Reply to Rubin
I am grateful to Ephraim Rubin for his thoughtful review of my book. His comments show careful reading and, for the most part, accurate understanding. Some of his comments identify real errors that require me to change my position. Some identify clumsy or incomplete expression that requires supplementation and clarification. Some are based upon a misunderstanding of my position or mistakes of fact or logic. Which is which will be made clear in my replies below.
The text of my book that Rubin used is three years old. It was, and still is, a work in progress. Since it is available to the public at the Ohr Somayach website, it is of course appropriate that reviews be written and publicized. Some of the errors that Rubin identifies have already been corrected in the newer version that is not yet available to the public. Others require new revisions.
Rubin peppers his writing with gratuitous insults, including accusations of deception. This is common in critical book reviews. It makes for exciting reading and primes the audience to look forward to an entertaining fight. I decline. The importance of the material is surely enough to hold the reader's interest.
My comments are in red and a smaller font, inserted into Rubin's text.1
A Review of Rabbi Dr. Dovid Gottlieb's "Living Up to the Truth"
By Ephraim Rubin
An old joke tells of a young man who was to have a date with a young lady he wanted to marry. Caring for her child's success, his mother told him to speak of three issues: love, family, and philosophy. When the couple met, the first question the young man asked was: "Do you love chocolate?" Then he asked: "Do you have a brother?" to which the answer was negative, and the third question was "If you did have a brother, would he love chocolate?"
The joke does not tell us about the couple's future, but it is always useful to know that if you are reading a book written by somebody who claims he is a philosopher, this may be the kind of philosophy you'll have to deal with. "Living up to the Truth," in particular, provides strong empirical evidence for the above principle.
The book, only 104 pages long, opens with a six page discourse on the "relevance of Judaism," which concludes "that the question is really no question, that it can't be asked, and that it is really incoherent," because "to ask whether religion is relevant is to measure religion against my goals and values. But, this presupposes that I already have goals and values," while "the Torah itself provides us a complete set of values. The Torah itself dictates what our goals shall be."2 This point makes a lot of sense, and the late Prof. Yeshayahu Leibowitz was the contemporary Jewish religious thinker who most emphasized it, so for a better understanding of the principle one would be best advised to turn to his works.
Rabbi Gottlieb, however, seems to misunderstand his own point, for the whole second chapter of his book is dedicated to praising the importance of truth, the importance of searching for the truth in general and for the true religion in particular. Now, if one adopts the value of truth because it is established by the Torah, it follows that he already accepts the Torah and trying to persuade him that he should accept the Torah as true is preaching to the choir. But if one adopts the value of truth because he considers it an important value in and of itself and he tries to examine the truth of Judaism based on this value, it follows that he must evaluate the relevance of the Torah (its being true) based on his pre-established goals and values (the value of truth) -- and this is exactly what Rabbi Gottlieb claims, on page 17, is incoherent. R' Gottlieb's approach seems to be philosophically self-contradictory.
Rubin has missed my point here. Here is what I wrote:
"Now in our case, the Torah doesn't allow itself to be a tool with which we can realize our extra-Jewish or our extra-Torah goals and values. The reason is that the Torah itself provides a complete set of values. The Torah itself dictates what our goals shall be. Thus, the Torah contains its own complete standard of relevance. The only way in which I can ask if the Torah is relevant is to decide not to treat it as true, not to take it in terms of its own self-conception. This would mean deriving the standard of relevance from another source. The Torah dictates for itself its own standards of relevance, and so to ask whether it is relevant or not is to ask an incoherent question."
This prohibits evaluating the Torah on the basis of an extra-Torah value. For example, if one asks whether the Torah way of life will promote excellence in sports, or success in technological innovation, then one is evaluating the Torah in terms of a non-Torah value. But there is nothing wrong with evaluating the Torah in terms of a value that the Torah itself recognizes. Since truth is a prime value of the Torah, it is entirely appropriate to see that the Torah lives up to one of its own values.
Rubin thinks that something counts as a extra-Torah value if the motivation for accepting it does not come from Torah. In the context of my point this is a mistake. My paragraph mentions nothing about motivation. There is no mistake in evaluating the Torah with respect to its own value of truth, even if the critic's commitment to truth comes from a different source.
When Rubin writes "This point makes a lot of sense" it seems that he agrees that it is inappropriate to evaluate a system with respect to a value external to the system. If one reads "external" in terms of motivation, as Rubin does, it follows that non-believers are disqualified from evaluating the truth of the Torah. I do not think that Rubin would accept this conclusion.
Moreover, chapter II of "Living Up" begins by establishing a dichotomy between what R' Gottlieb calls the pragmatic and the realist attitudes towards religion:
"The pragmatic attitude starts with the self. I am the person with goals, desires, hopes, fears, projects, scruples and so on. There are various things I want to accomplish, and I look at the world as a set of resources to accomplish my projects. All of human history and human culture can be seen as resources to further my goals...
The second is the realist attitude. The realist wants truth. Every religion has some story to tell. Where did the universe come from? What is its fundamental nature? What forces guide its development? What is the nature of the human being? What will the future be? The realist wants the religion whose story is true."
Rabbi Gottlieb, of course, urges his readers to adopt what he calls the realist attitude. Yet two pages later he writes:
"The responsibility to seek the truth is of course only one responsibility among many, and it may be overridden when it conflicts with a more pressing responsibility. For example, suppose seeking the truth will cost my life! Also, there is considerable discussion of the foundation of the responsibility to seek the truth... This is a theoretical matter which does not touch its validity. In the case of religion, since the utility of having the truth is eternal, the responsibility to seek the truth obviously applies."
This "eternal" utility might mean eternal life in the World to Come or something like that, but at its base this statement is a justification for the search for the true religion from the pragmatic viewpoint. But then the whole construct of a dichotomy between the pragmatic and the realist attitudes, the praise for the morality of the latter and condemnation for the immorality of the former in which R' Gottlieb is engaged for the first three pages of Chapter II, is simply meaningless within the context of his book --both attitudes would lead one to accept the religion whose factual truth is proven.
Rubin is correct that there is confusion here. I used to think realism and pragmatism were mutually exclusive alternatives. I now see realism as a part of pragmatism -- among our many goals are knowing the truth and living accordingly. What needs to be considered is when truth should take precedence over other goals. Giving truth precedence is still called realism; giving precedence to other goals at the price of truth is now called opportunism.
However, the point that Rubin addresses survives in the new setting. It is not true that the two approaches [realism and opportunism] will agree on adopting the true religion.
- Rubin assumes that every religion will make promises of eternal reward. That is not correct. Buddhism, for example, denies that anything of a person survives death. See Conze, p. 181. [References are listed at the end of this Reply.] A religion that does not promise eternal life promises only a finite reward. One may acknowledge that such a religion is true and yet choose to ignore it on the grounds that living with falsehood promises greater value.
- Rubin is assuming that the "pragmatist" [or now, "opportunist"] will apply his position rationally. But my use of this category was to describe choices that are usually irrational or irresponsible. My example of the pragmatist/opportunist ignoring the evidence that smoking injures health makes this clear. Thus it is possible that he may also irrationally ignore even the truth of a religion that makes eternal promises.
The use of the categories realist and pragmatist in the text is confused and is replaced in the newer version. But the particular point to which Rubin addresses his criticism seems to me to be still valid.
The matter becomes even more peculiar when one notes that the last argument is brought by R' Gottlieb as a "technical comment," of which he writes in the preface to the book, "These comments are designed for those with a background in philosophy, mathematics, or science -- and for those with an intellectually adventuresome spirit. They can be skipped without missing anything essential to the argument."5 To say that a remark which makes a discourse occupying 3 of 104 pages unnecessary and meaningless "can be skipped without missing anything essential to the argument" is a very peculiar action for a person who happens to have been a professor of mathematical logic in the Department of Philosophy at Johns Hopkins University, as the back cover of the book claims.
Indeed, logic is not the strong point of "Living Up to the Truth." On page 34 of the book R' Gottlieb describes evidence Islam brings in support of its Divine nature:
"They claim that if you master Arabic and read the Koran you will see that such a book could not have been written by a human being. Only G-d could have written it. The problem with this 'evidence' is parallel to the problem with the conquest [the rapid Moslem conquest of vast areas of the world in the 7th century CE, which they, according to Gottlieb, claim to be an evidence of Divine support for Islamic believers]. It is often very difficult to explain human creativity. How did Aristotle produce so many new ideas, theories, whole new disciplines? How did Beethoven compose the late quartets? How did Einstein think of relativity? Our inability to answer those questions is not evidence that they were all supernatural! They just highlight our lack of understanding how people -- especially geniuses -- create."
A good and reasonable point -- but how the reader is amazed if he manages to get to Chapter VII, "Jewish Survival: the Fact and Its Implications," and encounters there the following statement:
"Thus the supernatural element of Jewish survival must be squarely faced. Since there is no reasonable naturalistic explanation, the unbiased investigator must at least seriously entertain the possibility of a supernatural explanation..."
Is this the same Rabbi Gottlieb who 59 pages ago told us that the fact we do not understand certain phenomena is by no means evidence of the Divine nature of these phenomena?
Rubin is over-generalizing here. I did not say or imply that
"the fact we do not understand certain phenomena is by no means evidence of the Divine nature of these phenomena."
What I said was
"It is often very difficult to explain human creativity. How did Aristotle produce so many new ideas, theories, whole new disciplines? How did Beethoven compose the late quartets? How did Einstein think of relativity? Our inability to answer those questions is not evidence that they were all supernatural!"
As the reader can see, my comment was directed specifically to explaining the products of human genius. I did not say or imply that no unexplained phenomena could be evidence of Divine action. Such an assertion would undermine most [if not all] attempts to give evidence for Divine action. It would also be patently irrational -- it amounts to a philosophical decision not to allow the possibility of evidence for G-d.
There is thus no inconsistency in my position. We do not infer Divine action from unexplained products of genius. But we may indeed infer divine action from certain other types of unexplained events. See below.
Continuing his line of reasoning on page 34, one should say:[The paragraph below was written by Rubin as his account of how I should reason if I were consistent]
7? How did the people of India manage to achieve their independence through non-violent protest against British colonization policy -- a very rare phenomenon in the world history? How did the ancient Greeks manage to lay the philosophical and scientific foundations of the whole Western civilization for the next 2000 years? How did the Gypsies, despite centuries of worldwide migrations and harsh persecutions in the most countries they came to, manage to survive as a nation, preserve their cultural unity, and even their unique language -- Romany -- in which the most Gypsies speak until this very day8? (The last time most Jews spoke a single language was about 2000 years ago.) Our inability to answer those questions is not evidence that they were all supernatural! They just highlight our lack of understanding how societies -- and in particular, nations -- really function."
"It is often very difficult to explain specific qualities demonstrated by different nations and societies. How did the Swiss manage to preserve their neutrality for centuries, while other European countries were permanently engaged in wars, including the murderous World Wars I and II? How did the godforsaken desert tribe of Mongols manage to conquer vast areas from China to Hungary in a few dozen years in the 13th century? How did the Chinese Han people manage to preserve their cultural unity for millennia despite the fact they were spread over territory which is almost as large as the whole of Europe, and how it came to be that 'With more than 4,000 years of recorded history, China is one of the few existing countries that also flourished economically and culturally in the earliest stages of world civilization'
These are serious questions. Let us start with some groundwork. There are different types of answers to questions of the form "How is it that X?" We ask the question because X is different from what we have seen before. We are looking for an explanation. The explanation might come from the uniqueness of X's circumstances. Or it might come from a new combination of old recognized theoretical principles. Or it might require the recognition of new principles. Here are examples of each.
- How is it that some species remain unchanged for tens of millions of years? Evolution will answer that the environment was constant; that the species was well adapted to the environment; that the variations needed to improve adaptation were incompatible with the basic structure of the species, that the environment was isolated so no new competitors appeared, etc. No new theory and no new combination of recognized principles are needed to account for this. All that is required is a careful description of the unique features of this environment.
- How is it that black holes, from which no matter or energy can escape, nevertheless radiate energy and eventually disappear [Hawking radiation]? The answer depends upon a novel use of quantum mechanics in the context of extreme gravitation. But no new theories are needed.
- [In the 1920s it was asked] How is it possible for protons to sit together in the nucleus of the atom when they are all positively charged and like charges repel each other? The answer in this case depends upon recognizing a fundamentally new force - the nuclear force.
The crucial difference between category 3 and categories 1 and 2 is this. Do we have reason to think that X violates the laws, forces, causes and explanations that are responsible for more familiar phenomena? If we do, then we expect the answer to be in category 3. Or is it reasonable to try to explain X in terms of its unique circumstances, or perhaps in terms of new combinations of old recognized principles? If so, then the answer will be in categories 1 or 2.
How do we argue that a question belongs in category 3? There are two possibilities. If we have a description of the causes of the relevant phenomena, we can argue that they cannot explain X. This is the case of the atomic nucleus.
If we do not know the causes, we can still make the argument, as follows. We identify consistent categories of phenomena. Whatever the causes are, they will have to explain these categories of phenomena. If we then find a particular phenomenon that violates the categories, we may argue that whatever the causes are of the phenomena in the categories, they will not explain this phenomenon.
For an example of the latter argument, consider photographic memory. We can argue that no theory of learning will explain photographic memory. Learning requires time and training for acquisition of specific skills, time to carefully examine the material to be learned and so on. Photographic memory does not function in this way. Thus even in the absence of a theory of learning, we can know that whatever theory eventually does explain learning, it will not explain photographic memory.
This is how I argued in the text that the answer to "How did the Jewish people survive?" belongs to category 3. I identified consistent categories of the history of other cultures and religions, and then showed that the history of the Jewish people violates those categories. On that basis I concluded that we need to recognize a new force to explain Jewish survival.
Now Rubin claims that the answers to many other historical questions equally deserve to be put in category 3. If he is right, I will have to conclude that each of them requires recognizing some new force -- an absurd position. Let us go through Rubin's questions and see to whether we really have reason to think the answers belong in category 3.
Swiss neutrality. The Britannica offers the following facts relevant to Swiss neutrality. The Swiss population is composed of people of German, French and Italian origin. The diversity of languages, culture, and sympathies made external neutrality necessary for internal cohesion. Forty per cent of Switzerland's food supply is imported. To go to war meant the threat of starvation. Switzerland is a small country poor in resources. In 1815 Swiss neutrality was recognized by international law. At all times the Swiss had an army that would fight to defend their neutrality -- neutrality did not mean pacifism. World War II posed the most extreme threat to Swiss neutrality. Here is how they responded:
When World War II broke out, the Federal Council issued a declaration of neutrality that was backed by a strong army and air force. Ultimately 850,000 soldiers were mobilized out of a total population of only 4,000,000. A fortress in the central Alps, the réduit, was prepared with arms, ammunition, medical supplies, food, water, hydroelectric plants, and factories so that the Swiss army could fight against the Nazis even if the cities of the Mittelland were lost. The populace was told that, if it should be announced by radio, leaflets, or any other means that they were to capitulate, they should regard such statements as enemy propaganda. The Swiss were determined and prepared militarily to fight to preserve their freedom.
Thus neutrality was crucial for Swiss survival, and they were willing to fight to preserve it. I do not see any deep historical puzzle here at all. The only remaining question is why the Swiss thought of and implemented this policy when others who could have benefited from such a policy did not. This is a matter of creativity and genius, and we have already pointed out that genius is very poorly understood. There is no reason to expect that the explanation of Swiss neutrality will fall in category 3.
The Mongol conquests. As I pointed out in the text, there have been many extraordinary conquests in human history, including Alexander in the fourth century BCE and the Moslems in the eighth century CE. The existence of historical parallels encourages us to look at such conquests as within the normal [if atypical] abilities of human societies operating within favorable circumstances. Whatever explains those abilities in general will explain these conquests as well. There is no reason to think that the answer to this question is in category 3.
The cultural continuity of the Han. Perhaps I am missing Rubin's reference here. My Britannica says this:
Pinyin HAN (206 BC-AD 220), the second great Chinese Imperial dynasty, considered the prototype for all later Chinese dynasties. So thoroughly did the Han dynasty establish what was thereafter considered Chinese culture that the Chinese word denoting someone who is Chinese means "a man of Han."
The dynasty was founded by Liu Pang, later Kao Tsu (256-195 BC), a man of humble birth who led the revolt against the repressive policies of the preceding short-lived Ch'in dynasty (221-206 BC). The Han copied the highly centralized Ch'in administrative structure, dividing the country into a series of administrative areas ruled by centrally appointed officials and developing a salaried bureaucracy in which promotion was based primarily on merit. Unlike the Ch'in, however, the Han adopted a Confucian ideology that emphasized moderation and virtue and thereby masked the authoritarian policies of the regime. So successful was this policy that the Han lasted longer than any other Chinese empire, reigning--with a short interruption when Wang Mang temporarily usurped the throne and established the Hsin dynasty (AD9-25)--for more than 400 years.
So the "millennia" to which Rubin refers are really 400 years. The "Chinese Han people" were in fact the rulers of China who forcibly introduced a nation-wide culture. They preserved that culture by using a thorough administrative system to implement authoritarian policies. The geographic area they controlled, while very large, is a single connected area. This is in marked contrast to the survival of Judaism in scattered minorities during the last two thousand years. I do not think the Han experience counts as an historical puzzle at all.
Chinese antiquity and early economic success. I do not follow Rubin here. Doe he think that a long lasting culture could not be among the first to flourish economically? Why not?
Indian peaceful achievement of independence. I think this really is an historical puzzle. We do not expect empires to give up possessions without overwhelming cause. Almost always, that cause is military. This case contradicts those expectations. So the question is genuine. But I do not think it goes beyond categories 1 and 2. We can all do the analysis. The British were exhausted by Word War Two. There was a strong ideology at home and abroad opposing the exploitation of foreign possessions. The slaughter of multitudes of unarmed people, especially exposed by the world media, would be very difficult to justify. And so on. The explanation need not cite new laws or causes of historical phenomena.
It has been suggested to me by Yoram Bogacz that the relatively peaceful transition to democracy in South Africa in 1994 ranks with Indian peaceful achievement of independence. The Whites in South Africa were exhausted by decades of isolation and sanctions. There was a strong ideology at home and abroad opposing the exploitation of Blacks. There were some violent South African groups, but in India, too, there were violent groups. Ghandi, after all, was assassinated by a Hindu fanatic opposed to the toleration of Islam in India. Bogacz concludes that if South Africa and India can be placed in the same group, then India is not unique and certainly does not fit in category 3.
Greek foundations of philosophy and science. Now we are back to the question of genius. I acknowledged above that we understand genius very poorly. Indeed, here we need the opposite also -- why other cultures did not produce equally talented genius. Here is an area of phenomena that we know we do not understand.
As a result, no argument can be made that the explanation of Greek genius must fall in category 3. Not only do we lack recognized causes of individual and social genius, we do not even have consistent categories of experience with genius. We certainly have no reason to put it in category 3.
The survival of the Gypsies. This looks to be Rubin's best case. I claim that the survival of the Jewish people belongs in category 3 and requires G-d as an explanation. Rubin claims that the survival of the Gypsies is equally surprising. Therefore, by my logic I ought to recognize G-d as the only available explanation of Gypsy survival as well.
Rubin invites us to contemplate a picture of the Gypsies as a scattered minority preserving their distinctive ethnic identity and culture for a thousand years. If this picture were true, the objection would be strong. But the picture is not true.
The Gypsies participate in a variety of religions [the source for this and the following quotes is: © 1996-2000 by the Patrin Web Journal URL:<http://www.geocities.com/Paris/5121.htm>]:
"The Roma [Gypsies] cannot be said to have a "religion" of their own. They have usually adopted the faiths of the countries in which they live. Among the Roma can be found Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Protestants, and Muslims."
They differ in fundamental values:
"Identifying commonalities among all Roma [Gypsies] is difficult. The stress on literacy, which varies substantially among different Romani groups, seems to compound the problem."
The Gypsies have very little shared culture:
"Romani culture is diverse and there is no universal culture per se" "What may be accepted as "true-Roma" by one group may be gadjé [non-Gypsy] to another. Romani culture is diverse, with many traditions and customs, and all tribes around the world have their own individual beliefs and tenets. It would be invalid to generalize and oversimplify by giving concrete rules to all Roma. Despite what some groups may believe, there is no one tribe that can call themselves the one, "true" Roma."
Gypsy history has been reconstructed on the basis of linguistic affinities between the Romani language and the languages of northern India, and the knowledge of Indian history from 1000 years ago. The Gypsies themselves have no records of that history -- they have no account of their origins. A review of the reconstructed history of the Gypsies ends with these words:
"While this is to an extent speculative, it is based upon sound linguistic and historical evidence, and provides the best-supported scenario to date."
The identity of the Gypsies as a separate ethnic group is based on some shared physical characteristics, a shared group of dialects of an original language, some beliefs and customs and shared persecution. The disintegration of the central common culture under the forces of assimilation fits our expectations for their historical experience.
Indeed, the Gypsy experience seems to fit one of the categories described in the text. Here is what I wrote:
"How can a civilization survive under such widely differing conditions? If it were rigid and unable to change to meet the new conditions, then it would simply fall apart. If it were flexible and able to meet the new conditions, then there ought to be dozens of different "Traditional" Judasims today. Why? Because, we were living under such widely differing conditions, that if we adapted to meet those new conditions, then we ought to have widely different forms of "Traditional" Judaism. Neither of these scenarios occurred. How can this be explained?"
The Gypsy experience is described in the next to last sentence. They lived under widely differing conditions and adapted to meet those conditions. The result is widely different forms of Gypsy life. That is to be expected -- it does not need a special explanation.
There is no comparison here to the Jewish experience of the last two thousand years. Jews in Poland for the last millennium, and Jews in Yemen for 1500 years, and Jews in North Africa, Persia, and the rest of Europe did not adopt the religions of their surroundings and they did not change their fundamental values. They share the same beliefs and practices. They recognize the same scholars and literature as authoritative. They share a vast, detailed culture. They have a continuous record of their history.
The rise of assimilationist movements in the last three centuries does not contradict this point. To repeat, the expectation is that the central culture will fragment and disintegrate to the point that there will be no significant culture common to the separated groups of the population. Gypsies in different locations share only the most superficial aspects of belief and custom. The widely separated Jewish minorities should have suffered the same fate -- there should be no significant shared culture from Poland to Yemen to North Africa and so on. Jewish history contradicts this expectation. The fact that portions of the Jewish population in many locations chose to leave the traditional forms of Jewish life does not remove the surprise in the survival of the common culture in the remainder of the population.
(It is noteworthy that the statement of page 34 is also brought by R' Gottlieb as a "technical comment," which "can be skipped without missing anything essential to the argument." This already smells of hiding the contradictions when you are unable to resolve them.)
The destiny of each nation and society is unique in its own way, but it is surely not an argument for the Divine nature of the religion adopted by any particular nation or society.
There are different types of uniqueness. Each person's fingerprints are unique. Thus the fact that your fingerprints are unique needs no special explanation -- everyone has unique fingerprints. Einstein's genius was unique in a different way: it is not the case that each person has his own personal style of genius. When X is unique in a way that everything else is not unique, then X's uniqueness needs a special explanation. I argued that Jewish survival is unique in the second way.
As for the specific phenomenon of Jewish survival, it might be useful to note that for the last 150 years, the majority of Jewish people have not been adherent to Orthodox Judaism, the truth of which R' Gottlieb tries to prove (though he, striving to remain "politically correct," calls it "traditional Judaism"). These 150 years have witnessed the growth of a secular Jewish culture, an unprecedented worldwide spread of the Jewish population (from North America and South Africa to the Russian Far East and Australia), the establishment of the State of Israel and the revitalization of Jewish cultural and social life in Western Europe and America after the massacres of the Holocaust. Most of those who took part in these processes were non-Orthodox Jews. Nowadays, of 13,000,000 Jews living all over the world, the vast majority are not the Orthodox. If there is a God in Jewish survival, He evidently has no specific interest in Orthodox Judaism. Of course, one may say that He is patient and merciful and waits for His children to repent even if it takes them very long -- but this seems a post-factum excuse more than positive evidence for the Divine origin of Orthodox Judaism. And since most of the Holocaust martyrs were strictly observant Orthodox Jews, while the most of those who escaped the massacre were not Orthodox, it would be much more reasonable to claim that God is really angry with those who continue to adhere what R' Gottlieb calls "traditional Judaism." Again, searching for "God's finger" in history is a just monkey business, but if Rabbi Gottlieb wants to engage in it, he should be aware that he might find the consequences undesirable.
I am guilty here of confusion and poor exposition. My text makes it sound as if this is the procedure: Search history for surprising facts. If they are surprising enough and if they seem to support the Torah's viewpoint and values, use them as evidence that the Torah is true.
Rubin correctly deduces that we should then search all of history. If we find facts that seem to contradict the Torah's viewpoint and values, then they will count as evidence that the Torah is false. And Rubin has pointed out some such facts.
What I should have said is this. The Torah can only be tested historically by checking to see that its predictions come true. If the predictions are evaluated independently to be very unlikely to come true, then their truth gives strong evidence that the Torah is true. We search history only to verify [or falsify] predictions. By contrast, if a phenomenon only seems to us to support or violate the Torah' viewpoint or values, but the Torah does not predict that it will occur, then that phenomenon is of little or no relevance to the Torah's truth.
Now perhaps it seems to us that G-d will protect all religious Jews from harm. Perhaps it seems to us that religious Jews would always be the vast majority of the Jewish people. Perhaps it seems to us that non-religious Jews should not have political, economic and military success. These expectations are natural, but nowhere does the Torah make such predictions. Indeed, in some cases the Torah predicts the opposite. The prediction of exile includes the righteous among the population -- thus not all religious Jews will be protected from harm. The Torah predicts that many Jews will worship idols -- thus the religious will not be the vast majority of the Jewish population. The fact that our expectations are violated in history does not count against the truth of the Torah. Only the violation of one of the Torah's predictions would be evidence against the truth of the Torah.
Or let us consider the following example. Arguing that the lack of any mention of the Exodus from Egypt in ancient records is insufficient to prove that the Exodus did not really take place, R' Gottlieb writes:
"Why is it that no ancient Egyptian records mention the Exodus? The answer is that the Egyptians never recorded their defeats. Therefore, since the Exodus was a massive defeat, you would not expect them to record it. So, its absence from their records is not evidence against the Exodus."
Yet 13 pages later we find (again as a "technical comment"):
"The non-occurrence of the Holocaust (the second World War without the massacre of 6,000,000 Jews) is a possible event. If it had happened -- if the second World War had not included the massacre of 6,000,000 Jews -- then there would be enormous, easily available evidence of that event. The evidence would be in the form of histories of the second World War making no mention of the Holocaust. The absence of the event from the histories would surely be the compelling evidence that the event did not take place."
One might think it is not a contradiction, for the Egyptian histories, written by the Egyptians themselves, may be suspected of silencing events unpleasant to Egypt, while the histories of the Second World War were and are being written by many historians from different countries and cultures and therefore it is impossible that they all would gloss over German war crimes. But one who thinks that evidently has no notion of ancient history. First of all, Egypt's history was not only written by Egyptians. Even Rabbi Gottlieb seems to be aware of that:
"You read in the hieroglyphs that Pharaoh X raised a great army and conquered a number of provinces, and his son Pharaoh X Jr. raised even a larger army and conquered more provinces. Then, there is a hundred year gap in the history. What happened during that 100 years? For that you have to go to the Babylonian records. That is when the Babylonians were kicking the stuffing out of the Egyptians."
And indeed, the countries of the ancient Near and Middle East were not isolated entities. They were continuously in competition, and very often at war with one another. And at war, if side A loses side B wins -- so if side A wants to silence the events of a particular period, when it was soundly defeated, we can find the description of these events in the records of side B, which speaks loudly of its glorious victory.
This is another example of over-generalization. The many different historians writing about World War Two indeed would not miss the Holocaust. But it does not follow that every group of historians will collectively record every fact. In particular, as Rubin himself notes, ancient historians wrote in order to glorify their own country. If the Babylonians defeat the Egyptians, that will be recorded in the Babylonian's history, not in the history of the Egyptians. But equally, and for the same reason, the defeat of the Egyptians by the Babylonians will not be recorded in the history of the Assyrians, since this does not add to the Assyrians's glory. Now the plagues were a defeat for Egypt due to the [G-d of the] Jews. Whom does Rubin expect to record this -- the Assyrians? The Babylonians? There is no reason to expect any non-Jewish nation to record this.
Under these conditions, were the Ten Plagues and a total crush of the Egyptian army in the Red Sea waters to happen, as we are told by the Torah, Egypt's ruthless neighbors -- the Babylonians and the Hittites -- would immediately invade the powerless country, conquer it, and glorify their victory in dozens of records, inscriptions, and monuments. Yet nothing like this ever happened. More specifically, historical records tell us that between 1320 and 1283 BCE Egypt and the Hittite empire were at a state of permanent war; had the Ten Plagues and the Exodus happened in 1313 BCE, when Judaic tradition claims they did, they would have quickly led to a Hittite invasion and conquest of the ruined Egypt -- which, of course, did not happen. Instead, after almost four decades of indecisive war, a peace treaty and a mutual defense pact were signed between Egypt and the Hittite empire.12
Rubin thinks that if the plagues took place, Egypt should have been so devastated that its enemies could have easily conquered it. There is no reason to think so. Most of the plagues -- blood, frogs, lice, invasion by wild animals, boils, and darkness -- had only immediate effects. Locusts, cattle sickness, and to a small extent, hail, caused temporary agricultural failure. But this was no worse than a disastrous drought that can occur without devastating an empire. The death of the firstborn was not enough to stop the Egyptians from mounting a force to pursue the Jews. The Egyptians could have experienced the plagues and still remained strong enough to defend themselves against their enemies.
Moreover, if Rabbi Gottlieb wants to remain true to the extra-Scriptural Judaic tradition (such as the one he quotes on p. 62), this tradition states that when the waters of the Red Sea were split, the waters throughout the world split.13 Of course, were this to happen we would have dozens of historical records from different countries mentioning such an outstanding phenomenon -- yet we have nothing of this sort.
I think Rubin is mistaken. Not every inexplicable event is recorded. Indeed, not even every event that the observers take to be miraculous is recorded. There are two reasons for this. First, ancient people were surrounded by events that they could not explain, and which they interpreted as the actions of the gods. Every lightning bolt, every pregnancy and birth, every victory or defeat in war, the fall of the rain -- all was interpreted as the actions of the gods. And second, if the event is not connected to any practical results, there is little motivation for recording it. Eclipses are a striking example of the second reason. An eclipse of the sun was a frightening inexplicable event. Ancient people attributed eclipses to their gods. Nevertheless, very few ancient cultures recorded them.
If we imagine waters everywhere splitting once, with no systematic effect on any other matters -- no associated victory or defeat, birth or death, rain or drought, and so on -- then we can easily understand that there would be no motivation to record the event.
Historical and archaeological research tells us that the whole population of Egypt in the latter half of the second millennium BCE was 2-3 million people.14 The Torah tells us that 600,000 adult male Jews left Egypt, which means a total Israelite population of about 2.5 million. Had this number of Jews escaped from Egypt, the country would remain virtually devastated -- which would be seen, of course, in the archaeological record. Yet the archaeological record shows that no major decrease of population happened in ancient Egypt throughout its history.
Rubin here is talking about a great decrease in the population of slaves. It is not clear why the loss of a large number of slaves should leave the country "virtually devastated." It is also not clear what gross change that would make in the archeological record.
The 2,500,000 Israelites are said, in the book of Joshua, to enter the land of Canaan and conquer it over the course of several years -- yet the archaeological record shows that such a massive conquest of Canaan did not take place in end of the 2nd millennium BCE; archaeologists speak of only tens of thousands Israelites in Canaan at that time.15
It is an axiom of archeology -- indeed, of all sound thinking -- that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. How do archeologists establish that a population was small? Chiefly by not finding signs of a large population. This is a very weak conclusion. Five hundred years before the time of the Patriarchs the single city Ebla held up to a quarter of a million people. [See Bermant and Weitzman.] If you miss two such cities, your estimate of the population will be very incorrect. In fact, even when the evidence is available, it is subject to very different interpretations. For example, whether Jerusalem at the time of King David was a bustling metropolis, or only a small local settlement, is a matter of controversy at the present time.
Concerning the war of conquest, George Athas points out that not all wars leave archeological remains. There is no archeological evidence for the conquest of Babylon or for the conquest of Britain by William the Conqueror. The archeologist who reports only what he has found in the excavations will report incorrectly that those wars did not take place. Athas also states that excavation at most sites in Israel today reveals only about 5-30% of what is there.
I conclude that the description of early Jewish history on the basis of archeology is too speculative to refute the Biblical record.
There is also the obvious fact that, assuming a very modest amount of 0.5 liters water and one pound bread a day per capita, the conquering Israelites would need 1.25 million liters or 1,250 tons water and 1,134 tons bread a day even before they started the conquest, for according to the Bible16 the manna ceased falling as soon as they entered the Land of Israel. According to the Judaic tradition,17 the conquest of Canaan took the Israelites as many as seven years. What did 2.5 million people eat all that time?
Does Rubin think that the Jews were living in refugee camps until the whole of the land was conquered? Remember trans-Jordan in which two and a half tribes were already living. Each city and area that was conquered yielded its local resources -- including land - that then could be exploited by the Jewish population.
Rabbi Gottlieb has all the answers...
All the above evidence is more than sufficient to conclude that the Biblical narrative of Exodus--Sinai Revelation--wandering in the desert--conquest of Canaan belongs to the realm of mythology, not history. The problem is Rabbi Gottlieb seems to have too little knowledge of history, even of the history of Biblical archaeology. He goes so far as to tell the reader that
"What has happened in Biblical archaeology in the last one hundred years is that is started with a completely negative mind set: none of the Biblical narrative happened, it was all made up. Little by little, piece by piece, that mind set had been refuted in a myriad of details."
One only need look through works on Biblical archaeology, starting with William Foxwell Albright's "The Archaeology of the Palestine and the Bible" (1925) and ending with "From Nomadism to Monarchy" (ed. by Nadav Na'aman and Israel Finkelstein, 1990) to understand that the picture is exactly the opposite. If in the beginning of the 20th century the historical account of the Bible was seen by archaeologists as essentially true (though not in all its details), nowadays no researcher credits any of the narratives preceding the Davidic monarchy with historical veracity. To understand the current state of opinion, it would be appropriate to quote a prominent archeologist whose views are considered by the scientific community as quite pro-Scriptural -- Professor William Dever of the University of Arizona:
"...the Exodus and the conquest [of the promised land] are a bad case... [the book of] Joshua has little to do with any historical events. If you guys think I -- or the Israeli archaeologists -- am looking for the Israelite conquest archaeologically, you're wrong. We've given up. We've given up the patriarchs. That's a dead issue... I agree that there is no connected history in Joshua..."
And here is Dever's attitude to the book of Judges:
"We archaeologists are not trying to prove these early stories to be historical. We get accused of it, but we're not doing it."
However, history and archaeology are definitely not Rabbi Gottlieb's strong points.
What Rubin fails to appreciate is that archeology is in a state of deep controversy. Citing two opinions does not give a picture of the whole field. Here are sources that give the other side of the picture:
- Israel in Egypt : The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition, by James K. Hoffmeier, Oxford University Press, 1999
- Pharaohs and Kings; A Biblical Quest, by David Rohl, Random House, 1996.
- Kitchen, Kenneth, "The Patriarchal Age -- Myth or History?," Biblical Archaeological Review March-April, 1996.
These sources support much of the Biblical picture for pre-Davidic history.
After claiming on page 64 of his book that the Greeks got their letter names (alpha, beta, gamma etc.) from the Jews, he writes:
"Perhaps indirectly the Philistines took them to Greece and gave the letters to them, but it ultimately comes from the Jews."
Unfortunately, the people who brought the alphabet to the Greeks were Phoenicians, not Philistines. Renowned traders and merchants, they spread over the whole Mediterranean area, including Greece, and they had an alphabet which could have been borrowed -- one quite similar to ancient Hebrew, but still distinct from it (both developed out of the North Semitic alphabet). The Philistines, after they first met the Jews (Israelites, actually) during their invasion from the Aegean islands on the eastern and south-eastern Mediterranean coast in the 13th-12th centuries BCE, had virtually no contact with the Greeks -- so they definitely could not pass anything from the Jews to the Greeks. Moreover, we have no clue what the Philistine language was like and whether it had an alphabet at all.21 And of course, the Greek alphabet has 25 letters, some of them vowels, while the Hebrew has 22 letters, all consonants. Vowel letters are an exclusively Greek innovation, and were it not for the Greeks, literacy would be much less widespread in our world.
This information can be easily found in any textbook on the history of the alphabet, and anyway, the Phoenicians and the Philistines were completely different nations, of different origin, culture, and history. Mixing them up reveals quite well the degree of Rabbi Gottlieb's competence in ancient history.
Rubin is entirely correct -- I mistakenly substituted "Philistines" for "Phoenicians."
One more argument by R' Gottlieb in favor of the divinity of Judaism is what he calls "true predictions." For reasons unknown, of all the vast amount of predictions in the Bible, he chooses the verses of Deuteronomy 28:30:
Rubin is right to point out my omission here. I should have explained why I chose this prediction. The answer is this. In order to use the verification of a prediction as evidence, several conditions must be met.
- It must be clear that the prediction was written before the event took place. [This excludes Lev. 26: 14-46 as a prediction of the destruction of the First Temple -- the critic will say it was written after the destruction.]
- The prediction must be written in literal terms and clearly enough to be able to see from the historical record whether or not it came true. This excludes many predictions written in vague or poetic language.
- The prediction must describe an event that is otherwise unlikely to happen. For, if it is a common event, even if it occurs it is not evidence that the Torah is true. This excludes predictions of the normal destructive effects of war, or drought and pestilence that occur naturally from time to time.
- The verification of the prediction must come from sources admitted by all to be accurate. This requires non-Jewish sources of established reliability. [The critic will not trust Jewish sources.]
Deut. 28 is the only significant prediction that meets all four conditions.
"In Deuteronomy 28-30 there is a prediction of what will happen to the Jewish people if they don't live up to the standards of the Torah. It predicts conquest accompanied by wanton slaughter of the population: man, woman, children, old, young, and so on. It predicts an exile resulting in world-wide scatter, and that during this period of world-wide scatter, Jews will have no independent government. One result of the exile is that some Jews will be brought back by boat to Egypt to be sold as slaves, and they will not be purchased. Nevertheless, the Jewish people will survive, will never completely be destroyed, and will ultimately return to the land of Israel. It also predicts that the conqueror will speak a language that the Jewish people don't understand."
Now, says Rabbi Gottlieb, the prediction came true.
"That being the case, this is what I called earlier a unique prediction. It is a prediction whose truth no one else can explain. Had anyone seen the prediction before it happened, the response should have been that this is fantasy. Therefore, when it comes true, it contributes to the truth of Judaism. It is a relevant piece of evidence."
One needs only open the Bible to see that Rabbi Gottlieb is far from being right. There is no prediction of a "wanton slaughter of the population: man, woman, children, old, young, and so on." Instead it is written:
"You will betroth a wife, but another man shall lie with her; you will build a house, but you will not dwell in it; you will plant a vineyard, but you will not gather its grapes. Your ox will be slain before your eyes, but you will not eat of it; your ass will be violently taken away from you, and will not be restored to you; your sheep will be given to your enemies, and nobody will rescue you. Your sons and your daughters shall be given to another people, and your eyes will look, and fail with longing for them all the day long; but there will be no might in your hand. The fruit of your land, and all your labors, a nation unfamiliar to you will eat up, and you will always be only oppressed and crushed."
"You will beget sons and daughters, but you will not enjoy them, for they will go into captivity."
Now compare that to Rabbi Gottlieb's description of a typical conquest in the ancient world: "You may take the young, fine, strong men off as slaves. You may want to take the good looking, young woman for sexual purposes. But, you don't wantonly slaughter the rest of the population because there is no point in destroying your tax base!" This is exactly what the Bible predicts! Nothing unusual!
I think that Rubin has missed verse 50: "[The nation that will conquer you] will be a brazen-faced nation that will not have pity on the old, nor will show favor to the youth."
The prophecy is not unique, and since according to many Biblical researchers these chapters of Deuteronomy were written after the Jews experienced the Assyrian and the Babylonian conquests, there is nothing unusual in the appearance of these verses in the Bible.
The Bible does not say that "during this period of world-wide scatter, Jews will have no independent government." No verse in Deuteronomy speaks of anything like that.
Verses 64-5 read: "And G-d will scatter you among all the peoples from the end of the earth to the end of the earth...and among those nations you will have no rest, there will be no resting place for the sole of your foot, and G-d will give you there a frightened heart, disappointed hopes and a despairing soul; you life will be hanging in doubt before you...."
It is true that these verses do not explicitly mention the lack of an independent state, but I think it is clearly implied. An independent state would surely be "a resting place for your foot," and it would reduce insecurity to the level suffered by many other peoples. These verses clearly qualify for Rubin's "anything like that."
To relate the verses of Deuteronomy 28-30 to the Roman conquest of the Land of Israel is, as an understatement, problematic. What does R' Gottlieb call "the Roman conquest"? Under the treaty of 139 BCE, Rome became a patron of Hasmonean Judea and issued an order to the kings of neighboring lands not to attack Judea and to extradite to the Hasmoneans all those Jews who rebelled against them and then fled Judea. In 63 BCE several Jewish parties who had quarreled over the power in Judea sent ambassadors to the Roman general Pompey the Great, who at that time stayed in Damascus, asking him to put an end to the quarrel. Pompey did not miss the opportunity, and in a short time Roman legions occupied the Land of Israel, destroyed the independent Hasmonean government, and turned Judea into a vassal state of Rome. However, all this happened almost without bloodshed. The only military campaign was in Jerusalem, and the main fight was between the Jews who wanted to let Pompey enter the city without a war and those who preferred to defend themselves. Finally the proponents of surrender won, Pompey entered Jerusalem with no resistance, and the supporters of the "defense party" encamped on the Temple Mount, trying to prevent the Romans from entering the Temple. This, of course, was a hopeless venture, and Pompey took the Temple Mount also, slaying most of its defenders and enslaving the rest. The Land of Israel remained under the Roman rule -- first indirect and then direct -- until 66 CE, when the Great Revolt of the Jews commenced. The revolt was suppressed, Jerusalem was taken by the Romans, and the Second Temple was destroyed in 70 CE, and the last stronghold of the rebels -- Massada -- fell in 73 CE. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were slain in this war, tens of thousands were sold as slaves. In 132 CE the revolt of Bar Kochba began -- and after it was crushed in 135 CE, Roman (and then Byzantine) rule returned to the Land of Israel until its conquest by the Arabs in 638 CE. In the Bar Kochba revolt more than 500,000 Jews were killed and multitudes were sold in the slave markets of Gaza and Hebron. 500 fortresses and strongholds and more than 1000 villages in Judea were destroyed.25
The question is when, in R' Gottlieb's opinion, did the Roman conquest predicted by the Torah occurr.
I am not sure why Rubin thinks it is necessary to choose a particular year for the Torah's prediction to come true. Nothing in the text precludes an extended process that eventually produces all the events that are described in the prediction. Perhaps Rubin only wants a date for the prediction in order to motivate his objection concerning the Jews' knowledge of Latin. If the date of the prediction is later than about 120 BCE then Rubin claims that Jews by that time knew Latin. Thus the statement in the Torah that the conqueror will speak a language unknown by Jews will not be true. See the next reply.
In 139 BCE there was no conquest, just a treaty between Rome and the Hasmoneans, but the Jews, doubtless, learned about the Latin language of the Romans -- when somebody becomes your patron, you are extensively introduced to his language, as modern Israelis' acquaintance with American English can teach. Moreover, in the 2nd century BCE the Jews already lived in the city of Rome, and even tried to convert its inhabitants to Judaism, which led to their expulsion from the city in 139 BCE. The Latin language was definitely familiar to them.
Rubin presents two reasons for thinking that the Jews knew Latin by this time.
- "...when somebody becomes your patron, you are extensively introduced to his language..." Now this is pure conjecture; Rubin presents no sources. It is just a natural intuition.
- "Moreover, in the 2nd century BCE the Jews already lived in the city of Rome, and even tried to convert its inhabitants to Judaism, which led to their expulsion from the city in 139 BCE. The Latin language was definitely familiar to them." For this to contradict the torah's statement, we must suppose that the Torah means that no Jews on the face of the earth know Latin. I think this is an unreasonable interpretation of the Torah's statement. The Jews is Rome could not be more than one percent of the world Jewish population. If 99% of all Jews did not know Latin, I think that the Torah's statement is clearly true.
Thus Rubin gives no good reason to think that more than an insignificant minority of Jews knew Latin. In fact, there are some historical sources for the Jewish population in the land of Israel. These sources indicate that, in spite of living under "the Roman patron," Greek was the language of the assimilated elite. Aramaic and Hebrew were the languages of the masses. Latin was virtually unknown in Israel. The quotations below are from Ben-Sasson, chapter 16.
"Herod's kingdom was no exception in the Mediterranean world. There were other regions within the borders of the Roman empire that the central government thought unsuitable for integration into provincial administration and that were maintained as separate kingdoms." (P. 239)
"Many of his [Herod's] principle ministers were of Greek descent. His entourage included some of the luminaries of Greek literature of the day...Herod's fame and his international contacts attracted visitors from different parts of the Greek world...to his court...." (242)
"Both cities [Caesarea and Sebaste, built by Herod] were patterned on the hellenistic cities of the orient....But more important was another trend, which the king explicitly encouraged: the integration of leading families from the hellenistic and Babylonian diaspora into the Jewish society of Palestine. (243)
"...the administration, the army, the education of his sons and diplomacy were entrusted to Greeks or people who had adopted the Greek way of life." (244)
"We even have some information on the antecedents of several of the [Roman] governors of Judea. Tiberius Alexander was a Jew by origin but had abandoned his ancestral religion; Felix was a Greek freedman; Florus was a Greek from one of the cities of Asia Minor. Thus at least three of the last seven procurators were neither of Roman nor of Italian origin but came from the hellenistic East." (246)
"One point of distinction was the language of daily use: there were 'Hebrew' Jews, who spoke Hebrew or Aramaic, and 'hellenistic' Jews, who spoke Greek....the establishment and rise of hellenistic Jews in Palestine resulted in the spread of Greek knowledge in Judea and the development of a Jewish --hellenistic way of life."(267)
In the whole chapter there is not one reference to Jews speaking Latin. The Torah's prediction that the Jews will not know the language of their conquerors is correct: the Jews did not know Latin.
We also see that the prediction that the conqueror will speak a language unknown to the Jews is not trivial. If any Greek speaking state had conquered the Jews, the prediction would have been clearly falsified.
63 BCE is the date accepted by the historians as that of the Roman conquest, but it was accompanied by virtually no military action, let alone the "wanton slaughter of the population" described by Rabbi Gottlieb or the mass robbery and enslavement of the Jews described by the Bible. Moreover, as said above, by 63 BCE the Jews were already acquainted with the Latin language. Three Jewish parties went to Pompey to ask for his patronage in their struggle for power over Judea -- at least someone in those parties must have known the language which Pompey spoke.
Since there was a Jewish population in Rome, they could have served as interpreters.
In 63 BCE there was no "exile resulting in world-wide scatter" and no Jewish slaves were "brought back by boat to Egypt to be sold as slaves." In fact, there was no deliberate exile of the Jews from the Land of Israel at any point in the Roman era.
Judea was almost totally deprived of its Jewish inhabitants after the Bar Kochba revolt was suppressed, but that was due not to exile, but to the massacre and enslavement of Jews by the Romans and to the massive flight of Jewish survivors of the revolt to other lands, away from Roman anger.
Neither the text of the Torah nor I say anything about "deliberate" exile. The Torah only describes vast numbers of Jews being displaced from the land of Israel. This in fact did take place.
At that same time, Jewish communities in Galilee which had remained aloof from the revolt continued to develop and even became the spiritual center of world Jewry, the center which produced the Mishnah, the first codification of Jewish Oral Law.
Nowhere in Deut. 28 does the Torah predict that the land will be empty of Jews. Thus the existence of communities of Jews in the Galilee does not contradict the text of the Torah. [This contrasts sharply with the prediction in Lev. 26 that describes the land as desolate (verses 32 and 35), and which came true during the Babylonian exile.]
On the other hand, as early as in the 1st century BCE a wide Jewish Diaspora existed in virtually all known corners of the civilized world (India and China excluded), and the Roman geographer Strabo wrote in his works that it was hard to find a place in the world free of the Jews.26
Here is some background on Strabo from the Britannica:
b. 64/63 BC, Amaseia, Pontus--d. after AD 23?, Greek geographer and historian. It was in Rome, where he stayed at least until 31 BC, that he wrote his first major works, his 47-book Historical Sketches, published around 20 BC, of which but a few quotations survive. A vast and eclectic compilation, it was meant as a continuation of Polybius' Histories.
[Strabo] devoted his last years to compiling his second important work, his Geographical Sketches...Obviously, personal travel notes formed only a small part of the material used in this considerable work, although Strabo prided himself on having travelled westward from Armenia as far as the regions of Tuscany opposite Sardinia, and southward from the Black Sea as far as the frontiers of Ethiopia. Even on the subject of Italy, where he lived for a long time, Strabo did not himself contribute more than a few scattered impressions. His material, accordingly, mostly dates from the time of the sources he used, although the reader is not made aware of this.
In the light of this background, it is very difficult to know how reliable Strabo's statements are. We do not know what sources he used. We do not know the basis on which he selected his material. We should therefore be cautious in accepting his statement.
Rubin rightly notes that the presence of Jews at that time excludes India and China. Jews reached those areas only as a result of the Roman conquest. Thus Jews did not inhabit the whole of the world known to the ancients until the Roman conquest. Only then did the prediction of the Torah come true. In addition, no Jews reached the southern part of Africa nor the Americas until after the Roman conquest.
A world-wide scattering of the Jews commenced long before anything which might be called their exile from the Land of Israel. For those who insist that the "world-wide scatter" means Jews reaching literally all the places on the globe, it would be useful to note that through all history, to this very day, there is no significant Jewish population in large areas of the world, such as Central Africa, Japan, Greenland or Mongolia. If this is the definition of "world-wide scatter," then the prophecy has most clearly failed.
Rubin rightly qualifies his statement with the word "significant." How should we take the prediction of world-wide scatter? One Jew for every 100 square miles? An even distribution of Jews over the globe? No major geographical area, no major political entity free of Jews? A wider scatter of Jews than of any other people? The last two are clearly true. I think that is enough.
The Bible, read attentively, does not tell that somebody will sell Jews into slavery on Egyptian slave markets after their conquest by "a distant nation." Deuteronomy 28:68, which speaks of a return to Egypt by boats and sale into slavery, uses the Hebrew verb vehitmakartem, in the grammatical form hitpael which indicates a reflective action, i.e. something one does to himself. That is, this verb means "you will sell yourselves" rather than "you will be sold," which would be venimkartem. So the verse of Deuteronomy 28:68 says, "And the Lord will bring you back to Egypt by ships, by the way of which I spoke to you, 'You shall see it no more again,' and there you will sell yourselves to your enemies for male and female slaves, but nobody will buy you." If this is a prediction, it is definitely wrong -- the Jews never went to Egypt in order to sell themselves into slavery. Moreover, the distinction between vehitmakartem and venimkartem is not something new, revealed by recent Biblical critics. It is mentioned explicitly, and the verse is explained as referring to Jews selling themselves into slavery, by the greatest of Rabbinic Scriptural commentators, Rashi and Ibn Ezra, in their commentaries on Deuteronomy 28:68. As an advocate of Orthodox Judaism, R' Gottlieb is surely not expected to nullify with one sweep the words of the most authoritative Rabbinic commentators who based their words on the plain Scriptural grammar. In this case, there are only two possibilities: either R' Gottlieb does not know of these commentaries, familiar to every Orthodox schoolboy, or he deliberately hides Orthodox Judaism's interpretation of these verses from the reader for propagandist reasons. We'll leave open the question of which actually represents Rabbi Gottlieb's reasons, though here, again, an attentive reader is able to catch R' Gottlieb hiding things crucial to his arguments in "technical comments," which, he says, "can be skipped without missing anything essential to the argument."
Rubin is almost entirely correct here. The commentaries he cites do interpret as he says. He has missed Onkelos's translation that does take the verb as a pure passive "you will be sold." I used this translation because I thought I had a secondary reference to a neutral historical source confirming the prediction as thus translated. Since I have not been able to find the primary source, I have omitted this prediction from the new edition. Not because we now see that it is mistaken, but because it cannot be confirmed. For the same reason I omitted the majority reading "they shall sell themselves" -- because the prediction on that reading cannot be confirmed. If it cannot be confirmed, it cannot be used as evidence in favor of the Torah. But equally, if it cannot be independently confirmed that the prediction is false, then it cannot be used against the truth of the Torah. There is then no reason to mention it at all.
Since Rubin makes this point the basis of one of his many assaults on my character, I will risk boring the reader by repeating my reply. Why did I avoid the majority translation of the verse? Because according to that translation, the verse makes a prediction that cannot be checked. We have no sources indicating whether or not the prediction came true. Thus it cannot be used as evidence for or against the Torah. That is why I omitted it. On Onkelos's translation I thought we had such a source -- one that confirmed that the prediction came true. So I included it. Since I have not been able to find the primary source, I now omit it altogether. This is not hiding evidence against the Torah. This is omitting material that cannot be used as evidence either for or against the Torah.
See also the next reply.
On page 56 we find Rabbi Gottlieb saying:
"Many details from Deuteronomy 28 have been omitted. There are two reasons: either the language in which they are expressed is poetical and cannot be precisely defined (and thus we cannot prove that the text means specifically what in fact happened), or they are predictions which are very likely to happen in the context of destruction and exile, so that they would not significantly lower the probability [of the prediction coming true, see below]."
Among the "details" omitted by R' Gottlieb are the following verses: "And your heaven that is over your head will be brass, and the earth that is under you will be iron. The Lord will make the rain of your land powder and dust; from heaven it will fall down on you, until you are destroyed." (Deut. 28:23-24), "The Lord will smite you with the boils of Egypt, and with the piles, and with the scab, and with the itch, of which you will not be able to be healed" (Deut. 28:27), "All your trees and the fruit of your land will the locust consume" (Deut. 28:42) and the like. The language of these verses may be called poetic, but it is quite easy to understand what they mean -- drought, skin diseases, and piles, and locusts consuming all the harvest of the land. Needless to say, none of these happened during the Roman conquest of Palestine. In neither 139 BCE, nor in 63 BCE, 70 CE, or 135 CE, was there drought, nor did any major epidemics of piles and skin diseases occur, nor did the Land of Israel experience any attack of locusts.
Rubin asserts that many of the Torah's predictions for the conquest and exile did not come true. He provides no sources whatsoever for these assertions. How does he know that he is right? Perhaps he is relying on the absence of such facts from the contemporary Roman histories. If so, we should recall that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. If the process in which the prediction came true is more than one hundred years in duration, these events -- drought, disease, plague - could have occurred several times without attracting any historian's attention.
Recall the conditions that must be met in order to test prophetic predictions:
- The prediction must be written in literal terms and clearly enough to be able to see from the historical record whether or not it came true. This excludes many predictions written in poetic language.
- The prediction must describe an event that is otherwise unlikely to happen. This excludes predictions of great pain in wartime, or drought and pestilence that occur naturally from time to time.
- The verification of the prediction must come from sources admitted by all to be accurate. This requires non-Jewish sources [the critic will not trust Jewish sources] of established reliability.
The critic who claims to have falsified a prediction must also meet these conditions. The events described happen naturally, if not very frequently. They are described in poetical language. And there is no neutral source asserting that they did not occur. Rubin therefore has no reason to regard these predictions as not having come true.
It is impossible to conceive that these verses are not familiar to Rabbi Gottlieb and they contain predictions that definitely proved false -- so they were gently omitted from a book aiming to show "that there is sufficient evidence to warrant basing one's life on the truth of the Torah."27 Is hiding the truth appropriate for a book called "Living Up to the Truth"? R' Gottlieb does not seem to be worried about it.
In general, his approach to the truth is quite peculiar. Claiming that Judaism was a religion totally unique in the ancient world, he relies on the work of the renowned Bible scholar Yehezkel Kaufmann, "The Religion of Israel."28 Among other claims, R' Gottlieb brings monotheism as a unique feature of Judaism and relies on Kaufmann,29 claiming that the "solar monotheism" of Akhenaton in ancient Egypt cannot be considered a parallel to Biblical monotheism. Leaving aside discussion of Biblical monotheism (which is very far from what we understand by monotheism today), it would be useful to quote an explicit statement by Yehezkel Kaufmann on that same page of "The Religion of Israel":
"We have repeatedly affirmed that Israelite religion incorporated a legacy from paganism, materials into which it breathed a new spirit. It is of utmost importance to bear in mind that the general level of Israel's culture derives from its environment."
And of course, as a researcher Kaufmann not only states his position, but also brings a lot of evidence supporting it. According to Kaufmann, Judaism was not altogether different from the rest of the ancient religions, and even derived its "general level of culture" from its pagan environment. Rabbi Gottlieb, most surely, does not share this view -- his argument claims exactly the opposite. Of course, R' Gottlieb may disagree with Kaufmann (though it would be interesting to know his reasons for such disagreement), but to bring Kaufmann's view as supporting his argument is extremely far from "living up to the truth."
I am not a historian. For judgments about history I rely on those whom even my critics will have to acknowledge as competent scholars. Kaufmann is such a scholar. Rubin has no complaint against what I do quote from him; he is only concerned with what I omitted. The omission is justified by the fact that many other recognized scholars disagree with Kaufmann's statement quoted by Rubin above. Here is a sample [my emphasis]:
Bright, p. 144: "[Israel] brought with them onto the stage of history a religion quite without parallel in the ancient world." Indeed, the very identity of the Jews as a people seems to be unique in the ancient Middle East. Von Soden, p. 14: "In the linguistic usage of the ancient Orient itself, only Israel developed an unequivocal term for itself as a people, and subsequently confirmed this self-identification through its history. People everywhere else were characterized only according to their origin in a particular land or according to their membership in a social group..."
See also Bright, p. 160: "What influence, if any, the Aten cult had on the Mosaic religion is an unanswered question. Since it flourished not long before Moses, and since certain of its traits survived in the official religion of Egypt, some influence is possible. But, if so, it was indirect and not fundamental. In its essential structure Yahwehism was as little like the Egyptian religion as possible." De Burgh agrees, see p. 21: "His [Ikhnaton's] revolution seems to have been provoked by genuine speculative idealism; but it proved abortive and without influence even in his own land....But there is no evidence that Egyptian religion influenced the outside world. The worship of Jehovah had its home in the desert of Sinai, not in Egypt." Abraham Malamat also agrees with this judgment -- see Ben-Sasson, p. 18. See also Bronner, pp. 56-7.
Concerning other so-called monotheistic tendencies in the ancient Near East, see also Von Soden, p. 182: "Behind this assumption stood the widespread assumption that all historical divine names referred to only one god or one goddess, and that prayers were quite largely interchangeable. In the first millennium, however, people quite often renounced names altogether and spoke only of "the god" or "the goddess," who saw and was able to see everything. Still, a denial of the existence of many gods was only very sporadically connected to this type of speech. Therefore, it is better not to speak of monotheistic tendencies in Babylonia; rather, one should speak of monotheiotetistic tendencies, which amount to the doctrine of a single divine nature represented by god and goddess." [Therefore there is no precedent for monotheism in the Near East -- D.G.]
Rabbi Gottlieb goes so far as giving each prediction of Deuteronomy 28-30 a "probability" (i.e. a mathematical value representing the chance for the prediction coming true in a natural way, without "God's finger"), and after multiplying all the probabilities (for a sequence of events described by the Bible) he comes to a probability of 1/16000 for the predictions of Deuteronomy coming true in a natural way.30 This is how it goes:
"Total destruction and exile, let's say that this occurred in 10% of all ancient wars. Then a non-Jewish observer would give it a probability of 1/10. How often did the conqueror speak an unknown language? We don't know. Neighbors did fight, and the languages of great empires were widely known. Let's say generously that it happened a quarter of the time giving us a probability of 1/4... To take a nation that is scattered all over the world and thus be unable to organize itself into an independent society, again, I don't know what the probability of that would be, so I'll give it a probability of 1/4..."
How one can give a probability to an event the probability of which is unknown is a complete mystery. It is also unclear what background in mathematics and logics is needed to understand why an unknown probability is always estimated as 1/4. But such a hogwash of the Bible would definitely shock anyone familiar with it.
Rubin is correct -- I did not at all explain how one can assign numerical probabilities to such events. In the new version the illustration in terms of probability is relegated to a footnote since nothing in the argument depends upon it. In that footnote I write:
"In order to make this vivid, let us pretend to assign numbers to the probabilities. In truth we cannot make precise numerical judgments here. Nevertheless, one should not think that the inability to compute a precise numerical probability robs the judgment of all content. Very often in life we need to estimate probability for the sake of making decisions, even though we cannot assign precise numerical values. Imagine a police inspector investigating a crime. There are five possible culprits, but his limited budget allows him to investigate only three of them. How does he choose which ones to investigate? He must investigate those that are most likely to be guilty. This judgment can be made (and criticized) even if precise numerical probabilities cannot be computed.
In our case, we will compensate for imprecision by making the numbers clearly too large. In that way we will arrive at an estimate that is clearly larger than the true probability. If that estimate is very small, then we have an idea of how improbable the prediction looks to any alternative position."
I hope this helps. If it does not, skip it. My conclusions do not depend upon this illustration.
Rabbi Gottlieb's main argument in proving the truth of Judaism seems to be what he calls "the Kuzari Principle." R' Gottlieb formulates it as follows:
"Let E be a possible event which, had it really occurred, would have left behind enormous, easy available evidence of its occurrence. If the evidence does not exist, people will not believe that E occurred."
So, according to Rabbi Gottlieb, the fact that the Jews believed in the miracles described in the Bible -- manna falling from the sky, the Exodus from Egypt, the Sinai Revelation et al. -- is proof that these miracles really did happen, according to "the Kuzari principle."
R' Gottlieb claims this principle belongs to the field of "empirical psychology," but it is plain old "chocolate philosophy." It is not based on something that happens and is observed, but on theorizing what would happen were some other theoretical thing to happen.
Uncharacteristically, Rubin has not read carefully here. This is what I wrote:
"Why should we accept this principle? ... The question is: Do real people in the real world accept beliefs like that? The only way to defeat the Kuzari's principle is to find real cases. Real cases of communities that have come to believe events which if they had happened would have left behind enormous, easily available evidence of its occurrence, and didn't happen, and therefore the evidence wasn't present. I have never yet come across such an event, nothing even remotely resembling such an event."
My claim is that this is a wholly empirical principle -- a rule concerning human belief-formation with no known exceptions. I did not present the evidence for this claim in the old version, but it exists in the new version.
Empirical evidence most definitely shows that large masses of people can well believe in things refuted by easily available evidence. Rabbi Gottlieb himself admits some pages later:
"The assumption is this: Whatever can be seen to be true by available evidence and simple logic should be recognized as true by a great majority of the mankind. But this assumption is clearly false.
Consider anti-semitism as an example. There are (at least) hundreds of millions of anti-semites. They believe that Jews are evil, dirty, subhuman, etc. etc.. And yet many of them live among Jews. They have no evidence whatsoever for their beliefs. If they took the time, they could gather enormous evidence against what they believe. Still they persist in their folly.
Consider the shape of the earth. More than two thousand years ago considerable evidence existed that the earth is round. (Indeed, a few in the intelligentsia believed it.) The sightings of stars by sailors, the difference in shadows at noon in different locations, the disappearance of the bottom of the ship before the sails -- this evidence was available to many. Yet almost no one questioned the 'obvious truth' that the earth is flat."
We have already seen that logical consistency is not Rabbi Gottlieb's strong point.
Rubin has missed a key distinction here, one that is stressed at length in the text. I considered the objection that Holocaust denial shows that the Kuzari principle is wrong. This is what I wrote:
"There is a crucial difference between the Kuzari's principle and the case of [people who do not believe in] the Holocaust. The reason is that everyone has to sift and be selective when he considers evidence for a proposition. Sometimes evidence is fabricated, sometimes the evidence is irrelevant, sometimes it is misinterpreted. We are always sifting, rejecting, and accepting, and reinterpreting. Only then do we decide what conclusion to draw from the evidence. When we come to the Holocaust, these nuts say we know that sometimes evidence is fabricated or misleading: in this case all of it is fabricated or misleading. In other words, they are taking a normal part of human cognitive life and extending it beyond its appropriate boundaries. They say that sometimes you have to reject some evidence proposed for a proposition; in the case of the Holocaust they want you to reject all the evidence as sufficient to believe it.
Now you can imagine that happening at least on the fringes of society. But the case of the Kuzari is the opposite. To violate the Kuzari principle we have to believe something for which all the expected evidence is missing. If it were true that there ought to be evidence, and there isn't any evidence, we would never accept a belief. That is not part of our normal cognitive life. We are never confronted with a case where if it had happened the evidence ought to be all over in front of me and there is no evidence, and yet I leap over that hurdle and believe. Therefore, the disbelievers in the Holocaust are irrelevant to the Kuzari's principle."
The point is that there is a great difference between
believing in spite of present contradictory evidence
believing in spite of the absence of expected evidence.
The former is much easier. The reason is that much evidence we encounter needs to be critically evaluated, and often some must be rejected as false, misleading, irrelevant and so on. Thus ignoring some present information is part of valid cognitive practice. It is therefore not astonishing when this normal practice exceeds its appropriate limits and leads to mistaken beliefs.
On the other hand, to believe in spite of the lack of expected evidence is not part of our normal cognitive practice. Thus to assert that a belief is due to this fault -- ignoring the absence of expected evidence -- is to assert something that we have reason to think occurs very rarely, if ever. The survey of false beliefs presented in the new version shows that there is no documented case of a belief due to this fault -- i.e. a belief that would violate the Kuzari Principle. But there are very many beliefs that ignore present contradictory evidence.
It should be clear that there is no contradiction in my position. People will believe in spite of evidence to the contrary. But they will not believe in the face of the lack of expected evidence. The Kuzari Principle applies only to the latter case, and it applies truly.
[This shows that even the old edition is consistent. The new edition adds some conditions to the Kuzari Principle. The discussion above is thus incomplete, even though it is sufficient to answer Rubin's criticism.]
But continuing his argument in the last citation, we may well say: "At certain times, many Jews believed that their ancestors went en masse out of Egypt, received the Torah on Mt. Sinai, and ate the manna for 40 years in the desert. They had no evidence whatsoever for their beliefs. If they took the time, they could gather enormous evidence against what they believed. Still they persisted in their folly (and some of their descendants still persist in it)."
But human folly can go even further than Rabbi Gottlieb admits. In one of the most beautiful places of the City of Rome (Piazza di Porta S. Paolo) there is a pyramid-shaped building, the sepulcher of a Roman official named Caius Cestius. On the east and west sides of the pyramid, about halfway up, there is an inscription recording the names and titles of Cestius, and below, on the east side only, there is another inscription which describes the circumstances of the erection of the monument. So the best possible evidence for the true origin of the pyramid is available -- it is written on the pyramid itself! But despite this fact, popular Middle Ages tradition described this monument as the sepulcher of Romulus, the mythical founder of Rome, or Remus, his mythological brother.34 Why? It seems to be an essential characteristic of human nature to strive to find "facts" supporting their favorite myths and beliefs, even if these "facts" are refuted by evidence easily drawn from factual reality.
This example illustrates the distinction I made above. The believers ignored the present evidence of the inscriptions. Perhaps they thought the inscriptions were added later by usurpers who wanted to take credit for the construction. Or perhaps they thought the inscriptions were graffiti. This is how people believe in spite of present evidence contradicting their belief -- they reinterpret the evidence. Nothing in Rubin's example requires them to ignore the absence of expected evidence. The Kuzari Principle does not predict that they will reject this belief. So their accepting the belief does not contradict the Kuzari Principle.
Rabbi Gottlieb's book itself is a good illustration of this principle.
Once again, I would like to express my appreciation to Ephraim Rubin for the care and effort he took to write this review. My only regret is that he did not spend more time on the Kuzari Principle. In fact, as it is formulated in the text he reviewed, it is false. A professor of classics pointed this out to me, and the necessary changes have been made in the new version. I am sure that if Rubin had devoted more time to it, he too would have found that fault. Perhaps he will yet find others. I look forward to seeing his thoughts on this and any other matters related to Living Up to the Truth.
My thanks to Professors David Widerker and Jonathan Ostroff and to Yoram Bogacz for helpful comments.
"Living Up to the Truth," p. 17.
Ibid., pp. 24-25.
Ibid., p. 27; emphasis added.
Ibid. p. 7.
Ibid., p. 93.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, China.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, Gypsy.
"Living Up to the Truth," p. 59.
Ibid., p. 72, spelling preserved.
Ibid., p. 58.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, Hittite.
Midrash Mechilta DeRabbi Yishmael, portion of Beshalach, section 4.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, Egypt, history of.
I. Finkelstein. "The Archaeology of the Israelite Settlement," Israel Exploration Society, 1988, p. 334.
Midrash Seder Olam Rabba (Milikowski edition), chapter 11.
"Living Up to the Truth," p. 63.
Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August 1997, p. 29. The parenthetical comments are by the BAR editorial onesstaff.
Ibid., p. 32.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, Philistine.
"Living Up to the Truth," pp. 53-54; spelling preserved.
Ibid., p. 56.
See commentary of Ramban to Lev. 26:16 for the corresondence between the verses of Lev. To the Babylonian exile and the verses of Deut. to the Roman exile.
Note that here there is no prediction that the land will be denuded of Jewish population. This contrasts with the prediction in Lev. 26: 33-5, 43, which describes the Babylonian conquest, and which did in fact all but eliminate the Jewish presence in the land of Israel (Baron, pp. 105-6). By contrast, after the Roman conquest the Jewish presence in the land continued, albeit with a much reduced population, which was a small fraction of the world Jewish population; see Ben-Sasson, chaps. 20-24.
See Ben-Sasson, p. 135: "his [Tiglath-pileser III] most important innovation was the development and perfection of the process of mass deportation and resettlement that henceforth became the outstanding feature of Assyrian imperialism. Deportation took the form of enforced exchanges of population: selected residents, outstanding craftsmen and soldiers were taken from the newly conquered provinces in the west and were resettled either in regions of Assyria that had been depopulated.In this way the power of the conquered peoples was broken, because they were deprived of their elite and because the new colonists intermingled with them to form a hybrid culture that was predominantly Aramean and loyal to Assyria." We see that even in the case of the Assyrians, the policy was to exile a small minority of the population. On the other hand, "The fate of the Israelites and other peoples exiled into Assyria had taught that generation that exiled people never return to their native lands." (P. 161) Thus the prediction of eventual return was very unlikely to come true.
There was no reason whatsoever to expect a conqueror who would practice wanton slaughter and cause the complete destruction of the land. Von Soden, p. 182: "The Babylonians also adopted the notion of religious tolerance from the Sumerians, even with respect to the gods of neighboring peoples, which often were subsequently identified with their own." De Burgh, p. 42: "As was the general practice in Oriental empires, subject peoples preserved their local religions, customs, and institutions in entire freedom from interference by the central government; the two marks of subjugation were the payment of a fixed annual tribute, and the levy for service in the field." Ben-Sasson, p. 279-80: "Generally, the Hellenistic kings treated the Jewish religion with tolerance. The Jews enjoyed the right to associate in communities and organizations of their own, and were permitted to maintain relations with the national and religious center in Jerusalem.. the Roman state felt obliged to establish an official policy with respect to the Jews. This policy was founded on the assumption that the Jewish religion should be treated with complete tolerance. It had always been Rome's principle not to interfere with the various religions within the empire..Roman policy was conservative and tended to preserve the status quo in the countries that became part of the empire." P. 349: "paganism, by its very nature, admitted the existence of national religions. The Roman authorities had recognized in principle and generally also in fact the Jewish religious existence in the land of Israel." Arnott, p. 290: "The Romans always took great care to avoid offending local religious feelings, where these did not run counter to loyalty to Rome. In Egypt, for example, the killing of sacred animals was made a capital offense."
I have attached the bibliography of the current version to the end of this document containing the references from which these quotations are taken.
[Return to Main Text] All the above information is taken from Encyclopedia Hebraica, v. 6 (Eretz Israel), pp. 344-404.
Encyclopedia Hebraica, v. 26, p. 893 (entry 'Am Israel').
"Living Up to the Truth," back cover.
Ibid., p. 85.
"The Religion of Israel" (University of Chicago Press, 19600, pp. 226-227.
"Living Up to the Truth," p. 56.
Ibid., spelling preserved, emphasis added.
Ibid., p. 67.
Ibid., pp. 101-102; spelling preserved.
See Samuel B. Platner, Thomas Ashby. "A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome" (Oxford University Press, 1929), p. 478.
- Altmann, Alexander, Biblical and Other Studies, [Cambridge, 1963].
- Arnott, Peter, An Introduction to the Roman World, [Macmillan, 1970]
- Athas, George, 'Minimalism': The Copenhagen School of Thought In Biblical Studies, Edited Transcript of Lecture, 3rd Ed, University of Sydney, 1999 (http://members.xoom.com/gathas/copensch.htm).
- Baron, Salo, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, Vol. 1, 2nd ed., [Columbia University Press, 1952].
- Ben-Sasson, H. H., ed., A History of the Jewish People, [Harvard University Press, 1976].
- Bermant and Weizman, From Abraham to Ebla, [Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979: Great Britain].
- Bright, A History of Israel, 3rd ed., [SCM Press, London, 1986].
- Bronner, Leah: Biblical Personalities in Archaeology
- Conze, Edward, Buddhist Scriptures, [Penguin Books, 1959].
- De Burgh, W. G., The Legacy of the Ancient World, [Pelican Books, 1953].
- Finkelstein, Louis, ed., The Jews -- Their Culture, History and Religion, [The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1949]
- Giles, Herbert, trans., Chuang Tzu, 2nd ed., [George Allen and Unwin, 1980].
- Goodman, Hananya, Between Jerusalem and Benares, [State University of New York Press, 1994].
- Hodgson, Marshall, The Venture of Islam, [The University of Chicago Press, 1974].
- Kitchen, Kenneth, "The Patriarchal Age -- Myth or History?," Biblical Archaeological Review March-April, 1996.
- Robinson, Richard, The Buddhist Religion: A Historical Introduction, [Dickenson Publishing Co., 1970].
- Von Soden, Wolfram, The Ancient Orient, [William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994].
- Ward, Peter, and Brownlee, Donald, Rare Earth, [Copernicus, 2000].