Reader: In the December 13, 2004 issue of JewishTimes, Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim wrote a reply to Micha Berger’s blog entry titled “The Kuzari Proof, part I.” Unfortunately Ben-Chaim’s argument is based on false premises. I have written a brief response to Ben-Chaim’s article, which I have included below.
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim wrote: “No historical account witnessed by masses was successfully transmitted,
unless it truly occurred.” This is incorrect. I can list several of such accounts. Matthew 14 records an incident where Jesus miraculously produced enough food to feed 5,000 men and an unstated number of women and children.
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim: I do not doubt that once a story is accepted on faith, that the adherents may believe all parts, such as this one. But you must realize that these purported stories were not passed on by any supposed “witnesses”, but were written decades later…many decades. Had these stories transpired in reality and not in man’s imagination, these 5000 witnesses would have told others, and there would be no “breach” of decades in transmission.
What you suppose happened is that the story did in fact take place, but that all present were silent for decades. If so, how would the story surface decades later and be believed, if no one claimed it occurred? The “silence” testifies to this story’s fabrication. All true, historical events are transmitted from its moment of occurrence, without breach, and throughout time until today. But once a doctrine is believed without proof, those accepting such a “blind faith” credo, have no problem accepting other fabrications on this very same blind faith.
Reader: According to Irish mythology, the ancestors of the Irish fought a war against a race of magical gods in Ireland to conquer the country. Modern historians reject the claim that this conquest occurred. Yet in the Middle Ages it was widely accepted as history, and some Irish people still consider it to be historical today. Also, according to a Christian myth, a dragon terrorized the residents of Libya. St. George killed this dragon before becoming a saint. Many Christians in Libya and elsewhere later accepted this story to be historical.
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim: Read what you wrote, “According to ‘mythology’...” You confuse yourself, viewing myth and fact as equal. If some account is referred to as “myth”, understand that the transmitters intended to differ its credibility, from real life “history” and not imagined myth. Do not use such myths as arguments against the truth of the Sinaic “history”.
Reader: In 1968 the Virgin Mary was reportedly witnessed by about 200,000 witnesses over of a Coptic Church in Zeitoun, Egypt: “In 1968 at the Coptic St. Mary’s Church in Zeitoun, Egypt, two Muslim mechanics noticed a figure on the roof of the church. Thinking the figure was a nun who intended to jump, they contacted the church’s priest and the emergency squad. People gathered and viewed the figure for a few minutes before it disappeared. The figure materialized again a week later, and continued to disappear and materialize until 1971. Witnesses claimed the figure was human in shape, white or bluish-white in color, and was sometimes accompanied by “doves of light.” It was believed to be the Virgin Mary. It has been estimated that hundreds of thousands of individuals witnessed the phenomenon before it disappeared completely in 1971.”
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim: Suggesting 200,000 people witnessed something does not compare to hearing the testimony “from those 200,000 themselves” which did not happen. No one ever produced these supposed 200,000 witnesses; they merely reproduced a “story” including that number. Be clear on this distinction: anyone can write an account that there were “5000 who Jesus fed”, or “200,000 who saw Virgin Mary on a roof”. But history is not proved based on the story alone. It requires the “testimony” of these many people. This is absent in stories of Jesus and in this Virgin Mary account.
Additionally, the story loses all credibility by stating, “It was believed to be the Virgin Mary.” It was “believed” and not proven in nay manner whatsoever. There is no comparison. The Jews saw and transmitted en masse what they agreed in their very account to have seen “with their own eyes”. In contrast, your account describes what people “believed” to be Virgin Mary by a non-existent group of 200,000. An exact number of Jews saw a specific mountain engulfed in flames, and heard intelligent words emanating from that mountain. We know the exact mountain, the date, who these people were, where they came from, how long they were there, and where they went to. There is also no breach in the Torah’s accounts, which is not the case regarding the story of Jesus.
Reader: Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim wrote: “This is the proof used to validate all historical events.” This is incorrect. To determine the accuracy of an historical claim, historians generally evaluate evidence contemporary to the claim in question. The Torah is not very strong evidence of the revelation at Sinai,
since we cannot confirm precisely when the Torah was written, and because there is no independent evidence corroborating it.
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim: We know the exact date to be the Hebrew year 2448. And this argument of independent evidence is flawed. How exactly do additional, independent sources create greater credibility? How do aliens offer better proof than the actual witnesses? Do you feel George Washington’s existence would be doubted without corroboration for people in Hungary for example? If you refer to mass conspiracy being removed by alien corroboration, then you assume mass conspiracy may exist, and you have not proven this is in fact a truth. In truth, mass conspiracy cannot exist: one lies only when motivated, and masses cannot share a common motive. For this reason, mass conspiracy can never occur.
Reader: Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim wrote: “This is why we accept Caesar as having existed; even if no artifacts had been found.” This is incorrect. We have many artifacts of Julius Caesar, such as coins. We also have documents written by Julius Caesar himself, and documents written by other authors who lived during and shortly after his existence.
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim: You did not read what I wrote; yet you decided to respond anyway! I wrote, “This is why we accept Caesar as having existed (i.e., unanimous history) even if no artifacts had been found.” This means that artifacts are unnecessary. But you go on to state that artifacts were in fact found. I don’t deny this, but artifacts cannot further prove, that which is already proven. And the lack of artifacts cannot disprove that which is proven.
Reader: Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim wrote: “A people will not transmit Moses’ words ‘Lest your eyes forget’ (Deut.4:9), had they not witnessed the event.” Perhaps not, but there is no reason why future generations would not if they had no contradictory recollections of their national history.
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim: You refer to future generations, while I refer to how the story commenced and traveled through the ages. Your response to a ‘portion’ of history does not refute my discussion of “all of history”. You also admit to this argument at the outset, so why try to argue against it?
Reader: Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim wrote: “Had they not witnessed Sinai, surely there would be in our hands today, the ‘true’ story of those Jews.” You seem to have a considerable amount of faith in the reliability of oral tradition. In fact, evidence demonstrates that oral tradition tends to be very unreliable.
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim: In fact, you live your life by second hand knowledge, or “oral tradition”: you never witnessed your doctor attending medical school. Yet, you place your life in his hands.
Reader: Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim wrote: “Regarding alterations in Sinai’s true account, why is it that there is but one account today? Where are all those alterations you allude to? Did they just conveniently disappear? Surely, as you assume, we should possess variations of that account ... but there are none.” In fact, we do possess several variations of the plagues of the Exodus in the writings of ancient Jewish authors. There are also differences of opinion among the Sages concerning what the Jews witnessed and heard at Sinai .
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim: Yes, I am familiar that the Sages differ as to what exactly was heard, but none deny that miraculous event where all the Jews heard intelligent words emanating from fire. Similarly, many dispute the details of many historical events, but none dispute their fact, locations, years, etc.
But my main point was that there are no alternative accounts of where the Jews were in 2448, which oppose them having been at Sinai. Also, no story suggests the Jews were not slaves in Egypt, that Moses did not exist, and that the 10 Plagues did not take place. Regardless of what authors write, how many write contrary stories, or how respected these authors are…they cannot abrogate the authoritative history in the Torah. The original remains eternally the “authoritative” account.
Many writers seek fame through opposing accepted history. Such strategies certainly launch them to stardom, achieving what they truly wish. Holocaust deniers too do not concern themselves with establishing truth, but in establishing their reputations.