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In Deuteronomy(4:32-34), two points are made in reassuring Israel that God has not abandoned them. The reader is tasked with searching from one end of the heavens to the other to see if a God ever spoke to a nation of people who lived as the revelation at Sinai claims, or if a God ever deigned to take one nation from another as He did in the Exodus narrative.

This Quora answer mentions a developing theory that supports the occurrence of an exodus-like event within Egyptian history. This question will not deal with the uniqueness of this event.

Rabbi Kelemen discusses the uniqueness of the revelation at Sinai. One of the points he asserts is that which is asserted in the Torah above; that there is no instance of a revelation of God to a nation that the nation survives. Kelemen claims to have examined all other known religions and found none that have made the same claims, though he says that a sect of Hare Krishna believes in such a revelation, but all of the witnesses to the revelation died shortly afterward, which make the claim fall short of the Sinai Claim.

This answer to a related question on Skeptics Stack Exchange provides some examples of Native American traditions that seem to make the same claim as the Sinai Claim.

The Aztec Huitzilopochtli Myth and revelation of Huitzilopochtli tells that the Aztecs, who settled in Lake Texcoco, believed themselves to be descended from tribes of immortal people from Aztlan until they had to leave as instructed by their god Huitzilopochtli who took the form of a white eagle. (It is flawed because it is unclear if a God or a bird came to the people, or if the revelation was only with the priests.)

The Fifth Creation of the World by Marumda and the Pomo tribes tells that the god, Marumda, created the world five times (the first four destroyed due to sin), and that the Pomo People, a group of tribes in California that exists today, were created the fifth time. All of the Pomo villages were planted by Marumda and he revealed himself to their ancestors, sometimes accompanied with miracles, and taught them how to survive and behave and taught them dances that are still performed today. (It is not completely clear, however, how massive the initial size of the population that Marumda created and was revealed to was, and it's not clear if Marumda spoke to the entire nation at once.)

Revelation of Gitche Manitou at Pipestone, Minnesota tells that the Sioux Indians had a divine revelation of their god and creator Gitche Manitou at the Pipestone National Monument to all the Native American tribes. He breathed into a peace pipe he formed and made a large smoke signal that beckoned all the tribes to gather. They had spite between them, but Gitche Manitou chided them to do away with their weapons, behave properly, and make peace. After this, before all the nations, Gitche Manitou ascended to heaven amidst the smoke. (The source in the answer is a poem based upon legends, however, so it is more difficult to ascertain for certain that the Sioux people actually believe this as history.)

The Lakota legend of White Buffalo Calf Woman tells that the Lakota People witnessed their god Wakan Tanka (same as Gitchie Manitou) reveal itself to all seven tribes of the Lakota as White Buffalo Calf Woman. Two hunters went to look for food. They saw a beautiful woman floating towards them. One of the hunters desired the woman and was turned into a pile of bones amidst a cloud. The other hunter became afraid and prepared to shoot the woman, but she couldn't be harmed. She informed the hunter to return and have the Lakota prepare for her arrival. When she arrived, she taught the Lakota how to behave and perform all the sacred rituals and gave them a sacred living pipe that is still guarded to this day. As she left, the people saw her turn into a black buffalo, then brown, then red, and then white, which is sacred. As she disappeared, large herds of buffalo appeared where she was and allowed themselves to be killed for the Lakota to live. (The size of the Lakota nation at the time of the revelation and miracle is not so clear.)

(The answer provides two other instances that do not come close to the criterea in Deuteronomy of a God speaking to an entire nation who survived the event, so I did not address them.)

Does Rabbi Kelemen (or anybody else) address these directly? The seem to have some flaws, but I was wondering if anyone really researched these claims and came up with real conclusions.

How are these similar claims addressed per The Torah's claim to the uniqueness of the Sinai Revelation?

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    Kelemen claims to have examined all other known religions Wow! That's 4200 according to Wikipedia. That must have taken a long long time. – mevaqesh Sep 11 '16 at 18:39
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    how many indians believe this claim today? anyone can write fairy tales. the question is whether it is still believed till today by hundreds of thousands of people. and believed to the extent that they practise myriad laws which cost enormous time and money. – ray Sep 11 '16 at 20:36
  • The really ironic thing is that the so-called Kuzari Principle is pretty much the opposite of the point Rav Yehudah haLevi was trying to make in the Kuzari. He writes about how philosophical proofs are a pathetic stopgap for people like the Greeks sadly lack a tradition, and they turn it into a philosophical proof about the infallibility of a certain kind of tradition! – Micha Berger Sep 12 '16 at 0:46
  • @MichaBerger interesting! I didn't take much stock in it either, but the Torah essentially says it in Deuteronomy. Not necessarily as a philosophical proof, but to steel one's faith, at least. – Baby Seal Sep 12 '16 at 0:48
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    @BabySeal: It's an appeal to first hand experience. If you really know there is a G-d, you wouldn't be thinking about proving it. To quote R/Prof Shalom Carmy, "People who throw around big words on these subjects always seem to take for granted things that I don’t. The people who keep insisting that it’s necessary to prove things about G-d, including His existence, seem to take it for granted that devising these proofs is identical with knowing G-d. Now if I know a human being personally the last thing I’d do, except as a purely intellectual exercise, is prove his or her existence." – Micha Berger Sep 12 '16 at 1:12
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  1. The Aztecs were following white eagles, and do not seem to claim any sort of supernatural entity speaking to them. As the question notes, it is also very unclear from the source provided if they believe that Huitzilopochtli spoke to all the people.

  2. Marmuda is a human and described as a human. the fact that he is afterward identified as a god does not change the fact that this is a story about a human teacher. Trying to present this as "mass revelation" is like saying that Christianity is based on mass revelation because Jesus gave the sermon on the mount, witnessed by multitudes.

  3. Hiawatha is nice, but it is not a sustained tradition of mass revelation. It is a modern poem, and we have no way to know what the original legends were. The Sioux apparently did not have a single consistent version of the legend.

  4. The Lakota legend of White Buffalo Calf Woman describes a woman with some supernatural qualities, hardly a god, and her "mass revelation" is as a human speaking to humans. Also, it was also written in 1980.

Just because some legend has supernatural qualities to it does not make it a well-established tradition of mass revelation.

In short, these legends, poems, and unsourced story-tellings have nothing at all in common with the clear and canonized story of the mass revelation of the giving of the Torah.

Look again at the verses the qusetion cites (Deut 4:32-33) :

32 For ask now of the days past, which were before thee, since the day that God created man upon the earth, and from the one end of heaven unto the other, whether there hath been any such thing as this great thing is, or hath been heard like it?

33 Did ever a people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live?

  • I like this answer, but the sources may be shakier because they are oral traditions. I was hoping to find some record of RK or someone else actually speaking with the people who hold these beliefs to hear their tradition directly and analyze it. – Baby Seal Sep 13 '16 at 12:31
  • @BabySeal: Truth is, G-d doesn't talk about anyone else having a tradition such things happen. He asks about whether such a thing actually has happened. As I said in my comments on the question... religion will never be based on philosophical proof, or on our ability to prove to others. – Micha Berger Sep 13 '16 at 18:14
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    @BabySeal See "The Sons Of The Wind" (Dooling, pp. 135-136) in which it is quite clear that Woope (a.k.a. Wohpe, White Buffalo Calf Woman, Ptesan Wi, etc.) is a wakan (i.e. sacred, mysterious, holy) human messenger/mediator (i.e. effectively a prophet) claiming to have been sent by Wakan Tanka, the Lakota creator god. – Lee May 7 '18 at 20:10
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My wife and I were discussing this, and her careful reading of the verse makes what I think is an important distinction between the Sinai Tradition and these Native American Traditions:

הֲשָׁמַע עָם קוֹל אֱלֹהִים מְדַבֵּר מִתּוֹךְ-הָאֵשׁ, כַּאֲשֶׁר-שָׁמַעְתָּ אַתָּה--וַיֶּחִי.

Did ever a people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live?

(Deut 4:33, emphasis mine)

I think that the most obvious implication of this preposition of place is in-corporeality, which is not claimed, or at least not specified, in the other traditions.

The claim would then be that a voice of a God disassociated from any form addressed the people. I believe that this strengthens the Sinai claim because in the other stories there is a human form of some sort associated with the address of the people, which in turn makes it possible that the addressing party was just a human.

There could have been the possibility of Ventriloquy, but If you look at Ex. 19:16-19 there seems to be a great deal of ambient noise that would be difficult for a human to overcome. See specifically verse 19:

וַיְהִי קוֹל הַשֹּׁפָר, הוֹלֵךְ וְחָזֵק מְאֹד; מֹשֶׁה יְדַבֵּר, וְהָאֱלֹהִים יַעֲנֶנּוּ בְקוֹל.

And when the voice of the horn waxed louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by a voice.

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For information about White Buffalo calf Woman and Miracl Son both in relation to the Kuzari style argument see http://altercockerjewishatheist.blogspot.com/2013/07/kuzari-principle-or-argument-part-i.html and http://altercockerjewishatheist.blogspot.com/2017/06/kuzari-argument-part-13.html

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    If those pages contain an answer to the above question, please summarize that answer in this post. – msh210 Apr 23 '18 at 4:38
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the point of the verse is about a "nation" not a band of tribes and that at the time it was a historical fact. sure you can find all sorts of fairy tales out there. But you will not find this on the scale of a nation and that this was accepted by much of the world as a historical fact.

according to Rabbi Akiva Tatz:

Many think we are thousands of generations away from Sinai. However, if we take one generation to be forty years, a reasonable time for parents to transmit the information (Torah) to their children, we find only 80 generations in that chain (40x80=3200 years) - and we know who the leaders in each of those generations were. We have their original works and can pinpoint the handing over of the tradition from one great Torah authority to the next.. In addition we have no record of any disagreement. We have no record of anyone claiming the Sinai revelation never occurred or was in any way falsified. In fact, not only our records agree - even those who have attacked us throughout the generations accept it. Their own religions are openly based on it... (Guide to Life, Tatz sec.Faith pg.141)

  • the point of the verse is about a "nation" not a band of tribes and that at the time it was a historical fact. At what time what was a historical fact? This sentence is incoherent. – mevaqesh Sep 12 '16 at 14:41
  • However, if we take one generation to be forty years That's like assuming a cow is spherical. 40 years was often an entire lifetime! People were reproducing in their teen years! – mevaqesh Sep 12 '16 at 14:44
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    and we know who the leaders in each of those generations were. That is false. – mevaqesh Sep 12 '16 at 14:44
  • We have their original works and can pinpoint the handing over of the tradition from one great Torah authority to the next I wonder how familiar Tatz is with Second Temple literature. – mevaqesh Sep 12 '16 at 14:46
  • In fact, not only our records agree - even those who have attacked us throughout the generations accept it. And Their own religions are openly based on it Negate each other. The argument value of even our enemies conceding our revelation diminishes when one realizes that their own religions are based on that same revelation, so they are only validating themselves. – mevaqesh Sep 12 '16 at 14:49

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