Monday, March 15, 2010

End of Discussion

True conversation. "X" is a well-educated, very intelligent lawyer who prides himself on his rational approach to Judaism. X considers himself Modern Orthodox, and often snickers at what he believes to be silly, naive statements by Chazal.

X: There cannot be any conflict between Torah and Science. And since basic principles of science don't change, any obvious conflicts must require a re-interpretation of Torah.

Me: OK, so what about the Mabul? We know that there wasn't a global flood 4500 years ago, and that all life wasn't destroyed and re-populated from Noah. It's obvious that this is a Mesopotamian flood myth - likely based on the experience of an actual catastrophic event - but the Torah is adapting it to its monotheistic outlook.

X: I agree that the story is mythical, but that God is using this method of discourse to teach us a lesson.

Me: Why would God use a myth to convey a theological message when it could be done without telling a fairy tale?

X: I don't know why God needed to tell a lie [note: he actually used this term], but there must be a reason why He chose to do so.

Me: Isn't it more likely that it isn't God speaking, and that man composed this story?

X: I cannot compromise on my belief that the Torah was given by God to Moses.

I had thought that the conversation began with an intellectual assertion by X, but on later reflection realized that the conversational show-stopper was contained within his very first sentence, and not the eventual explicitly stated unwillingness to compromise his core belief of Torah from Sinai. Really, there was no purpose for engaging in intellectual discourse once "There cannot be any conflict between Torah and Science" was stated - not as premise - but as fact.


Undercover Kofer said...

Excellent conversation!

Joshua said...

I'm not sure I understand people when they say they are unwilling to compromise on something. What does it mean that someone is unwilling to accept a conclusion even if they agree that the evidence is against it? It isn't a worldview I understand,

jewish philosopher said...

The mabul's no problem.

Frum Heretic said...

The only response to the numerous mabul challenges that Stein can give is "it was a miracle". And - as usual - he attempts to pass such lamo posts off as rational discussions!

Anonymous said...

I've always wondered what people saw in "great" works of fiction, poetry and art. It was all so pointless. why didn't Van Gogh just write " I LIKE MOONLIT NIGHTS" on a piece of paper instead of bothering with painting? Stupid humans.

Anonymous said...

regarding God telling 'stories', which seem only to be lies to you - as it looks like you regard any account of events, ideas, concepts or processes (since no such "JUST the facts" accounts exist in even the most 'secular' historiography) - I would read R. Maroof piece on Torah as a mashal;

Frum Heretic said...

Actually, if you read the post carefully, it was my friend who used this word "lies", not I.

I don't believe that the Torah is filled with lies, even though it is filled with myths. Nor do I believe that the author(s) intended on telling an historically accurate story, for that was never the purpose of the book.

Anonymous said...

but here you when you say 'filled with myths', how is it not meant in the pop cultural way of saying "a story that is first not true, secondly symbolic" or something, instead of the way it is understood in comparative religion or anthropology? In the technical meaning of term (instead of the colloquial sense), The Shoah is a quintessential modern myth - no less a myth for having entailed the historical murder of many millions of people. Yetziat Mitzraim or the Mabul need not be considered primarily ahistorical for involving a smaller, specific population in the former case (see Knohl's מאין באנו, but many other academics in Tanach and archaeology do not feel compelled to go to the lengths he does), nor the Mabul be considered false for the localization of the MAYEI haMabul in the former. I think Shubert Spero is OK on it, but there is research being done into a crater in Southern Iraq that is the time and place for a source for certain aspects of the narrative - even more so if the impact it occurred at a time of heavy flooding, not at all unprecedented;

Anonymous said...

See also very-solid scholar Gary Rendsberg's recent "Israel without the Bible".

harherem blog has had a string of posts on the mabul, search mabul there.