Levi Yehuda:
We may say that on the contrary, Reuven is combatting the view of
those who posit literalness in the face of overwhelming evidence,
who sometimes are led to say the evidence was put there by the
Creator to fool us.
Me:
I am not a member of the "planted evidence" shool of thought. I,
however, fail to understand the negativism against literalism
where our Mesorah dictates it, in Torah she'bi'Ksav. I do not
place science on a pedestal - it is certainly as fallible, IMHO,
much more, than the traditions of our Jewish Heritage and
History.
Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer

Date: Mon, 12 Jul 1999 09:04:16 -0500 (CDT)
From: "Shoshanah M. & Yosef G. Bechhofer"

Subject: Flood part 4 (concluded)

Reuven Shimon and the flood
(Gad Asher)
Offhand the only source I can recall as suggesting a
less-than-fully- literal approach to the story of the mabul is
the Gemara in Z'vachim 113 where there is a machlokes as to
whether the mabul was universal (as would appear from the psukim)
or partial (not affecting Eretz Yisrael). I have wondered about
this for years - once we allow that the mabul was not universal
many problems follow. What was actually excluded? Why would such
an extraordinary miracle (the world is swamped with megatons of
water and they stop at the borders of EY) not be mentioned? What
happened to the flora and fauna of EY? etc.
Your comment about "which g'dolim" is of course correct but my
answer would be "whomever you consider a gadol to whom you would
address questions concerning kares, misa, etc." I only meant to
say that even though I come from a Bais Medrash that emphasized
individual thought and the right to think for oneself common
sense dictates that even if one does not violate a Halachic
proscription proscription one can not cavalierly deviate from
that which has been held dear and true by generations of shomrei
Torah umitzvos. In cases where one feels compelled to sanction
such deviation one should at least ascertain that substantial
torah scholars raise no serious objections. Chidush is not asur
in machshava but neither does anything go.
Gad Asher
The Flood and Mesorah
(Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer)
Levi Yehuda raised the issue of the Rambam's view of Aristotle's
theory that the matter of this world always existed. He states,
according to Rabbi Yehuda, that:
If there would have been a compelling scientific or philosophic
reason to support the Eternity of the Universe view, the Rambam
states he would have interpreted Genesis 1 in accordance with it,
but he believes Aristotle didn't truly make his point, so Mesorah
came into play.
In a later posting, he expanded on this point further.
Let us examine the actual Rambam, Moreh Nevuchim II:25 (p. 328 in
the Pines edition, which I quote):
"If, however, one believed in eternity... - which is the opinion
of Plato - ...this opinion would not destroy the foundations of
the Law... . It would also be possible to interpret figuratively
the texts in accordance with this opinion. And many obscure
passages could be found in the texts of the Torah and others with
which this opinion could be connected... . However, no necessity
could impel us to do this unless this opinion were
demonstrated..."
In fact, this section - paraphrased by Rabbi Yehuda - is in
regard to PLATO's opinion. In regard to Aristotle's opinion, the
Rambam writes in the previous section:
"...The belief in eternity the way Aristotle sees it - that is,
the belief according to which the world exists in virtue of
necessity,... and that the customary course of events cannot be
modified with regard to anything - destroys the Law in its
principle, NECESSARILY GIVES THE LIE TO EVERY MIRACLE, and
reduces to inanity all the hopes and threats that the Law has
held out, unless - BY G-D! - ONE INTERPRETS THE MIRACLES
FIGURATIVELY ALSO, as was done by the Islamic internalists; this,
however would result in some sort of crazy imaginings."
(The emphasis is, of course, mine.) The text, I believe, speaks
for itself. I only note that this idea is briefly and clearly
discussed by Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg in "Fundamentals and Faith"
pp. 50-52.
Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer
The Flood, Mesorah..., and now, Gan Eden
Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer
Until now, Levi Yehuda corrctly noted, I have dealt only with the
Flood, and not with Gan Eden. I wanted to look that up a little
before commenting. I did.
I certainly do not claim to have done exhaustive research, but I
have done what I believe to be enough to state that viewing the
Gan Eden account as allegory is not in line with the dominant
mainstream view of Chazal and the Rishonim. The one opinion I
found that holds expressly that the story with the serpent is an
allegory is the Sfornu on the episode with the serpent and the
"Efodi" Commentary on the Moreh Nevuchim (Ibn Tibbon edition,
II:30, pp. 51-52).
In my opinion, this is clearly not the Rambam himself's position,
and I invite readers to peruse the Moreh themselves, p. 356 in
the Pines English translation).
I grant that the Abarbanel mentions that the Rambam himself holds
the episode allegorical, but he clearly was influenced by the
Rambam's commentators, whom he calls the Rambam's "friends."
The Abarbanel himself, however, is critical of the Rambam
(according to his understanding of him). The Abarbanel, in fact,
uses reasoning that should be familiar to readers of my previous
postings: It is incorrect to take texts that the Torah conveys as
actual factual description and interpret them allegorically! He
does give some novel interpretations of the events in Gan Eden,
but all true to a factual perspective.
I also perused all the Chazals brought by Rabbi Kasher in the
Torah Sheleima (readers not familiar with that work should
understand that it is an exhaustive, comprehensive and
encyclopediac compilation of all Chazals and most Rishonim and
many Acharonim on Torah she'bi'ktav). I could not find any Chazal
that takes the account of Gan Eden as allegorical.
Those that equate the serpent with the evil inclination need not
dismiss its actual existence, but rather see it as "evil
incarnate" (see the Nefesh HaChaim 1:6 in the note there).
Indeed, the Ramban in his commentary 3:22 and in the "Toras
HaAdam" (Kisvei Ramban vol. 2 p. 295 in the Mossad HaRav Kook
edition) takes great pains to stress that Gan Eden and all the
events that occured therein actually existed in this world, and
that references to a spiritual Gan Eden in Chazal, refer to a
parallel spiritual realm that also really exists, and that the
events that transpired in Gan Eden below also transpired in that
Gan Eden on high.
Again, I only checked Rishonim at my ready disposal, but these
seem pretty clear. Rabbinu Bechayei takes the view of the Ramban,
of course.
The Ibn Ezra as well is adamantly opposed to allegorical
interpretation (See Nechama Leibowitz's "Iyunim" p. 14 as well).
So is R. Sa'adia Gaon.
I admit that I did not see Reuven Shimon's original posting on
Gan Eden, but so far the Sfornu is all I found. Bear in mind: a)
that he too takes the rest of the Gan Eden account as literal; b)
that he was not adverse to the surreal (see his link of "Tumah"
and demons in his "Kavanos HaTorah"; c) the Sfornu himself weaves
in and out of the allegory in 3:14.
Nevertheless, the Sfornu exists. However, in light of Chazal and
the other Rishonim, his interpretation here must be rejected.
Yet, be that as it may, the Sfornu only makes this jump here
where he can cite verses from Nach (and Chazal) in which the tern
"Nachash" is used as an express allegory for the Evil Inclination
and the Power of Fantasy. The Sfornu certainly did not take the
Flood as allegorical - there is no basis for that, even according
to the Sfornu's non-mainstream approach here.
Aggada
(Dan Naftali)
While I find the openess of the forum, and the intellectual acuity
of many of its participants exhilarating, sometimes the diversity
of opinion gets oppressive.
I wonder how people who, after all, share a profound committment
to halacha and the thirteen principles of the Rambam, can still
disagree so passionately on basic issues.
These last few weeks on mail-jewish make a traditionalist feel as
comfortable as Benjamin Hooks at a Klan reunion. We've seen the
Mabul [Flood] dry up, midrash reduced to fairy tales, Esav and
Yaakov reverse roles, and Daas Torah uncovered as the invention
of 19th century spin-doctors. I'd bet that I am not the only one
who feels frustrated for not having time to respond to all these
important points. More important, though, than the consternation
of those of us with unshakeable belief, must be the confusion of
those who did not have the zechus [merit] to spend years in a
bais medrash to be able to firmly formulate their beliefs. They
don't know whom to believe, and in some cases that there is even
another viewpoint that should be considered.
In this vein I offer the perceptions of one unabashed
traditionalist concerning the Aggada, at least in outline form. I
believe that I present nothing new, but that they are all based
on the major thrust of our literature and our mesorah of previous
centuries. I do not offer them as a doctrinal statement, but as
one traditional view, for those who wish to learn about such
views, that I received from my rabbeim, and continue to teach my
students.
1) All of Torah was authored by Hashem, including the narrative
portions.
2) Hashem had a purpose in writing every letter of the Torah.
3) Not all interpetations of Torah are created equal. One who
argues that the "pri etz hadar" we are to take on the first of
Sukkos is a papaya, is mistaken, even if most Hawaiins will agree
that its a nicer fruit than an esrog. One who maintains that the
three evocations of a Divine Name in the first line of the Shma
allude (chas v'shalom) to the Trinity has no place in Jewish
society.
4) To find the true intentions of the Author in what might
otherwise be an infinite number of good, bad, and ugly ways of
interpreting the text, we turn to the Oral Torah. This is what He
instructed us. This reliance on traditional interpretation is a
more important way that we differ with Protestantism than in the
nature of Jesus.
5) Torah She-b'al Peh [the Oral Law] did not skip the narrative
portions of Chumash. While we do not always come to binding
conclusions about Aggadic material (as we do in halacha), we
really attempt to discover within Aggada what we do in Halacha.
We try to discover what lessons Hashem wishes us to learn. He
wrote the Torah in a way that multiple truths may be wringed out
of a given text. But not all that may be squeezed out of a text
is Truth.
6) Midrashim are the earliest, and therefore most authoritative
way of discovering the approach Chazal took to a topic in
Chumash.
7) Midrashim can be more profound than halachic portions of the
Talmud. For this reason, they were not committed to writing
(Gemara Gittin) when much of the rest of the Oral Torah was.
There was greater reluctance here that the true meaning would be
lost or perverted (MaHaRaTZ Chayes). Sometimes, Chazal
deliberately couched their profundity in obscure or even bizarre
language, so that those without the proper readiness and
orientation would cast it aside, and not gain access to its
secrets (Ramchal). Those who understand the genius of the Sages
of the Talmud will understand that those same contributors are
incapable of spewing nonsense, and thus will try harder to
uncover their real intention (Rambam).
8) Not all midrashim come from the same source. Some are entirely
traditional. They contain information whose source was direct
revelation at Sinai. This is particularly likely in the case of
statements that reflect basic principles of faith (Maharatz
Chayes). Other midrashim are not traditional in this sense. They
express the opinion of the individual author. (Avraham ben
HaRambam). Even here, though, these opinions are not shots in the
dark. They incorporate a) elements of general approach that are
entirely traditional (e.g. Just how "good" were the Avos? How
trustworthy is prophecy? Were the heroes of Nach bloodthirsty
warriors, or G-d fearing, intense souls?). They also include b)
the honing of mental skills by years of incomprehensible depth of
Torah understanding.
9) Not all midrashim were meant to be taken literally. But they
are always correct. (Maharal of Prague, one of our greatest
"bulldogs" for the sactity of every letter of Chazal, is
nonetheless notoriously non-literal in his approach to countless
passages.) We often do not know which should, and which should
not. We should apply the same tools to them as we do in studying
the halachic parts of the gemara. None of us within Orthodoxy
would think seriously of opening a Shas and deliberately ignoring
Rashi in favor of our own understanding. We should treat the
Aggada the same way. We should allow greater minds than ours to
guide us to our conclusions. If we can't find that guidance, then
at least we should understand that any difficulty lies with our
comprehension, not with the product they served up.
10) Because the "real" intent of the author of a passage in the
Aggada is often ellusive, we cannot as often fix a legally
binding meaning to many passages. In particular, if a passage
seems to convey something to us that completely violates our
sensibilities, it is likely that we have missed its real thrust,
and therefore do not learn from it. This is the meaning of "Eyn
lemaydin min ha- aggados" [We do not learn from Aggados] (Michtav
Me-eliyahu). Nonetheless, there are many, many examples of
practical laws that have been codified, whose only source is the
Aggada. This is particularly likely when the source is an aggada
that was incorporated by the editors of the Gemara. (Maharatz
Chayes)
11) Chazal often used the scientific knowledge common in their
times as vehicles for expressing their wisdom. Science may
change. The task of Chazal was to know and disseminate the
timeless Torah that was revealed at Sinai, not the science that
is revealed with the passage of time. The task of the student is
to get beyond the scientific assumptions, and to the core of the
teaching they wish to convey. These teachings transcend time and
any particular cultural form of expression. (Maharal, many
places; Michtav Me- Eliyahu vol. 4)
12) Can we sometimes arrive at truths about the Torah without
their guidance? Sure. Patients can self-prescribe too, and
sometimes live to talk about it. Good medicine it isn't.
There. I feel better just writing all of this!
Dan Naftali
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YGB said...

From private correspondence:

I used to be as certain of the science as many of the skeptics of Torah on the blog were, but there it is so patently obvious that a HUGE amount of the "science for public consumption" is what's called in the conspiracy world, the "Offical Story". You're aware of what a sham the medical INDUSTRY is in posing as anything BUT an industry. It's the same in virtually every human endeavor, science is not exception. There's scarcely a field or subject of any interest that, upon scratching at the surface and reading the actual material instead of "popular" books, isn't seen in a new light. There are TREMENDOUS problems with actually substantiating the claim of "chains of chronologies" for the region, egypt included. It is known in the field that people would cut and paste kings lists together, that several kings ruled in a region and were listed in a fashion that implies they were successive, that many gaps exist, etc. There are real and substantial doubts about such 'basic' assumptions as the Bering Strait land crossing theories, and almost annually new and older sites are found in the new world that cause huge revisions of perspective...NONE of this trickles down to the pop.sci shelf at barnes and noble. It was recently discovered that a major scientist who studied the field of early human/neanderthal interaction, had literally faked his entire career - and botched some 30,000 YEARS of our sacrosanct 'chronology' of early man.

http://harherem.blogspot.com/2005/06/history-of-modern-man-unravels-as.html

Rest assured that other scholars built careers on his work, incorporated his studies into their own theories and certainties. And their textbook certainties will stand despite FACT, because the 'official story' serves so many purposes in ensuring a narrow conception of human and natural history, in ensuring reliance on 'experts' of various kinds for our worldview.

every year new discoveries in undersea archeology have force us to reconsider our assumptions about the development of early civilisations; the tsunami last year revealed sunken towns off the coasts of already 'ancient' ports. when was the sea that low?; a LONG time before we'd assumed it had. One thing my taivah for bittul zman reading has done, it's opened a world of differing perspectives on the 'official stories' in the sciences and elsewhere...no less then in the rabbinic hagiographies and CNN news. I can make these things available to people, but for the most part people simply don't want to hear it. It's become harder and harder for me to argue against the GENERAL integrity of our SURVIVING mesorah as I go along...emphasis on what's 'survived'. granted, I am ignorant of many issues and disputes regarding science and mesorah, but there are SO many issues and disputes in the seemingly-homogenous science camp. And what mess everyone up is that there is an assumption that what is PRESENTLY taken for science and scientific proof, and what's taken for THE Torah perspective on this or that topic, has always been the official story everywhere and over time. that's my two cents before I get to work.

Anonymous said...

aaron - can't agree with you more ,but one point - i think that this is a problem and a big one in chutz la'aretz. in EY most of the gedolim are for real and have no shtick. and even with all the complaining about RYSE , the truth is everything he decides is based on what his cronies tell him - but they aren't the gedolim , he is. And trust me i know , i live in Yerushalayim and hang around his beis medrash often . it's very easy to see what goes on if you just observe.

Anonymous said...

[These comments of mine were posted here in May 2005, but is still germane]

In many postings on the web, I've seen various ways of understanding the interaction of miracles with "nature and history". I'm beginning to think that the paradoxes associated with this interaction are a subset of the Big Paradox associated with the interaction between HaShem and the created world---that we associate with concepts like "tzimtzum".
Looking at it in this way, I marvel at the many weird solutions people feel they must advance to account for the apparent lack of "evidence on the ground" for past miracles documented in Tanach (e.g., the Mabul) and elsewhere. Because if HaShem, for His own reasons, including the maintenance of our ability to have free choice, conceals himself in varying degrees, why should it be impossible for them to understand that He "covers the tracks" of His miracles in varying degrees?
People often rule out the rapid creation of a fully functioning world, saying that the scientifically observed age of the world (whatever that is, lately) has to be real, because otherwise these observations would be the result of deception! Have they not heard our Sages call this a world of "sheker", while the afterlife is a world of "emes"? What do they suppose that means?
And, just because we are granted enough reliable sensory input and analytical capability to carry out our daily tasks, that doesn't mean we can have a complete model of how the whole world is run.
Looking at the final paragraph of the Shema, I note that our hearts and our eyes should be disregarded if they provide input injurious to our mitzvah observance or faith. I don't think this is limited to lustful thoughts and sights; there is reason to believe this applies also to very rational, scientific thoughts and sights.

Chicago said...

R' Bechhofer,

I have the the greatest respect for you since, as a Chicagoan, I am very aware of your vast knowledge and contributions to our community. I am also derive great chizuk from the fact that a man of your intelligence and Torah/worldly knowledge is a "strict traditionalist."

In the secular world, it is exceedingly rare to find great scientists who can also be great believers, and it is even rarer to find a strict traditionalist that can survive in academia. Nearly every religious scientist feels compelled to compromise the literalness of the text to fit with the "known" facts. Any Chazal or Rishon that can be used in any way to support allegory, nevuah, or alternative explanations is held tight like a life preserver.

The problem is for those of us (most Jews in fact) who straddle both worlds. Not only is there an onslaught of "evidence" against the literal mesora, but there is an even greater social onslaught (i.e. anti-fundamentalism) in the intellectual/academic/"enlightened"world. Most of us are weak in this regard and can't easily withstand the intellectual/social pressure exerted against our belief system.

For many (actually the vast majority) people, alternative pshatim, allegories, and cognitive dissonance are the only mechanisms available to enable functioning as a "believer" in the mesora. These issues have been around for centuries, and the rationalization approach has survived side by side with the fundamentalist approach all this time. R' Slifkin (and his many supporters) is clearly just the latest version of this "rationalist" approach to the mesora.

My concern for nearly everyone that I know is that if the gedolim label R' Slifkin and the rest of the rationalists as koferim (and we all lose our chelek in Olam Haba) then what is the point of continuing as observant Jews? How can kiruv continue amongst those with a secular education?

Furthermore, the apparent lack of derech eretz with all the book banning (at least in the eye of the rationalists) makes Torah-true Judaism extremely unpalatable to outsiders and baalei t'shuvah.

Whereas the bans may be reasonable inside an "RW chareidi" yeshiva,
it seems to me that, even if the guardians of the mesora think the rationalist approach is factually incorrect (or completely wrong), that it is extremely unwise to approach the problem with bans and labels of kefira. There are better ways to address the problem, as it has been repeatedly addressed over the centuries. Can't there be a few words of pleasantness, or some polite discourse? Don't the banners care that, by banning rationalist ideas, they are not only declaring about 95% of Jews as treif, but also writing them off forever?

Although you are courageous and willing to take on the hardest questions with detailed firm and logical responses from the sources, why is nobody else (almost) taking your approach?

One answer: There a very few people who have your breadth and depth of knowledge, who can provide a detailed, reasonable and logical response. I would like to hear more from you on this topic!

Saul Shajnfeld said...

Dear Anonymous:

> SS, your initial flood challenge is a tempest in a teapot. You start by attacking what sounds like the historicity of the mabul because of a lack of ancient sources - and end by conceding that the flood story is corroborated by other ancient sources and that the whole issue boils down to a silly little irrelevancy - the dating of the event.<

Let me clarify, then. First, the problem hardly is, as you put it, a “lack of ancient sources.” There is convincing evidence that, at a time when the Torah says there was water thousands of feet high that killed mankind, city states and nations were flourishing in both Mesopotamia and Egypt (not to mention life all over the planet) and were not affected by the alleged flood. This is much more than a “lack of ancient sources.” Why do you choose to phrase it that way?

Second, I conceded only that the story of the mabul “may have a basis in some real flood of SOME dimension. It is impossible, however, to argue that any truly massive flood occurred when the Torah says it did.” I will go further and say that is impossible to argue that any truly massive flood covering the whole of Mesopotamia occurred any time in the last 10,000 years, and probably much longer. We’re really talking about the possibility of a regional flood, say 5,000 years before when the Torah describes, with no need to take animals and birds aboard because there would be millions of them outside the flood area. This is absolutely not what the Torah describes. I am amazed by how easily you are willing to toss aside what are major problems.

Finally, you call the dating of the event a “silly little irrelevancy.” The chronology provided by the Torah, which recites the life spans of the first ten generations with great specificity and which the Rishonim all agree are literally correct, hardly is a “silly little irrelevancy.” I should add that our dating of matan Torah is based on our dating of the mabul.

>This is not an issue of rabbanim, so let's not make believe that it is - it is an issue of believers.<

No, I don’t think it is. We can believe in the Torah but conclude, due to overwhelming evidence, that we have not been interpreting it correctly.

> I believe in the truth of the Torah far more than anything written or "proven" by any other source.<

So if the Torah, read literally, told you it was morning, and you and everyone else had just come home from work and maariv, and the sky was dark, you would ignore this evidence and put on your tefillin again. I don’t think so. We would interpret the Torah non-literally.

> You are a nonbeliever. Your quest for "truth" by researching such irrelevancies is just a way to make yourself feel better about being a kopher.<

I find your claim that I am a nonbeliever to be presumptuous, insulting and illogical. Your claim that a kofer would need to research such matters in a quest for “truth” in order to make himself feel better about being a kofer is just plain silly.

> RYGB's answer is the obvious and only answer.<

RYGB’s answer merely evades the problem.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

To Anonymous:

Your calling me a kofer merits further response. The topic of Reb Aaron's blog related to the integrity of the mesorah. It is actually responses like yours that create the greatest despair in me about the integrity of the mesorah.

We believe in an unbroken chain of tradition from Sinai. People would not accept a story (matan Torah) unless they knew, from their own sources, that it was true. But today, anyone who expresses any doubt is attacked as a kofer. Books are banned, if not burned. People potentially may be placed in cherem. The consequences of expressing doubt can be social ostracism, loss of shidduchim, loss of parnassa, etc. Do you think that these consequences don't cause many people to "stay in line?” Of course they do. That is their goal and that is their effect.

The problem with this system, which suppresses the expression of doubt, is that it completely sabotages the reliability of our mesorah. Would my ancestor have accepted everything in the mesorah if he had any doubt about it? You bet he would, if he wanted to keep his friends, marry off his children and keep his business customers. You cannot have it both ways. If you do not allow free expression of doubts without fear of reprisal, then you can never know whether people really accept the mesorah, or are just intimidated into remaining silent and going with the crowd.

This system of repression has been in place for a very long time. If it existed 2,500 years ago, then the mesorah is by now totally unreliable. The very means by which we ensure that people stay “on the derech” deprives our mesorah of any reliability.

Listen to what I am saying.

YGB said...

The anthropological evidence for the Mabul is so overwhelming, I am stunned at the audacity of one who dismisses it k'l'achar yad.

See:
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/flood-myths.html

Saul Shajnfeld said...

>RYGB: From private correspondence:

I used to be as certain of the science as many of the skeptics of Torah on the blog were, but there it is so patently obvious that a HUGE amount of the "science for public consumption" is what's called in the conspiracy world, the "Offical Story". . . .

There's scarcely a field or subject of any interest that, upon scratching at the surface and reading the actual material instead of "popular" books, isn't seen in a new light. There are TREMENDOUS problems with actually substantiating the claim of "chains of chronologies" for the region, egypt included. It is known in the field that people would cut and paste kings lists together, that several kings ruled in a region and were listed in a fashion that implies they were successive, that many gaps exist, etc. . . .

NONE of this trickles down to the pop.sci shelf at barnes and noble.<

I am well aware of the fact that many ancient chronologies are extremely problematic, that people would cut and paste kings lists together, that several kings ruled in a region and were listed in a fashion that implies they were successive, that many gaps exist, etc. So is every Egyptologist and Assyriologist alive today. There has been a massive amount of work done during the past 100 years to corroborate all of the questionable data.

I have not relied on popular books sold at Barnes & Noble. I have consulted important works by world-renowned scholars, all of whom are well aware of the traps in this area. They hardly need us to point out the problems to them. From all the new discoveries and the extremely critical scholarship that has gone on an overall picture—filled in by a tremendous amount of detail and supported by a tremendous amount of evidence—has been developed. I have personally consulted with a number of world-renowned scholars and presented my questions to them. The idea that there was a massive flood that destroyed civilization in Mesopotamia and/or Egypt c. 2105 BCE is universally considered absurd.

> It was recently discovered that a major scientist who studied the field of early human/neanderthal interaction, had literally faked his entire career - and botched some 30,000 YEARS of our sacrosanct 'chronology' of early man. . .

Rest assured that other scholars built careers on his work, incorporated his studies into their own theories and certainties.<

Rest assured that scholars in this area are “at each other’s throats,” and are quick to find flaws in, and attack, each other’s theories. Nevertheless, there is universal consensus as to what was NOT happening c. 2105 BCE, viz., “the Flood.” Read the literature. Better yet, ask a frum Egyptologist or Assyriologist to survey the experts and the research and report back.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

YGB said:

>The anthropological evidence for the Mabul is so overwhelming, I am stunned at the audacity of one who dismisses it k'l'achar yad.

See:
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/flood-myths.html <


Stunned at the audacity?

Sometimes I have trouble understanding how some people think.

While I haven't had the time to read through most of the entries in the link, the flood story from Cameroon is instructive:

Cameroon:

As a girl was grinding flour, a goat came to lick it. She first drove it away, but when it came back, she allowed it to lick as much as it could. In return for the kindness, the goat told her there will be a flood that day and advised her and her brother to run elsewhere immediately. They escaped with a few belongings and looked back to see water covering their village. After the flood, they lived on their own for many years, unable to find mates. The goat reappeared and said they could marry themselves, but they would have to put a hoe-handle and a clay pot with a broken bottom on their roof to signify that they are relatives.

Apparently this is the most significant flood that Noach’s descendents living in Cameroon have a tradition of.

Audacity?

Anonymous said...

This Hanukkah, we can take comfort in the desire of at least one Hellenist not to be called a kofer.
On the other hand, was this blog really created for his incessant misuse?

Saul Shajnfeld said...

"Hellenist?"
"Kofer?"
"Misuse?"

I think you prove my point--more suppression, and more damage to our mesorah.

YGB said...

This exchange has been cited (although not in a particularly favorable light):

http://godolhador.blogspot.com/2005/12/new-global-learning-cycle.html

YGB said...

Chicago said...
R' Bechhofer,

I have the the greatest respect for you since, as a Chicagoan, I am very aware of your vast knowledge and contributions to our community. I am also derive great chizuk from the fact that a man of your intelligence and Torah/worldly knowledge is a "strict traditionalist."

In the secular world, it is exceedingly rare to find great scientists who can also be great believers, and it is even rarer to find a strict traditionalist that can survive in academia. Nearly every religious scientist feels compelled to compromise the literalness of the text to fit with the "known" facts. Any Chazal or Rishon that can be used in any way to support allegory, nevuah, or alternative explanations is held tight like a life preserver.

The problem is for those of us (most Jews in fact) who straddle both worlds. Not only is there an onslaught of "evidence" against the literal mesora, but there is an even greater social onslaught (i.e. anti-fundamentalism) in the intellectual/academic/"enlightened"world. Most of us are weak in this regard and can't easily withstand the intellectual/social pressure exerted against our belief system.

For many (actually the vast majority) people, alternative pshatim, allegories, and cognitive dissonance are the only mechanisms available to enable functioning as a "believer" in the mesora. These issues have been around for centuries, and the rationalization approach has survived side by side with the fundamentalist approach all this time. R' Slifkin (and his many supporters) is clearly just the latest version of this "rationalist" approach to the mesora.

My concern for nearly everyone that I know is that if the gedolim label R' Slifkin and the rest of the rationalists as koferim (and we all lose our chelek in Olam Haba) then what is the point of continuing as observant Jews? How can kiruv continue amongst those with a secular education?

Furthermore, the apparent lack of derech eretz with all the book banning (at least in the eye of the rationalists) makes Torah-true Judaism extremely unpalatable to outsiders and baalei t'shuvah.

Whereas the bans may be reasonable inside an "RW chareidi" yeshiva,
it seems to me that, even if the guardians of the mesora think the rationalist approach is factually incorrect (or completely wrong), that it is extremely unwise to approach the problem with bans and labels of kefira. There are better ways to address the problem, as it has been repeatedly addressed over the centuries. Can't there be a few words of pleasantness, or some polite discourse? Don't the banners care that, by banning rationalist ideas, they are not only declaring about 95% of Jews as treif, but also writing them off forever?

Although you are courageous and willing to take on the hardest questions with detailed firm and logical responses from the sources, why is nobody else (almost) taking your approach?

One answer: There a very few people who have your breadth and depth of knowledge, who can provide a detailed, reasonable and logical response. I would like to hear more from you on this topic!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005 1:21:03 PM


I appreciate the kind words.

Many people have noted that the latest letters issued - those of the Novominsker, R' Aharon Schechter and R' Shmuel Kamenetsky - are careful to critique the tone of the books, not their contents.

"Challenge" is still on the market, indeed, just reprinted!

http://www.feldheim.com/cgi-bin/category.cgi?item=1-58330-424-x&type=store&category=search

And R' Aryeh Kaplan's works enjoy very wide circulation:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0881253456/104-6942326-6741522?v=glance&n=283155

And you should definitely see:

http://www.lulu.com/content/86052

Evidently, the issue was the gavra, not the cheftza. I can only speculate as to the issue, and that is not for me to do.

Anonymous said...

No more crocodile tears from Saul about damage to the Mesorah. It's farcical for one to act worried about damage to something one repudiates in principle, in toto, and in public.

Chicago said...

Saul said:
"This system of repression has been in place for a very long time."

Yes, but the rationalists have lived along with the literalists since the very beginning. Each generation of Jews has apparently educated its own children separately in both approaches. Honestly, I doubt if there was ever mesora that was successfully suppressed. If anything, the bans just end up making people curious, and expose the rationalist ideas to many more people. Ain chadosh tachat hashemesh. Most people will think for themselves, even if they never mention it to anyone.

I really don't think there is any major corruption within the mesora as we have it. Especially when we have the pure literalists to protect it. I would even go so far to say that it is largely because of the literalists that we even have a mesora to talk about. Yes, some of the rationalism has also been passed on as part of the mesora, be were it not for the literalist counterbalance (checks and balances, if you like), rationalist reinterpretation would rapidly get out of hand and result in severe adulteration of the mesora. And furthermore, I suspect that the mesora was designed to work this way, with multiple points of view in some degree of tension. There is a lot to be learned from the exercise of
cooperation, if it is done properly.

OTOH, I would not be so quick to dismiss stories in Chumash as being allegorical. Try harder to keep an open mind, and realize that today's limited scientific knowledge does not necessarily lead you to the real truth. It's just a few pieces of a huge jigsaw puzzle - and you will often be very wrong about the big picture!

Certainty about a particular position is a direct reflection of the amount of time spent studying the position from one viewpoint. This applies to all of us. Step back few miles and try to be more objective about how much is REALLY known for CERTAIN about ancient history.

Chicago said...

R' Bechhofer,

Thanks for your response. I am glad to see that Challange, and R' Aryeh Kaplan are still on the "kosher" list. I also just noted that the Aguda and the RCA have both issued statements that are supportive of those with reasonable non-literalist views.

I guess that takes us back to the real reasons for why the books were banned. Perhaps only the inner circle (the signers) will ever know for sure.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

>Anonymous said...
No more crocodile tears from Saul about damage to the Mesorah. It's farcical for one to act worried about damage to something one repudiates in principle, in toto, and in public.<

The overwhelming evidence that there was no mabul when and as described in the Torah, and the fact that institutionalized repression casts doubt on the argument that our ancestors would not have accepted parts of our mesorah if they did not know them to be true, truly can challenge one's emunah in the mesorah. I know this both from personal experience and from discussions with others who have experienced this.

Your mockery is downright nasty, and unbecoming of a ben Torah.

In your world, one either has complete emunah in everything or he is a kofer. Or, if he has any doubts, he should remain silent. This is part of the very repression that creates doubts in my mind.

Why don't you try exercising some compassion for your fellow Jew?

Chicago said...

Saul,

There really are many people just like you. Just come to a private understanding you can live with yourself, and stop trying to convert others to your viewpoint. In fact, don't even bring up the topic - think about something else. If you have questions, think about them for a few minutes and then just file them in the back of your brain. It's not your destiny to prove or disprove the history in the Torah. In the Grand Scheme of Things, historical proofs don't help us become better Jews or better people. It's not worth the tzuris. Just try to be shomer mitzvos to the best of your ability, and try to make the world a better place. You'll lead a much happier life that way. In olam hazeh and olam haba. And ignore Anonymous - he just doesn't understand.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

Chicago:

Thanks. Nice to see there is someone decent out there.

I cannot remain silent, though. I have this thing for emes. I thought it was part of being Jewish, though I've encountered too many who seem to believe that emunah trumps emes. Without emes, what is one supposed to have emunah in--sheker?

I am tired of brainwashed folks who think there is some virtue in continuing to believe something that has been thoroughly discredited. They make a laughingstock out of Yahadus.

As for trying to convince others, I would note that our yeshivos are doing a good job of that, putting out young people who seem incapable of independent, objective thought and who simply parrot back what others have fed them. If people don't stand up to what is wrongheaded, the obscurantists will continue to gain control.

I don't mind sticking my neck out and expressing my views. I do mind nasty people who have no sechel and no manners.

I appreciate your advice.

Chicago said...

"I have this thing for emes. "

Bais Hillel and bais Shammei had a disagreement about the need to express the truth regarding an "ugly" bride. The upshot is that - often expressing your idea of emes is exactly the wrong thing to do. It can often backfire on you and hurt others.

"I don't mind sticking my neck out and expressing my views."

Yes, but OTHER people DO mind. Most people don't like to have their version of the truth challanged, especially when it occurs on such a regular basis in the secular world. It gets very annoying, very quickly.

I know this is hard because I have also struggled with it for years, but try to be more tolerant of other views, and don't challange everything that you don't agree with - even if you are convinced it is wrong. Everyone is entitled to strongly-held and reasoned opinions, but it is not a good idea to force one's "truths" on others.

Focus on the things where we Agree - there a lot more of them.
It makes you a better person, and the world a better place.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

Chicago:

Thanks again. I understand your point about not disturbing people who do not want to be disturbed.

But I think there is another issue here as well.

Wasn't Rambam forced to write Moreh Nevuchim because people were speaking up about conflicts with Greek philosophy and the harm they were doing to people's emunah? The overwhelming evidence against a flood as described in the Torah actually is causing harm to many people's emunah. It needs to be publicly addressed by gedolim, and not merely by a dismissive wave of the hand by gedolim who are--and are happy to remain--ignorant of the facts, which by now are undeniable by reasonable people. Meanwhile, many people are becoming doubtful of the mesorah.

There seems to be a widespread belief that the best way to deal with such a crisis is to ignore it and it will go away. The only thing that will go away is educated Jews from Yahadus. I think it is important to publicize this matter so that it can be dealt with, as it needs to be. As in the Slifkin affair, some gedolim may feel it is better to lose educated Jews than to bring uncomfortable facts to the attention of the ignorant masses. I think it is wrong to suppress emes, distort the true meaning of the Torah and alienate those who have some education merely in order to protect ignorant people from knowledge of the emes. In a way, it's a slap in Hashem's face--like saying He did a poor job in creation and failed to endow man with sufficient seichel to handle emes, and that man needs protection from the emes.

bluke said...

R' Aryeh Kaplan has written on this subject (The Age of the Universe - A Torah True Perspective). The following quote is very apropo

I remember back in Torah V’Daas many, many years ago, we were discussing sending a rocket to the moon. This was long before Sputnik. And I asked one of the people there (I won’t mention his name), “What do you think about sending a rocket to the moon?” He said that it is impossible al pi Torah. It is impossible to send anything out of the Earth’s atmosphere, because above the atmosphere is the yesod ha-aish (the elemental fire), and anything that goes through that would be burned. They showed me seforim that said that. Obviously, we know that this was not the correct hashkafah. But once you paint yourself into an intellectual corner, it is very hard to get out. As Torah Jews, we cannot afford to paint ourselves into an intellectual corner, from which we will not be able to extricate ourselves.

Many of the people commenting here sound just like that person from Torah V'Dass

Anonymous said...

SS writes:

"...some gedolim may feel it is better to lose educated Jews than to bring uncomfortable facts to the attention of the ignorant masses. I think it is wrong to suppress emes, distort the true meaning of the Torah and alienate those who have some education merely in order to protect ignorant people from knowledge of the emes. In a way, it's a slap in Hashem's face--like saying He did a poor job in creation and failed to endow man with sufficient seichel to handle emes, and that man needs protection from the emes."

Therein lies the problem, reb Saul. You confuse emes with empiricism. If it all were obvious from the observable world, then revelation - the Torah - would be redundant. The reality is that the Torah is the Emes and not archeologists or egyptologists or, or that matter, physicists or molecular biologists.

You presume to speak for Emes and say that you search for Truth, but you look in all the wrong places. As I wrote before: Chochmah BaGoyim Ta'amin" - Chochma - not Torah and not Emes.

The entire nature of the inquiry is the opposite of a Torah-centered hashkafa. Indeed secular education for the purpose of appreciating Hashem's incredible creation and hashgacha is wonderful; for the purpose of parnasa is honorable; but to test the "emes" of our mesorah?!? How completely backwards!

I ask you - do you deny Kriyas Yam Suf? Ma'amad Har Sinai? Neis Chanuka? Whatever your professors say (and, by the way, I have a doctorate from an Ivy League school) can any of it approach the emes l'amito of those realities - or the reality of the Mabul? Do you not see that you have reversed the proper order of things?

Yes, to the degree "education" is a shter to emunah pshuta, it should be eradicated completely from the "Torah world." I am a believer in almost all people working and not sitting and learning all day - and, accordingly, a believer in education. But your arguments make me far more sympathetic to those who have drawn a tougher line and who reject education at all costs. It has destroyed you. You are a danger to yourself and to others.

Anonymous said...

SS also writes:

"The only thing that will go away is educated Jews from Yahadus."

Your definition of educated Jews seems to be "those who are willing to reject Chazal in favor of the University." My friend - such people already have left Yahadus.

I am so very sorry that you were lied to by a system that told you that you could make it all "make sense."

Anonymous said...

SS also writes:

"In your world, one either has complete emunah in everything or he is a kofer. Or, if he has any doubts, he should remain silent. This is part of the very repression that creates doubts in my mind.

"Why don't you try exercising some compassion for your fellow Jew?"

I note that more than one person is writing anonymously. I did say that you are a kofer - and I believe that you are - but not all the other comments. Your pleas for compassion do not fall on deaf ears or a hard heart, but ultimately they are not persuasive - they are rhetorical and ad hominem. The bottom line, Saul, my dear lost brother, is that you have no doubts at all, so do not claim the status of a "doubter" a questioner or a seeker of truth. Certainly in this discussion you have expressed no doubts: secular scholarship is definitive, mesorah is deficient - end of story.

You are a kofer; and, if it makes you feel better, you truly do have my sympathy.

I do not hate you, I cry for you and for a generation of those who have been so confused by the worship of secular education as an end in itself, of the university as an institution that seeks emes, and of their own intellect as infallible.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

Thank you Bluke. Well said.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

Dear Anonymous:

It seems fairly clear that neither of us will convince the other, so perhaps we will have to agree to disagree.

> The entire nature of the inquiry is the opposite of a Torah-centered hashkafa. Indeed secular education for the purpose of appreciating Hashem's incredible creation and hashgacha is wonderful; for the purpose of parnasa is honorable; but to test the "emes" of our mesorah?!? How completely backwards!<

Neither I, nor the archaeologists, have engaged in study in order to “test the ‘emes’ of our mesorah.” Archaeologists engage in their work in order to study the past. If they uncover something that disagrees with our tradition, it is not because that was their goal. I discovered the problem with the mabul because I was reading about ancient history. I didn’t go looking to find problems with the mesorah.

> The reality is that the Torah is the Emes and not archeologists or egyptologists or, or that matter, physicists or molecular biologists.<

Both are sources of emes. Biology teaches us how to cure diseases.

> Whatever your professors say . . . can any of it approach the . . . the reality of the Mabul?<

In this case, yes. The mabul is real, but perhaps as a moshol, not as an historical fact, at least not when and how it literally appears in the Torah.

>Do you not see that you have reversed the proper order of things?<

No, I really don’t. I don’t believe that Hashem gave us eyes to mislead us. When an archaeologist digs up an ancient city with thousands of inscriptions on clay, I don’t believe that Hashem created the world with those inscriptions buried in it. I believe they represent the remnants of civilization. If the Torah, to give an example, said that there never was a city there, I would expect our gedolim to look for a way to understand the Torah differently. I don’t believe Hashem expects us to suspend belief in our senses.

Bluke quoted this from R. Aryeh Kaplan:

“I remember back in Torah V’Daas many, many years ago, we were discussing sending a rocket to the moon. This was long before Sputnik. And I asked one of the people there (I won’t mention his name), “What do you think about sending a rocket to the moon?” He said that it is impossible al pi Torah. It is impossible to send anything out of the Earth’s atmosphere, because above the atmosphere is the yesod ha-aish (the elemental fire), and anything that goes through that would be burned. They showed me seforim that said that. Obviously, we know that this was not the correct hashkafah.”

Based on your reasoning, am I correct in assuming that you would disagree with R. Kaplan, ZT”L, and say that the scientists are in error when they claim that rockets have left the earth’s atmosphere and returned safely, and that R. Kaplan should stop believing the scientists and look to the Torah for emes? If not, then why not? If seforim said that everything going through the atmosphere would be burned in the elemental fire, do you think they made it up and didn’t have a mesorah for this?

I’m glad to hear you have a doctorate. I’m certain, however, that it’s not in anthropology. Why don’t you prove that I’m mistaken. Find a truly frum archaeologist, Egyptologist, Assyriologist, geologist or expert in ancient history/literature of the Near East and ask him to confirm that I am wrong and explain why. It shouldn’t be too difficult to find such people. I found a few. Some with very fine semicha. Not one suggested I was wrong. Why?

> Yes, to the degree "education" is a shter to emunah pshuta, it should be eradicated completely from the "Torah world." . . . But your arguments make me far more sympathetic to those who have drawn a tougher line and who reject education at all costs.<

Then please respond to what I wrote:

“I think it is wrong to suppress emes, distort the true meaning of the Torah and alienate those who have some education merely in order to protect ignorant people from knowledge of the emes. In a way, it's a slap in Hashem's face--like saying He did a poor job in creation and failed to endow man with sufficient seichel to handle emes, and that man needs protection from the emes.”

Anonymous said...

This thread started with an assertion that today's rabbis are unfit to transmit the Mesora. Later came an assertion that the previous rabbis did a poor job of transmission since they would not alter the Mesora. After the arguments---surprise!---nobody's views changed. Regardless of anyone's intentions, this thread on balance has done nothing positive for Judaism. As the blog world matures, we need to think about what type of content is most appropriate to convey through this medium and what type is not.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

To a different "Anonymous":

>SS also writes:

"The only thing that will go away is educated Jews from Yahadus."

Your definition of educated Jews seems to be "those who are willing to reject Chazal in favor of the University." My friend - such people already have left Yahadus.<

A steady stream continues, and will continue. And they are not following "the University." They are following their own eyes and sense. Some of these people actually work in these fields and see the evidence for themselves. They do not have to hear it from others. You are telling them that they cannot believe what they see. They cannot, and should not, listen to you. Their eyes were created by Hashem just as the Torah was given by Hashem.

And do not try to make it seem that one has to be a kofer to accept that which has been established. Rambam and Saadya Gaon both have stated that this is permissible, as have many gedolei Torah since them. Their views simply do not agree with the narrow views of some of today's gedolim, who would like to pretend that these Torah giants never said what they said. I don't believe this is a question of you vs. me, but rather a dispute between gedolim. If none of them has stated that the mabul may be a moshol, or that the Torah's chronology may not be intended literally (and I simply don't know whether this is the case), it is only because they either are unaware of the overwhelming evidence or are afraid to publicize the matter.

>I am so very sorry that you were lied to by a system that told you that you could make it all "make sense." <

Ultimately it all must make sense. In some cases science will evolve. In other cases the Torah will be reinterpreted.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

Anonymous said:

>I do not hate you, I cry for you and for a generation of those who have been so confused by the worship of secular education as an end in itself, of the university as an institution that seeks emes, and of their own intellect as infallible.<

To use your words:

And I certainly do not hate you, but cry for you and for a generation of those who believe that every bit of information you have learned in the yeshiva is necessarily true, even if it means that night is day, and who believe that ANY man is infallible.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

>Anonymous said...
This thread started with an assertion that today's rabbis are unfit to transmit the Mesora. Later came an assertion that the previous rabbis did a poor job of transmission since they would not alter the Mesora. After the arguments---surprise!---nobody's views changed. Regardless of anyone's intentions, this thread on balance has done nothing positive for Judaism. As the blog world matures, we need to think about what type of content is most appropriate to convey through this medium and what type is not. <

I agree with most of what you have said. But though the posters here may have not changed their views, readers may be moved one way or the other.

For what it's worth, I am open to change if someone can show me how the overwhelming evidence is incorrect. The other side is not open to change at all. But that is the nature of the respective positions.

I think that the exchange is nevertheless healthy. Perhaps some frum historian or geologist will bravely step forward and inform a godol of the factual realities, and perhaps some godol will be brave enough to endure the suppression and speak the emes.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

Dear RYGB:

I am interested in your thoughts on the question I posed, reproduced below:

We believe in an unbroken chain of tradition from Sinai. People would not accept a story (matan Torah) unless they knew, from their own sources, that it was true. But today, anyone who expresses any doubt is attacked as a kofer. Books are banned, if not burned. People potentially may be placed in cherem. The consequences of expressing doubt can be social ostracism, loss of shidduchim, loss of parnassa, etc. Do you think that these consequences don't cause many people to "stay in line?” Of course they do. That is their goal and that is their effect.

The problem with this system, which suppresses the expression of doubt, is that it completely sabotages the reliability of our mesorah. Would my ancestor have accepted everything in the mesorah if he had any doubt about it? You bet he would, if he wanted to keep his friends, marry off his children and keep his business customers. You cannot have it both ways. If you do not allow free expression of doubts without fear of reprisal, then you can never know whether people really accept the mesorah, or are just intimidated into remaining silent and going with the crowd.

This system of repression has been in place for a very long time. If it existed 2,500 years ago, then the mesorah is by now totally unreliable. The very means by which we ensure that people stay “on the derech” deprives our mesorah of any reliability.

Listen to what I am saying.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

More excerpts from the flood stories linked by RYGB:

Samoyed (north Siberia):

Seven people were saved in a boat from a flood. A terrible draught followed the flood, but the people were saved by digging a deep hole in which water formed. However, all but one young man and woman died of hunger. These two saved themselves by eating the mice which came out of the ground. The human race is descended from this couple.

Efik-Ibibio (Nigeria):

The sun and moon are man and wife, and their best friend was flood, whom they often visited. They often invited flood to visit them, but he demurred, saying their house was too small. Sun and moon built a much larger house, and flood could no longer refuse their invitation. He arrived and asked, "Shall I come in?" and was invited in. When flood was knee-deep in the house, he asked if he should continue coming and was again invited to do so. The flood brought many relatives, including fish and sea beasts. Soon he rose to the ceiling of the house, and the sun and moon went onto the roof. The flood kept rising, submerging the house entirely, and the sun and moon made a new home in the sky.

Mongolia:

Hailibu, a kind and generous hunter, saved a white snake from a crane which attacked it. Next day, he met the same snake with a retinue of other snakes. The snake told him that she was the Dragon King's daughter, and the Dragon King wished to reward him. She advised Hailibu to ask for the precious stone that the Dragon King keeps in his mouth. With that stone, she told him, he could understand the language of animals, but he would turn to stone if he ever divulged its secret to anyone else. Hailibu went to the Dragon King, turned down his many other treasures, and was given the stone. Years later, Hailibu heard some birds saying that the next day the mountains would erupt and flood the land. He went back home to warn his neighbors, but they didn't believe him. To convince them, he told them how he had learned of the coming flood and told them the full story of the precious stone. When he finished his story, he turned to stone. The villagers, seeing this happen, fled. It rained all the next night, and the mountains erupted, belching forth a great flood of water. When the people returned, they found the stone which Hailibu had turned into and placed it at the top of the mountain. For generations, they have offered sacrifices to the stone in honor of Hailibu's sacrifice.

Assam (northeastern India):

A flood once covered the whole world and drowned everyone except for one couple, who climbed up a tree on the highest peak of the Leng hill. In the morning, they discovered that they had been changed into a tiger and tigress. Seeing the sad state of the world, Pathian, the creator, sent a man and a woman from a cave on the hill. But as they emerged from the cave, they were terrified by the sight of the tigers. They prayed to the Creator for strength and killed the beasts. After that, they lived happily and repopulated the world.

Lolo (southwestern China):

In primeval times, men were wicked. The patriarch Tse-gu-dzih sent a messenger down to earth, asking for some flesh and blood from a mortal. Only one man, Du-mu, complied. In wrath, Tse-gu-dzih locked the rain-gates, and the waters mounted to the sky. Du-mu was saved in a log hollowed out of a Pieris tree, together with his four sons and otters, wild ducks, and lampreys. The civilized peoples who can write are descended from the sons; the ignorant races are descendants of wooden figures whom Du-mu constructed after the deluge.

Bunun (Formosa interior):

A heavy rain fell for many days, and a giant snake lay across the river, blocking it so that the whole land flooded. Many people drowned, and the few survivors fled to the highest mountain, but they still feared as the waters kept rising. A crab appeared and cut through the body of the snake, and the flood subsided.

A giant crab caught and tried to eat a large snake, but the snake managed to escape into the ocean. Immediately a great flood covered the world. The ancestors of the Bunun escaped to Mount Usabeya (Niitaka-yama) and Mount Shinkan, where they lived by hunting until the waters receded. They returned to find their fields washed away, but a stalk of millet remained. They planted its seeds and subsisted on its produce. Before the flood, the land had been quite flat; many mountains and valleys were formed by it.


These are predominant flood stories from some of the areas in your link. Are they the memories of the mabul as handed down to the b’nei Noach living in these places? Will someone explain?

Saul Shajnfeld said...

And how did the kangaroos get from the ark to Australia?

And how did Noach's sons, who knew how to make metal, read and write literature, evolve into illiterate bushmen with bones through their noses who beat on tree stumps?

There are a thousand more questions like these.

Any credible answers (I said credible)?

Saul Shajnfeld said...

In case it is unclear, I am not arguing that the Torah is wrong. I am simply trying to encourage a proper interpretation of the Torah.

Bob Miller said...

Saul,

Our "repressive" system has somehow closed its eyes and allowed this discussion to go its sorry way. Far from repressive, it's become tolerant beyond belief, even beyond reason, of gross insults to the Torah and Torah leaders.

In late 1972, I was taking US Army Ordnance Corps officer training at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD. At a social event, some of the trainees put on a skit that at one point poked fun at the Ordnance Corps insignia. Major Goodridge was not amused; he stopped the skit cold and told us all sternly that good men had fought and died for that symbol and no one should dare take it lightly.

What we are dealing with here is far more serious. Jews have fought and died for G-d and the actual Torah, not the new-age, politically correct, academically edited, designer Torah. This actual Torah demands our respect.

Your message is both clear and wrong.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

Dear Mr. Miller:

I have tremendous respect for our Torah, which indeed is the greatest "book" ever written and has redeemed mankind. But it is precisely my respect for the Torah that motivates me to prevent its becoming the object of ridicule. The insistence on a patently false literal interpretatation does the Torah and Judaism no service.

I totally disagree.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

To RYGB:

I also would very much like to hear your own personal views on the last sentence of the following post dealing with suppression of information:

>As in the Slifkin affair, some gedolim may feel it is better to lose educated Jews than to bring uncomfortable facts to the attention of the ignorant masses. I think it is wrong to suppress emes, distort the true meaning of the Torah and alienate those who have some education merely in order to protect ignorant people from knowledge of the emes. In a way, it's a slap in Hashem's face--like saying He did a poor job in creation and failed to endow man with sufficient seichel to handle emes, and that man needs protection from the emes.<

YGB said...

My dear Reb Saul:

I did consult a frum Egyptologist (former Ph.D. student at Yale in Egyptology), and I am afraid you have been *dramatically* distorting the record and leaving a *gravely* false impression.

In fact, the Mabbul, according to our mesorah, happened in 2105 BCE, which is smack dab in the middle of the "First Intermediate Period" (="Period Concerning Which We Have Little or No Information") in the Egyptian Chronology. And there is record of great travail in the land at the time. A quick Google search on "First Intermediate Period" Deluge yielded this as the *first* result:


http://www.crystalinks.com/dynasties7-10.html

First Intermediate Period - c.2181 - 2040BC
Dynasties 7-10
The First Intermediate Period seems to have been a time of great instability in Egypt. As a result, the records kept were obscure and vary.
Pepi II died after ruling 96 years. With his death, everything collapsed. There are various accounts of what happened in Egypt during this time. People sought stability, but things continued in turmoil. Pepi ll's long reign had weakened central government, as the nomarchs (local governors) increasingly began to assert their independence from Pharaoh. Any nominal authority exerted by central government disappeared, as the nomarchs jostled for position, attempting to found their own dynasties.
There was a downside to the technological progress made during the Old Kingdom. Feats of engineering like the Sphinx and the pyramids at Giza had made the Egyptians complacent. This feeling of invincibility was exacerbated by the position of their country, hidden as it was in the fertile Nile Valley.
A word encapsulated how Egyptians felt about their civilization - 'Ma'at' meaning 'Stability' or 'Balance'.
Papyri dating from the Middle Kingdom show this breakdown very clearly. Due to the unstable nature of this period, no firm historical records survive from the First Intermediate Period.There are some sources that mention a seventh dynasty which had 70 kings and which reigned for a total of 70 days. These are apocryphal, but nevertheless show how much the system had broken down.
We can place an eighth dynasty, which was possibly descended in some way from Pepi II and which ruled from Memphis, but we must assume that any influence they exerted was confined to the area immediately around Memphis, as the Nile Delta has been invaded by "asiatics" (the name given by Egyptians to people from what we now call the Middle East). The kings of the eighth dynasty are somewhat ephemeral, but we know of 2 possible ones - Wajdkare and Qakare Iby.
After perhaps between 20 and 30 years, the eighth dynasty fell and the nomarchs once again jostled for supreme power. We now see the emergence of a ninth dynasty, ruling from Herakleopolis, perhaps founded by one Meryibre Khety. Both this dynasty and its Herakleopolitain successor, the tenth dynasty, seem to have been highly unstable, with frequent changes of ruler.
Both this dynasty and its Herakleopolitain successor, the tenth dynasty, seem to have been highly unstable, with frequent changes of ruler.
Running concurrent to the tenth dynasty, another dynasty was being established in Thebes (the eleventh dynasty). Founded by Intef I in c. 2134BC, the first 3 kings of DXI (all called Intef, by the way, and buried in an area called Dra Abu el-Naga, near to what would later become the Valley of the Kings) fought an ongoing conflict with the Herakleopolitain DX monarchs, with requent clashes in the area around Abydos, where their two spheres of influence met.
Manetho's Seventh and Eighth Dynasties: A Puzzle Solved
- Journal of the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities
The only direct evidence for the existence of a Seventh and Eighth Dynasty in Egyptian history appears in two inconsistent, badly garbled, and heavily redacted copies of Manetho¼s history of Egypt. One copy was prepared by Africanus in the third century and the other by Eusebius in the fourth century. According to Africanus, the Seventh Dynasty consisted of seventy kings of Memphis, who reigned for 70 days" and the Eighth Dynasty consisted of „twenty-seven kings of Memphis, who reigned for 146 years.
Eusebius has a slightly different account. He has a Seventh Dynasty that consisted of five kings of Memphis, who reigned for 75 days and an Eighth Dynasty that consisted of five kings of Memphis, who reigned for 100 years.
These descriptions present Egyptologists with some problems. Not only does the description of the Seventh Dynasty appear to be either spurious or badly garbled, but no archaeologists would allow much more than a quarter of a century for both dynasties combined.
Adding to the difficulty is that there are three additional Egyptian king-lists that encompass this period, and while all have a different number of Memphite kings beginning with the Sixth Dynasty, none of them indicates any sort of dynastic break for a Seventh and/or Eighth Dynasty.
These two dynasties fall into Egypt's First Intermediate Period, and because of the great chaos in this time and the scarcity of records, Egyptologists generally assume that the differences among the two Manetho copies and the various king-lists simply reflect the confusion among the various scribes who attempted to recreate the political records of this earlier era.
The original authors of the king-lists, had a clear picture of the First Intermediate Period and that the differences among the king-lists reflect not confusion but political/theological alternatives. More specifically, the political/theological problem involved the determination of when Horus stopped ruling in Memphis and started ruling in Thebes.
Different cult centers, as reflected in the king-lists, had different answers. In addition, I am going to argue that the original Manetho king-list never had a Seventh and Eighth Dynasty and that what appears in the Africanus and Eusebius copies are garbled transmissions of lines of summation.
Dynasty 7 was originally a line of summation for the entire Memphite line of kings, beginning with the First Dynasty and ending with the Sixth Dynasty; Dynasty 8 was a line of summation for just the Sixth Dynasty.
There were three major political events that took place during First Intermediate Period.
One was the termination of the Memphite line of kings sometime after the start of the Sixth Dynasty.
Two was the foundation of a line of kings in Herakleopolis, which line belongs to Dyns. 9 and 10. Three was the foundation of the Eleventh Dynasty in Thebes.
There was some overlap between the last Memphite kings and the earliest Herakleopolitan kings, but where in the Memphite sequence this overlap began is not known.
There was also some overlap between the Herakleopolitans and the Eleventh Dynasty Thebans, which period lasted about 100 years, ending when Menthotpe II defeated his Herakleopolitan rival.
Whether or not there was some overlap between the kings of Memphis and the kings of Thebes is unknown.
Each of the various king-lists for this time period provides a different roster of kings and dynasties. The three earliest are the Table of Sakkara, the Table of Abydos, and the Turin Canon of Kings.
All three date to the Nineteenth Dynasty. The other relevant king-list is Manetho's, which dates to the third century B.C., about one thousand years later than the others. But his original manuscript is lost, and for the First Intermediate Period we have to rely on the badly garbled copies of Africanus and Eusebius.
The most abbreviated account of the First Intermediate Period comes from the Table of Sakkara. It ends the Sixth Dynasty after the fourth king, Phiops, and then immediately jumps to the reign of Menthotpe II, the Theban pharaoh who defeated Herakleopolis and united Egypt.
This list, therefore, omits part of the Sixth Dynasty, all of the Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Dynasties, and part of the Eleventh Dynasty. The period omitted comes closest to what we currently describe as the First Intermediate Period. That the Sakkara list ends the Sixth Dynasty with the reign of Phiops, who apparently ruled in excess of ninety years, provides a good clue that whatever went wrong politically began either during or immediately after the reign of this king.
The Table of Abydos presents a different perspective. Beginning with the first king of the Sixth Dynasty, it lists 22 Memphite kings, and there is no indication of any dynastic breaks anywhere in this list. The Abydos list, like the Sakkara list, omits any mention of the Herakleopolitans, and also skips the first few Theban kings, jumping directly to the reign of Menthotpe II.
The Turin Canon shows a Sixth Dynasty consisting of twelve Memphite kings, and, although the lengths of reign are badly damaged, a summation line indicates that the total duration was either 181 or 187 years.
There is no indication therein of a Seventh or Eighth Dynasty from Memphis. (Following the Sixth Dynasty Memphite kings, the Turin Canon allows for eighteen Herakleopolitan kings, but does not divide them into two separate dynasties as Manetho does.
Many Egyptologists believe that at least one of the two Herakleopolitan dynasties, Nine or Ten, is spurious. After the Herakleopolitans, the Turin Canon lists several Eleventh Dynasty Theban kings prior to Menthotpe II.
While most Egyptologists tend to dismiss these differences as reflecting the chaotic nature of the First Intermediate Period, I suggest that a more logical interpretation is that these three king-lists each present a different political viewpoint about the legitimacy of various kings.
The Egyptians were a very conservative people and did not approve of abrupt changes in the political order. The king was thought of as a human aspect of the god Horus, and a challenge to the legitimate king was the equivalent of a challenge to the god Horus. During the First Intermediate Period, however, there were three rival kingdoms, Memphis, Thebes, and Herakleopolis.
Only one could be the legitimate center of power. Horus could only rule from one throne.
The central theological problem of the First Intermediate Period, then, was "When did Horus stop ruling in Memphis and when did he begin to rule from another city?"
The three king-lists, I suggest, each show a different political interpretation.
The Sakkara list represents a 'plague on all your houses' point of view. Implying that the outbreak of troubles began either during or immediately after the reign of Phiops, the fourth king of the Sixth Dynasty, the Sakkara scribe refuses to recognize any legitimate authority until Menthotpe II reunites Egypt. The list omits the entire period in which there were competing claims.
The Abydos list presents a very different perspective, that of the Memphite loyalist. What we see reflected here is a hard core support for the Memphite throne, complete rejection of the Herakleopolitan claims, and some distaste for the Theban upstarts.
It is only after the Memphite throne has ceased to exist and Menthotpe II has reunited Egypt that the Abydos scribe confers legitimacy on the Theban monarchy. If any Theban kings ruled between the time that the Memphite line ended and Menthotpe II reunited Egypt, the Abydos scribe refuses to recognize their legitimacy.
A still different set of values is reflected in the Turin Canon of Kings. The Turin Canon is a Theban document, written by a Theban scribe during a Theban administration. It presents a Theban political viewpoint.
Because it is Theban, it begins the Eleventh Dynasty with the founders of the Theban line rather than with the later reign of Menthotpe II. But the Thebans can not allow a document to show Memphite kings on the throne at the same time as Theban kings. This would be sacrilege, an affront to Horus in Memphis.
This raises the question of whether the Memphite line ended before Thebes came to the throne or after. The Turin Canon, however, only has twelve kings listed where the Abydos list has twenty-two. Since Thebes had an interest in showing a smooth transition from Memphis to Thebes, with no gaps, I suggest that the Turin Canon¼s Sixth Dynasty ended at exactly the point where it began the Eleventh Dynasty and that the Thebans deliberately omitted the last ten Memphite kings in order to avoid any appearance of conflict.
On the other hand, the Turin Canon does show a line of Herakleopolitan kings. This is politically significant. Theban authority stems from its defeat of the Herakleopolitan kings. Therefore the Herakleopolitan kings need to be mentioned. But the inclusion of the Herakleopolitan kings also serves to remind Egyptians that the Memphites couldn¼t defeat the Herakleopolitans, and that Horus must have abandoned Memphis in favor of those kings who did defeat the Herakleopolitans.
Before turning to Manetho¼s Seventh and Eighth Dynasties, one more observation about the king-lists is in order. Manetho and the Table of Sakkara both make Phiops the fourth king of the Sixth Dynasty.
The Turin Canon and the Table of Abydos make him the fifth king. The latter two lists place an additional king between Manetho's first and second king. This king appears to be named Usarkare and he is documented in the archaeological record, but his reign seems to have been relatively brief.
This suggests that Manetho and the Table of Sakkara both omitted Usarkare from the sequence of Memphite kings. Therefore, if Manetho originally had intended to include a complete list of Memphite kings in his chronology, he would have had only 21 kings, instead of the 22 in the Table of Abydos. This figure of '21' is significant in our reconstruction of Manetho.
Article with Table - Continued
The way I see it, it's all based on mathematics. The names and exact dates are not as important as the metaphors and the geometry.
SEVENTH AND EIGHTH DYNASTIES
2152 - 2130
Netrikare
Menkare
Neferkare II
Neferkare III
Djedkare II
Neferkare IV
Merenhor
Menkamin I
Nikare
Neferkare V
Neferkahor
Neferkare VI
Neferkamin II
Ibi I
Neferkaure
Neferkauhor
Neferirkare II
Attested Kings about whom nothing more is known:
Wadjkare - "Prosperous is the Soul of Re"
Sekhemkare
Iti
Imhotep
Isu
Iytenu
NINTH AND TENTH DYNASTIES - 2135 - 2074 BC
Neferkare
Mery-ib-re Khety - dates uncertain - "Beloved is the Heart of Re"
Mery-ka-re - dates uncertain - "Beloved is the Soul of Re"
Ka-nefer-re - dates uncertain - "Beautiful is the Soul of Re"
Neb-kau-re Akh-toy - dates uncertain - "Golden are the Souls of Re"
This dynasty was also known as the Herakleopolis Dynasty because the rulers controlled lower Egypt from Herakleopolis. This dynasty is also often called the "House of Khety" because many of the ruler's names were Khety, but it is considered to be fairly unstable due to frequent changes in rulers. The Herakleopolitans expelled Asiatic immigrants from the Nile delta and fortified the eastern border of Egypt. This dynasty was responsible for establishing the importance of Memphis. The Herakleopolitans improved irrigation works, reopened trade with Byblos, and began the "Coffin Texts". One of the kings wrote the "Instruction to Merikara." They also had frequent outbreaks of fighting against the Thebans north of Abydos. Eventually they were conquered by the Thebans and this marked the end of the Herakleopolis Dynasty and the beginning of the Middle Kingdom.
The only person from this era to have left an impression on posterity is a woman called Nitokris who appears to have acted as king. There are no contemporary records but Herodotus wrote of her:
She killed hundreds of Egyptians to avenge the king, her brother, whom his subjects had killed, and had forced her to succeed. She did this by constructing a huge underground chamber. Then invited to a banquet all those she knew to be responsible for her brother's death. When the banquet was underway, she let the river in on them, through a concealed pipe. After this fearful revenge, she flung herself into a room filled with embers, to escape her punishment."
For a time petty warlords ruled the provinces. Then from the city of Herakleopolis there emerged a ruling family led by one Khety who for a time held sway over the whole country. However, this was short lived and the country split into two, the north ruled from Herakleopolis and the south ruled from Thebes.
Whereas the Theban dynasty was stable, kings succeeded one another rapidly at Herakleopolis. There was continual conflict between the two lands which was resolved in the 11th dynasty.
King Ouakha-Re KHETY III (2110to 2075 BC) taught his son, the future king MERIKARE of the 10th dynasty (2075 to 2060BC), thus : (Papyrus of the Hermitage Museum - N0. 1115 at Copenhagen.)
"Life on earth passes quickly, and happy are those without sin, because a million men will serve as nothing to the king of heaven and earth when they appear as sinners in the next life. The memory of the good man will live for ever. The essence of life is in the word of the ancestors; it is contained in books. Open and read them.
Practice justice as long as you are on earth, Comfort those that cry, do not oppress the widow and the orphan. (sentences that the Bible repeats often.)
God knows the treacherous and paid for their sins in His blood... Go down the difficult path, because the soul of the man is drawn to the place that it knows, does not depart from the way of truth; and no-one can prevent it!
Know that the judges in the courthouse of the next world will examine a life as if it were only an hour. Happy is the one that reaches the next life : he will be like a god, he will move freely like the masters of eternity, because there is no-one who can oppose the CREATOR, who is omnipresent and omniscient. Honor your invisible God on your way, practice truth and justice,
Act for God so that he can do the same for you. After having punished men (in the deluge?), his light (Re) again shines in the sky, so that men may see it.
These sublime words were written toward 2080BC, within one or two hundred years of the birth in UR in the Chaldees of a young man called Abraham."

Saul Shajnfeld said...

Dear RYGB:

>My dear Reb Saul:

I did consult a frum Egyptologist (former Ph.D. student at Yale in Egyptology), and I am afraid you have been *dramatically* distorting the record and leaving a *gravely* false impression.<

I am heartened by the fact that you have tried to investigate into this question, and I will respond to your lengthy post a bit later (I am presently at work).

Suffice it to say at this point that the very material you have sent me disproves your position, as I will demonstrate shortly.

Anonymous said...

Saul,
You gave the bloggers on this website a challenge to find a frum egyptologist who would say the reality of the situation is different from how you're presenting it. Rabbi Bechhoffer found a frum Egyptologist with a PHD from Yale (I think that would qualify him as an expert) and the guy basically said you were distorting reality for all of us. You failed your own challenge.
Whether or not the website R'Bechhoffer presented agrees with you or not is irrelevant. Im pretty sure that nobody here would argue that there are sources that deny the possibility of the Mabul. Thats great. To write a response proving that would be a waste of your time.
I really believe you care about the truth. So why don't you ask Rabbi Bechhoffer for his expert's phone number so he can tell you why you're wrong. If you feel like posting your viewpoint afterwards I would greatly appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

what is the scientific terutz for the 12 stones of Jacob turning into 1?

- Dad

Anonymous said...

oh, and what's the sciontific explanation for this notion called g-d?

- dad II

Anonymous said...

Saul, you talk of mabul as moshol. Our entire plane of existence is only moshol. You and I certainly are only moshol as nothing exists except Hashem. The form of revelation given to "us" is a guide to apprehension of Emes - in particular Ichud Hashem. Your search is all in the wrong direction.

And please do not think that a "frum egyptologist" could ever prove anything about the truth of Mabul or Mitzrayim which are truths regardless of papyri - regardless of video, if you could produce some - it only proves something about you.

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes: I accept the mesorah as superior to my own senses and judgments.

Saul writes: "In case it is unclear, I am not arguing that the Torah is wrong. I am simply trying to encourage a proper interpretation of the Torah." What is clear to everyone besides you, Saul, is that you are arguing that the Torah has to fit the conclusions of other disciplines - history, science, whatever. But the Torah does not have to and never will. You think that you honor Torah by struggling to find a way to make it reasonable for you - but you are not honoring Torah, you are dishonoring it - you are honoring yourself, your intellect, your reason.

Saul writes: "They are following their own eyes and sense. Some of these people actually work in these fields and see the evidence for themselves. They do not have to hear it from others. You are telling them that they cannot believe what they see." Yes - that is precisely what I am telling them. Woe to those who have been misled by modern day school education or by "kiruv" - do you not know that the nature of our belief is to know that the Emes lies in our Mesorah and not in what you see? V'lo sossuru acharei levavchem v'acharei aneichem asher atem zonim achareihem. Saul, Saul - just sacrifice the ego of your own infallibility, relinquish your death grasp on your intellect, embrace emunoh.

I promise you: the observable world will always appear to be in conflict with Torah - v'idach peirusha.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

>Anonymous said...

Saul,
You gave the bloggers on this website a challenge to find a frum egyptologist who would say the reality of the situation is different from how you're presenting it. Rabbi Bechhoffer found a frum Egyptologist with a PHD from Yale (I think that would qualify him as an expert) and the guy basically said you were distorting reality for all of us. You failed your own challenge. <

What I said was:

“Rest assured that scholars in this area are “at each other’s throats,” and are quick to find flaws in, and attack, each other’s theories. Nevertheless, there is universal consensus as to what was NOT happening c. 2105 BCE, viz., “the Flood.” Read the literature. Better yet, ask a frum Egyptologist or Assyriologist to survey the experts and the research and report back.”

I have not heard that R. Bechhofer's source reports that any Egyptologists or Assyriologists hold, or that there is anything in the professional literature that suggests, that there may have been a flood that destroyed all of Egypt or Mesopotamia c. 2105 BCE. I will respond, b’li neder, later today, and demonstrate why R. Bechhofer's response is way off the mark. I am glad that he took the trouble of investigating. I will explain why the response, however, is irrelevant, and merely proves my point.

I think that you all might realize why yourselves if you read the material that he posted (which I’ve only skimmed so far) and thought it through, rather than unthinkingly go on the attack. Read the material R. Bechhofer quoted, with its “gap,” and insert a flood c. 2105 BCE that wiped out all of Egypt, and see if it makes sense.

I will give you a hint: The first dynasty of pharaohs began c. 3100-3000 BCE. Some of the pyramids and other structures still standing were built c. 2700 BCE, and the well-documented chronological record goes as far back as 2700 BCE, with village life going back to more than a thousand years earlier. There is a rich record of architecture, culture, language, art, writing, religion, etc. throughout this period. The flood comes along and kills everyone and destroys everything in 2105 BCE. The uniquely Egyptian architecture, culture, language, art, writing, religion, etc. continue after that, as they were before, including 1,700 years worth of pharaohs, down to the common era.

Anyone spot a problem? I certainly hope so.

> I really believe you care about the truth. So why don't you ask Rabbi Bechhoffer for his expert's phone number so he can tell you why you're wrong. If you feel like posting your viewpoint afterwards I would greatly appreciate it.<

I will be happy to do so after I post my response. I do not expect that I will have to back down from my argument.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

>Anonymous said...

Saul, you talk of mabul as moshol. Our entire plane of existence is only moshol. You and I certainly are only moshol . . . Yes, yes, a thousand times yes: I accept the mesorah as superior to my own senses and judgments.<

If man’s senses are not reliable, then how can we rely on the testimony of the 600,000+ who witnessed matan Torah, saw what they saw and heard what they heard? How would we know there was even a Torah given back then if the senses of those people were not reliable? In any case, these people, according to your argument, were only moshol, and we certainly cannot rely on the testimony from someone who is merely a moshol.

I don’t think I am grasping what you are saying.

> Saul writes: "They are following their own eyes and sense. Some of these people actually work in these fields and see the evidence for themselves. They do not have to hear it from others. You are telling them that they cannot believe what they see." Yes - that is precisely what I am telling them.<

Then please answer what I asked before:

Bluke quoted this from R. Aryeh Kaplan:

“I remember back in Torah V’Daas many, many years ago, we were discussing sending a rocket to the moon. This was long before Sputnik. And I asked one of the people there (I won’t mention his name), “What do you think about sending a rocket to the moon?” He said that it is impossible al pi Torah. It is impossible to send anything out of the Earth’s atmosphere, because above the atmosphere is the yesod ha-aish (the elemental fire), and anything that goes through that would be burned. They showed me seforim that said that. Obviously, we know that this was not the correct hashkafah.”

Based on your reasoning, am I correct in assuming that you would disagree with R. Kaplan, ZT”L, and say that the scientists are in error when they claim that rockets have left the earth’s atmosphere and returned safely, and that R. Kaplan should stop believing the scientists and look to the Torah for emes? If not, then why not? If seforim said that everything going through the atmosphere would be burned in the elemental fire, do you think they made it up and didn’t have a mesorah for this?

> Saul writes: "In case it is unclear, I am not arguing that the Torah is wrong. I am simply trying to encourage a proper interpretation of the Torah." What is clear to everyone besides you, Saul, is that you are arguing that the Torah has to fit the conclusions of other disciplines - history, science, whatever. But the Torah does not have to and never will.<

I believe that the Rambam (who knew science too well to dismiss it), Saadya and a number of Acharonim have disagreed in some cases. And I believe that the mabul is case that calls for disagreement.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

Dear Rabbi Bechhofer:

I appreciate that you have graciously provided a forum for the discussion of this controversial but important topic. I am especially grateful that you took the trouble of consulting with someone with some training in Egyptology. I would like to clarify a few points.

First, the precise succession of kings in Egypt is not known. What is known is that there were hundreds of pharaohs, spanning the period from roughly 3100-3000 BCE to roughly 300 BCE. As to the time the monarchy started, c. 3000 BCE is the widely accepted date. A few years ago a somewhat radical Egyptologist argued for a starting date of 2750 BCE, but was widely attacked by the mainstream.

You can consult whichever historian you wish (unfortunately, your source is a psychic who has studied Egyptian history, though not necessarily an inaccurate source). It is known that there were approximately 30 dynasties, though the precise number may be 25-31. There were three “intermediate periods” during which the monarchy broke down. The second, which began c. 2150, lasted about 150 years. While the monarchy broke down, the civilization continued, and the monarchy was reestablished. There is no doubt among scholars that Egypt flourished as a great civilization from approximately 3000 BCE to modern times. While there is doubt about the names and reigns of particular kings, no Egyptologist doubts that there was a CONTINUOUS, established Egyptian pharaohnic culture from 1,000 years before 2105 BCE to about 1800 years after. There is a wealth of inscriptions and other artifacts. No Egyptologist doubts this.

The evidence in Mesopotamia is even more precise.

I said that there was an unbroken chain of monarchies and civilizations in Egypt and Assyria. I did not mean that every single king was accounted for. “Anonymous” was kind enough to explain my comment:

“. . . what "an unbroken chain of monarchies and civilizations from 3000 BCE to the present" means is that the entire period is accounted for in history for that part of the world.”

Your trying to take advantage of a 100-200 year period of political upheaval and sparse historical record in order to create an “opening” for the mabul is, unfortunately, silly (this is not intended as a personal criticism, as you are perhaps not familiar with this area, and I have great respect for you). Let me give an example. We know the Jews lived in Poland for about 1,000 years. Your attempt is similar to finding a 100-year gap in Polish Jewish history about which nothing is known—imagine 1450-1550 CE—and speculating that perhaps a flood killed everyone in Poland in 1450. Everyone is killed, and then Poland pops back up and continues as Poland was before 1450.

Quite impossible.

The pyramids, and much more in Egypt, can reliably be dated to as far back as 2700 BCE. We have a continuous civilization from before that time. There is a rich record of architecture, culture, language, art, writing, religion, etc. throughout this period. The flood comes along and kills everyone and destroys everything in 2105 BCE. The uniquely Egyptian architecture, culture, language, art, writing, religion, etc., ended in 2105, somehow pop right back up and continue after that, as they were before, including 1,700 more years worth of pharaohs, down to the Common Era.

This is absurd. If there was a flood, there would be nothing left, and no one to continue it.

So when did the Egyptian civilization that we know of start, then? When were the pyramids built? When did the first pharaohs reign? Not c. 3000 BCE? Must be after the flood, then. But not right after the flood. The Torah tells us that Mitzraim was dispersed from Bavel 340 years after the mabul. So the Egyptians didn’t arrive in Egypt and start up their civilization there until c. 1765 BCE (2105 minus 340 equals 1765). Add some time to get settled, and the pyramid building didn’t start until 1600 something BCE??

This is totally absurd.

Please find out if your frum, Yale-educated Egyptologist friend is willing to get on the phone with me and tell me that Egypt did not start until 1765 BCE. I will gladly supply my phone number.

Enough of the madness.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

Dear Rabbi Bechhofer:

As I greatly value your opinions (even though I don't always agree), I am very interested in your thoughts on the two questions I posed earlier (viz., hiding facts from people being a criticism of Hashem's creation, and suppression of the expression of doubt undermining the trustworthiness of our mesorah). These two problems have long troubled me. When you have the time, could you read what I've written and respond?

Kol tuv,
Saul

Godol Hador said...

> Saul, you talk of mabul as moshol. Our entire plane of existence is only moshol.

Are you for real?! This is the funniest thing I have seen in a while.

Mark said...

Saul- What does your study of Egyptology (if that's the correct term), say about Yetzyas Mitzrayim?

And if the Experts agree that it didn't happen, are you willing to say that it's a mosul as well?

YGB said...

I do not plan on acquiring an expertise in Egyptology any time soon. It is sufficient for me that a person who is an expert in the field told me, categorically, that the Mabul fits very neatly into the chronology. As to details, antedeluvian Egypt may have been founded by someone other than Mitzrayim, as indeed ancient Egypt was known as Kemet, Misr being a later name.

As to carry-over from the ante to post deluvian Egypt, whereas the Gemara itself cites an opinion there was no Mabul in EY, and whereas we know the ties between the inhabitants of that region and Egypt were close - indeed, who is to say where the boundaries of the unflooded EY of the time ran - well, you get the picture.

Sof davar, it is irresponsible to represent the historical evidence as definitively counter to the Biblical account, which, we assume, is sealed with the seal of HKB"H, emes Toraseinu ha'Kedoshah.

As to your twin inquiries, it is certainly improper to suppress issues and doubts. The Torah stands on its redoubtable own and is ably and amply capable of defending itself.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

>I do not plan on acquiring an expertise in Egyptology any time soon. It is sufficient for me that a person who is an expert in the field told me, categorically, that the Mabul fits very neatly into the chronology.<

That is, unfortunately, completely absurd. Your 100 year gap was a time when the monarchy was not in power. There were lesser powerlords in competition. The economic and political climate was chaotic, and the records from this time are sparse (but not nonexistent). And you want to shoehorn in a flood that killed everyone? I don’t think so. I know someone who was unconscious for a few days a number of years ago. Perhaps the flood happened then. Fits very neatly.

Your answer is absurd. You would not use this kind of reasoning if you were teaching Gemara. Why are you allowed to here?

As I said, I will furnish you with my phone number. Your Yale friend does not even have to give me his name. Let him tell me how the flood “fits very neatly.” This is utter nonsense.

>As to details, antedeluvian Egypt may have been founded by someone other than Mitzrayim, as indeed ancient Egypt was known as Kemet, Misr being a later name.<

Fine so far.

>As to carry-over from the ante to post deluvian Egypt, whereas the Gemara itself cites an opinion there was no Mabul in EY, and whereas we know the ties between the inhabitants of that region and Egypt were close - indeed, who is to say where the boundaries of the unflooded EY of the time ran - well, you get the picture.<

No, I don’t get the picture. The only picture I get is one of evasion. The Torah is quite clear as to the extent of the flood. The Gemara carves out Eretz Yisroel. Now you want to carve out Egypt, as part of Eretz Yisroel. Are you kidding?

And you haven’t carved out Mesopotamia, where the continuous history is even stronger than in Egypt. And if Mesopotamia wasn’t totally destroyed, just where was this flood that reached to all corners of the earth? It didn’t happen in a bathtub. And if there was water 17,000 feet high in some areas, were the people in the surrounding areas walking around next to a wall of water? You’d think they’d have noticed. And why were animals and birds needed on the ark if there were millions of them all around in the adjacent areas?

I don’t get the picture at all. And I don’t think you do either. You simply don’t want to face unpleasant truths. What happened to intellectual honesty?

>Sof davar, it is irresponsible to represent the historical evidence as definitively counter to the Biblical account, which, we assume, is sealed with the seal of HKB"H, emes Toraseinu ha'Kedoshah.<

Something is sealed with the seal of HKB"H, but it is the emes, not the flood story interpreted literally. You are making a laughingstock of the Torah. It is not irresponsible to tell the truth.

>As to your twin inquiries, it is certainly improper to suppress issues and doubts. The Torah stands on its redoubtable own and is ably and amply capable of defending itself.<

I asked you two important questions, and you haven’t answered them at all. This is outright evasion. I expected better of you. What a disappointment.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

>Mark said...

Saul- What does your study of Egyptology (if that's the correct term), say about Yetzyas Mitzrayim<

It's inconclusive about Yetzias Mitzraim.

>And if the Experts agree that it didn't happen, are you willing to say that it's a mosul as well?<

It would take an awful lot more than experts agreeing. There would have to be overwhelming evidence. I don't believe it could be done.

Mark said...

>It's inconclusive about Yetzias Mitzraim.

Can you explain How?
Is there any expert that says that Yetzyas Mitzraim happened as the Torah says it did? (including the very explicit number of people who left)?

Are there any independent corroborations of the nisim that the Torah describes?

I think that you believe that Yitzyas Metzraim is absolutely essential to our emunah, therefore you say it's inconclusive.(I,of course, agree)

I think that if you asked the same experts that you asked about the mabul they would give you the same answer "Are you kidding me?" the same way they answered about the mabul. Please tell me, I'd be very happy if I am wrong.

I'm not trying to insult you, Saul, I just think that you are not being 'emes' here with us, or perhaps even with yourself.

There are lines YOU would not cross even if they contradict the 'experts', because of your emunah. If that is true, how can you knock others as 'hiding from the emes', when you would do the same thing yourself?

Mark said...

>It would take an awful lot more than experts agreeing.


You are, in fact, arguing based on authority (not just evidence):

"Find a truly frum archaeologist, Egyptologist, Assyriologist, geologist or expert in ancient history/literature of the Near East and ask him to confirm that I am wrong and explain why."

Saul Shajnfeld said...

Mark said:

>I think that if you asked the same experts that you asked about the mabul they would give you the same answer "Are you kidding me?" the same way they answered about the mabul. Please tell me, I'd be very happy if I am wrong.<

They might say this, but how do you prove some people left, or didn’t leave, Mitzraim? Saying that a flood destroyed everything, when there is overwhelming evidence that everything continued to exist, is easy to disprove. Saying the Jews left Egypt is different. How would one find overwhelming evidence against it? There may be absence of evidence of Yetzias Mitzraim. In the case of the flood, it is not a case of absence of evidence. Rather, there is massive evidence of no flood: the local civilizations continued to exist.

>I'm not trying to insult you, Saul, I just think that you are not being 'emes' here with us, or perhaps even with yourself.

There are lines YOU would not cross even if they contradict the 'experts', because of your emunah. If that is true, how can you knock others as 'hiding from the emes', when you would do the same thing yourself? <

If it could be proven indisputably that there was no Yetzias Mitzraim, I might have to reevaluate what it means. I just don’t think such evidence can be mustered. It hasn’t been yet.

No, in fact my entire emunah is secondary to emes to me.

> You are, in fact, arguing based on authority (not just evidence):

"Find a truly frum archaeologist, Egyptologist, Assyriologist, geologist or expert in ancient history/literature of the Near East and ask him to confirm that I am wrong and explain why." <

I don’t think so. I referred to experts not because of authority but because they can bring facts to bear. My sentence ends with “and explain why.”

Anonymous said...

Hi Saul,

This is in response to your concern that our Mesorah is not trustworthy because of our "system of repression." The claim is just plain silly. Social pressures did not stop the Karaites from breaking off of Judaism. They wouldn't have been rejected any more had they denied Matan Torah as well - they were all considered heretics. Yet they did not reject Matan Torah and nor has any other group within Judaism until about three hundred years ago. It is clear that social pressures are not enough to stop a group of jews from expressing their views about Judaism even if they are ostracized by the community for them.
Secondly, I am sure there are no parallel cases even remotely similiar to what your concerned about. Could you show me a case in history where a nation has lived a lie for three thousand years because of social pressures? 1000 years? 50 years? I hope this alleviates your concern.

Anonymous said...

Saul - Let's clarify: I'm pretty sure that everyone who is bringing up Yestzias Mitzrayim is including the makos, kriyas yam suf (including the destruction of Pharaoh's army, etc). One would think the massive destruction would be cited elsewhere. Do you accept Yetzias Mitrayim as taught by our Torah?

As for your repeated reference to R Kaplan's story about a guy from TV who denied travel outside the atmosphere based on some theory he'd developed - of course he was wrong, but nobody here is making that argument - that is an anecdote with no application to any of the current arguments or issues. In this argument we are focused on the existence of certain events reported by Torah and Mesorah. You deny them because you prefer other sources.

Scientifically, I can demonstrate to you that it is impossible for any liquid to expand when freezing - but, of course, one does - water. So what does that mean? It means that even without understanding things, we are forced to accept certain realities. Perhaps one day science will provide an explanation, but until then, it is foolishness to deny that water expands.

A believer owes no less credence to his beliefs. A nonbeliever - well a nonbeliever should at least accept his own reality and not protest and act injured when believers point out his lack of faith. You are a nonbeliever. Others here are believers. Therein lies the divide. Why are you having such a hard time admitting that - to yourself?

Anonymous said...

I think we should stop labeling Saul a heretic. It's unfair and has nothing to do with his arguments. Saul is a great Jew who is striving for the truth. Maybe his Emunah is not as strong as yours, but that is no reason to name call.

Anonymous said...

Saul, you are evading some direct questions. Please respond to the following:

Do you believe that a cruse of oil that was sufficient only for one day miraculously lasted for eight?

Anonymous said...

Saul never said he denies miracles. He just said he doesn't believe Hashem would require us to abandon our logic in order to accept what the Torah says. It can be logical to believe miracles happened.

Mikeskeptic said...

>The point is that that time has come. If you ask many rabbanim just how much evidence they would require in order to convince them, they would say that no amount of evidence would ever convince them. I simply do not trust people of this mind-set—people who are willing to sacrifice emes for the sake of emunah—to pass on a tradition accurately. The weak link in the “unbroken chain” of our mesorah is people who are more concerned with the preservation of emunah than with the correctness of the mesorah. They are the cause of my despair. They would readily pass on things they had good reason to doubt. In my view, this undermines the entire mesorah.

I have a great deal of sympathy for the rabbanim who refuse to back off of the traditional literal interpretation of the Torah. The problem with the moshol approach is that it means conceding that chazal and our mesorah are wrong about the fundamental nature of the Torah. How can one be confident in the historical truth of yetzias mitzrayim or matan torah if some parts of the torah turn out not to be true (at least in the literal sense) and our mesorah gives us no basis for determining which parts are true history and which are moshol. Personally, I find this argument so persuasive that I have abandoned my emunah entirely. It has become clear to me that the mesorah itself is simply a fiction (or a moshol, if you prefer).

Anonymous said...

Godol Hador - Perhaps you should mull over the moshol idea. It is much closer to the truth than you think.

We believe that istakel b'oraysa uvara alma - this universe is a construct - a manifestation of an independent preexisting truth. One can adopt two different perspectives: are we "real", is this creation "real" or is the Ein Sof "real"? Am I an independent being as I imagine myself to be or am I a projection of a truth independent and preceding me?

The answer is that we are real only subjectively, whereas Hashem's reality is objective. In that sense, we are the moshol - the loshon bnei adam allegory of a Truth that is independent and which preceded our "existence." The evidence for this exists in stories of great sages and tzaddikim whose apprehension of the deeper reality enabled them to act in contradiction to the apparent reality (R Chanina b Dosa making vinegar burn, for example).

YGB said...

http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2503

Which Came First, the Pyramids or the Flood?
by Alden Bass
Printer version | Email this article
[EDITOR’S NOTE: On occasion, we publish articles authored by one or more of the interns who work with us during the summer. This month’s article is by one of those interns, Alden Bass, who spent his fourth year with us during the summer of 2003. Alden is a junior religious studies major at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. I think you will find his article on Egyptian versus biblical chronology absolutely fascinating, and that it will offer you a real insight into the quality of the young men who serve as our interns. I unreservedly commend it, and him, to you.]
Apologists throughout the centuries have recognized the significance of historical details in the biblical record and their impact on biblical claims of ultimate truth and divine origin. It has been famously remarked that “chronology is the backbone of history” (Thiele, 1983, p. 33). If this maxim is true, then the Christian apologist must understand that attacks on biblical chronology undermine both the historicity and the veracity of the Holy Book, and strike at the very heart of the Gospel message. Fortunately, this subject has long occupied defenders of The Faith, who have effectively vindicated the Bible again and again. Theophilus of Antioch, the “father of Christian chronology” (1971, pp. 118ff.), systematically dated the major events of sacred history in the early second century, using only the Scriptures, and, by comparing biblical chronology to secular history, declared the chronology of the Bible to be more ancient and more accurate than that found in any profane work. Similarly, in the third century, Julius Africanus authored five volumes (of which only fragments remain) on the subject, giving special attention to objections regarding the antiquity of Egyptian civilization. Indeed, as long as men have studied biblical chronology, a primary obstacle in the pursuit of defending God’s Word has been the antiquity of other civilizations, especially that of the Egyptians.
Egyptian History Bible History
Predynastic
3150-2686
Creation
4004
Genesis 5,11
(per Ussher)
Old Kingdom—
Pyramids Built
2686-2181
Flood
2349
First Intermediate
2181-2040
Abrahamic Covenant
1877
Galatians 3:15-18
Middle Kingdom
2040-1782
Exodus
1447
1 Kings 6:1
Second Intermediate
1782-1570
Dedication of Solomon’s Temple
967
1 Kings 11:42
New Kingdom
1570-1070
Ascension of Rehoboam
930
(Thiele)
Third Intermediate*
1069-
525
*James, et. al., shortened this period by 300 years.
Table 1 — Comparison of Egyptian history versus Bible history
The sacred chronology, as given in the Bible and endorsed by scholars, was wholly accepted for centuries, until fairly recent times. James Barr unabashedly remarked: “Though biblical chronology may in modern times seem to be an area for cranks and crackpots, in older times it occupied some of the greatest minds” (1999, p. 379). The “church fathers” accepted it, the Scholastics endorsed it, and Enlightenment scholars were perhaps its staunchest allies. These researchers did not rely on the Bible alone for information, though it was their primary source; they also compared the genealogies and king lists of the Old Testament to other ancient works of historiography. Using the Bible as the framework, all the additional secular history was successively fleshed onto that skeleton, resulting in the creation of a comprehensive body of world history. This rich heritage of scholarship included Augustine in the fifth century, Isidore of Seville (the great Catholic theologian) in the seventh century, the English scholar Bede in the eighth century, and rabbi Moses Maimonides in the twelfth.
Men who would have burned each other at the stake for their differences on other points, agreed on this: Melanchthon and Tostatus, Lightfoot and Jansen, Salmeron and Scaliger, Petavius and Kepler, inquisitors and reformers, Jesuits and Jansenists, priests and rabbis, stood together in the belief that the creation of man was proved by Scripture to have taken place between 3900 and 4004 years before Christ (White, 1896, pp. 197-198).
Though countless words have been devoted to this matter over the centuries, one man’s work overshadows them all—James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland.
Now the subject of much popular ridicule, Ussher (1581-1656) was unrivaled in his scholarship, and was known during his lifetime for much more than his expertise in chronology. A bit of a prodigy, he entered Trinity College at age 13, was ordained a priest at 20, and eventually became head of the Anglo-Irish church in 1625. After decades of careful study in his extensive personal library (one of the largest collections of books in Western Europe), plus 2,000 pages of research (in Latin), Ussher declared that the world was created in 4004 B.C. It was this decisive conclusion, and its canonization in the center-column reference of the King James Bible, that resulted in the bishop’s current infamy. Ussher’s work was continued by the famed Hebraist of Cambridge, John Lightfoot, who further specified that the Creation week lasted from October 18-23, 4004 B.C.,and that Adam was created on October 23 at 9 a.m. forty-fifth meridian time. Concerning this, one scholar sarcastically remarked: “Closer than this, as a cautious scholar, the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University did not venture to commit himself” (see Ramm, 1954, p. 121).
Ussher’s work, though derided by many, has received some respect: the eminent biologist Stephen Jay Gould deemed him a subject worthy of an essay, wherein he adequately defended the esteemed scholar’s work, and cautioned would-be critics not to judge the seventeenth-century theologian by twentieth-century scientific standards (1993, pp. 181ff.). Likewise, Vanderbilt professor James Barr regularly exonerates Ussher, depicting him as an able intellectual in his time (1985; 1999). Despite the archbishop’s impeccable credentials and modest return to academic favor, his strict biblical chronology continues to be rejected because “the cardinal premise of that methodology” is a “belief in biblical inerrancy”—a belief that is repugnant and unacceptable to modern academics (Gould, p. 186).
The accepted biblical chronology began to be questioned, even as early as the sixteenth century, when the recovery of a Byzantine summary of the writings of Manetho led to the resurfacing of the problem of Egypt’s antiquity. Using that document, French classical scholar Joseph Scaliger (1540-1609) calculated that the first Egyptian dynasty began in 5285 B.C.—some 1,336 years before the date he reckoned for the Creation (3949 B.C.). Scaliger, a devout Protestant, was distressed over this apparent discrepancy between the biblical record and secular sources, and contrived a theory of “proleptic time,” which allowed for pre-biblical civilizations (see James 1991, p. 7). While his scholarship was welcome, the paradox between the sacred and the profane chronologies was effectively ignored for two hundred years (White, 1896, p. 198).
Although voices of doubt were occasionally heard in Scaliger’s day, chronologies extending beyond 4000 B.C. were not seriously considered until the nineteenth century, and were not popularly accepted until the twentieth. For the average man, dusty manuscripts and dry dissertations failed to provoke a reevaluation of the commonly held belief in a young Earth. Popular opinion changed when scholarship started down a new path: intellectuals left their libraries, donned their pith helmets, and systematically began excavating the ancient sites and artifacts of which they previously had only read. Archaeology began as a treasure hunt, but evolved into a more scientific venture as greater and more magnificent wonders were lifted from the shifting sands. In 1738, Johann Winckelmann and Ennio Visconti unearthed the ash-laden cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii. Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt in 1799 revealed the Rosetta stone, which was translated partly by Jean François Champollion in the 1820s and partly by Henry Rawlinson between 1846 and 1855. Rawlinson’s decipherment of Old Persian script resulted in the translation of thousands of stone inscriptions and cuneiform tablets throughout the Middle East. Solid evidence from the ancient world continued to mount as interest shifted to a new branch of archaeology—Egyptology. The fascination increased with each new find, and the land of the pyramids was set firmly in the popular mind by the 1920s when Howard Carter and Lord Carvarvon discovered the incredible treasures of King Tutankhamun.
Modern archaeology employs sophisticated techniques and equipment in its quest for information; the science gradually has filled many gaps in earlier theories, shedding light in the darkness and dispelling much of the mystery surrounding the ancients. Under the guise of these advanced methods, some scientists begin the story of man 250,000 years ago (although the documented history of humanity dates back only to about 3000 B.C.). The “evidence” proffered by archaeologists appears thoroughly scientific, and is used to construct a world where archaic man first used fire about 460,000 B.P. [before the present], first built artificial shelters about 380,000 B.P., began farming in 9000 B.C., developed metallurgy in 6500 B.C., and finally invented writing in 3700 B.C. (see Scarre, 1993, pp. 1ff.). Nomads settled the Mesopotamian city of Uruk, billed as “the world’s first metropolis,” in 2500 B.C. The Harappan culture formed around 2600 B.C., as cities grew along the banks of the Indus River, approximately the same time as the temple platforms of Peru were erected (see “The History of Mankind,” 1997, p. 344). Thus, according to some authorities, the study of antiquity (and especially Egyptology) furnishes “one more convincing proof that, precious as are the moral and religious truths in our sacred books, and the historical indications which they give us, these truths and indications are necessarily inclosed [sic] in a setting of myth and legend” (White, 1896, p. 208).
This conclusion, believed by many to be inevitable, erodes the credibility of the Bible, and must be thoughtfully examined and tested. Most of the milestones discussed above, together with their dates, are speculative, are based on a humanistic philosophy, and are open to debate even among professionals (see Brantley, 1993). No written record exists before about 3000 B.C.; any object dated prior to that must therefore be chronologically situated by tree-ring dating, pottery comparisons, or radiocarbon dating. All of these methods, which are rooted in evolutionary presuppositions of an old Earth, have proven to be highly subjective and inaccurate (see Major, 1993). This is not to dismiss a century of scientific inquiry with a wave of the hand, because each situation must be examined individually, yet few of these ancient findings present a bona fide argument for the great antiquity of humanity.
Though the dating of shards of ancient pottery and stone tools may be subjective and somewhat readily accounted for, gargantuan stone structures are not so easily overlooked. The solemn pyramids of Giza bear silent witness to ages long since past, and to the great antiquity of a civilization. Sir Walter Raleigh suggested this as far back as 1603.
For in Abraham’s time all the then-known parts of the world were developed.... Egypt had many magnificent cities...and these not built with sticks, but of hewn stone...which magnificence needed a parent of more antiquity than these other men have supposed (as quoted in White, 1896, p. 198).
These colossal monuments—their images so readily conjured in association with Egypt—were built in the Old Kingdom, which began in 2686 B.C. and lasted for 500 years [all dates taken from Clayton, 1994]. Egyptian history is divided into four Kingdoms—the Old, the Middle, the New and the Late. Between each Kingdom lies an Intermediate Period, which represents an interval characterized by political instability and confusion. These six periods are further subdivided into approximately thirty dynasties—a series of seemingly arbitrary divisions handed down from the third-century Egyptian historian Manetho. It generally is agreed that first pyramid was built by Djoser in 2630 B.C. in Saqqara, and other works soon followed: the Bent pyramid and Red pyramid of Snefru at Dahshur in 2600 B.C., Khufu’s Great Pyramid at Giza in 2550 B.C., and the Great Sphinx of Khafre shortly afterward (see Roberts, 1995, p. 2). Each of these monuments, and many more, still stand(s).
Incredibly, Egyptian society predates these ancient monoliths and the Old Kingdom Period in which they were built. The first king of Egypt is thought to be Narmer, an enigmatic fellow whose name meant “catfish.” A well-preserved artifact made of dark green slate, the Narmer Palette, tells the story of the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt by Narmer before the first dynasty—the genesis of the world’s first nation-state; Egyptologists calculate this to have occurred about 3150 B.C.
Under “normal” circumstances, there would be nothing in this information to trouble the Christian; it is the result of over 200 years of accumulated evidence and careful research. The evidence of Egypt’s antiquity is not circumstantial, but literally is carved in stone (as well as papyrus and clay). Most useful of all, however, is a source with no medium of its own—the king list of Manetho. His work is the very foundation of Egyptian chronology, and although the document no longer is extant, it is possible to piece it together from references scattered throughout the ancient world in the existing works of Josephus, Julius Africanus, Eusebius, and George the Monk. The chronology of Egypt appears to be fixed firmly by evidence from historiography, archaeology, and astronomy, yet the currently accepted chronology of Egypt overshoots the Biblical timetable by nearly one thousand years!
Manetho (3rd century B.C.)

c. 5700
Wilkinson (1836)

2320
Unger (1867)

5613
Breasted (1906)

3400
Scharff (1920)

2700
Mener (1887)

3180
Mener (1904-1908)

3315
Petrie (1894)

4777
Petrie (1906)

5510
Petrie (1929)

4553
Table 2 — Dates Egyptologists have offered over the years for the first Egyptian Dynasty (after MacNaughton)
While a straightforward reading of the Bible reveals a date for the creation of the world of around 4000 B.C. (thus leaving plenty of time for Egyptian civilization to be established in 3100 B.C.), the Flood of Noah is conservatively dated at about 2300 B.C. Were the Flood only a local event, there would be no difficulty, but we know from Genesis 7 that it was not. The waters of the Flood “prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high mountains that were under the whole heaven were covered...and all flesh died that moved upon the earth” (7:19,21, emp. added). It is foolish to suppose that the pyramids could have survived the Flood—an event so fierce that “all the fountains of the great deep [were] broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened” (Genesis 7:11)—and that the civilization of Egypt then “picked up where it left off” before the Deluge. That the Flood was an actual event is beyond question; not only does Moses record it in Genesis as a fact, but Peter, the writer of Hebrews, and even our Lord testified to its veracity (cf. Matthew 24:37-39; Hebrews 11:7; 1 Peter 3:7). Gleason Archer concluded:
The problems attending this method of [literal—AB] computation are compounded by the quite conclusive evidence that Egyptian Dynasty I went back to 3100 B.C., with a long period of divided kingdoms in the Nile valley before that. These could hardly have arisen until long after the Flood had occurred and the human race had multiplied considerably (cf. Genesis 10) [1979, 1:361].
Such a blatant discrepancy between the biblical and scientific records can have devastating consequences to the faith of the honest seeker. Because of the sheer volume of material available on the subject, and the obvious lack of respect for the Bible by modern archeologists, even a thorough investigation of these matters may yield nothing but frustration. Though the situation seems hopeless, there are solutions to this greatest of chronological quandaries.
If indeed all the facts are certain, if the Flood occurred just as described, and if the history of Egypt is undisputable, any possible solution must be sought in the dating of the events. Biblical archaeologist David Down agrees: “If the Bible is historically accurate...then there must be a mistake in the usual interpretation of the Egyptian chronology which needs to be reduced by centuries” (2001, 15[1]:57). The archaeologists and the philologists discover artifacts and translate ancient scripts, but it is the chronologist who situates them on a timeline and assigns them their place in history. Secular chronology, much as the biblical chronology previously described, is a difficult and convoluted subject: opinion and speculation abound. As with any other scientific endeavor, chronological conclusions often are based on inherent assumptions such as uniformitarianism and the theory of evolution. This bias applies more to those who are dating ancient “prehistorical” items, but it also influences scientists working within the historical era (3000 B.C.-present).
The backbone of Egyptian chronology is the regnal lists, the most prominent of which was composed by Manetho, who was a “priestly advisor” to Ptolemy I (323-282 B.C.), Manetho authored a comprehensive history of Egypt that contained the names of all the pharaohs and the lengths of their reigns. Although there is no known full-text manuscript of his work, Egyptologists rely heavily on Manetho, a fact that Clayton calls “curious” (1994, p. 9). Petroglyphic inventories, chiseled into various stone monuments throughout the country, supplement Manetho’s list; these include the Palermo stone and the Royal Lists of Karnak, Abydos, and Saqqara. These lists are invaluable to chronographers, though most are damaged and not entirely legible.
The king lists are useful for counting backward in history, by adding the regal years of one king to the next; but because of co-regencies, parallel dynasties, and interregna, this method alone is inexact. One of the lists might record a reign as being four years long, when in actuality it was only three years and three months. This results in a seven-month error. Over a period of 3,000 years and nearly 200 kings, the overlap results in significant discrepancies. Consequently, Egyptologists use certain astronomical phenomena as “anchor points” for the king lists. Eclipses of the Sun and Moon occasionally are mentioned in the ancient records, and can be retro-dated, though researchers rarely are fortunate enough to discover intelligible hints in the literature. More valuable by far for chronologists of Egypt is Sirius, the “dog star.”
Ancient Egyptians used three calendars: a civil calendar of 365 days, a solar calendar of slightly fewer than 365.25 days, and a Sothic calendar of exactly 365.25 days designed for calculating the Feast of the Rising Sirius. The astronomers responsible for these calculations never realized the slight discrepancy between the Sothic and the solar year (essentially, they did not include a leap year into their calendar). The difference was only of a matter of hours, and only over the course of centuries did this add up—one day every four years. The Feast of Sothis (another name for Sirius), normally celebrated on July 19 in the heat of the summer, gradually shifted because of the slight discrepancy, eventually being celebrated in autumn, in winter, and then in the spring. It took 1,460 years for it to fall on the correct day (July 19) again (the Egyptians always celebrated the holiday on their July 19; however, since their calendar was miscalculated, their July 19 might be our August 5, or December 15, and so on). Using this knowledge, and clues from the historical literature, these Sothic cycles serve as anchor points in Egyptian history, allowing scientists to date 2,000 years of history using only six major astronomical events (Breasted, 1927, 1:29).
Despite the many advances in the field of Egyptian chronology, there remain uncertainties and questions. James H. Breasted, one of Egypt’s greatest chronologists, characterized the chronology as “confused” (1927, 1:25), and Peter Clayton remarked that “it may come as a surprise to realize that it is extremely difficult to fix true or absolute dates in Egyptian chronology” (1994, p. 12, emp. added). Sir Alan Gardiner, the foremost Egyptologist of the twentieth century, spoke of “lamentable gaps” and “many a doubtful attribution,” finally exclaiming: “What is proudly advertised as Egyptian history is merely a collection of rags and tatters” (1961, p. 48, emp. added). Noting that our present knowledge of Egyptian chronology is “far from satisfactory,” Olaf Toffteen, curator of the Hibbard Egyptian Library in Chicago, explained that the deficiency can be attributed “not to the scarcity of material, but rather to its abundance. This material...exhibits so many contradictions that Egyptologists and historians differ radically in their theories on Egyptian chronology” (1907, 1:149). This indefiniteness does not remove all validity from the chronology, but it must be recognized that the ancient chronology of Egypt, though well established, is far from infallible.
The uncertainty to which these scholars refer, results from the shaky foundation upon which Egyptian chronology is built. Manetho, the source of “the basic structure or skeleton of Egyptian chronology that we use today” (Clayton, p. 9), is unreliable and inaccurate. In the introduction to his translation of that historian, W.G. Waddell suggested “there were many errors in Manetho’s work from the very beginning” (1997, p. xxv). Further indicting this ancient source, Breasted confessed: “Wherever he can be controlled, Manetho is generally wrong in his figures, and any chronology based on his data is hopelessly astray” (1927, 1:32). Whatever the reason for Manetho’s untrustworthiness, one immediately sees the unreliability of a system whose “basic structure” is “hopelessly astray.”
Likewise, the astronomical dating that at first seems so authoritative, is riddled with ambiguities. “Absolute dates from ancient Egypt rely on astronomical dating,” states Clayton (p. 12). Jack Finegan confirms this, calling the heliacal rising of Sirius a “fixed point of reference” (1999, p. 20). Therefore, if astronomical dating is proved unreliable, the “absolute dates” of ancient Egypt are called into question. Sothic dating (based on the rising of the star Sirius) is indispensable for Egyptian chronologists, and James names the validity of such dating as “the fundamental axiom of Egyptian chronology” (1991, p. 225). As usual however, a closer look at this dating system reveals several shortcomings.
James criticizes Sothic dating at length, referring to it as “a web of interlocking assumptions” based on “meager grounds” (1991, p. 227). One assumption made by Egyptologists regards the fixedness of the Egyptian calendar; they conjecture that it was not altered, or updated, for over a thousand years. Later documents record corrections made to the imperfect calendar after this period, not only by the Egyptians, but also by the Greeks and Romans. The Ptolemies (c. 305-30 B.C.) made several major changes in the course of only three centuries, making it highly unlikely that no changes whatsoever were enacted between 2781 and 1381 B.C. (the period of one Sothic cycle). Thus, the abrogation of one assumption (and the system actually consists of several) nullifies the entire theory. James concluded that “a single calendrical adjustment” in the period before the Ptolemies would “completely invalidate the Sothic calculation for any prior period” (p. 228, emp. in orig.).
In the 1940s, H.H. Rowley warned that “undue weight should not be given to archeologists’ estimates of dates, since they depend in part, at any rate, on subjective factors, as the wide differences between them sufficiently prove” (as quoted in Unger, 1954, p. 152). This “wide difference” is clearly manifested in the dating of Egypt’s first dynasty over the past century and a half. Jean François Champollion, translator of the Rosetta stone, reckoned the first dynasty at 5867 B.C. in 1839; Unger figured it to be 5613 B.C. in 1867; and Breasted at 3400 B.C. in 1906 (see Macnaughton, 1932, p. 6). The dates steadily dropped until around the turn of the nineteenth century, prompting Breasted to remark in the 1930s that it is “highly improbable that future discovery will shift these dates more than a century in either direction” (1927, 1:39). Time has not vindicated professor Breasted, however; the date for the first dynasty has continued to drop, and the current consensus (3100 B.C.) is 300 years lower than he predicted.
Even within a scientist’s own lifetime, the dates show a great variableness. Eduard Meyer, upon whose work much chronology is based today, estimated a date of 3180 B.C. in 1887, and then increased it in 1904 to 3315 B.C. Sir Flinders Petrie, considered the first scientific excavator of Egypt, proposed a date of 4777 B.C. in 1894, lowered the date to 5510 B.C. in 1906, and raised it again in 1929 to 4553 B.C. (Macnaughton, 1932, p. 6). The divergence of dates between individual chronographers may be explained partially by the different methods they have employed, some primarily using Manetho, others turning to clues on the monuments, with the majority today using both sources (as well as others). These early dates are completely speculative, however, and cannot be firmly established. Gardiner said in this regard: “It is obviously best to accept 1872 B.C. as the earliest relatively certain fixed date in Egyptian history” (1961, p. 61). Toffteen observed that these various schools of chronographers differ by about 2,000 years just in their calculation of the first dynasty alone (1907, 1:150).
Although in 2003 a consensus on the date of the first dynasty has been reached, the figures above demonstrate the uncertainty of the Egyptian chronology both between individuals and over time. There is general agreement on 3100 B.C. at the present, but there was also general agreement for 5000 B.C. in the late nineteenth century. Despite this prevailing consensus on the beginnings of Egyptian civilization, there are those on whom the malleability of dates has not passed unnoticed—those who depart from the status quo. These scholars generally are scorned by the scientific community for their blatant disregard of orthodoxy. The utter contempt these men receive goes well beyond academic disapproval, however; in two of the cases mentioned, books were banned or refused publication. Clayton has characterized such dissidents as “fringe” chronologists who suggest what he referred to as “outlandish and unacceptable” changes to the established chronology (1994, p. 13). These peripheral archaeologists, though rarely agreeing among themselves, tenaciously contend that the mainstream has miscalculated—in fact, overcalculated—the ancient chronology. The arguments and conclusions offered by these men are diverse and disparate, yet often logical. Their reasoning is complex, and their presentations are sophisticated (many of their works occupy multiple volumes). It is impossible in the limited space here even to begin to outline the evidence given for each position; however, I will attempt to state fairly their conclusions and the effect they have on the conflict between the Bible and Egyptian chronology.
One of these ill-treated iconoclasts is the notorious Immanuel Velikovsky. An evolutionary catastrophist, Velikovsky tried to prove to the world that the myths and legends of ancient societies were actually eyewitness accounts of real astronomic phenomena. In the process of “proving” that the planet Venus began as a comet that had brushed past Mars and nearly collided with Earth, Velikovsky explained and dated many Old Testament events. For example, the ten plagues of the Exodus are explained as the effects of the comet (which would become Venus) streaking too close to Earth. Likewise, the events of Sinai, the manna in the wilderness, Joshua’s long day, and a host of other stories—not only from the Old Testament, but also from Greek, Mayan, and Indian traditions—are explained as the aftermath of this astral crisis.
Despite his rather dubious astronomical theories, Velikovsky did offer some compelling arguments regarding ancient chronology. In his seminal work, Ages in Chaos, he argued for the removal of 600 years from the Middle Kingdom period of Egyptian history. He claimed that the 600 years were redundant, and as a result, other chronologies that are anchored to, and rely upon, Egyptian chronology (such as Hebrew, Hittite, Assyrian, and Babylonian), contain a 600-year “dark age” when nothing (historically speaking) happened. The foundation for his theory is that the discussion of the ten plagues of Moses is not a fairy tale, but is instead an actual historical event that must be linked to a similar event in Egyptian history. From there, he went on to claim that the Exodus of the Hebrews occurred about the same time as the entrance into Egypt of the Hyksos, a people identified with the Amalekites of the Old Testament. Velikovsky pointed to Exodus 17:8 as proof that the Israelites passed the Amalekites, who were at that moment on their way to sack Egypt. He then argued that Queen Hatshepsut of the New Kingdom was one and the same person as the Queen of Sheba described in 1 Kings 10. Other less important parallels were offered, which will not be discussed here.
There is some truth to Dr. Velikovsky’s research, as there is to almost any endeavor, no matter how outlandish. The Hyksos people were indeed Asiatic, and there are “dark ages” in those histories dated by using Egyptian parallels. Even though he was not a Bible believer, Velikovsky’s strict adherence to the Bible is commendable.
Taking his lead from Velikovsky, Donovan Courville, a minister by profession, also subtracted 600 years from the standard Egyptian chronology. Although he agreed with his predecessor in many respects, Courville removed the 600 years by presenting parallelisms in Manetho’s list of kings, using the Sothic list as his primary source of information (1971, p. 128). Writings from the second-century scholar Eusebius also lend credence to his theory. Courville named the pharaoh of the Exodus as 18th Dynasty King Koncharis (recorded, not in the Manetho list, but only in the Sothic list), although some of his supporting arguments were rather contrived (he also named Shishak of 2 Chronicles 12:2 as Thutmose III). For the most part, however, Courville argued strongly for the accuracy of the biblical record.
The most recent “new chronology” challenging the traditional chronology of Egyptologists has been proposed by one of their own. Neither Courville (a minister) nor Velikovsky (a medical doctor) was trained in the science of archaeology, but David Rohl, a British Egyptologist, is dedicated to nothing else. His now-famous book, A Test of Time, was banned from the British Museum in 1995 because of its “heretical” new chronology. Rohl’s primary purpose was to correlate biblical characters and places with Egyptian history. Most interesting is his identification of Joseph as a 12th Dynasty vizier (a sort of “minister of state”) to Amenemhat III (1995, p. 452), although he made other similar comparisons. A little more worrisome is his claim to have discovered Noah’s landing place at the end of the Flood, as well as the Garden of Eden. On a somewhat more positive note, however, Rohl reduced the Third Intermediate Period by about 140 years, and placed the Flood (which he incorrectly views as a local inundation) at 3100 B.C. Unlike chronologies previously discussed, Rohl’s system extends Bible genealogies and compresses Egyptian dates, compromising between the two.
Rohl has not been the only archaeologist to come forward with the claim that Egyptian chronology has been artificially lengthened. One respected group of scientists—headed by British archaeologist Peter James—also has joined the fray. In his landmark book, Centuries of Darkness, Dr. James noted that the chronologies of other civilizations—especially Greek, Hittite, Cyprian, and Nubian—seem to be stretched in order to provide historical anchor points for Egyptian chronology. This, he argued, is unnecessary if the Third Intermediate Period is compressed. While James removed only about 200 years from the established chronology, he provided further testimony to the fluidity of Egyptian chronology.
Numerous other biblical and secular chronologists could be cited, but only repetition would result. Some men, like Velikovsky, Courville, and Crombette (not discussed here), take the Bible literally, and adjust the Egyptian chronology from there. Others begin with secular sources (e.g., Kenneth Kitchen of the University of Liverpool), and then attempt to mold the Bible to fit. While the Bible must be maintained as the strict standard and source of Truth, not a single reputable scholar has been able to abbreviate Egyptian chronology enough to crunch all of the civilization’s activities into a time frame prior to 2300 B.C. Even using the maximum compression (i.e., the 600 years proposed by Courville and Velikovsky), a date of 2500 B.C. for the beginning of Egypt ensues—a date that is still 200 years before the Flood, and thus allows no time between the deluge and the beginning of Egyptian civilization. These alternative secular chronologies may reduce the margin of conflict to a minimum of 250 years. Now we must turn to the biblical chronology.
In any chronology, there must be anchor points. Egyptologists use the Sothic cycle to establish three points from which all other chronology is constructed. Biblical chronologists similarly identify anchor points representing events recorded in the Bible that can be correlated to dated, extra-biblical events. Fortunately, the divided kingdoms of Judah and Israel interacted frequently with Assyria, their well-documented neighbor to the north. The chronology of this country is confirmed, at least until the tenth century B.C.; using Assyrian dates and references, certain biblical dates can be established with surety. The annals of Shalmaneser III, a ninth-century-B.C. ruler of Assyria, mention King Ahab’s presence in the battle of Qarqar, which occurred in 853 B.C. This same king records that tribute was received from King Jehu sometime in 841. Using these two established dates and the regnal lists of the books of Kings and Chronicles, a firm date of 930 B.C. is set for the ascension of Rehoboam and the division of Israel (Thiele, 1983, p. 78).
From that secure date (930 B.C.), the chronologist must calculate backward using genealogical information and other clues located in the text. An obvious hint is given in 1 Kings 6:1, upon the occasion of the dedication of Solomon’s temple. There, the writer inserts a precise chronological marker for the reader:
And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv [April/May—AB], which is the second month, that he began to build the house of Jehovah (emp. added).
Solomon reigned forty years (1 Kings 11:42), and was succeeded by Rehoboam in 930 B.C.; the fourth year of Solomon’s reign, therefore, would have been 967 B.C. Adding the 480 years to this, results in a date of 1447 B.C. for the Exodus. Paul explained that the covenant was given at Sinai (two months after the Exodus), 430 years after the promise was made to Abraham (Galatians 3:15-18; see Bass, et. al., 2001), which would have been 1877 B.C., when Abraham was 75 years old (Genesis 12:1-4). From there, the genealogy of Genesis 11 gives the ancestry of Abraham back to Noah, at which point the Flood date of 2349 B.C. (Ussher) may be ascertained. Those who wish to date the Creation simply add to that figure the numbers in the genealogies of Genesis 5 (Ussher calculated that 1656 years passed between Creation and the Flood).

Masoretic

Septuagint
Patriarch

Begat

Died

Begat

Died
Adam

130

930

230

930
Seth

105

912

205

912
Enos

90

905

190

905
Cainan

70

910

170

910
Mahalaleel

65

895

165

895
Jared

162

962

162

962
Enoch

65

365

165

365
Methuselah

187

969

187

969
Lamech

182

777

188

753
Noah

502

950

502

950
Table 3 — Comparison of dates of biblical patriarchs in the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint
Summary
Period

Masoretic

Septuagint
From Creation to Flood

1656

2262
From Flood to Birth of Abraham

352

1232
Total:
Creation to Birth of Abraham

2008

3494
Table 4 — Comparison of dates from Creation to the birth of Abraham, as presented in the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint
Ussher used the Masoretic text, upon which our English Bibles are based, to calculate these numbers, yet some arrive at larger figures using the Septuagint. The Septuagint, or LXX as it sometimes is designated, is a Greek translation of the Old Testament, composed around 250 B.C. by a panel of 72 Alexandrian Jews at the behest of Ptolemy Philadelphus, king of Egypt. Their version is virtually identical to the Hebrew, or Masoretic, text, with the notable exception of the genealogical data in the early chapters of Genesis. The Septuagint significantly increases the ages of the patriarchs, adding some 780 years between Terah (Abraham’s father) and the Flood. These extra centuries push the date of the Flood back considerably, past 3000 B.C., to a date that fits comfortably with an adjusted Egyptian chronology.
Unfortunately, these inflated dates are thought to be contrived—inserted by the Jewish translators in an attempt to better correlate the history of the Jews to the antiquity of Egypt. Sir Lancelot Brenton, a translator of the Septuagint, warned:
In estimating the general character of the version, it must be remembered that the translators were Jews, full of traditional thoughts of their own as to the meaning of Scripture; and thus nothing short of a miracle could have prevented them from infusing into their version the thoughts which were current in their own minds (2001, p. iii, emp. added).
More recent scholarship agrees with this conclusion, and suggests that changes in the LXX were “later adaptions [sic]” (Larsson, 1983, p. 409). In a comparison of the Septuagint and the Samaritan Pentateuch (another version of the Pentateuch that reports shorter spans of time in the generations between Adam and Noah), Alfred Edersheim wrote: “The most learned critics are now almost unanimous in concluding, as indeed we might have expected, that the Hebrew text contains the true chronology” (1890, 1:69). The Septuagint presents an easy solution to the chronological quandary, yet in this case it is unwise to accept this highly questionable source.
Others have made similar attempts to inflate the biblical chronology by adding years to the genealogies without using another version of the Bible. Gerald Aardsma, editor of The Biblical Chronologist, suggests that 1 Kings 6:1 is corrupted, and should read “in the 1480th year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt” instead of 480th year. He places this “missing” one thousand years between the books of Judges and 1 Samuel. Aardsma believes that the archaeological evidence demands this shift, asserting that 480 years is insufficient for the wilderness wanderings, the conquest of Canaan, the period of the Judges, and the regencies of Saul and David (1993, pp. 40ff.). Unfortunately, this hypothesis is highly questionable, and is summarily dismissed by other biblical chronologists. Bryant Wood, Director of the Associates for Biblical Research, critically reviewed Aardsma’s book, and concluded that his theory is “misguided, lacks credibility and is without rational basis.” He went on to say that “giving it even passing consideration distracts from the correct understanding of Biblical history and chronology” (1993, 6[4]:111).
Though various theories fall short, there must be a solution to the dating problem in the Bible. The flexibility of the Egyptian chronology has been demonstrated; it reasonably can be pushed back to about 2600 B.C. What was once a thousand-year difference in biblical and secular dates, has shrunk to only about 250 years because of the adjusted chronology. These few years are all that is needed to solve this mystery. But can they be found in the recesses of the biblical chronology? A few examples of “hidden time” might suffice. Genesis 5:32 records that Noah was 500 when his three sons were born, making Shem 101 years old the year after the Flood. Yet Genesis 11:10-11 indicates that Shem was only 99 when the Flood ended. The reasonable explanation is that Noah began having sons in his 500th year, but he did not have all three of them the same year. Because Shem was not the first son, but evidently the third, two years may be added to the chronology. Also, in Genesis 11:11, Arphaxad is listed as Shem’s son, yet it appears that he was not the firstborn son either (Genesis 10:22).
Often in the genealogies, sons are mentioned together, with only one date given for the group, such as in the case of Noah’s offspring. A similar, yet larger, gap is found in Genesis 11:26, in the chronicle of the sons of Terah. According to this passage, Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran in his 70th year. The boys were not triplets however, and other passages reveal that there were quite a few years between them. Abraham was 75 years old when he left his home (Genesis 12:4), but he did not leave until his father, Terah, passed away (Acts 7:4). No problem so far, until Genesis 11:32 is examined: “And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years: and Terah died in Haran.” Terah had Abraham when he was 130 years old, but he began having children when he was 70. A thorough inquisition of this section of the genealogies reveals sixty years that otherwise would have been known only to God. As Whitcomb and Morris observed: “Thus we have clear evidence for the possible addition of a limited number of years from the lives of some of these patriarchs to the total of years from the Flood to Abraham” (1961, p. 480, emp. added). Only a few such increments are necessary to amass the 250 years needed to stretch biblical time back before the Egyptians. Taken together, there is some flexibility in the biblical record (see Lyons, 2002), just as there is some flexibility in the Egyptian record.
This apocryphal time in no way compromises the integrity of the Genesis record, nor does it indicate the possibility of large gaps. Some have proposed an allegorical or theological meaning for Genesis 5 and 11 in order to accommodate the secular chronologies, but this is unnecessary. The genealogies of Genesis are certainly theological in purpose, but not exclusively so. Information contained within them is sound and accurate, though not always as chronologically precise as we might wish. The sixty-year gap of Terah or the two-year gap of Shem represents an imprecision, not an inaccuracy. The Christian may accept a literal, straightforward interpretation of these passages, while recognizing the possibility that there may be more years than are recorded. God has written all we need to know, not all we want to know.
Example of 'hidden Time'
Figure 1 — Illustration of an example of “hidden time” within the biblical text
There are no definitive answers to the “Egyptian paradox.” Several possibilities have been presented here, and I encourage the reader to investigate each of them more thoroughly. The biblical and historical evidence points to a young Earth, and a recent history for humanity. Archeologists may speculate, but there is no solid proof for man’s existence beyond about 3000 B.C. It is then that history emerges forcefully, not unlike the so-called “Cambrian explosion” with which evolutionists are so familiar. Whitcomb and Morris noted: “It is remarkable how many different lines of evidence of a historical nature point back to a time around 3000 B.C. as dating the beginning of true civilization” (p. 394). Cities and civilizations appear suddenly in the record, fully developed and modern in almost every way. Henry wrote in agreement:
Although Genesis sets no fixed dates, it begins the history of the human race at a point which, according to Biblical Chronologists, must be set no more recently than 6,000 and no more remotely than 10,000 years ago…. Even the historian Arnold J. Toynbee readily concedes that Ussher’s speculative and much-lampooned date of 4004 B.C. “approximately marks the first appearance of representatives of the species of human society called civilization” (The Atlantic Monthly…June 1942) [as quoted in Jenkins, 1969, p. 25].
Some chronologists, such as James Jordan, continue to cling to a strict biblical chronology, allowing no flexibility whatsoever. In an article addressing the “Egyptian problem,” Jordan summarized the flaws of Egyptian chronology, and referred to the three centuries removed by Peter James and the six centuries eliminated by Courville and Velikovsky, concluding, “the consensus chronology…is collapsing today” (1994). Jordan wholly ignores the mathematics of the situation; 3100 minus 600 is still 2500—a date that overextends the Flood date by 200 years. He admits that a chronology based on this sort of logic has “everything going against it and nothing going for it,” yet he persists in defending Ussher’s dates (1979). The Bible must not be supported blindly, at the expense of indisputable evidence such as the great pyramids. Some persuade Christians to ignore the scientific facts, instead of ignoring the interpretation of those facts, and in doing so they only hurt the cause. In the words of William F. Albright: “The Bible…has suffered more in many respects from its well-intentioned friends than from its honest foes” (1965, p. 291).
Truth has nothing to fear, and neither does the Christian. God made the Earth, the sea, and “all that in them is,” and He just as certainly has guided the history of this world, giving us His thoughts on the matter throughout the Bible. The question of biblical chronology can be resolved in several ways, but the point to remember is that it can be resolved. Secular archaeologists always will have presuppositions of an ancient Earth, yet the facts speak for themselves. The evidence allows for a young Earth and a recent Flood, and more important, God says it is so.
REFERENCES
Aardsma, Gerald (1993), A New Approach to the Chronology of Biblical History from Abraham to Samuel (Loda, IL: Aardsma Publishing), second edition.
Albright, William Foxwell (1965), History, Archaeology and Christian Humanism (London: Adam & Charles Black).
Archer, Gleason (1979), “Chronology of the Old Testament,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank Gæbelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Barr, James (1985), “Why the World was Created in 4004 B.C.: Archbishop Ussher and Biblical Chronology,” Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, 67[2]:575-608, Spring.
Barr, James (1999), “Pre-scientific Chronology: The Bible and the Origin of the World,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 143[3]:379-387, September.
Bass, Alden, Bert Thompson, Kyle Butt (2001), “The Length of the Egyptian Sojourn,” Reason & Revelation, 22:41-43, June.
Brantley, Gary (1993), “Dating in Archaeology: Challenges to Biblical Credibility,” Reason & Revelation, 13:81-85, November.
Breasted, James Henry (1927), Ancient Records of Egypt (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2001 reprint).
Brenton, Lancelot (2001 reprint), “Introduction,” Septuagint (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).
Clayton, Peter (1994), Chronicles of the Pharaohs (London: Thames and Hudson).
Courville, Donovan (1971), The Exodus Problem and Its Ramifications (Loma Linda, CA: Challenge Books).
Down, David (2001), “Searching for Moses,” Technical Journal, 15[1]:53-57.
Edersheim, Alfred (1890), Bible History (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1972 reprint).
Finegan, Jack (1999), Handbook of Biblical Chronology (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).
Gardiner, Alan (1961), The Egyptians (London: Folio Society).
Gould, Stephen Jay (1993), “Fall of the House of Ussher,” Eight Little Piggies (New York: W.W. Norton).
Herodotus (1996 reprint), The Histories, transl. Aubrey Selincourt (London: Penguin).
“The History of Mankind” (1997), Encyclopaedia Britannica [Propaedia] (Chicago, IL: Encyclopaedia Britannica).
James, Peter (1991), Centuries of Darkness (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press).
Jenkins, Ferrell (1969), The Theme of the Bible (Orlando, FL: Gogdill Foundation).
Jordan, James (1979), “The Biblical Chronology Question: An Analysis,” CSSH Quarterly, 2[2]:9-15, Winter.
Jordan, James (1994), “The Egyptian Problem,” Biblical Chronology, 6[1]:1-8, January.
Julius Africanus (1971 reprint), Ante-Nicene Fathers, transl. and ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Larson, Gerhard (1983), “The Chronology of the Pentateuch: A Comparison of the MT and LXX,” Journal of Biblical Literature, 102[3]:401-409, March.
Lyons, Eric (2002), “When did Terah Beget Abraham?” Reason & Revelation Resources, 1:21-R, June.
Major, Trevor (1993), “Dating in Archaeology: Radiocarbon & Tree-Ring Dating,” Reason & Revelation, 13:73-77, October.
Macnaughton, Duncan (1932), A Scheme of Egyptian Chronology (London: Luzac).
Ramm, Bernard (1954), The Christian View of Science and Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Roberts, David M. (1995), “Age of Pyramids: Egypt’s Old Kingdom,” National Geographic, 187[1]:2-42, Jannuary.
Rohl, David M. (1995), A Test of Time (London: Arrow).
Scarre, Chris (1993), Smithsonian Timelines of the Ancient World (London: Dorling Kindersley).
Theophilus of Antioch (1971 reprint), Ante-Nicene Fathers, transl., Marcus Dods, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Thiele, Edwin (1983), The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Toffteen, Olaf (1907), Ancient Chronology (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press).
Unger, Merrill (1954), Archaeology and the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Velikovsky, Immanuel (1952), Ages in Chaos (Garden City, NY: Doubleday).
Waddell, W.G. (1997), “Introduction,” Manetho (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press).
Whitcomb, John and Henry Morris (1961), The Genesis Flood (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
White, Andrew Dickson (1896), A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (New York: Free Press, 1965 reprint).
Wood, Bryant G. (1993), “One Thousand Years Missing from Bible History?” Bible and Spade, 6[4]:97-111, Autumn.
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Anonymous said...

anonymous writes: "I think we should stop labeling Saul a heretic. It's unfair and has nothing to do with his arguments. Saul is a great Jew who is striving for the truth. Maybe his Emunah is not as strong as yours, but that is no reason to name call."

I do no know on what basis you say Saul is a great Jew, but his statements clearly are heresy and it is no favor to him to pretend otherwise. I am not calling him an unbeliever as an ad hominem attack (despite the fact that Saul himself has engaged in ad hominems in this discussion). It is important as a logical matter to define terms and the parameters of the discussion. Saul is arguing from without a belief system against people and ideas from within that system. His problem is that he wants to believe that he is or can be within the system. But his ideas are not reconcileable and he needs to face up to it.

Indeed, it is a terrible injustice that people like Saul are led down the garden path educationally to believe that Judaism permits the questioning of certain fundamental truths.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Saul - what do you think about the Biblical accounts of people living for hundreds and hundreds of years?

Anonymous said...

If our belief system is logical- which it is- we should be able to convince him of it without hurting his feelings.

Anonymous said...

Of course our belief system is logical:

1. The Torah (incl written and oral) are True and definitive
2. Anything else may contain elemets of truth, but only so long as and to the degree consistent with Torah
3. Where you perceive a contradiction between the Torah and any other source of information (including your senses and your intellect), refer to rule 1

But you make a logical mistake when you think that "If our belief system is logical- which it is- we should be able to convince him of it without hurting his feelings." Indeed, it is logical but we will not be able to convince either him or you of it, since it only is logical if you accept the Emes of Torah as inviolable and objective and everything else as less reliable and more subjective.

Friends, you are a believer or you are not - but you will not achieve belief through logic - that idea is all modern kiruvist nonsense.

Dave said...

With all due respect, are you saying that its just as logical to accept the belief system of Islam than to accept the belief system of Torah Judaism?

dave said...

Do you include the Kuzari when you refer to "modern kiruvist nonsense"?

mikeskeptic said...

The Kuzari lived in an age when Man's ignorance of science and archeology made judaism seem eminently logical. In out times, emunah in the literal truth of the Torah and the Mesorah requires a rejection of (or reconciliation with, I suppose) the basic fundmantals of virtually every branch of science. You may have faith that science is wrong on all these points (and I may think you're crazy for believing that), but to claim you're being logical when you believe that is a farce.

The more interesting question to me is, is it possible to use reason to convince a believer that he is wrong. My experience has been that it is generally not. Most frum people are happy to discuss these question at first but when they run out of glib answers, they typically retreat to "Well, I'm not a scientist but the gedolim were all a lot smarter than you and they couldn't all be wrong."

Anonymous said...

If you think science contradicts the Torah why don't you submit your specific question to http://www.aishdas.org/toratemet/
Thats what they do. They may have already answered your question.

mikeskeptic said...

The articles on the website do not address the big science issues at all. At the end of the day, the historocity of the accounts described in the Torah is doubtful and, in particular the historocity of the accounts of history pre-Abraham flatly contradicts everything science teaches us about the world. From following Gil Student's blog on Hirhurim, I know that he has some sympathy to the moshol approach, though he apparently doesn't have the guts to tackle the subject head on. He specifically asked me not to discuss the allegory v. literal issues.

Anonymous said...

Other people write articles for the website besides Gil Student. Why don't you try sending your question and see what they say.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

Rabbi Bechhofer:

I still am confused about your response.

1. You say that your Yale Egyptologist has concluded that the mabul fits neatly into Egyptian history, but you admit that this does not explain how Egyptian civilization can end and the restart again exactly the same as it was. Not exactly a neat fit.

2. Then you say that the continuity of Egyptian civilization can be explained by saying that only part of Egypt may have been flooded. Is this his idea or yours? In any case, at the very beginning of this correspondence I said that there have been local floods, but not a massive one destroying everyone and everything. So now you suggest that Egypt may have been flooded in part. What else is new?

3. The Torah makes it clear that the mabul was universal. This runs throughout the story. Want to exclude Australia and the Western Hemisphere? Be my guest. Chazal went against what the Torah says and considered excluding Eretz Yisroel. Now you want to exclude a major piece of Egypt. Mesopotamia, where the chronology is even clearer than Egypt, has not been addressed at all. As I said, the mabul didn’t occur in a bathtub.

4. Thank you for the additional material you sent me on Egyptian chronology. Without going into painful detail, the upshot is that the author—a Xtian apologist who tried his hardest to reconcile the Bible with Egyptian history—argues that the beginning of Egyptian civilization—pharaohs, pyramids, language, alphabet, religion, architecture, etc.—may, using the most aggressive theories possible, be lowered to perhaps 2500 BCE AT THE LATEST. This still is 400 years before the mabul, and 740 years before the arrival (in 1765 BCE) of b’nei Noach in Egypt following the dispersion from Bavel). Can either you or your Yale Egyptologist explain the discrepancy?


None of this makes any sense to me, and I don’t see how it can make sense to anyone else.

YGB said...

1. It is very similar to New Orleans post Hurricane Katrina - people moved in, found some stuff still intact, rebuilt other stuff, and went further.

2. My apologies. I erred. Egypt was flooded in full.

3. See above, #2.

4. The point is that the chronology is elastic. IIRC, Velikovsky condensed it even further and fit it *precisely* with the Torah's chronology. If a person who was not a Ma'amin took the trouble to make it work, so should we - al achas kammah v'kammah.

KT, SS, CS, CT,
YGB

mikeskeptic said...

I would add that it is well established that the language of the egyptian civilization remained the same throught the pre and post flood dates. This contradicts the posuk in parshas noach that all of the nations of the world spoke one language until the tower of bavel event.

mikeskeptic said...

The New Orleans analogy is inapt. The people who returned to repopulate Egypt were not the same individuals. In fact, they were not even related to the original populants. How and why would they have have adopted the language of the pre-flood egyptians?

Anonymous said...

Some concepts relevant to this discussion:
http://lazerbrody.typepad.com/lazer_beams/2005/08/the_battle_ahea.html

Anonymous said...

"With all due respect, are you saying that its just as logical to accept the belief system of Islam than to accept the belief system of Torah Judaism?"

Well, I do not know if Islam's internal logic holds any water. Judaism's does - but only if you accept its initial premise - that revelation trumps observation.

Empiricism also requires a leap of faith - it's just the one we're used to because we're so influenced by Enlightenment thinking, which is neither more nor less logical or dogmatic, openminded or blind, given the number of things in the observable world about which science is self-contradictory.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

1. This response, unfortunately, is absurd, which I think you would realize if you gave it some thought. Egypt has a rich culture, with its own unique architecture, writing system, language, religion, physical culture, literature, etc. A flood comes along, kills every last Egyptian and destroys most, if not all, of everything. A few hundred years later b’nei Noach arrive, give up their own architecture, writing system, language, religion, physical culture, literature, etc., and start up the ones Egypt used to have before it was all washed away and everyone was killed. Surely you jest.

2. Fine. Egypt was flooded in full. See above, #1.

3. Also fine. Egypt is completely destroyed. See above, #1.

4. No, I don’t believe you recall correctly that Velikovsky condensed it even further and fit it *precisely* with the Torah's chronology. According to the long essay you yourself supplied—written by a X-tian apologist who was trying desperately to reconcile the historical evidence with the Torah’s account—“Even using the maximum compression (i.e., the 600 years proposed by Courville and Velikovsky), a date of 2500 B.C. for the beginning of Egypt ensues”.

So, the flood occurs in c. 2105 BCE according to the Torah’s chronology, well into the reign of pharaohs and the civilization. It kills everyone and destroys the civilization. According to your line of thinking—and possibly your Yale expert’s?—b’nei Noach arrive from Bavel c. 1765 BCE, repopulate Egypt and restart the dead civilization? And you think this "fits neatly" into the historical chronology?

Or, alternatively, they start a totally new civilization, which would mean that the Egypt we know from its archaeological remains—the pyramids, temples, inscriptions, pharaohs, and histories, believed to date to as far back as 3100 BCE and last 2,800 years—are compressed NOT into the minimum of 2,200 years (2500 BCE to 300 BCE) suggested by the essay you supplied, but into a period of at most 1,465 years (1765 BCE to 300 BCE), an impossibility even according to your X-tian apologist writer, and much more so to all experts.

As I asked before, please find out if your frum, Yale-educated Egyptologist friend is willing to tell me that Egypt did not start until 1765 BCE., something any historian would consider absurd. Or that b'nei Noach gave up their own culture and restarted the dead Egyptian civilization, including—as Mike has pointed out—the dead Egyptian language.

I am assuming that your illogical explanations are attributable to trying to get out an answer before Shabbos, and that you didn’t think them through. I would hate to think that you would say anything just to defend your position. Please think about this and clarify.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

To Anonymous:

>This is in response to your concern that our Mesorah is not trustworthy because of our "system of repression." The claim is just plain silly. Social pressures did not stop the Karaites from breaking off of Judaism. They wouldn't have been rejected any more had they denied Matan Torah as well - they were all considered heretics. Yet they did not reject Matan Torah and nor has any other group within Judaism until about three hundred years ago. It is clear that social pressures are not enough to stop a group of jews from expressing their views about Judaism even if they are ostracized by the community for them.

Secondly, I am sure there are no parallel cases even remotely similiar to what your concerned about. Could you show me a case in history where a nation has lived a lie for three thousand years because of social pressures? 1000 years? 50 years? I hope this alleviates your concern.<

Unfortunately it does not.

There are a few problems with your argument. First, you’re not going back far enough. If the tradition of matan Torah were a myth that formed gradually—which is the most likely alternative to our mesorah and which would completely neutralize the Kuzari argument—this would have occurred between 1300 BCE and 300 BCE, not anytime near the founding of Karaism a thousand years later. By then the tradition of matan Torah was firmly entrenched. The question is whether there was widespread social pressure at any time during this earlier period. If there was, our mesorah would be unreliable.

Second, while you say that it is clear from the examples you gave that social pressures are not enough to stop a group of Jews from expressing their views about Judaism even if they are ostracized by the community for them, this may be true with respect to specific movements at specific times. At other times, social pressures may keep people “in line” very well, especially if they are not organized into their own social group. Do you think that today’s gedolim are foolish in thinking that threats of bans and cherem will have any effect? Within their own group, they are relatively effective. And this is the 21st century, with mass media available to expose people to other views.

Three thousand years ago? Individuals may well have kept their doubts to themselves for fear of ostracism. So Yossie came home with a new detail he learned from his rebbe about the miracle of matan Torah, which his father had never heard before—do you think that Yossie’s father would march on down to the yeshiva and complain about what they were filling his son’s head with? Not necessarily. He might well say, “well, the rebbe probably has a more detailed mesorah than I do. Anyway, it will just make waves if I complain, and Yossie will be rejected by his friends.”

The point is that the suppression of expression of doubt is intended to, and often does, repress dissent, and that the idea that such a tactic is acceptable in Yahadus casts doubt on the reliability of the mesorah. Only completely open discussion—without fear of reprisal—can leave the mesorah a reliable one. In trying to protect the mesorah, our gedolim completely undermine it. The mere possibility that this may have happened in the past—as it is happening today—undermines the mesorah. It should be outlawed. Instead, the repression is getting worse.

Finally, while I have not done a study, I’m sure that if you go into any large shul you will find secret skeptics who remain silent out of social pressures. You see some of them, nowadays, expressing their views, only anonymously (and why is it anonymously if you are correct?), on the blogosphere.

YGB said...

http://www.geocities.com/qraal/genesis3.html

GENESIS: Part 3

INDEX

THE FIRST ELEVEN CHAPTERS OF GENESIS ARE NOT THE ONLY CHAPTERS OF THE HEBREW BIBLE QUESTIONED BY MODERN HISTORICAL SCIENCES.

IN FACT EVERY MAJOR EVENT OF THE BIBLE RECORD IS CURRENTLY SEEN AS HISTORICALLY SUSPECT MAINLY BECAUSE OF A MISMATCH WITH HISTORY.


THE BIBLE AS HISTORY

KEY BIBLICAL EVENTS

CREATION C. 5793 - 3761 BC

FLOOD C.3537 - 2105 BC

BABEL C.3300 - 1765 BC


ABRAM BORN C.2305 - 1813 BC

ABRAM IN EGYPT C.2230 - 1738 BC

JACOB IN EGYPT C.2015 - 1525 BC

EXODUS C.1585 - 1310 BC


The dates given above represent two extremes of fundamentalist opinion - one being Christian and based on the Septuagint Greek version (also called the LXX) of the Hebrew Bible, the other being Jewish and based on the Masoretic text and a date of 421 BCE for the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians [normally dated to 587 BCE.]

How does the Bible compare against the historical record as understood by modern archaeology? Not very well. You might think that can't be true since so many books and commentaries about the Bible claim it be supported by archaeology, but in actual fact there is no accepted evidence for any of the Bible characters prior to the kings after Solomon. Solomon's empire doesn't exist, David and Saul are silent figures in history, and everyone prior has left no historical record. For archaeology there is NO TRACE of Bible history prior to the late 10th Century.

How can this be so? A little understood fact is that most of the ancient world is dated off the historical records of the Egyptians and records of their dealings with other cultures. Egypt is the backbone of Ancient world chronology, its thirty-plus Dynasties the clock of ancient time. Since this chronology so grossly fails to support the Bible many have concluded that the chronology is in error.

Egyptian Chronology

Egyptian chronology is based on the 30 Dynasties recorded by Egyptian priest Manetho in the 3rd Century. Manetho's original work doesn't survive, but later writers quoted it extensively and it has been largely confirmed by ancient inscriptions found in Egypt itself - though sometimes with glaring omissions when Pharaohs fell from favour.

Manetho's Egypt ended when Cleopatra suicided in 30 BCE leaving Egypt with a Caesar in place of a Pharaoh. But Cleopatra's Dynasty had begun with Alexander the Great's expulsion of the Persians, and the accession of his successors to Egypt's throne. Prior to these Ptolemies Egypt had been ruled by native Pharaohs who claimed their country had been unified centuries before under one king, Menes.

Following Menes the kings of Egypt ruled relatively peacefully for the first six Dynasties, building large brick tombs. This is known as the Old Kingdom [c.2920 - 2150.] Dynasty III produced the first Pyramid under Pharaoh Djoser, while the famed Pyramids of Gizah were built by Dynasty IV. However after the long reign of Pepi/Phiops Egypt became unstable and fell into chaos, the First Intermediate Period, during which time short-lived Dynasties VII-X reigned. [c.2150-2070]

Dynasty XI reunified Egypt under Mentuhotep, and was followed by the powerful XII Dynasty, which strongly centralised power in the Pharaoh's hands. This period is known as the Middle Kingdom.[c.2070 - 1630] However once again the power of the kings was called into question and the XIII Dynasty was noted by many short reigned kings. According to Manetho Egypt was ultimately struck by some disaster that let it be invaded by "king shepherds", the Hyksos. This led to the Second Intermediate Period under Dynasties XIV - XVII. [c.1630-1550]

Dynasty XVIII began with a great victory for native rule by Ahmose, who expelled the Hyksos from Egypt, chasing them into Palestine. His strong rule began the New Kingdom [c.1550-1070] and his Dynasty was noted by military excursions in neighbouring lands.

However under Amenhotep IV, who became Akhenaten, a religious crisis arose as Pharaoh abandoned the old gods for one, invisible god, only seen in his sign, the Sun, or Aten. During this time Egypt lost its "empire" and the XVIII Dynasty crumbled. However strong military leadership by the XIX Dynasty, notably Ramesses II, returned Egypt's "empire". But Ramesses II long life led to him out-living many of his off-spring, leaving something of a power vacuum at his death. Weak kings followed, and gave way to the XX Dynasty, most of whom were "Ramesses", and whom ultimately handed over a much weakened Egypt to the XXI Dynasty. Thus began the Third Intermediate Period under the XXI - XXIV Dynasties. [c.1070 - c.664.]

Assyria eclipsed Egypt in power, invaded in 671 BCE and destroyed the sacred city of Thebes in c.664 BCE, but soon after fell away as Babylon rose in power. Babylon in turn was defeated by the Persians, who invaded and ruled briefly in Egypt. By the time Alexander arrrived in Egypt in c.332 he was hailed as the god's son and given the throne.

Redating Egypt

In the 1940s and 50s Immanuel Velikovsky led those who sought to redate Egypt. His scheme of redating grossly violated various lines of evidence by redating some Egyptian Dynasties to massive degrees, and to do so he claimed that several were merely copies of later Dynasties - the XIX was the XXVI, the XX was the XXX. Such a solution is too drastic for the facts.

Since then other redating schemes have been developed. Donovan Courville tried to fit all of Egyptian history into the very small Biblical time-frame of 2150 - 1445 between the Tower of Babel and the Exodus. To do so he theorised that the I - VI and XII - XIII Dynasties ran in parallel to each other. No compelling evidence exists for such a parallelism.

Lisa Liel is an Orthodox Jew who tries to fit the history of Egypt into the Jewish traditions preserved in the Talmud and elsewhere. Apparently several traditions indentify the Pharaoh of the Oppression as one Malul who ruled from age 6 to 100 and was followed by the brief reign of the Pharaoh who perished in the Red Sea pursuing the Israelites. Pharaoh Pepi II is the ONLY Pharaoh who fits this precise description, and he dates just prior to the collapse of Eyptian authority known as the First Intermediate Period. Liel dates this event to c. 1476 BCE [1310 BCE using the Orthodox date of 421 BCE for the Babylonian Exile.]

She indentifies the influx of new material culture in Palestine, known as Middle Bronze Age I, as the invading Israelites. Liel then fits the Entire Middle Kingdom and the Hyksos period between 1476 - 1055 BCE. And the Dynasties prior to Pepi II all post date the Babel event dated to c. 1930 BCE, Abram's 48th year. Quite a sqeeze of history, but the early Egyptian reigns are ambiguous in their exact lengths.

An alternative is the work by Gerald Aardsma who joins Liel in indentifying the Pharaoh as Pepi II, but instead redates the Exodus by 1000 years, suggesting that the Hebrew symbol for one thousand was lost from the text which gives the period between Solomon and Moses (I Kings 6:1.) However he retains the orthodox relative dating of Solomon which, as we have seen, is problematic. There is simply NO evidence for Solomon's riches in the Iron Age where he is usually placed.

Key to Courville and Velikovsky's schemes is the synchronism between the end of the XIII Dynasty and the Exodus of the Hebrews. Liel joins them in synchronising the attack of Saul on the Amalekites with Ahmoses' expulsion of the Hyksos, the Queen of Sheba with Queen Hatshepsut, and the invading Pharaoh Shishak with Thutmoses III. Aardsma joins with Courville and Liel in identifying the MB I people in Palestine as the Israelites

All these schemes are considered extremely radical and have little independent confirmation - though what they do have is intriguing.

In recent years the less extreme reconstruction of Egyptian history by David Rohl has received a lot of attention. Rohl is, unlike the others, an archaeologist and Eygptologist - hence is personally acquainted with the physical evidence and techniques of archaeologists. David retains the End of the 13th Dynasty link of Courville and Velikovsky, but very little else of their respective schemes. His ideas grew out of extensive discussions in the 1970s and 80s between archaeologists and historians who supported the idea of a revision, but not necessarily the scheme set out by Velikovsky.

According to Rohl's reconstruction the identification of Shishak is based on various lines of evidence - genealogies, inscriptions and linguistic data, rather than the dubious similarity of names between "Shishak" and "Shoshenk". Based on seeing the data in a new light, Rohl finds Ramesses II fits the bill as "Shishak" - though the specific time that Ramesses invaded Jerusalem is under discussion.

Rohl then uses an eclipse record from ancient Ugarit to redate Akhenaten to c. 1022 - 1006 BCE, which puts Ramesses II at c. 940 BCE. During Akhenaten's reign a series of official letters from Palestinian officials is known - the Amarna letters - and within these Rohl finds almost direct naming of the Biblical characters of King Saul, David, Joab, Jesse and various rulers and generals. All other redating schemes involve more doubtful indentifications of names in the Amarna letters.

Rohl's redating extends into other regions of Egyptian history via various astronomical synchronisms, something the other schemes lack. To down date Akhenaten and Ramesses II and their various Dynasties down by ~ 350 years several later Dynasties have to be made parallel and reduced in length. Certain lines of evidence suggest that the XXI and XXII are extensively parallel, while some controversial inscriptions suggest the XX is parallelised to the XIX (Ramesses' own) and shorter than currently believed.

Here's a link to David Rohl's Official Web-Site:

NUNKI.NET

An alternative redating scheme, slightly less radical than David's model, has also received attention and support. Peter James and colleagues have reduced the Egyptian chronology in a manner very similar to David Rohl's scheme, shortening and paralleling the XXI and XXII, except they kept the XIXth and XXth Dynasties as successive. As a result they suggest Shishak was Ramesses III, which reduces Egyptian history by approximately 250 years.

In 1991 James and fellow researchers published their work in 'Centuries of Darkness' which marshalls an impressive array of counter-evidence to the standard history. Since then no major flaw has been found in their argument, and the defenders of 'orthodoxy' have even stooped to fraud to try to discredit the revised chronology.

James and colleagues have a 'Centuries of Darkness' web-site which covers this 'history' of conflict...

Centuries Of Darkness

Key to Rohl and Jame's schemes is the suspected parallelism between the XXIst and XXIInd Dynasties, and down-dating the time-span of the XXIInd and XXIIIrd Dynasties. In this respect they virtually agree with minor differences. David Rohl believes that the Amarna letters prove that King Saul and David were contemporaries with Akhenaten of Egypt, while James argues for a more moderate reduction in dates for Akhenaten. Oddly enough the Ugarit eclipse synchronism that Rohl uses is not unique, an earlier eclipse in 1084 BCE could also match the data and would then support James' reconstruction.

In the end only more work unearthing physical evidence from the periods in question will enable a decision to be made between the two schemes. But together they pose a challenge to all who write the Hebrew Bible off as 'just myths'.

David Rohl also seeks to rescue the very early Bible tales. In his latest book, 'Legend' he attempts to give historical basis to the Eden tales, Cain, the Flood and the Tower of Babel. However the results are not confirmation of every detail. The Flood did not drown the 'whole earth' but did drown the whole of Mesopotamia in c. 3100 BCE, while the 'Tower of Babel' was actually in Eridu [which was once called the same Akkadian name as Babel, hence the confusion] and involved a religious dispute and the subsequent migration to Egypt of the people who became the Pharaohs of the 'Black Land'. His identifications are suggestive NOT definite, and he hopes to stimulate further research and openess about the Bible's oldest tales.

In the end it is surely some historical core that is behind the early tales of the Bible. Stories are not retained for millennia if they have no meaning or basis in fact, as archaeologists continually discover in many parts of the world. For example, Aborigines of Australia's north remember when the land-bridge between Papua New Guinea and Australia was flooded in c. 6,000 BCE.

But many Flood stories from around the World do not prove a Flood. Such stories are very localised, picking out prominent features of the landscape as sites of significant events. Creation stories are similar, and often there are two versions of the Creation, one which describes the gods as making the first people and one describing their initial migration from some other place. Being led by gods can become being created by them, as the tales evolve.

In the Bible itself this process can be seen, with Yahweh using the language of CREATION to describe his LIBERATION of the children of Israel. Yahweh 'creates' a new nation from one man, Jacob/Israel, and that nation is referred to as 'Israel' as if one person. So perhaps the 'Adam' story evolved out of a similar tale of migration and election by the 'god' of Adam's people. I cover this further in Part 2.

Part 2 Discusses a Literal reading of the first eleven chapters of Genesis...

LITERAL GENESIS

Another issue is just how the Bible's stories were composed and their reliability as history. Both Christians and Jews have ancient traditions about who wrote what, but the Bible itself paints a different picture of its origins. What's the real story?

Part 3 discusses how the Bible was written and later misunderstood.

WRITING THE BIBLE











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YGB said...

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Fifteen Frequently Asked Questions
Q1: Hasn't Egyptian chronology, which CoD challenges, been firmly fixed by 'Sothic' astronomical dating? [Answer below]
Q2: Can Radiocarbon Dating prove CoD right or wrong? [Answer below]
Q3: Do the results from the developing dendrochronology for Anatolia agree or disagree with CoD? [Answer below]
Q4: Where does CoD stand with the scientific dating for the explosion of Thera which is raising, rather than lowering, Bronze Age chronology? [Answer below]
Q5: Has Professor Kenneth Kitchen shown that the CoD restructuring of Egyptian chronology is impossible? [Answer below]
Q6: Egyptologists say that they can retrocalculate, by means of 'dead reckoning', from securely dated later dynasties back through the Third Intermediate Period to the New Kingdom. Is this true? [Answer below]
Q7: But how can you dispute the obvious similarity between the names Shoshenq and Shishak? [Answer below]
Q8: Is it true that the conventional chronology of Egypt is supported and proved to be correct by its synchronisms with the chronology of Mesopotamia? [Answer below]
Q9: How valid is the statement that CoD makes nonsense of Biblical history by placing King David in the middle of the reign of Ramesses II? [Answer below]
Q10: If the Philistines arrived in Canaan in the time of Ramesses III, whom CoD makes a contemporary of King Solomon, how could they have fought his predecessors Saul and David as mentioned in the Old Testament? [Answer below]
Q11: Have any valid criticisms been levelled at CoD which the authors have not been able to answer? [Answer below]
Q12: Is there any truth in the rumour that scholars have fabricated or falsified evidence in order to disprove CoD? [Answer below]
Q13: Have any of the conclusions in CoD been accepted by other archaeologists and ancient historians? [Answer below]
Q14: Why has CoD not been generally accepted as the correct chronology for the ancient world? [Answer below]
Q15: Is there a single test that can be done to prove or disprove CoD? [Answer below]
References here


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Q1: Hasn't Egyptian chronology, which CoD challenges, been firmly fixed by 'Sothic' astronomical dating?

No it has not. The Sothic theory depends on a number of assumptions which do not stand up to close scrutiny. Since our first published criticisms (James et al. 1987, 71-74) there has been a sea-change in opinion as to the reliability of this astronomical dating.

Two key references to the rising of the star Sirius (Sothis) provide the lynchpins for the conventional chronology of the Egyptian Middle and New Kingdoms respectively. Both of them have been effectively scotched. Senior Egyptologist W. Helck (1989, 40-41) pointed out that the Ebers Papyrus, which supposedly provides the Sothic fixed point (traditionally 1517 BC) for the New Kingdom, does not actually contain a calendar date - so that it is useless for any calculations. The Middle Kingdom fixed point (traditionally 1872 BC) derived from the Illahun Papyri now faces serious problems raised by L. Rose (1994), who has demonstrated that the lunar data mentioned in the same documents cannot fit a date in the 19th century BC.

As there are no longer any reliable astronomical fixes, Egyptologists have, by and large, abandoned their reliance on Sothic dating - although they have been rather slow in admitting it in public.


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Q2: Can Radiocarbon Dating prove CoD right or wrong?

Although this method has the potential to do so, C14 results from the relevant areas are at present generally unsatisfactory. For prehistoric cultures earlier than, or unrelated to, the Egyptian dynasties, archaeologists regularly test dozens of samples. By contrast, for the Late Bronze and Iron Ages, they have tended to assume that, as the chronology is 'known', radiocarbon tests are not really needed. As well as the shortage of results, inappropriate samples have usually been chosen, mostly of wood and charcoal which, unless selected with extreme care, will give dates much older than the context they come from. There have also been many problems at laboratory level, such as varying degrees of pretreatment to remove contamination. Calibration raises further difficulties, as the statistical variables involved are often poorly understood. Consequently most C14 dates for the period in question amount to little more than 'window dressing' for a site report.

From another perspective, it is also well known that numerous radiocarbon dates from sites in the Aegean, Egypt and the Near East, have never been published because they do not suit preconceptions - a phenomenon we have dubbed the 'publishing filter'. Though it is rarely admitted in print, there are documented cases from at least three sites (see James et al. 1998, 36).

Given all this, we strongly feel that the radiocarbon dates currently available are not adequate to judge the CoD theory. New series of tests need to be performed on good materials from secure contexts, with the samples divided between at least three laboratories for cross-checking as results can differ between them. In one case in the 1970s the same Egyptian samples were tested by the Pennsylvania, British Museum and Uppsala labs (Olsson & El-Daousay 1979). The dates from the first two generally fitted the conventional chronology but those from Uppsala were consistently lower and fit well with our chronology. Had Uppsala alone done the tests it would have looked as if radiocarbon had proved CoD correct! The Uppsala laboratory took pride in its careful pretreatment of samples to remove contaminants, a fact which may perhaps explain the divergent results. We would not, however, use these old tests to reinforce our case. There is increasing realisation, due to enormous improvements in the method, that all determinations from before the 1990s should really be discarded.

So until new series of good quality dates are produced we simply cannot say whether radiocarbon can prove CoD right or wrong. The C14 database from Greece is, like that from Egypt, a shambles, and we would fully agree with the following statement made by Sturt Manning (1990, 37) of Reading University:

... new series of highly quality dates from sealed stratigraphic contexts from all the Aegean periods are required. The current corpus consists of dates from very different technical processes, and dates usually lacking carbon-13 normalization, or alkali pre-treatment! This is unacceptable... The pressing need is therefore for Aegean radiocarbon dates with the contextual and measurement quality to match the precision of the current radiocarbon calibration curves.

Yet only two years later, with no new C14 dates (but not without a degree of hypocrisy), Manning and his colleague Weninger (1992) attempted to use the available results from the Aegean to show that CoD was wrong! Their article, published in Antiquity, has been repeatedly cited. This is unfortunate, as it contained a number of serious methodological errors. Most of the C14 results they used, some going back to the 1950s (!), came from unsuitable samples of wood and charcoal. We have published a detailed response (James et al. 1998, 36-38) showing that if due attention is paid to the context of the samples, the presently available radiocarbon dates for the end of the Late Bronze Age in Greece fit comfortably with our model.


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Q3: Do the results from the developing dendrochronology for Anatolia agree or disagree with CoD?

As with radiocarbon, some loose claims have been made about tree-ring chronology conflicting with the CoD model, but a balanced assessment reveals a very different picture.

Professor Peter Kuniholm and his Cornell University team have established a 1503-year 'floating sequence' of tree-rings for Bronze and Iron Age Anatolia. When this has been extended to the point where it becomes continuous with modern sequences, it should provide the best yardstick for testing CoD - circumventing some of the uncertainties involved in C14 dating. At present, however, Kuniholm's 'floating' sequence is still reliant on radiocarbon for its absolute dates. In the words of Professor Lord Colin Renfrew (1996, 734):

Their work offers the best hope we have for a really sound chronology for the later prehistory and history of the Near East and Egypt, and indeed the eastern Mediterranean in general. But their work is not yet complete.

On the release of CoD, Kuniholm unfortunately began giving misleading impressions of what his dendrochronology could show with respect to the c. 250 years we wished to eliminate: "I have tree-ring sequences, which cover almost all those nasty centuries, and they're there." (Reported in Brown 1991, 15). This completely missed the point. We are not disputing that trees grew during the 12th, 11th and 10th centuries BC! The question is whether those tree-ring centuries are linked with post-Hittite cultures (as the conventional chronology would have it) or with those of the Hittite Empire (as our model predicts). If Hittite buildings destroyed at the very end of the Late Bronze Age were to be found exclusively with timbers dating from considerably before 1200 BC, then our theory would be in trouble.


The blue door-post from Dispilio.
© N. Kokkinos, 1999
We stress the word exclusively here, because as with radiocarbon dating there is an 'old wood' problem in tree-ring dating. Dendrochronology can rarely give us a date when a particular piece of wood was used; even less often will it give a date for an archaeological destruction. Dendrochronology gives us the dates when tree rings grew, so one has to be very careful about using it to date archaeological levels. Kuniholm himself has noted many examples of centuries' old tree-rings incorporated into much later structures and he frequently recommends caution. A recent and extraordinary case concerns a piece of wood he collected at Dispilio-Kastoria in northern Greece, near a Neolithic lakeside settlement:

A well-preserved juniper post, painted blue and with modern door hinges, was recovered from a modern village house simply because it looked suspiciously old. The sample we were given did not fit anything in our Neolithic inventory, so we sent a piece of it to Heidelberg to see what radiocarbon analysis would reveal. The date is 2117 B.C. + 110 years, which means it is from some Early Bronze Age occupation near the lake at Kastoria. (Kuniholm 1998, 4)

Yes, this does actually mean (given the right climate and conditions) that four thousand-year-old pieces of wood can be reused in building! Given the 'blue door' phenomenon, it should be obvious that the latest dendro dates from a structure, site or culture are the most significant.

There is now dated tree-ring material from a handful of sites of the Hittite period. Unfortunately the most poorly published of these results has received the most attention from our critics. This is from Masat Hüyük, where preliminary reports gave a dendro date of 1392 + 37 BC (since then lowered to 1353 + 1 BC) for a site associated with the 14th-century Hittite king Suppiluliuma. As Suppiluliuma is generally thought to have died c. 1320 BC, the result represented, in the view of Professor Anthony Snodgrass (1991), "a shot in the arm" for the conventional chronology. The problem is that the information given about the context of this wood sample makes no sense in terms of the stratigraphy as it was published by the Turkish excavator - and may indeed turn out to be a "shot in the foot". There are three levels from the site, and Kuniholm's comments have muddled them together (James et al. 1998, 38). More worrying, in a private letter to us, he revealed that a sample from an earlier level remains unpublished; as far as he could remember, it postdated the published result. This would completely invalidate the significance of this dendro-date. Despite numerous appeals since 1991, Kuniholm has yet to retrieve and publish the full data from the site.

Only the results from one Hittite site have been formally published, those from Tille Höyük on the Euphrates. These were striking. The construction of the last phase of the Tille Höyük Gateway is dated to 1101 + 1 BC, with its use lying in the 11th century BC. Yet Tille Höyük was an Imperial Hittite outpost, which on the conventional chronology would have been constructed about 1300 BC, and destroyed c. 1190 BC. The dendro-date is clearly impossible for the conventional chronology. Furthermore, the best fit for this sample (using the normal T-score statistical test) is actually in 942 + 1 BC (James et al. 1998, 41, n. 10)! An extra statistical test had to be introduced to avoid this awkward conclusion.

Kuniholm does indeed have tree-rings for those "nasty centuries". Nastily for the conventional chronology, at Tille Höyük they are associated with the remains of an Empire which was supposed to have fallen at least a century earlier.


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Q4: Where does CoD stand with the scientific dating for the explosion of Thera which is raising, rather than lowering, Bronze Age chronology?

In the mid-1980s dendrochronologists proposed a way of dating the explosion of Thera scientifically. They suggested that narrow tree-rings (caused by frost) around 1628 BC in North America reflected the adverse weather caused by the volcano. Such an event seemed to be confirmed by later finds of frost-ring damage in Irish tree-rings and a peak of sulphuric acid in the Greenland ice-cores. This ran counter to the archaeological dating of the Thera explosion to c. 1500 BC.

Both vulcanologists (notably David Pyle of Cambridge) and archaeologists (notably Peter Warren of Bristol) advised caution about such "proxy dating". Frost-ring damage and acidity peaks might well be caused by volcanic eruption, but there was no evidence to show which volcano was responsible. Nevertheless, by the 1990s an increasing number of scholars had jumped on the 'scientific dating' bandwaggon, attempting to raise the beginning of the Late Bronze Age Greece to accommodate the 1628 BC date. Manning (1992), for example, insisted that the 1620s acid peak was the only signature in the ice-cores which was close enough in time to match the Thera event.

We have always remained sceptical of the case for a high date for Thera, suspecting that the whole thing would eventually fall through. Unfortunately, our position recently led an otherwise favourable reviewer to remark that we took a "sceptical view of the new scientific dating techniques" (Gerding 1997/8, 160), which is far from the truth. Proxy dating is not to be confused with the scientific techniques themselves.

As it happens, we have now been vindicated. When further work was published on the Greenland ice-cores the real reason why the 1620s date looked so conspicuous became clear. Due to budgetary constraints, a thorough search measuring the sulphuric acid from each year had never been undertaken! When this was done, the 1620s BC 'event' ceased to be special. Similar peaks of sulphuric acid are now known to exist in the 16th, 15th, 14th and 13th centuries (Zielinski et al. 1994)! Any of these (for example those from the ice-core years 1594, 1454, 1327 and 1284) might represent the Thera eruption. Worse still, small particles of volcanic ejecta have now been found in one of the very ice-levels from Greenland. Analysis has shown that their chemical composition does not match that of Thera (Zielinski & Germani 1998a). Clearly miffed, Manning (1998) published a "correction" to the geologists' conclusions, arguing that they had misinterpreted their data and that the particles came from Thera after all. The geologists' response (Zielinksi & Germani 1998b) stated, in as many words, that Manning was out of his depth and simply did not understand the methods involved.

Apart from the entertainment value of watching these developments from the sidelines, we are now able to stress that there is no longer any 'scientific' consensus on the high dating. Indeed, the direct evidence from the Greenland ice-cores suggests that the c. 1628 BC event should not be linked with the explosion of Thera, but with that of an unidentified volcano.

In short there is no good evidence for raising the dates for the beginning of the Late Bronze Age in Greece, rather than lowering them - as we feel should be the case. (Even though, strictly speaking, a raising of the beginning and a lowering of the end are not mutually exclusive, as the real length of the Late Bronze Age remains sub judice.)


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Q5: Has Professor Kenneth Kitchen shown that the CoD restructuring of Egyptian chronology is impossible?

Far from it. In his review of CoD in the Times Literary Supplement, Kitchen (1991a) claimed that our proposed overlaps between the dynasties of the Third Intermediate Period are "ruled out by a mass of evidence. A single example must suffice."

For his example he chose the 21st Dynasty, claiming that the successor of Siamun, penultimate ruler of this dynasty, was the brother-in-law of Shoshenq I, founder of the next (22nd) Dynasty. Therefore, according to Kitchen, this rules out any overlap between the 21st and 22nd Dynasties, as we proposed.

We responded in a letter (James & Morkot 1991), towards the end of which we focussed on his "single example". We agreed it is known that a 21st-dynasty Pharaoh called Psusennes was the contemporary of Shoshenq I. (Kitchen opted to call him his "brother-in-law".) This in itself shows that there was some overlap between the two dynasties. Further, there is no evidence that this Psusennes was the successor of Siamun and hence the last ruler of the 21st Dynasty, and thus nothing to rule out our proposed overlap between the two dynasties. We concluded that we "were confident that he [Kitchen] cannot demonstrate their successive nature without recourse to circular argument or reliance on Manetho [a late source from Hellenistic Egypt]."

In his response Kitchen (1991b) failed to take up our challenge. So, in a final rejoinder (James 1991) we noted:

Kenneth Kitchen appears to have conceded the major point of his initial review. In our reply we challenged Professor Kitchen to produce hard evidence that the 21st and 22nd Egyptian Dynasties were successive rather than overlapping. Since he failed to respond, we can only assume he was unable to do so, replying on different matters entirely.

To this date Kitchen has not replied to back up his "single point" with any evidence, although he has never lost opportunities to make critical remarks about our work. His latest strategy has been limited to confusing CoD with the secondary, and manifestly incorrect, efforts of another author.

Kitchen also claimed that his case regarding the relationship between dynasties 21 and 22 was "backed by other evidence (the Neseramun family tree, etc)". What the Neseramun genealogy says is actually rather surprising. The family trees of Egyptian officials often mention under which Pharaoh a given individual held office. In this case the Neseramun genealogy specifically states that Siamun was the contemporary of two individuals. If Kitchen is right, one would expect from the rest of the genealogy that these individuals lived before the end of the 21st Dynasty. As it happens they did not. In genealogical terms they lived one to two generations after Shoshenq I, founder of the 22nd Dynasty. At a conference on Mediterranean chronology in 1995 we presented the evidence from the Neseramun and other genealogies that Siamun must have been a contemporary of the early 21st Dynasty (James et al. 1998, 32-4). The evidence from the Neseramun family tree thus shows completely the opposite of what Kitchen claimed.

Our point about the overlap between the 21st and 22nd dynasties, which allows a lowering of Egyptian chronology, has not completely fallen on deaf ears. Egyptologist Aidan Dodson (1992) has conceded a possible 50-year reduction, involving a small overlap between the dynasties in question. In response to CoD, John Ray of Cambridge (1992) also considered that a reduction of this order is possible. Graham Hagens (1996) took up our suggestion of a major overlap between dynasties in the Journal for the American Research Center in Egypt. Kitchen believes the 21st Dynasty ruled as an independent entity for 125 years. We would propose reducing that figure by a century, Hagens by 75 years. Kitchen's attempt to debunk our restructuring of chronology should now be a matter of increasing embarrassment.


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Q6: Egyptologists say that they can retrocalculate, by means of 'dead reckoning', from securely dated later dynasties back through the Third Intermediate Period to the New Kingdom. Is this true?

This claim is frequently made but is false. The lynchpin for the Third Intermediate Period in Egypt is the identification of Shoshenq I (founder of the 22nd Dynasty) with a character mentioned in the Old Testament. According to the First Book of Kings "Shishak king of Egypt" invaded Judah in the fifth year of Rehoboam (c. 925 BC). Since Champollion's time it has been assumed that Shoshenq I, who campaigned in Palestine in his Year 21, was the same person as Shishak. This meant that Egyptologists could use biblical chronology to date the beginning of Shoshenq's reign, and hence that of the 22nd Dynasty, to 945 BC. Various reign-lengths were then assigned to fill up the time between this point and the firmly fixed dates at the end of the TIP about 670 BC.

Yet Kitchen claims that he arrived at a 945 date for Shoshenq I by 'dead reckoning', i.e. by adding up the reigns of the pharaohs involved back from the 7th century BC. This he manifestly did not do. To take just one example, Pharaoh Takeloth I, who left no dated monuments or documents at all, is given 14 or 15 years by Kitchen, simply because of the need to fill the gulf of time created by the Shoshenq=Shishak equation.

We are not alone in drawing attention to the fact that egyptologists have been dishonest on this point. Independently, Jeremy Hughes (1990, 190), an Oxford expert on biblical chronology, has stated clearly:

Egyptian chronologists, without always admitting it, have commonly based their chronology of this period on the Biblical synchronism for Shoshenq's invasion.

The true situation was described with equal force by a Harvard authority on biblical chronology, William Barnes (1991, 66-7):

Although the present scholarly consensus seems to favor a date c. 945 B.C.E. for the accession of Shishak ..., apart from the biblical synchronism with Rehoboam (which as I have noted above remains problematic at best) there is no other external synchronism by which one might date his reign, and the Egyptian chronological data themselves remain too fragmentary to permit chronological precision.

Egyptian chronology from the end of the New Kingdom down to c. 670 BC is actually dependent on a single, alleged synchronism with biblical chronology - and not on supposed 'dead reckoning'.


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Q7: But how can you dispute the obvious similarity between the names Shoshenq and Shishak?

From a philological point of view Shoshenq and Shishak make a good match, but there we feel the resemblance ends. (As a caveat to the dangers of playing the 'name game' in ancient history one can cite numerous spurious efforts, though one example will suffice: in the 1940s someone argued that the 'Derbe' and 'Lystra' visited by Paul the Apostle - in Lycaonia in cental Asia Minor - were actually located at 'Derby' and 'Leicester' in England. A good phonetic match, but slightly implausible on other grounds!)

Apart from the fact that both individuals were Pharaohs who campaigned in Palestine, there is absolutely no match between the accounts given of Shoshenq I and Shishak in the respective Egyptian and biblical records. According to the Old Testament, the focal point of Shishak's campaign was the city of Jerusalem, before which he seized fifteen Judahite cities fortified by Solomon's successor Rehoboam. Only one of these towns, Aijalon, occurs in the list of Palestinian place-names left by Shoshenq I at Karnak. As Yohanan Aharoni (1966, 285) wrote in his classic work on biblical geography:

It is clear from the Egyptian text that the main objectives of the expedition were not the towns of Judah and Jerusalem, but rather the kingdom of Israel on the one hand and the Negeb of Judah on the other.

The situation may actually be worse than Aharoni thought. Frank Clancey (1999) has recently argued that Shoshenq's campaign was restricted to the Sinai, Negev, southern hill country and Shephelah of Judah; though some of his conclusions may be questioned, he has reinforced the point that there is no evidence that the central hill country around Jerusalem was involved. Admittedly, we do not yet fully understand the purpose of the place-name lists of foreign lands drawn up by the Pharaohs - they may be towns conquered, neutralised or simply those they passed through or received tribute from; nor can we demand that the scribes who prepared Shoshenq's records had the same perspective or concerns as those who prepared the Hebrew account of Shishak's invasion. But the fact remains that no case can be made for identifying the two individuals from the geopolitics of their campaigns.

The superficial resemblance between the names Shoshenq and Shishak may be just that. More importantly, the other side of the coin is that acceptance of the equation has done away with an identical name-match in Phoenician history. Incriptions from Byblos reveal the following sequence of kings:

Abibaal -------- contemporary Shoshenq I

Elibaal -------- contemporary Osorkon I (son of Shoshenq I)

Shipitbaal (son of Elibaal)

The synchronisms with the 22nd-dynasty rulers Shoshenq and Osorkon are known from the fact that in each case the Byblite ruler had added his own inscription around the cartouche of the Pharaoh, on statues imported from Egypt. Following the conventional Egyptian chronology the Byblite inscriptions have been dated to the 10th century. This, however, has always caused problems. Many scholars have preferred a later date, on palaeographic grounds, and the late Benjamin Mazar was tempted to lower the date for the whole series, making the last ruler Shipitbaal the same as the "King Shipitbaal of Byblos" known from Assyrian records around 740 BC. Mazar offered the suggestion twice but, with the utmost reluctance, had to concede that the Egyptian evidence seemed to date Shipitbaal nearer 900 BC. More recently a detailed paper by epigrapher Ronald Wallenfels has raised the spectre of the same synchronism, which the conventional chronology is forced to reject. Wallenfels produced a mass of evidence for redating the Byblite insciptions to the 9th-7th centuries, and even toyed with the idea of challenging the conventional date for Shoshenq I. On the CoD model the conundrum is resolved. Shoshenq I was not the biblical Shishak of c. 925 BC. Rather he campaigned in Palestine c. 800 BC and the same date should be given to his contemporary Abibaal. Shipitbaal, two reigns later than Abibaal, would then after all be the king mentioned in Assyrian records about 740 BC. This is one of the many 'natural' synchronisms between Egypt and Western Asia which CoD is able to restore to ancient history.


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Q8: Is it true that the conventional chronology of Egypt is supported and proved to be correct by its synchronisms with the chronology of Mesopotamia?

No, it is not true. Numerous synchronisms have been drawn between Egypt and Mesopotamia, but many of these are based on unproved assumptions. Of those that are genuine, closer examination reveals that in many cases Mesopotamian chronology is actually dependent on Egyptian - and not the other way around. For example it is clear (Brinkman 1976) that the list of kings for the late Kassite period in Babylonia, conventionally 14th-13th centuries BC, has been heavily restored from Egyptian and Hittite evidence. (Hittite dating is directly dependent on that of Egypt.) Where there are genuine synchronisms based on independent Mesopotamian evidence, the model outlined in CoD provides as many links as the conventional chronology, so there can be no preference here for one model or the other. For example, the conventional chronology has a convenient match in the 14th century BC between the Assuruballit I of the Assyrian King List and a like-named ruler who wrote two letters to Pharaoh Akhnaton. (On the CoD model, the contemporary of Akhnaton would have to be an otherwise unattested Assuruballit 'II', as suggested by the fact that the fathers of the Assuruballits concerned are different in each case.) On the other hand, for example, the CoD model offers a new synchronism in the 10th century BC, between the Ini-Teshub, Hittite King of Carchemish, and the Ini-Teshub, King of Carchemish, known from Assyrian records. (For another 'new' synchronism see Q 7 above.)

Mesopotamian chronology itself is in need of serious re-examination and revision. There are 'dark age' gaps and archaeological anomalies during the 12th-10th centuries in Assyria, Babylonia and neighbouring Persia (Elam). During this period documentary evidence becomes extremely scarce, and chronology is largely dependent on the statements made in a King List drawn up by the Assyrians in later times (9th-8th centuries BC). Yet it has been shown by many scholars that this King List was an artificial construct, the aim of which was to provide a continuous line of kings stretching back into the distant past, masking unofficial rulers and rival dynasties. In the Assyrian dark age there is contemporary evidence that there was more than one dynasty ruling. As argued in CoD, two parallel dynasties ruled during the 11th to 10th centuries period, which reduces Assyrian chronology by some 110 years.

Work is ongoing on whether Assyrian chronology can be further reduced. Model building is difficult, as there is little controlling evidence on the data provided by the Assyrian King List. Careful study of the fragmentary eponym-lists (annual officials) could provide ways of moderating the figures it gives.


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Q9: How valid is the statement that CoD makes nonsense of Biblical history by placing King David in the middle of the reign of Ramesses II?

The statement is completely invalid, as CoD does not place David in the middle of Ramesses' reign. The idea originated with Kitchen (1991c, 238):

On their dates, King David would have carved out his empire in Syria from the Euphrates to SW Palestine right in the middle of the reigns of Ramesses II of Egypt and the Hittite King Hattusil III, after their peace-treaty ending two decades of war over who should have how much of Syria. Is it even remotely conceivable that these two formidable rulers should just sit idly by, cowering with armies in mothballs, while some upstart prince from Jerusalem's hills calmly carved out three-quarters of their hotly-disputed territories (and revenues) for himself? This is sheer fantasy...

The chronology here is Kitchen's assumption, not ours. The dates for King David are dependent on those for his successor King Solomon. Ancient historians agree that the reign of Solomon ended c. 930 BC, but hardly any (except uncritical fundamentalists and Kitchen) accept the schematic biblical figure of 40 years apiece for the reigns of Solomon and David. Forty years for both reigns together would be more realistic. This - on our chronology - would place the unification of Israel under Saul and David during the last years of Ramesses II and the reign of his successor Merenptah. It is generally acknowledged that the armies of Egypt were indeed sitting idle during the last years of Ramesses II, while Merenptah, though he campaigned in southern Palestine, ruled a much reduced territory. Ramesses III later described this time as the "empty years" when there was chaos in the Egyptian empire.

We should also remember that the heartland of Israel was the hill country in the interior, in which the Egyptians showed no great interest. Their imperial ambitions in Palestine were largely restricted to controlling the rich cities of the coastal area and the Jezreel Valley. Through most of the Late Bronze Age the hill country was something of a backwater unaffected by the Egyptian comings and goings through the more economically important parts of Canaan. It is significant that the first (and only) reference to Israel in Egyptian records occurs in a stela of Merenptah which celebrates the troubles afflicting neighbouring countries. One enigmatic line, which has exercised scholarly imagination for decades, states that "Israel is laid waste, his seed is not". It is generally thought to mean that Merenptah claimed to have bested Israel in a military conflict. But a more literal translation might be safer, with the "seed" referring to grain. As it was a standard Egyptian tactic to destroy the fields and trees of enemies and rebels, it seems that Merenptah was boasting about his raids on Israelite fields. In the CoD chronology, the famine said to have occurred during the reign of David (2 Samuel 21:1) may reflect these circumstances.

In the same text Merenptah states that he conquered the Canaanite city of Gezer, a fact which can provide us with an invaluable synchronism. According to the Bible an unnamed Egyptian Pharaoh became the father-in-law of Solomon. As a dowry Solomon received the city of Gezer, which this Pharaoh had recently conquered (1 Kings 9:16). In the CoD model he must be Merenptah, who presumably effected a rapprochement with Israel sometime after his raids. During the reign of Solomon Egypt was clearly friendly towards Israel, a policy which was reversed again after Solomon's death.


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Q10: If the Philistines arrived in Canaan in the time of Ramesses III, whom CoD makes a contemporary of King Solomon, how could they have fought his predecessors Saul and David as mentioned in the Old Testament?


(Centre) A warrior of the Shardana, one of the mysterious 'Sea Peoples', as depicted on Egyptian reliefs conventionally dated to the 13th and 12th centuries BC. Egyptian references to the Shardana continue until the early 11th century BC. (Right and left) Bronze figurines from Sardinia, usually dated to the 9th-7th centuries BC. While it is tempting to draw some connection between the two groups they are presently separated by over two centuries.


Quite simply we dispute the idea that the Philistines first appeared in Canaan during the reign of Ramesses III. The interpretation of that Pharaoh's records regarding the so-called Sea Peoples (including the Plst who are generally thought to be the Philistines) has been the subject of increasing debate over recent years. How much these records describe the arrival of peoples or tribes new to the Levant is a moot point, but some aspects of the problem have been clarified. When the Philistines (Plst) and their confederates transgressed the "borders" of Egypt in the years 5 and 8 of Ramesses III, his scribes always referred to them using the traditional terms for "Asiatics" (a geographical rather than ethnic term). Moreover, Ramesses III's inscriptions specifically mention the towns and orchards of the Plst - which stands clearly against the idea that they were all new arrivals from elsewhere in the Mediterranean. Many Plst must have already been settled in southern Palestine. These points, originally stressed by Alessandra Nibbi (1975), have since been echoed in the work of other scholars including Peter James (in numerous lectures and in an unfinished postgraduate thesis of the early 1980s), Phoenician archaeologist Patricia Bikai (1992) and classicist Bob Drews (1993, 52-3).

The Philistine problem is extremely complex but, in short, there is a growing school of thought which regards the so-called 'Sea Peoples' invasion as having been overstated. This, while it does not rule out new settlements of peoples from Cyprus and the Aegean at the transition from the Late Bronze to Iron Ages, does stress that the Plst were already an entity in coastal Palestine before the reign of Ramesses III. On the archaeological side, while the Philistines adopted the latest Aegean-style pottery at the beginning of the Iron Age (Monochrome 'Philistine Ware'), this cannot be taken as proof that they had only just arrived; it may only reflect new settlers that had joined them. In our archaeological model Philistine presence during the Late Bronze Age is reflected by, among other things, the 'Bichrome Painted' pottery (thought to be Cypriot in origin) of the coastal region. The 'foreignness' of the Philistines, as perceived by the Hebrews, who always distinguished them from the Canaanites, springs from their long-standing relationship with Cyprus and the Aegean - a relationship that continued in the Iron Age but had its origins much earlier.

There is, therefore, no conflict between the idea that Saul and David fought the Philistines before the reign of Ramesses III, since Philistines were already present in Palestine. Incidentally, this would also mean that at least some of the biblical references to Philistines in earlier times - e.g. those at the time of the Israelite Conquest/Settlement - need not be 'anachronistic', as the conventional chronology assumes them to be.



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Q 11: Have any valid criticisms been levelled at CoD which the authors have not been able to answer?

No, not yet. We are still waiting to be proved wrong, and should this ever happen we would readily accept it. But we insist that CoD can only be disproved by good evidence and argument, not fudge and misinterpretation.


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Q12: Is there any truth in the rumour that scholars have fabricated or falsified evidence in order to disprove CoD?

Unfortunately, yes. Reactions to our theory have exhibited examples of the most dubious side of scholarship, ranging from the time-honoured practice of misciting one's opponents, through sheer misstatements of fact, to actual fabrication. Here are a few examples:

In a 'critique' of CoD Egyptologist Professor Frank Yurco (1993, 10) claimed that we had overlooked "an important synchronism". He stated that at the battle of Karkar (Syria) in 853 BC, Pharaoh Osorkon II of Egypt contributed 1,000 troops to fight king Shalmaneser III of Assyria. If that were the case, our redating of Osorkon II to the 8th century would be impossible. However, Yurco seems to be unaware of what a synchronism means. A synchronism between two individuals requires that two names are given. The Assyrian texts of Shalmaneser III do indeed refer to an Egyptian contingent at the battle of Karkar. But they do not name the Pharaoh who sent them. Yurco has simply supplied that name, probably by reference to the chronological tables in Kitchen's book. In this circular argument, and all other respects, Yurco's 'critique' was so shoddily researched that it would shame an undergraduate.

We stated that Ramesses III (of the 20th Dynasty) used the abbreviation of his name 'Sesi'. This concerns an important point, as on our model we have suggested that he is to be identified with the Egyptian king 'Shishak' who invaded Palestine c. 925 BC. (The Hebrew text was originally unpointed, so that strictly speaking the name should be read as 'Shyshk' or 'Sysk'.) Kitchen (1991c, 236), with amazing effrontery, denied that Ramesses III used the abbreviated form of his name. Effrontery is the only word one can use, because Kitchen himself had published the evidence to show that Ramesses III used the name Sesi on an inscription from Medinet Habu (see James et al. 1992, 127). Unaware of Kitchen's convenient lapse of memory, Yurco (1993, 11) simply repeated the claim. Both have manipulated the facts to suit their preconceptions.

The worst case, evidently one of sheer fabrication, appeared in a review of CoD by James Mellaart (1991/2), a famous archaeologist and, until recently, a lecturer at University College London. While he made some favourable comments, he claimed to have access to an unpublished cuneiform text which gives a list of synchronisms between Lydia (a kingdom in western Turkey in classical times) and Assyria, running back 21 generations from the 7th century BC through to the Late Bronze Age. According to Mellaart it confirmed the conventional chronology and made "short shrift" of our model. Apparently some scholars were taken in and rejoiced at our defeat. Alan Millard of Liverpool University, a noted expert on Near Eastern languages, praised Mellaart's review as "appropriately negative" (1994, 27).

Quite incredibly, Mellaart has never produced any evidence that such a unique text exists, outside his imagination. Despite his best efforts, Professor David Lewis, an eminent epigraphist at Oxford, could find no trace of such a tablet. Other scholars, such as cuneiform expert Professor David Hawkins of the School of Oriental and African Studies, are confident that the text is simply not real. With evident embarassment, the editor of the Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society, which had carried Mellaart's review, published a note, alongside letters from ourselves (James & Kokkinos 1992/3) and Lewis, stating that Mellaart's "alleged documents... should not be cited as valid source material." (Gibson 1992/3, 82). And there this extraordinary episode ended. Mellaart does not appear to have mentioned his tablet since.



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Q13: Have any of the conclusions in CoD been accepted by other archaeologists and ancient historians?

Many of the individual conclusions arrived at in CoD (and its pilot project Studies in Ancient Chronology 1, published in 1987) have been accepted or subsequently proposed by other scholars. Examples include:

We suggested that the 'Pantalica III (South)' phase in Sicilian archaeology was a chronological phantom, and that it should be completely scrapped. It used to occupy some 120 years between the end of the Cassibile phase (c. 850 BC) and the beginning of Greek colonisation in c. 735 BC, creating a strange gap betweeen burnt native settlements and the Greek colonies founded on top of them. (Especially strange as we know that the Greeks drove out the natives and burnt their settlements.) Our argument has been accepted and augmented by Robin Leighton (1993), a leading authority on the archaeology of Sicily. Following us, he lowered the end of Cassibile down from c. 850 BC to c. 735 BC.

We demonstrated that the Greek pottery finds from Tell Abu Hawam on the coast of Israel cannot be used to prop up the presently accepted high chronology for the Greek Iron Age. This conclusion (with reference to our work) was accepted in the handbook on Aegean chronology written by Professor Peter Warren and Vronwy Hankey (1989, 167). Mention of Tell Abu Hawam as a useful benchmark for Greek Iron Age Greek chronology has now dropped out of the literature.

We stressed that the classical traditions do not consistently point to a date for the Trojan War in the 12th century BC or earlier but, particularly using genealogical material, that dates can be calculated as late as the tenth century BC. Walter Burkert (1995) has since reached the same conclusions.

We pointed out that the astronomical information on the Ammizaduga Tablets, generally used to date the fall of the First Dynasty of Babylon to 1595 BC, "provide no serious obstacle" to a substantial lowering of Mesopotamian chronology. In fact we noted that the tablets would allow the Hittite sack of Babylon to "have taken place in 1466 BC". Recently H. Gasche et al. (1998) have argued for redating Babylon's fall to 1499 BC, a century later than the conventionally preferred date.

Following our criticisms of Sothic dating, most Egyptologists have now abandoned reliance on this method (see Q1 above).

We have argued that the chronology of the early 25th (Nubian) dynasty in Egypt needs shortening - specifically we have lowered the beginning of the reign of Shabaqo in Egypt to c. 708/707 BC. Subsequently a date of 706 BC was argued by Egyptologist L. Depuydt (1993), though with no reference to our work.

We suggested that the reigns of the 22nd Dynasty pharaohs Shoshenq III and Takeloth II overlapped by some 20 years. This was argued independently by Egyptologist David Aston (1989).

We argued that there was a considerable overlap between the 21st and 22nd Egyptian Dynasties. This has been followed by Hagens (see Q5 above).

We claimed that the Iron I period in Palestine needs to be drastically reduced. Again Hagens (1999) has followed this, in a paper in Antiquity, Britain's leading archaeological journal.

We put forward the idea that the Iron II (so-called 'Solomonic') period in Palestine should be lowered in date from the 10th to the 9th century BC. As the evidence for this is so strong, we predicted that within a few years such a revision would be followed, but with disastrous consequences. We feared that if done as a half-measure, it would only succeed in creating a 'dark age' in Palestine during the time of David and Solomon - it would, nevertheless, be consistent with the dark periods elsewhere in the Eastern Mediterranean. We jokingly referred to this as the 'Thatcherite' solution to chronology - "things have to get worse before they get better". Our prediction has now been fulfilled by the work of Israel Finkelstein (e.g. 1996), a leading Israeli archaeologist, who has argued our 10th to 9th century revision (without reference).

While the arguments in CoD are frequently being borrowed by other scholars in a piecemeal fashion, there is still reluctance to adopt - or sometimes even consider - the scheme as a whole. The consequences are misleading, as the case of Finkelstein illustrates. His lowering of Iron Age chronology (while leaving the end of the Late Bronze at its conventional placement) has created the predicted 'dark age' for Israel in the 10th century BC (see James & Kokkinos forthcoming). This is caused an unprecedented furore, as Finkelstein has stranded King Solomon in an archaeological vacuum - against Old Testament tradition. Not unexpectedly, his conclusion has been eagerly seized by the rising school of 'minimalists' within biblical scholarship - who are attempting to scotch the historicity of the Bible, claiming that Saul, David, Solomon and the early kings of Israel are merely fictitious characters.

For the key site of Samaria, we proposed that levels V-VI should not be seen as the last Israelite phase before the Assyrian conquest of 722 BC, but as the final Assyrian levels - with a terminal date no earlier than about 630 BC. Such a date has since been forcefully argued in a doctoral thesis by the late Stig Forsberg (1995, 24).

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Q14: Why has CoD not been generally accepted as the correct chronology for the ancient world?

Archaeologists are usually specialists working in separate fields. While they are happy to draw conclusions in their own areas of study, they are reluctant to make assessments of the problems in other areas. Because the issues raised by CoD involve interconnections between all fields of ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern studies, the overall case is simply too difficult for most to comprehend. As in any scientific discipline it is easier to keep to the status quo and avoid 'sticking one's neck out', as it were. Academic inertia, scholarly egotism, the desire for promotion, teaching convenience and a number of other reasons continually reinforce this attitude.

It is quite clear, for example, that no-one would be encouraged to publish articles agreeing with our model - they would probably be automatically rejected. We have naturally encountered this problem ourselves. With respect to academic journals, we have been frustrated by a 'lack of airtime' in which we could defend our case against critics. For example, when the Cambridge Archaeological Journal published lengthy, and sometimes rambling and unjustified, criticisms from several scholars, the editor declined to publish our reply in the same issue and allowed only limited space in the next. In the case of Antiquity, our reply to Manning and Weninger's ill-considered treatment of the radiocarbon evidence from the Aegean, was flatly rejected.

Despite such difficulties, and in the meantime, CoD has become a respectable and widely known antidote to the conventional chronology which is regularly cited in the literature and used in numerous university courses.


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Q15: Is there a single test that can be done to prove or disprove CoD?

Unfortunately there is no deus ex machina. The problems of ancient chronology we have highlighted are so vast and complicated that there is no easy way to prove or disprove CoD - i.e. to the satisfaction of all concerned. Only a combination of tests, including more rigorous studies of comparative typology and stratigraphy, hand-in-hand with scientific dating methods, will ultimately provide the answer.


Having said that, and as most archaeologists accept the primacy of radiocarbon dating, an extensive series of fresh C14 results should by itself go a long way to resolving whether we are right in lowering the end of the Bronze Age by as much as 250 years. But, to achieve this kind of chronological 'fine tuning' - though revolutionary in archaeological terms - far more than the usual handful of determinations would be needed. An adequate test of CoD should involve a new suite of well-chosen samples, short-lived and from secure contexts, each divided into three parts and sent to as many laboratories. Radiocarbon labs are normally informed of the expected archaeological date of submitted material, but in this case 'blind testing' should be followed. The samples must range between a number of different sites, thus providing further control. Were such a programme to be undertaken, we are confident that the results will clearly be discrepant with the conventional chronology but in harmony with that in CoD.


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Aston, D., 1989. "Takeloth II - A King of the 'Twenty-Third Dynasty'", Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 75, pp. 139-53.
Barnes, W. M., 1991. Studies in the Chronology of the Divided Monarchy of Israel (Atlanta, Ga: Scholars Press).
Bikai, P. M., 1992. "The Phoenicians", in W. A. Ward & M. S. Joukowsky (eds), The Crisis Years: The 12th Century B.C.: From Beyond the Danube to the Tigris (Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt), pp. 132-41.
Brinkman, J. A., 1976. Materials and Studies for Kassite History (Chicago: Oriental Institute).
Brown, A., 1991. "News from the Time Bandits", The Independent on Sunday, 17 November, pp. 14-15.
Burkert, W., 1995. "Lydia Between East and West or How to Date the Trojan War: A Study in Herodotus", in J. B. Carter & S. P. Morris (eds), The Ages of Homer: A Tribute to Emily Townsend Vermeule (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press), pp. 139-48.
Clancey, F., 1999. "Shishak/Shoshenq's Travels", Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 86, pp. 3-23.
Depuydt, L., 1993. "The Date of Piye's Egyptian Campaign and the Chronology of the Twenty-Fifth Dynasty", Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 79, pp. 269-74.
Dodson, A., 1992. Review of 'Centuries of Darkness', Palestine Exploration Quarterly, 124, pp. 71-72.
Drews, R., 1993. The End of the Bronze Age (Princeton University Press).
Finkelstein, I., 1996. "The Archaeology of the United Monarchy: An Alternative View", Levant 28, pp. 177-87.
Forsberg, S., 1995. Near Eastern Destruction Datings as Sources for Greek and Near Eastern Iron Age Chronology. Archaeological and Historical Studies. The Cases of Samaria and Tarsus (696 B.C.) (Boreas 19 - Uppsala University Press).
Gasche, H., Armstrong, J. A., Cole, S. W. & Gurzadyan, V. G. 1998. Dating the Fall of Babylon (Ghent/Chicago: Mesopotamian History and Environment Memoirs).
Gerding, H., 1997/8. Review of 'Centuries of Darkness', Opuscula Atheniensia 22/23, pp. 157-60.
Gibson, S., 1992/3. Editorial Comment, Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society 12, p. 82.
Hagens, G., 1996. "A Critical Review of Dead-Reckoning from the 21st Dynasty", Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt 33, pp. 153-63.
Hagens, G., 1999. "An Ultra-Low Chronology of Iron Age Palestine", Antiquity 73, pp. 431-39.
Hankey, V. & Warren, P., 1989. Aegean Bronze Age Chronology (Bristol Classical Press).
Helck, W. 1989. Discussion. In P. Aström (ed.), High, Middle or Low? Acts of an International Colloquium on Absolute Chronology Held at the University of Gothenburg 1987, Vol. 3 (Gothenburg: Paul Aströms Förlag), pp. 40-43.
Hughes, J., 1990. Secrets of the Times: Myth and History in Biblical Chronology (Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Supplement Series 66 - Sheffield Academic Press).
James, P., 1991. Letter, reply to Kitchen, Times Literary Supplement, 12 July, p. 13.
James, P. J. & Kokkinos, N., 1992/3. Letter, reply to Mellaart 1991/2, Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society 12, p. 80.
James, P & Kokkinos, N., forthcoming. "The Low Chronology of the Tel Aviv School and its Ramifications".
James, P. & Morkot, R., 1991. Letter, reply to Kitchen, Times Literary Supplement, 7 June, p. 15.
James, P., Kokkinos, N., & Thorpe, I. J., 1998. "Mediterranean Chronology in Crisis", in M. S. Balmuth & R. H. Tykot (eds): Sardinian and Aegean Chronology: Proceedings of the International Colloquium 'Sardinian Stratigraphy and Mediterranean Chronology, Tufts University, March 17-19, 1995 (Studies in Sardinian Archaeology V - Oxford: Oxbow Books), pp. 29-43.
James, P. J., Thorpe, I. J., Kokkinos, N., Frankish, J., 1987. "Bronze to Iron Age Chronology in the Old World: Time for a Reassessment?", Studies in Ancient Chronology 1.
James, P. J., Thorpe, I. J., Kokkinos, N., Morkot, R., Frankish, J., 1992. "Centuries of Darkness: A Reply to Critics", Cambridge Archaeological Journal 2:1, pp. 127-30.
Kitchen, K., 1991a. "Blind Dating" (Review of 'Centuries of Darkness'), Times Literary Supplement, 17 May, p. 21.
Kitchen, K. 1991b. Letter [reply to James & Morkot], Times Literary Supplement, 26 June, p. 13.
Kitchen, K., 1991c. "Egyptian Chronology: Problem or Solution", Cambridge Archaeological Journal 1:2, pp. 235-39.
Kuniholm, P. 1998. "Aegean Dendrochronology Project: December 1998 Progress Report" Department of the History of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, N. Y. - circular).
Leighton, R., 1993. "Sicily During the Centuries of Darkness", Cambridge Archaeological Journal 3:2, pp. 271-76.
Manning, S. W., 1990. "The Eruption of Thera: Date and Implications", in D. A. Hardy & A. C., Renfrew (eds.), Thera and the Aegean World III. Vol. 3: Chronology (London: The Thera Foundation), pp. 29-40.
Manning, S. W., 1992. "Thera, Sulphur and Climatic Anomalies", Oxford Journal of Archaeology 11:3, pp. 245-53.
Manning, S. W., 1998. "Correction. New GISP2 Ice-Core Evidence Supports 17th Century BC Date for the Santorini (Minoan) Eruption: Response to Zielinski & Germani (1998)", Journal of Archaeological Science 25, pp. 1039-42.
Manning, S. W. & Weninger, B., 1992. "A Light in the Dark: Archaeological Wiggle Matching and the Absolute Chronology of the Close of the Aegean Late Bronze Age", Antiquity 66, pp. 636-63.
Mellaart, J., 1991/2. Review of 'Centuries of Darkness', Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society 11, pp. 35-39.
Millard, A., 1994. Review of Mellaart 1991/2, Archaeology and Epigraphy ??, p. 27.
Nibbi, A., 1975. The Sea Peoples and Egypt (Park Ridge, N. J.: Noyes Press).
Olsson, I. & El-Daousay, M. F. A. F., 1979. "Radiocarbon Variations Determined by Egyptian Samples from Dra Abu El-Naga", in R. Berger (ed.), Radiocarbon Dating: Proceedings of the Ninth International Conference, Los Angeles and La Jolla 1976 (Berkeley: University of California Press), pp. 601-12.
Ray, J., 1992. Review of 'Centuries of Darkness', Journal of Hellenic Studies 112, pp. 213-14.
Renfrew, C., 1996. "Kings, Tree-rings and the Old World", Nature 381, pp. 733-34.
Rose, L. 1994. "The Astronomical Evidence for Dating the End of the Middle Kingdom of Ancient Egypt to the Early Second Millennium: A Reassessment", Journal of Near Eastern Studies 53, pp. 237-61.
Snodgrass, A., 1991. "Collapses of Civilization" (Review of 'Centuries of Darkness'), London Review of Books, 25 July 25, pp. 18-19.
Yurco, F., 1993. "An Egyptological Response to 'Centuries of Darkness'", in A. Leonard (ed.), Centuries of Darkness: A Workshop Held at the 93rd Annual Meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America, Chicago, Illinois, USA, December 1991 (Colloquenda Mediterranea A/2 - Bradford: Loid Publishing), pp. 8-13.
Zielinski, G. A., et al., 1994. "Record of Volcanism Since 7000 B.C. from the GISP2 Greenland Ice Core and Implications for the Volcano-Climate System", Science 264 (13 May), pp. 948-52.
Zielinski, G. A. & Germani, M. S., 1998a. "New Ice Core Evidence Challenges a 1620s B.C. Age for the Santorini (Minoan) Eruption", Journal of Archaeological Science 25, pp. 279-89.
Zielinski, G. A. & Germani, M. S., 1998b. "Reply to: Correction. New GISP2 Ice-Core Evidence Supports 17th Century BC Date for the Santorini (Minoan) Eruption", Journal of Archaeological Science 25, pp. 1043-45.

YGB said...

http://www.answersingenesis.org/creation/v26/i4/pyramids.asp


Answers in Genesis: Upholding the Authority of the Bible from the Very First Verse

Upholding the Authority of the Bible from the Very First Verse

Creation Archive > Volume 26 Issue 4 > The pyramids of ancient Egypt


First published:
Creation 26(4):44–49
September 2004
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The pyramids of ancient Egypt
by David Down

The pyramids of Egypt are amazing structures and fascinate people today. There are about 100 altogether, some only symbolic and small. But there are 17 great pyramids, and the size and composition of these stagger the minds of those who visit them.

Critics use the pyramids to claim the Bible can’t be right. They say the pyramids were built long before Noah’s Flood, so the Flood must have only been a local affair, not global like the Bible says. Otherwise, the pyramids would be buried under lots of sediment.

Little is known about the Pharaoh Neferhotep I (left). Some biblical historians believe he may be the king who persecuted the Hebrews and under whose anti-Jewish reign the exodus occurred. His body and tomb have never been found.


The problem is with the way modern scholars have constructed their chronology of Egypt. Manetho, an Egyptian priest, left a list of kings and dynasties with their length of reigns, and although inscriptions on tombs and temples give chronological information, the issue is how to interpret this information. With so little to work from, archaeologists have had to make copious assumptions. And modern scholars have developed a long chronology consistent with the idea that humans have evolved over millions of years.

All this has turned these wonders of the ancient world into something of an enigma. If the first human societies evolved from primitive hunter-gatherers, how could ancient artisans have built such amazing structures? If they began without technology or social organization, why do these incredible feats of engineering burst upon the ancient world? Some have even wondered if the technology was supplied by aliens.

But the pyramids of Egypt are no enigma when we use biblical history as our starting point. According to the Bible, the first settlers of Egypt migrated from the Euphrates River, the site of the Tower of Babel, where the languages were confused after the Flood. The modern chronology of Egypt is far too long because dynasties have been placed sequentially, whereas they were, to a greater or lesser extent, contemporary. In other words, the reigns were concurrent with each other. Also, some dynasties may not have existed at all.

It seems the first settlers of Egypt were descended from Mizraim, the son of Ham (Genesis 10:6, 13). That’s why, at the first dynasty, there bursts on the scene a people of culture and skill who already possessed a form of writing.

For the first two dynasties, the earliest settlers did not build pyramids. Instead, kings were buried in chambers underneath mud-brick edifices, called mastabas. However, in the third dynasty, King Zoser had a vizier (chief minister) called Imhotep, who used rough blocks of stone, instead of bricks, to build the king’s mastaba. Then he added six stages making the famous Step Pyramid of Saqqara, on the west bank of the River Nile, 20 km (12 miles) south of modern Cairo. This is believed to be the first pyramid ever built in Egypt.

Seneferu and son
Pharaoh’s workforce
Recently, archaeologist Mark Lehner unearthed the village in which the pyramid builders lived. He found a bakery which he estimated could have provided daily bread for 20,000 labourers. He also found the cemetery in which workmen who died on the job were buried. Some of them even had fractured bones caused by heavy weights crushing them, but splints and skilful medical attention had enabled the bones to grow together again. In other words, there is plenty of evidence to prove that the pyramids were built by real people and not by men from Mars or astronauts from a lost civilization. It’s no surprise when you think from the Bible.


The greatest builder of pyramids ever known was Seneferu, the first king of the fourth dynasty. About 40 km (25 miles) south of Saqqara, at Meidum, he built the first pyramid with the true pyramid shape. Unfortunately, the outer stones have since collapsed, leaving only a step-pyramid core.

Seneferu built another pyramid closer to Saqqara, at Dahshur. It is called the Bent Pyramid because the lower half rises at an angle of 54 degrees, much steeper than the upper half, which is only 43 degrees. There are cracks in some of the lower stones, so maybe Seneferu’s builders feared that the pressure would be too great and completed it at a safer angle. This clear evidence of experimentation and failure is what we would expect from intelligent but flawed humans. It shows how absurd is the idea that super aliens built them.

Not satisfied with these huge monuments, Seneferu then built the Red Pyramid, also at Dahshur. This whole pyramid was at the lower angle of 43 degrees. Perhaps this was his final attempt to have a pyramid which would not collapse on him after he was buried!

Seneferu’s son Khufu (Greek historians called him Cheops) built the largest of all the pyramids, on the Giza Plateau, north of Saqqara and 15 km (10 miles) west of modern Cairo. It stands 146 metres (480 ft) high and is known as the Great Pyramid and employed a huge workforce (see box above, Pharaoh’s workforce).

Altogether it contains some three million huge blocks of stone, some of which weigh about 15 tons. The king’s tomb chamber is lined with huge granite blocks, transported down the Nile from Aswan, 1,000 km (600 miles) south of Cairo. They weigh up to 30 tons each, but are so perfectly squared that it is not possible to fit a postcard between them. How they attained such precision is a source of great admiration (see box How were the stones set in place?).

Dynasties of pyramids
Khufu’s son, Djedefre, carried on the family tradition, and built a pyramid at Abu Roash, a few kilometres northwest of Giza. It was either never finished or local stone robbers have removed most of the upper stones.

The next two kings of the dynasty, Khafre (Gk. Cephren) and Menkaure (Gk. Mycerinus), built their pyramids back on the Giza plateau. Khafre’s pyramid is nearly as high as Khufu’s, but has a steeper angle, so fewer stones were required.


Egyptian princess Sobekneferu. Is this the face of the woman who drew Moses out of the water because she had no child of her own? Some biblical scholars believe so.
This statue of King Zoser seems harsh because thieves have stolen the originally inlaid eyes and disfigured the face. Together with his architect Imhotep, he was responsible for the first pyramid.

Menkaure’s pyramid is only about a quarter the size of the earlier ones, but the lower layers were faced with granite blocks from Aswan. The outside face of some of these granite blocks was not completed, so archaeologists can see that the outside blocks were not cut exactly before being fitted in place. Rather, they were put in place and then masons started at the top and worked downwards, facing the outside blocks as they went.

The pyramids of the fifth and sixth dynasties were shoddy affairs, made of rubble but faced with nice white stones. Most of these stones have been stolen, leaving untidy heaps of debris. Unas, the last king of the fifth dynasty, introduced one new feature in this period. He had vertical lines of hieroglyphic texts inscribed in his tomb chambers. Previous pyramids had no original texts in them.

Dynasties seven to ten, the First Intermediate Period, has traditionally been considered a time of poverty and confusion. However, some scholars1 suggest that these dynasties did not exist, at least not as independent dynasties—another reason why the traditionally held chronology of Egypt needs shortening.

Mud-brick pyramids
The next dynasties comprise the so-called Middle Kingdom, a period of power and affluence. With the shortened chronology of Egypt advocated by some scholars,1 Joseph and then Jacob and his family may well have come to Egypt during the 12th dynasty, and Moses may have been born before the dynasty ended.

Most of the pyramids built in this dynasty were made of millions of large, sun-dried mud bricks. Then the structure was faced with smooth stones to give the appearance of a true stone pyramid. However, the stones have long since been stolen, leaving only a huge pile of mud bricks.

The Jewish historian Josephus wrote concerning the Israelite slaves in Egypt, ‘They [the Egyptian taskmasters] set them also to build pyramids.’2 Most archaeologists dismiss this statement on the grounds that all the pyramid building had ended before the Israelites arrived in Egypt.

The biblical records

The mud-brick pyramid of Amenemhet III. He may well be the pharaoh who reigned at the time of Moses’ internship in the king’s house.

Mud brick mixed with straw—perhaps like those the Israelites made (Exodus 1:14; 5:7–19).

However, by the shortened chronology the dates of the early dynasties would be reduced and the Israelites would have been in Egypt during the 12th dynasty. Also, that would be consistent with the type of pyramids evident in that period, i.e., mud-brick. According to Exodus 5:7, Pharaoh told the taskmasters, ‘You shall no longer give the people straw to make brick as before. Let them go and gather straw for themselves.’ It seems it is the archaeologists who have erred rather than Josephus.

There is also evidence that there were Asiatic (people from Syria or Palestine) slaves in Egypt during this dynasty. Dr Rosalie David, in her book The Pyramid Builders of Ancient Egypt, wrote, ‘It is apparent that the Asiatics were present in the town in some numbers, and this may have reflected the situation elsewhere in Egypt. … Their exact homeland in Syria or Palestine cannot be determined … the reason for their presence in Egypt remains unclear.’3 But it is not unclear when we start with the Bible.

Sir Flinders Petrie and Rosalie David could not understand the reason for their presence in Egypt because they clung to the traditional dates for the 12th dynasty of Egypt. These are from about 1990 to 1785 BC, whereas the biblical dates for the Israelite presence in Egypt would be from about 1660 to 1445 BC (1 Kings 6:1).

Significantly, these slaves suddenly disappeared, and traditional archaeologists do not know why. It is hardly normal for slaves to suddenly take off en masse, but Dr David wrote, ‘There are different opinions of how this first period of occupation at Kahun drew to a close. … The quantity, range and type of articles of everyday use which were left behind in the houses may indeed suggest that the departure was sudden and unpremeditated.’4

All these problems disappear when we start with the reliable history and chronology of the Bible.

The last great pyramid
Mummification
People often associate Egypt with mummies. The dryness of the arid climate preserved bodies buried in shallow sandy pits, as in the image below.

Egyptians intentionally mummified their dead early in their history. The process was an expensive one and usually only rulers or nobility could afford it.

The steps involved took about 70 days and required the removal of all moisture from the body so that the dried form would not easily decay. Later, after all the organs were removed, the body was subjected to various treatments and wrapped in linen bandages up to hundreds of metres long.


Like many pagan societies, the ancient Egyptians did not follow the true Creator God of the Bible. They believed that preserving their bodies as life-like as possible would somehow grant them eternal life.

Constructing their colossal monuments in stone was seen as building for eternity.


The last of the great pyramids of Egypt was built by Amenemhet III at Hawarra, 110 km (70 miles) south of modern Cairo. This Pharaoh could well have been the foster father of Moses.

His daughter, Sobekneferu, was the last ruler of this dynasty, and she had no son to succeed her. She might well have been the daughter of Pharaoh who ‘came down to wash herself at the river’ (Exodus 2:5). This was not because she had no bathroom at the royal palace. Instead, she would most likely have been there praying to the Nile fertility god, Hapi, for a baby. When the basket containing the baby Moses came to her attention she may well have considered it an answer to her prayer.

But when Moses was 40 years of age, he showed his sympathy for the Israelite slaves by killing one of their oppressors. When this came to the attention of Pharaoh, Moses had to flee to the distant land of Midian. So when Sobekneferu died, the dynasty came to an end. Then 40 years after Moses fled, God said to Moses, ‘all the men are dead who sought your life’ (Exodus 4:19). He returned to Egypt and confronted one of the pharaohs of the 13th dynasty, possibly Neferhotep I, whose mummy or burial place has never been found.

When we take the history and chronology of the Bible as written, we find that it makes eminent sense of the archaeological evidence. The pyramid builders were not people who had evolved from animals over millions of years. Rather, they were once part of an advanced civilization which built an imposing tower that soared over the plains of Babylon (Genesis 11), a people descended from a family that disembarked from the 15,000-ton ocean-going Ark (Genesis 6–8). We still do not know exactly how they accomplished all their engineering feats in ancient Egypt, but we can be sure that a people who were less than 30 generations from Adam had incredible intellectual skills.

How were the stones set in place?
There are several theories to explain how the blocks for the huge pyramids of Egypt were placed in position. There is no need for mysterious theories or space-age technology.

The stones could have been dragged up a ramp. However, such a ramp would need to extend for hundreds of metres and would contain an enormous amount of bricks or rubble. An alternative idea is that a spiral ramp was wrapped around the pyramid as it rose in height. Dr Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s leading archaeologist, concluded that it could have been a combination of the two.

Actually, the lower layers are no problem. The platform on which the pyramid is built was carved out of the bedrock and is below ground level, so blocks could have been cut from this basin. As the height rises, the blocks become smaller, so that it would not have been so difficult to raise them, though it would still have been a formidable task.

No qualified archaeologist accepts that the stones were ‘poured’ like concrete. The fact that in many places lime plaster has been used as mortar to join the stones together makes it obvious that they were quarried stones. Most of the stones have been hewn from a vast quarry about 500 metres (1,600 ft) from the pyramid. Square cuts in the sides of this quarry reveal where the blocks came from.

The early Egyptians did not use the wheel, which would have been useless on the sandy plateau on which the pyramids were built. Instead, they used sledges, and the route along which the blocks were dragged can be traced.

So, although the technology is perfectly understandable, we are still in awe at the skill the builders displayed in lifting these huge stones into place with such precise symmetry. Return to text.



David Down is an archaeologist who excavates regularly in Israel, working with the Israel Antiquities Authority. He has been involved in excavations at nine different sites. David is editor/publisher of the journal Diggings and the magazine Archaeological Diggings—in which there are frequent articles on the pyramids and the revised chronology. Return to top.

References
James, P., Centuries of Darkness: A Challenge to the Conventional Chronology of Old World Archaeology, Cape, London, 1991; also Down, D., Searching for Moses, TJ 15(1):53–57, 2001.
Josephus, F., Antiquities of the Jews, II-IX-1.
David, A.R., The Pyramid Builders of Ancient Egypt: A modern investigation of Pharaoh’s workforce, Guild Publishing, London, p. 191, 1986.
Ref. 3, p. 199.
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YGB said...

I have posted several different resources on the topic of Flood and Ancient Egyptian Chronology. Who is right? I do not know. But, starting from the a priori assumption that our mesorah is accurate, having consulted a frum Egyptologist, and having found several possibilities for reconciliation and resolution, I respectfully, but firmly, reject the challenge raised by Reb Saul.

"Mikeskeptic" raised a problem with Migdal Bavel. This is a classic example of how a little research goes an awful long way. Exactly thirty seconds of research yielded the Yerushalmi Megillah 1:9 which states that before Migdal Bavel everyone spoke all seventy languages - not just one language. Migdal Bavel robbed them of their mutual polyglot comprehension.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

>Anonymous said...

Saul - Let's clarify: I'm pretty sure that everyone who is bringing up Yestzias Mitzrayim is including the makos, kriyas yam suf (including the destruction of Pharaoh's army, etc). One would think the massive destruction would be cited elsewhere. Do you accept Yetzias Mitrayim as taught by our Torah?<

As I said, the absence of corroborating evidence is completely different from the presence of overwhelming evidence that an event did not occur.

>As for your repeated reference to R Kaplan's story about a guy from TV who denied travel outside the atmosphere based on some theory he'd developed - of course he was wrong, but nobody here is making that argument - that is an anecdote with no application to any of the current arguments or issues. In this argument we are focused on the existence of certain events reported by Torah and Mesorah. You deny them because you prefer other sources.<

It is relevant here. Here, people are convinced that the proper interpretation of the story of the mabul is a literal one, just as the fellow in the story had an interpretation based on seforim that presumably had their own tradition. In both cases, overwhelming evidence establishes that the interpretation is incorrect. In the anecdote, R. Kaplan denied that rockets would burn up, and he did this because he preferred other sources.

>Scientifically, I can demonstrate to you that it is impossible for any liquid to expand when freezing - but, of course, one does - water. So what does that mean? It means that even without understanding things, we are forced to accept certain realities. Perhaps one day science will provide an explanation, but until then, it is foolishness to deny that water expands.<

No it means that it is the crystalline structure of ice that explains the expansion.

You say that “that even without understanding things, we are forced to accept certain realities.” Realities, yes. Beliefs, no. We are not forced to accept them. But even without understanding why the Torah tells us the story of the mabul, we are forced to accept certain REALITIES—it did not, as literally written, occur. It is a moshol.

>A believer owes no less credence to his beliefs.<

Belief is a hefker velt. Anyone can believe in any manner of nonsense. Check out Mormonism. I would argue that a Mormon owes no credence to his beliefs. Beliefs cannot be totally irrational and contrary to overwhelming evidence.

>A nonbeliever - well a nonbeliever should at least accept his own reality and not protest and act injured when believers point out his lack of faith. You are a nonbeliever. Others here are believers. Therein lies the divide. Why are you having such a hard time admitting that - to yourself?<

I admit that I’m a nonbeliever in a literal mabul. That does not make me a nonbeliever in Yahadus. In fact, I believe that the others are distorting the emes and therefore distorting the Torah’s proper interpretation.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

Dear Rabbi Bechhofer:

I admire your continued research, and I will respond when I have a chance to read carefully the material you posted. I will note, however, that the Centuries of Darkness material by James was addressed by me. He was the one I mentioned who would take 250 years off the standard chronology, which would result in a starting date for Egypt of c. 2750 BCE, which would leave intact all the questions I raised.

I will comment on your reply to Mike:

>"Mikeskeptic" raised a problem with Migdal Bavel. This is a classic example of how a little research goes an awful long way. Exactly thirty seconds of research yielded the Yerushalmi Megillah 1:9 which states that before Migdal Bavel everyone spoke all seventy languages - not just one language. Migdal Bavel robbed them of their mutual polyglot comprehension.<

1. Mike’s point was that b’nei Noach could not disperse to Egypt and restart the Egyptian language. Your response does not address this. The Mitzri’im who came from Bavel were not descendents of the people who had died in Egypt in the flood, and would not have spoken their language.

2. The people at Bavel were laborers working in construction. How many college professors do you know who can speak 70 languages? Do you believe EVERYTHING you read?

3. Has it ever occurred to you that the Gemara had a reason why it went against what the Torah says—that the entire world was of ONE language—and changed it to seventy? Is it possible that the Tannaim saw evidence suggesting that the different languages were very ancient and did not all originate in 1765 BCE? The library at Alexandria had copies of most important extant texts. We have inscriptions in museums today that are in different languages, and that predate 1765 BCE. The Tannaim may have felt they had to reinterpret the Torah’s clear language in light of contrary evidence. Exactly what you are resisting.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

I asked you twice for your opinion--which I value--on two important questions I raised. I believe you really haven't given a complete response. Could you give your sincere views?:

1. >I think it is wrong to suppress emes, distort the true meaning of the Torah and alienate those who have some education merely in order to protect ignorant people from knowledge of the emes. In a way, it's a slap in Hashem's face--like saying He did a poor job in creation and failed to endow man with sufficient seichel to handle emes, and that man needs protection from the emes.<

Do you agree or disagree with the last sentence? It is quite relevant to the recent ban on R. Slifkin's works.

2. >To Anonymous:

Your calling me a kofer merits further response. The topic of Reb Aaron's blog related to the integrity of the mesorah. It is actually responses like yours that create the greatest despair in me about the integrity of the mesorah.

We believe in an unbroken chain of tradition from Sinai. People would not accept a story (matan Torah) unless they knew, from their own sources, that it was true. But today, anyone who expresses any doubt is attacked as a kofer. Books are banned, if not burned. People potentially may be placed in cherem. The consequences of expressing doubt can be social ostracism, loss of shidduchim, loss of parnassa, etc. Do you think that these consequences don't cause many people to "stay in line?” Of course they do. That is their goal and that is their effect.

The problem with this system, which suppresses the expression of doubt, is that it completely sabotages the reliability of our mesorah. Would my ancestor have accepted everything in the mesorah if he had any doubt about it? You bet he would, if he wanted to keep his friends, marry off his children and keep his business customers. You cannot have it both ways. If you do not allow free expression of doubts without fear of reprisal, then you can never know whether people really accept the mesorah, or are just intimidated into remaining silent and going along with the crowd.<

Do you agree that a policy of suppression or repression of people's publicly raising doubts undermines confidence in the reliability of our mesorah, and that it is better to encourage open discussion without censorship or ostracism?

And, again, that Hashem did a competent job of creating beings who are capable of hearing different viewpoints, exercising their bechira and making correct choices, and who don't need rabbanim to monitor what they can read or hear?

These are critical questions to me, and I really would appreciate thorough answers. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Saul writes:

"Would my ancestor have accepted everything in the mesorah if he had any doubt about it? You bet he would, if he wanted to keep his friends, marry off his children and keep his business customers. You cannot have it both ways. If you do not allow free expression of doubts without fear of reprisal, then you can never know whether people really accept the mesorah, or are just intimidated into remaining silent and going along with the crowd."

Actually, from a purely public policy perspective (i.e., the perspective I would want and expect the manhigei hador to adopt), you've just articulated a very persuasive argument that fear and intimidation are outstanding tools for the preservation of mesorah as normative. As for whether you harbor silent doubts - that's between you and G-d - once you broadcast them, it also is between you and other Jews as individuals and certainly between you and the community. You should expect the community's leaders to respond accordingly.

"Do you agree that a policy of suppression or repression of people's publicly raising doubts undermines confidence in the reliability of our mesorah, and that it is better to encourage open discussion without censorship or ostracism?"

No - I do not agree. I believe that (a) believers should be permitted to maintain themselves and their families in a society of like-minded individuals and (b) that non-believers in our times should not be oppressed because they fall under the geder of tinok shenishba (meaning that in other places and at other times, it may be proper for the community to visit consequences on heretics).

"And, again, that Hashem did a competent job of creating beings who are capable of hearing different viewpoints, exercising their bechira and making correct choices, and who don't need rabbanim to monitor what they can read or hear?"

Hashem certainly made beings capable of making either correct or incorrect choices and, as part of His covenant with a specific group of those beings, directed them to accept the authority of rabbanim to the exent asserted by those rabbanim, which, since time immemorial, has included setting parameters on acceptable outside influences.

Set me straight if I misunderstand, but it appears to me that what underlies your approach is the fallacy that the goal somehow is for you (indeed, for all Jews) to assess the mesorah and accept whatever you find reasonable. You seem to operate under the delusion that the"reliability" of the mesorah is a matter for individual scrutiny and that its integrity depends on its satisfaction of your analysis. In fact, that stands reality on its head: your job - if you don't want to be a kofer, of course - is to accept and believe in the perfection and integrity of our mesorah. That is the starting point, not the goal. From there, you should feel free to explore, but as long as you do so while accepting the perfection of our mesorah.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

To Anonymous:

Thank you, but I believe you've COMPLETELY missed the point of my questions.

Please reread them, try to figure out what I see as problematic, and then respond.

Rabbi Bechhofer?

Kol tuv,
Saul

Anonymous said...

Saul, I reread them three times. I don't think I missed too much - what do you think I am missing (indeed - COMPLETELY missing)?

Saul Shajnfeld said...

My question was whether social stigma undermines the reliability of the mesorah. How have you remotely responded?

Also, if Hashem did a competent job, why does He need monitors to prevent people from exercising INFORMED bechirah?

You are being evasive. Reread again. Carefully.

Anonymous said...

I responded by arguing that social stigma is a useful tool for preserving mesorah. And, as I expand in the last part of my answer, "reliability" of the mesorah is a matter of faith - and your mistake is to think that it is a matter open for debate or scrutiny.

Those unable to accept the truth of the mesorah are not believers; those who accept its truth are believers.

The mesorah is true whether you or anyone else accepts it - that is pshat in it being one of the ikrei emonah. Prove-it-to-me "rationalists" love to invoke the Rambam - fine - understand that according even to the Rambam, one who suggests that the rabbanim have any agenda other than emes (in the substance of the mesorah, or in any measures taken by them to preserve its status as normative and binding), or that the mesorah we have from them is anything but emes, is a kofer. You may try to resolve an apparent contradiction between mesorah and any other source of information, but it always begins and ends from the absolute conviction that mesorah is emes. (And folding and spindling the mesorah to fit some contemporary theory is not any better than just rejecting the mesorah outright.)

So, in case it is not absolutely clear, Saul, NO: the reliability of the mesorah is an "ani maamin" and not in any way shape or form vitiated or eroded by social stigma, etc., including any of the factors you have mentioned to date.

Now, have I responded sufficiently clearly?

Anonymous said...

Oh - I forgot this part:

"Also, if Hashem did a competent job, why does He need monitors to prevent people from exercising INFORMED bechirah?"

That's just absurd - it's like: "If Hashem did a competent job, why did Odom sin?" Why does anyone sin? Why does anyone stray? Why aren't any and all theories concocted by people - especially well-intentioned and earnest people equally valid and true?

That is the whole point of bechirah!

You also delude yourself by thinking that there is a concept of "informed" bechirah, by which you mean, critical judgments of the mesorah made by people who presume outside sources of information to be superior to our mesorah - but that analysis already departs from the ikar of emonoh that accepts a priori the truth of the mesorah.

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

R' Bechhofer, Mr. Shajnfeld, Anonymous, et al:

Sorry I'm joining this discussion late, without having read through all the comments closely, but from skimming i've seen a lot of references to The Mesorah.

What is The Mesorah? Is it a monolithic, take-it-or-leave-it body of unified revelation? I have only rarely seen an opinion that invested every single statement in the wide body of tradition that we call Torah with an identical essentialist significance.

The medieval commentators felt free to reject Hhazal's drashic interpretations in favor of the pshat interpretations that made more sense to them, while still upholding Hhazal's authority as the transmitters and interpreters of the Halakhic system.

Later halakhic decisors set aside an entire body of Talmudic rulings on a topic, medical remedies.

I'm sure there are other examples of distinctions between different parts or types of mesora, but it's getting late and i can't think of any more at the moment.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

Anonymous said:

> Now, have I responded sufficiently clearly?<

Unfortunately you have not. We have a body of tradition we call the mesorah. We do not believe in its truth just because it exists or just because we have some “spark”. Jews who get no Jewish education have no emunah in it. All who do believe in it have extensive training and indoctrination. Do you think emunah in the mesorah just happens? A person will no have emunah in the mesorah unless he is trained. Neither will a Moslem have emunah in his “mesorah” unless he is trained. Nor a X-tian, Mormon, etc. Nor will any of these people have emunah in the mesorah of any other religion unless they are trained in it.

There is no emunah without training, preferably intensive and from an early age. This is obvious.

As is evident from the fact that those who do get such training—whether Jewish, Moslem, X-tian or whatever—often end up having such emunah in their respective religions, such training, and its effect—emunah—is no assurance of that mesorah’s being the emes. That is why an intelligent person seeks to determine the accuracy of his mesorah.

My point, which you do not understand, let alone address, is that suppression of doubt allows false traditions to go unquestioned at times. This may result in a false tradition erroneously being put forth as being true on the basis that our predecessors would not have accepted it if it were not clearly true in their eyes, an assumption that—precisely because of such suppression—may well be incorrect.

I appreciate your trying to answer, but you simply do not understand what I am saying, and that is because you erroneously think that just because you happened to be trained in Yahadus it must be correct (an “ikkar”).

Could we wait and see if R. Bechhofer will respond? I’m hoping he will have a better understanding of the question.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

>Anonymous said...
I think we should stop labeling Saul a heretic. It's unfair and has nothing to do with his arguments. Saul is a great Jew who is striving for the truth. Maybe his Emunah is not as strong as yours, but that is no reason to name call.<

>Anonymous said...
Saul never said he denies miracles. He just said he doesn't believe Hashem would require us to abandon our logic in order to accept what the Torah says. It can be logical to believe miracles happened.<

Thank you!

YGB said...

From one of my published essays:

I once gave a Hashkofo Shiur, in which I presented all sides of the issue, even those that I was going to ultimately reject. Someone asked me: Why present positions that are against Mesorah even as an intellectual Hava Amina (premise)? Suffice it to say that the Gedolim oppose position X!


At first glance, this approach is tantalizingly appealing. It certainly saves significant mental exertion, which may then be devoted to mego, rov and chazoko [classic Talmudic concepts]. Furthermore, there is a strong emotional appeal in the simple citation of "Ru'ach Yisroel Sabbah." Much literature in our circles is based on this approach. This apparent short cut, however, is not without potential pitfalls:


Declarative statements remain extrinsic. It is only by inculcating the quest for truth and meaning; by acquiring and imparting both the truth and its basis; by training ourselves and others to rigorously assess, analyze and critique, by thinking, that we internalize the yetzer ha'tov of emes, and we "mohn" (demand) of ourselves. It is only when we ourselves make demands of ourselves that they are truly inescapable. We (the congregation) will only change when we ourselves demand it of ourselves, not when the Rav demands it from us. (17)


This is not to say that that there is no room for rote education. As Rabbi Dessler notes (Michtav Me'Eliyahu vol. 3, pp. 131-133), there is much that one can learn "by osmosis" - by absorbing values from the right environment and contact with the right people. Indeed, in the right environment, one can reach levels of outstanding piety. (18) But, says Rabbi Dessler, one's true level is what he has accomplished on the basis of habituation, but what he has accomplished in his personal battle with the unique yetzer ho'ra that Hashem has imparted to him. (19)


The Maharal, Be'er Ha'Golah, end of Be'er 7 says it best. It is only when we fully explore and comprehend the truth that we will be able to best our enemy (he was talking about an external one, but in our discussion we are dealing with our internal adversary):


When an individual does not intend to scoff - rather only to state his belief - even if these positions stand against your belief and system, don't say to him: "Don't talk, seal your mouth!" For then the system will not be clarified. On the contrary, in such matters we should say: "Speak as much as you want, all that you want to say, so that you will not be able to say that were you granted permission to expand you would have spoken further [and convinced me with your beliefs]." If you do close his mouth and prevent him from speaking, that points toward a weakness in the system. This [approach] is the converse of the general impression, which is that it is not permitted to discuss the system, and that thus the system is strengthened. On the contrary! That approach undermines the system!... Thus [through the former
approach] a person comes to the inner truth of matters... For, any hero that competes with another to demonstrate his might wants very much that his opponent muster as much strength as possible - then, if the hero overcomes his opponent, he proves that he is the mightier hero. What might, however, does the hero display if his opponent is not permitted to stand strong and wage war against him?... (20)


It is worthwhile to recall here Reb Chaim Volozhiner's (21) explanation of "Hevei mis'avek b'afar ragleihem" (literally translated as: "Sit in the dust at the feet [of the Sages]"). He explains misavek, based on Yaakov Avinu's encounter with Eisav's malach, as connoting wrestling: You must wrestle (intellectually) with your Rebbe (with respect, of course - "at his feet") - ask questions, demand answers - not to test the Rebbe, Rav,, or teacher, but to get your own mind in gear so you can make your own cheshbon ha'nefesh (reckoning) and be your own conscience:"She'yisbarer v'yisames etzel ho'Odom mah chovoso b'olamo" - "That is should be clarified and become true to a person what his task is in his world." (Hakdomo to the Mesillas Yesharim).

YGB said...

I think we are reaching the point of diminishing returns. To Reb Saul, I intended in my previous comment to clarify that it is good to challenge the mesorah - but, unlike Reb Saul, I find that the mesorah holds it own. If Reb Saul has come to a different conclusion, then, inevitably, he must pursue the logic of his conclusion...

As to Reb Steg's he'arah: To be sure, not all of Chazal can properly be termed "*T*he [capital T] Mesorah," but a point as germane as the occurence of the Mabul is certainly a part of "*T*he Mesorah," Moreover, as you note, if anything, Rishonim are more prone to accept peshutei ha'mikra'os than Chazal, not less so. So, if anything, they would
take the Mabul more literally!

Saul Shajnfeld said...

To Rabbi Bechhofer:

I greatly appreciate your thoughtful and more complete response to my two important questions. Since they were excerpts from a shiur you gave, rather than point-by-point responses to my questions, I will take the liberty of applying them to my questions to try and infer specific answers. If I do so incorrectly, or overstate what you are saying, please correct me.

1. I had said:

>I think it is wrong to suppress emes, distort the true meaning of the Torah and alienate those who have some education merely in order to protect ignorant people from knowledge of the emes. In a way, it's a slap in Hashem's face--like saying He did a poor job in creation and failed to endow man with sufficient seichel to handle emes, and that man needs protection from the emes.<

>Hashem did a competent job of creating beings who are capable of hearing different viewpoints, exercising their bechira and making correct choices, and who don't need rabbanim to monitor what they can read or hear.<

Excerpts from your response:

>It is only by inculcating the quest for truth and meaning; by acquiring and imparting both the truth and its basis; by training ourselves and others to rigorously assess, analyze and critique, by thinking, that we internalize the yetzer ha'tov of emes, and we "mohn" (demand) of ourselves. It is only when we ourselves make demands of ourselves that they are truly inescapable. We (the congregation) will only change when we ourselves demand it of ourselves, not when the Rav demands it from us.<

>The Maharal, Be'er Ha'Golah, end of Be'er 7 says it best. It is only when we fully explore and comprehend the truth that we will be able to best our enemy (he was talking about an external one, but in our discussion we are dealing with our internal adversary):

>When an individual does not intend to scoff - rather only to state his belief - even if these positions stand against your belief and system, don't say to him: "Don't talk, seal your mouth!" For then the system will not be clarified. On the contrary, in such matters we should say: "Speak as much as you want, all that you want to say, so that you will not be able to say that were you granted permission to expand you would have spoken further [and convinced me with your beliefs]." If you do close his mouth and prevent him from speaking, that points toward a weakness in the system. This [approach] is the converse of the general impression, which is that it is not permitted to discuss the system, and that thus the system is strengthened. On the contrary! That approach undermines the system!... Thus [through the former
approach] a person comes to the inner truth of matters... For, any hero that competes with another to demonstrate his might wants very much that his opponent muster as much strength as possible - then, if the hero overcomes his opponent, he proves that he is the mightier hero. What might, however, does the hero display if his opponent is not permitted to stand strong and wage war against him?<

I take it from your responses that you believe that people should be permitted to read books that question aspects of the mesorah, that Hashem endowed man with sufficient seichel to deal with such ideas, and that examination of contrary views will strengthen emunah and should not be suppressed. And, that suppression of such discussions is wrongheaded and counterproductive.

I take it then that when someone like Rabbi Slifkin—who is a ben Torah and not a “scoffer” and who searches for the emes in an intellectually honest manner—offers views based on the opinions of Torah giants in an attempt to resolve difficult questions, you feel that the proper response is to engage him in discussion and try to best him, rather than to say to him "Don't talk, seal your mouth!", which only “points toward a weakness in the system” and “undermines the system.”

This seems to me to follow from what you've said. Have I explained your views accurately?


2. I had said:

>We believe in an unbroken chain of tradition from Sinai. People would not accept a story (matan Torah) unless they knew, from their own sources, that it was true. But today, anyone who expresses any doubt is attacked as a kofer. Books are banned, if not burned. People potentially may be placed in cherem. The consequences of expressing doubt can be social ostracism, loss of shidduchim, loss of parnassa, etc. Do you think that these consequences don't cause many people to "stay in line?” Of course they do. That is their goal and that is their effect.

>The problem with this system, which suppresses the expression of doubt, is that it completely sabotages the reliability of our mesorah. Would my ancestor have accepted everything in the mesorah if he had any doubt about it? You bet he would, if he wanted to keep his friends, marry off his children and keep his business customers. You cannot have it both ways. If you do not allow free expression of doubts without fear of reprisal, then you can never know whether people really accept the mesorah, or are just intimidated into remaining silent and going along with the crowd.

>Do you agree that a policy of suppression or repression of people's publicly raising doubts undermines confidence in the reliability of our mesorah, and that it is better to encourage open discussion without censorship or ostracism?<

Excerpts from your response:

> It is only by inculcating the quest for truth and meaning; by acquiring and imparting both the truth and its basis; by training ourselves and others to rigorously assess, analyze and critique, by thinking, that we internalize the yetzer ha'tov of emes, and we "mohn" (demand) of ourselves. It is only when we ourselves make demands of ourselves that they are truly inescapable. We (the congregation) will only change when we ourselves demand it of ourselves, not when the Rav demands it from us.

>It is only by inculcating the quest for truth and meaning; by acquiring and imparting both the truth and its basis; by training ourselves and others to rigorously assess, analyze and critique, by thinking, that we internalize the yetzer ha'tov of emes, and we "mohn" (demand) of ourselves. It is only when we ourselves make demands of ourselves that they are truly inescapable. We (the congregation) will only change when we ourselves demand it of ourselves, not when the Rav demands it from us.

> The Maharal, Be'er Ha'Golah, end of Be'er 7 says it best. It is only when we fully explore and comprehend the truth that we will be able to best our enemy (he was talking about an external one, but in our discussion we are dealing with our internal adversary):

>When an individual does not intend to scoff - rather only to state his belief - even if these positions stand against your belief and system, don't say to him: "Don't talk, seal your mouth!" For then the system will not be clarified. On the contrary, in such matters we should say: "Speak as much as you want, all that you want to say, so that you will not be able to say that were you granted permission to expand you would have spoken further [and convinced me with your beliefs]." If you do close his mouth and prevent him from speaking, that points toward a weakness in the system. . . . That approach undermines the system!... <

To return to my example, if, say, 2,500 years ago, someone’s son Yossie came home with a new detail he learned from his rebbe about the miracle of matan Torah, which his father had never heard before—and the result of Yossie’s father’s marching on down to the yeshiva and complaining about what they were filling his son’s head with would be that Yossie and his father would be ostracized for disagreeing—then Yossie’s father might take the expedient way out and say to himself, “well, the rebbe may have a more detailed mesorah than I do. Anyway, it will just make waves if I complain, Yossie will be rejected by his friends and I may be perceived as a doubter, be shunned and lose my parnassa, so it would be wise just to let it pass.”

I take it from your response that you would agree that potential ostracism, and its invocation of such a response in Yossie’s father, would, in your words, “point toward a weakness in the system” and would “undermine the system.”

You have admitted, though, that “the general impression . . . is that it is not permitted to discuss the system, and that thus the system is strengthened,” and on a similar question you have stated that “Much literature in our circles is based on this approach.” Is it fair to say, then, that you would agree that if the response by our leaders or by k’lal Yisroel, say, 2,500 years ago, to someone like Yossie’s father openly questioning an element of the story of matan Torah that he had not heard from his own father or rebbe would have followed “the general impression” that it is not permitted to openly question such things, then that suppression would “undermine the system”?

If it were true back then, as it is true today, that “the general impression . . . is that it is not permitted to discuss the system,” and that “Much literature in our circles is based on this approach,” would this not, as I have said, totally undermine the current reliability of our mesorah, much of which thus may have been accepted over time as the result of fear of ostracism? The fact that, today, “the general impression . . . is that it is not permitted to discuss the system,” and that “Much literature in our circles is based on this approach”, certainly must make us suspect that the same attitudes may have prevailed back then. This totally undermines the reliability of the mesorah.

Is it fair to say, then, that you agree with me? And if so, how can we rely on our mesorah, which has been totally undermined by the wrongheaded—but widespread—belief that suppression of doubt instead strengthens emunah in the mesorah?

YGB said...

Saul Shajnfeld wrote:

> I take it from your responses that you believe that people should be permitted to read books that question aspects of the mesorah, that Hashem endowed man with sufficient seichel to deal with such ideas, and that examination of contrary views will strengthen emunah and should not be suppressed. And, that suppression of such discussions is wrongheaded and counterproductive.
>
> I take it then that when someone like Rabbi Slifkin—who is a ben Torah and not a “scoffer” and who searches for the emes in an intellectually honest manner—offers views based on the opinions of Torah giants in an attempt to resolve difficult questions, you feel that the proper response is to engage him in discussion and try to best him, rather than to say to him "Don't talk, seal your mouth!", which only “points toward a weakness in the system” and “undermines the system.”
>
> This seems to me to follow from what you've said. Have I explained your views accurately?


Not having read R' Slifkin's books, I cannot comment on their veracity. However, the fact that there are R' Aryeh Kaplan books and Challenge out there for years v'ein potzeh peh u'metzaftzef, while R' Slifkin's books are so vehemently repudiated does bear analysis. What I can comment upon, is my personal experience of R' Slifkin's views in sometimes heated exchanges on Avodah. In my opinion, he is too cavalier in his attitude towards Chazal, and that he starts from an a priori assumption that Chazal often knew not of that which they spoke.

> If it were true back then, as it is true today, that “the general impression . . . is that it is not permitted to discuss the system,” and that “Much literature in our circles is based on this approach,” would this not, as I have said, totally undermine the current reliability of our mesorah, much of which thus may have been accepted over time as the result of fear of ostracism? The fact that, today, “the general impression . . . is that it is not permitted to discuss the system,” and that “Much literature in our circles is based on this approach”, certainly must make us suspect that the same attitudes may have prevailed back then. This totally undermines the reliability of the mesorah.
>
> Is it fair to say, then, that you agree with me? And if so, how can we rely on our mesorah, which has been totally undermined by the wrongheaded—but widespread—belief that suppression of doubt instead strengthens emunah in the mesorah?
>
> --
> Posted by Saul Shajnfeld to YGB - יג"ב at 1/02/2006 04:09:34 PM


Most emphatically not. The reality is that there have been many deviations from the mesorah over the course of the millenia. Idolators, Samaritans, Hellenists, Heretics, Sadducees, Christians and Karaites - not to mention converts (out) and just plain assimilationists. Yet, until the early 19th century there was universal acceptance of Torah she'b'Ksav - among all those groups. The mesorah of Mattan Torah and of the literalness of the Torah's description of events as actual and factual was a universal given. These groups were not shy of ostracism - all of them simply opted out - but they were shy of renouncing the mesorah of Ma'amad Har Sinai and the World According to the Torah. Why - ha'davar pashut: The mesorah is real and beyond rejection.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

Let me try once more, as I don’t think you “get” what I am asking.

I SAID:

>To return to my example, if, say, 2,500 years ago, someone’s son Yossie came home with a new detail he learned from his rebbe about the miracle of matan Torah, which his father had never heard before—and the result of Yossie’s father’s marching on down to the yeshiva and complaining about what they were filling his son’s head with would be that Yossie and his father would be ostracized for disagreeing—then Yossie’s father might take the expedient way out and say to himself, “well, the rebbe may have a more detailed mesorah than I do. Anyway, it will just make waves if I complain, Yossie will be rejected by his friends and I may be perceived as a doubter, be shunned and lose my parnassa, so it would be wise just to let it pass.”

>I take it from your response that you would agree that potential ostracism, and its invocation of such a response in Yossie’s father, would, in your words, “point toward a weakness in the system” and would “undermine the system.”

>You have admitted, though, that “the general impression . . . is that it is not permitted to discuss the system, and that thus the system is strengthened,” and on a similar question you have stated that “Much literature in our circles is based on this approach.” Is it fair to say, then, that you would agree that if the response by our leaders or by k’lal Yisroel, say, 2,500 years ago, to someone like Yossie’s father openly questioning an element of the story of matan Torah that he had not heard from his own father or rebbe would have followed “the general impression” that it is not permitted to openly question such things, then that suppression would “undermine the system”?

>If it were true back then, as it is true today, that “the general impression . . . is that it is not permitted to discuss the system,” and that “Much literature in our circles is based on this approach,” would this not, as I have said, totally undermine the current reliability of our mesorah, much of which thus may have been accepted over time as the result of fear of ostracism? The fact that, today, “the general impression . . . is that it is not permitted to discuss the system,” and that “Much literature in our circles is based on this approach”, certainly must make us suspect that the same attitudes may have prevailed back then. This totally undermines the reliability of the mesorah.

>Is it fair to say, then, that you agree with me? And if so, how can we rely on our mesorah, which has been totally undermined by the wrongheaded—but widespread—belief that suppression of doubt instead strengthens emunah in the mesorah?<

YOUR RESPONSE:

>Most emphatically not. The reality is that there have been many deviations from the mesorah over the course of the millenia. Idolators, Samaritans, Hellenists, Heretics, Sadducees, Christians and Karaites - not to mention converts (out) and just plain assimilationists. Yet, until the early 19th century there was universal acceptance of Torah she'b'Ksav - among all those groups. The mesorah of Mattan Torah and of the literalness of the Torah's description of events as actual and factual was a universal given. These groups were not shy of ostracism - all of them simply opted out - but they were shy of renouncing the mesorah of Ma'amad Har Sinai and the World According to the Torah. Why - ha'davar pashut: The mesorah is real and beyond rejection.<

PERHAPS I DIDN’T STATE MY QUESTION CLEARLY ENOUGH.

Yes, there have been instances of groups rejecting things en masse. But we also know—from human nature, from the fact that gedolim employ bans and cherems, and chareidi society employs fear of ostracism, loss of friends, business and shidduchim—that many people with doubts will keep them to themselves. So if the story of matan Torah, as some allege, was a gradually-developing and expanding story based on only a kernel of reality, and if people kept hearing details that went beyond what they had learned from their parents, would there not be many who would go along out of fear of ostracism, for the sake of their social status, shidduchim, parnassa, etc., just as we see these deterrents being used successfully today in chareidi circles?

It is hard to argue that this could not have happened. And if it did happen—and its successful use for hundreds of years attests to its effectiveness, at least with a segment of the population—then the mesorah that developed as to the accuracy and historicity of the story of matan Torah would be spurious.

You seem to think I am arguing that such suppressive pressures ALWAYS work, and you cite me examples of Samaritans, Sadducees, Karaites, etc. What I am saying, rather, is that they SOMETIMES work, and one time is one time too many. We see that chareidi society has successfully employed suppression, banning, censorship, ostracism and repression to keep people “on the derech,” and that such methods have been deemed acceptable and appropriate by gedolim. And while it may not work with everyone, it is successful with many, or it would not be employed with the approval of gedolim.

If this is considered by Torah leaders to be an acceptable strategy to keep people “on the derech,” how, then, can we ever know that such methods weren’t employed 3,000 years ago, or 2,500 years ago, and that they didn’t in fact work among a core of people, and that this core is not the reason why we have any mesorah at all today?

Stated differently, doesn’t the fact that ostracism of doubters has been an accepted technique in Judaism totally undermine the reliability of the mesorah, as it raises the possibility that this technique may be responsible for the very existence of the mesorah? If this in fact occurred, once such a mesorah—established with the help of suppressive methods—became established, it would be taken as truth by later generations, who were not present to see the doubts and their suppression when they occurred.

How do you know this didn’t happen, when we see the same methods being used today?

Rabbi Bechhofer: you are a very intelligent man. If you focus carefully on my question I believe you will see what is troubling me—viz., that the acceptability in Yahadus of the technique of exerting social pressures on doubters undermines the reliability of the mesorah. You can choose to ignore my point, or to go off on a tangent, but I believe my question is both clear and an important one, and that it deserves a thoughtful answer.

YGB said...

Rabbi Bechhofer: you are a very intelligent man. If you focus carefully on my question I believe you will see what is troubling me—viz., that the acceptability in Yahadus of the technique of exerting social pressures on doubters undermines the reliability of the mesorah. You can choose to ignore my point, or to go off on a tangent, but I believe my question is both clear and an important one, and that it deserves a thoughtful answer.

I think the phenomenon is far less widespread than need raise alarm - i.e., the threshold at which the mesorah is called into doubt is far beyond the reach of any current issues.

There are several reasons for this, and this list is by no means exhaustive:

1. Charamim and bans are almost always ineffectual (Exhibit A: Chassidus).

2. Almost identical works have not been banned.

3. Among the cognoscenti - yes, even the Charedi cognoscenti - the quest for truth always reigns.

4. Groups that do not subscribe to the charamim or bans abound(present case in point is strong evidence to that effect).

5. Irreligious splinter groups never tire of stoking the fires, keeping diversity alive in any event.

6. And, of course, anyone who has married off their kids is always free to do and think as they please. :-)

Saul Shajnfeld said...

Disappointingly, you have not done justice to my question, but have instead made light of it.

I am not talking merely about currect issues. The current bans are mere examples of a widespread and longstanding phenomenon, one that undermines the mesorah. You clearly are not interested in addressing this question.

Are chareidim incapable of intellectual honesty? Is it part of the training? It is becoming increasingly clear that it is a waste of time asking you questions. Your response is evasive and disgraceful.

You have, in fact, left many of my questions unanswered. (Construction workers knowing 70 languages? Is this some kind of joke?) You are making a very poor impression.

I will, however, respond shortly to your last post on the mabul, but only so that your incorrect answers not be allowed to stand unchallenged. You clearly are not interested in emes.

YGB said...

Disappointingly, you have not done justice to my question, but have instead made light of it.

I believe I have done justice to your question. It seems that from your perspective, the only way to do justice to your "question" is by conceding its premise.

I am not talking merely about currect issues. The current bans are mere examples of a widespread and longstanding phenomenon, one that undermines the mesorah. You clearly are not interested in addressing this question.

But I did! I explained to you why the "widespread and longstanding phenomenon" (?)does not undermine the mesorah.

Are chareidim incapable of intellectual honesty? Is it part of the training? It is becoming increasingly clear that it is a waste of time asking you questions. Your response is evasive and disgraceful.

I did not resort to pejorative statements, and I would ask to be accorded the same courtesy.

I detest this labeling - why separate out "Charedim" from "Orthodox Jewry?" But, regardless, the overwhelming majority of any segment of any population is not trained in intellectual honesty. But a greater proportion of Orthodox Jews are trained to intellectual honesty than any other population. It is inherent in Talmudic logic.

You have, in fact, left many of my questions unanswered. (Construction workers knowing 70 languages? Is this some kind of joke?) You are making a very poor impression.

Once more, I refrained from being judgemental as to your position. I request that a similar courtesy be extended to me.

That having been gotten out of the way, to be honest, I thought you were kidding when you raised the "construction worker" issue! Did they have universities back then? On the other hand, Chazal - no slouches, many of whom *did* speak seventy languages - praised (in the wake of King David) the Ba'al Melachah and the Neheneh me'Yegi'a Kapov. Moreover, these "construction workers" seemed to be profoundly aware of the mystical and metaphysical workings of Creation. Al tikrei bonaich elah bonoyich!

(The truth is that even without the Yerushalmi the question is very eay to answer - throughout history there has generally been a lingua franca - spoken as much by illiterate sailors as by university trained scholars - and that would have adequately served the purpose here as well.)

I will, however, respond shortly to your last post on the mabul, but only so that your incorrect answers not be allowed to stand unchallenged. You clearly are not interested in emes.

Did I state that you are not interested in emes? I ask that we not stoop to ad hominem attacks.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

I appreciate your measured response to my criticism.

My attitude, however, is due to your repeated inappropriate responses to serious questions.

You somehow thought that a 150-year gap in the monarchy in Egypt was a “good fit” in which to make room for a flood that killed all Egyptians, destroyed everything, and left no one and no civilization upon which to rebuild. You responded, disingenuously, that “It is very similar to New Orleans post Hurricane Katrina - people moved in, found some stuff still intact, rebuilt other stuff, and went further. Foreigners moved in, found ruins (if there was anything to be found at all), gave up their own language, art, alphabet, religion, etc., to restart ones that no longer existed? How can you say such things with a straight face?

You excerpted an article by a X-tian apologist who tried desperately to reconcile the historical record with the Torah, and, after citing Velikofsky and others, could not find any authority for a starting date for Egypt later than 2500 BCE, 400 years before the flood (leaving the problem of the continuity of Egyptian civilization). You then stated: “If a person who was not a Ma'amin took the trouble to make it work.” MAKE IT WORK? I pointed out to you that it does NOT work. Your own source could not make it work. (I should add that some of the experts cited in the bibliography are people with whom I corresponded and who told me that a flood anytime near 2105 BCE is impossible.)

Then you thought that despite the Torah’s saying that the flood was universal, because Chazal disgreed and suggested that Eretz Yisroel was spared, so maybe part of Egypt is considered part of Eretz Yisroel for these purposes and also was spared.

I repeatedly mentioned Mesopotamia, but you did not directly respond.

You claimed that I had “audacity” to question the flood when flood stories are universal, but did not respond when I pointed out that many of the flood stories you cited—allegedly the remnants of the story of the mabul—were silly local stories that revealed no recollection of an allegedly universal flood.

You responded to Mike’s challenge based on the continuity of the Egyptian language before and after the flood with a silly argument—again going against the literal words of the Torah (which you take non-literally when you like)—about how b’nei Noach spoke 70 languages, including Egyptian. I had to point out to you that the languages spoken by the 70 nations were not the one that was lost with the destruction of Egypt. Do you really believe that Noach’s three sons and their offspring restarted all the languages that had been destroyed by the mabul, went back to those many lands, and used those languages there? Are you kidding?

I then asked you—quite seriously—whether you really believed that common laborers could speak 70 languages. Somehow, you thought I was kidding. You really do seem to think they did! Now you answer: “The truth is that even without the Yerushalmi the question is very easy to answer - throughout history there has generally been a lingua franca - spoken as much by illiterate sailors as by university trained scholars - and that would have adequately served the purpose here as well.” What purpose? To serve as the basis for b’nei Noach’s starting up the dead Egyptian language again? You’ve lost me.

You’ve failed to address numerous questions or to respond adequately to many of my responses. You really failed to address adequately the issue of the possible effects of social pressures on the reliability of the mesorah. And this was after I asked you three times.

I really don’t think these kinds of non-answers would pass muster if you were arguing about a piece of Gemara. They would laugh you out of the yeshiva. Don’t be surprised that I question your intellectual honesty.

I will gladly try to avoid “stooping to ad hominem attacks” if you will try to give thoughtful, sensible responses rather than evasive nonsense.

YGB said...

1. I did not find the 200 year gap - I had no knowledge of Egyptology until last week, when I asked a frum Egypyologist who told me that the Mabul took place then. It remains your word against his. Since his is in line with the history revealed by HKB"H at Har Sinai, he's got G-d on his side - you will excuse me if I find that side of the argument more persuasive.

2. I cited all those essays not as proof for the Torah - the Torah is the greatest proof of its own validity - but to demonstrate that Egyptian chronology is in ongoing flux, not hard and determined as you would have us believe.

Indeed, the *only* uninterrupted, ongoing, no reconstruction necessary, no interpretation necessary, chronology of world history is our mesorah.

3. I retracted my statement that Egypt was spared. Even if some of the *land* of Egypt was spared, the Egyptians were not.

4. Sorry, I didn't know I had to respond to Mesopotamia. It was flooded. Lock, stock and barrel.

5. I did not claim *all* the stories in that essay (which was penned by an anti-deluvian, BTW) indicate that the Flood as depicted in the Torah took place - but plenty do.

6. Mike's (and your) challenge from Dor Haflaga is frivolous. I will not discuss it further.

7. There is no reason why the inhabitants of Egypt should not - and plenty of reasons why they should - pick up where the old civilization left off - I assume they reinhabited the existing structures and picked up whatever culture the artifacts afforded them.

8. I addressed the effect of social pressures on the mesorah. You have the right to disagree with me, but it is simply incorrect to state that I did not address the issues.

9. I have not seen any effort on your part to achieve true intellectual honesty. I do see a concerted effort to denigrate me and other people who do fall into lockstep with your own particular brand of "emes."

Saul Shajnfeld said...

With all due respect, I find your responses absurd and an insult to your readers' intelligence, and regret to inform you that you appear to be brain-dead.

I regret to have to resort to ad hominem attacks, but you leave me no choice. You are incorrigibly unreasonable.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

Rabbi Bechhofer:

My apologies for the strong language. It is, however, extremely frustrating to try, in good faith, to carry on a rational discussion with you.

Jewish Exile said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

This absurdly drawn-out set of "conversations with Saul" is a living testimony to R' YGB's (and our) superhuman patience with an miseducated ego-driven mocker posing as a spiritual seeker. Not one of the forms of repression conjured up by Saul was employed against him in the present instance. Utmost patience was shown for as long as possible. Now it's time to pull the plug on this fruitless discussion. Saul can brag about his exploits to his little friends, and the rest of us can move on.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

>Anonymous said...

This absurdly drawn-out set of "conversations with Saul" is a living testimony to R' YGB's (and our) superhuman patience with an miseducated ego-driven mocker posing as a spiritual seeker. Not one of the forms of repression conjured up by Saul was employed against him in the present instance. Utmost patience was shown for as long as possible. Now it's time to pull the plug on this fruitless discussion. Saul can brag about his exploits to his little friends, and the rest of us can move on.<

You may belittle me if it makes you feel better. This happens to be a critical issue among Orthodox Jews who still remember how to use the minds Hashem gave them. I believe I’ve exercized even more patience with RYGB than he with me, as my responses make sense, whereas only some of his do.

I fail to see any evidence from the correspondence that I am “ego-driven,” unless the term means simply that I fail to roll over and play dead when people give me answers that make no sense. As to “posing” as a spiritual seeker, this comment is presumptuous, insulting and irrational.

As to my “conjuring up” the idea that traditional Judaism includes much repression, I think you are turning a blind eye to a longstanding reality. Rabbi Bechhofer simply hasn’t stooped to this, for he wisely realizes its dangers to Yahadus.

You are correct that I have shown utmost patience for as long as possible. Now is the time for RYGB to come up with some serious, thoughtful and non-frivolous answers to the serious questions I’ve posed.

I find your comment about “bragging” about my exploits also to be presumptuous and insulting. And if you think I have anything to brag about, then at least you appear to recognize that my arguments are far stronger than Rabbi Bechhofer’s.

If you happen to think the topic is not important, I think you can manage to ignore this one blog and instead read Rabbi Bechhofer’s many learned and valuable blogs, for which we all should be grateful.

PS: My friends come in all sizes.

Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

Anonymous said...

By what commonly accepted definition is Saul Orthodox?

Does he hold by emunat chachomim?

Or is he the only chachom?

Mo said...

hello everyone,

i unfortunatly do not have the time to read all of the posts, but i would like to add a bit to the conversation.

i dont want to get into who is jewish and what it is to be a jew.

i personaly could not care less if history happened or not. the past to me is the past, we can only learn from what has happened.

now getting to the flood, i think it did happen by virtue of the fact that most if not all relegions and thoughts that have a "hiostory" have some story of a huge flood, why would everyone have this idea if it did not happend.

check out this article on the diffrent stories of "the flood"

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/flood-myths.html

i hope this helps and i hope somone did not bring this up already.

Mo

Saul Shajnfeld said...

>most if not all relegions and thoughts that have a "history" have some story of a huge flood, why would everyone have this idea if it did not happend.<

The reason is similar to why Lot's daughters slept with him.

Mo said...

im sorry, im not a torah scholar, why did lot's daughers sleep with him?

Mo

Saul Shajnfeld said...

Mistook local disaster for end of mankind.

Mo said...

so your saying that in most every civilization there was a huge flood that seemed to cover the earth, but was only local, and then after the flood "dried up" these people never met Bob and Jill from the next town over and wondered how they survived?

dosnt that seem kinda silly?

Mo

Saul Shajnfeld said...

Yes, THAT does sound kinda silly.

What more likely happened was that a large (not universal) local flood occurred in, say, an area in Formosa, and that a family and some animals survived on a boat. The story likely grew over many generations (like a fish gets bigger each time the fish story is told), eventually growing in size into a universal flood--long after anyone remembered Bob and Jill. When Bob and Jill heard the story, it probably purported to be about something that happened in the next town over.

This kind of thing happened repeatedly in every culture, with respect to floods and lots of other phenomena. Anthropologists study it. It's called myth-formation. There are innumerable examples. If you study the world's universal-flood stories, you will see they come in all styles and shapes. Check the link RYGB provided. Some of the stories there derive from the Torah/Babylonian flood stories, some from the Torah via spreading by X-tians and Moslems, and many others from local floods in every land over thousands of years.

Anonymous said...

Saul appears to assert above that the Torah text itself includes a misapprehension of the true extent of the Flood.

So, Saul, do you or don't you believe that the Torah text was granted to us through Divine revelation?

Saul Shajnfeld said...

I was describing the other flood stories.

In view of the overwhelming evidence, we are obliged to believe that the Torah's story of the mabul either is something like a moshol, as many understand the story of Chava and the snake, or that it occurred in much more ancient times (say 10,000 years ago) and was not global.

Not a "misapprehension," but a non-literally-intended meaning.

Mo said...

so saul, what IS the problem?

Anonymous said...

Saul, if you find the Mesorah to be flawed and the human links in its chain to be unreliable, as you have stated repeatedly above, what makes you believe that the Torah's flood story was not generated by the same process that generated the other flood stories? What is your general view of the written Torah's origin?

Saul Shajnfeld said...

>Mo said...

so saul, what IS the problem? <

I’m not certain what problem you are referring to. I would suggest you read the entire dialogue on this blog and formulate your question.

>Anonymous said...

Saul, if you find the Mesorah to be flawed and the human links in its chain to be unreliable, as you have stated repeatedly above, what makes you believe that the Torah's flood story was not generated by the same process that generated the other flood stories? What is your general view of the written Torah's origin? <

You used the term “flawed.” I believe that to the extent our mesorah is that the mabul occurred when and as literally stated in the Torah, that our mesorah must be reevaluated in light of overwhelming and convincing evidence, possibly resulting in a non-literal interpretation of this portion of the Torah. The Torah is emes, and emes demands this. I also believe that this follows the opinions of Rambam and Saadya Gaon.

As for the human links in the chain, not having been there I cannot say that they are unreliable. I do say that, for a number of reasons, we cannot automatically assume they are reliable, and that there are reasons to wonder whether they are reliable.

I have no way of “knowing” whether the Torah's flood story was or was not generated by the same process that generated the other flood stories. Our mesorah is that it was not. It therefore is far preferable, from a standpoint of emunah, to reinterpret the Torah in a non-literal manner than to say that the Torah contains mythology.

>What is your general view of the written Torah's origin? <

I, as you, have a mesorah that it is divine in origin. I have not been presented with information that would convince me otherwise. I have, however, been presented with sufficient information to question the literalness of certain things in the Torah, and I look to talmidei chachamim (such as Rabbi Bechhofer) to help me resolve these problems.

So far, the responses I have received are evasive and unreasonable, and therefore frightening.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

I’d like to share relevant portions of a response I received from an American Orthodox rabbi who is an expert in the history of the ancient Near East and related disciplines (out of respect for his privacy, I will not identify him further). I had written to him regarding apparent conflicts between the Torah’s literal historical account and the findings of modern scholarship relating to Mesopotamia. His response is illuminating:

“There is a clear conflict between the current and no doubt future history of Mesopotamia and history as presented in the Bible. However, the same conflict exits with geology and indeed most modern science that relates to the history of the world. . . . I see no way of solving the conflict between modern science of geology or ancient history and the traditional view of the ancient world. It is not a question of diverging philosophies but of diverging facts.

* * *

“I will only state that there are probably no fundamentalists among scholars even those who are strictly observant. . . . The field of Assyriology is indeed a broad field that even relates to understanding of Talmud. I do not imagine that any rosh yeshiva will ever study Akkadian but then they don't even study Aramaic without which it is questionable if one can comprehend many passages. I normally do not engage in polemics as I consider it a waste of time. Honest seeking after truth often steps on many toes and often upsets, heaven forbid, accepted truths. People often have no desire to let the facts bother their opinions.”

Mo said...

saul, sorry for asking such a general question. My question was basicly, what if the flood was as you say, would that change anything about who you are, or about how you relate to god, the torah, etc?

Mo

Saul Shajnfeld said...

Mo:

I was brought up to take things like the flood literally. Now that I've discovered that there was no such event when the Torah says there was, I need gedolim to explain to me how I am to understand Torah in view of this. For example, what is the purpose of the story? Why is it in the Torah? Why so many details? Are other Torah stories not to be taken literally? Etc. I need guidance in light of reality.

So, it certainly would change how I relate to Torah. "Answers" like Rabbi Bechhofer's, which are evasive and make no sense, make me wonder if something is wrong with the Torah if Rabbi Bechhofer must resort to absurd answers in order to "explain" it. We need a godol of sufficient stature to take a stand for emes and explain the Torah for us without ignoring reality.

Mo said...

i understand where your coming from now. a question. If there is no "gadol" (whatever that meens) to answer these questions for you, what would you do?

Mo

Mo said...

sorry for the double post but after reading my question i dont think i made it clear

If no "gadol" is able to answere these questions sufficently for you, what would you do?

Mo

Saul Shajnfeld said...

I would be befuddled.

Anonymous said...

Saul, you evidently accept only those aspects of the Mesorah that have not yet been contradicted by your historical/scientific sources. So doesn't that mean that your acceptance of those aspects of the Mesorah is provisional and subject to revocation?

If you ever found difficult passages in Tanach that you could not explain away as allegory, what would you do?

shlomo said...

Anonymous

>>>>If you ever found difficult passages in Tanach that you could not explain away as allegory, what would you do?>>>

Everyone should have Saul’s honesty. If one is not constrained by Cheredi black and white presuppositions, I believe there is enough flexibility to retain faith in the core of Jewish tradition. But if the evidence is overwhelming then there comes a point when a truth seeker has to act in a manner consistent with the facts. You expect no less from a Christian or a Muslim. Why not from an Orthodox Jew? If one is not willing to even concede this possibility: that Judaism is not true -- and I have yet to see any of Saul's opponents demonstrate this capacity-- then one can not view themselves as open minded and intellectually honest. Ironically, many of you would go to town on a fundamentalist Christian or Moslem who touted the same apologetics.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

Dear Shlomo:

Thank you. You are absolutely correct, and you've stated it better than I could.

I recently had a discussion with a Christian missionary, who asked me why I didn't accept Jesus as the messiah. I pointed out that it is clear that the messiah must be descended paternally from Dovid ha-melech, that the missionary believes that Jesus's father was G-d (Who is not a descendent of Dovid's), and that Jesus therefore could not be the messiah.

While initially taken aback, the missionary remained unfazed, and ultimately explained that while it is a mystery, it in no way lessens the "fact" that Jesus is the messiah.

This is how the fundamentalist mind works. Nothing will serve as a disproof. The same kind of mindset is, regrettably, evident in some of the posts here, including those of Rabbi Bechhofer. It appears even to be a source of pride.

Thanks again.

Mo said...

saul, i dont meen to affend you, but i dont think you answered my question

have a good shabbas all,
mo

Anonymous said...

Only the Mesorah told Saul that the actual Mashiach will be descended from David HaMelech.

But if Saul's favorite secular books or sources actually agreed with the missionary, would he believe the missionary instead?

Saul Shajnfeld said...

I have spoken to the Yale Egyptologist who Rabbi Bechhofer claims provided information showing I "have been *dramatically* distorting the record and leaving a *gravely* false impression."

Stay tuned for my summary of our conversation. If you are looking forward to my backing down, you will be disappointed.

Quite the contrary.

Mo said...

i dont understand why we are so fixed on this question of "was there a world flood?"

if there wasn't a world flood, or if no one could prove that there was, would it change anything?

Mo

Saul Shajnfeld said...

Mo:

Interesting question. Let me give a few "answers":

1. Why does anyone care whether there was a yetzias Mitzraim? We have a Torah, we have mitzvos, etc. Who cares if it happened or not?

Who cares if Avraham Avinu existed or not? We know who the Jews are. We know what is expected of us. What difference does it make if Avraham was a real person?

In your view, what types of things make a difference?

2. If the flood was not a real event--which is obvious now--how does that affect our view of our mesorah, which says it was a real event?

3. If the flood was not a real event, then why do our gedolim refuse to accept emes and continue to misinterpret the Torah? Is there, perhaps, something wrong with their approach?

4. If the flood was not a real event, then we must investigate why Hashem wrote it in the Torah, and why He made it sound like the story of a real event.


These are just a few. There are many, many questions.

Mo said...

to answer your question saul, nothing in history makes a diffrence to me, i believe that what we do here and now is important, not what happened in history. But i do belive we can learn from history.

so i encourage you to keep asking questions and challenging people. If there comes a point when you don't think you will get a satisfactory answer from anyone i would present to you a challenge. i would challenge you to search for yourself. If no one can tell you a good answer, answer it yourself.

one other question. I asked you before "If no "gadol" is able to answer these questions sufficently for you, what would you do?" you said "I would be befuddled." could you possibly elaborate? I think that if you look past the question it might help you find the answere.

Mo

Saul Shajnfeld said...

Since I explained that it is impossible to reconcile the Torah’s literal account of the mabul with Egyptian and Mesopotamian history, and punched holes in all of Rabbi Bechhofer’s attempts to show otherwise, he has chosen to abandon discussing this topic. It would appear that it is difficult for some to admit that their positions are incorrect.

One item has, however, been left open. At one point in the argument, YGB said:

“My dear Reb Saul:

“I did consult a frum Egyptologist (former Ph.D. student at Yale in Egyptology), and I am afraid you have been *dramatically* distorting the record and leaving a *gravely* false impression.

“In fact, the Mabbul, according to our mesorah, happened in 2105 BCE, which is smack dab in the middle of the "First Intermediate Period" (="Period Concerning Which We Have Little or No Information") in the Egyptian Chronology. And there is record of great travail in the land at the time. A quick Google search on "First Intermediate Period" Deluge yielded this as the *first* result:

“ http://www.crystalinks.com/dynasties7-10.html ”

_______________________

I requested the chance to speak with this Egyptologist, and R. Bechhofer furnished his name and telephone number. This gentleman was kind enough to spend close to an hour on the phone with me, though we were able to cover only some of the issues. I believe that I heard enough, though, to be able to respond. Since I am doing this only from memory and from some brief notes I took, I apologize if I misstate or distort what he said. If I do so, I hope he will correct me and clarify his positions.

I should add that I doubt that this gentleman is a professional Egyptologist. He had advanced training towards a Ph.D. in Egyptology at Yale, but I believe he did not pursue a career in this field, but turned to Torah learning. I’m not sure what he does professionally. I must say that he struck me as a very intelligent person.

Before going into details of our conversation, I would like to point out two things about R. Bechhofer’s comments quoted above. First, the reader should note that R. Bechhofer stated that the year 2105 BCE “is smack dab in the middle of the "First Intermediate Period" (="Period Concerning Which We Have Little or No Information") in the Egyptian Chronology. And there is record of great travail in the land at the time.” This is all correct, and itself gives a number of clues that R. Bechhofer’s thesis is wrong, which R. Bechhofer should have noticed himself. First, R. Bechhofer speaks of there being a record of great travail in the land. There is such a record of travail over this period of about 150 years. What could such a record possibly have to do with a flood that killed everyone in Egypt within a period of LESS THAN ONE YEAR?

Travail? Try death, termination, END.

And what records? What records would have survived a flood that was so overwhelming that it would have swept everything away, that caused an upheaval of such proportions that it allegedly resulted in the formation of giant mountain ranges, and was so catastrophic that it supposedly threw off all radioactive carbon dating? And who would have recorded a 150-year period of “travail” if they were all dead in less than a year?

Further, R. Bechhofer implies that the mabul occurred “smack dab in the middle” of this 150-year period. If so, what would the mabul have to do with the first 75 years of travail, which would have occurred before the flood? And what would the mabul have to do with the last 75 years of travail, during which no one was alive to experience any travail?

Did R. Bechhofer think about the implications of what he himself said? Did his readers notice a problem? Has everyone gone mad, or are they so desperate for a solution that they will accept nonsensical answers? I didn’t notice anyone posting any objections. Why is that?

_________________________

Before proceeding into the details of my conversation with the Yale Egyptologist, I would like to quote excerpts from the document to which R. Bechhofer linked, which will provide a useful background:

>First Intermediate Period - c.2181 - 2040BC

>Dynasties 7-10

>The First Intermediate Period seems to have been a time of great instability in Egypt. As a result, the records kept were obscure and vary. Pepi II died after ruling 96 years. With his death, everything collapsed. There are various accounts of what happened in Egypt during this time. People sought stability, but things continued in turmoil. Pepi ll's long reign had weakened central government, as the nomarchs (local governors) increasingly began to assert their independence from Pharaoh. Any nominal authority exerted by central government disappeared, as the nomarchs jostled for position, attempting to found their own dynasties.

>There was a downside to the technological progress made during the Old Kingdom. Feats of engineering like the Sphinx and the pyramids at Giza had made the Egyptians complacent. This feeling of invincibility was exacerbated by the position of their country, hidden as it was in the fertile Nile Valley. A word encapsulated how Egyptians felt about their civilization - 'Ma'at' meaning 'Stability' or 'Balance'.

>Papyri dating from the Middle Kingdom show this breakdown very clearly. Due to the unstable nature of this period, no firm historical records survive from the First Intermediate Period. There are some sources that mention a seventh dynasty which had 70 kings and which reigned for a total of 70 days. These are apocryphal, but nevertheless show how much the system had broken down. We can place an eighth dynasty, which was possibly descended in some way from Pepi II and which ruled from Memphis, but we must assume that any influence they exerted was confined to the area immediately around Memphis, as the Nile Delta has been invaded by "asiatics" (the name given by Egyptians to people from what we now call the Middle East). The kings of the eighth dynasty are somewhat ephemeral, but we know of 2 possible ones - Wajdkare and Qakare Iby. After perhaps between 20 and 30 years, the eighth dynasty fell and the nomarchs once again jostled for supreme power. We now see the emergence of a ninth dynasty, ruling from Herakleopolis, perhaps founded by one Meryibre Khety. Both this dynasty and its Herakleopolitain successor, the tenth dynasty, seem to have been highly unstable, with frequent changes of ruler. Both this dynasty and its Herakleopolitain successor, the tenth dynasty, seem to have been highly unstable, with frequent changes of ruler.

>Running concurrent to the tenth dynasty, another dynasty was being established in Thebes (the eleventh dynasty). Founded by Intef I in c. 2134BC, the first 3 kings of DXI (all called Intef, by the way, and buried in an area called Dra Abu el-Naga, near to what would later become the Valley of the Kings) fought an ongoing conflict with the Herakleopolitain DX monarchs, with requent clashes in the area around Abydos, where their two spheres of influence met.

* * *
>Not only does the description of the Seventh Dynasty appear to be either spurious or badly garbled, but no archaeologists would allow much more than a quarter of a century for both dynasties combined.

>Adding to the difficulty is that there are three additional Egyptian king-lists that encompass this period, and while all have a different number of Memphite kings beginning with the Sixth Dynasty, none of them indicates any sort of dynastic break for a Seventh and/or Eighth Dynasty.
These two dynasties fall into Egypt's First Intermediate Period, and because of the great chaos in this time and the scarcity of records, Egyptologists generally assume that the differences among the two Manetho copies and the various king-lists simply reflect the confusion among the various scribes who attempted to recreate the political records of this earlier era.

* * *

>While most Egyptologists tend to dismiss these differences as reflecting the chaotic nature of the First Intermediate Period, I suggest that a more logical interpretation is that these three king-lists each present a different political viewpoint about the legitimacy of various kings. The Egyptians were a very conservative people and did not approve of abrupt changes in the political order. The king was thought of as a human aspect of the god Horus, and a challenge to the legitimate king was the equivalent of a challenge to the god Horus. During the First Intermediate Period, however, there were three rival kingdoms, Memphis, Thebes, and Herakleopolis.
Only one could be the legitimate center of power. Horus could only rule from one throne.
The central theological problem of the First Intermediate Period, then, was "When did Horus stop ruling in Memphis and when did he begin to rule from another city?"
The three king-lists, I suggest, each show a different political interpretation.

* * *

>SEVENTH AND EIGHTH DYNASTIES
2152 - 2130
Netrikare
Menkare
Neferkare II
Neferkare III
Djedkare II
Neferkare IV
Merenhor
Menkamin I
Nikare
Neferkare V
Neferkahor
Neferkare VI
Neferkamin II
Ibi I
Neferkaure
Neferkauhor
Neferirkare II
Attested Kings about whom nothing more is known:
Wadjkare - "Prosperous is the Soul of Re"
Sekhemkare
Iti
Imhotep
Isu
Iytenu

>NINTH AND TENTH DYNASTIES - 2135 - 2074 BC
Neferkare
Mery-ib-re Khety - dates uncertain - "Beloved is the Heart of Re"
Mery-ka-re - dates uncertain - "Beloved is the Soul of Re"
Ka-nefer-re - dates uncertain - "Beautiful is the Soul of Re"
Neb-kau-re Akh-toy - dates uncertain - "Golden are the Souls of Re"
This dynasty was also known as the Herakleopolis Dynasty because the rulers controlled lower Egypt from Herakleopolis. This dynasty is also often called the "House of Khety" because many of the ruler's names were Khety, but it is considered to be fairly unstable due to frequent changes in rulers. The Herakleopolitans expelled Asiatic immigrants from the Nile delta and fortified the eastern border of Egypt. This dynasty was responsible for establishing the importance of Memphis. The Herakleopolitans improved irrigation works, reopened trade with Byblos, and began the "Coffin Texts". One of the kings wrote the "Instruction to Merikara." They also had frequent outbreaks of fighting against the Thebans north of Abydos. Eventually they were conquered by the Thebans and this marked the end of the Herakleopolis Dynasty and the beginning of the Middle Kingdom. The only person from this era to have left an impression on posterity is a woman called Nitokris who appears to have acted as king.<

_____________________________________

MY CONVERSATION WITH THE YALE EGYPTOLOGIST:

As I said, it is not at all clear to me that this gentleman, though obviously very intelligent, is a professional Egyptologist. Nevertheless, he has training as an Egyptologist, though he left Yale for other pursuits shortly before he would have received his Ph.D. I also have the impression that he may be a ba’al t’shuvah. Certainly his perspective, as far as I could determine, is to give primacy to the Torah, as traditionally interpreted, and to try to make the historical facts fit in with this. I will not mention his name, as I do not know whether he would want it used. I will refer to him here as “FYE” (for “Former Yale Egyptologist”).

FYE did not question my claim for an early start, c. 3,000 BCE, for the Egyptian Pharaohnic dynasties. It appears that he believes that Egypt thrived as a great civilization from that time until close to the time of the flood (c. 2105 BCE), replete with pyramids, temples, architecture, language, art, a writing system (hieroglyphics), religion, inscriptions, etc. FYE believes that the flood may have spared the part of Egypt east of the Nile (he claims there is some authority in the rabbinic literature suggesting it is part of “Eretz Yisroel,” and there is one opinion in the Gemara that “Eretz Yisroel” was not flooded), but that all Egyptians nevertheless died--either from drowning or from the heat--during the flood. Thus, pyramids, temples, inscriptions, relics, etc., may have remained in the eastern area. He believes that Noach’s descendents came from Mesopotamia to Egypt (and to all the other areas occupied by the 70 nations) after the flood, found the ruins, and decided to abandon their own architecture, art, writing system, religion, culture, etc., and to restart the dead Egyptian civilization despite the absence of any available Egyptians from whom they could learn about it.

Similarly, it appears that FYE believes that the descendents of Noach spread out to the areas in the Near East formerly occupied by other of the 70 nations, came upon any ruins and fragments of the civilizations (i.e., inscriptions, art, religious artifacts, etc.) that may have survived the total inundation in those areas (most of which are NOT part of “Eretz Yisroel”), and decided to abandon their own culture and restart each of these dead civilizations, despite the absence of any available Sumerians, Elamites, Indus Valley inhabitants, (Chinese?), etc., from whom they could learn about it.

If there is any reader who does not yet see the absurdity of this suggestion I wonder if there is any sense in his/her continuing to read on. This reminds me of some science-fiction movie where aliens take over the bodies of Earthlings and live the latter’s lives in disguise. Only here, it’s even more preposterous. In my discussion with FYE, I compared this to some U.S. archaeologists studying Mayan ruins and deciding to stop speaking and writing English, stop being Americans or Christians, and suddenly become Mayans, learning their language, writing system, art and religion from the ruins. Perhaps they’d also restart human sacrifice.

When I asked FYE why anyone would give up his culture to restart a dead one, his answer was something to the effect of “why not?”

Need I continue?

FYE is, of course, claiming that this re-establishment of a dead culture took place with a number of cultures, and throughout the Near East, and, presumably, the rest of the world. When I inquired how Noach’s descendents—a few sons—could have reproduced so quickly as to repopulate all these areas in time for, say, the Egyptian civilization to “continue” with hardly a skipped beat (a population of over a million or two would have been needed in Egypt alone to continue the massive pyramid-building), he suggested a high birth rate and low infant mortality. I have not run the numbers, but I believe that at such a rate the population of the planet would now be in the trillions.

I asked how any inscriptions and relics—which would have been necessary for Noach’s descendents to learn how to “restart” the dead cultures—could have survived in areas other than eastern Egypt, in view of a flood so catastrophic that the upheaval formed mountain ranges. While he admitted that if everything indeed was pulverized by the flood, his theory would not work, this possibility did not seem to bother him.

Nothing bothered him much. How did kangaroos hop back to Australia from Mt. Ararat? How did the most ancient pyramids—dating to 2600 BCE and located WEST of the Nile—manage to survive the flood? How did Noach’s sons—who knew metallurgy and how to read and write literature—evolve into bushmen with bones through their noses who beat on tree-trunks? He admitted that there were a host of particular problems and details that needed to be resolved. He did say that archaeology is a “soft” science, and that it’s hard to date things exactly, though he did not make an argument for the redating of any of the events we discussed.

As for the continuity of the 70 languages before and after the flood, FYE posited that Noach’s immediate family—among the eight of them—spoke 70 different languages, taught these 70 “dead” languages (plus one common one, which was lost at Bavel) to their descendents (my parents did only a fair job of teaching me Yiddish after they got to America, and they spoke it at home; Noach must have conducted an indeed massive dead-language institute in his home after the flood), and these descendents thus were able to continue/restart the 70 languages when they arrived at their individual destinations.

With all due respect to FYE, I must admit that there is just so much of this drivel that I can take. I am amazed that he actually can believe such things, though I suspect he is a ba’al t’shuvah and that that might explain it. I am amazed that RYGB could accept such nonsense so uncritically, and that there hasn’t been massive protest from readers of this blog. And, mostly, I am amazed that frum people can grasp at absurd straws and have so little regard for emes.

If I have misrepresented or misinterpreted FYE’s views, I would be happy to hear his corrections and respond to them. Absent that, I challenge RYGB or anyone else to answer my questions.

And FYE and I barely touched on the problem of the geological evidence.

YGB said...

Just as I thought.

Reb Saul, your primary mode of argumentation is belittling. FYE took a very reasonable position, and your extensive response consists mostly and essentially of scorn.

FYE's position is the most logical one to take.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

Rabbi Bechhofer:

I apologize if I sound scornful, but I have a visceral reaction to distortion of emes.

In view of my responses to FYE's thesis (as I understand it), I haven't got the slightest idea how you can say that "FYE's position is the most logical one to take." You certainly don't explain why it is, other than to make your totally unwarranted statement.

I suspect you do so in order to pander to your audience, hoping they will say "well, I really don't know enough to judge for myself, but if RYGB says that FYE's position is the most logical, he probably has a good reason." If this is your tactic, it is an embarrassing one.

In the absence of any explanation from you as to why you think FYE's position makes the slightest sense, I will not argue with you about it, lest I become scornful. I do think you should be ashamed of yourself.

Anonymous said...

"FYE's position is the most logical one to take."

Do you really believe that?!?!?!?!

Saul Shajnfeld said...

I should add that the fact that you--a talmid chacham--find an absurd thesis (but one that supports a literal interpretatation of the Torah) to be perfectly reasonable, only casts further doubt on the reliability of the mesorah--i.e., that people would not have accepted things that appear to be incorrect.

sick and tired said...

rabbis like this one make me want to throw away my yarmulke for good this time. I really am nuts for beleiving this stuff arent I?

Saul Shajnfeld said...

Dear Sick and Tired, and Anonymous:

In my opinion, Rabbi Bechhofer is only following the lead of many of today's gedolim in making a laughingstock of Yiddishkeit and creating a chillul Hashem.

My advice to you is to seek the advice of an intellectually-honest rabbi like Nosson Slifkin. I'm not sure exactly what his view is on the Flood, but you can be certain it will be reasonable.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

Dear Mo:

Wise words. I will ponder your question.

Sorry for the belated response.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

I think the next step is for RYGB to ask FYE to read my description of our conversation and my responses, to ask him if I understood him correctly and, if I did not, to ask him to clarify his views.

YGB said...

I am specifically not closing down these threads because your desperation to identify some point that overrides the Torah should be apparent to all.

So far as I can tell, the only point you have made that requires a response is that I used the term "period of travail" or something like that rather than the more appropriate "period of death and destruction." I was copying what I saw. The latter term is more correct.

All of the rest of RSS's post is proof by inneundo.

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>As for the continuity of the 70 languages before and after the flood, FYE posited that Noach’s immediate family—among the eight of them—spoke 70 different languages, taught these 70 “dead” languages (plus one common one, which was lost at Bavel) to their descendents (my parents did only a fair job of teaching me Yiddish after they got to America, and they spoke it at home; Noach must have conducted an indeed massive dead-language institute in his home after the flood), and these descendents thus were able to continue/restart the 70 languages when they arrived at their individual destinations.

Reb YGB,

With all due respect, is this really a reasonable position? His family knew 70 languages?

Saul Shajnfeld said...

Dear Rabbi Bechhofer:

I will respond below, point by point (something you should try sometime):

>I am specifically not closing down these threads because your desperation to identify some point that overrides the Torah should be apparent to all.<

You should not be closing down these threads because to do so would be censorship of the worst sort (i.e., hiding the evidence when your own position is shown to be incorrect), and would be a false suggestion that Yahadus somehow cannot stand in the face of emes.

> your desperation to identify some point that overrides the Torah should be apparent to all.<

Your statement is a distortion, and you should know better. I have said repeatedly that I am not attacking the Torah, but rather a literal, fundamentalist interpretation which cannot be Torah because it is incorrect. Why do you distort what I said?

Yes, I am “desperate.” I am desperate to stop people of your mind-set from making a laughingstock of the Torah by adhering to discredited ideas.

>So far as I can tell, the only point you have made that requires a response is that I used the term "period of travail" or something like that rather than the more appropriate "period of death and destruction." I was copying what I saw. The latter term is more correct.<

With all due respect, if you believe that the only point that I have made that requires a response has to do with the use of the word “travail” you indeed are not paying attention, or don’t want to believe what you read. Why don’t you reread my lengthy response, substitute your new words, "period of death and destruction” for the word “travail,” and see if the thesis that FYE and you are promoting makes even the slightest sense.

I might add that the records do not record an annihilating flood. But feel free to sweep that fact under the rug along with everything else I've said. Where is the emes that is supposed to be a pillar of Yahadus?

>All of the rest of RSS's post is proof by inneundo.<

I really don’t know what you mean, but it is clear that you don’t know when your arguments have been destroyed. You continue to avoid answering my arguments, and instead pander to your audience with one-line statements. I think many of your readers see through this.

After so many years steeped in Torah learning, is this your idea of emes: raising the possibility of “destroying the evidence” by eliminating the discussion from your blog; misstating and challenging my intentions; and answering detailed, well-presented and devastating arguments with one-liners?

In my opinion, this is both pathetic and a chillul Hashem.

YGB said...

As for the continuity of the 70 languages before and after the flood, FYE posited that Noach’s immediate family—among the eight of them—spoke 70 different languages, taught these 70 “dead” languages (plus one common one, which was lost at Bavel) to their descendents (my parents did only a fair job of teaching me Yiddish after they got to America, and they spoke it at home; Noach must have conducted an indeed massive dead-language institute in his home after the flood), and these descendents thus were able to continue/restart the 70 languages when they arrived at their individual destinations.

Reb YGB,

With all due respect, is this really a reasonable position? His family knew 70 languages?
Posted by Mississippi Fred MacDowell | Monday, January 16, 2006 11:02:38 AM


Were it not a Yerushalmi in Megillah, you might have had a point as to the "reasonability" of the matter. The fact is that it is a Yerushalmi, and therefore most reasonable:

תלמוד ירושלמי מסכת מגילה דף י/א
כתיב ויהי כל הארץ שפה אחת ודברים אחדים ר' לעזר ור' יוחנן חד אמר שהיו מדברים בשבעים לשון וחורנה אמר שהיו מדברין בלשון יחידו של עולם בלשון הקודש

Dear Rabbi Bechhofer:
I will respond below, point by point (something you should try sometime):
>I am specifically not closing down these threads because your desperation to identify some point that overrides the Torah should be apparent to all.<

You should not be closing down these threads because to do so would be censorship of the worst sort (i.e., hiding the evidence when your own position is shown to be incorrect), and would be a false suggestion that Yahadus somehow cannot stand in the face of emes.


Closing down a thread is not the same thing as deleting it!

your desperation to identify some point that overrides the Torah should be apparent to all.<
Your statement is a distortion, and you should know better. I have said repeatedly that I am not attacking the Torah, but rather a literal, fundamentalist interpretation which cannot be Torah because it is incorrect. Why do you distort what I said?


But you are attacking the Torah! Anything in the Chamishah Chumshei Torah that Chazal (and perhaps the Rishonim) have not identified as an allegory or non-literal is, perforce, literal and historically true. Otherwise, the entire structure of Yahadus falls. Someone in your position, who is convinced that the Mabul did not occur (c"v) as an actual Flood, must logically conclude that the Torah is not truthful, and, hence, that Yahadus is based on lies and distortions.

Yes, I am “desperate.” I am desperate to stop people of your mind-set from making a laughingstock of the Torah by adhering to discredited ideas.

But it is you who are making laughingstocks of Chazal, by discrediting the historical record that they transmitted.

So far as I can tell, the only point you have made that requires a response is that I used the term "period of travail" or something like that rather than the more appropriate "period of death and destruction." I was copying what I saw. The latter term is more correct.<
With all due respect, if you believe that the only point that I have made that requires a response has to do with the use of the word “travail” you indeed are not paying attention, or don’t want to believe what you read. Why don’t you reread my lengthy response, substitute your new words, "period of death and destruction” for the word “travail,” and see if the thesis that FYE and you are promoting makes even the slightest sense.
I might add that the records do not record an annihilating flood. But feel free to sweep that fact under the rug along with everything else I've said. Where is the emes that is supposed to be a pillar of Yahadus?


Everything else that you wrote is the result of a reconstruction by modern scholars. Our historical record is not a reconstruction, it has been maintained me'dor l'dor.
I do not recall if I cited this source previously, because in my opinion our historical record stands on its own, but I am now citing this to demonstrate the various avenues by which the reconstruction, a tenuous affair at best, can be aligned with our firm record. I am sure there are other approaches as well. The study of Ancient Egyptology is not something I myself can pursue just at this point in my life.
http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2503 - originally published in Reason & Revelation, issue 23[11]:97-101
AP Content : Reason & Revelation
Which Came First, the Pyramids or the Flood?
by Alden Bass

All of the rest of RSS's post is proof by inneundo.<
I really don’t know what you mean, but it is clear that you don’t know when your arguments have been destroyed. You continue to avoid answering my arguments, and instead pander to your audience with one-line statements. I think many of your readers see through this.


I will explain what I mean. Your mode of argumentation is to pile up questions that are phrased rhetorically – i.e. structured in the format that connotes that it would be folly, ignorance, stupidity to maintain the opposing position. The fact is, if you start from the POV that Torah is a true historical record , given as such to Bnei Yisroel in the Midbar, the opposing position is the "given," and alecha l'havi ra'ayah – you are the "motzi," and can only extract concession on the basis of incontrovertible evidence. However, since all the evidence is reconstruction – and that on the basis of sources that should not be granted credence over our sources – that evidence is very much absent.

After so many years steeped in Torah learning, is this your idea of emes: raising the possibility of “destroying the evidence” by eliminating the discussion from your blog; misstating and challenging my intentions; and answering detailed, well-presented and devastating arguments with one-liners?
In my opinion, this is both pathetic and a chillul Hashem.
Posted by Saul Shajnfeld | Monday, January 16, 2006 3:59:26 PM


My idea of emes is Moshe emes v'Toraso emes. We are not talking here about issues of Torah and Science. This is not a Slifkin issue. We are talking about the very core of Torah she'b'al Peh.
I did not raise the possibility of "destroying the evidence" – see above.
The arguments are not devastating. For a ma'amin, the historical record of the Torah and Chazal devastates the opposing views.

YGB

sick and tired said...

Being in a Yerushalmi makes it reasonable??? Youre a busha to yiddishkeit, or maybe yiddishkeit is a busha.

YGB said...

Exactly. Because something is in the Yerushalmi it is reasonable.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

>Reb YGB,

With all due respect, is this really a reasonable position? His family knew 70 languages?
Posted by Mississippi Fred MacDowell | Monday, January 16, 2006 11:02:38 AM

Were it not a Yerushalmi in Megillah, you might have had a point as to the "reasonability" of the matter. The fact is that it is a Yerushalmi, and therefore most reasonable:<

While I don’t think that the issue of the 70 languages is the most critical matter, are you saying the idea that Noach’s family spoke 70 languages might NOT otherwise be reasonable, but that it becomes “most reasonable” because a member of Chazal suggested it?

>Closing down a thread is not the same thing as deleting it!<

My apologies. Nevertheless, you should not be closing down these threads because to do so would give a false suggestion that Yahadus somehow cannot stand in the face of emes.

>your desperation to identify some point that overrides the Torah should be apparent to all.<

>>Your statement is a distortion, and you should know better. I have said repeatedly that I am not attacking the Torah, but rather a literal, fundamentalist interpretation which cannot be Torah because it is incorrect. Why do you distort what I said?<<

>But you are attacking the Torah! Anything in the Chamishah Chumshei Torah that Chazal (and perhaps the Rishonim) have not identified as an allegory or non-literal is, perforce, literal and historically true. Otherwise, the entire structure of Yahadus falls. Someone in your position, who is convinced that the Mabul did not occur (c"v) as an actual Flood, must logically conclude that the Torah is not truthful, and, hence, that Yahadus is based on lies and distortions.<

We have authority from Rambam and Saadia to reinterpret in the face of overwhelming evidence. Such overwhelming evidence is now present, not only historical evidence such as I’ve cited, but also evidence from geology, anthropology, physics, linguistics and a host of other fields. If Rambam and Saadia believed that reinterpretation is acceptable, do you think they would bar it during an era when so much more convincing evidence is available than was available during their times?

>>Yes, I am “desperate.” I am desperate to stop people of your mind-set from making a laughingstock of the Torah by adhering to discredited ideas.<<

>But it is you who are making laughingstocks of Chazal, by discrediting the historical record that they transmitted.<

I am not making a “laughingstock” of Chazal simply by suggesting that they did not receive a perfect mesorah or that their exegesis was mistaken. I am merely saying they were mistaken. And they are permitted to be mistaken, because they were human beings. The whole point of Yahadus is against idol worship. When you take a human and make him infallible, you are creating an idol. Idols can be made of flesh and blood as well as stone or wood.

In any case, I would prefer to say that Chazal erred than to make a laughingstock of the Torah. I asked FYE what his colleagues at Yale would say about his theory. He laughed. And that is precisely what every single Egyptologist or Assyriologist would do if they heard his and your theories. And you would laugh at yourself if you were an Egyptologist and had to confront daily the massive evidence against a flood in 2105 BCE. You’d have the same problem that a medical doctor would have if he truly followed all the medical theories of Chazal. He would have to resign his job lest he kill his patients using outdated science. He wouldn’t have the luxury of sitting back and clinging to discredited theories in the comfort of the beis medrash—the undeniable emes would be staring him in the face every day. Find me a practicing astronomer who believes the earth is flat, or that everything burns up completely upon reentry into the atmosphere.

Your theory is absurd notwithstanding what Chazal said. Deal with it.

>>With all due respect, if you believe that the only point that I have made that requires a response has to do with the use of the word “travail” you indeed are not paying attention, or don’t want to believe what you read. Why don’t you reread my lengthy response, substitute your new words, "period of death and destruction” for the word “travail,” and see if the thesis that FYE and you are promoting makes even the slightest sense.

I might add that the records do not record an annihilating flood. But feel free to sweep that fact under the rug along with everything else I've said. Where is the emes that is supposed to be a pillar of Yahadus?<<

>Everything else that you wrote is the result of a reconstruction by modern scholars. Our historical record is not a reconstruction, it has been maintained me'dor l'dor.<

Whether it is based on “reconstruction” or not, it is indisputable by reasonable people. Even your FYE did not argue that Egypt did not predate the mabul.

As for “our” historical record: (a) the Torah is not a history book, and the mabul is not necessarily the record of a historical event; (b) there is absolutely no evidence, or way to know, that every last detail of what has come down to us is exactly as was told to Moshe at Sinai. We know that things were lost as early as the time of Moshe’s death. Other things were lost due to exiles and persecutions. Sefer Nechemiah indicates that details of the laws of Succos were lost after the time of Yehoshua. The Talmud and the Rishonim argue endlessly about how to properly interpret the Torah. What exactly are they arguing about if no information was lost?

So, just how do you know that the mabul’s being allegorical was not one of the many pieces of information that was lost? How would you possibly know? The evidence I cited would suggest that it was.

>I do not recall if I cited this source previously, because in my opinion our historical record stands on its own, but I am now citing this to demonstrate the various avenues by which the reconstruction, a tenuous affair at best, can be aligned with our firm record. I am sure there are other approaches as well. The study of Ancient Egyptology is not something I myself can pursue just at this point in my life.

http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2503 - originally published in Reason & Revelation, issue 23[11]:97-101
AP Content : Reason & Revelation

Which Came First, the Pyramids or the Flood?
by Alden Bass<

Yes, you did cite it previously. As I pointed out, the author, a Christian apologist “who tried his hardest to reconcile the Bible with Egyptian history—argues that the beginning of Egyptian civilization—pharaohs, pyramids, language, alphabet, religion, architecture, etc.—may, using the most aggressive theories possible, be lowered to perhaps 2500 BCE AT THE LATEST. This still is 400 years before the mabul, and 740 years before the arrival (in 1765 BCE) of b’nei Noach in Egypt following the dispersion from Bavel).”

Bass, try as he might, went through all legitimate theories and could not manage to move the beginning of Egyptian civilization to a date later than 2500 BCE. This is why FYE did not try to argue for a late date for the beginning of Egyptian civilization, and instead absurdly tried to shoehorn the Flood into a 150-year period of unrest. Your citation of Bass merely proves my point.

>All of the rest of RSS's post is proof by inneundo.<

>>I really don’t know what you mean, but it is clear that you don’t know when your arguments have been destroyed. You continue to avoid answering my arguments, and instead pander to your audience with one-line statements. I think many of your readers see through this.<<

>I will explain what I mean. Your mode of argumentation is to pile up questions that are phrased rhetorically – i.e. structured in the format that connotes that it would be folly, ignorance, stupidity to maintain the opposing position.<

I am not merely structuring questions in a way that makes opposition appear to be folly. Imagine that you found a pasuk in the Torah which—interpreted literally—indicated it was now morning, and you therefore told your class to put on their t’fillin. If I pointed out to you that you all had just come back from mincha/maariv, that it was pitch-black outside, that the evening news was on TV and that every clock in town said 8 PM, would you respond that this is all innuendo and that the Torah is clear? I think not. You would reinterpret the Torah.

Any reasonable person examining the evidence from Egyptian and Mesopotamian history, carbon dating, dendrochronology, geology, anthropology, paleontology, linguistics, ancient literature and other disciplines would now reinterpret the Torah. I challenged you to find me a frum Egyptologist who disagreed. If I understood his views correctly, the one you found for me is suggesting a solution that is demonstrably absurd.

>The fact is, if you start from the POV that Torah is a true historical record , given as such to Bnei Yisroel in the Midbar, the opposing position is the "given," and alecha l'havi ra'ayah – you are the "motzi," and can only extract concession on the basis of incontrovertible evidence. However, since all the evidence is reconstruction – and that on the basis of sources that should not be granted credence over our sources – that evidence is very much absent.<

And if you start out with the POV that the Torah says it is morning, I would be the “motzi,” and the fact that you and your class all had just come back from mincha/maariv, that it was pitch-black outside, that the evening news was on TV and that every clock in town said 8 PM would not be incontrovertible evidence in your eyes in the face of a pasuk that said it was morning.

You are a rosh yeshiva, not an Egyptologist, Assyriologist, geologist, anthropologist, paleontologist, etc. If you were all of these, you’d know that the evidence is incontrovertible. If I have represented the views of your FYE accurately, it should be obvious to all that the matter is proven. It is time to reinterpret the Torah and stop making a laughingstock of Yahadus.

> The arguments are not devastating. For a ma'amin, the historical record of the Torah and Chazal devastates the opposing views.<

Again, the Torah is not a history book, and we know that our mesorah suffered degradation over the centuries. It cannot “devastate” overwhelming evidence to the contrary. If you want to close your eyes and pretend that the evidence does not exist, you are free to do so.

It is now 10:00 PM in New York. If you find the right pasuk, you can put on your t’fillin.

YGB said...

A response I wrote to another blog:

I fail to see how I am arguing from faith. My argument is quite simple, and has yet to be refuted. (Note: Saul and I are arguing history, not science - that is a different issue. Rabbi Slifkin rejected the Mabul on the basis of "science," and I responded to that perspective last year on the now-much-maligned Avodah :-( .)

The argument runs thus: All of history, other than our record, is a reconstruction. Greek and Persian histories are reconstructed from Herodotus and other, less credible, sources; Egyptian history is reconstructed from Manetho. Now, even assuming we should give these sources some sort of superior credibility over Chazal (although I have no idea why!), we are still dealing with a very inexact art. Unfortunately, ancient cultures did not see fit to do us the courtesy of counting down BCE to year 1. Indeed, for the most part, they didn't use a conventional linear calendar at all, but counted according to the reigns of local kings, from events, etc. Most significantly, there were gaps of thousands of years post the destruction of the ancient civilizations in which the "keys" to the reconciliation of monarchs, events, and calendrical data were lost.

It is only us Jews who have a linear calendar, without gaps, without recourse to reconstruction, without loss of the "keys," uninterrupted by destruction or exile. (As we know, the calendar is one of our most precious possessions, and great pains have always been taken to keep its precision.

However, for whatever reason, the secular historians back in the 1800's who began sorting out ancient Egyptology ignored or disdained our records. I do not know if it was an oversight or a deliberate act. But, in any event, once the alternative structure was created, its model has been kept as an orthodoxy in academic circles. Those who challenge it - and in the course of my debate with Saul we alluded to some of them - were condemned as mavericks. But the plethora of academics taking a similar position is just the spreading of the wings of the one original hypothesis - which was a reconstruction based on conjecture and interpretation.

Our records are straightforward, and reason dictates that they should be assumed, a priori, to be correct. Mesorah is excellent because it was passed from the Nevi'im as a body to the Chachamim as a body. Not yachid to yachid. This in contradistinction to other histories that are individual.

Does that really not make sense???

Saul Shajnfeld said...

RYGB said:

>Does that really not make sense???<

No, it makes no sense at all.

As far as Egyptology is concerned, we have gone over this in detail. I’ve told you that the field is very competitive and critical. Everyone is always trying to debunk everyone else’s theory. Nevertheless, a consensus has been established which no one has been able to crack. There is just too much evidence. You keep going back to the same discredited arguments. You cited a Christian apologist who tried to solve the problem but could not bring the beginning of Egypt to later than 2500 BCE, 400 years before the mabul. Your frum, former Yale Egyptologist did not try to either. Trying to fit the mabul into Egyptian history is insanity. No matter how many times I tell you you just won’t get it.

As far as Slifkin and science vs. history is concerned, the geology matches the history. You were wrong in fighting him and you are wrong in fighting me.

Just what would it take to get you to acknowledge you’re wrong? Sorry—it’s only a rhetorical question. Nothing would ever get you to. (Except, perhaps, if the gedolim told you to. Then you would abandon everything you believe in and bow down to them without question.)

As far as the “excellence” of our mesorah, this argument is hogwash. Our mesorah is purely a matter of emunah. There is no way to establish its accuracy, and many reasons to question it (see my post on this in response to Reb Aaron on one of your later blogs). On the other side, we have over a million artifacts dug up that give us a picture of what really happened back then. And they weren’t washed away by any mabul. That itself should tell you something.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

RYGB said:

>Does that really not make sense???<

No, it makes no sense at all.

As far as Egyptology is concerned, we have gone over this in detail. I’ve told you that the field is very competitive and critical. Everyone is always trying to debunk everyone else’s theory. Nevertheless, a consensus has been established which no one has been able to crack. There is just too much evidence. You keep going back to the same discredited arguments. You cited a Christian apologist who tried to solve the problem but could not bring the beginning of Egypt to later than 2500 BCE, 400 years before the mabul. Your frum, former Yale Egyptologist did not try to either. Trying to fit the mabul into Egyptian history is insanity. No matter how many times I tell you you just won’t get it.

As far as Slifkin and science vs. history is concerned, the geology matches the history. You were wrong in fighting him and you are wrong in fighting me.

Just what would it take to get you to acknowledge you’re wrong? Sorry—it’s only a rhetorical question. Nothing would ever get you to.

As far as the “excellence” of our mesorah, this argument is hogwash. Our mesorah is purely a matter of emunah. There is no way to establish its accuracy, and many reasons to question it (see my post on this in response to Reb Aaron on one of your later blogs). On the other side, we have over a million artifacts dug up that give us a picture of what really happened back then. And they weren’t washed away by any mabul. That itself should tell you something.

bluke said...

RYGB wrote:
Were it not a Yerushalmi in Megillah, you might have had a point as to the "reasonability" of the matter. The fact is that it is a Yerushalmi, and therefore most reasonable

Is this statement of Chazal reasonable as well?
The gemara (Bava Basra 25b) has a dispute between R' Eliezer and R' Yeshoshua.

R' Eliezer says that the world is like a three-walled building; the north side is not covered; The sun travels along the inside of the building during the day. When the sun reaches the northwest corner, it goes above the building (therefore we can't see it, and goes eastward overnight, and rises in the northeast in the morning).

R. Yehoshua says, the world is like a box, the north side is covered;

1. When the sun reaches the northwest corner, it goes (through a window) in back of the box.
2. "Holech El Darom v'Sovev El Tzafon" - the sun (always) travels along the south by day, and circles around the north side by night.

It is absolutely clear that the above is incorrect. We know that the world is not covered by anything and the sun doesn't go behind it. We know that the Earth spins and this is what causes the Sun to rise and set and we know that the Earth revolves around the Sun. These are not theories, they are facts and they are undisputable, we have all seen the pictures from space with our own eyes contradicting this gemara.

How about this one?

The Ramban at the beginning of Parshas Tazria quotes Chazal as follows
איש מזריע בו לובן שממנו גידים ועצמות ... אשא מזרעת אודם שממנו עור בשר ודם
The man provides the white from which the bones and sinews grow ... the women provides the red from which the skin, meat, and blood come

Is this reasonable as well? Do you not believe in blood tests?

Is it reasonable to say that lice spontaneously generate?

The list goes on and on.

I am not here to "bash" Chazal, I am just pointing out that there are statements of Chazal that either cannot be taken literally or are wrong.

YGB said...

The statement is most certainly reasonable, as explained by the Maharal:


ספר חדושי אגדות חלק שלישי עמוד פ - מסכת בבא בתרא
תניא ר"א אומר וכו' ענין הרקיע הזה כמו שבארנו במקום אחר, כי הרקיע הזה הוא הגבול המבדיל בין עליונים לתחתונים. ומחלוקת ר"א ור"י כי הרקיע הזה, שהוא התחלת עולם התחתון, אם הוא שלם מכל צד. וזה כי לחסרון העלול אי אפשר שיהיה העולם שלם לגמרי מבלי חסרון כלל, אבל העולם חסר נברא, לכך אף הרקיע שהוא התחלת העולם אשר הוא (נבדל) [מבדיל] בין עליונים לתחתונים הוא חסר. וזהו דעת ר"א שצד צפון שהוא מתיחס לשמאל, והשמאל הוא פחות וחסר מן הימין, וזהו חסרון העלול, שכל עלול הוא חסר. ולפיכך סבר כי הרקיע אינו בשלימות, וזאת היא הפרצה. ולפיכך אמרו במדרש (פר"א פ"ג) רוח צפונית שלג וברד גשמים יוצאים משם ושם מדור המזיקים שנאמר מצפון תפתח הרעה, הרי בארו כי אי אפשר שיהיה העולם בתכלית השלימות מפני חסרון העלול, ולכך יש פרצה בצד צפון, ר"ל שאין שם שלימות העולם. וזהו שאמרו שעולם דומה לאכסדרא שאינו שלם רק בג' רוחות וברוח א' אינו שלם, ולפיכך שם מדור המזיקים שהם בריות חסירות וכמו שרמזו חכמים עליהם שקדש עליהם היום ולא נגמרו, למי שידע בסודי התורה. וכבר אמרנו לך הטעם למה דוקא רוח צפונית, מפני כי השמאל הוא חסר מן הימין, וצד דרום נקרא ימין ורוח צפון נקרא שמאל, אבל מערב שנקרא אחור אע"ג שאינו במדריגות הפנים שהוא מזרח מ"מ אין חסרון בו, אבל צד שמאל חסר כמו שידוע מצד שמאל שהוא חסירה ודבר זה ידוע. ולפיכך סבר שהחמה הולכת למעלה מן הרקיע כי מהלכה שסובבת ברקיע תחת הארץ לא נחשב כלל שהולכת בצד צפון, שכבר אמרנו כי צד צפון חסר ברקיע שהוא התחלת העולם. אבל נחשב שהיא הולכת ברקיע למעלה מצד צפון:


ספר חדושי אגדות חלק שלישי עמוד פ - מסכת בבא בתרא
ולדעת ר"י מהלכת אחורי הכפה פי' מה שאמר אחורי הכפה אינו אחורי הגלגל כי דבר זה לא עלה על דעתם, רק כי החמה בלילה נבדלת מן הנמצאים התחתונים, והרקיע הוא התחלת עולם התחתון, נמצא שהחמה הולכת אחורי הרקיע, שהרקיע שהוא התחלת העולם מבדיל ביניהם. ומפני שבני אדם לא ידעו רק הגשמיות, שהוא לחלקם, לא ציור השכלי, וחכמים השיגו בהשתלשלות העולם וסדר שלו, ולפיכך לא הבינו דבריהם. כי כאשר ידעו ציור מהות העולם שאי אפשר שיהיה שלם בעצמו בעבור שכל עלול חסר, לכך אמרו שהעולם דומה לאכסדרה שפרוץ ברביעית, ואמרו שהעולם נברא (כ"כ מה) [כמו] בית מקפתך מג' רוחות וברוח רביעית פרוץ כך העולם מקיף מג' צדדין ופרוץ ברביעית, והכל הוא לטעם אשר התבאר:


ספר חדושי אגדות חלק שלישי עמוד פא - מסכת בבא בתרא
ועוד אמרו בפרקי ר"א (שם) כי רוח צפון בראו ולא גמרו אמר מי שהוא אלוה יבא ויגמור אותו ע"כ, והדברים האלו נראים רחוקים וזרים והם דברי חכמה עליונה. וביאור ענין זה שלא גמרו לחסרון העלול, וזדה על שהואש יתברך יחיד בעולם, ולפיכך אי אפשר שיהיה פעולתו אשר יבא ממנו שלם בתכלית, שאם היה שלם בתכלית היה כאן [ח"ו שניות], כי אז היה אפשר העולם, שהוא העלול, שלם באופן זה שכל אחד מן המעלות היה משלים חציו, והיה פעולת כל אחד חסר מן העלה ויושלם ע"י האחר שהוא ג"כ אלוה. ולא שייך לומר שאי אפשר שלא יהיה העולם חסר מן העלה, שהרי בודאי חסר שהרי פעולת כל אחד חסר. ודבר זה מבואר שהוא יתברך אחד ואין זולתו במה שהעולם חסר ולא יושלם אם כן אין עוד להשלים העולם, וזה אמרם שהקב"ה ברא העולם שלם מג' רוחות ופרוץ מצד רביעית וכל מי שהוא אלוה יגמור אותו. ובאר זה כי לחסרון העלול שהוא חסר יש חסרון בעולם ואם יש בעולם עוד אלוה למה לא נשלם חסרון. והנה כל דבריהם חכמה והשכל:
(שם כ"ח ע"א). אמר רב יהודה אמר רב מאי דכתיב יערוף כמטר לקחי זו רוח מערבית הבאה מערפו של עולם:
זו רוח מערבית שבאה מערפו של עולם, מפני שנקרא מזרח קדמה מפני כי משם התחלת התנועה של הככבים וכל התחלה הוא קודם וכל סוף הוא אחור:
(שם). אמר רפרם בר פפא אמר רב חסדא מיום שחרב בהמ"ק לא הוגשמה רוח דרומית וכו' ואמר דפרם בר פפא אמר רב חסדא מיום שחרב בית המקדש לא ירדו גשמים מאוצר טוב:
לא הוגשמה רוח דרומית. הוא המעולה שברוחות וכאשר חרב הבית אין ספק שבא קללה וחסרון בעולם ונתבטל. וכן מה שאמר אחר זה שלא ירדו גשמים מאוצר הטוב הוא ענין זה בעצמו שבטל הטוב כשחרב הבית, כי שניהם דהיינו רוח דרום שהוא ימין ואוצר העליון שהוא אוצר הטוב, באים ממדריגה העליונה ובחורבן ב"ה נתבטל והבן זה:

While the former Chazal is clearly meant to be allegorical, it is probable that the latter one is meant to be factual. So, from:

http://www.intelihealth.com/IH/ihtIH/EMIHC275/9273/35323/330031.html?d=dmtHMSContent

However, the timing of intercourse can have an effect. Sperm carrying Y chromosomes apparently swim faster but do not survive as long as their X-carrying counterparts. So if a couple has intercourse right at the time of ovulation [Ishah mazra'as techilah], the faster-swimming male sperm have an advantage, and a male baby is slightly more likely — but only very slightly. But if the timing is a day or two earlier [Ish mazri'a techilah], more of the male sperm die out, and a female baby is a bit more likely.

YGB said...

I just realized I responded to a different Chazal than the one (loven, odem) that you cited. I have no explanation of the one you cited, and I assume it falls into the realm of the Chazal and Science issue, which is NOT the issue here. Perhaps there is some chromosome issue, of which I am not aware offhand, etc.

Anonymous said...

On why you imposed comment moderation:

>I was getting some nasty comments from an anonymous source - attacks without content. <

They were a bit nasty, but not without "content." He was saying he found your defense of a literal interpretation of the flood, in light of the evidence marshalled against it, to be "wacko," and threatening to abandon Judaism if a rabbi could take what he considered such an unreasonable position. Though somewhat intemperate, he was making a point. Perhaps if stated a bit more moderately, it should be allowed to be posted.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

>I have no explanation of the one you cited, and I assume it falls into the realm of the Chazal and Science issue<

As I've said, I believe that holding Chazal--human beings--infallible in these matters is a form of idol-worship.

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>Were it not a Yerushalmi in Megillah, you might have had a point as to the "reasonability" of the matter. The fact is that it is a Yerushalmi, and therefore most reasonable:

I'm curious what you mean by that. I accept that you would take a midrash aggadah literally, but what did you mean by saying "were it not a Yerushalmi" then I might have a point?

What if it wasn't a Yerushalmi but, say, a Ugaritic tablet would you say that I *might* have a point but, on the other hand, its still a reasonable possibility? Do you just generally think that its reasonable to say that various people could speak 70 languages, including one family, apart from it being a Yerushalmi?

Anonymous said...

It is only us Jews who have a linear calendar, without gaps, without recourse to reconstruction, without loss of the "keys," uninterrupted by destruction or exile. (As we know, the calendar is one of our most precious possessions, and great pains have always been taken to keep its precision.

Huh?

In terms of years, many parts of Nach count by the rule of the king of the land and not using our calendar. Moreover, it is extremely difficult to reconcile dates within the many parts of Nach (Divrei Haymaim, Trei Asar, Melachim etc.)

In fact, the apparent discord between the texts of approx 200 years had led people like R' Shimon Schwab to say that chazal FALSIFIED the record of what happened in Nach then because it was to terrible to be brought down. He viewed it as the need for spiritual truth to trump historical truth.

Chamesah Chumshei Torah never count from Creation.

We know that Jews did not start counting the years from the six days of Creation until after 1,000 CE. Until then, a common usage was the reign of Alexander.

In terms of our calendar, it is well known that it was not in place for most of Jewish history.

So, I don't understand where that's coming from.

One last thing... R' YGB, you are losing the prime argument about the Mabul. Very badly.

Even worse, you do not enter these discussions with an attempt to find emes (though you do keep this chain open). It very much shows.

bluke said...

The problem with the Maharal's explanation is that R' Tam used this Chazal as the basis of his shita for tzeis hakochavim. the whole idea of 2 shkias comes from the assumption that there is a firmament that the sun goes through, shkia 1 is when it goes in and shkia 2 is when it passes through. It is clear from the rishonim that they took this chazal literally and used it as the basis of a psak halacha.

In any case the Maharal is allegorizing Chazal, if so why not allegorize the Yerushalmi that Noach's descendnets spoke 70 languages?

bluke said...

Another point about Chazal and the movements of the sun is that the Gemara in Pesachim 94 has a dispute between Chazal and the Goyim about the movement of the sun. What are you going to say there? Chazal were arguing deep philosophical points with the goyim and couched them in this kind of language? Rather, it is clear that they were arguing on the metzius.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how R. Bechhofer views the korban at the end of Parshas Vayikra (4:13), where the Torah provides for a special korban when the entire congregation of Israel errs. Rashi says the entire congregation of Israel refers to Sanhedrin, i.e., that they erred in their teachings. There is an entire mesechta dealing with this, Horos. How can you argue that Chazal is infallible, when the Torah anticipates the possibility of them committing error and provides a korban for their atonement, and there is an entire mesechta devoted to it? (IOW, this seems to be a lot more than a theoretical possibility like the death penalty for a ben sorrer u'moreh.) I hope you will see fit and have the time to respond.

YGB said...

>Were it not a Yerushalmi in Megillah, you might have had a point as to the "reasonability" of the matter. The fact is that it is a Yerushalmi, and therefore most reasonable:

I'm curious what you mean by that. I accept that you would take a midrash aggadah literally, but what did you mean by saying "were it not a Yerushalmi" then I might have a point?

What if it wasn't a Yerushalmi but, say, a Ugaritic tablet would you say that I *might* have a point but, on the other hand, its still a reasonable possibility? Do you just generally think that its reasonable to say that various people could speak 70 languages, including one family, apart from it being a Yerushalmi?

Posted by Mississippi Fred MacDowell | Tuesday, January 17, 2006 9:11:22 AM


It is as reasonable as their having lived hundreds of years. It is evident that human beings were functioning on a higher level back then.

I cannot countenance the comparison of a Yerushalmi to a "Ugaritic Tablet." The Yerushalmi was edited by R' Yochanan, who could be meimis with a glance and mechayeh with a prayer - please remember with whom we are dealing!!!

It is only us Jews who have a linear calendar, without gaps, without recourse to reconstruction, without loss of the "keys," uninterrupted by destruction or exile. (As we know, the calendar is one of our most precious possessions, and great pains have always been taken to keep its precision.

Huh?

In terms of years, many parts of Nach count by the rule of the king of the land and not using our calendar. Moreover, it is extremely difficult to reconcile dates within the many parts of Nach (Divrei Haymaim, Trei Asar, Melachim etc.)


The discrepancies are relatively minor, and for the most part subject to resolution. Fundamentally, the chain is continuous and uniterrupted.

In fact, the apparent discord between the texts of approx 200 years had led people like R' Shimon Schwab to say that chazal FALSIFIED the record of what happened in Nach then because it was to terrible to be brought down. He viewed it as the need for spiritual truth to trump historical truth.

Rabbi Schwab was very wrong to take that position. He undermined the entire credibility of mesorah by taking it. I reject that approach as beyond all reason and precedent, flat out bad Torah and bad history.

Chamesah Chumshei Torah never count from Creation.

Right. They count from Adam.

We know that Jews did not start counting the years from the six days of Creation until after 1,000 CE. Until then, a common usage was the reign of Alexander.

That was for the dating of shtaros. The chronology was retained throughout.

In terms of our calendar, it is well known that it was not in place for most of Jewish history.

So, I don't understand where that's coming from.


I do not know where *that* is coming from - Sod Ha'Ibbur is one of the core knowledges of Judaism, and it comes with a reckoning beginning 5766 years ago.

One last thing... R' YGB, you are losing the prime argument about the Mabul. Very badly.

Even worse, you do not enter these discussions with an attempt to find emes (though you do keep this chain open). It very much shows.

Posted by Anonymous | Tuesday, January 17, 2006 10:38:06 AM


That is a matter of opinion...

The problem with the Maharal's explanation is that R' Tam used this Chazal as the basis of his shita for tzeis hakochavim. the whole idea of 2 shkias comes from the assumption that there is a firmament that the sun goes through, shkia 1 is when it goes in and shkia 2 is when it passes through. It is clear from the rishonim that they took this chazal literally and used it as the basis of a psak halacha.

And the Maharam Alshakar rejects R"T for precisely this reason. So?

In any case the Maharal is allegorizing Chazal, if so why not allegorize the Yerushalmi that Noach's descendnets spoke 70 languages?

Posted by bluke | Tuesday, January 17, 2006 11:14:30 AM


It *may* be allegory - although it certainly sounds exegetical! But, in any event, it is "reasonable!"

Another point about Chazal and the movements of the sun is that the Gemara in Pesachim 94 has a dispute between Chazal and the Goyim about the movement of the sun. What are you going to say there? Chazal were arguing deep philosophical points with the goyim and couched them in this kind of language? Rather, it is clear that they were arguing on the metzius.

Posted by bluke | Tuesday, January 17, 2006 11:16:51 AM


I say they were modeh al ha'emes. What, then, is the issue?

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>I cannot countenance the comparison of a Yerushalmi to a "UgariticTablet." The Yerushalmi was edited by R' Yochanan, who could be meimiswith a glance and mechayeh with a prayer - please remember with whom weare dealing!!!

Respectfully, I did not compare them, I contrasted them. If it was insensitive not to say "lehavdil" then my apologies. But the basic question remains. I suppose you answered it by pointing out that "It is as reasonable as their having lived hundreds of years. It isevident that human beings were functioning on a higher level back then." In other words, I take it that you wouldn't accept the claim of, lehavdil, a Ugaritic tablet (unless, perhaps, it pertains to the same era, when people functioned on a higher level?).

That said, you have a teyrutz for the dor of Noah. But where does it end? Were people functioning on a higher level until the dissolution of the Sanhedrin, of which we are told members knew 70 languages? This takes us to a relatively recent time in history.

If you head down this path why don't we have to believe every Chassidishe maaseh? Or do we?

Saul Shajnfeld said...

I'm really not familiar with this inyan, but if Tannaim could be meimis with a glance, how did they manage to control the urge to destroy the Roman armies and save Yerushalayim? Did Hashem order them not to?

Or is it the same reason that they refrained from inventing airplanes despite knowing how?

I'm not joking. This is a real question.

Saul Shajnfeld said...

>I say they were modeh al ha'emes. What, then, is the issue?<

I'm lost. If Chazal were infallible in matters of science, how could they be modeh al ha'emes to Greek scientists?

What am I missing?

Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...

To defend RYBG against Fred's question of where you draw the line in allegorizing... (good! another forum to debate you, S :)

It has to by analyzed on a case by case basis. Here are two considerations off the top of my head:
1) Do the commentators cast it in a literal light or allegorical one?
2) Is there some theological principle that would be compromised if allegorized?

In this perticular case of 70 languages, I think we have both.
1)a. Maordechai's knowlegde of Tartain (?) was the neccesary ingredient to uncover the plot of Bigsan and Seresh to allow the whole Purim miracle to get off the ground.
Definitely needs to be literal for the understanding of the core Megillah story.
1)b The Sanhedrin must hear testimony directly from the wittnesses' voice and understand it without interpreters.
This is a halachic requirement and couldn't possibly be understood allegorically.

2)a The midrash states that the 70 souls that descended to Egypt (speaking of the devil) were neccesary to provide a counter-balance to the 70 nations of the world. There is some core hashkafic element invested in the existence of 70 distinct nations with their own tongue.
2)b It is taught that Moshe translated the TORAH into these 70 languages! (Be'er) This is simillarly alluding to some underlying bluprint of the world (Torah) that has these 70 languages as part of the basic floorplan.

In light of the above, it is supremely reasonable from our unique religious point of view to assume that Noach and his sons (the quintessential b'nei Noach) took it upon themselves to maintain and propogate this gentile "background scenery" of the world to then have the Jewish people take center stage.

My crucial point is that it does NOT have to be reasonable to the secular academic in order for it to be perfectly and utterly reasonable for us.
The secular-minded academic is not to be blamed for his tunnel-vision of allowing only natural and observable phenomenon to guide his assesments of what is reasonable.

Our personal/ national experience tells us to do otherwise.

YGB said...

The common knowledge of seventy languages stopped at Migdal Bavel.

As to why Chazal could not stop the Romans etc., this capacity requires a direct gaze at a person, not an overview, which at best can lead to a curse (a la Bilam):



(1) ספר תולדות יצחק על בראשית פרק מח פסוק ח
והתשובה שהרוצה לברך או לקלל צריך לתת עיניו בו לשתחול הברכה או הקללה כאמרם ז"ל נתן עיניו בו ונעשה גל של עצמות [ברכות נח א וש"נ], וכן בבלעם [במדבר כב מא, כג יג] ויעלהו במות בעל וירא משם קצה העם, לך נא אתי אל מקום אחר אשר תראנו משם אפס קצהו תראה וקבנו לי משם, לזה אמר אי אפשר שתחול הברכה עליהם מצד נתינת עיניו בהם, שעיני ישראל כבדו מזוקן, ולכן הוצרך לשים זרועותיו עליהם ולנשקם ולחבקם, לשבזה תדבק נפשו בהם ותחול הברכה:


(3) אור החיים על שמות פרק יא פסוק ה
עוד יש לך לדעת כי כל מקור ישאף למינו וישאבנו, וזה הוא סוד בחינת בירורי ניצוצי הקדושה באמצעות נשמות ישראל ועסק תורתם, והצדיקים העצומים קדמונינו יכירו בהביטם באדם רשע לברר ממנו כח החיוני שהוא בחינת הטוב באמצעות הראיה הדקה אשר יביטו בעין החכמה להוציא חלק הטוב ההוא, כי כשיתכוין למול ענף הקדושה תעשה בו נפש הצדיק כמעשה אבן השואבת לברזל הנקראת קאלמיט"ע בלע"ז שתוציאנו ממקום שנקבע שם בראיה, וה' עשה דמיונות בעולם להאמין אדם בתורת חכם ומעתה נמצא דעת אלהים באומרו ומת כל בכור, פירוש כי באמצעות שאני עובר בתוך מצרים בזה ימות מעצמו כל בכור, כנתינת עין של חכמים ברשעים ועושים אותם גל של עצמות, כי באמצעות כן יצא מהם החיוניות, כמו כן הדבר הזה, שיפריד מהם באמצעות העברתו שם כל נשמות הבכורות, והבן הדברים ואומרו כל בכור פירוש לא שתצא הנפש מהגוף לבד אלא שגם בחינת נפש תמות גוף ונפש של קליפת בכור מצרים, ואולי כי בזה לא נתעצם שום גלות עוד כבחינת גלות ושעבוד מצרים כי אבד כח הקליפה העצום שהוא בחינת בכור:


(30) פירוש הרקאנאטי על התורה - פרשת בלק
וישא בלעם את עיניו וירא את ישראל שוכן לשבטיו. דע כי בהיות בלעם הרשע מעלה נפשו בעליונים היה צריך לראות ולהסתכל במי שכוונתו עליו להרע או להטיב והיה מדביק וקושר מחשבתו למעלה והיה ממשיך כח עליון על מי שהיה מסתכל זהו שנאמר עליו אשר מחזה שדי יחזה נופל גלוי עינים כי גלוי עינים ממש היה צריך לו זהו ויקחהו שדה צופים שהיה צופה בהם כדי להמשיך עליהם כוונתו ומחשבתו הרעה. אבל יי' יתברך היודע ומבין כל הכוונות ראה רוע שיעור כוונתו ומחשבתו לקלל את ישראל והפכה לטובה שנאמר ויהפוך יי' אלהיך לך את הקללה לברכה. ותתבונן מכאן עד היכן מגיע כח המחשבה וההרהור אם לטב אם לרע. על כן אמרו רבותינו ז"ל כל מקום שנתנו חכמים עיניהם או מיתה או עוני וכענין רבי יוחנן דלו לי גבינאי ונתן עיניו בו ונעשה גל של עצמות כי בהיות החסיד הקדוש והטהור מדביק מחשבתו בעליונים כל דבר וענין שהיה חושב בו ומכיון עליו באותה שעה היה מתקיים מיד אם טוב אם רע ועל דרך סוד התפלה וסוד הקרבנות שהוא דבקות והתקרבות העליונים. אמנם טעם היות כח עין הרע נמצא יותר בתלמידי חכמים הוא לפי שכוונתם ומחשבתם בחכמה אחרונה והיא השופטת ומענשת ולפעמים נשמת הנענש נטלת ממנו על ידי כך:

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