Friday, November 9, 2018

Fact-Checking the Torah -- Taking the Wellhausen out of Graf-Wellhausen

Back to Joel Baden of Yale and his proposals for “Neo-DH”, a label he attributes to another writer.  He agrees with the old, isolated, unfactual, illogical structure.  What’s new and improved about it?
This reminds me of a scene in the old Beverly Hills 90210 TV series where the daughter is imagining herself back in the 1960s. She and her family are eating TV dinners off tray tables in the living room, watching the Vietnam War play on the evening news. The father says, “This tastes different.” The mother, being an obedient consumer, cheerfully repeats the ads, “It’s new and improved.” They probably were tasting a new combination of fat, salt, sugar, and chemicals.
Baden claims that Documentary Hypothesis is undergoing a resurgence in America because it has dropped one of the two parts of Wellhausen’s program – the historical analysis. Baden says “Neo-Doc” is strictly literary, and that JEDP can only address the literary issues.
But he still maintains that the sources can be identified without an example to compare to, which you know is an invalid method; you can’t identify the author of a work if you don’t have an authenticated sample of the author’s work for comparison. Same as you can't identify a person's fingerprints unless they're on file with police, or that they didn't believe they had found the remains of Richard III until they found a live distant relative and got a DNA match.
By giving up on historical issues, “Neo-Doc” avoids the inconvenient truth that history – ok, archaeology – which has hard evidence for its claims, outperforms DH, which does not.
Giving up on history makes DH an abstraction.
OK, let’s look at it abstractly. I didn’t actually give the value for the probability that DH is true, did I? So what is it?
Well, there are five possible sources to assign every verse in Torah to, JEDP and at least one that is unknown. The probability that any assignment is correct is at most 1/5, the way the probability of any side of a die coming up is 1/6. If there is more than one unknown source, the probability is 1/6, 1/7, whatever that final number of sources adds up to. And you know from grade school math that the larger the number in the denominator, the smaller the value of the probability. But since I'm in a generous mood, I’ll stick with 1/5 for now.
Starting with Astruc, I showed that the criteria for assignment are based on false “facts” or subjective methods. One of them, the mischsprache concept crucial to P, is based on history, which is now being ripped out of DH. So the criteria cannot boost the probability of any assignment above 1/5.
Since DH is eliminating history (archaeology), there never will be hard evidence for any assignment. So the probability is less than 1/5, less than 20%, less than 0.2.
Since DH still supports splitting one verse from another, every verse has to be used as a separate term in the calculation.
So the total probability is the product of the probability that every assignment is correct, which is some value less than 0.2 multiplied by itself 5845 times at a minimum. You do the math.
And then we look at the abstract logic, and find all the fallacies, which make the probability zero.
So students at American universities are being graded, and some are having their futures depend, on their performance in a subject with a zero probability of being true.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

21st Century Bible Hebrew -- Genesis 2:21, more on trop

Genesis 2:21
כא ווַיַּפֵּל֩ יְהֹוָ֨ה אֱלֹהִ֧ים ׀ תַּרְדֵּמָ֛ה עַל־הָֽאָדָ֖ם וַיִּישָׁ֑ן וַיִּקַּ֗ח אַחַת֙ מִצַּלְעֹתָ֔יו וַיִּסְגֹּ֥ר בָּשָׂ֖ר תַּחְתֶּֽנָּה:
Translation:     **** Gd caused a sleep to fall on the man, he slept; He took one of his ribs, He closed the flesh below it.
Vocabulary in this lesson:
He caused to fall
Sleep, trance
He slept
His ribs
He closed
Flesh, meat
Below them
“He caused to fall” is the hifil of nafal, to fall, a peh nun verb. As you can see, like many verbs with nun at the start of the root, the nun disappears in the imperfect and the middle consonant takes the dagesh of assimilation.
Tardemah is not a common word in the Hebrew Bible. The next chance you have of seeing it is in Genesis 15:12 in the episode about what Jews call The Covenant Between the Pieces. 
“Below them” uses a personal ending with the preposition tachat which is part of an urban legend I discuss to death on the Fact-Checking page.
This verse has caused an urban legend that men have one rib less than women do. It’s not true.  We all have 12 pairs.
Find the zaqef. Which one is it?
Now find the revia. It marks a verb in narrative past, creating a new clause. Right before it there’s a word marked with etnach. Where did we see that before?

Right, last lesson. The zg was on one word, and the word before that was marked with etnach.

Revia and zg only mark one word. Or rather one lexical unit. When I get the opportunity to point out the difference, I will.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Fact-Checking the Torah -- "contradictions"

I want you to know that there are source critics who complain about the contradictions in Greek myth. In The Republic, Plato specifically targeted Homer and Hesiod for saying inconsistent things about the origin of the universe and the attributes and activities of the gods.
[Scratchy needle] What’s wrong with this picture?
Homer and Hesiod get credit for recording two oral traditions. Plato is firmly seated in literate classical Greece a century or two later.
The two oral traditions I’m talking about both draw on material from Anatolia, one back in the 3000s or something BCE, the other incorporating a historical event from about 1190 BCE. There is absolutely no reason why they have to say the same things. But Plato didn’t have the background to know that. He died more than 24 centuries ago.
I have a copy of a book I read for the first time when I was 4, D’Aulaire’s Greek Myths. There’s a “family tree” of the named characters. If you read the stories carefully, some people don’t seem to have been born at the time when they were supposedly active. Others are dead.
That evaluation assumes that they were part of a saga or were composed in a literate environment. Agamemnon himself was part of the first writing-dependent culture in Greece. Stories that lead up to his lifetime, especially those which Hesiod recorded after Agamemnon’s death, developed in an oral environment. The fact that they are chronologically inconsistent suggests that they were not developed as part of a saga, but independently. And even if that’s not true, you now know that there is absolutely no requirement that oral narratives obey realtime.
Some Greek myths also use different locations with the same story. Deucalion and Pyrrha, the flood survivors, are said to have landed at four different sites. Each site is important in Greek culture, but each has a different reason for being important. Greek culture is woven from multiple ethnic groups – even the earliest Greek writers admitted that. It’s perfectly reasonable for each group to lay claim to this important landing taking place on its own turf.
Contradictions don’t invalidate the worth of oral narratives to the culture that transmits them.
Back to the “contradictions” in Torah. The most-cited one seems to be the two lists of animals in the flood story. Anybody who sees these lists as contradictions has not done a complete analysis of the story (failing the test of Occam’s Razor). At the end of the flood, Noach makes a sacrifice. What does he sacrifice?
Well, it’s a reach nichoach l’****. Every time this phrase appears in Torah –it also shows up in Yehezqel – it means a sacrifice appropriate to Gd. What is appropriate for a sacrifice to Gd? A tahor animal. Follow me now.
If Noach had taken only one pair of every animal and bird into the ark, then when he made his sacrifice, he must sacrifice the male. But if the female is not pregnant, that ends that species forever. The audience knows first-hand that the tahor animals exist “to this day”. So something else had to happen.
Noach had to take enough tahor animals so that his sacrifice would not end the species. It’s no surprise that the actual number of pairs is seven, Olrik’s Magic Number for religion.
This issue of the pregnant female animal is raised in a different way in Jewish midrash.
This is another example that DH is a product of literate people who failed in fact and in logic at every turn. Apparently practical data like survival of the species played no role in their conclusions. If you were hanging on to contradictions as a last support for DH, you are now hanging in the air with no net.

So now back to my sheep.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

21st Century Bible Hebrew -- Genesis 2:20, lamed alef verbs

Genesis 2:20
כ וַיִּקְרָ֨א הָֽאָדָ֜ם שֵׁמ֗וֹת לְכָל־הַבְּהֵמָה֙ וּלְע֣וֹף הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וּלְכֹ֖ל חַיַּ֣ת הַשָּׂדֶ֑ה וּלְאָדָ֕ם לֹֽא־מָצָ֥א עֵ֖זֶר כְּנֶגְדּֽוֹ:
Translation:     The man gave names to all the domestic animals and the flyer of the sky, and all the wild animals; but for the man -- no help opposite him did he find.
Vocabulary in this lesson:
He found
See the conjugation of yatsa.  Matsa is identical, except in the imperfect, because yatsa has that yod at the start which disappears in the imperfect, while matsa has a mem which never disappears. This is more like bara except that it doesn’t have that weird central resh.
Notice that this is NOT the same word as matsoh, the unleavened bread of Passover.  Matsoh ends with a heh, not an alef.
We have the opportunity here, so let me point out something from the Mechon Mamre site on trop. You see the zaqef qatan and the zaqef gadol in this verse. They are both disjunctive. Well, right before the zaqef gadol, there’s an etnach.
The “zg” only ever and always marks a single word. But before the “zq”, there’s a phrase and before that there’s a revia.
We’ll see this again if we get the chance to compare two other trop, but I might have to do a special lesson on that because one of them is extremely rare. I don’t think there’s been one so far but I have been paying attention to other things.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Fact-Checking the Torah -- a new fallacy?

You’re reading this because you want to know what to do now that your favorite urban legends, as well as those of other people, have been discredited by facts or logic.
One is that you could cry interpretationism. That’s a fallacy which says you don’t have to take my same fundamental positions and therefore you don’t have to agree with me that the way to interpret Torah is as the basis of Jewish law and culture.
You’re right. But interpretationism cuts both ways. I’ve been in online or other conversations where the other party expects me to agree with them, no matter what they say to bolster their claims. One tried calling names because what convinced him (commentaries based on bad translations) didn’t convince me.
But of course, that’s not you. You wouldn’t call names.
Interpretationism comes from the field of criticism, mostly the field of art criticism. It says the critic doesn’t have to take into account the artist’s upbringing or lifestyle at the time a work was created, in writing a critique.
That means the critique wholly relies on the critic’s point of view.
So what? They have freedom of speech.
Of course they do. What they don’t have is freedom of belief – my belief. They’re not entitled to shape my opinion if they rely on outdated information, commentaries or bad translations.
In fact Joel Baden of Yale is taking DH into the field of art criticism, but with a difference.
First, Baden assumes the four documents. That’s not exactly starting from scratch, and you now know that the concept is false in a number of ways.
Second, as Susan Niditch points out, Baden preserves a Grafian isolation (my phrase, not hers) about which I’ll say more a few posts from now.
Third, Baden retains the redactor, which DH only needed because of its presumption of the four documents.
Fourth, Baden holds that some parts of Torah contradict others. A-ha! You say.  You never talked about what DH definitely calls contradictions.
No more I did. That’s for next week.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

21st Century Bible Hebrew -- "bring"

Genesis 2:19
יט וַיִּ֩צֶר֩ יְהֹוָ֨ה אֱלֹהִ֜ים מִן־הָֽאֲדָמָ֗ה כָּל־חַיַּ֤ת הַשָּׂדֶה֙ וְאֵת֙ כָּל־ע֣וֹף הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וַיָּבֵא֙ אֶל־הָ֣אָדָ֔ם לִרְא֖וֹת מַה־יִּקְרָא־ל֑וֹ וְכֹל֩ אֲשֶׁ֨ר יִקְרָא־ל֧וֹ הָֽאָדָ֛ם נֶ֥פֶשׁ חַיָּ֖ה ה֥וּא שְׁמֽוֹ:
Translation:     **** Gd formed from the earth every wild animal and all flyers of the sky, He brought [them] to the man for the  purpose of seeing what he would call them; all that the man called them, a living soul, that was its name.
This is the hifil.  MEMORIZE IT, it is one of the top 30 verbs and means “bring”.
The aspectless verbs are
Now that you’ve seen this conjugation, notice that va-yave looks more like a version of the aspectless form than the imperfect. It shows up 50 times in all of Tannakh, 18 of which are in Torah. A feminine form shows up 3 times, none of which are in Torah. I’m not sure what it is, unless it’s the lamed alef form of the narrative necessity. I mean, you have to admit, if Gd had not caused Adam and Chavvah to meet, a whole lot of history wouldn’t have happened.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

DIY -- dryer balls

I know some of you are laughing. When you're done, keep reading

I forget where I heard of these, but I found a website selling them and bought a box of half a dozen for less than $13.

A couple days later I sprinkled essential oil of sweet orange on two of them and threw them in the dryer with six bathsheets.

The towels came out terrific, just as soft as with those dryer sheets full of chemicals. IIRC, if you use more balls, things get softer.

I had actually washed another 4 bath towels and nine kitchen towels, and those went in the next load.

This is a DIY post because there are instructions on the web to make your own. You start with all-wool fingering weight yarn, which means dryer balls don't shed plastic that gets into the ocean.

You wind them up, put them into pantyhose to keep them from unwinding, and put them through a hot cycle in the washer. This makes the wool hackle together; you're basically turning the balls into felt.

But I don't have any pantyhose so I bought my balls.

The next question is do they pay for themselves. They cost about 2/3 the price of a 250 count box of Bounce. You'd have to do more than 300 dryer loads for the dryer balls to be cheaper than the Bounce. The dryer balls would have to last at least six years at one load per week.

If you're just starting out with your first place, or you have to do more than one load a week, or you can't put up an umbrella clothesline like the one I have, they probably would pay for themselves. Because of the clothesline, I don't always use my dryer.

But you can customize the fragrance of your fresh-dried laundry by using different essential oils with your dryer balls -- lavender, bergamot, cedar, davana, frankincense, myrrh, geranium, neroli, patchouli, rose, ravensara, sandalwood, vetiver, and ylang ylang are all available. Some of them are pretty expensive, but it only takes half a dozen drops to scent your balls.

You can resume laughing.