The Conservative Mahzor

The “Mahzor for Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kipur” was published by the Rabbinical Assembly in 1972, with Rabbi Jules Harlow serving as Editor.

Harlow Mahzor

In the Amidah, the standard Conservative changes regarding sacrifices are made: It changes the phrase na’ase ve’nakriv (we will present and sacrifice) to asu ve’hikrivu (they presented and sacrificed).

The petition to accept the “fire offerings of Israel” is removed from all versions of the Amidah. Additional passages are inserted into the Musaf which reflect the reality of the State of Israel, and ask that God be merciful to all of the House of Israel who suffer. In the morning prayers, it offers a choice between a standard or abbreviated Pesukei Dezimra (verses of praise).

The Yom Kipur service has always featured a recollection of the sacrificial service (Seder Ha’Avodah)of the Kohen Gadol (High Priest), which was carried out on Yom Kipur in the Temple in Jerusalem. The conventional text used by Orthodox Jews presents at least three problems for many modern congregants: (a) It is presented as a medieval liturgical poem (b) It does not present in a clear and simple way the themes and structure of the Service which it commemorates, and (C) it does not deal adequately with the problem of religious life without the Temple. To present the re-enactment of the Service of the Kohen Gadol it was thus decided to present, in Hebrew and English, an abridged adaptation of Mishnah Yoma, the rabbinic work which describes the duties of the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kipur in a straightforward manner. The liturgical additions to the descriptions were retained.

How do we gain ritual atonement for sin today, in a world without the Temple? This is not a new question; the rabbis of the Talmud asked this question, and the Conservative machzor adds their insights to the text. It notes that we can only read of and imagine the splendor and glory of the Service of the Kohen Gadol in the Temple, and states “Blessed were those who shared the joy and delight of our people, blessed were those who saw the splendor of the Kohen Gadol at the Temple. They were cleansed and renewed through atonement in that service. We are diminished by its loss.” The Mahzor then continues with a passage from Avot D’Rabbi Nathan:

The Temple is destroyed. We never witnessed its glory. But Rabbi Joshua did. And when he looked at the Temple ruins one day, he burst into tears. ‘Alas for us! The place which atoned for the sins of all the people Israel lies in ruins!’ Then Rabbi Yohannan ben Zakkai spoke to him these words of comfort: ‘Be not grieved, my son. There is another way of gaining ritual atonement, even though the Temple is destroyed. We must now gain ritual atonement through deeds of loving-kindness.’

This section is followed by similar readings from rabbinic and prophetic literature, presenting examples of deeds of loving-kindness through which me must now gain atonement for sin. Another change is that the medieval poetic description of the Kohen Gadol is replaced by the description in the book of Ben Sira upon which the later descriptions were based.

Compared to most 18th century Ashkenazi Machzorim, there are fewer piyuttim (religious poems) in the Conservative Mahzor. The traditional martyrology (Eileh Ezkerah) which recalls the memory of rabbis martyred in talmudic times, has been adapted to include prose and poetry which form a liturgical response to the murder of Jews during the Holocaust.

Thf Mahzor offers an optional Torah reading (Lev. 19) for the minhah service on Yom Kipur. New readings, including poetry and prose of modern and contemporary writers, rabbis and scholars are incorporated into the services or presented in separate sections, arranged for responsive reading or for reflection and study. Ancient and medieval rabbinic sources not usually included in prayerbooks have been added.

Adapted from the writing of Rabbi Jules Harlow.

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Don’t restrict victims from praying at the Kotel

For the past 30 years, Haredim have been attempting to turn the Kotel into an ultra-Orthodox synagogue. Despite Israeli court cases ruling against this, the Israeli government, the Chief Rabbinate, and even at time the Israeli police, have refused to follow court rulings. Haredim have effectively banned all tefila at the Kotel that does not match ultra-Orthodox standards.

Western Wall Plaza Jerusalem Israel Wikimedia

One of the groups opposing this is the Original Women of the Wall (תפילת נשים בכותל.) Also opposing this are various Modern Orthodox rabbis, as well as Masorti (Conservative) and Reform (Progressive) Jewish movements. None want an end to Orthodox groups praying as they choose their; they merely want the ability to pray according to their own custom, without intimidation, threats, and violence.

In recent years the Haredim have intensified their verbal, and sometimes physical attacks on Jews who pray there. Women who dare to wear a tallit and tefillin; women who read from the Torah; groups that have egalitarian minyanim.  In response, some groups have been pursuing a legal course to allow them to pray without interference – a conclusion that the Israeli courts have already agreed with.

Yet some non-Haredim have proposed a peculiar, indeed bizarrely harmful “solution” to the problem, including attorney Susan Weiss and Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo. Cardozo insists that we must “free the site of all synagogue services [or trappings]: no no minyanim, bar mitzvahs… Torah scrolls… mechitzot… make it a place… solely for individual prayer and meditation… as our ancestors treated it… where Jews can… pray [or not], and share what we have in common instead of focusing on what divides us.”

We strenuously disagree. That’s in fact surrendering to fundamentalist intimidation. Why ban most Jewish people in the world from being able to daven in a minyan there, just because certain Haredim are acting inappropriately? We never achieve justice by punishing the victims.

No one should say that our daughters must be forbidden from having their Bat Mitzvah there, just because certain individuals are angry or violent.

Robin Silver-Zwiren writes:

The idea of a mixed group administering the Kotel is great. If the Hareidi don’t agree to sit with women, Reform Jews or even Modern Orthodox Jews, then they are off.

I don’t agree that the Kotel should not be available for prayer. Eli haKohen once served while Chana prayed. Jesus even made his tri yearly pilgrimage to the site. We may not have the Temple Mount (yet) but the Kotel is as close as we can get.

If group prayer is forbidden then it is likely the Arab world will say that the Kotel is unimportant to us. The UN and the media will see that we don’t care much for what remains of our remaining Temple wall except to make it a national holy site. What comes next – no praying allowed at Kever Rachel? If we downgrade the importance of the Kotel as a fundamental prayer site, rather than just a historical monument, we lose our heritage.

The fact that even secular Jews want to visit Israel and the Kotel proves it has meaning. I have friends from Southern California who are Reform. It is not like the Israeli Reform synagogue that I attended last Shabbat where all men wore kipot and all those who read from the Torah, male or female, donned a Talit. My friend’s son is having his Bar Mitzvah in Israel over Succot because he chose this over the usual extravagant events his classmates will do. Mom and other female guests want to be a part of the simcha and Robinson’s Arch may end up to be their only option. However they would prefer to be at the Kotel where our ancestors stood thousands of years ago.

If only we could have a mixed faction in charge of the prayer services. Not the Haredi who disturb women’s services by “praying” even louder to drown out women’s voices, or those who come over to the women’s section to cause trouble. I personally believe the mechitza should remain but a mother should be able to hear and see her son chant from the Torah scroll. Just like I was able to do in our Orthodox synagogue when my son had his Bar Mitzvah and my daughters’ gave a dvar Torah when they celebrated their milestone. A raised platform so that women can see over the mechitza is not damning halacha. It is the men who look over at the women rather than facing the Wall who are desecrating the laws.

The role of non-Jews in the synagogue

An intermarried couple joins the synagogue. What are the boundaries for participating in services?

Temple Beth Abraham

For comparison, having no boundaries is a characteristic of another, non-Jewish, monotheistic religion, Unitarian-Universalism. Not allowing any intermarried couples to join a synagogue removes the question entirely – which is the common Orthodox approach – but also drives the children of such couples eventually to other faiths.

Orthodox Judaism

Many Orthodox synagogues won’t allow intermarried couples or join. For those that do, a gentile may not become a member of a synagogue, nor serve on synagogue committees. For both halakhic and theological reasons, they may not lead prayers or recite a berakhah. Gentiles, however, are warmly welcomed to prayer services and communal events.

Conservative/Masorti Judaism

For both halakhic and theological reasons, non-Jews may not lead prayer services or recite a berakhah. They are welcomed to prayer services, and communal events. Conservative synagogues recognize that many intermarried families exist, and has created roles for non-Jewish parents/grand-parents who wish to participate in life-cycle events for their Jewish children/grandchildren.

This could include the recitation of a personal prayer, a relevant section from the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible.) The booklet “Building the Faith”, from the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs, notes that non-Jewish family members may be given honors to open and close the ark that contains the Torah scrolls; they may dress the Torah in its cover, and may lead the congregation in various English readings. Many Conservative synagogues are now creating support groups for intermarried families.

Reform/Liberal/Progressive Judaism

In many Reform Temples gentiles may serve on Temple committees, and may count as full members of the movement. “In many congregations…non-Jewish choristers and soloists have occupied positions which seemed to make them into shelichei tsibbur [cantor, leader of prayer services].”

Various Reform teshuvot (e.g. “Gentile Participation in Synagogue Ritual 5754.5”) offer guidance limiting the role of gentiles in Reform prayer service, but leadership is not obligated to follow.  Surveys show that 87% of Reform congregations allow gentiles to serve on synagogue committees; 22% allow gentiles to have an aliyah to the Torah.

Survery conducted by the Commission on Reform Jewish Outreach, noted in “A People Divided: Judaism in Contemporary America”, Jack Wertheimer

Reconstructionist Judaism

Allows rabbis to officiate at intermarriages, and accepts patrilineal descent. Children of a gentile mother are considered Jewish; despite official policy, in many congregations this does not matter whether or not they are raised as a Jew. As such, non-Jewish children raised as Christians may nonetheless be accepted as “Jews” in Reconstructionism. [Feld]

Gentiles may become members of Reconstructionist Temples, they may serve on Temple ritual committees. They may sing prayers on the bima during prayer services. The JRF has issued a non-binding statement limiting the role of gentiles in services, “Boundaries and Opportunities: The Role of Non-Jews in JRF Congregation.” However these issues are ultimately decided by local lay leadership.

  • From “Can Halakha Live?” by Rabbi Edward Feld, “The Reconstructionist”, Vol.59(2), Fall 1994, p.64-72

 

Fake rabbis

Who is a rabbi? There are several types of rabbinical ordination within Judaism, but one of the most common themes is that a rabbi is trained in good faith by other rabbis, and has an extensive background in Torah, Talmud, halakhah (Jewish law), tefila (prayer), and Jewish theology.

Jewish Theological Seminary Rabbinical School and Cantorial School Class of 2004

Jewish Theological Seminary Rabbinical School/Cantorial School Class of 2004

When one goes to a synagogue, the rabbi can generally be trusted to be an actual rabbi. However there needs to be skepticism on this matter, as there is a phenomenon of fake rabbis.

For decades, there has been an evangelical Christian movement attempting to convert Jews by setting up various “Messianic” synagogues. Their leaders learn how to sing some Jewish prayers; they buy tallitot and tefillin, and may dress their churches up like synagogues. As such, one can enter a congregation which advertises itself as a synagogue, but the leader is actually Christian clergy..

There is a separate Hebrew identity movement. Some non-Jews decide that they no longer believe in the Trinity, and want to accept Jewish monotheism. They can of course do so on their own, join a Unitarian church; or go to a synagogue. But some within this group “self-convert” – they simply claim to be Jewish, and some even “self identify” as rabbis. A few have created websites and Facebook discussion groups which gain followers. And so we have a group of people claiming to be rabbis, who are neither Jewish nor rabbis.

A third category exists, which is more complicated, as this group of non-rabbis has gained some traction in parts of the Jewish community. There are some Jewish people claiming to be rabbis who merely purchased “modern rabbi certificates” from diploma mill. The Forward has a article on this phenomenon:
“Online-Ordained Rabbis Grab Pulpits” Josh Nathan-Kazis 12/3/12

Some people have allowed these supposed rabbis to officiate at weddings, Bar/Bat mitzvahs, and even conversions, not knowing that their rabbinic credentials are non-existent, and that their conversions and weddings are not accepted as real.

Readers should be aware of these diploma mills: they offers “modern rabbi” certificates:

* The New Seminary, in New York City. Founded in 1981 by Joseph H. Gelberman.

* “The Jewish Spiritual Leaders Institute” http://jsli.net/

 

How can you tell if someone is a real rabbi?

If someone is an Orthodox Jewish rabbi then they would have learned with other Orthodox rabbis, and be qualified to be a member of an Orthodox rabbinical organization. Most of the Orthodox Jewish rabbinical groups are listed here:  Orthodox Jewish Rabbinical organizations

If someone is a Conservative/Masorti rabbi then they would be qualified to be part of the Rabbinical Assembly. or the Union for Traditional Judaism

If someone is a Reform/Liberal/Progressive rabbi then they would be qualified to be part of one of the Reform rabbinical groups, such as The Central Conference of American RabbisLiberal Judaism (Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues) or the Movement for Reform Judaism (until 2005: Reform Synagogues of Great Britain).

Individuals who pose as rabbis

* Lior Bar-El. Created a YouTube channel and became an Admin of a Facebook Judaism group. His followers posted his videos on other groups, leading many to assume that he is a rabbi. Bar-El makes attacks against real rabbis as “eiruv rabbis”, false rabbis:

https://www.youtube.com/user/vortex677 }

Here is an example of one of Lior Bar El’s screeds from 3/10/16:
> “I shall be discussing why it is not permitted and why u
> shouldn’t listen to the filth of the erev ravs {false rabbis}
> who pull new laws of abominations out their butts daily. I shall
> also have in the end a lecture and warning I give to all the
> sheeple out their that follow abominations …

* Yosef Mizrachi – A right wing Haredi Orthodox Kiruv (outreach) preacher, he makes his living lecturing at right wing Orthodox synagogues. He never received semichah (rabbinical ordination); no Orthodox yeshiva admits ordaining him as a rabbi. His own website refuses to mention why he calls himself a ‘rabbi’.

* Asher Meza is a self-styled rabbi on YouTube, but no Orthodox yeshiva admits ordaining him as a rabbi. He claims to be the leader of “Aish HaTorah College Of Jewish Studies”, but no such college exists. As seen on this video, Asher Meza accepts Christian fundamentalist Messianics as adherents of Judaism. This position is rejected by all of Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Judaism.

https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10153193302043228&set=vb.319582778227 }

* Judah Moshe works with Asher Meza on supposed “conversions to Judaism”, and is the leader of a website called “West African Jews of the Diaspora.” This is a non-Jewish, Black Hebrew Israelite organization, made of gentiles who self-identified as Jews in the early 20th century.

Felipe Gutierrez, claims to be an “Israelite Rabbi”

* Philip S. Berg is the founder of The Kabbalah Center. His name is actually Feivel Gruberger, and his training was to be an insurance agent. He married the niece of Kabbalist Rabbi Brandwein, and distributed his books. Feivel claims to have a Doctorate, but will not reveal the name of the universty that granted it. Feivel claims to have semichah (rabbinic ordination) from Yeshivah Kol Yehudah in Jerusalem, but that too has never been confirmed by the school. Feivel’s new-age Kabbalah Center has been acepted by celebrities such as Madonna. It has grown to have branches in New York City, Los Angeles, Toronto, London, and other cities. None of the denominations of Judaism (Orthodox, Conservative or Reform) consider his school authentic.

The Jewish Spiritual Leaders Institute

This is regarded as a mere diploma mill, selling fake “rabbi ordinations” to unknowing secular Jews for $8000. In the New Jersey “Jewish Standard”, Joanne Palmer writes:

Blane calls himself a Universalist rabbi. he mandates a belief in intermarriage and a willingness to perform such ceremonies as a prerequisite for enrollment in JSLI.
The institute, which he founded about three years ago, meets online. The only time students get together is at their ordination. Classes are by videoconference; they last for two hours once a week. There are two semesters a year, and a rabbinical student must take both semesters for s’michah, or ordination

The class “starts with a little davening,” Blane said. “Then we all bring something to the table, something that relates to halachah or a festival or a holiday. I’ve developed a curriculum that touches on what I believe is all the important topics that a liberal rabbi needs to understand and come to terms with in order to meet the needs of their communities.” Each student is required to give a d’var Torah every week, and over the course of the year they must lead a lunch-and-learn session, using some of the knowledge they gained over the course of their extra-rabbinic lives. At that point, the students are ready to be ordained, with their s’michah certifying that they “have demonstrated familiarity with our codes and texts and are empowered to serve as rabbi and teacher,” the institute’s website, jsli.net, says…  It was just about that time that the then-Cantor Blane was ordained a rabbi by the Rabbinical Seminary International.

So this “rabbinical school” has the same educational level and time commitment as a 10th grader going to a Modern Orthodox 10th grade Hebrew school.

A new way to become a rabbi? The Jewish Standard 8/24/12

The importance of history in Jewish history

A work in progress

History of the Jews Graetz

“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree. ”
― Michael Crichton

“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”
― George Orwell

Why is Jewish history important?

The Study of Jewish History in the Jewish Day School, Jon Bloomberg

The Importance of Remembering The best way to honor the memory of Holocaust victims is through Jewish continuity. By Lesli Koppelman Ross

Why is history important?

Why Study History? American Historical Association (AHA)

Why is the study of history important in Jewish history?

If one doesn’t respect the legitimacy of history, there’s no reason to believe in any part of the Jewish faith. If we don’t respect that our historical documents have a meaning, then:

  • there’s no difference between reading the Bible as a Jew, or as an evangelical Christian.
  • there’s no difference between approaching philosophy and science like a Jew – e.g. Maimonides – or like an atheist
  • there’s no reason to believe that the Holocaust happened, and neo-Nazi Holocaust denial would be an equally legitimate position
  • there’s no reason to deny anti-Semitic myths like the blood libel, or the Protocols of Elders of Zion.
  • there’s no reason to say “never again”

 

History confronted by deconstructionism

Bill Crouse writes

Postmodernism is characterized by fragmentation, indeterminacy, and a distrust of all universalizing (worldviews) and power structures (the establishment). It is a worldview that denies all worldviews (“stories”). In a nutshell, postmodernism says there are no universal truths valid for all people. Instead, individuals are locked into the limited perspective of their own race, gender or ethnic group…. the emphasis in this form of reading is never to learn the intended meaning of the author, but rather the subjective interpretation of the reader.

Deconstructionists argue that all writing is reducible to an arbitrary sequence of linguistic signs or words whose meanings have no relationship to the author’s intention or to the world outside the text.” Newsweek, 6/22/81

Objective reality cannot be known. There is no transcendence. The universe is a closed system. Reality is entirely subjective…. Language is a system constructed on the foundation of arbitrary symbols. That is, texts are collections of words and pictures (“signifiers”) that have no inherent meaning or connection to the objective world of things or objects (“signified”). Since language is the medium for communication, and since language constructions are unstable, interpretation is also uncertain. … since the meaning of words (“signifiers”) is derived from one’s social context, ultimate meaning likewise arises from one’s social context. Language can only convey cultural biases.

Consider this incredible description, from a deconstructionist literary critic..

“Until recently, an author was an unproblematic concept; an author was someone who wrote a book. Roland Barthes’ landmark essay, “The Death of Author,” however, demonstrates that an author is not simply a “person” but a socially and historically constituted subject. Following Marx’s crucial insight that it is history that makes man, and not, as Hegel supposed, man that makes history, Barthes emphasizes that an author does not exist prior to or outside of language. In other words, it is writing that makes an
author and not vice versa. “[T]he writer can only imitate a gesture that is always anterior, never original. His only power is to mix writings […] in such a way as never to rest on any one of them” (146). Thus the author cannot claim any absolute authority over his or her text because, in some ways, he or she did not write it.”

Or how about this claim:

“To give a text an Author is to impose a limit on that text, to furnish it with a final signified, to close the writing […] However. by refusing to assign a ‘secret,’ an ultimate meaning, to the text (and the world as text), liberates what may be called an anti-theological activity, an activity that is truly revolutionary since to refuse to fix meaning is, in the end, to refuse God and his hypostases–reason, science, law.”

Rebuttal to deconstructionism

Texts are written by people, and they have a certain meaning. Of course it is possible for people to read new meanings into a text, but that says nothing about what the  author actually intended – It is only a reflection of the mind of the reader.

consensus and reality

Dialogue between deconstructionism and a historian

> I couldn’t disagree with you more — and neither could the scholars of
> mysticism, as I read them. There are different ways of knowing; the
> linear logic of traditional “empirical” scholarship is only one.

I disagree. We should not dismiss empirical scholarship. If one does so, then one loses the ability to defend any position. On a another forum I was involved in a discussion about the textual origin of the Torah. Some people claimed that logical analysis was not applicable to studying the history of the Torah. In response, Prof. Jacob Love wrote a stunning rebuttal:

As a historian, I also have to deal with an almost constant barrage of claims that history is not based on science, that history can prove that things happened one way and the opposite simultaneously, that nothing can be proven about anything, etc.

Take a look at alt.revisionism (I long ago stopped) and you’ll see what I mean. There is a commonality between the logical framework of the Creationists [religious fundamentalist] and the Holocaust Deniers. And this logical framework extends to most fundamentalist religions. You have to decide whether I, as a historian, can use logical and scientific principles to conclude whether the Holocaust happened, whether a given document is a forgery or authentic, whether an anachronism betrays the true date of a document and apply those principles uniformly to all subject areas. Because if I cannot apply them to yours, how can I do so elsewhere?

> Peshat is not the only interpretive understanding of the Torah.

Well of course. Later readers can bring new interpretations to the text. My point is just this: One should not assume that later interpretations were the actual intent of the
original author, that’s all.

> I’m confused here. Was there one original text whose contents have
> been lost, in your opinion, or was there never one original text? As I
> understand modern Biblical scholarship, it espouses the latter idea,
> so the concept of an “original text” is pretty much irrelevant.

The answer depends on which book you are talking about. As you know, some books were written by one author, others were redacted together from a number of earlier sources. Even those books that were written by one author likely didn’t start off as a pristine text; various prophets may have written down their thoughts in their own words; their friends (or people who listened to their preaching) might have written down their own version of what they heard. It is highly unlikely that all the written material was kept intact. Just like today, in the past one could find different editions of different books, some with certain material that only appears in one edition, some editions with material deleted, etc. A good modern analog is the textual history of the stories of Howard Philips Lovecraft. He wrote his books as recently as 1930 – yet trying to find an authoritative text for any of his stories is difficult.

> Literary critics claim that the original text and the author’s intention is *irrelevant*.
> The central concept of the literary (more specifically, the structuralist and
> post-structuralist) critiques of Scripture is this: language has no inherent meaning.

If that was true, then how could you object to any of my replies? How can you claim such a priviliged position for your own letters? You keep writing posts which expect that readers understand your meaning – yet that isn’t how you feel about the writings of others.

How would you feel if people claimed that everything you wrote was irrelevent? Perhaps those people may be unable to understand what you wrote, and attribute unintended meanings to your words, but none of that changes the basic fact: You obviously do intend your words to have a certain meaning. Why else would you be taking time to write these letters?

You are falling into the same logical trap that all deconstructionists fall into: You dogmatically claim that that the intention of the author is unknowable and irrelevant, yet you demand that others read your own words according to your intent.

> we deny the ultimate equality of persons, because a privileged
> reading implies a privileged READER.

Saying that one can understand an author is a denial of equality? That’s neo-marxist ideology, not rational thinking.

=======================

References: How deconstructionism threatens history

The Importance of History by David Crabtree

Deconstructionism: The Postmodern Cult of Hermes

Have Deconstructionists Destroyed History?; Can We Know What Really Happened in the Past? Skeptic Magazine, Issue 4.4

“The Killing of History: How Literary Critics and Social Theorists Are Murdering Our Past ” Keith Windschuttle, Free Press, 1997

Deconstructing Deconstructionism – Dr. Tom Snyder 

“How to think about weird things: Critical thinking for a new age”  Theodore Schick, Jr. and Lewis Vaugn

Chapter 4: Relativism, Truth and Reality

Overcoming Veriphobia – Learning to Love Truth Again, Richard Bailey, British Journal of Educational Studies, Vol. 49, No. 2 (Jun., 2001), pp. 159-172

Truth has had a hard time in much recent educational and social scientific writing. Veriphobia, the fear of truth, can be witnessed in the work of postmodernists, radical social constructivists, pragmatists, and others. Although it manifests itself in numerous ways, there remain certain frequently appearing symptoms, and these are examined in this paper. It is suggested that the veriphobic stance is inherently self-contradictory. It is also fatal for serious and meaningful research and inquiry.

References: How deconstructionism threatens science

The End of Science? By Theodore Schick Jr. Skeptical Inquirer Volume 21.2, March/April 1997

A House Built on Sand: Exposing Postmodern Myths About Science (Oxford University Press)

A House Built on Sand: Exposing Postmodernist Myths About Science Noretta Koertge (online essay)

Fashionable Nonsense Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science, by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont

Fashionable Nonsense Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science – article and review

Are Truth Claims in Science Socially Constructed?, Kenell J. Touryan
PSCF 51 (June 1999): 102-107

“Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrel With Science”, Paul R. Gross and Norman Levitt , Revised edition, 326 pages 1997, Johns Hopkins Univ Press.

References: Deconstruction

Against Deconstruction by John Martin Ellis

Debunking Deconstruction, Philosophy and Literature 13 (1989): 430-34. Denis Dutton

Frank Lentricchia, “Last Will and Testament of an Ex-Literary Critic,” Lingua Fraca, September/October 1996, p.59-67

“Against Relativism: Philosophy of Science, Deconstruction, and Critical Theory”
Christopher Norris, 1997, Blackwell Pub.

Reclaiming Truth: Contribution to a Critique of Cultural Relativism
Christopher Norris, 1996, Duke University Press

“The Death and Return of the Author: Criticism and Subjectivity in Barthes, Foucault and Derrida” Seán Burke, 1998. Edinburgh Univ Press

“In contemporary thought, the death of the author has assumed a significance comparable only to the death of God in the nineteenth century, yet no clear statement of what is meant by this notion has emerged in critical theory. In this study, now extensively revised and updated, Sen Burke provides the first detailed explanation of anti-authorialism and shows how, even taken on its own terms, the attempt to abolish the author is fundamentally misguided and philosophically untenable. This second edition features a new section on Derrida and an epilogue dealing with the politics of authorship and issues of technology; and a fully updated bibliography.”

How is the Bible historically true

Which stories of the Bible are historically accurate; which are based on true stories yet not literally accurate; and which could be fictional? What does your religious community teach about this – and why do they teach this way?

archaeology

from Tel Aviv University International

There are three major schools of though

A. Biblical inerrancy

People in this group hold that all the stories in the Bible are historically accurate, including the lives of Adam and Eve. The hold that the Torah’s account of the Biblical patriarchs, e.g. Abraham and Sarah, and the Bible’s accounts of prophets like Jeremiah and Isaiah, and persons such as King David, are accurate in detail, often down to the quotes.

B. Biblical minimalism

People in this group engage in a historical study of the land of ancient Israel, and it’s relation to stories in the Bible. They conclude that the Bible isn’t reliable evidence, in any way, for what had happened in ancient Israel. They often deny that the Israelite people even existed. Many deny that the kingdom of Israel even existed. They hold that the Bible’s stories are almost entirely later fictions, written to create a fictional past identity.

Minimalists write things like:

The Israelite nation as explained by the biblical writers has little in the way of a historical background. It is a highly ideological construct created by ancient scholars of Jewish tradition in order to legitimize their own religious community and its religio-political claims on land and religious exclusivity.
— Lemche 1998

People in the Jewish community, in particular, are concerned about biblical minimalism. Not because Judaism is theologically threatened by this – any academic can believe what they want if they are engaging in scholarship in good faith – but because in practice, biblical minimalism is often used by anti-Semites to attack the Jewish people, and the validity of the State of Israel.

Hershel Shanks, editor of Biblical Archaeology Review is one of the leading critics of the new school of biblical minimalism. In a letter first printed in Ha’aretz Magazine (Nov. 5, 1999) and later on the Biblical Archaeology Society website, Shanks writes that most Biblical minimalists are motivated not by history but rather by politics. Some of the leading Biblical minimalists are openly anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian. Many people use Biblical minimalism to promote anti-Semitism, while other people use charges of anti-Semitism in an attempt to discredit Biblical minimalists.

The scholastic position of Biblical minimalism itself is not anti-Semitic. Many Jews themselves hold this view. Some criticism of this school of thought comes about because some rabbis and scholars are concerned about the way that this position is being used to justify pseudo-historical and anti-Semitic beliefs. Other criticism comes about because the position brings cherished beliefs into question. http://www.fact-index.com/t/th/the_bible_and_history.html

C. Biblical maximalism

Biblical maximalism is a historical study of the land of ancient Israel, and it’s relation to stories in the Bible. People in this group hold that the Bible does contain genuine information about the Israelites and Israel. There is no denial of the existence of the Israelite/Hebrew people , or of King David and the kingdom of Israel. They do not claim that the Bible is inerrant, but they do hold that it’s as real as can be expected from a document written in that historical era, and they hold that archaeology shows that this is so.

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