Common Arguments for Judaism
|Part of a series on|
We often get asked about specific arguments for Judaism. Some of the more common arguments are listed below and link to various discussion on the relevant topics. It is possible some of the discussions listed below will be able to clarify why we do not find these arguments persuasive. Of course, if you have additional questions, you are welcome to ask them on the exjew subreddit.
The Argument from National Revelation Tradition (“the Kuzari Argument”)
Perhaps the most commonly used argument for belief in the Torah and the Jewish God is related to the claim of an apparently irrefutable chain of transmission all the way back to the alleged Revelation at Mount Sinai. However, there are serious flaws in the claim, which make it thoroughly unreliable. We have dedicated a page to this argument and its rebuttals. Please visit it to find out more.
Bible codes - A Synopsis
Bible codes or Torah codes refer to hidden information and clusters of words that can be found in the text such as by skipping a fixed number of letters. And while at first glance this may appear to show codes that were intentionally hidden in the texts, skip codes and other alleged information encoded in the Torah or Tanach have no statistical significance, nor do they have any predictive ability, and such codes can be found just as easily in any other sufficiently large written work. Our brains are great at finding patterns where none exists, and Bible codes are a classic example of the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy.
This mathematical paper by Distinguished Professor in Computer Science at Graduate Center of CUNY Robert Haralick demonstrates why Bible codes are not as significant as they might appear at first glance. Another paper, in the journal Statistical Science by McKay, Bar-Natan, Bar-Hillel and Kalai, refutes claims of statistical significance in Bible codes.
Related threads on /r/exjew:
- “How do you guys feel about Torah ELS codes and gematrias…?”
- “The probability of finding the Rambam ELS code in the Torah”
- “Torah Codes”
- “Torah Codes” (2)
- “How do you guys feel about Torah codes…”
- “Bible Code Pseudoscience in the Megillah”
- “Why is this not proof that Torah is divine?”
The 'Survival of the Jewish People' Argument
This argument posits that the Jews have been the subject of severe persecution throughout history, and they survived while many other ancient cultures did not, and that this must show divine providence over the Jewish people.
Problem: Historical Perspective
But Jewish survival is not dependent on any supernatural influences. As Jews were exiled to other countries, they often faced persecution. That meant that they formed more isolated communities that were insulated and prevented very much assimilation. Additionally, great pain and destruction in one part of the world does not equal total destruction. For example, while Jews faced destruction in Europe during the Holocaust, American Jews remained safe.
Regardless, it does not follow that survival of long periods of persecution is particularly indicative of divine providence. It could just as easily be argued that supernatural forces instead favor nations whose cultures have survived in better condition, such as the Hindus or the Japanese. And Jewish survival in the face of great challenges is not so unique. There are Samaritans, Zoroastrians, Aztecs, and others with their culture surviving today despite great odds. Many other traditionally persecuted people have also survived - e.g. Roma people and Irish travellers.
Even if the survival of the Jewish people was unlikely, that would not be indicative of supernatural influences. After all, many unlikely yet significant things happen through sheer statistics and the number of possible things that can happen. From upset victories in sports, war, or politics to “accidental” inventions like Superglue or the Pacemaker to people who smoke their entire lives and never develop cancer or heart problems to somebody winning the lottery, there is any number of things that happen all the time and defy the odds. Including terrible things like the Holocaust which can just as well be argued to suggest that there isn’t a god who loves us.
Other Refutations of the ‘Survival of the Jewish People’ Argument:
Related threads on /r/exjew:
- “Jewish survival”
- “Explanations for Judaism’s Perseverence…”
- “Is the survival of the Jewish people a unique…”
Scientific knowledge in the Torah and Talmud
Another common reason apologists raise to believe in Judaism is that the Torah or Talmud contained scientific knowledge beyond what anyone could have known at the time, and that this means it must have been written with supernatural input.
Problem: Ignoring Historical Facts
However, the Torah and Talmud did not have any access to divine scientific knowledge beyond what people already had at the time. When proponents of Judaism say that it did, they are either reading modern knowledge into vague passages, or they are ignoring that people already had certain knowledge at the time, or they are cherry picking the few claims that are close enough to being true while ignoring the countless other claims which are flat out false and which do far more to refute Judaism if anything.
Scientific Knowledge That Predated the Talmudic Scholars
For example, it is argued that the Talmud records the length of the lunar month to a surprising degree of accuracy (Rosh Hashanah 25a). However, the ancient Greeks and Babylonians had already calculated this exact value far earlier, and the description in the Talmud mistakenly identifies the number as the minimum length that a lunar month can be, while in reality it is only the average length of the lunar month.
Ignorance of Science by the Rabbis
Or, it is argued that the Talmud knew the number of stars in the universe when it produces a figure of approximately 10^18 stars (Berakhot 32b). But even if it’s treated as literal (and not just another of the Talmud’s exaggerated statements), it would actually be very wrong as it is about five or six orders of magnitude lower than the actual number of stars.
Or, it is argued that the Torah in Genesis 1 knew that light existed prior to the formation of the sun. And yet this ignores the fact that this is only described in context of an ancient cosmology that misunderstands what daylight is, and it is surrounded by various other mistakes in that chapter such as believing that trees and plants existed before the sun, not to mention the rest of the scientific mistakes in the Torah’s description of natural history.
Wherever it is argued that the Torah knew something about science, digging deeper never shows this to be the case, but instead that the Torah and Talmud were scientifically ignorant.
Related threads on /r/exjew:
- “Arguments from Otherwise Impossible Knowledge”
- “Debunking the ‘fish proof’”
- “What do you guys think of these ‘proofs’?”
- “Medrash about this being the 7th world, to explain fossils”
- “List of claims of foreknowledge”
- “A lot of claims are made about the”Gedolim" (big rabbis) being big geniuses in science and math? Any truth to these claims?"
- “Best way to debunk this BS”
- “Geocentric Jews?”
- “Chabad’s Geocentric Model - Thoughts?”
- “What are things from the Talmud that you find outrageous or just plain wrong?”
- “What’s the best health advice you’ve heard from the Gemara?”
- Discussion thread in comments of “What are some Yeshivish myths?”
Other Apologetic Arguments - Discussed on /r/exjew
- “Arguments for Judaism (not just the existence of God in general)?”
- “Watchmaker ‘Proof’ - What’s the counter argument?”
- “How do you guys reconcile with gematrias?”
- “Regarding Shmita and other apparent prophecies…”
- “Apparent prophesies in the Torah…what are your thoughts?”
- “But what about all those prophecies in the Bible about returning to Israel?”
- “The Kennedy Curse?”
- “What’s your response to the Jews are statistically superior in almost everything but sports.”
- “Judaism is not a major player in the history of humankind”
- “Is there any scientific and archaeological evidence for the story of Exodus?”
- “What about the tombs?”
- “I keep seeing this apologist post about this topic and interpretation on r/debateanatheist and I also saw him post here about it. I was wondering how one could refute this.”
- “Some questions maybe someone can answer”
- “Can y’all help me debunk this website?”
- “Are there really divine intervention-esque things happening in Jerusalem/Israel battles?”
- “Claims of fulfilled prophecies”
- “What do you guys think of the chariot wheels under the Red Sea on youtube?”
- “Book review - Beyond A Reasonable Doubt”
- “My notes on Chapter 2 of Beyond A Reasonable Doubt”
- “Did the Jews really lose the Torah?”
- “I am going to ask a Rabbi to prove that god exists. What are a few arguments he will put forward and how do I respond to them?”
- “Seeing the sounds (letters) on Sinai”
- “If Judaism is false, why is Judaism so successful and why are Jews so often successful?”
- “Where do biblical stories come from?”
- “Modern day miracles”
- “What do you think of Alon Anava?”
- “Why do famous”Gedolei Hador" (big ultra orthodox rabbis) seem to live long on average?"
All of the arguments above are not proof for Judaism, the Torah, or divine intervention. If rabbis or apologists want to convincingly argue that God is real or that the Torah is authentic and divine in origin, they will need to produce better arguments and actual evidence.