[b-hebrew] Academic Debate

belaga at math.u-strasbg.fr belaga at math.u-strasbg.fr
Wed Oct 31 01:52:07 EDT 2007


Quoting Kevin Riley <klriley at alphalink.com.au>:

> I agree with starting with the text and assuming the writer's intentions to
> be honest - i.e. s/he is not writing to deceive.  But that does not mean
> that there is no agenda, no purpose other than to record facts.  I guess I
> should have thought about how to express myself better before writing.  What
> I meant was the assumption that the text is only factual, and therefore if
> it says "all" it means "all", is a presupposition.  My presupposition is
> that God is behind the text, and therefore it is reliable, but also that God
> is behind the real world, and therefore there is no fundamental difference
> between the intention of the text and the record of events in archaeology,
> etc.  So I guess what I meant was the general privileging of written text -
> of written words - over everything else.  The story doesn't demand that "all
>  means "everyone".  If the archaeological record, or written records outside
> the Scriptures, indicate that "all" doesn't mean "everyone", then I do not
> assume the words in Scripture are to be believed against the evidence.
> Neither do I assume they will more likely be wrong.  The meaning of
> Scripture - virtually every verse - can be argued, just as the conclusions
> of archaeology and history can.  I prefer to assume the basic honesty of all
>  and come to a conclusion that makes the best use of all.  It becomes a
> spiral where archaeology and other sources influence how we understand the
> words of Scripture, and that in turn informs how we understand the
> archaeological record.  I try to avoid saying "the words say..." therefore
> archaeology must be wrong as much as saying "archaeology proves..."
> therefore the words of scripture are wrong.  I am not saying anyone on the
> list is saying this, but some are much closer to the ends than I am
> comfortable with.  I know we try to avoid bringing in issues of religious
> belief, but it seems that unless we are sometimes honest enough to say where
> we are coming from, we simply misunderstand each other and go around in
> circles, with both sides wondering if the other is stupid or merely blind.
> Sometimes we say "the evidence is not convincing" and tacitly invite the
> other person to continue their attempt to convince us, when what we mean is
> my religious/philosophical beliefs make it difficult/impossible to believe
> the evidence" - if we said that, the other would know that the conversation
> is going nowhere.  Some people do that - Shoshanna is one person that does
> so - and it makes it much easier to know when to not reply with further
> evidence that is not going to get anywhere.  I appreciate that, although I
> suspect some may not.  I am not offended when someone has different beliefs,
> but I am annoyed when they implicitly deny those beliefs are influencing
> their reading.  If we stick merely to the words themselves, I think we will
> often have to admit that we can't find agreement.  I don't believe Karl
> would argue that "all" must *always* mean "everyone", nor would anyone argue
> that it never means "everyone".  Without access to the author, can we ever
> really settle whether it does or doesn't mean "everyone without exception"
> here?
>
> Kevin Riley

Kevin has presented a very balanced view of the problem. As a matter  
of fact, the Hebrew Scriptures have obviously a particular status in  
our civilisation and this status, of unquestionable religious origins,  
is still today of a very great pertinence to many people. And this  
brings us to the central point well formulated by Kevin: "God is  
behind the text, and therefore it is reliable".

In my opinion, people who believe in this, in one or another way, with  
all such ways usually collected under an otherwise ambiguous term  
"judaeo-christianity", -- and I am personally belong to this category  
of people, -- should also be ready and even eager to systematically  
reconsider and reinterpret this "reliability" in the light of the  
ongoing growth of our knowledge. I mean here not only, and even not so  
the knowledge directly related to the study of the Scriptures,  
archaeology, and so on, but all systematically acquired human  
knowledge, scientific in particular.

The absence of such an interest, or worse still, the political will to  
suppress the emerging "contradictions", as in the greatly over-hyped  
case of Galilee, as Shoshanna has put it: " Who are you, what are your  
credentials?" (sorry, Shoshanna, it is just a friendly pun), --  
destroys the trust and discourages people to take the Torah, as the  
Jews call it, or Revelation, as the Christian usually refer to it,  
seriously.

I have had personally two opportunities to put straight a basically  
scientific record. The first case is the value of the number Pi (which  
is the ratio of the length of any circle to its diameter) in the  
Bible, the value implicitly present in the description of the Shlomo  
HaMeleh?s Beit HaMikdash. The second is various scientist  
interpretations of the Biblical rib taken from Adam.

Both interventions were received by the scientific community and the  
public with interest and (mostly, grudging) respect.

This said, I do understand that this topic is mostly outside the  
B-Hebrew agenda. My apologies.

Edward G. Belaga
******************************************************
Institut de Recherche en Mathématique Avancée
Universite Louis Pasteur
7, rue René Descartes, 67084 Strasbourg Cedex, FRANCE
tel.: 333 90 24 02 35, FAX: 333 90 24 03 28
e-mail : edward.belaga at math.u-strasbg.fr
******************************************************


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