Arguments Against Judaism
Arguments Against Judaism

Arguments Against Judaism

Arguments Against Judaism
Other sources:
Common Arguments for Judaism – Refuted

1. Argument from National Revelation Tradition (“the Kuzari Argument”)
2. Traditions of Other Nations
3. Bible codes
4. The Survival of the Jewish People
5. Scientific knowledge in the Torah and Talmud
6. Other Apologetic Arguments – Discussed

Arguments That Disprove/Refute Judaism

There is no archaeological basis for the Tanach’s narrative of early Judaism
Biblical criticism reveals Judaism’s non-divine origins
Anachronisms in the Torah demonstrate its later authorship
Internal contradictions in the Tanach demonstrate its unreliability
Failed prophecies in the Tanach reveal the prophets to be inauthentic
The Torah errs in describing natural history
Scientific and historical errors in the Talmud undermine the credibility of the Talmudic sages

The Missing Years

Morally repugnant elements of the Tanach and Talmud
Practical downsides to Judaism
Counter-apologetics Elsewhere on the Internet
Counter-apologetics: Refuting Judaism
Other pages: Main page of our wiki | FAQ | Recommended reading list | Video resources

Note: This page is specifically on the arguments relating to the truth claims of Orthodox Judaism.

This page is currently a work in progress. Note that some sections are brief placeholders or otherwise contain a limited handling of a topic, and further reading is recommended. See our reading list for recommended reading on various topics. In general, this page intends to provide an outline of the most significant issues with Judaism as well as responses to the most common arguments made in support of Judaism. (See the bottom of this page for 3rd party resources.) Contributions to improve and expand on the content here are welcome.

Arguments in defense of Judaism (or any religion) are referred to as apologetics. (They may also be referred to as “Kiruv arguments,” with Kiruv, meaning “bring close” in Hebrew, referring to Jewish outreach.) Refutations of these arguments are counter-apologetics. We often get asked about apologetics, whether it be from other doubting Jews, from Jews curious about other perspectives, or from religious Jews seeking an argument.

(That last one is against subreddit rules, so don’t do that! You can go to r/DebateJudaism, r/DebateReligion, or r/DebateAnAtheist for debates.) On this page, we’ve compiled some common questions and topical areas for counter-apologetics.

Why not believe in Judaism?

Many Religions: Probabilities
For starters, there are thousands of contradictory religions, and far more denominations with contradictory theologies. And although it is possible that one of these thousands is true, it may very well be that no religion-giving god exists at all. Even if it could be proven that there is a god and that there is a true religion, it is incredibly unlikely that any given religion is that true religion. Statistically, this starts any analysis of whether a religion is true with a low prior probability and a correspondingly high standard of evidence that would be needed to justify belief.

To give an analogy, imagine that hypothetically an artifact collector confides in you that he has found a famous lost artifact. You may have reason to be skeptical, but with an explanation of how he acquired it and his familiarity with artifacts, you may consider this enough to treat this claim as plausible. But then you hear of a museum which announces that it has the artifact. In fact, you hear of thousands of current and past claims of finding the artifact.

Let’s say you discover that many of these claims are made by untrustworthy people, while others are made by more respected sources. Some claims are older, some claims were made recently. Some claims are baseless, or they refuse to reveal the artifact to the public, while some sound like they legitimately could have found it, and produce experts that vouch for the artifact. Suddenly, the claim of the artifact collector you originally spoke with becomes one of many, and as far as you can tell the chances that he or anyone else in fact has the lost artifact is greatly diminished. Now, with the knowledge of how readily such false claims are made, your artifact collector must produce much more definitive evidence to unmistakably distinguish it from all other claims.

So too with Judaism and religion. There are thousands of religions, each with their own adherents who are confident that it is their religion which is uniquely true. Some religions are younger, or older, more successful or less successful, more implausible or more impressive. It may be argued that some religions are significantly less plausible than Judaism and so Judaism’s statistical probability should not be as diluted by such religions. Even granting that, the variety of competing religions does increase the amount of evidence that would be needed to justify belief, lest Judaism be another ordinary religion which just happened to benefit from a few more coincidences or impressive stories.

Judaism’s Claims Need Evidence
So with this, the net evidence for Judaism would need to show not just that Judaism is probable in a vacuum, it would need to show it’s probable given the prior probability that a god-given religion is real and that Judaism would happen to be this true religion. In other words, without a substantial weight of evidence clearly demonstrating that Judaism is true, a belief in the religion would not be warranted.

Investigating Claims
Yet we have no such weight of evidence. Every proof or argument made for Judaism by apologists can be revealed as flawed upon investigation. Often, claims that Judaism is unique are incorrect, and many common reasons that lead individuals to their belief are the same as those used by members of other religions, such as seeing coincidences as divine providence in their lives, experiencing or hearing personal miracle stories, prophetic dreams, near death experience stories, experiencing a strong feeling of joy or comfort from prayer services, a feeling that the religion just makes sense or is an ideal way to live a good life, an idea that there’s something about the religion that a charlatan wouldn’t fake, an idea that the holy book has never been shown to have a mistake, and so on.

Across the Board
When the same reason is used across religions, that suggests it is not reliable, and exploring them can also reveal that they are not well founded or that they are naturally explainable. Other, more developed arguments for Judaism used by Kiruv rabbis, may come across as more sophisticated and so deserve a deeper analysis, but even these ultimately boil down to misinformation and logical fallacies. As such, the arguments for Judaism cannot overcome Judaism’s low starting probability.

Arguments Against Judaism
What’s more, there is significant evidence that argues against a divine origin for the Torah and Jewish religion. This evidence ranges from the extensive scientific and historical errors made throughout Tanach and the Talmud, to archeological finds ruling out the Torah’s exodus narrative, to anachronistic statements in the Torah demonstrating a later authorship, to contradictions within Tanach showing the texts to be unreliable, to failed prophecies, to the morally unjustifiable laws and actions in the Tanach, to qualities of Judaism clearly derivative from older cultures in the region, as well as various other issues that demonstrate Judaism to be anything but true and divine. These are not traits that a true religion would be expected to have, and so Judaism becomes an incredibly unlikely possibility.

In the sections below, you will find a brief description of some of the most popular arguments for Judaism with responses for why these arguments are mistaken, as well as a summary of some of the most significant problems with Judaism itself.

Other sources:
Some Reasons to Reject Orthodox Judaism (Alter Cocker Jewish Atheist)
A List Of Some Problematic Issues Concerning Orthodox Jewish Belief, by Naftali Zeligma
Letter To My Rabbi, by Naftali Zeligman
Some arguments regarding the truth of Judaism (Google Doc, credit to u/arathir2)
Related thread(s):

“How do you know it’s not real?”
“All arguments against Judaism”
“What are some obvious signs that the Siddur and Old Testament are bullshit?”
“There is nothing unique about Judaism”
“Why is Judaism false?”
“Buddhists Also Debate”

“These 7 Questions Made Me Not Religious – #6 Will Make You Cry!”
“Disproving Judaism using Rabbi Kelemen’s “external check” logic”
Common Arguments for Judaism – Refuted
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, or don’t understand, feel free to ask.

1. Argument from National Revelation Tradition (“the Kuzari Argument”)
The argument the modern Kuzari argument from a national tradition, specifically that of a mass revelation at Mt. Sinai or the associated national-scale miracles described in the Torah, is a popular argument among Kiruv rabbis. Different rabbis may present their own variants on the argument, but in its basic form the Kuzari argument suggests that the only way that the Jewish nation would start believing that there were millions of witnesses to the miracles described in the Torah is if those events actually happened, the idea being that people would not accept a lie of this magnitude without getting verification from the preceding generation.

Problem: Overlooking Alternatives

In the basic form, the argument suffers from overlooking alternatives and from an argument from incredulity fallacy. That is, the proponent cannot see how the mass revelation mythology may have developed naturally, and therefore they are left with the conclusion that it must indicate an actual mass revelation. However, in order to be able to conclude that the tradition is evidence of an actual event, alternative explanations would need to be ruled out.

It would need to be demonstrated that the story was never invented and sold to the nation as something that had been lost by their ancestors, it would need to be demonstrated that the story was never sold to a small group of gullible people and eventually worked its way into national mythology, it would need to be demonstrated that the story is not a product of the evolution of a lesser myth, it would need to be demonstrated that at no point was belief in the mass revelation imposed on the Jewish people forcefully, etc. This burden is never met.

Problem: The Bible Tells a Different Story

Additionally, contrary to one of the fundamental premises of the Kuzari argument, the Tanach does not even describe the tradition as something that the nation faithfully passed down from generation to generation. Quite the opposite: The Tanach describes times of national ignorance of the Torah and God (for example repeatedly throughout the books of Judges, Kings, and Jeremiah), times of leaders allegedly rediscovering the lost Torah or presenting the Torah to an ignorant population (such as in II Kings 21-23, Nehemiah 8, 13:1-3), and times of forceful religious reforms to replace pervasive adherence of Canaanite religion with monotheism (such as in II Kings 23, II Chronicles 15).

Judges 2 is one of the first examples where the Tanach describes a failure in the national tradition:

And the nation served the Lord during all the days of Joshua and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua and who had seen all the great deed of the Lord that He had performed for Israel.

And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being one hundred and ten years old…

And also all that generation were gathered to their forefathers, and there arose another generation after them, who knew not the Lord nor the deed which He had done for Israel.

And the children of Israel did that which was evil in the eyes of the Lord and they served the Baalim. And they forsook the God of their forefathers, Who had brought them up from the land of Egypt, and they went after other gods, of the gods of the nations that were around them, and they bowed to them and they provoked the Lord. And they forsook the Lord and served the Baal and the Ashtaroth.

And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and He delivered them into the hands of spoilers and they spoiled them, and He gave them over into the hands of their enemies around, and they could no longer stand before their enemies. Wherever they went out, the hand of the Lord was against them for evil, as the Lord had spoken and as the Lord had sworn to them, and they were greatly distressed.

And the Lord raised up judges and they saved them from the hands of those who had spoiled them. But also their judges they did not obey, for they went astray after other gods, and they bowed to them; they turned aside quickly from the way wherein their forefathers had walked, obeying the commandments of the Lord, (but) they did not do so.

(Judges 2:7-17)

Also problematic for the argument from tradition is II Chronicles 15, which quotes the prophet Azariah describing how prior to King Asa the Jews did not worship God or have teachers and Torah, and which describes a covenant King Asa then made, essentially using force to impose worship of God onto the Jewish people.

Now there were many days for Israel without a true God and without an instructing priest, and without the Torah. (II Chronicles 15:3)

And they entered the covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their forefathers, with all their heart and with all their soul. And whoever would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, shall be put to death, from the smallest to the greatest, whether man or woman. (II Chronicles 15:12-13)

II Kings 21-23 also describes a gap in tradition and an alleged discovery of the lost Torah, as well as forceful implementation of the laws and introduction of laws that the people were not acquainted with:

Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years, and his mother’s name was Hephzibah. And he did what was evil in the eyes of the Lord; like the abominations of the nations that the Lord had driven out from before the children of Israel. (21:1-2)

… But [the children of Israel] did not obey [the Torah that Moses commanded], and Manasseh led them astray to do what was evil, more than the nations that the Lord had destroyed from before the children of Israel. (21:9) … And it was in the eighteenth year of King Josiah [Manasseh’s grandson], that the king sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah the son of Meshullam the scribe to the house of the Lord… (22:3) …

And Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, “I have found the Scroll of the Law in the house of the Lord,” and Hilkiah gave the scroll to Shaphan, and he read it. (22:8) … And Shaphan the scribe told the king, saying, “Hilkiah the priest gave me a scroll,” and Shaphan read it before the king. And it was when the king heard the words of the scroll of the Law, that he rent his garments. (22:10-11) … And the king summoned, and they assembled before him all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem.

And the king went up to the house of the Lord, and all the people of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were with him, and the priests and the prophets, and all the people from small to great, and he read within their hearing all the words of the scroll of the covenant that was found in the house of the Lord. And the king stood on his place, and enacted the covenant before the Lord, to follow the Lord and to observe His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes with all their heart and soul, to fulfill the words of this covenant, which are written in this scroll.

And all the people were steadfast in their acceptance of the covenant. And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest and the priests of the second rank and the guards of the threshold, to take out of the Temple of the Lord all the utensils that were made for the Baal and for the asherah, and for the entire host of the heaven, and he burnt them outside Jerusalem in the plains of Kidron, and he carried their ashes to Bethel.

And he abolished the pagan priests whom the kings of Judah had appointed and who had burnt incense on the high places in the cities of Judah and the environs of Jerusalem, and those who burnt incense to the Baal, to the sun, to the moon, and to the constellations, and to all the host of heaven. (23:1-5)

… And he brought all the priests from the cities of Judah, and he defiled the high places where the priests had burnt incense, from Geba as far as Beersheba, and he demolished the high places near the gates, the one that was at the entrance of the gate of Joshua the mayor of the city, which is on a person’s left in the gate of the city. (23:8) … And also all the temples of the high places that were in the cities of Samaria that the kings of Israel had made [in order] to anger, Josiah removed, and he did to them like all the deeds he had done in Bethel.

And he slaughtered all the priests of the high places who were there, on the altars, and he burnt human bones upon them, and he returned to Jerusalem. And the king commanded all the people, saying, “Perform a Passover sacrifice to the Lord your God, as it is written in this scroll of the covenant.” For such a Passover sacrifice had not been performed since the time of the judges who judged Israel, and all the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah. Except in the eighteenth year of King Josiah, this Passover sacrifice was performed to the Lord, in Jerusalem.

And also the necromancers and those who divine by the Jidoa bone and the teraphim and the idols and all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, Josiah abolished, in order to fulfill the words of the Torah which were written in the scroll that Hilkiah the priest had found in the house of the Lord. Now, before him there was no king like him, who returned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his possessions, according to the entire Torah of Moses, and after him no one arose. (23:19-25)

(Even after this, the narrative brings the integrity of the national-scale of these beliefs into question, as following the death of King Josiah, his successors led the nation to polytheism again, with the nation only firmly following Judaism in the wake of the Babylonian exile.)

Here, the Tanach reports that knowledge of the Torah was so thoroughly eradicated from Israel that the “discovery” of a Torah scroll completely overturned the religious and political practice under King Josiah’s reign, in an event sometimes referred to as the Deuteronomic Reform. Regarding Judaism’s tradition involving a loss of national level of knowledge of the Torah, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan writes: A number of Israelite kings had attempted to uproot or change the teachings of the Torah. Thus, during the reign of Achaz (3183-3199; 578-562 BCE) many Torah scrolls were destroyed. Because of this, the Kohen-priests hid the Torah written by Moses in order to safeguard it. Later during the reign of Manasseh (3228-3283; 533-478 BCE), efforts to destroy the Torah were so successful that the existence of the Torah written by Moses had to be concealed from all but a dedicated few. It was only later, during the reign of Yoshia (in 3303; 458 BCE) that this Torah was found hidden in the Temple. It is thus written, “Chilkiah the Kohen-priest found the book of God’s Torah, [written] in Moses’ hand” (2 Chronicles 34:14). King Yoshia used this as an occasion to rededicate the people to the observance of the Torah.

Similarly, Radak on II Kings 22:8 comments:

מנשה מלך זמן רב שהרי מלך נ”ה שנה ועשה הרע בעיני ה’ כתועבות הגוים ובנה מזבחות לע”ג בבית ה’ והוא השכיח התורה מישראל ואין פונה אליה כי כלם היו פונים אל אלהים אחרים ואל חקות הגוים ובנ”ה שנה נשתכחה התורה… ובהוציאם את הכסף המובא בית ה’ מצא חלקיהו הכהן את ספר תורת ה’ ופתח וקראו ונתנו אל סופר המלך שיביאהו אל המלך שיקרא בו ויראה איך שכחו התורה המונעת כל המעשים הרעים שהיו עושים בישראל

Menasseh reigned for a long time, for he was king for fifty-five years and did evil in the eyes of the Lord, like the abominations of the nations, and built altars to idols in the house of the Lord. And he caused the Torah to be forgotten from Israel, and they did not turn to it, for they all turned to other gods and to the [evil] ways of the nations, and in fifty-five years the Torah was forgotten…. And when they brought out the silver they found in the house of the Lord, Hilkiah the priest found the Torah of the Lord, and he opened and read it and gave it to the king’s scribe to give to the king to read it and see how the Torah prohibits all the evil deeds done in Israel.

Potential for reintroduction of ostensibly lost teachings of the Torah occur even later, as well. For example, the books of Ezra and Nehemiah describe the return of the Jewish people to Judea and the efforts to teach the people the contents of the Torah, even including what should have been common knowledge of basic laws and holidays of the Torah:

Now all the people gathered as one man to the square that was before the Water Gate, and they said to Ezra the scholar to bring the scroll of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel…. And he read in it before the square that was before the Water Gate from the [first] light until midday in the presence of the men and the women and those who understood, and the ears of all the people were [attentive] to the Scroll of the Law…. And they read in the scroll, in the Law of God, distinctly, and gave sense, and they explained the reading to them…. And on the second day, the heads of the fathers’ houses of all the people, the priests, and the Levites, gathered to Ezra the scholar, and to understand the words of the Torah. And they found written in the Torah that the Lord had commanded by the hand of Moses that the Children of Israel dwell in booths on the festival in the seventh month…. And that they should announce and proclaim in all their cities and in Jerusalem, saying, “Go out to the mountain and bring olive leaves and leaves of oil trees, myrtle leaves, date palm leaves, and leaves of plaited trees, to make booths, as it is written.” … And all the congregation of the returnees from the captivity made booths and dwelt in the booths, for they had not done so from the days of Jeshua the son of Nun until that day, and there was exceedingly great joy. (Nehemiah 8)

As the Jewish Encyclopedia puts it, citing the gemara in Sukkah 20a,

Ezra marks the springtime in the national history of Judaism. “The flowers appear on the earth” (Cant. ii. 12) refers to Ezra and Nehemiah (Midr. Cant. ad loc.). Ezra was worthy of being the vehicle of the Law, had it not been already given through Moses (Sanh.21b). It was forgotten, but Ezra restored it (Suk. 20a).

An Unbroken Tradition?

These examples do not describe a nation that was familiar with the Torah because of a national tradition going back to original events. The national scale of the Jewish tradition, then, doesn’t even claim to extend past the gaps and all the way to the events described in the Torah. Despite this, proponents of the Kuzari argument must insist that Torah was something that the people were familiar with even before King Josiah, suggesting that the text does not describe ignorance of the Torah, but just that they had adopted other gods and Canaanite religion in addition to what is prescribed in the Torah.

This would be an uneasy reading of the text, however, given that if this is the case King Josiah would have already known that idol worship should be prohibited, and about the Passover festival, since those are two of the fundamental lessons associated with the narrative of the exodus from Egypt and the covenant at Mt. Sinai, and the discovery of a new Torah scroll would not elicit so much surprise and action.

In reality, the historicity of many narrative details in Tanach is disputed by historians. And the Book of Judges and its cycles of idolatry and repentance is considered to be a history composed long after the alleged events and may have served to persuade the Jewish people that “returning” to the Torah is in their best interest. As such, these textual examples do not necessarily provide a fully accurate way to identify when and how contents of the Torah were introduced to the Jewish people. What these examples from Tanach do demonstrate, however, is that even if a person wants to believe in Judaism and the Tanach, they would have difficulty accepting the Kuzari’s basic premise of an unbroken national tradition.

In Summary

At best, a proponent of the Kuzari argument would have to say that the straightforward meanings of these portions of Tanach significantly exaggerate the level of ignorance among the Jewish people, but this would amount to a dubious assumption (that narratives of the general populace of Ancient Judea ever being unfamiliar with the Torah are absent from Judaism) upon a dubious assumption (that the Jewish people would never have accepted false myths of early national events).

Either way, these examples are not even necessary for the Kuzari argument to fail, as the argument fundamentally suffers from the logical fallacies described above. In short, not only does the Kuzari argument inherently lack logical strength, but by conflicting with the narratives in Tanach it is a no-win even for its proponents.

2. Traditions of Other Nations
The Argument

Another argument occasionally added onto the Kuzari argument, in an effort to contend with suggestions of natural ways the mythology could develop, relates to the inherent reliability of national traditions. This argument is notably promoted by Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb with Ohr Somayach and Rabbi Lawrence Kelemen with Aish HaTorah, though different rabbis have their own particular variants of the argument. Broadly, the idea is that national traditions should be regarded as inherently reliable, with the reasoning being that even if natural scenarios for the development of the tradition could be proposed, the absence of any examples of false national traditions from other cultures is itself an indication that national traditions are reliable.

Problem: The Bible Tells A Different Story (As Above)

This argument is mistaken for a few different reasons, however. First, as laid out above, the Tanach does not actually describe a tradition going back to a national event, rather it appears to include details about gaps in the tradition and restoration by religious leaders, so it could be argued that Judaism merely has a national tradition of leaders presenting new ideas to the nation.

Problem: A Weak Claim

Second, even if it were the case that the Jews have a tradition that their ancestors reliably passed on this knowledge through each generation, and it were the case that no other nation had a false tradition of national events or miracles, that would not itself be enough to demonstrate that natural mythological development, or a particular set of religious and political conditions, would never produce such a myth.

(For an exploration of what the religious and political conditions may have been that produced the Torah, scholars such as Richard Elliot Friedman in Who Wrote The Bible? and archaeologists Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman in The Bible Unearthed are relevant resources. For more, see our Recommended Reading list.)

Problem: It’s Not Unique

A third failing of this argument is that there actually are numerous cases of mistaken national traditions that can serve as counterexamples to the fundamental elements of this argument. From the mythological early Sumerian dynasties (as well as Chinese, Roman, and other nations whose early kings are of dubious historicity), to the myth of how the Gaels came to Ireland, to even modern cases like incorrect belief that there was mass panic across America from the 1938 War of the World’s broadcast by Orson Welles), among various such examples, national tradition alone is frequently incorrect.

Regarding beliefs specifically of national or widespread miracles, there are various examples of this as well, including the Aztec’s miracle-filled migration from Aztlan, a magical land where people never grew old, White Buffalo Calf Woman (here’s a first hand account through Lakota oral tradition that mirrors important parts of the Sinai revelation), the revelation of the Great Spirit to the Sioux, and Our Lady of Zeitun, a mass (albeit not national) Marian apparition. Even using the national revelation within the Torah itself, Samaritanism serves as a counterexample, as the Samaritans believe that it is their ancestors, not the ancestors of the Jews, who got the Samaritan Torah from God, proving that a nation can adopt a false belief about their own national history.

When faced with such counterexamples, proponents of the Kuzari argument may downplay or dispute the similarities of these traditions to those found in the Torah. However, whether or not these beliefs are in all ways parallel to the Torah’s narratives, they nevertheless refute the crucial assertion that a tradition about a national event is sufficient to demonstrate the historicity of the event. Since mass and national traditions are not inherently reliable, true national traditions are only confirmed as true when supported by additional, more reliable evidence. And Judaism does not have such evidence on its side. To the contrary, the available archeological, textual, and scientific evidence (see “Arguments Refuting Judaism” below) reveals facts that deeply undermine Judaism’s belief in Torah’s narrative veracity and divine authenticity, leading to the mainstream academic analysis that the Torah’s narratives are largely non-historical.

In Summary

Ultimately, the Kuzari argument may have enough of a surface appearance of logic to appeal to those who are looking for some justification for their faith. But when looked at carefully, it lacks any actual persuasive power. With an understanding of the natural ways that myths develop, the myth of millions of people seeing miracles during the exodus and at Mount Sinai can likewise be understood as having developed completely naturally.

Other refutations of the Kuzari Argument:

Talk Reason
Kefirah of the Week
Jewish Atheist
Larry Tanner
Baruch Pelta
The Rational Jew
And from a religious blogger, Dov Bear, and another, and another.
Discussion on Judaism Q&A site Mi Yodeya about counter-arguments to the Kuzari argument
Reasonable Doubts: Breaking The Kuzari by Second Son – A book that thoroughly dissects and refutes the Kuzari Argument
Related threads:

“The Kuzari, The Christians and Confusion”
“In Need of Counter Arguments…”
“Kefirah of the Week: The Modern Kuzari Argument…”
“Regarding a post that I saw here… (long post)”
“Some incomplete info on the FAQ”
“A little knock against the Kuzari Argument”
“Rabbi Lawrence Kelemen kinda debunked the Kuzari Principle and killed my faith. Q”
“A Judeo-Spanish medieval writer of homoerotic poetry proves the Revelation of Skell to the Klamath in Oregon”
“The Kuzari argument and the Plague of Darkness”
“An Essay from a 14-year-old me”
“Did the Jews really lose the Torah?”
“national revelation”
“Damascus Document and the finding of ‘The Book of Law'”
“Mass Revelation in places other than Judaism”
“Debunking The Kuzari”
Structure of the Kuzari argument: thoughts? [Long] and In his peer-reviewed paper, Dr. Tyron Goldschmidt argues that the Exodus (as described in the Old Testament) should be taken as history. What are your thoughts?
3. 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:

“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?”
Help debunk some torah proof
4. The Survival of the Jewish People
The 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:

Undercover Kofer (YouTube)
Alter Cocker Jewish Atheist (part 1), (part 2)
Related threads:

“Jewish survival”
“Explanations for Judaism’s Perseverence…”
“Is the survival of the Jewish people a unique…”
5. Scientific knowledge in the Torah and Talmud
The Argument

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 1018 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.

In Summary

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:

“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?”
6. Other Apologetic Arguments – Discussed
“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.

See also: “What evidence would prove the validity of orthodox Judaism to you?”

Arguments That Disprove/Refute Judaism
Beyond the simple lack of adequate evidence in favor of Judaism, there is abundant evidence showing Judaism to be a false, man-made religion, like any other. Below, we have compiled some of the more notable issues, touching on archeology, Biblical criticism, historical anachronisms and internal contradictions in the Tanach, failed prophecies in the Tanach, historical and scientific errors in the Torah and Talmud, and the moral shortcomings of the Torah and other Jewish teachings. Even beyond these more notable issues, though, there remain countless other smaller issues with Judaism.

These smaller issues show a range of qualities that Judaism has that would not likely be expected of a true religion. For example, Judaism was targeted to a small and primitive people, ostensibly with abundant miracles, yet there are no modern-day revelations or clear lines of evidence to demonstrate its truth to modern people. Miracles, magic, and other supernatural events were ostensibly commonplace during Biblical and Talmudic times, and yet today such magic and supernatural occurrences can never be empirically demonstrated. The Tanach describes major events that if they had happened should have been recorded by many other peoples, such as the ten plagues in Egypt and the exodus from Egypt or Joshua holding the sun and moon still for a full day’s time, and yet no such corroborating accounts exist. The Tanach makes no mention of certain centrally important ideas in Judaism, such as there being no outright statement that there will be the Third (and final) Temple with the coming of a messiah (and the prophecies which today are traditionally regarded as speaking of this actually describe the context of the period of the Second Temple). If the Torah and early prophets belong in the context of the late 2nd millennium BCE, it is strange that the texts appear completely ignorant of Egypt’s control over that territory during that time period, which should be a fact highly relevant to the narratives of the exodus from Egypt, Joshua’s conquest of Canaan, and the period of the Judges. The scriptures were written in a single language and with unclear passages in a way that an omniscient god should have known would result in endless confusion and misinterpretations. If God gave Judaism then the religion was a failure on account of the Jewish people constantly straying from the religion, diverging into conflicting sects, and engaging in civil wars. The religion is riddled with organizational flaws such as the rabbinic authority to create laws and interpret the Torah being based entirely in rabbinic interpretations of vague verses that do not actually give them this authority. Despite ostensibly being able to reliably carry oral law traditions all the way back to Mount Sinai, the rabbis are constantly in disagreement over Jewish law and what the scriptures meant, and moreover there are cases where the tradition can be outright shown to be inauthentic, such as the Talmudic teaching that the etrog (citron, C. medica) is one of the four species the Torah commands to take on Sukkot when archeological evidence shows that the citron was actually only introduced to the region from India by the Persians, during the Second Temple period. The fact that the Torah is devoid of any real scientific knowledge or technology that might improve the lives of people and demonstrate its truth, and yet it is filled with scientific misunderstandings and superstitions. The fact that the laws in the Torah are so similar to those of other primitive cultures, yet so different from the interests a truly omniscient and wise god would be expected to give. The fact that other religions merely exist and that religions not dissimilar from Judaism can so easily be invented by human cultures. The sheer statistical implications of the fact that moshiach has not come in all this time. There are many such issues, all of which align with the reality that Judaism is not a true religion.

For now, we will only detail some of the more major lines of evidence which refute Judaism:

There is no archeological basis for the Tanach’s narrative of early Judaism
It is the general statement among academics and historians that the Tanach is not a reliable historical document until the book of Judges at earliest. Some scholars think that only the latter half of Kings bears historical relevance. William Dever, an esteemed scholar who is often quoted by apologists for his maximalist views on the historical validity of Judges and Samuel states unequivocally the following:

After a century of exhaustive investigation, all respectable archaeologists have given up hope of recovering any context that would make Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob credible “historical figures.” Virtually the last archaeological words was written by me more than 20 years ago for a basic handbook of biblical studies, Israelite and Judean History. And as we have seen, archaeological investigation of Moses and the Exodus has similarly been discarded as a fruitless pursuit. Indeed, the overwhelming archaeological evidence today of largely indigenous origins for early Israel leaves no room for an exodus from Egypt or a 40-years pilgrimage through the Sinai wilderness. A Moses-like figure may have existed somewhere in the southern Transjordan in the mid-late 13th century B.C., where many scholars think the biblical traditions concerning the god Yahweh arose. But archaeology can do nothing to confirm such a figure as a historical personage, much less prove that he was the founder of later Israelite religion. (W. Dever, “What did the Biblical Writers Know” Eerdmans Pub. Co. 2001 p. 98 emphasis mine)

Because the archaeological results are so conclusive, scholars who wish to claim that the books of the Torah contain some historical knowledge must reduce the scope of their argument so much that it barely conforms to the actual text. For example. James Hoffmeier, an Egyptologist and evangelical Christian writes in defense of the historical reliability of the Tanach that:

The evidence offered here, along with the thoughtful studies of the problem of the size of the Israelite exodus, leaves little doubt that the number of individuals would have been in the thousands, maybe a few tens of thousands, but certainly not hundreds of thousands, let alone millions. (“Ancient Israel in Sinai,” Oxford Univ. Press, 2005, p. 159)

Even Kenneth Kitchen writes that

…[t]he emigrants from Egypt to Canaan would then total about 20,000 to 22,000, close to Mendenhall’s result. So, in Iron IA Canaan, a population of 50,000 to 70,000 by 1150 might have included 20,000 early Israelites.(Kenneth Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament,pg.265)

You’d be encouraged to read The Bible Unearthed for a list of anachronisms in the Bible – or read this page –

Related threads:

“Kefirah of the Week: The historicity (or lack thereof) of the Exodus”
“Archaeology & The Exodus” – A Response to Aish HaTorah Propaganda
“Do these people actually look things up or do they just make things up on the spot to their impressionable audience?”
“Is there any scientific and archaeological evidence for the story of Exodus? ”
“Nothing Fails Like Bible History – Part 1, by Thomas Westbrook, aka ‘Holy Koolaid'”
Biblical criticism reveals Judaism’s non-divine origins
The archaeological record and Biblical criticism indicates that Judaism was not a divine creation given to the Jews at Mount Sinai. Rather, it developed over time and was shaped by the contemporary beliefs and events of its origins. Judaism initially developed through the middle of the 1st millenium BCE largely as an offshoot of older Canaanite religion, with belief in multiple gods being merged into a single god, mythologies from the northern kingdom of Israel merging with mythologies from the southern kingdom of Judea, and incorporating beliefs and mythology from the Babylonians. Many beliefs, practices, sacrifices, and specific civil laws can be traced to Ancient Egyptian, Babylonian, Hittite, and other ancient cultures which predated Judaism. Doublets of stories, wordings indicative of late authorship, and variations of style, theological emphasis, and subject matter all help to show the time and varying motivations of its authors.

During the Second Temple period after the Babylonian exile, Judaism continued to evolve. New scriptures were being added to the Tanach, there were multiple politically competing sects with competing theologies, most notably the Pharisees and the Sadducees, with the Pharisees and their interpretations of Jewish law and scripture developing and taking hold, which paved the way for the Talmud and Rabbinic Judaism, which was the first time ancient Judaism resembled the religion practiced today. [Placeholder text. More detailed explanation with sources to come…]

Related threads:

“What religions influenced Judaism the most and share the same myths?”
“Hittite laws in the Torah”
“Kefirah of the Week: A Brief History of Ancient Circumcision”
“Kefirah of the Week: The History of Sukkot”
“Why do the Jews believe in the Oral Torah?”
“Seven Defenses against Biblical Criticism – (wow are they weeeak)”
“Do any mainstream, non religious historians accept the biblical narrative?”
“A History of God”
“Literary problems with Mosaic authorship of the Torah: Piecing together the Pentateuch – An Overview of the Theories of Composition, by Digital Hammurabi (YouTube)”
Anachronisms in the Torah demonstrate its later authorship
The Tanach includes many anachronisms. Only a few will be provided here.

The “Table of Nations” in Chapter 10 of Genesis lists many nations, like the Lydians, who did not exist until the middle of the first millennium BCE, roughly 1000 years after the supposed time of Moses. See here for more.

The presence of the Philistines in the time of the Patriarchs is another anachronism. The Philistines arrived with the Sea People invasion (early 12th century BCE) which is well after the time of the claimed era of the Patriarchs (Redford, “Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times” Princeton Uni Press 1992 p. 250).

The destruction of the walls of Jericho is another anachronism. The Amarna letters, well preserved documents detailing the correspondence between the Pharaoh Akhenaten and the various Canaanite city states, make no mention of any Israelites or Israelite tribes. Therefore the Israelites must have arrived after this time. Yet, extensive carbon dating of the Jericho site indicate that the famed walls had fallen by 1550 BCE, and the city was completely uninhabited in the 13th century (I. Finkelstein, “The Bible Unearthed” Touchstone 2001 p. 81). The city of Ai is even worse off, showing no signs of habitation for at least 500 years before the Israelites supposedly conquered it. Evidently, the Israelites saw these ruins and attributed the destruction to their warrior ancestors, when in actuality, the cities were destroyed long before any ancestors bearing their name ever existed.

Related thread(s):

“Kefirah of the week: In which we learn that Noah fathered grandchildren representing nations that didn’t exist until over 500 years after Moses.”
Internal contradictions in the Tanach demonstrate its unreliability
The text of the Tanach contains numerous internal contradictions. This is indicative of multiple and imperfect authors and imperfect transmission of texts, and it demonstrates that the texts are unreliable. Often times, the Talmud and rabbinic commentaries address these contradictions, often by changing the text or adding details, but these resolutions are typically strained and ad-hoc, leaving flawed authors and unreliable transmission as the better explanation.

Take the Ten Commandments as an example. The text of Exodus 20:2-14 is traditionally regarded as the text of the Ten Commandments. Exodus does not say that the content of Exodus 20 was the Ten Commandments written on the tablets, but it is only in Deuteronomy 5 where this text is identified as such. And yet the content of the Ten Commandments presented in Deuteronomy 5 is different than that of Exodus 20. Several words are changed, and there are some more significant differences, for example the reason in Exodus 20 God gives for commanding the Sabbath is the 6 day creation story, while in Deuteronomy 5 the reason given is God’s deliverance of the Jews from Egypt. These are two contradictory depictions of what God spoke at Mount Sinai. What’s more, there is a third set of Ten Commandments, known as the Ritual Decalogue described in Exodus 34:1-28 which emphasizes more heavily the worship of Yahweh, and this is the text that Exodus indicates is the Ten Commandments, yet again in contradiction to Deuteronomy 5.

Another example is the description of the journey of the Jews in the wilderness of Numbers 33 compared to Deuteronomy 10. These two sources both describe a portion of the journey through the wilderness and Aaron’s death, but the specifics contradict:

They traveled from Moseroth, and encamped in Bene Jaakan. They traveled from Bene Jaakan, and encamped in Hor Haggidgad. They traveled from Hor Haggidgad, and encamped in Jotbathah. They traveled from Jotbathah, and encamped in Abronah. They traveled from Abronah, and encamped in Ezion Geber. They traveled from Ezion Geber, and encamped at Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin. They traveled from Kadesh, and encamped in Mount Hor, in the edge of the land of Edom. Aaron the priest went up into Mount Hor at the commandment of Yahweh and died there, in the fortieth year after the children of Israel had come out of the land of Egypt, in the fifth month, on the first day of the month. Aaron was one hundred twenty-three years old when he died in Mount Hor. (Numbers 33:31-39 WEB)

The children of Israel traveled from Beeroth Bene Jaakan to Moserah. There Aaron died, and there he was buried; and Eleazar his son ministered in the priest’s office in his place. From there they traveled to Gudgodah; and from Gudgodah to Jotbathah, a land of brooks of water. (Deuteronomy 10:6-7 WEB)

In one account, the Jews journey from Moseroth to Bene-jaakan to Hor-haggidgad to Jotbah to Abronah to Ezion-geber to Kadesh to Mount Hor, and it has Aaron dying and being buried at Mount Hor. In the other, they travel from Beeroth-benejaakan to Moserah, with Aaron dying and being buried there, before continuing to Gudgod and then Jotbah.

For another example, I Kings 16 says that King Baasa of Israel died in the 26th year of the reign of King Asa of Judea, while II Chronicles 16 has King Baasa waging an attack against Judea in the 36th year of King Asa’s reign, 10 years after I Kings 16 says he died:

Baasha slept with his fathers, and was buried in Tirzah; and Elah his son reigned in his place…In the twenty-sixth year of Asa king of Judah, Elah the son of Baasha began to reign over Israel in Tirzah for two years. (I Kings 16:6,8 WEB)

In the thirty-sixth year of Asa’s reign, Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah, and built Ramah, that he might not allow anyone to go out or come in to Asa king of Judah. (II Chronicles 16:1 WEB)

Both sources cannot be correct without changing the content of the text. And there are many more examples. Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 represent two incompatible creation narratives. Genesis 4:26, 12:8, 15:7, and others contradict Yahweh’s claim in Exodus 6:2-3 that he did not reveal the name Yahweh to the forefathers. Genesis 10 describes the diversification of languages while Genesis 11:1 begins a narrative where all people speak a single language and are diversified through divine action. Genesis 46, Numbers 26, I Chronicles 7, and I Chronicles 8 all give different versions of who Benjamin’s children were. Numbers 4:3 and 8:24 give different ages that Levites start serving in the tent of meeting. Midian is destroyed in Numbers 31 yet thriving in Judges 6. In I Samuel 15 Amalek is wiped out, but in I Samuel 30 they’re an enemy nation. II Samuel 8:3-4 and I Chronicles 18:3-4 have David capturing a different number of horsemen. I Kings 6:1 says that only 480 years transpired between the exodus from Egypt and the building of Solomon’s Temple, while this is less than the duration indicated by the cumulative events described in the preceding books of Tanach. I Kings 7:26 says the volume of the molten sea is 2000 baths, while in II Chronicles 4:5 it is said to be 3000 baths in an otherwise nearly identical passage. According to II Kings 8 Ahaziah became king at age 22, while II Chronicles 22 says he was 42 years old. II Kings 24:8 says Jehoiachin became king at 18 while II Chronicles 36:9 says he was only 8. The chapters of II Kings 25 and Jeremiah 52 are largely identical and yet contain key differences that result in contradictions, including the day of the month Nebuchadnezzar’s chief executioner attacked Jerusalem, whether he brought five or seven advisors from Jerusalem, and the day of the month that King Jehoiachin was freed from prison. And there are many more examples.

These contradictions indicate unreliable scriptures, and they would not be expected if Judaism were true. Instead, they are consistent with ideas such as the Documentary Hypothesis which describe the authorship of the Torah as a product of multiple, later authors. The contradictions also help academic Bible critics discern differences between the various sources going into the Hebrew Bible.

Related thread(s):

“Anyone have some good Torah contradictions…”
“Did the Jews really lose the Torah?”
Failed prophecies in the Tanach reveal the prophets to be inauthentic
The Tanach is full of prophetic predictions. Some appear true, but these were often written after the fact. (For example, Deuteronomy speaks of the Jews being exiled and returning to Israel, but this was likely already written after the Babylonian exile.) But there are many prophecies that clearly did not come true. (Often, apologists then argue that it didn’t mean what it seems to mean or it doesn’t have to come true for one reason or another, essentially making them unfalsifiable. But an honest analysis demonstrates that the prophets of Judaism were not true prophets.) For example, Genesis 15:18 says Israel’s borders would be bigger than they were. Exodus 23:26-31 says that when Israel goes to Canaan they wouldn’t even have to fight and there would be no more child mortality. Joshua 4:7 says the stones of the Torah would be a testimony forever. II Samuel 7:8-16 says David’s kingdom would endure forever and they wouldn’t be attacked by enemies anymore. Isaiah 19 has many failed prophecies about Egypt. Jeremiah, Haggai, and Zechariah all indicate that with the return of the Jews from Babylonia and the building of the Second Temple that the Jews and the kingdom would be safe forever, there would be a big military showdown, all the nations would worship at the Jewish temple, Tyre would be destroyed, and other things that failed to come true. Many more prophetic statements in the Tanach were wrong. See also RationalWiki on Biblical prophecies and the Skeptics Annotated Bible. [Placeholder text. More detailed explanation with sources to come…]

Related threads:

“Debunked prophecies”
“Apparent prophesies in the Torah…what are your thoughts?”
“False predictions”
The Torah errs in describing natural history
For example, in Genesis 1-11, Torah’s description of the origins of Earth, life on earth, and humanity are wrong. Historical claims on Noah’s flood and the origin of languages is incompatible with scientific knowledge. This natural history is highly derivative of the cosmology and mythology of Ancient Egyptian and Ancient Babylonian, which indicates that it was written by man and not divinely authored. Apologists defend the Torah by saying it is meant to teach a lesson, not history, however this is ad-hoc and inconsistent with traditional rabbinic interpretations which do understand this as historical fact. Further, it is not written with any indication of being metaphorical, whatever metaphorical meaning it ostensibly has is unclear, and large elements of the text such as genealogies are not conducive to allegorizing. This is not what would be expected if Judaism were true. [Placeholder text. More detailed explanation with sources to come…]

Related threads:

“Light from stars, distance in the universe, age of earth” (original post deleted by user; comments still exist)
“2-Part video debunking Noah’s Flood”
“Had a conversation with my friend about the age of the earth … you’ll never guess what I learned”
“Atheist Comedy – The Great Flood (of Torah)” (YouTube video)
“How widespread is young earth creationism among orthodox jewry?”
Scientific and historical errors in the Talmud undermine the credibility of the Talmudic sages
Orthodox Judaism maintains that the Talmud contains the Oral Law originally given by God to Moses, and Talmudic sages are regarded as close to infallible. But the rabbis regularly show themselves to be mistaken. The Talmud describes a flat earth cosmology (Pesachim 94), it believes in spontaneous generation of animals (Shabbos 107b, Sanhedrin 91a), it says humans and fish can mate to form mermaids (Bechoros 8a), that bats lay eggs (Bechoros 7b), that Pi is exactly 3 (Eruvin 14a), among many other mistakes. It does not know the correct length of the Torah (Kidushin 30a). It also makes significant historical errors, such as treating Noah’s flood story as literal history. This demonstrates that the rabbis are not reliable. [Placeholder text. More detailed explanation with sources to come…]

The Missing Years
One error of the sages that is particularly noteworthy is that of the Missing Years, where the sages in the Talmud and in Seder Olam make large errors regarding their relatively recent history by believing that the Second Temple period was approximately 166 years shorter than it actually was and that multiple Persian kings were the same person (see Erchin 12b, Avoda Zara 9a, and Rosh Hashanah 3b). Most of the Missing Years is from the Persian period, where Seder Olam considers there to have been fewer Persian kings than there actually were, as derived from the Book of Daniel. See here for a list of rulers of the region.

We can be confident in the secular chronology, as its basis is quite robust. There are multiple copies of king lists from near when they would have ruled, numerous archeological finds such as letters identifying this larger set of Persian kings, we can compare when they ruled with when other kings lived such as Egyptian rulers by correspondences and references to them, and by checking astronomical records. For example, the astronomically tabulated dates in the Canon of Kings, which can be confirmed by other material. (See for a discussion of it.) For relevant Achamenid inscriptions see here and for Babylonian texts see here.

The case for the Jewish calendar is far weaker. For one thing, it is not based on contemporary sources. Seder Olam and the Talmud were composed several centuries after all these kings would have ruled, and before then the Jewish people did not keep a calendar with the Hebrew years. Instead, the years in Seder Olam and the Talmud are based primarily on the vague prophecy of “seventy weeks” in Daniel 9:24 which, by rabbinic tradition, means there would be 490 years between the destruction of Solomon’s Temple and the Second Temple:

Seventy weeks have been decreed upon your people and upon your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to achieve atonement, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal vision and prophet, and to anoint the most holy place.

The reduced number of Persian kings is found in Daniel 11, where four kings are indicated instead of the full count of ten. The Book of Daniel was not a contemporary record, either: The traditional Jewish understanding would place it as a prophecy from before these kings ruled, whereas the mainstream academic understanding puts it at the 2nd century CE, long after the end of the Persian period, where the author could have easily been unfamiliar with the accurate history from the Persian period. But with the Book of Daniel, and the interpretation of the 490 year period, the details of how long different kings ruled and how long the different periods were is fitted into that span. Interestingly, however, the Persian kings actually identified in the relatively more contemporary books of Ezra and Nehemiah (specifically Ezra 4:4-7 names Cyrus, Darius I, Ahasuerus (likely referring to Xerxes I), and Artaxerxes I, which is in accordance with the secular chronology and could allow for additional Persian kings after Cyrus and after Artaxerxes I) do themselves fit better with the secular chronology than with the Seder Olam’s version. Seder Olam indicates Darius the Mede-Cyrus-Ahasuerus-Darius the Persian as the totality of the Persian period, and the Talmud actually negates some of those mentioned in Ezra, by merging the identities of multiple Persian kings. But with this weak foundation to the Seder Olam chronology, versus to the comparatively vast evidence behind the secular chronology, we can conclude that the Talmudic sages were in error.

Beyond eroding trust in the sages, the Missing Years causes a variety of theological issues including throwing off the Shmita and Yovel count and overturning the traditional rabbinic interpretation of the “seventy weeks” prophecy in Daniel 9. One significant theological issue is that the Missing Years cause a severe strain in the chain of rabbis for the transmission of the Oral Law which, as tenuous as such a claim is inherently, is nevertheless often used to justify the basis for relying on the rabbis of the Talmud. As part of the chain of transmission, when listing who the tradition passed through, the Rambam in his introduction to Mishneh Torah says, “Simon the Just [received the tradition] from Ezra; Ezra [received the tradition] from Baruch.”

According to Jeremiah 36, Baruch worked with Jeremiah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, which is 604 BCE (438 BCE by Seder Olam), 18 years before Nebuchadnezzar II destroyed Solomon’s Temple in 586 BCE. According to Ezra 7:7, Ezra’s mission was in the 7th year of Artaxerxes I, which by secular chronology is 459 BCE. If you identify the Artaxerxes mentioned with Artaxerxes II as some do then Ezra’s mission would be in 398 BCE. (Although, by later rabbinic tradition, Artaxerxes did not exist, and he is identified instead as Darius, which would place it at 346 BCE by Seder Olam.) Simon the Just (Shimon HaTzadik) is identified with Simon I (Cf. Josephus, Antiquities book XII.2.5), who was High Priest circa 300 BCE. (The reader should note this is the earliest identification for Simon the Just,others like George Foot Moore identify him as either Simon II,Simon Thassi (Löw) or even as late as Simeon Ben Gamliel by Weiss) According to the Talmud (Yoma 69a), Simon the Just was a contemporary of Alexander the Great, as the two figures met as Alexander the Great marched through the Land of Israel in 332 BCE though Seder Olam places Alexander the Great slightly more recently so according to Seder Olam Simon I was high priest then which he was not according to the secular chronology. As per the Secular chronology Jaddua was then.(Cf. Josephus, Antiquities, book XI.8)

So with rabbinic dating, approximately 90 years separate Baruch from Ezra and approximately 30 years separate Ezra and Simon the Just, which make it conceivable that these people had consecutively overlapping lifetimes and one could have taught the next. However, the secular chronology would put 145 years between Baruch and Ezra (206 if the Artaxerxes who sent Ezra is identified with Artaxerxes II), and 127 years between Ezra and Simon the Just (not to mention his later career as High Priest).(If you identify the Artaxerxes with Artaxerxes II then there’d be about 90 years between Ezra’s 398 mission and Simon I’s rise to the high priesthood in either 310 or 300) With this, it becomes much harder to argue that the tradition of the Oral Law passed through this line without all three of these people living ridiculously long lifespans which there is no attestation to anywhere.

Related threads:

“In need of some claims made in rabbinical literature that contradict science and/or history”
“Some incomplete info on the FAQ”
“Why do the Jews believe in the Oral Torah?”
“I keep seeing this apologist post about this topic… I was wondering how one could refute this.”
“Book Review – The Challenge of Jewish History”
“Rabbi Hool’s chronology”
Morally repugnant elements of the Tanach and Talmud
There are many stories and laws in the Tanach and the Talmud which appear cruel, barbaric, and totally unnecessary, and they don’t make sense in context of Judaism’s claims of God being all knowing, wise, and good. From God influencing leaders to actions and later punishing whole populations (see below), to inflicting unimaginably savage punishments like cannibalism, making people eat their family members, among the curses for failing to properly follow the Torah (Deuteronomy 28:53, Jeremiah 19:9, Lamentations 4:10), to instituting death penalties for arbitrary and victimless crimes like gathering sticks on the Sabbath (see below), such immoral dictates would in any other context be easily recognized as obviously horrendous. This immorality could and would only possibly be defended out of the cognitive dissonance that develops from being taught that the god of the Torah is a morally perfect being.

One of the most obvious issues here are the genocides in the Tanach. In the narratives of the conquest of Canaan appearing principally in the books of Numbers through Judges, God commands for the Israelites to completely wipe out several Canaanite nations and many dozens of Canaanite towns, frequently not sparing man, woman, child, nor animal. For example, Deuteronomy 20 states:

But of the cities of these peoples that Yahweh your God gives you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes; 17 but you shall utterly destroy them: the Hittite, the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite, as Yahweh your God has commanded you. (Deuteronomy 20:16-17 WEB)

Another example is in Deuteronomy 2, where God hardens the heart of Sihon, king of the Amorites, to inspire him to war against the Jews in order to justify the Jews wiping out the Amorites:

But Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him, for Yahweh your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, that he might deliver him into your hand, as it is today. Yahweh said to me, “Behold, I have begun to deliver up Sihon and his land before you. Begin to possess, that you may inherit his land.” Then Sihon came out against us, he and all his people, to battle at Jahaz. Yahweh our God delivered him up before us; and we struck him, his sons, and all his people. We took all his cities at that time, and utterly destroyed every inhabited city, with the women and the little ones. We left no one remaining. (Deuteronomy 2:30-34 WEB)

From there, Deuteronomy and the following books goes on to describe dozens of cities that the Jewish people fully wiped out and similar atrocities. But the immorality also extends to God engaging in such atrocities first hand. Many times in the Torah God uses genocides as remedies to social problems such as with the generation of Noah’s flood (Genesis 7), the cities of Sodom and Gomorra (Genesis 19), or on smaller scales with several severe plagues in the wilderness when the Jewish people were stubborn, unfaithful, or ungrateful (Exodus through Numbers). This is not only cruel and excessive, but an omnipotent and omniscient god would know of a better alternative and would not need to resort to such measures. Or, in a similar fashion to King Sihon, God hardens Pharoah’s heart to not free the Jewish people and then punishes the Egyptians for enslaving the Jews by killing all Egyptian firstborn, including babies and animals, as described in Exodus 11-12.

The immorality extends well beyond this though. For example, in the Torah, God institutes many egregious laws, such as death penalties for innocent crimes like witchcraft (Exodus 22:17), Sabbath violations (Exodus 31:14), homosexual activity (Leviticus 20:13), and cursing a parent (Exodus 21:17). The Torah endorses slavery, including perpetual enslavement of Canaanites from birth and through generations (Leviticus 25:45-46), as well as laws allowing a father to sell his daughter as a slave and also creating a traumatic system where if an indentured servant is given a slave woman by his master as a wife, his children become the perpetual property of the master, and he must then choose between being a life-long slave or losing his children (Exodus 21). The Torah makes blasphemy (Leviticus 24:10-16, 24:23) and worship of other gods (Deuteronomy 17:1-7) capital offenses, including an imperative to kill close family members and friends who promote worship of other gods as well as the threat of wiping out an entire village if it strays towards idolatry (Deuteronomy 13), all to effectively control free thought and worship. On top of this, the Torah presents a disgusting array of threats to scare the Jews into following its commands (Leviticus 26).

The Tanach also tells stories where the lesson is to obey god unquestioningly even if it means doing something you recognize is immoral such as when God was angry at Saul for taking pity on Amalek’s animals (I Samuel 15) or when Moses was angry with the Jewish people for not killing all of the Midianite males and non-virgin females (Numbers 31). In the Tanach, God also carries out many unjustifiable actions. God inspires King David to carry out a census which results in God punishing David through a plague which kill seventy thousand Jews (II Samuel 24). God punishes innocent people for the crimes of their ancestors, such as causing David and Baathsheba’s newborn son to get sick and die (II Samuel 12), to God causing a famine under King David ended only by executing seven of Saul’s sons since King Saul had in the past wrongly attacked the Gibeonites (II Samuel 21), to causing Gehazi and all of his offspring forever to have leprosy since Gehazi had improperly accepted a payment from an Aramean who had his leprosy cured (II Kings 5), to the implied execution of Achan’s sons and daughters as part of a punishment for him stealing consecrated property during the conquest of Canaan (Joshua 7). The Tanach’s portrait of God’s excessive punishments also can be seen in the extreme devastation of the Jewish people from Babylonia’s invasion of Judea which the prophets characterize as a punishment for idol worship.

In the Talmud, immoral teachings continue with various sexist laws, treating apostasy as a capital offense and worthy of excessive punishment, and reinforcing slavery laws, among other things. There is also the fact that if God is omniscient, then it knowingly designed a world where man would be incapable of living up to its standards and consequently worthy of excessive punishments, and yet God still expects praise, essentially representing the ultimate abusive relationship.

All this is in line with the relatively primitive and barbaric moral framework of ancient cultures in the Near East, and a religion given by a perfect and good god would not be expected to have such an inferior morality. While much of this may have been considered typical in the ancient world, God creating a holy book promoting a morality in line with ancient cultures but out of line with what humanity would come to agree is better and more fair is something that would be more expected of a false religion, and not expected from a good and wise god.

Related threads:

“Best verse to prove Torah is immoral”
“any comprehensive lists of evil in the torah?”
“Favorite aplogetics/rationalizations for Tanakh atrocities or contradictions?”
“Is Judaism Homophobic?”
“Is Judaism Misogynistic?”
“Is Judaism An Abusive Relationship?”
“The “great” character of the Chachamim”
“What are some parts of the Tanach that bothered you even when you were religious?”
“Judaism is not actually wholesome: Women & the Mitzvot”
“Some thoughts I had”
“What was common in your previous life that you did not realize was odd, wrong, or potentially dangerous before you left?”
“‘Hashem will provide'”
“What are things from the Talmud that you find outrageous or just plain wrong?”
“Which one is the Bible OK with?”
“What do you think is the worst thing about judaism? Could you choose one thing that would be the most serious of all? Thanks!”
Practical downsides to Judaism
Other than simply list reasons to think Judaism is not true, it is worth acknowledging here that Judaism is also often harmful in many practical ways. Outreach organizations advertise that Judaism is wholesome, provides meaning, is the foundation of happy relationships, or has other personal benefits. But Judaism is far from wellbeing on a silver platter. While it is certainly the case that there are those who can flourish in the context of Judaism, others don’t, or they flourish less than they could without religion. Judaism is not without many downsides, and its wonderful promises are often hollow and are often no different than those of other religions. For more detail, please see Why Judaism is Bad for You.

Counter-apologetics Elsewhere on the Internet
Talk Reason
A List Of Some Problematic Issues Concerning Orthodox Jewish Belief, by Naftali Zeligma
Letter To My Rabbi, by Naftali Zeligman
Da’at Emet – in English and Hebrew
Challenging Sinai
Some arguments regarding the truth of Judaism (Google Doc, credit to u/arathir2)
Strive for Truth: An investigation into the divinity of the Torah (Google Doc, credit to u/master_hoods)
Various blogs by other formerly religious Jews also contain counter-apologetics
Last revised by verbify 22 days ago

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