Fwd: [b-hebrew] Torah

Dave Washburn dwashbur at nyx.net
Sat Aug 14 14:53:07 EDT 2004

On Saturday 14 August 2004 10:58, MarianneLuban at aol.com wrote:
> In a message dated 8/14/2004 9:56:32 AM Pacific Daylight Time,
> MarianneLuban
> writes:
> > In a message dated 8/13/2004 7:58:27 PM Pacific Daylight Time,
> >
> > dwashbur at nyx.net writes:
> > >> On Friday 13 August 2004 19:31, MarianneLuban at aol.com wrote:
> > >>
> >> > In a message dated 8/13/2004 4:39:12 PM Pacific Daylight Time,
> >> >
> >> > rosewalk at concentric.net writes:
> >> > > Who's confused?  Not I.
> >> > >
> >> > > It's those who cannot bring themselves to believe in the Divine
> >> > > Origin of Torah, who are confused.
> >> > >
> >> > > Shabbat Shalom - lighting candles (in NY) right now!
> >> >
> >> > Nothing wrong with lighting Shabbat candles.  That is a lovely custom.
> >>
> >> But
> >>
> >> > this is a list for scholarly discourse--not fundamentalist insistences
> >>
> >> that
> >>
> >> > all who do not believe "as we do" must be confused.
> >>
> >> The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive as you imply.
> >
> > Meaning what?  If there are persons here who believe the HB is divinely
> > inspired and others who view it as any other ANE text, those two views
> > can certainly co-exist without difficulty--but not if one contingent
> > insists the other is "confused".

As always, context is everything.  She wasn't the one who mentioned being 
"confused."  She specifically said she wasn't confused, in response to 
someone else who said they were.  In addition, this list has coexisted just 
fine for several years without major difficulty, even though - or perhaps 
because - we have a wide diversity of opinions about the origins, authority, 
accuracy, yada yada yada, about the HB and we all feel free to express them 
because the other folks will treat us with respect even while differing.

> >> > The Torah was written
> >> > by humans.  Like every other ANE text.  Just because it contains great
> >> > wisdom doesn't make it anything more than a product of a certain
> >>
> >> time--and
> >>
> >> > a superstitious time at that.
> >>
> >> Puh-leeze.  Superstition is in the eye of the beholder.  The fact that
> >> they
> >>
> >> believed in something beyond what we can see and touch does not make
> >> them "superstitious" unless one arrogantly chooses to exclude such an
> >> idea a priori and then proclaim that assumption "scholarly."
> >
> > This is not a forum, as I understand it, for the discussion of whether
> > God exists or not.  The ancients--all of them--were superstitious because
> > they had no science.  

This is funny.  Anything that is not of "science" is defined as 
"superstition."  It's easy to dismiss a viewpoint when one defines it out of 
existence.  You're certainly free to begin with this assumption, but I am 
also free to point out that it is, in fact, nothing more than an assumption.

> > Everything that occurred for good or ill was at the 
> > whim of the gods.  Everything that was beyond their comprehension was
> > viewed as a "miracle".  It is not from arrogance that I say this but from
> > evidence that exists from every ancient culture.  If you choose to
> > believe that only monotheists were the "enlightened ones" and that their
> > superstitions were not really so because one god can work miracles as
> > opposed to many gods who cannot, then--fine--but do you include in that
> > the single god of the first monotheist, the pharaoh, Akhenaten, who
> > worshipped the sun?  Akhenaten was right in a sense--there can be no life
> > on earth without the sun and many blessings come from it--but is the sun
> > capable of miracles?  The Jews took monotheism one step further and
> > conceded that their god cannot be defined.  In one sense, they threw up
> > their hands and admitted that nobody knows just who or what began the
> > universe but--called it "God", anyway.  That, to me, is certainly the
> > most enlightened--and humble-- viewpoint, but regardless, the proto-Jews
> > and Jews were still superstitious in that they still regarded their God
> > (capitalized since capitals began to be used in writing) to be
> > responsible for every phenomenon not understood by them.  Illness was a
> > punishment from this God for wrongdoing because no one understood about
> > the microbes that cause various diseases.  And, because they were only
> > human, the Jews had to "personalize" this force behind the universe and
> > claimed it was on their side--because they were "the true believers", the
> > "Gott mit uns" philosophy.  In other words, their ephemeral God was still
> > afforded the very human attribute of  being able to "take sides" and work
> > wonders for the benefit of his Chosen People--those who understood him
> > the best.

Where on earth did all this come from?  I never said a word about monotheism, 
polytheism, pantheism, atheism, my-cat-thinks-he's-theism or anything else.  
You pulled this stuff out of your hat, and it has nothing to do with what I'm 
talking about.  How about we stick to the main subject?  This kind of 
digression into personal hangups only serves to obfuscate.

> > And when God disappointed them, they attributed it to some transgression
> > on their own part--anything rather than to concede that God does not
> > meddle in or take interest in everything that happens to his followers. 
> > Yes, that is superstition.

Only as you define it, and only as "science" is currently defined.  "Science" 
has gone through many different definitions over the centuries, and we 
frankly have no idea whether the current one is correct or not.  Again, you 
are free to assume that it is, but I am equally free to point out that you 
are running on assumption and nothing more.  And it certainly doesn't give 
any basis for attacking a different view such as Shoshanna's.

> >   As C.S. Lewis said, no
> >
> > >> study of probabilities within a given framework will ever be able to
> > >> tell
> >>
> >> us whether the framework itself can be violated.  You don't know whether
> >> there was a "higher" being behind the creation of the Torah any more
> >> than anyone else does, and "science" as currently defined can't say one
> >> way or the other.  In such a situation, it's best to avoid inflammatory
> >> terms such as "superstitious" and "fundamentalist."
> >
> > Regardless of the existence of C.S. Lewis, superstitious people still
> > exist. And those who give no quarter to those who do not exactly
> > subscribe to their own beliefs.

You are the only one so far who has spoken of giving no quarter.  And the 
point of Lewis' quote is that there's a lot that science can't tell us.  
You're welcome to define that field as superstition if you want to, but again 
I point out that you have no solid basis for doing so.

> >> > The Torah is a tribute to a very long memory
> >> > and a need to preserve it--a remarkable achievement of a people and
> >> > quite unprecedented in its thoroughness.  Divine inspiration? 
> >> > Well--whatever
> >>
> >> it
> >>
> >> > is that inspires any great work.  When I listen to Puccini, I don't
> >> > think of God.  I think of the capability for genius in the human race,
> >> > a thing that is almost denegrated by attributing it to an ephemeral
> >> > "higher
> >>
> >> power".
> >>
> >> > Please, fundamentalists--go in peace.  But do not try to divide this
> >>
> >> forum
> >>
> >> > into "believers" and "unenlightened".
> >>
> >> Um, you're the one doing that.
> >
> > Um--no.  I advocated for the opposite.  Religion and politics divide.  If
> > we can discuss Biblical matters without dogmatism--then that is the only
> > way to have a peaceful list.  People are going to have their personal
> > beliefs--but if one who does not share the view of the other maintains
> > the other must be "confused", then that is where scholarly discourse
> > leaves off and dogmatism takes over.

Let's get real, shall we?  The Bible - both Hebrew and Greek - is a dogmatic 
book.  It involves scads of dogmatism and indeed, is based on a dogmatic 
worldview.  If you try to strip dogmatism and theology out of it then you end 
up with nothing, because you remove its very basis for existence.  

You speak of a "peaceful list," but we have had one for many, many years.  So 
your statement is incorrect historically.  

Once again, I suggest you check the archives to find out who actually spoke of 
being "confused."  It wasn't Shoshanna, and she never accused anyone else of 
being confused.  The other person declared themselves "confused," and she 
replied that she wasn't.  Anything beyond that, you have read into the 
material, and that, frankly, isn't "scholarly discourse" either.  

I don't know where some folks get the idea that "scholarly discourse" and 
religious belief don't overlap, but this view is also wrong.  Scholars and 
others have been doing it for centuries, so maybe the ones who believe they 
are mutually exclusive are the ones who need to get with the program.

> > Shoshanna has been on this list for many years
> >
> >> now and has always treated other views with great respect, even while
> >> disagreeing with them.
> >
> > Ah, I see.  Invoking seniority.  Yet I somehow cannot view the above
> > statement from her as a sign of "respect" for the views of others.

Seniority has its place, but you didn't read my statement any more carefully 
than you read hers.  I was not "invoking seniority."  I was pointing out 
that, contrary to your comments, this list has been quite peaceful and we 
have had a great time discussing matters "scholarly," "dogmatic" and 
otherwise for a long time.  Go back and read the archives for the past 8 
years or so and see how it's done.

> >   She has earned at least the same level of deference
> >
> >> and respect for her views.  There's no need for her or anyone else to
> >> "go" anywhere, in peace or otherwise.
> >
> > Telling someone to "go in peace" is not tantamount to telling them to "go
> > away".
> > "Go in peace" means "proceed in peace"--and tolerance.  Let us discuss
> > philology and history--but leave off condemning others for not sharing
> > our religious beliefs and zeal.

Let's also not condemn others for holding "religious beliefs and zeal."  That 
sort of thing cuts both ways and she's as entitled to your deference as you 
are to hers.  But first, you have to read what she actually wrote, in 
context, and represent her words accurately.

Dave Washburn
"No good.  Hit on head."   -Gronk

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