Defining Generic and Esoteric Standards in the Incunabular Approach to the Sinai Event

1. Natural events happen more than once as long as they are generic; esoteric events might not happen more than once.

2. Why?

Generic events happen more than once because they involve few details; esoteric events do not necessarily repeat because the probability of myriad details lining up in the same way twice is low.

For example, the odds of throwing dice and getting (A) any odd numbers 5 times in a row are higher than (B) throwing dice and getting the precise series: 11, 9, 7, 5,  & 3.  This is because scenario-B, by requiring specific odd numbers, excludes a vast number of outcomes.

3. There are two lines of evidence indicating that the formation of mythologies about communication from G-d to man is a generic event – not an esoteric one:

a. Precise communication with the supernatural is not in and of itself a complex event involving many details and factors.  Indeed, there is only 1 detail in the mythology: G-d speaks to people.  (Were we looking for precise communication with a female divinity, on a Tuesday, in southern France, that would constitute a more esoteric event, since it requires the simultaneous fulfillment of multiple criteria.)

b. The vast majority of religions in human history supposedly begin with a revelation to man – specific words that are communicated from some supernatural source to human beings.  When an event happens repeatedly – mythologies forming about supernatural communication with man – it is clearly probable enough to happen more than once.

4. Having established that mythologies forming about a communication from G-d to man constitute “generic” events, not esoteric ones, we can now divide this sort of generic event into two subgroups:

a. The formation of mythologies about divine transmissions to 1 or 2 people, versus

b. The formation of mythologies about divine transmissions to any other number of people.

5. With this division in place, we can now ask which category – 1-2 or 3+ - is more generic/likely, and which is more esoteric/unlikely?

a. Consider the analogy of a random number generator.  Which is more likely: that the generator will produce 1s and 2s, or that the generator will produce any other numbers?  If we divided all results of the random number generator into two categories: 1s/2s, on one hand; and all other numbers, on the other hand – after generating 1,000 random numbers, which category would contain more numbers?

b. In the exact same way – if it were indeed natural for mythologies to spread about group revelations of any size – there would be far more religions that are based on a mythology of divine communication to 3 or more individuals than there would be about divine communication with 1 or 2 individuals.

c. Were it possible to spread mythologies about group revelations of any size, this is what a chart of the genesis of world religions should look like:

d. However, this is what the chart of the genesis of world religions really does look like:

e. Perhaps this is because it is extremely unlikely or impossible to get away with a lie about mass revelation.  Perhaps this is because the odds of maintaining a conspiracy are inversely proportional to the number of people involved in the conspiracy (1/2n, where n = number of conspirators involved in launching the initial mythology).

f. However, if all religions start with mythologies about 1 or 2 people receiving revelation, it is logical that this is so because mythologies about revelations to larger groups are quickly revealed and the cult disintegrates: Then how did Judaism – with a claim that 3,000,000 people heard G-d speak – begin?  If it were natural for such mythologies to spread, something similar would have spread a few more times in human history.

Back to “A Rational Approach to the Torah’s Divine Origin

by  Rabbi Lawrence Kelemen
Posted in: Hot Topics;  Jewish Beliefs & Philosophy