Friday, May 27, 2016

Fact-Checking the Torah -- who's in charge?

So archaeologists working in Israel find all these settlements with common features.  They existed between 1100 and 900 BCE more than 200 meters above sea level.  They were founded on the bare ground, instead of on tells, which are old villages leveled off and re-occupied.  They didn’t trade with the lowlands; they had to practice mixed agriculture to feed and clothe themselves.
And they didn’t use pig.  How do you accomplish that without a legal system?
Let’s look at some genetics.  Modern results show that Jewish Kohanim really do have a common ancestor.  The most extreme figure for Time to Most Recent Common Ancestor is about 2000 BCE – back in patriarchal times.
The middle figure is 1300 BCE, 200 years before the highland settlements were founded.
If there really was an Aharonite authority working among the Israelites, this figure gives them 200 years to train the Israelites not to eat pig.  Assuming that it isn’t a custom of even older times.
The late figure for the most common recent ancestor is 100 BCE.  That’s when the Maccabeans were already both kings and high priests.  They had drowned out opposition from the Tsadokites who clung to the line of Tsadok, high priest to King David about 1000 BCE.  When Herod killed off the last of the Maccabean descendants (his grandsons), there were still high priests to carry on up to the destruction of the Second Temple.
Why does the middle date come so late – 200 years after the entry into the Holy Land?  One reason could be a genetic bottleneck.  If all of the high priests died for one reason or another after the lineage was founded, except for one, then that one becomes the most recent common ancestor of all subsequent high priests.  But he wouldn’t be alive, and he wouldn’t have tradition to back him up, if there wasn’t a history behind him.  Cultura non facit saltus, remember?
To sum up, we have archaeological evidence for the Israelites, both in the Holy Land and in references from other cultures.  We have logical evidence that the rules they followed developed before the highland settlements developed.  We have genetic evidence that Aharonites possibly existed before the highland settlements developed, as a male lineage.  It’s not a long stretch to suppose that the Aharonites held the position Torah gives them – legal experts who helped promote kashrut as a cultural feature which survived for centuries, even if it began as a fiat.
And using Occam’s Razor, we can expect that the culture exhibited in the highlands of Israel existed for centuries before the first traces of it.  Which is what I have been saying for several weeks now. 
Now we’ve found the Israelites, and the Kohanim, but that has nothing to do with the Exodus, which is where the false argument from silence really comes in.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

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