When trying to show high probability of the real Sinai revelation of the Jewish Torah, people often talk about ideas like these:

  1. It is impossible to fabricate a story and convince a population that their ancestors had an experience if they have not heard about it previously. An event such as a huge mass revelation from God would not have been accepted if it was just made up by someone generations later. All Jews who have believed this, unless they were converts, believed that their parents also knew about it.

  2. We know that the probability of a false religion being made up about individual revelation is high, because it has happened many times in history. But since there has only been one claim of the national revelation, it cannot be explained as a probable simply-natural event.

  3. The survival of the Jewish people is extraordinary, in situations where they should have assimilated or been wiped out, throughout history, according to the nature of what happens with other nations. In the first Temple period, they were at a crossroads of military traffic and cultural influence, and yet 'uniquely unique' aspects of believing only in the creator God, not attributing a form to Him, keeping Jewish ritual law, and such were preserved and revived throughout that time. After that, the periods of persecution and at times immense scattering and attempts to wipe them out, traditional Judaism still preserved the Jewish people. This does not usually happen at all with nations that are scattered or under pressure in a similar way. This shows that an agent controlling history probably has a personal interest in the Jews and, because the likelihood of it happening for natural reasons is low

  4. There’s a recognisable connection between the felt-to-be-good values of Judaism, the beautiful qualities of Torah-observant families, the clarity of Jewish worship of God, and the historical fact of Jewish continuity.

I bring these four points because they are the strongest to me out of the logical, verbalised points I have heard, and yet I feel they are lacking as well. I'll write their weaknesses, as I see them, here. I would love to know if anyone has read or thought of any answers to points below, or found any other good perspectives to catch your attention on an objective level.

To 1.: I never hear the idea addressed that it may not have been one person or institution that made the story from scratch, but rather a gradual development. People may already have been practising Torah laws and attributed them to Moses and some kind of divine authority, with a reality based-story of escaping from Egypt. Then, the idea of the whole nation hearing a revelation directly from God could have been added into the story later, and it would not have seemed unfamiliar or unlikely to the hearers.

To 2 and 3.: Everyone knows that the Jews are unique. What made them so unique is another question, but it's sure that there are aspects of tradition, paradigms, and ritual that do make the religion a naturally surviving one. Laws about kosher, intermarriage, and a strong loyalty to the creator of the all at this. How do we know that without supernatural intervention, the survival even in such normally-unlikely contexts would have been highly improbable, because of these unique circumstances? It is almost untestable. And how do we know that it wasn't this unique circumstance that also allowed the claim of national revelation to emerge just once? It is very uncommon, but does that make it more likely to be supernatural or simply another uncommon natural event?

To 4.: A lot of this perception may be subjective, based on upbringing... Even though that can't be ignored. We just have to be careful with it.

(None of this in itself makes Judaism seem unlikely to me. The opposite; there are some very good points that matter a lot to consider. I'm just pointing out issues with these arguments, and hoping to hear some good insights to fill in the gaps.)

  • structurally reminiscent of judaism.stackexchange.com/q/28441/759 – Double AA Oct 15 '13 at 6:01
  • Is it acceptable? It's a different question altogether though – Annelise Oct 15 '13 at 6:20
  • 1
    @Annelise - I'd love to give you a proper answer, but unfortunately I also see many logical problems with the above statements. Personally, I believe that at its core, Judaism, and religion in general, is irrational. Since the existence of God cannot be logically proven, the "Truth" or divinity of any text or tradition cannot be logically proven. All we are left with is Faith. Which is emotional, and not logical. I believe because it feels right, not because I know it is right. (Which is kinda post-modern, and the Rambam would have my head, but hey, that's me.) – Shmuel Apr 14 '14 at 6:22
  • I'm sure you could find stronger logical\rational arguments for the Revelation, but in the end, it all comes down to whether you believe the Torah and Judaism are from God. If you're interested in this line of thought, I believe AJ Heschel has some writings about it (although I haven't read any myself). – Shmuel Apr 14 '14 at 6:25

You must log in to answer this question.

Browse other questions tagged .