Reply to Rubin
grateful to Ephraim Rubin for his thoughtful review of my book. His comments
show careful reading and, for the most part, accurate understanding. Some of
his comments identify real errors that require me to change my position.
Some identify clumsy or incomplete expression that requires supplementation
and clarification. Some are based upon a misunderstanding of my position or
mistakes of fact or logic. Which his which will be made clear in my replies
text of my book that Rubin used is three years old. It was, and still is, a
work in progress. Since it is
available to the public
at the Ohr Somayach website, it is of course
appropriate that reviews be written and publicized. Some of the errors that
Rubin identifies have already been corrected in the newer version that is not
yet available to the public. Others require new revisions.
Rubin peppers his writing with
gratuitous insults, including accusations of deception. This is common in
critical book reviews. It makes for exciting reading and primes the audience to
look forward to an entertaining fight. I decline. The importance of the material
is surely enough to hold the reader's interest.
My comments are in red and a
smaller font, inserted into Rubin's text.1
A Review of Rabbi Dr. Dovid
Gottlieb's "Living Up to the Truth"
By Ephraim Rubin
An old joke tells
of a young man who was to have a date with a young lady he wanted to marry.
Caring for her child's success, his mother told him to speak of three
issues: love, family, and philosophy. When the couple met, the first
question the young man asked was: "Do you love chocolate?" Then he asked:
"Do you have a brother?" to which the answer was negative, and the third
question was "If you did have a brother, would he love chocolate?"
The joke does not tell us about the couple's
future, but it is always useful to know that if you are reading a book written
by somebody who claims he is a philosopher, this may be the kind of philosophy
you'll have to deal with. "Living up to the Truth," in particular, provides
strong empirical evidence for the above principle.
The book, only 104 pages long, opens with a
six page discourse on the "relevance of Judaism," which concludes "that the
question is really no question, that it can't be asked, and that it is really
incoherent," because "to ask whether religion is relevant is to measure religion
against my goals and values. But, this presupposes that I already have goals and
values," while "the Torah itself provides us a complete set of values. The Torah
itself dictates what our goals shall be."2
This point makes a lot of sense, and the late Prof. Yeshayahu Leibowitz was the
contemporary Jewish religious thinker who most emphasized it, so for a better
understanding of the principle one would be best advised to turn to his works.
Rabbi Gottlieb, however, seems to
misunderstand his own point, for the whole second chapter of his book is
dedicated to praising the importance of truth, the importance of searching for
the truth in general and for the true religion in particular. Now, if one adopts
the value of truth because it is established by the Torah, it follows that he
already accepts the Torah and trying to persuade him that he should accept the
Torah as true is preaching to the choir. But if one adopts the value of truth
because he considers it an important value in and of itself and he tries to
examine the truth of Judaism based on this value, it follows that he must
evaluate the relevance of the Torah (its being true) based on his
pre-established goals and values (the value of truth) -- and this is exactly
what Rabbi Gottlieb claims, on page 17, is incoherent. R' Gottlieb's approach
seems to be philosophically self-contradictory.
Rubin has missed my point
here. Here is what I wrote:
"Now in our case, the Torah doesn't
allow itself to be a tool with which we can realize our extra-Jewish or our
extra-Torah goals and values. The reason is that the Torah itself provides a
complete set of values. The Torah itself dictates what our goals shall be.
Thus, the Torah contains its own complete standard of relevance. The only way
in which I can ask if the Torah is relevant is to decide not to treat it as
true, not to take it in terms of its own self-conception. This would mean
deriving the standard of relevance from another source. The Torah dictates for
itself its own standards of relevance, and so to ask whether it is relevant or
not is to ask an incoherent question."
This prohibits evaluating the
Torah on the basis of an extra-Torah value. For example, if one asks whether the
Torah way of life will promote excellence in sports, or success in technological
innovation, then one is evaluating the Torah in terms of a non-Torah value. But
there is nothing wrong with evaluating the Torah in terms of a value that the
Torah itself recognizes. Since truth is a prime value of the Torah, it is
entirely appropriate to see that the Torah lives up to one of its own values.
Rubin thinks that something
counts as a extra-Torah value if the motivation for accepting it does not
come from Torah. In the context of my point this is a mistake. My paragraph
mentions nothing about motivation. There is no mistake in evaluating the Torah
with respect to its own value of truth, even if the critic's commitment to truth
comes from a different source.
When Rubin writes "This point
makes a lot of sense" it seems that he agrees that it is inappropriate to
evaluate a system with respect to a value external to the system. If one reads
"external" in terms of motivation, as Rubin does, it follows that non-believers
are disqualified from evaluating the truth of the Torah. I do not think that
Rubin would accept this conclusion.
Moreover, chapter II of "Living Up" begins
by establishing a dichotomy between what R' Gottlieb calls the pragmatic and the
realist attitudes towards religion:
"The pragmatic attitude starts
with the self. I am the person with goals, desires, hopes, fears, projects,
scruples and so on. There are various things I want to accomplish, and I look
at the world as a set of resources to accomplish my projects. All of human
history and human culture can be seen as resources to further my goals...
The second is the realist attitude. The
realist wants truth. Every religion has some story to tell. Where did the
universe come from? What is its fundamental nature? What forces guide its
development? What is the nature of the human being? What will the future be? The
realist wants the religion whose story is true."
Rabbi Gottlieb, of course, urges his readers
to adopt what he calls the realist attitude. Yet two pages later he writes:
"The responsibility to seek the
truth is of course only one responsibility among many, and it may be
overridden when it conflicts with a more pressing responsibility. For example,
suppose seeking the truth will cost my life! Also, there is considerable
discussion of the foundation of the responsibility to seek the truth... This
is a theoretical matter which does not touch its validity. In the case of
religion, since the utility of having the truth is eternal, the
responsibility to seek the truth obviously applies."
This "eternal" utility might mean
eternal life in the World to Come or something like that, but at its base this
statement is a justification for the search for the true religion from the
pragmatic viewpoint. But then the whole construct of a dichotomy between the
pragmatic and the realist attitudes, the praise for the morality of the latter
and condemnation for the immorality of the former in which R' Gottlieb is
engaged for the first three pages of Chapter II, is simply meaningless within
the context of his book --both attitudes would lead one to accept the religion
whose factual truth is proven.
correct that there is confusion here. I used to think realism and pragmatism
were mutually exclusive alternatives. I now see realism as a part of
pragmatism -- among our many goals are knowing the truth and living
accordingly. What needs to be considered is when truth should take
precedence over other goals. Giving truth precedence is still called
realism; giving precedence to other goals at the price of truth is now
However, the point that Rubin
addresses survives in the new setting. It is not true that the two approaches
[realism and opportunism] will agree on adopting the true religion.
- Rubin assumes that every religion will make
promises of eternal reward. That is not correct. Buddhism, for example, denies
that anything of a person survives death. See Conze, p. 181. [References are
listed at the end of this Reply.] A religion that does not promise eternal life
promises only a finite reward. One may acknowledge that such a religion is true
and yet choose to ignore it on the grounds that living with falsehood promises
- Rubin is assuming that the "pragmatist" [or now,
"opportunist"] will apply his position rationally. But my use of this category
was to describe choices that are usually irrational or irresponsible. My example
of the pragmatist/opportunist ignoring the evidence that smoking injures health
makes this clear. Thus it is possible that he may also irrationally ignore even
the truth of a religion that makes eternal promises.
The use of the categories
realist and pragmatist in the text is confused and is replaced in the newer
version. But the particular point to which Rubin addresses his criticism seems
to me to be still valid.
The matter becomes even more peculiar when
one notes that the last argument is brought by R' Gottlieb as a "technical
comment," of which he writes in the preface to the book, "These comments are
designed for those with a background in philosophy, mathematics, or science --
and for those with an intellectually adventuresome spirit. They can be skipped
without missing anything essential to the argument."5
To say that a remark which makes a discourse occupying 3 of 104 pages
unnecessary and meaningless "can be skipped without missing anything essential
to the argument" is a very peculiar action for a person who happens to have been
a professor of mathematical logic in the Department of Philosophy at Johns
Hopkins University, as the back cover of the book claims.
Indeed, logic is not the strong point of
"Living Up to the Truth." On page 34 of the book R' Gottlieb describes evidence
Islam brings in support of its Divine nature:
"They claim that if you master
Arabic and read the Koran you will see that such a book could not have been
written by a human being. Only G-d could have written it. The problem with
this 'evidence' is parallel to the problem with the conquest [the rapid Moslem
conquest of vast areas of the world in the 7th century CE, which they,
according to Gottlieb, claim to be an evidence of Divine support for Islamic
believers]. It is often very difficult to explain human creativity. How did
Aristotle produce so many new ideas, theories, whole new disciplines? How did
Beethoven compose the late quartets? How did Einstein think of relativity? Our
inability to answer those questions is not evidence that they were all
supernatural! They just highlight our lack of understanding how people --
especially geniuses -- create."
A good and reasonable point -- but how the
reader is amazed if he manages to get to Chapter VII, "Jewish Survival: the Fact
and Its Implications," and encounters there the following statement:
"Thus the supernatural element
of Jewish survival must be squarely faced. Since there is no reasonable
naturalistic explanation, the unbiased investigator must at least seriously
entertain the possibility of a supernatural explanation..."
Is this the same Rabbi Gottlieb who
59 pages ago told us that the fact we do not understand certain phenomena is by
no means evidence of the Divine nature of these phenomena?
Rubin is over-generalizing
here. I did not say or imply that
"the fact we do not understand certain phenomena
is by no means evidence of the Divine nature of these phenomena."
What I said was
"It is often very difficult to explain human
creativity. How did Aristotle produce so many new ideas, theories, whole new
disciplines? How did Beethoven compose the late quartets? How did Einstein think
of relativity? Our inability to answer those questions is not evidence that they
were all supernatural!"
As the reader can see, my
comment was directed specifically to explaining the products of human genius. I
did not say or imply that no unexplained phenomena could be evidence of
Divine action. Such an assertion would undermine most [if not all] attempts to
give evidence for Divine action. It would also be patently irrational -- it
amounts to a philosophical decision not to allow the possibility of evidence for
There is thus no inconsistency
in my position. We do not infer Divine action from unexplained products of
genius. But we may indeed infer divine action from certain other types of
unexplained events. See below.
line of reasoning on page 34, one should say:
[The paragraph below was written by Rubin as his
account of how I should reason if I were consistent]
How did the people of India manage to achieve their independence through
non-violent protest against British colonization policy -- a very rare
phenomenon in the world history? How did the ancient Greeks manage to lay
the philosophical and scientific foundations of the whole Western
civilization for the next 2000 years? How did the Gypsies, despite
centuries of worldwide migrations and harsh persecutions in the most
countries they came to, manage to survive as a nation, preserve their
cultural unity, and even their unique language -- Romany -- in which the
most Gypsies speak until this very day8?
(The last time most Jews spoke a single language was about 2000 years
ago.) Our inability to answer those questions is not evidence that they
were all supernatural! They just highlight our lack of understanding how
societies -- and in particular, nations -- really function."
is often very difficult to explain specific qualities demonstrated by
different nations and societies. How did the Swiss manage to preserve
their neutrality for centuries, while other European countries were
permanently engaged in wars, including the murderous World Wars I and II?
How did the godforsaken desert tribe of Mongols manage to conquer vast
areas from China to Hungary in a few dozen years in the 13th century? How
did the Chinese Han people manage to preserve their cultural unity for
millennia despite the fact they were spread over territory which is almost
as large as the whole of Europe, and how it came to be that 'With more
than 4,000 years of recorded history, China is one of the few existing
countries that also flourished economically and culturally in the earliest
stages of world civilization'
serious questions. Let us start with some groundwork. There are different
types of answers to questions of the form "How is it that X?" We ask the
question because X is different from what we have seen before. We are
looking for an explanation. The explanation might come from the uniqueness
of X's circumstances. Or it might come from a new combination of old
recognized theoretical principles. Or it might require the recognition of
new principles. Here are examples of each.
- How is it that some species remain unchanged for tens
of millions of years? Evolution will answer that the environment was constant;
that the species was well adapted to the environment; that the variations needed
to improve adaptation were incompatible with the basic structure of the species,
that the environment was isolated so no new competitors appeared, etc. No new
theory and no new combination of recognized principles are needed to account for
this. All that is required is a careful description of the unique features of
this environment. [The use of evolution as an example of scientific
reasoning in this paragraph does not endorse evolution as true, or even
reasonable. The reader who is interested in my views on evolution should see
and the tape Science & The Age of The Universe (download) at
- How is it that black holes, from which no matter
or energy can escape, nevertheless radiate energy and eventually disappear
[Hawking radiation]? The answer depends upon a novel use of quantum mechanics in
the context of extreme gravitation. But no new theories are needed.
- [In the 1920s it was asked] How is it possible
for protons to sit together in the nucleus of the atom when they are all
positively charged and like charges repel each other? The answer in this case
depends upon recognizing a fundamentally new force - the nuclear force.
The crucial difference between
category 3 and categories 1 and 2 is this. Do we have reason to think that X
violates the laws, forces, causes and explanations that are responsible for
more familiar phenomena? If we do, then we expect the answer to be in category
3. Or is it reasonable to try to explain X in terms of its unique circumstances,
or perhaps in terms of new combinations of old recognized principles? If so,
then the answer will be in categories 1 or 2.
How do we argue that a
question belongs in category 3? There are two possibilities. If we have a
description of the causes of the relevant phenomena, we can argue that they
cannot explain X. This is the case of the atomic nucleus.
If we do not know the causes,
we can still make the argument, as follows. We identify consistent categories of
phenomena. Whatever the causes are, they will have to explain these categories
of phenomena. If we then find a particular phenomenon that violates the
categories, we may argue that whatever the causes are of the phenomena in the
categories, they will not explain this phenomenon.
For an example of the latter
argument, consider photographic memory. We can argue that no theory of learning
will explain photographic memory. Learning requires time and training for
acquisition of specific skills, time to carefully examine the material to be
learned and so on. Photographic memory does not function in this way. Thus even
in the absence of a theory of learning, we can know that whatever theory
eventually does explain learning, it will not explain photographic memory.
This is how I argued in the
text that the answer to "How did the Jewish people survive?" belongs to category
3. I identified consistent categories of the history of other cultures and
religions, and then showed that the history of the Jewish people violates those
categories. On that basis I concluded that we need to recognize a new force to
explain Jewish survival.
Now Rubin claims that the
answers to many other historical questions equally deserve to be put in category
3. If he is right, I will have to conclude that each of them requires
recognizing some new force -- an absurd position. Let us go through Rubin's
questions and see to whether we really have reason to think the answers belong
in category 3.
Swiss neutrality. The
Britannica offers the following facts relevant to Swiss neutrality. The Swiss
population is composed of people of German, French and Italian origin. The
diversity of languages, culture, and sympathies made external neutrality
necessary for internal cohesion. Forty per cent of Switzerland's food supply is
imported. To go to war meant the threat of starvation. Switzerland is a small
country poor in resources. In 1815 Swiss neutrality was recognized by
international law. At all times the Swiss had an army that would fight to defend
their neutrality -- neutrality did not mean pacifism. World War II posed the
most extreme threat to Swiss neutrality. Here is how they responded:
When World War II broke out, the Federal Council
issued a declaration of neutrality that was backed by a strong army and air
force. Ultimately 850,000 soldiers were mobilized out of a total population of
only 4,000,000. A fortress in the central Alps, the réduit, was prepared with
arms, ammunition, medical supplies, food, water, hydroelectric plants, and
factories so that the Swiss army could fight against the Nazis even if the
cities of the Mittelland were lost. The populace was told that, if it should be
announced by radio, leaflets, or any other means that they were to capitulate,
they should regard such statements as enemy propaganda. The Swiss were
determined and prepared militarily to fight to preserve their freedom.
Thus neutrality was crucial
for Swiss survival, and they were willing to fight to preserve it. I do not see
any deep historical puzzle here at all. The only remaining question is why the
Swiss thought of and implemented this policy when others who could have
benefited from such a policy did not. This is a matter of creativity and genius,
and we have already pointed out that genius is very poorly understood. There is
no reason to expect that the explanation of Swiss neutrality will fall in
The Mongol conquests.
As I pointed out in the text, there have been many extraordinary conquests in
human history, including Alexander in the fourth century BCE and the Moslems in
the eighth century CE. The existence of historical parallels encourages us to
look at such conquests as within the normal [if atypical] abilities of human
societies operating within favorable circumstances. Whatever explains those
abilities in general will explain these conquests as well. There is no reason to
think that the answer to this question is in category 3.
The cultural continuity of
the Han. Perhaps I am missing Rubin's reference here. My Britannica says
Pinyin HAN (206 BC-AD 220), the second great
Chinese Imperial dynasty, considered the prototype for all later Chinese
dynasties. So thoroughly did the Han dynasty establish what was thereafter
considered Chinese culture that the Chinese word denoting someone who is Chinese
means "a man of Han."
The dynasty was founded by Liu Pang, later Kao
Tsu (256-195 BC), a man of humble birth who led the revolt against the
repressive policies of the preceding short-lived Ch'in dynasty (221-206 BC). The
Han copied the highly centralized Ch'in administrative structure, dividing the
country into a series of administrative areas ruled by centrally appointed
officials and developing a salaried bureaucracy in which promotion was based
primarily on merit. Unlike the Ch'in, however, the Han adopted a Confucian
ideology that emphasized moderation and virtue and thereby masked the
authoritarian policies of the regime. So successful was this policy that the Han
lasted longer than any other Chinese empire, reigning--with a short interruption
when Wang Mang temporarily usurped the throne and established the Hsin dynasty
(AD9-25)--for more than 400 years.
So the "millennia" to which
Rubin refers are really 400 years. The "Chinese Han people" were in fact the
rulers of China who forcibly introduced a nation-wide culture. They preserved
that culture by using a thorough administrative system to implement
authoritarian policies. The geographic area they controlled, while very large,
is a single connected area. This is in marked contrast to the survival of
Judaism in scattered minorities during the last two thousand years. I do not
think the Han experience counts as an historical puzzle at all.
Chinese antiquity and early
economic success. I do not follow Rubin here. Doe he think that a long
lasting culture could not be among the first to flourish economically? Why not?
Indian peaceful achievement
of independence. I think this really is an historical puzzle. We do not
expect empires to give up possessions without overwhelming cause. Almost always,
that cause is military. This case contradicts those expectations. So the
question is genuine. But I do not think it goes beyond categories 1 and 2. We
can all do the analysis. The British were exhausted by Word War Two. There was a
strong ideology at home and abroad opposing the exploitation of foreign
possessions. The slaughter of multitudes of unarmed people, especially exposed
by the world media, would be very difficult to justify. And so on. The
explanation need not cite new laws or causes of historical phenomena.
It has been suggested to me by
Yoram Bogacz that the relatively peaceful transition to democracy in South
Africa in 1994 ranks with Indian peaceful achievement of independence. The
Whites in South Africa were exhausted by decades of isolation and sanctions.
There was a strong ideology at home and abroad opposing the exploitation of
Blacks. There were some violent South African groups, but in India, too, there
were violent groups. Ghandi, after all, was assassinated by a Hindu fanatic
opposed to the toleration of Islam in India. Bogacz concludes that if South
Africa and India can be placed in the same group, then India is not unique and
certainly does not fit in category 3.
Greek foundations of
philosophy and science. Now we are back to the question of genius. I
acknowledged above that we understand genius very poorly. Indeed, here we need
the opposite also -- why other cultures did not produce equally talented genius.
Here is an area of phenomena that we know we do not understand.
As a result, no argument can
be made that the explanation of Greek genius must fall in category 3. Not only
do we lack recognized causes of individual and social genius, we do not even
have consistent categories of experience with genius. We certainly have no
reason to put it in category 3.
The survival of the
Gypsies. This looks to be Rubin's best case. I claim that the survival of
the Jewish people belongs in category 3 and requires G-d as an explanation.
Rubin claims that the survival of the Gypsies is equally surprising. Therefore,
by my logic I ought to recognize G-d as the only available explanation of Gypsy
survival as well.
Rubin invites us to
contemplate a picture of the Gypsies as a scattered minority preserving their
distinctive ethnic identity and culture for a thousand years. If this picture
were true, the objection would be strong. But the picture is not true.
The Gypsies participate in a
variety of religions [the source for this and the following quotes is: ©
1996-2000 by the Patrin Web Journal URL:<http://www.geocities.com/Paris/5121.htm>]:
"The Roma [Gypsies] cannot be said to have a
"religion" of their own. They have usually adopted the faiths of the countries
in which they live. Among the Roma can be found Roman Catholics, Eastern
Orthodox, Protestants, and Muslims."
They differ in fundamental values:
"Identifying commonalities among all Roma
[Gypsies] is difficult. The stress on literacy, which varies substantially among
different Romani groups, seems to compound the problem."
The Gypsies have very little shared culture:
"Romani culture is diverse and there is no
universal culture per se" "What may be accepted as "true-Roma" by one group may
be gadjé [non-Gypsy] to another. Romani culture is diverse, with many traditions
and customs, and all tribes around the world have their own individual beliefs
and tenets. It would be invalid to generalize and oversimplify by giving
concrete rules to all Roma. Despite what some groups may believe, there is no
one tribe that can call themselves the one, "true" Roma."
Gypsy history has been
reconstructed on the basis of linguistic affinities between the Romani language
and the languages of northern India, and the knowledge of Indian history from
1000 years ago. The Gypsies themselves have no records of that history -- they
have no account of their origins. A review of the reconstructed history of the
Gypsies ends with these words:
"While this is to an extent speculative, it is
based upon sound linguistic and historical evidence, and provides the
best-supported scenario to date."
The identity of the Gypsies as
a separate ethnic group is based on some shared physical characteristics, a
shared group of dialects of an original language, some beliefs and customs and
shared persecution. The disintegration of the central common culture under the
forces of assimilation fits our expectations for their historical experience.
Indeed, the Gypsy experience
seems to fit one of the categories described in the text. Here is what I wrote:
"How can a civilization survive under such widely
differing conditions? If it were rigid and unable to change to meet the new
conditions, then it would simply fall apart. If it were flexible and able to
meet the new conditions, then there ought to be dozens of different
"Traditional" Judasims today. Why? Because, we were living under such widely
differing conditions, that if we adapted to meet those new conditions, then we
ought to have widely different forms of "Traditional" Judaism. Neither of these
scenarios occurred. How can this be explained?"
The Gypsy experience is
described in the next to last sentence. They lived under widely differing
conditions and adapted to meet those conditions. The result is widely different
forms of Gypsy life. That is to be expected -- it does not need a special
There is no comparison here to
the Jewish experience of the last two thousand years. Jews in Poland for the
last millennium, and Jews in Yemen for 1500 years, and Jews in North Africa,
Persia, and the rest of Europe did not adopt the religions of their surroundings
and they did not change their fundamental values. They share the same beliefs
and practices. They recognize the same scholars and literature as authoritative.
They share a vast, detailed culture. They have a continuous record of their
The rise of assimilationist
movements in the last three centuries does not contradict this point. To repeat,
the expectation is that the central culture will fragment and disintegrate to
the point that there will be no significant culture common to the separated
groups of the population. Gypsies in different locations share only the most
superficial aspects of belief and custom. The widely separated Jewish minorities
should have suffered the same fate -- there should be no significant shared
culture from Poland to Yemen to North Africa and so on. Jewish history
contradicts this expectation. The fact that portions of the Jewish population in
many locations chose to leave the traditional forms of Jewish life does not
remove the surprise in the survival of the common culture in the remainder of
(It is noteworthy
that the statement of page 34 is also brought by R' Gottlieb as a "technical
comment," which "can be skipped without missing anything essential to the
argument." This already smells of hiding the contradictions when you are
unable to resolve them.)
The destiny of each nation and society is
unique in its own way, but it is surely not an argument for the Divine nature of
the religion adopted by any particular nation or society.
different types of uniqueness. Each person's fingerprints are unique. Thus
the fact that your fingerprints are unique needs no special explanation --
everyone has unique fingerprints. Einstein's genius was unique in a
different way: it is not the case that each person has his own personal
style of genius. When X is unique in a way that everything else is not
unique, then X's uniqueness needs a special explanation. I argued that
Jewish survival is unique in the second way.
As for the specific phenomenon of Jewish survival, it might be useful to note that for the last 150 years, the majority of Jewish people have not been adherent to Orthodox Judaism, the truth of which R' Gottlieb tries to prove (though he, striving to remain "politically correct," calls it "traditional Judaism"). These 150 years have witnessed the growth of a secular Jewish culture, an unprecedented worldwide spread of the Jewish population (from North America and South Africa to the Russian Far East and Australia), the establishment of the State of Israel and the revitalization of Jewish cultural and social life in Western Europe and America after the massacres of the Holocaust. Most of those who took part in these processes were non-Orthodox Jews. Nowadays, of 13,000,000 Jews living all over the world, the vast majority are not the Orthodox. If there is a God in Jewish survival, He evidently has no specific interest in Orthodox Judaism. Of course, one may say that He is patient and merciful and waits for His children to repent even if it takes them very long -- but this seems a post-factum excuse more than positive evidence for the Divine origin of Orthodox Judaism.
I think Rubin misses the forest for the trees. 150 years out of a history of 3800 is too small a sample to read the purposes of divine providence. Also, a defection of large percentages of Jews from the traditional formula of Jewish life is not unprecedented. During the second Temple there was a period of widespread Hellenization. During the Babylonian exile a great many Jews inter-married. The loss of Jews to large, successful surrounding cultures is not a surprise. The survival of a group committed to the original Judaism is the surprise. Furthermore, the population study made famous by Alan Dershowitz in The Vanishing American Jew [which was confirmed by a follow-up study in 2000] shows that the life-expectancy of the non-traditional groups is very short. As much as we mourn the loss of so many Jews to their people, the fact remains that the group of people identified as Jewish is expected to become overwhelmingly traditional.
And since most of the Holocaust martyrs were strictly observant Orthodox Jews, while the most of those who escaped the massacre were not Orthodox, it would be much more reasonable to claim that God is really angry with those who continue to adhere what R' Gottlieb calls "traditional Judaism."
Although the Holocaust deserves serious consideration rather than a casual comment, I will reply here because the answer is very simple. G-d judges people in accordance with what could be reasonably expected of them. There is no simple correspondence between level of observance and material success. Thus from the fact that the less observant were spared one cannot infer that G-d favors less observance.
Again, searching for "God's finger" in history is a just monkey business, but if Rabbi Gottlieb wants to engage in it, he should be aware that he might find the consequences undesirable.
guilty here of confusion and poor exposition. My text makes it sound as if
this is the procedure: Search history for surprising facts. If they are
surprising enough and if they seem to support the Torah's viewpoint and
values, use them as evidence that the Torah is true.
Rubin correctly deduces that
we should then search all of history. If we find facts that seem to contradict
the Torah's viewpoint and values, then they will count as evidence that the
Torah is false. And Rubin has pointed out some such facts.
What I should have said is
this. The Torah can only be tested historically by checking to see that its
predictions come true. If the predictions are evaluated independently to be
very unlikely to come true, then their truth gives strong evidence that the
Torah is true. We search history only to verify [or falsify] predictions. By
contrast, if a phenomenon only
seems to us to support or violate the Torah' viewpoint or values, but the
Torah does not predict that it will occur, then that phenomenon is of
little or no relevance to the Torah's truth.
Now perhaps it seems to us
that G-d will protect all religious Jews from harm. Perhaps it seems to us
that religious Jews would always be the vast majority of the Jewish people.
Perhaps it seems to us that non-religious Jews should not have political,
economic and military success. These expectations are natural, but nowhere does
the Torah make such predictions. Indeed, in some cases the Torah predicts the
opposite. The prediction of exile includes the righteous among the population --
thus not all religious Jews will be protected from harm. The Torah predicts that
many Jews will worship idols -- thus the religious will not be the vast majority
of the Jewish population. The fact that our expectations are violated in history
does not count against the truth of the Torah. Only the violation of one of the
Torah's predictions would be evidence against the truth of the Torah.
Or let us consider the following example.
Arguing that the lack of any mention of the Exodus from Egypt in ancient records
is insufficient to prove that the Exodus did not really take place, R' Gottlieb
"Why is it that no ancient
Egyptian records mention the Exodus? The answer is that the Egyptians never
recorded their defeats. Therefore, since the Exodus was a massive defeat, you
would not expect them to record it. So, its absence from their records is not
evidence against the Exodus."
Yet 13 pages later we find (again as a
"The non-occurrence of the
Holocaust (the second World War without the massacre of 6,000,000 Jews) is a
possible event. If it had happened -- if the second World War had not included
the massacre of 6,000,000 Jews -- then there would be enormous, easily
available evidence of that event. The evidence would be in the form of
histories of the second World War making no mention of the Holocaust. The
absence of the event from the histories would surely be the compelling
evidence that the event did not take place."
One might think it is not a contradiction,
for the Egyptian histories, written by the Egyptians themselves, may be
suspected of silencing events unpleasant to Egypt, while the histories of the
Second World War were and are being written by many historians from different
countries and cultures and therefore it is impossible that they all would gloss
over German war crimes. But one who thinks that evidently has no notion of
ancient history. First of all, Egypt's history was not only written by
Egyptians. Even Rabbi Gottlieb seems to be aware of that:
"You read in the hieroglyphs
that Pharaoh X raised a great army and conquered a number of provinces, and
his son Pharaoh X Jr. raised even a larger army and conquered more provinces.
Then, there is a hundred year gap in the history. What happened during that
100 years? For that you have to go to the Babylonian records. That is when the
Babylonians were kicking the stuffing out of the Egyptians."
And indeed, the countries of the
ancient Near and Middle East were not isolated entities. They were continuously
in competition, and very often at war with one another. And at war, if side A
loses side B wins -- so if side A wants to silence the events of a particular
period, when it was soundly defeated, we can find the description of these
events in the records of side B, which speaks loudly of its glorious victory.
This is another
example of over-generalization. The many different historians writing about
World War Two indeed would not miss the Holocaust. But it does not follow
that every group of historians will collectively record every fact.
In particular, as Rubin himself notes, ancient historians wrote in order to
glorify their own country. If the Babylonians defeat the Egyptians, that
will be recorded in the Babylonian's history, not in the history of the
Egyptians. But equally, and for the same reason, the defeat of the Egyptians
by the Babylonians will not be recorded in the history of the Assyrians,
since this does not add to the Assyrians's glory. Now the plagues were a
defeat for Egypt due to the [G-d of the] Jews. Whom does Rubin expect to
record this -- the Assyrians? The Babylonians? There is no reason to expect
any non-Jewish nation to record this.
conditions, were the Ten Plagues and a total crush of the Egyptian army in
the Red Sea waters to happen, as we are told by the Torah, Egypt's ruthless
neighbors -- the Babylonians and the Hittites -- would immediately invade
the powerless country, conquer it, and glorify their victory in dozens of
records, inscriptions, and monuments. Yet nothing like this ever happened.
More specifically, historical records tell us that between 1320 and 1283 BCE
Egypt and the Hittite empire were at a state of permanent war; had the Ten
Plagues and the Exodus happened in 1313 BCE, when Judaic tradition claims
they did, they would have quickly led to a Hittite invasion and conquest of
the ruined Egypt -- which, of course, did not happen. Instead, after almost
four decades of indecisive war, a peace treaty and a mutual defense pact
were signed between Egypt and the Hittite empire.12
that if the plagues took place, Egypt should have been so devastated that
its enemies could have easily conquered it. There is no reason to think so.
Most of the plagues -- blood, frogs, lice, invasion by wild animals, boils,
and darkness -- had only immediate effects. Locusts, cattle sickness, and to
a small extent, hail, caused temporary agricultural failure. But this was no
worse than a disastrous drought that can occur without devastating an
empire. The death of the firstborn was not enough to stop the Egyptians from
mounting a force to pursue the Jews. The Egyptians could have experienced
the plagues and still remained strong enough to defend themselves against
Rabbi Gottlieb wants to remain true to the extra-Scriptural Judaic tradition
(such as the one he quotes on p. 62), this tradition states that when the
waters of the Red Sea were split, the waters throughout the world split.13
Of course, were this to happen we would have dozens of historical records
from different countries mentioning such an outstanding phenomenon -- yet we
have nothing of this sort.
Rubin is mistaken. Not every inexplicable event is recorded. Indeed, not
even every event that the observers take to be miraculous is recorded. There
are two reasons for this. First, ancient people were surrounded by events
that they could not explain, and which they interpreted as the actions of
the gods. Every lightning bolt, every pregnancy and birth, every victory or
defeat in war, the fall of the rain -- all was interpreted as the actions of
the gods. And second, if the event is not connected to any practical
results, there is little motivation for recording it. Eclipses are a
striking example of the second reason. An eclipse of the sun was a
frightening inexplicable event. Ancient people attributed eclipses to their
gods. Nevertheless, very few ancient cultures recorded them.
If we imagine waters
everywhere splitting once, with no systematic effect on any other matters -- no
associated victory or defeat, birth or death, rain or drought, and so on -- then
we can easily understand that there would be no motivation to record the event.
archaeological research tells us that the whole population of Egypt in the
latter half of the second millennium BCE was 2-3 million people.14
The Torah tells us that 600,000 adult male Jews left Egypt, which means a
total Israelite population of about 2.5 million. Had this number of Jews
escaped from Egypt, the country would remain virtually devastated -- which
would be seen, of course, in the archaeological record. Yet the
archaeological record shows that no major decrease of population happened in
ancient Egypt throughout its history.
Rubin here is
talking about a great decrease in the population of slaves. It is not
clear why the loss of a large number of slaves should leave the country
"virtually devastated." It is also not clear what gross change that would
make in the archeological record.
The 2,500,000 Israelites are
said, in the book of Joshua, to enter the land of Canaan and conquer it over
the course of several years -- yet the archaeological record shows that such
a massive conquest of Canaan did not take place in end of the 2nd millennium
BCE; archaeologists speak of only tens of thousands Israelites in Canaan at
It is an
axiom of archeology -- indeed, of all sound thinking -- that absence of
evidence is not evidence of absence. How do archeologists establish that a
population was small? Chiefly by not finding signs of a large population.
This is a very weak conclusion. Five hundred years before the time of the
Patriarchs the single city Ebla held up to a quarter of a million people.
[See Bermant and Weitzman.] If you miss two such cities, your estimate of
the population will be very incorrect. In fact, even when the evidence is
available, it is subject to very different interpretations. For example,
whether Jerusalem at the time of King David was a bustling metropolis, or
only a small local settlement, is a matter of controversy at the present
Concerning the war of
conquest, George Athas points out that not all wars leave archeological remains.
There is no archeological evidence for the conquest of Babylon or for the
conquest of Britain by William the Conqueror. The archeologist who reports only
what he has found in the excavations will report incorrectly that those wars did
not take place. Athas also states that excavation at most sites in Israel today
reveals only about 5-30% of what is there.
I conclude that the
description of early Jewish history on the basis of archeology is too
speculative to refute the Biblical record.
There is also
the obvious fact that, assuming a very modest amount of 0.5 liters water and
one pound bread a day per capita, the conquering Israelites would need 1.25
million liters or 1,250 tons water and 1,134 tons bread a day even before
they started the conquest, for according to the Bible16
the manna ceased falling as soon as they entered the Land of Israel.
According to the Judaic tradition,17
the conquest of Canaan took the Israelites as many as seven years. What did
2.5 million people eat all that time?
Does Rubin think
that the Jews were living in refugee camps until the whole of the land was
conquered? Remember trans-Jordan in which two and a half tribes were already
living. Each city and area that was conquered yielded its local resources --
including land - that then could be exploited by the Jewish population.
has all the answers...
All the above evidence is more than
sufficient to conclude that the Biblical narrative of Exodus--Sinai
Revelation--wandering in the desert--conquest of Canaan belongs to the realm of
mythology, not history. The problem is Rabbi Gottlieb seems to have too little
knowledge of history, even of the history of Biblical archaeology. He goes so
far as to tell the reader that
"What has happened in Biblical
archaeology in the last one hundred years is that is started with a completely
negative mind set: none of the Biblical narrative happened, it was all made
up. Little by little, piece by piece, that mind set had been refuted in a
myriad of details."
One only need look through works on Biblical
archaeology, starting with William Foxwell Albright's "The Archaeology of the
Palestine and the Bible" (1925) and ending with "From Nomadism to Monarchy" (ed.
by Nadav Na'aman and Israel Finkelstein, 1990) to understand that the picture
is exactly the opposite. If in the beginning of the 20th century the
historical account of the Bible was seen by archaeologists as essentially true
(though not in all its details), nowadays no researcher credits any of the
narratives preceding the Davidic monarchy with historical veracity. To
understand the current state of opinion, it would be appropriate to quote a
prominent archeologist whose views are considered by the scientific community as
quite pro-Scriptural -- Professor William Dever of the University of Arizona:
"...the Exodus and the conquest
[of the promised land] are a bad case... [the book of] Joshua has little to do
with any historical events. If you guys think I -- or the Israeli
archaeologists -- am looking for the Israelite conquest archaeologically,
you're wrong. We've given up. We've given up the patriarchs. That's a dead
issue... I agree that there is no connected history in Joshua..."
And here is Dever's attitude to the book of
"We archaeologists are not
trying to prove these early stories to be historical. We get accused of it,
but we're not doing it."
However, history and archaeology
are definitely not Rabbi Gottlieb's strong points.
fails to appreciate is that archeology is in a state of deep controversy.
Citing two opinions does not give a picture of the whole field. Here are
sources that give the other side of the picture:
- Israel in Egypt : The Evidence for the
Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition, by James K. Hoffmeier, Oxford
University Press, 1999
- Pharaohs and Kings; A Biblical Quest, by
David Rohl, Random House, 1996.
- Kitchen, Kenneth, "The Patriarchal Age --
Myth or History?,"
Biblical Archaeological Review March-April, 1996.
These sources support much of the Biblical
picture for pre-Davidic history.
on page 64 of his book that the Greeks got their letter names (alpha, beta,
gamma etc.) from the Jews, he writes:
"Perhaps indirectly the
Philistines took them to Greece and gave the letters to them, but it
ultimately comes from the Jews."
Unfortunately, the people who brought the
alphabet to the Greeks were Phoenicians, not Philistines. Renowned traders and
merchants, they spread over the whole Mediterranean area, including Greece, and
they had an alphabet which could have been borrowed -- one quite similar to
ancient Hebrew, but still distinct from it (both developed out of the North
Semitic alphabet). The Philistines, after they first met the Jews (Israelites,
actually) during their invasion from the Aegean islands on the eastern and
south-eastern Mediterranean coast in the 13th-12th centuries BCE, had virtually
no contact with the Greeks -- so they definitely could not pass anything from
the Jews to the Greeks. Moreover, we have no clue what the Philistine language
was like and whether it had an alphabet at all.21
And of course, the Greek alphabet has 25 letters, some of them vowels, while the
Hebrew has 22 letters, all consonants. Vowel letters are an exclusively Greek
innovation, and were it not for the Greeks, literacy would be much less
widespread in our world.
This information can be easily
found in any textbook on the history of the alphabet, and anyway, the
Phoenicians and the Philistines were completely different nations, of different
origin, culture, and history. Mixing them up reveals quite well the degree of
Rabbi Gottlieb's competence in ancient history.
entirely correct -- I mistakenly substituted "Philistines" for
One more argument by R' Gottlieb in
favor of the divinity of Judaism is what he calls "true predictions." For
reasons unknown, of all the vast amount of predictions in the Bible, he chooses
the verses of Deuteronomy 28:30:
right to point out my omission here. I should have explained why I chose
this prediction. The answer is this. In order to use the verification of a
prediction as evidence, several conditions must be met.
- It must be clear that the prediction was written
before the event took place. [This excludes Lev. 26: 14-46 as a prediction of
the destruction of the First Temple -- the critic will say it was written after
- The prediction must be written in literal terms
and clearly enough to be able to see from the historical record whether or not
it came true. This excludes many predictions written in vague or poetic
- The prediction must describe an event that is
otherwise unlikely to happen. For, if it is a common event, even if it occurs it
is not evidence that the Torah is true. This excludes predictions of the normal
destructive effects of war, or drought and pestilence that occur naturally from
time to time.
- The verification of the prediction must come
from sources admitted by all to be accurate. This requires non-Jewish sources of
established reliability. [The critic will not trust Jewish sources.]
Deut. 28 is the only significant prediction that
meets all four conditions.
"In Deuteronomy 28-30 there is a
prediction of what will happen to the Jewish people if they don't live up to
the standards of the Torah. It predicts conquest accompanied by wanton
slaughter of the population: man, woman, children, old, young, and so on. It
predicts an exile resulting in world-wide scatter, and that during this period
of world-wide scatter, Jews will have no independent government. One result of
the exile is that some Jews will be brought back by boat to Egypt to be sold
as slaves, and they will not be purchased. Nevertheless, the Jewish people
will survive, will never completely be destroyed, and will ultimately return
to the land of Israel. It also predicts that the conqueror will speak a
language that the Jewish people don't understand."
Now, says Rabbi Gottlieb, the prediction
"That being the case, this is
what I called earlier a unique prediction. It is a prediction whose truth no
one else can explain. Had anyone seen the prediction before it happened, the
response should have been that this is fantasy. Therefore, when it comes true,
it contributes to the truth of Judaism. It is a relevant piece of evidence."
One needs only open the Bible to see that
Rabbi Gottlieb is far from being right. There is no prediction of a "wanton
slaughter of the population: man, woman, children, old, young, and so on."
Instead it is written:
"You will betroth a wife, but
another man shall lie with her; you will build a house, but you will not dwell
in it; you will plant a vineyard, but you will not gather its grapes. Your ox
will be slain before your eyes, but you will not eat of it; your ass will be
violently taken away from you, and will not be restored to you; your sheep
will be given to your enemies, and nobody will rescue you. Your sons and your
daughters shall be given to another people, and your eyes will look, and fail
with longing for them all the day long; but there will be no might in your
hand. The fruit of your land, and all your labors, a nation unfamiliar to you
will eat up, and you will always be only oppressed and crushed."
"You will beget sons and daughters, but you
will not enjoy them, for they will go into captivity."
Now compare that to Rabbi
Gottlieb's description of a typical conquest in the ancient world: "You may take
the young, fine, strong men off as slaves. You may want to take the good
looking, young woman for sexual purposes. But, you don't wantonly slaughter the
rest of the population because there is no point in destroying your tax base!"
This is exactly what the Bible predicts! Nothing unusual!
I think that
Rubin has missed verse 50: "[The nation that will conquer you] will be a
brazen-faced nation that will not have pity on the old, nor will show favor
to the youth."
The prophecy is not unique, and since according to many
Biblical researchers these chapters of Deuteronomy were written after the Jews
experienced the Assyrian and the Babylonian conquests, there is nothing unusual
in the appearance of these verses in the Bible.
These verses do
not fit the facts of the Assyrian and Babylonian conquests. They fit only
the facts of the Roman conquest. See the footnote for
material copied from the new version.24
The Bible does not say that "during this period of world-wide
scatter, Jews will have no independent government." No verse in Deuteronomy
speaks of anything like that.
64-5 read: "And G-d will scatter you among all the peoples from the end of
the earth to the end of the earth...and among those nations you will have no
rest, there will be no resting place for the sole of your foot, and G-d will
give you there a frightened heart, disappointed hopes and a despairing soul;
you life will be hanging in doubt before you...."
It is true that these verses
do not explicitly mention the lack of an independent state, but I think it is
clearly implied. An independent state would surely be "a resting place for your
foot," and it would reduce insecurity to the level suffered by many other
peoples. These verses clearly qualify for Rubin's "anything like that."
To relate the verses of Deuteronomy
28-30 to the Roman conquest of the Land of Israel is, as an understatement,
problematic. What does R' Gottlieb call "the Roman conquest"? Under the treaty
of 139 BCE, Rome became a patron of Hasmonean Judea and issued an order to the
kings of neighboring lands not to attack Judea and to extradite to the
Hasmoneans all those Jews who rebelled against them and then fled Judea. In 63
BCE several Jewish parties who had quarreled over the power in Judea sent
ambassadors to the Roman general Pompey the Great, who at that time stayed in
Damascus, asking him to put an end to the quarrel. Pompey did not miss the
opportunity, and in a short time Roman legions occupied the Land of Israel,
destroyed the independent Hasmonean government, and turned Judea into a vassal
state of Rome. However, all this happened almost without bloodshed. The only
military campaign was in Jerusalem, and the main fight was between the Jews who
wanted to let Pompey enter the city without a war and those who preferred to
defend themselves. Finally the proponents of surrender won, Pompey entered
Jerusalem with no resistance, and the supporters of the "defense party" encamped
on the Temple Mount, trying to prevent the Romans from entering the Temple.
This, of course, was a hopeless venture, and Pompey took the Temple Mount also,
slaying most of its defenders and enslaving the rest. The Land of Israel
remained under the Roman rule -- first indirect and then direct -- until 66 CE,
when the Great Revolt of the Jews commenced. The revolt was suppressed,
Jerusalem was taken by the Romans, and the Second Temple was destroyed in 70 CE,
and the last stronghold of the rebels -- Massada -- fell in 73 CE. Hundreds of
thousands of Jews were slain in this war, tens of thousands were sold as slaves.
In 132 CE the revolt of Bar Kochba began -- and after it was crushed in 135 CE,
Roman (and then Byzantine) rule returned to the Land of Israel until its
conquest by the Arabs in 638 CE. In the Bar Kochba revolt more than 500,000 Jews
were killed and multitudes were sold in the slave markets of Gaza and Hebron.
500 fortresses and strongholds and more than 1000 villages in Judea were
The question is when, in R'
Gottlieb's opinion, did the Roman conquest predicted by the Torah occurr.
I am not sure
why Rubin thinks it is necessary to choose a particular year for the Torah's
prediction to come true. Nothing in the text precludes an extended process
that eventually produces all the events that are described in the
prediction. Perhaps Rubin only wants a date for the prediction in order to
motivate his objection concerning the Jews' knowledge of Latin. If the date
of the prediction is later than about 120 BCE then Rubin claims that Jews by
that time knew Latin. Thus the statement in the Torah that the conqueror
will speak a language unknown by Jews will not be true. See the next reply.
In 139 BCE there was no conquest, just a treaty between Rome
and the Hasmoneans, but the Jews, doubtless, learned about the Latin language of
the Romans -- when somebody becomes your patron, you are extensively introduced
to his language, as modern Israelis' acquaintance with American English can
teach. Moreover, in the 2nd century BCE the Jews already lived in the city of
Rome, and even tried to convert its inhabitants to Judaism, which led to their
expulsion from the city in 139 BCE. The Latin language was definitely familiar
Rubin presents two reasons
for thinking that the Jews knew Latin by this time.
- "...when somebody becomes your patron, you are
extensively introduced to his language..." Now this is pure conjecture; Rubin
presents no sources. It is just a natural intuition.
- "Moreover, in the 2nd century BCE the Jews
already lived in the city of Rome, and even tried to convert its inhabitants to
Judaism, which led to their expulsion from the city in 139 BCE. The Latin
language was definitely familiar to them." For this to contradict the torah's
statement, we must suppose that the Torah means that no Jews on the face of the
earth know Latin. I think this is an unreasonable interpretation of the Torah's
statement. The Jews is Rome could not be more than one percent of the world
Jewish population. If 99% of all Jews did not know Latin, I think that the
Torah's statement is clearly true.
Thus Rubin gives no good
reason to think that more than an insignificant minority of Jews knew Latin. In
fact, there are some historical sources for the Jewish population in the land of
Israel. These sources indicate that, in spite of living under "the Roman
patron," Greek was the language of the assimilated elite. Aramaic and Hebrew
were the languages of the masses. Latin was virtually unknown in Israel. The
quotations below are from Ben-Sasson, chapter 16.
"Herod's kingdom was no exception in the
Mediterranean world. There were other regions within the borders of the Roman
empire that the central government thought unsuitable for integration into
provincial administration and that were maintained as separate kingdoms." (P.
"Many of his [Herod's] principle ministers were
of Greek descent. His entourage included some of the luminaries of Greek
literature of the day...Herod's fame and his international contacts attracted
visitors from different parts of the Greek world...to his court...." (242)
"Both cities [Caesarea and Sebaste, built by
Herod] were patterned on the hellenistic cities of the orient....But more
important was another trend, which the king explicitly encouraged: the
integration of leading families from the hellenistic and Babylonian diaspora
into the Jewish society of Palestine. (243)
"...the administration, the army, the education
of his sons and diplomacy were entrusted to Greeks or people who had adopted the
Greek way of life." (244)
"We even have some information on the antecedents
of several of the [Roman] governors of Judea. Tiberius Alexander was a Jew by
origin but had abandoned his ancestral religion; Felix was a Greek freedman;
Florus was a Greek from one of the cities of Asia Minor. Thus at least three of
the last seven procurators were neither of Roman nor of Italian origin but came
from the hellenistic East." (246)
"One point of distinction was the language of
daily use: there were 'Hebrew' Jews, who spoke Hebrew or Aramaic, and 'hellenistic'
Jews, who spoke Greek....the establishment and rise of hellenistic Jews in
Palestine resulted in the spread of Greek knowledge in Judea and the development
of a Jewish --hellenistic way of life."(267)
In the whole chapter there is
not one reference to Jews speaking Latin. The Torah's prediction that the Jews
will not know the language of their conquerors is correct: the Jews did not know
We also see that the
prediction that the conqueror will speak a language unknown to the Jews is not
trivial. If any Greek speaking state had conquered the Jews, the prediction
would have been clearly falsified.
63 BCE is the date
accepted by the historians as that of the Roman conquest, but it was
accompanied by virtually no military action, let alone the "wanton slaughter
of the population" described by Rabbi Gottlieb or the mass robbery and
enslavement of the Jews described by the Bible. Moreover, as said above, by
63 BCE the Jews were already acquainted with the Latin language. Three
Jewish parties went to Pompey to ask for his patronage in their struggle for
power over Judea -- at least someone in those parties must have known the
language which Pompey spoke.
Since there was
a Jewish population in Rome, they could have served as interpreters.
In 63 BCE there was no "exile resulting in
world-wide scatter" and no Jewish slaves were "brought back by boat to Egypt to
be sold as slaves." In fact, there was no deliberate exile of the Jews from the
Land of Israel at any point in the Roman era.
Judea was almost totally deprived of its
Jewish inhabitants after the Bar Kochba revolt was suppressed, but that was due
not to exile, but to the massacre and enslavement of Jews by the Romans and to
the massive flight of Jewish survivors of the revolt to other lands, away from
Neither the text
of the Torah nor I say anything about "deliberate" exile. The Torah only
describes vast numbers of Jews being displaced from the land of Israel. This
in fact did take place.
At that same time, Jewish communities in Galilee which had
remained aloof from the revolt continued to develop and even became the
spiritual center of world Jewry, the center which produced the Mishnah, the
first codification of Jewish Oral Law.
Nowhere in Deut.
28 does the Torah predict that the land will be empty of Jews. Thus the
existence of communities of Jews in the Galilee does not contradict the text
of the Torah. [This contrasts sharply with the prediction in Lev. 26 that
describes the land as desolate (verses 32 and 35), and which came true
during the Babylonian exile.]
On the other hand, as early as in the 1st
century BCE a wide Jewish Diaspora existed in virtually all known corners of the
civilized world (India and China excluded), and the Roman geographer Strabo
wrote in his works that it was hard to find a place in the world free of the
Here is some background on
Strabo from the Britannica:
b. 64/63 BC, Amaseia, Pontus--d. after AD 23?,
Greek geographer and historian. It was in Rome, where he stayed at least until
31 BC, that he wrote his first major works, his 47-book Historical Sketches,
published around 20 BC, of which but a few quotations survive. A vast and
eclectic compilation, it was meant as a continuation of Polybius' Histories.
[Strabo] devoted his last years to compiling his
second important work, his Geographical Sketches...Obviously, personal travel
notes formed only a small part of the material used in this considerable work,
although Strabo prided himself on having travelled westward from Armenia as far
as the regions of Tuscany opposite Sardinia, and southward from the Black Sea as
far as the frontiers of Ethiopia. Even on the subject of Italy, where he lived
for a long time, Strabo did not himself contribute more than a few scattered
impressions. His material, accordingly, mostly dates from the time of the
sources he used, although the reader is not made aware of this.
In the light of this background, it is very
difficult to know how reliable Strabo's statements are. We do not know what
sources he used. We do not know the basis on which he selected his material. We
should therefore be cautious in accepting his statement.
Rubin rightly notes that the presence of Jews at
that time excludes India and China. Jews reached those areas only as a result of
the Roman conquest. Thus Jews did not inhabit the whole of the world known to
the ancients until the Roman conquest. Only then did the prediction of the Torah
come true. In addition, no Jews reached the southern part of Africa nor the
Americas until after the Roman conquest.
A world-wide scattering
of the Jews commenced long before anything which might be called their exile
from the Land of Israel. For those who insist that the "world-wide scatter"
means Jews reaching literally all the places on the globe, it would be
useful to note that through all history, to this very day, there is no
significant Jewish population in large areas of the world, such as Central
Africa, Japan, Greenland or Mongolia. If this is the definition of
"world-wide scatter," then the prophecy has most clearly failed.
qualifies his statement with the word "significant." How should we take the
prediction of world-wide scatter? One Jew for every 100 square miles? An
even distribution of Jews over the globe? No major geographical area, no
major political entity free of Jews? A wider scatter of Jews than of any
other people? The last two are clearly true. I think that is enough.
The Bible, read
attentively, does not tell that somebody will sell Jews into slavery on
Egyptian slave markets after their conquest by "a distant nation."
Deuteronomy 28:68, which speaks of a return to Egypt by boats and sale into
slavery, uses the Hebrew verb
vehitmakartem, in the grammatical form hitpael which indicates a
reflective action, i.e. something one does to himself. That is, this verb
means "you will sell yourselves" rather than "you will be sold," which would
venimkartem. So the verse of Deuteronomy 28:68 says, "And the Lord will
bring you back to Egypt by ships, by the way of which I spoke to you, 'You
shall see it no more again,' and there you will sell yourselves to your
enemies for male and female slaves, but nobody will buy you." If this is a
prediction, it is definitely wrong -- the Jews never went to Egypt in order
to sell themselves into slavery. Moreover, the distinction between
venimkartem is not something new, revealed by recent Biblical critics.
It is mentioned explicitly, and the verse is explained as referring to Jews
selling themselves into slavery, by the greatest of Rabbinic Scriptural
commentators, Rashi and Ibn Ezra, in their commentaries on Deuteronomy
28:68. As an advocate of Orthodox Judaism, R' Gottlieb is surely not
expected to nullify with one sweep the words of the most authoritative
Rabbinic commentators who based their words on the plain Scriptural grammar.
In this case, there are only two possibilities: either R' Gottlieb does not
know of these commentaries, familiar to every Orthodox schoolboy, or he
deliberately hides Orthodox Judaism's interpretation of these verses from
the reader for propagandist reasons. We'll leave open the question of which
actually represents Rabbi Gottlieb's reasons, though here, again, an
attentive reader is able to catch R' Gottlieb hiding things crucial to his
arguments in "technical comments," which, he says, "can be skipped without
missing anything essential to the argument."
Rubin is almost entirely
correct here. The commentaries he cites do interpret as he says. He has
missed Onkelos's translation that does take the verb as a pure passive "you
will be sold." I used this translation because I thought I had a secondary
reference to a neutral historical source confirming the prediction as thus
translated. Since I have not been able to find the primary source, I have
omitted this prediction from the new edition. Not because we now see
that it is mistaken, but because it cannot be confirmed.
For the same reason I omitted the majority reading
"they shall sell themselves" -- because the prediction on that reading
cannot be confirmed. If it cannot be confirmed, it cannot be used as
evidence in favor of the Torah. But equally, if it cannot be
independently confirmed that the prediction is false, then it cannot be
used against the truth of the Torah. There is then no reason to mention it
Since Rubin makes this point the basis of one of
his many assaults on my character, I will risk boring the reader by repeating my
reply. Why did I avoid the majority translation of the verse? Because according
to that translation, the verse makes a prediction that cannot be checked. We
have no sources indicating whether or not the prediction came true. Thus it
cannot be used as evidence for or against the Torah. That is why I omitted it.
On Onkelos's translation I thought we had such a source -- one that confirmed
that the prediction came true. So I included it. Since I have not been able to
find the primary source, I now omit it altogether. This is not hiding evidence
against the Torah. This is omitting material that cannot be used as evidence
either for or against the Torah.
See also the next reply.
On page 56 we find Rabbi Gottlieb saying:
"Many details from Deuteronomy
28 have been omitted. There are two reasons: either the language in which they
are expressed is poetical and cannot be precisely defined (and thus we cannot
prove that the text means specifically what in fact happened), or they are
predictions which are very likely to happen in the context of destruction and
exile, so that they would not significantly lower the probability [of the
prediction coming true, see below]."
Among the "details" omitted by R' Gottlieb
are the following verses: "And your heaven that is over your head will be brass,
and the earth that is under you will be iron. The Lord will make the rain of
your land powder and dust; from heaven it will fall down on you, until you are
destroyed." (Deut. 28:23-24), "The Lord will smite you with the boils of Egypt,
and with the piles, and with the scab, and with the itch, of which you will not
be able to be healed" (Deut. 28:27), "All your trees and the fruit of your land
will the locust consume" (Deut. 28:42) and the like. The language of these
verses may be called poetic, but it is quite easy to understand what they mean
-- drought, skin diseases, and piles, and locusts consuming all the harvest of
the land. Needless to say, none of these happened during the Roman conquest of
Palestine. In neither 139 BCE, nor in 63 BCE, 70 CE, or 135 CE, was there
drought, nor did any major epidemics of piles and skin diseases occur, nor did
the Land of Israel experience any attack of locusts.
asserts that many of the Torah's predictions for the conquest and exile did
not come true. He provides no sources whatsoever for these assertions. How
does he know that he is right? Perhaps he is relying on the absence of such
facts from the contemporary Roman histories. If so, we should recall that
absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. If the process in which the
prediction came true is more than one hundred years in duration, these
events -- drought, disease, plague - could have occurred several times
without attracting any historian's attention.
Recall the conditions that
must be met in order to test prophetic predictions:
The prediction must describe
an event that is otherwise unlikely to happen. This excludes predictions of
great pain in wartime, or drought and pestilence that occur naturally from time
- The prediction must be written in literal terms
and clearly enough to be able to see from the historical record whether or not
it came true. This excludes many predictions written in poetic language.
The verification of the
prediction must come from sources admitted by all to be accurate. This requires
non-Jewish sources [the critic will not trust Jewish sources] of established
The critic who claims to have falsified a
prediction must also meet these conditions. The events described happen
naturally, if not very frequently. They are described in poetical language. And
there is no neutral source asserting that they did not occur. Rubin therefore
has no reason to regard these predictions as not having come true.
It is impossible to conceive that these
verses are not familiar to Rabbi Gottlieb and they contain predictions that
definitely proved false -- so they were gently omitted from a book aiming to
show "that there is sufficient evidence to warrant basing one's life on the
truth of the Torah."27
Is hiding the truth appropriate for a book called "Living Up to the Truth"? R'
Gottlieb does not seem to be worried about it.
In general, his approach to the
truth is quite peculiar. Claiming that Judaism was a religion totally unique in
the ancient world, he relies on the work of the renowned Bible scholar Yehezkel
Kaufmann, "The Religion of Israel."28
Among other claims, R' Gottlieb brings monotheism as a unique feature of Judaism
and relies on Kaufmann,29
claiming that the "solar monotheism" of Akhenaton in ancient Egypt cannot be
considered a parallel to Biblical monotheism. Leaving aside discussion of
Biblical monotheism (which is very far from what we understand by monotheism
today), it would be useful to quote an explicit statement by Yehezkel Kaufmann
on that same page of "The Religion of Israel":
"We have repeatedly affirmed
that Israelite religion incorporated a legacy from paganism, materials into
which it breathed a new spirit. It is of utmost importance to bear in mind
that the general level of Israel's culture derives from its environment."
And of course, as a researcher Kaufmann not
only states his position, but also brings a lot of evidence supporting it.
According to Kaufmann, Judaism was not altogether different from the rest
of the ancient religions, and even derived its "general level of culture" from
its pagan environment. Rabbi Gottlieb, most surely, does not share this view --
his argument claims exactly the opposite. Of course, R' Gottlieb may disagree
with Kaufmann (though it would be interesting to know his reasons for such
disagreement), but to bring Kaufmann's view as supporting his argument is
extremely far from "living up to the truth."
I am not a
historian. For judgments about history I rely on those whom even my critics
will have to acknowledge as competent scholars. Kaufmann is such a scholar.
Rubin has no complaint against what I do quote from him; he is only
concerned with what I omitted. The omission is justified by the fact that
many other recognized scholars disagree with Kaufmann's statement quoted by
Rubin above. Here is a sample [my emphasis]:
Bright, p. 144: "[Israel] brought with them onto
the stage of history a religion quite without parallel in the ancient world."
Indeed, the very identity of the Jews as a people seems to be unique in the
ancient Middle East. Von Soden, p. 14: "In the linguistic usage of the
ancient Orient itself, only Israel developed an unequivocal term for itself as a
people, and subsequently confirmed this self-identification through its history.
People everywhere else were characterized only according to their origin in a
particular land or according to their membership in a social group..."
See also Bright, p. 160: "What influence, if any,
the Aten cult had on the Mosaic religion is an unanswered question. Since it
flourished not long before Moses, and since certain of its traits survived in
the official religion of Egypt, some influence is possible. But, if so, it was
indirect and not fundamental. In its essential structure Yahwehism was as
little like the Egyptian religion as possible." De Burgh agrees, see p. 21:
"His [Ikhnaton's] revolution seems to have been provoked by genuine speculative
idealism; but it proved abortive and without influence even in his own
land....But there is no evidence that Egyptian religion influenced the outside
world. The worship of Jehovah had its home in the desert of Sinai, not in
Egypt." Abraham Malamat also agrees with this judgment -- see Ben-Sasson, p.
18. See also Bronner, pp. 56-7.
Concerning other so-called monotheistic
tendencies in the ancient Near East, see also Von Soden, p. 182: "Behind this
assumption stood the widespread assumption that all historical divine names
referred to only one god or one goddess, and that prayers were quite largely
interchangeable. In the first millennium, however, people quite often renounced
names altogether and spoke only of "the god" or "the goddess," who saw and was
able to see everything. Still, a denial of the existence of many gods was only
very sporadically connected to this type of speech. Therefore, it is better not
to speak of monotheistic tendencies in Babylonia; rather, one should speak of
monotheiotetistic tendencies, which amount to the doctrine of a single divine
nature represented by god and goddess." [Therefore there is no precedent for
monotheism in the Near East -- D.G.]
Rabbi Gottlieb goes so far as giving each
prediction of Deuteronomy 28-30 a "probability" (i.e. a mathematical value
representing the chance for the prediction coming true in a natural way, without
"God's finger"), and after multiplying all the probabilities (for a sequence of
events described by the Bible) he comes to a probability of 1/16000 for the
predictions of Deuteronomy coming true in a natural way.30
This is how it goes:
"Total destruction and
exile, let's say that this occurred in 10% of all ancient wars. Then a
non-Jewish observer would give it a probability of 1/10. How often did the
conqueror speak an unknown language?
We don't know. Neighbors did fight, and the languages of great empires
were widely known. Let's say generously that it happened a quarter of the
time giving us a probability of 1/4... To take a nation that is scattered
all over the world and thus be unable to organize itself into an independent
society, again, I don't know what the probability of that would be, so I'll
give it a probability of 1/4..."
How one can give a probability to
an event the probability of which is unknown is a complete mystery. It is also
unclear what background in mathematics and logics is needed to understand why an
unknown probability is always estimated as 1/4. But such a hogwash of the Bible
would definitely shock anyone familiar with it.
correct -- I did not at all explain how one can assign numerical
probabilities to such events. In the new version the illustration in terms
of probability is relegated to a footnote since nothing in the argument
depends upon it. In that footnote I write:
"In order to make this vivid, let us pretend to
assign numbers to the probabilities. In truth we cannot make precise numerical
judgments here. Nevertheless, one should not think that the inability to compute
a precise numerical probability robs the judgment of all content. Very often in
life we need to estimate probability for the sake of making decisions, even
though we cannot assign precise numerical values. Imagine a police inspector
investigating a crime. There are five possible culprits, but his limited budget
allows him to investigate only three of them. How does he choose which ones to
investigate? He must investigate those that are most likely to be guilty. This
judgment can be made (and criticized) even if precise numerical probabilities
cannot be computed.
In our case, we will compensate for imprecision
by making the numbers clearly too large. In that way we will arrive at an
estimate that is clearly larger than the true probability. If that estimate is
very small, then we have an idea of how improbable the prediction looks to any
I hope this helps. If it does not, skip it. My
conclusions do not depend upon this illustration.
Rabbi Gottlieb's main argument in proving
the truth of Judaism seems to be what he calls "the Kuzari Principle." R'
Gottlieb formulates it as follows:
"Let E be a possible event
which, had it really occurred, would have left behind enormous, easy available
evidence of its occurrence. If the evidence does not exist, people will not
believe that E occurred."
So, according to Rabbi Gottlieb, the fact
that the Jews believed in the miracles described in the Bible -- manna falling
from the sky, the Exodus from Egypt, the Sinai Revelation et al. -- is proof
that these miracles really did happen, according to "the Kuzari principle."
R' Gottlieb claims this principle belongs to
the field of "empirical psychology," but it is plain old "chocolate philosophy."
It is not based on something that happens and is observed, but on theorizing
what would happen were some other theoretical thing to happen.
has not read carefully here. This is what I wrote:
"Why should we accept this principle? ... The
question is: Do real people in the real world accept beliefs like that? The only
way to defeat the Kuzari's principle is to find real cases. Real cases of
communities that have come to believe events which if they had happened would
have left behind enormous, easily available evidence of its occurrence, and
didn't happen, and therefore the evidence wasn't present. I have never yet come
across such an event, nothing even remotely resembling such an event."
My claim is that this is a
wholly empirical principle -- a rule concerning human belief-formation with
no known exceptions. I did not present the evidence for this claim in the old
version, but it exists in the new version.
Empirical evidence most definitely shows
that large masses of people can well believe in things refuted by easily
available evidence. Rabbi Gottlieb himself admits some pages later:
"The assumption is this: Whatever can be
seen to be true by available evidence and simple logic should be recognized as
true by a great majority of the mankind. But this assumption is clearly false.
Consider anti-semitism as an example. There
are (at least) hundreds of millions of anti-semites. They believe that Jews are
evil, dirty, subhuman, etc. etc.. And yet many of them live among Jews. They
have no evidence whatsoever for their beliefs. If they took the time, they could
gather enormous evidence against what they believe. Still they persist in their
Consider the shape of the earth. More than
two thousand years ago considerable evidence existed that the earth is round.
(Indeed, a few in the intelligentsia believed it.) The sightings of stars by
sailors, the difference in shadows at noon in different locations, the
disappearance of the bottom of the ship before the sails -- this evidence was
available to many. Yet almost no one questioned the 'obvious truth' that the
earth is flat."
We have already seen that logical
consistency is not Rabbi Gottlieb's strong point.
missed a key distinction here, one that is stressed at length in the text. I
considered the objection that Holocaust denial shows that the Kuzari
principle is wrong. This is what I wrote:
"There is a crucial difference between the
Kuzari's principle and the case of [people who do not believe in] the Holocaust.
The reason is that everyone has to sift and be selective when he considers
evidence for a proposition. Sometimes evidence is fabricated, sometimes the
evidence is irrelevant, sometimes it is misinterpreted. We are always sifting,
rejecting, and accepting, and reinterpreting. Only then do we decide what
conclusion to draw from the evidence. When we come to the Holocaust, these nuts
say we know that sometimes evidence is fabricated or misleading: in this case
all of it is fabricated or misleading. In other words, they are taking a normal
part of human cognitive life and extending it beyond its appropriate boundaries.
They say that sometimes you have to reject some evidence proposed for a
proposition; in the case of the Holocaust they want you to reject all the
evidence as sufficient to believe it.
Now you can imagine that happening at least on
the fringes of society. But the case of the Kuzari is the opposite. To violate
the Kuzari principle we have to believe something for which all the expected
evidence is missing. If it were true that there ought to be evidence, and there
isn't any evidence, we would never accept a belief. That is not part of our
normal cognitive life. We are never confronted with a case where if it had
happened the evidence ought to be all over in front of me and there is no
evidence, and yet I leap over that hurdle and believe. Therefore, the
disbelievers in the Holocaust are irrelevant to the Kuzari's principle."
The point is that there is a great difference
believing in spite of present
believing in spite of the absence of
The former is much easier. The
reason is that much evidence we encounter needs to be critically evaluated, and
often some must be rejected as false, misleading, irrelevant and so on. Thus
ignoring some present information is part of valid cognitive practice. It is
therefore not astonishing when this normal practice exceeds its appropriate
limits and leads to mistaken beliefs.
On the other hand, to believe
in spite of the lack of expected evidence is not part of our normal cognitive
practice. Thus to assert that a belief is due to this fault -- ignoring the
absence of expected evidence -- is to assert something that we have reason to
think occurs very rarely, if ever. The survey of false beliefs presented in the
new version shows that there is no documented case of a belief due to this fault
-- i.e. a belief that would violate the Kuzari Principle. But there are very
many beliefs that ignore present contradictory evidence.
It should be clear that there
is no contradiction in my position. People will believe in spite of evidence to
the contrary. But they will not believe in the face of the lack of expected
evidence. The Kuzari Principle applies only to the latter case, and it applies
[This shows that even the old
edition is consistent. The new edition adds some conditions to the Kuzari
Principle. The discussion above is thus incomplete, even though it is sufficient
to answer Rubin's criticism.]
But continuing his argument in the last
citation, we may well say: "At certain times, many Jews believed that their
ancestors went en masse out of Egypt, received the Torah on Mt. Sinai, and ate
the manna for 40 years in the desert. They had no evidence whatsoever for their
beliefs. If they took the time, they could gather enormous evidence against what
they believed. Still they persisted in their folly (and some of their
descendants still persist in it)."
But human folly can go even further than
Rabbi Gottlieb admits. In one of the most beautiful places of the City of Rome
(Piazza di Porta S. Paolo) there is a pyramid-shaped building, the sepulcher of
a Roman official named Caius Cestius. On the east and west sides of the pyramid,
about halfway up, there is an inscription recording the names and titles of
Cestius, and below, on the east side only, there is another inscription which
describes the circumstances of the erection of the monument. So the best
possible evidence for the true origin of the pyramid is available -- it is
written on the pyramid itself! But despite this fact, popular Middle Ages
tradition described this monument as the sepulcher of Romulus, the mythical
founder of Rome, or Remus, his mythological brother.34
Why? It seems to be an essential characteristic of human nature to strive to
find "facts" supporting their favorite myths and beliefs, even if these "facts"
are refuted by evidence easily drawn from factual reality.
illustrates the distinction I made above. The believers ignored the present
evidence of the inscriptions. Perhaps they thought the inscriptions were
added later by usurpers who wanted to take credit for the construction. Or
perhaps they thought the inscriptions were graffiti. This is how people
believe in spite of present evidence contradicting their belief --
they reinterpret the evidence. Nothing in Rubin's example requires them
to ignore the absence of expected evidence. The Kuzari Principle does
not predict that they will reject this belief. So their accepting the belief
does not contradict the Kuzari Principle.
Rabbi Gottlieb's book
itself is a good illustration of this principle.
Once again, I
would like to express my appreciation to Ephraim Rubin for the care and
effort he took to write this review. My only regret is that he did not spend
more time on the Kuzari Principle. In fact, as it is formulated in the text
he reviewed, it is false. A professor of classics pointed this out to me,
and the necessary changes have been made in the new version. I am sure that
if Rubin had devoted more time to it, he too would have found that fault.
Perhaps he will yet find others. I look forward to seeing his thoughts on
this and any other matters related to Living Up to the Truth.
My thanks to Professors David Widerker and Jonathan Ostroff and to Yoram Bogacz
for helpful comments.
"Living Up to the Truth," p. 17.
Ibid., pp. 24-25.
Ibid., p. 27; emphasis added.
Ibid. p. 7.
Ibid., p. 93.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, China.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, Gypsy.
"Living Up to the Truth," p. 59.
Ibid., p. 72, spelling preserved.
Ibid., p. 58.
Midrash Mechilta DeRabbi Yishmael,
portion of Beshalach, section 4.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, Egypt,
I. Finkelstein. "The Archaeology of
the Israelite Settlement," Israel Exploration Society, 1988, p. 334.
Midrash Seder Olam Rabba (Milikowski
edition), chapter 11.
"Living Up to the Truth," p. 63.
Biblical Archaeology Review,
July/August 1997, p. 29. The parenthetical comments are by the BAR editorial
Ibid., p. 32.
"Living Up to the Truth," pp. 53-54;
Ibid., p. 56.
See commentary of Ramban to Lev. 26:16 for the
corresondence between the verses of Lev. To the Babylonian exile and the verses
of Deut. to the Roman exile.
Note that here there is no
prediction that the land will be denuded of Jewish population. This contrasts
with the prediction in Lev. 26: 33-5, 43, which describes the Babylonian
conquest, and which did in fact all but eliminate the Jewish presence in the
land of Israel (Baron, pp. 105-6). By contrast, after the Roman conquest the
Jewish presence in the land continued, albeit with a much reduced population,
which was a small fraction of the world Jewish population; see Ben-Sasson,
See Ben-Sasson, p. 135:
"...his [Tiglath-pileser III] most important innovation was the development and
perfection of the process of mass deportation and resettlement that henceforth
became the outstanding feature of Assyrian imperialism. Deportation took the
form of enforced exchanges of population: selected residents, outstanding
craftsmen and soldiers were taken from the newly conquered provinces in the west
and were resettled either in regions of Assyria that had been depopulated....In
this way the power of the conquered peoples was broken, because they were
deprived of their elite and because the new colonists intermingled with them to
form a hybrid culture that was predominantly Aramean and loyal to Assyria." We
see that even in the case of the Assyrians, the policy was to exile a small
minority of the population. On the other hand, "The fate of the Israelites and
other peoples exiled into Assyria had taught that generation that exiled people
never return to their native lands." (P. 161) Thus the prediction of eventual
return was very unlikely to come true.
There was no reason whatsoever
to expect a conqueror who would practice wanton slaughter and cause the complete
destruction of the land. Von Soden, p. 182: "The Babylonians also adopted the
notion of religious tolerance from the Sumerians, even with respect to the gods
of neighboring peoples, which often were subsequently identified with their
own." De Burgh, p. 42: "As was the general practice in Oriental empires, subject
peoples preserved their local religions, customs, and institutions in entire
freedom from interference by the central government; the two marks of
subjugation were the payment of a fixed annual tribute, and the levy for service
in the field." Ben-Sasson, p. 279-80: "Generally, the Hellenistic kings treated
the Jewish religion with tolerance. The Jews enjoyed the right to associate in
communities and organizations of their own, and were permitted to maintain
relations with the national and religious center in Jerusalem..... the Roman
state felt obliged to establish an official policy with respect to the Jews.
This policy was founded on the assumption that the Jewish religion should be
treated with complete tolerance. It had always been Rome's principle not to
interfere with the various religions within the empire.....Roman policy was
conservative and tended to preserve the status quo in the countries that became
part of the empire...." P. 349: "...paganism, by its very nature, admitted the
existence of national religions. The Roman authorities had recognized in
principle and generally also in fact the Jewish religious existence in the land
of Israel." Arnott, p. 290: "The Romans always took great care to avoid
offending local religious feelings, where these did not run counter to loyalty
to Rome. In Egypt, for example, the killing of sacred animals was made a capital
I have attached the
bibliography of the current version to the end of this document containing
the references from which these quotations are taken.
[Return to Main Text]
All the above information is taken
from Encyclopedia Hebraica, v. 6 (Eretz Israel), pp. 344-404.
Encyclopedia Hebraica, v. 26, p. 893
(entry 'Am Israel').
"Living Up to the Truth," back
Ibid., p. 85.
"The Religion of Israel" (University
of Chicago Press, 19600, pp. 226-227.
"Living Up to the Truth," p. 56.
Ibid., spelling preserved, emphasis
Ibid., p. 67.
Ibid., pp. 101-102; spelling
See Samuel B. Platner, Thomas Ashby. "A
Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome" (Oxford University Press, 1929), p.
- Altmann, Alexander, Biblical and Other
Studies, [Cambridge, 1963].
- Arnott, Peter, An Introduction to the Roman
World, [Macmillan, 1970]
- Athas, George, 'Minimalism': The Copenhagen
School of Thought In Biblical Studies, Edited Transcript of Lecture, 3rd Ed,
University of Sydney, 1999 (http://members.xoom.com/gathas/copensch.htm).
- Baron, Salo, A Social and Religious History
of the Jews, Vol. 1, 2nd ed., [Columbia University Press, 1952].
- Ben-Sasson, H. H., ed., A History of
the Jewish People, [Harvard University Press, 1976].
- Bermant and Weizman, From Abraham to Ebla,
[Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979: Great Britain].
- Bright, A History of Israel, 3rd ed., [SCM
Press, London, 1986].
- Bronner, Leah: Biblical Personalities in
- Conze, Edward, Buddhist Scriptures,
[Penguin Books, 1959].
- De Burgh, W. G., The Legacy of the Ancient
World, [Pelican Books, 1953].
- Finkelstein, Louis, ed., The
Jews -- Their Culture, History and Religion, [The Jewish Publication Society
of America, 1949]
- Giles, Herbert, trans., Chuang Tzu, 2nd
ed., [George Allen and Unwin, 1980].
- Goodman, Hananya, Between Jerusalem and
Benares, [State University of New York Press, 1994].
- Hodgson, Marshall, The Venture of Islam,
[The University of Chicago Press, 1974].
- Kitchen, Kenneth, "The Patriarchal Age -- Myth
or History?," Biblical Archaeological Review March-April, 1996.
- Robinson, Richard, The Buddhist Religion: A
Historical Introduction, [Dickenson Publishing Co., 1970].
- Von Soden, Wolfram, The Ancient Orient,
[William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994].
- Ward, Peter, and Brownlee, Donald, Rare
Earth, [Copernicus, 2000].