Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Jesus and the Kuzari Proof

Yowzer! I just stumbled across this article in which the author uses a Kuzari-proof for attesting to the reliability of the resurrection of Jesus:
The primary point you will want to make here is that the New Testament provides both valid contemporary accounts of those who personally profess to have seen Jesus Christ alive and embodied subsequent to his death and burial in the stone tomb (Peter, Paul, John etc...) and contemporary second hand but specific accounts of others who profess to be eyewitnesses of the same (James, the 12, Luke, Mark, the "over 500" 1st Corinthians 15). There are many ways of establishing this that I do not have the time and space to explore in this short essay.

If someone objects that in the discussion of bodily resurrection you have stepped beyond the realm of history and into the realm of "myth" or "faith", simply ask them whether they consider a public event to which hundreds testify as witness to be within the realm of historical inquiry.

If they say "no" then they have delegitimized and discounted whole swathes of human history.

If they say "yes" then you simply suggest that given the multiple attestation and primary source documents available then it is certainly legitimate to recognize the resurrection as an event within the realm of public history.
(Complete article here.)


Iyov said...

500 there and 600,000 here. Or so they say.

B. Spinoza said...

great picture

jewish philosopher said...

It's more likely that the authors of the gospels were clever liars than it is that Jesus was God.

Frum Heretic said...

Perhaps it would be kinder to say that they were guilty of a "pious fraud" rather than "clever liars"? Oh wait, sorry, that's what De Wette said about Deuteronomy.

jewish philosopher said...

Who do you think wrote Deuteronomy?

Frum Heretic said...

jp: "Who do you think wrote Deuteronomy?"

I don't know and that wasn't my point. I'm just saying that your accusations regarding a fabrication as to 500 witnesses for the resurrection of JC (not that "Jesus was God" in your comment) has also been made for 600,000 (actually at least 2.5 million) witnessing the events described in the Torah.

jewish philosopher said...

The 500 witnesses is a lie. There was never one witness.

zach said...

I think what Jacob is saying is that he doesn't believe in the Kuzari principle.

slaveofone said...

I find scientific and historical details infinitely more compelling than any philosophical theory. Personally, I pity those who don't.

jewish philosopher said...

I have proven today it's all about sex.

-suitepotato- said...

In this article, a very old account has it differently:

"Handwritten in Greek more than 1,600 years ago — it isn't exactly clear where — the surviving 400 or so pages carry a version of the New Testament that has a few interesting differences from the Bible used by Christians today.

The Gospel of Mark ends abruptly after Jesus' disciples discover his empty tomb, for example. Mark's last line has them leaving in fear.

"It cuts out the post-resurrection stories," said Juan Garces, curator of the Codex Sinaiticus Project. "That's a very odd way of ending a Gospel.""

If you read all the material on Jesus from that time and shortly thereafter with just basic knowledge of the time's Judaism, languages, and practices, you can pretty easily ferret out nonsense edited in after. All in all, most of what is claimed is nonsense and his message is more like a lot of other Jewish preachers had to say at the very same time back then. Instead it was turned into a brand new religion when it was an intra-Jewish religious practice dispute at a particularly dicey time for it.

-suitepotato- said...

JP, it is not about sex. It is about the human ability to smell bull**** and their inability to ignore the smell when people insist that it is really roses.

It's like Star Trek. People can suspend disbelief and get into it and imagine being on the Enterprise and having adventures AS LONG AS YOU DON'T TRY TO INSIST ON IT BEING ACTUALLY REAL.

As long as you don't insult their intelligence by trying to force true on them, or insult their free will to believe whatever they choose by forcing a not true on them, they can suspend disbelief and that means the tendency to care about true or not true. Just go with it and ignore true or not true.

Sadly, Orthodoxy is of late in all out defensive mode over loss of Jews to conversion and assimilation. The easy choice is to circle the wagons and insist on it all being absolutely factually true. This is in direct opposition to the central fact of faith: any attempt at proving it automatically by definition disproves and destroys it.

Faith is not a matter of fact, true, not true. It's a matter of simply believing it may or may not, that it is possible, and in any case, who cares? Like Star Trek, people need to be able to just go with it and ignore true or not true.

Skepticism is vastly reduced when no one is insisting on taking Torah as literal truth but instead saying it might be, it might be transcendental, it might be inferred, it might be example, who knows, this is just what we go by. When the heart and the human need to believe without proofs is ignored in favor of fingers tapping on books with insistent "this is true!" statements, people then rise to the challenge and investigate the claim and the battle for true or not true is on.

Illusions serve a purpose for humans and illusions are only maintained as long as NEITHER side, true or not true, is investigated. Disbelief is suspended only as long as belief is predicated on pure choice, and dies if it is predicated on proofs.

The Candy Man said...

Yeah, this is kinda old news for proof people. Christianity's such a big influence, most people think of this as a classic "religious proof" (Sinai's not as well-known). It's a nice study in religious parallels and kudos for raising awareness.

Frum Heretic said...

Candy Man - I hadn't previously heard that there was a claim of 500 witnesses to the resurrection. The typical Jewish take (at least in kiruv organizations) is that Paul was a great PR guy in convincing everyone about JC. They avoid completely any thought that there might be a satisfying (for Christians) Kuzari-like proof.

Frum Heretic said...

suitepotato - if you haven't read it and are interested in the subject, check out Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus.

jewish philosopher said...

How is the Holocaust any different than UFO sightings? They are both just some stories?

That's how Judaism and Christianity differ.

em5750 said...

The point is there is a tradition in Israel that is intact since the days of those 600,000. Where are the 500 people who supposedly saw Jesus?

Modern scholarship, based on new discoveries, has disclaimed the fantastic accounts of Acts, which implies in part that all the residents of Jerusalem were born-again Christians.

See Bart Ehrman's research for details.

Frum Heretic said...

em5750, if you haven't figured it out, my intention in this post was not to validate the Christian claim. It was to show how other religions can use a Kuzari-like proof for their own benefit. It is as satisfying a proof for them as is the Jewish formulation (the "real" Kuzari proof) for Orthodox Jews!

The Kuzari principle seriously breaks down when one investigates it in depth. See in particular the posts by extremegh.blogspot.com, as well as the wiki entry and the "against the arguments" link there.

You mentioned our tradition of 600,000. That this number cannot in any way be taken literally (see my various posts on this) suggests that many other stories in the Torah cannot be taken as literal fact. The very premise that kiruv organizations start with, "how can 2-1/2 million people (600,000 adult males) be perpetuate a lie" is thus a false premise.

(BTW, I'm a big fan of Bert Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus.)

em5750 said...


The Bible critics' best bets are the so-called "religious reform of King Josiah," and the Nehemiah 8:8. Those are the best shots of disproving the tradition. Other than that, every Israelite community around the world is retelling the same story, every community from its own perspective (what strengthens the claim . It's called "mesiach lefi tumo").
According to the Kuzari we have to keep in mind that Judaism is not really a religion , but a nation. Christianity, on the other hand, is (a personal cult). They have no traditions. It is all based on the NT. So they can't trace back eyewitnesses other than the ones recounted in their scripture. Bart Ehrman shows in his other books how ridiculous those accounts are.

I'd be more than happy to look at the post of "extremegh" if you could provide a link.

Shabbat Sholom.

em5750 said...

What makes you think the Bible is not a historical text? Midrashim might not contain historical data, but Tanakh is.

Frum Heretic said...

C'mon, you haven't heard of the infamous XGH, aka The Gadol Hador? He probably has the most extensive Kuzari debates around. Just search for "kuzari" at extremegh.blogspot.com.

The Bible is not a historical text. It is a theological text that mixes legend and history to convey its messages. Much of that history is clearly not factual. Or
do you believe in the Mabul story literally?

OK, shabbos is coming. Gotta get off this computer...

em5750 said...

I'm kind of new to the Jblog world, but I did see him around in the past.

"Much of that history is clearly not factual"
Is it because you are not used to such events? If so, then you have no argument.

About the Mabul, why wouldn't I believe it as a historical event? All ancient cultures speak of one, all of them spread around the world with no contact. I'm not sure if it was global or local, though.

Frum Heretic said...

Obviously there was a tradition regarding a devastating flood in Mesopotamia (or the straits of Bosporus as some would have it). The Torah incorporated this event and wove a theological lesson around it. In doing so, the Mabul became a worldwide conflagration that occurred around 2400 BCE and which not only covered the tallest mountain (Ararat, the tallest mountain that the author(s) knew about at the time) and destroyed all life except that which was in the ark. And everyone once understood it this way. Of course, we know today that this understanding is silly so apologists try to turn it into a story of a local flood or else come up with quite wacko flood science that still manages to contradict the findings of numerous scientific disciplines.

em5750 said...

The question of the Deluge is a dispute between the historians who say that the findings teach us of a great flood which was deeply engraved within the collective memory of the peoples and was passed through the generations, and the archeologists who say they found nothing.

The Torah incorporated this event and wove a theological lesson around it.

There is an attempt to deny the divinity of the Torah by claiming that the stories are nothing but a human renditions of Babylonian mythology. In truth, this claim has no substance, for it is clear the the Torah is relating to the cultural background of the time of its giving in order to negate the common assumptions. There is a big difference between the mythological nature of the Babylonian deluge and the Biblical story of the Mabul.

To conclude,we believe in Him who made the Mabul, let the historical expression be as it be. RYHAL elucidates it many times over that the Emunah is not built upon the miracle but on the revelation, as RAMBAM also states in chapter 8 of Yesodei HaTorah.

Frum Heretic said...

Gimmeabreak - this isn't a dispute between historians and archaeologists. The factual nature of the Mabul story - as written (and not as a local devastating flood whose story was recorded and reinterpreted differently by different cultures) incorporated into ) - is a claim by fundamentalists that is contradicted by overwhelming evidence that crosses numerous scientific disciplines, as well as ancient history.

On one hand you seem to agree with this approach (ala Nahum Sarna) when you say that "it is clear [that] the Torah is relating to the cultural background of the time of its giving in order to negate the common assumptions", yet on the other hand you speak of emunah, that ultimate, end-of-discussion response. No different from the bumper sticker that reads "God said it, I believe it, that settles it."

em5750 said...

I do not know where this will take us, but I feel obligated to respond:

1. The story as written is very pliable. To say that the Bible is clear on the globality of the flood is a distortion, both of the text and of the tradition. Even I, who am disconnected from tradition by three generations (thanks to the Communists), know that there is a dispute in the Bavli tract Zevakhim, where there are rabbis who say that the Mabul did not occur in parts of the earth. Also see Ramban's comment on Beresheeth 7, 23:
הנה מרבית הדגה באוקינוס היא, ושם לא ירד מבול וגו'

2. I don't know who Nahum Sarna is, but Emunah in the Jewish sense is far from the conception of the masses. The common fallacy, both among Hilonnim and Dati'im, is that Emunah is some rational world which cannot be penetrated. But in truth there are reasons for our belief. Emunah is an emotional state in which the the topic under discussion is accepted without shock. The basis for our Emunah is whatever was made clear as true, each person with his emotional demands, may it be the intellect or the sense or tradition. We acquired Emunah only when we heard G-D Himself, and that is the classical Jewish definition. Those who confess to the message in the bumper are in a state of tremor.

Frum Heretic said...

Is the account "very pliable" because the text suggests this or because it needs to be to give apologists some wiggle-room? It is very clear that the waters covered the highest mountains and destroyed all flesh except for the ark. How are you going to avoid Bereshit 6:19, 7:21-23? That all human and animal life on Earth was repopulated and distributed 4500 years ago from everything on the ark? Even adopting R. Yochanan's opinion in Zevachim 113 only makes an exception for Eretz Yisrael (and even according to him, everything died out there from the heat of the waters.) AGAIN, you cannot get around the fact that it is impossible to reconcile the Mabul account with anything approaching a scientific argument, except by adopting a very liberal interpretation that is anathema to Orthodoxy. Or by claiming "MOSHOL!", which of course leaves the doors wide open for just about anything in the Torah to be moshol.

em5750 said...

The text is very pliable by its subjective nature. Both our sages and our fathers have taught us that the Torah has seventy facets, and as Ibn Ezra states in his intro to Torah, "ובעבור הדרש דרך הפשט איננה סרה, כי שבעים פנים לתורה, רק בתורות ובמשפטים ובחקים, אם מצאנו שני טעמים לפסוקים, והטעם האחד כדברי המעתיקים, שהיו כולם צדיקים, נשען על אמתם בלי ספק בידים חזקים"

And Ramban too says the same in his comment on Parashath Noakh:
אבל כיון שרש"י מדקדק במקומות אחרי מדרשי ההגדות וטורח לבאר פשטי המקרא, הרשה אותנו לעשות כן, כי שבעים פנים לתורה. ומדרשים רבים חלוקים בדברי החכמים

Why, then, should it be "anathema to orthodoxy" if the Ramban disagrees with Rashi on most of his interpretations!?

As for Beresheeth 6:19 and 7:21-23, our Torah is very punctual and here it is unclear if מכל בשר means the animals in the area of Noah or beyond. The Ramban says it was a miracle, but you can deny his interpretation and accept the Ibn Ezra. The fact we do not hold traditions from that period of time should not bother us, for it preceded the formation of our nation.

Is moshol a word in Yiddish? I am an oriental Jew. Speak either English, Hebrew, Aramaic or Judeo-Persian to me :P

em5750 said...

If I may add:
Just to show how flexible is the text, another Ra'aba:
ותשחת הארץ-הטעם אנשי הארץ, וכן ארץ כי תחטא לי (יחזקאל יד), וכל הארץ באו (בראשית מא)

So you see again that one word, הארץ, may be interpreted in different ways. The pesukeem in Ye'hezke'el 14 and Beresheeth 41 suggest that the Mabul was local.

Frum Heretic said...

Moshol = parable. Generally used in the context of a fanciful tale that has deeper underlying meaning.

em5750 said...

ohh משל. We pronounce it the same way. I apologize. And - no. I don't believe that any story recounted in the Tanakh is a moshol, unlike the midrashim.

em5750 said...

My previous comment was a bit dangerous so allow me to clarify:
As I received it from tradition, everything passed Beresheeth 3:21 is physical and historically true.

FH, Did your viewpoint change?

Frum Heretic said...

"As I received it from tradition, everything passed Beresheeth 3:21 is physical and historically true."

As I determined from logic and reason, much of the Torah both before and after Bereseeth 3:21 is neither physical nor historically true.

Yirmiahu said...

Nonsense, this argument would only work if you were entirely ignorant of the New Testament. First of all, many of those who supposely saw Oso haIsh didn't recognize them.

Secondly by Shavuos the number of believers was 120, not 500, unless we are to assume that non-believers bore witness to the resurrection.

Furthermore, most of the disciples disappear from the NT giving no witness what so ever.

Finally the only NT authors who knew Oso HaIsh were Matthew, John, and James. That's three...

That's not even a public miracle.

"When she had said his she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, an did not know that it was Jesus." John 20:14

"While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himsel approached and began traveling with them. But their eyes were preveted from recognizing him." Luke 24:14,15

"When they saw him tey worshiped himbut some were doubtful." Matthew 28:17

Frum Heretic said...

If you haven't surmised from the post and the comments, I don't buy the Christian proof. You have shown some examples of how it is flawed.

Now apply the same scrutiny to the Kuzari principle. If you are critical and unbiased, you will find flaws there as well. But I suspect that your need to confirm your beliefs will prevent you from doing so.

Yirmiahu said...

"Now apply the same scrutiny to the Kuzari principle. If you are critical and unbiased, you will find flaws there as well."

I didn't defend the Kuzari principle, but there is NO analogy between the two accounts.

"But I suspect that your need to confirm your beliefs will prevent you from doing so."

I will not feign being unbiased because I'm inclined to think those who do are liars, but for what it's worth my need, and attempts, to "prove my beliefs" are why I stopped being a Christian. I've changed my position despite my biases, not by pretending to be objective.

Frum Heretic said...

Of course there is an analogy; that of many witnesses testifying to the historical events of both Jewish and Christian traditions. All you are saying is that the Christian claim is a bogus one.

Yirmiahu said...

"Of course there is an analogy; that of many witnesses testifying to the historical events of both Jewish and Christian traditions. All you are saying is that the Christian claim is a bogus one."

Uh, no, I'm saying that there is no Christian traition of many witnesses. And the one's who did repeatedly didn't "recognize" him according to their earliest accounts.

I'm still formulating my thoughts on the Kuzari Principle so I will otherwise hold my tounge for now.

Baal Habos said...

I have no idea how I missed this post.