Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Playing Kesef Mishna to XGH's Rambam

XGH writes:

Not only do I believe these to be true, but I insist that you believe them too (based on evidence and logic of course).

1. I believe with complete knowledge that some (currently) unknowable incomprehensible cause was the cause of the universe. Some people call that cause "God". Anything at all I say about God could just as easily be wrong as right, and in reality I (and everyone else) know absolutely nothing at all about "God", and probably never will. Having said that, there's nothing much wrong with an abstract belief in an ultimate good reality, as long as it doesn't cause you to crash planes into buildings.

2. I believe with complete knowledge that the bible is a composite man-made document, which evolved from oral and then later textual traditions, and was later edited into a book (or rather a set of scrolls). All the currently available evidence points to this truth, though it is always possible that this theory might be revised in the future.

3. I believe with complete knowledge that Judaism has evolved over the past three thousand years, and most likely will continue to do so. There is no such thing as "authentic" Judaism.

4. I believe with complete knowledge that Chazal were just ordinary people. Although there is no proof of that, there is also zero proof that they were anything but normal, hence the burden of proof is on those who say that they were special in some way. Rabbinic Judaism happened to beat out the other sects at the time, but that is just an accident of history.

5. I believe with complete knowledge that the idea of an unbroken mesorah stretching back to Sinai is a myth. Tenach itself is ample evidence that the mesorah was broken, plus it's quite likely that Sinai itself was a total myth.

6. I believe with complete knowledge that the idea of Moshiach was a later development in Judaism, and was originally based on the very natural idea that the Kingdom of David would be restored.

7. I believe with complete knowledge that the idea of Techiyat Hamaysim was a later development in Judaism, possibly influenced by Greek or Zoroastrian philosophies, and is a rather wacky idea anyway.

MY COMMENTARY, the Kesef DovBear
(1) There are no good grounds to believe in God, but XGH is wrong when he says "Anything at all I say about God could just as easily be wrong as right." Lots of what people say about God is stupid, foolish and impossible. (Assuming that by "God" we mean something perfect, all powerful and omniscient. If by "God", we mean something like the "God of Old", which was not much more than God as a superhuman, I agree there's nothing wrong or right you can say about Him, but I reject the God of Old (though its not perfectly clear the Avos/author of their stories did))

(2) I agree that lots of evidence suggests the bible is man made, but I stop short of XGH's claims. I can talk about the evidence, but I don't know that its necessarily been interpreted correctly, and if nothing we say about God is right or wrong, perhaps he gave us a book that looks like it was man made? Why not? Or perhaps he gave us a book, and men, being men, fiddled with it?

(3) 100 percent true. "Authentic Judaism" is a pipe dream, and a propaganda tool.

(4) I don't think Chazal had magic powers, nor do I think they knew anything about the world that other smart men of their time didn't know, but I reject the notion that they were "ordinary." They were men, but not men like you and me. The point about Rabbinic Judaism is true, but the God about whom we can't say anything wrong or right may have created the accident of history that provided that particular sect with its victory.

(5) I think something happened at Sinai, though I can't prove it. If so, the idea of Sinai, at least, represents something that stretches back, unbroken, to Sinai. However, I don't think all of our legal and aggadic interpretations can be traced to Sinai, and I don't think Chazal ever expected us to say different

(6) I know Moshiach isn't mentioned until Daniel, and I know that a few centuries later Chazal were convinced this idea was original to the entire project. More than that, I can't say,

(7) Same deal

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