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The Kuzari – The Principle and the Formalism

By David Yust

Posted June 7, 2002



Classical Judaism did not include apologetics. Jewish apologetics came many centuries later; it is considerably younger than Greek, Christian, and even Moslem apologetics, tracing its origins to as late as the Middle Ages. One of the pioneers and an acknowledged champion of Jewish apologetics was the prominent poet Yehuda Halevi, who wrote the Kuzari tract in the 11th century. Halevi's apologetic technique relies on the standard Hellenistic scholastic system, perfected for centuries by Christian and Moslem philosophers, but Halevi undoubtedly made a valuable addition to this field. He was fully aware that Judaism, having lost its monopoly on monotheism, was in need of special apologetic arguments inapplicable to the powerful monotheistic religions – Islam and Christianity – which wielded not only a theology markedly similar to the Jews', but also powerful historical arguments in their favor. With this in mind he developed a series of interesting arguments in defense of Judaism, arguments which retain their popular appeal to this day.

Among other esteemed achievements Halevi is the alleged inventor of an elegant scholastic technique which was named the "Kuzari principle" in honor of the tract wherein it was applied. Essentially, this technique is designed to prove the authenticity of the assertions made by Judaism on the strength of their existence alone, that is, without discussing their content. According to Halevi, a historical theory that lays claim to an uninterrupted process whereby its mass tradition was formed and transmitted is rendered authentic by the very fact of this claim. Without a doubt, the Kuzari principle (regardless of whether it is true or false) is applicable to Judaism; at the same time, it should apply to many other historical theories. This dual applicability creates a multitude of fascinating logical problems.

This work starts by examining the authenticity of the Kuzari principle in its various formulations. Next it analyzes the gist of the principle. Its logical groundlessness is rather apparent and may be proven by a wide range of means. Having provided such proof, we proceed to a more critical issue – the degree to which the principle is empirically applicable to historical traditions rooted in different contexts. An entire cluster of examples and counter-examples is analyzed, demonstrating both the theoretical and the practical inapplicability of the principle.

We then discuss the psychological mechanisms which underlie various modifications of the "Kuzari principle" as well as its Jewish and Hellenistic elements. This aspect is extremely important since modern Jewish apologetics has made the "Kuzari principle" into nothing short of a cult, declaring it the earliest and the sole authoritative proof of the truth of Judaism. We demonstrate that the principle – both in its origins and the nature of its arguments – is neither ancient nor actually Jewish. We determine which axioms were used by Halevi and other medieval Jewish thinkers to construct the Kuzari principle and similar apologetic arguments; in the process, we reveal the fundamental differences between ancient and modern Jewish apologists in approach to the Biblical narrative.


The so-called "Kuzari argument,"[1] or the "ultimate proof of God's existence," is a virtual construct that should be qualified from several sides at once by the prefix "quasi." It is simultaneously a quasi-logical proof of the truth of Judaism, a quasi-theory of historical tradition, a quasi-triumph of common sense, a quasi-rational demonstration of Jewish exclusivity, a quasi-psychological principle, a quasi-sophism (of which a sound refutation could probably be found even in Greek sources), finally, quasi-Kuzari to a degree, since pinpointing this argument in the Kuzari itself would require a microscope. The only consolation is that it is indeed there to be found.


The Kuzari principle (KP) is a formal argument (whose ambiguous nature will be discussed further on) universally adopted by Orthodox Judaism as the sole authentic proof of the truth and exclusivity of the Jewish faith. In this sense, the KP is a materialized ideal. The invention of the KP is attributed to the famous 11th-12th century Jewish-Spanish poet and philosopher Yehudah Halevi, who allegedly formulated it in his Kuzari treatise (hence the name). Genetically, the KP may be traced to a vague sentence in the Pentateuch which enjoins the Jews to tell their sons about the Exodus from Egypt. A century after Halevi it was reiterated – again in a rather vague form – by the outstanding Jewish thinker and Pentateuch commentator Nahmanides.

It is hard to determine who was the first to formulate the KP with any degree of clarity. It would appear that the author of the coherent definition of the KP preferred to remain unknown, in the understandable fear of being compromised by it. This probably took place in the 19th century, by which time logical constructs of this sort were greeted with a dismal smile rather than an outburst of excitement. It would be quite intriguing to make a detailed comparison between the KP and similar constructs devised in antiquity or the Middle Ages [2], yet to the best of our knowledge such a study has never been undertaken. It should be noted, however, that unlike Catholic arguments for the existence of God which transcended their theological boundaries to generate lively and fruitful discussion throughout time, the KP existed for several centuries in relative obscurity. It aroused interest only in recent times, when it was rediscovered as a particularly effective weapon in the struggle against rational criticism of Judaism. It should be kept in mind that since time immemorial, Judaism has been in a ticklish predicament: while fending off the very same attacks that were aimed at Christianity or Islam, it had to find unique arguments in its defense. In no way was it content with arguments whose palliative effect applied – even implicitly – to other religions; all of the latter were to succumb in the course of scholarly debate, with Judaism alone emerging triumphant. It was these circumstances that led to the revival of the KP as a unique, exclusive vindication of Jewish faith.

What, then, is the KP? Nowhere in the Kuzari is it clearly formulated. By way of a literary introduction, let us cite some passages from this book that seem to bear the greatest relevance to the matter in hand. They merit further discussion if for no other reason than the fact that they provided the basis for the formulas created by later theoreticians.

"We believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who took the sons of Israel out of Egypt... We believe in everything that is written in the Torah..." (Kuzari, 1:11)

"Yet my opening words are proof enough, so that no other arguments are required." (1:15) [3]

"I answered what I and the rest of the Jewish people are obliged to answer, having encountered this event [the Sinai Revelation] first-hand, and henceforth having passed down this tradition through the unbroken chain of generations, which is equivalent to eyewitness experience." (1:25)

"A multitude of people, especially when standing in recent proximity to the time of the events, cannot be so easily mislead or deceived." (1:48)

"How can anyone... invent the tale of an entire people living a mere five centuries previously, who spoke the language of Ever, which was subsequently split into many languages in Babylon in the generation of Peled? Or that some nations owe their origins to Shem and Cham? Can anyone today fabricate lies about all the well-known nations, about their history and language, with a mere five centuries separating us from the events in question?" (1:49)

As we shall see, the text of the Kuzari may be used to concoct the KP after all. However, we should be wary of indulging in quotations. In many passages (including the ones quoted above) frequently linked to the KP with no justification, Halevi refers to something else altogether: namely, the effect that the miracles which, according to tradition, happened tothe Jews in Egypt and the Sinai (the death of the Egyptian first-born, the parting of the sea, the manna falling from heaven, etc.) were to have had on those who witnessed them first-hand or – in other passages – to Jewish historical omniscience.

Nahmanides, either echoing Halevi or for reasons of his own, wrote the following:

"What is said above (Exodus 19:9), 'And in you, too, they will believe forever,' means that when we tell this story to our children, they will surely know that the story is true, without a doubt, as though all the generations saw [the Sinai Revelation]. For we will not testify falsely to our sons, and bequeath them nonsense and useless things. And they will not have the slightest doubt about our testimony which we will testify before them, but they will surely believe that we all have seen, with our own eyes, all that we tell them."

Some seven centuries later, this reasoning took the following form (quoted from a booklet by ultra-Orthodox Rabbi Y. Segal, intended for internal [ultra-Orthodox] use, though we could cite dozens of other sources):

"It is absolutely impossible to doubt the [historical veracity] of the Sinai Revelation... Yet who said that this is precisely how it all happened? This was the testimony bequeathed by all the sons of Israel to all of their sons – that they had seen it with their own eyes. Thus it is an absolutely indisputable historical event, more indisputable than, let us say, the First World War, which was witnessed by only some of the people, who left this testimony to their sons [4]... How could Moses or anyone else have made up the Torah, which describes the Sinai Revelation and other miracles, if the fathers had not in fact witnessed it firsthand? For then thousands of fathers would have cried out at once: 'Not true! We have never seen anything like that!' - or else thousands of sons would have shouted: 'Not true! Our fathers have never told us about this.' All of these proofs are cited in the Kuzari and in other books devoted to the foundations of faith."

Finally, the truly enlightened contemporary theoreticians of Judaism offer a formalized construct (or simply a formalism [5]) which, in their opinion, is the one that should be viewed as a tool of the proof in question. The following is a quotation from a treatise on the KP written by Rabbi Dr. D. Gottlieb: [6]

"...Now, in modern language the principle that the Kuzari uses is as follows... Let E be a possible event which, had it really occurred, would have behind it enormous, easily available evidence of its occurrence. If the evidence does not exist, people [7] will not believe that E occurred."

To illustrate his formalism, Gottlieb cites the following hypothetical examples:

"Suppose someone told you today that five hundred years ago gold grew on trees throughout Romania. Gold grew on trees for twenty years and then was the blight that killed all gold trees. Would you believe it? I don't think... if such a thing had happened... you would already know about it." [8]

"So, for example, [here is a possible event] of the right type: a volcanic eruption in the middle of Manhattan in 1975. If that had happened... there would be signs in New York of the lava under the concrete." [9]

Another contemporary source offers the following example of the KP in action:

"Would the Italians believe the Roman Pope were he to tell them that a hundred years ago, all the inhabitants of Italy met Jesus and accepted his teachings?"

The problem of formulation would appear to be entirely clear. However, this matter is far from simple. Strangely enough, what Gottlieb proposes is markedly different from the standard formulation. The contemporary argument commonly used to formulate the KP takes the following radically different form:

Orthodox Judaism is transmitted by the Jewish people through the generations. As we can plainly see (throughout the historical period that is open to such analysis, as well as modern times), it represents the heritage of the entire people, passed on by fathers to sons, by teachers to pupils, accurately and without changes; each preceding generation swears to the completeness and authenticity of the teaching transmitted to the following generation; according to the Jewish tradition, this practice is maintained from one generation to the next. Since it is unimaginable that a certain generation would have invented (fabricated) Orthodox Judaism out of nothing, the only possible conclusion is that the chain of tradition begins with an "external event" – the acceptance of the Torah (i.e. of Judaism) by the first generation of Jews – exactly what we set out to prove.

In other words, the popular Jewish tradition is true because each preceding generation sanctions its veracity for the next generation.

It should be noted that this inductive reasoning makes no reference to the particular features of Jewish tradition, thus denoting its rather general nature – a theorem as opposed to a chronicle. This should come as no surprise: after all, the authors treat it not as an illustration of a real or desired state of affairs in Judaism, but rather as proof of its authenticity. Yet if that is the case, it must be formalized – for functional purposes only (just as Gottlieb did with his initial formulation) – i.e. transformed into a predicate that can be equipped with random parameters, including those which have no relation to Judaism. After all, this predicate is expected to apply not only to Judaism but to any other popular tradition transmitted through generations, provided that its presumed beginning is sufficiently effective to leave a lasting impression. In order to simplify our task and spare the reader an additional handful of quotations, we will construct this predicate:

Let us take A to signify a sizable [10] group of people possessing a self-identifying definition and existing within the framework of this definition for many (an indefinite number of) generations. This group accepts on faith (not as an empirically or theoretically established fact, but precisely as an act of faith) the non-trivial (implausible, unusual, rare, bordering on the miraculous) assertion B. The formulation (description) of assertion B was transmitted to the present generation (a1) of group A by the preceding generation (a2) [11], which declared the authenticity of the transmitted assertion. Assertion B includes paragraph C, stating that B has always been authentically transmitted within group A from one generation to the next; thus C is transmitted along with B. If that is the case, one can assert that B, at least as far as its principally observed part is concerned, [12] is true.

As we shall soon see, Gottlieb, while constructing his definition, made considerable changes in the construct designed by Halevi, to a certain extent turning it inside out. [13] Apparently, he mistakenly assumed the two formulas – his own and the standard one – were equivalent. We propose retaining the term KP for the standard inductive formulation, no matter whether in its "popular" or predicate form. We will refer to Gottlieb's definition as the "Kuzari formalism" (KF). As we shall see, the KF, even though it is not featured in the Kuzari and is not entirely identical to the KP, nevertheless possesses kinship ties with the latter.

The KP – KF According To Halevi

First, a few more words regarding the connection between the KP and the Kuzari. There is no doubt that the book's author, Yehuda Halevi, was quite familiar with the contemporary arguments for God's existence [14] (and not only with Aristotelian logic), even finding it necessary to cite some of those arguments in chapter five of his book. Moreover, Halevi, as we have already mentioned, was clearly aware that as an apologist for Judaism, he needed stronger arguments than those used by the adherents of the world's powerful monotheistic religions; the latter had at their disposal not only intricate theologies (naturally, very similar to the Jewish), but also God's favor, something that the Jews desperately lacked. Thus Halevi formulated several uniquely Jewish arguments aimed at counteracting Christian and Moslem theoarguments, not proving God's existence but rather His special relationship with the Jewish people.

A declaration of this relationship – still short of proving it but already laying the formal-textual grounds for future proof – surfaces directly when Halevi relates to God as "the God who brought Israel out of the land of Egypt," rather than as "the God of heaven and earth" or "the God who created the entire universe." [15] With this, he declared that the Jewish people had unique rights and obligations, enjoying a special status before the Almighty. All that remained was to come up with a sound explanation – one that would convince even the skeptical observer – of the precise nature of those rights and obligations.

The main uniquely Jewish argument proposed by Halevi, an argument of enduring import and meaning, was doubly effective in its propagandistic impact because it was offered by a pagan (Kuzari) rather than the rabbi. This argument states the simple fact that the world's two powerful monotheistic religions trace their origins to either Judaism as a whole (Christianity), or to the Jewish historical and mystical tradition (Islam). Thus they, as it were, confirm the unique nature of the relationship between their own transcendent God and the Jewish people, unwillingly recognizing the Jews as intermediaries between man and the heavens; were it otherwise, their theologians would have had no difficulty in writing a more flattering scenario of the "first encounter" between God and man. Recognizing the strength of this argument, we would have honored it with the title of "Kuzari Principle" had that title not already been in use. We are not at all sure that Halevi himself – if asked – would have disagreed with our opinion and awarded this title to the formal argument named after him. Unfortunately, we do not know how to ask him this question.

Halevi's second argument is inductive in nature, representing, as we are about to see, a meticulously constructed KP in its ancient form. Let us try to follow the stages of its design.

1. We believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who took the sons of Israel out of Egypt... We believe in all that is written in the Torah... (1:11)

2. ...Yet my opening words [in 1:11] are proof enough, so that no other arguments are required. (1:15)

3. "I answered what I and the rest of the Jewish people are obliged to answer, having encountered this event [the Sinai Revelation] first-hand, and henceforth having passed down this tradition through the unbroken chain of generations, which is equivalent to eyewitness experience." (1:25)

Halevi asserts that Moses codified the information passed down to him by God, along with the past experience of mankind from creation to his days, and passed it on to the Jewish people. The Jews, in turn, managed to transmit this information "through the unbroken chain of generations" in such a remarkable manner that though this information was occasionally lost along the way (the losses are discussed by Halevi at length and in detail), its surviving part remained absolutely accurate, so that even immediate eyewitnesses had no advantage in this respect over those who learned about these events dozens of generations later. Moreover (herein lies Halevi's true innovation, the core of his reasoning), the very fact of the existence of the Jewish tradition guarantees its veracity to such a degree that the truth of Judaism requires no additional vindication.

Here is Halevi's formula, the original KP as expressed nine centuries ago: possession of divine revelation is equivalent to possession of the original authentic tradition regarding the granting of this revelation. Since the Jewish people maintain a tradition that is "equivalent to eyewitness experience," one that can be traced from generation to generation directly to Moses, and through him to Adam on one side and to God on the other, then revelation is in its hands and "no other arguments are required." For the time being we will leave open the question of the area in which this type of KP may be applied.

Halevi's third argument (see 1:83-87) represents an interesting psychological gambit. Though short of being proof, it is nevertheless quite effective.

In the aforementioned sentences Halevi discusses the following apparently abstract question: why did the Jews immediately accept the Torah? How did Judaism emerge "out of nothing," bypassing the natural historical process that accompanies the birth of a religion? Halevi astutely points out that the gradual pace of this "natural" process is the inevitable corollary of mental "accommodation," adjustment to new notions, the natural spread of religion from individuals to the masses. Gradual progress is always the devil's work, a sign of the teaching's worldly origins. "But the path of life revealed by God must arise instantaneously – the same as during the creation, when the words 'Let there be...' were immediately followed by materialization."(1:81) How did this come about? God performed such a multitude of intricate, pre-announced, recurrent miracles that the Jewish people simply had no choice but to believe and accept the new reality, the new rules of the game. Judaism was forced upon the Jewish people! [16]

After the rabbi enumerated the miracles that took place in Egypt and during the crossing of the Red Sea, placing a special emphasis on the miracle of manna (1:85) that occurred daily for forty years, the Kuzari remarked: "All this must certainly have been an act of God. It is only fitting, then, to accept those commandments that are related to the Exodus, because there is no room to dismiss these events as magic, illusion, or hallucination... Those who suggest otherwise are perverted atheists." (1:84) [17]

Thus Halevi leads us to the following idea: a natural, gradual, non-divinely inspired emergence of the Torah on the Jewish horizon would have been of a different essence. It would have been "bestowed" on an individual rather than the entire people; and this "bestowal" would not have been heralded by such a multitude of miracles that were clearly meaningless "before their time," but rather would have been accompanied by them, with the miracles themselves more specific and less widespread. An invented, fabricated history would have been simpler, more economical, and ruled by a different logic. Had Halevi lived three centuries later, he would have mentioned the dulled "Occam's razor" or, better yet, the "law of parsimony." The historical account of the giving of the Torah is so extravagant, so "impractical," that is obviously not a man-made invention: a man would have been more sophisticated and consistent. This play was not scripted by humans, hence, as suggested by Halevi, it is true. It was this argument, rather than the "inductive formalism" contained though not clearly expressed in the book, [18] that convinced the Kuzari of the rabbi's rightness.

With this, Halevi completed his apologetic introduction to Judaism and came to the crux of the matter. Gottlieb, however, found an additional series of arguments in the book which he used to concoct his KF. He supported his thesis with paragraphs 1:45-49, to which he added paragraph 1:85, contrary to the meaning of the text and the author's intention.

What was the nature of Gottlieb's "discovery"? It may be adequately summed up with the quotation cited in the beginning of the article: "How can anyone... invent the tale of an entire people living a mere five centuries previously, who spoke the language of Ever, which was subsequently split into many languages in Babylon in the generation of Peled? Or that some nations owe their origins to Shem and Cham? Can anyone today fabricate lies about all the well-known nations, about their history and language, with a mere five centuries separating us from the events in question?" (1:49).[19] Gottlieb decided (for reasons to be examined below) to subject this particular thesis to generalization, [20] to make it into a law. By turning it into a predicate of the KF, Gottlieb generalized the initial phrase "something fictitious concerning all the known peoples, their histories and languages" in any "possible event E" which leaves behind a major piece of evidence, and the "five hundred years" into an indefinite, i.e. any period of time. In a word, he reinterpreted this thesis from the Kuzari as an attempt to prove the authenticity of Judaism.

However, what the wise Halevi had in mind was something altogether different.

In 1:49 and the adjoining paragraphs he proves to the Kuzari and to the reader "merely" that the Jews, along with tradition, possess the "true reckoning of years since the creation of the world." This important thesis, alas, does nothing to prove the initial theorem – that of the reliability of Jewish tradition. On the contrary, it is the theorem's byproduct. Indeed, here Halevi makes a particular or, in mathematical jargon, weaker assertion. It states: at the time of Moses' visit to Pharaoh, the world was still young and thus its entire history – up to the moment of this visit – was reliably known to the people; we received it from Moses "through internal channels." To put it more formally: at least some of the events (such as the confusion of languages and the descent of the various peoples from Noah's sons), removed from the said moment by a mere five hundred years, were common knowledge at the time, [21] even though today they are known to Jews alone. To be sure, this crucial view of the nature of human memory, though an elegant compliment to Judaism, is still no reason – even for Gottlieb – to confuse two fundamental logical phenomena: the necessary and the sufficient conditions.

Indeed, all Halevi asserts is that some historical events are so momentous that their impact will be retained in the collective memory of any people for a minimum of five hundred years. However, these same events, in Halevi's informed opinion, may (or even must) be forgotten by these same peoples after a longer period of time if the system used in transmitting the tradition is faulty. The proof (see Kuzari) is in the pudding: the Jews have retained the memory of the tower of Babel while other peoples have not! Or, in a similar vein: the Jews remember the course of human history from Adam to Moses, while other peoples do not! And yet they share the same original stimulus, or, in other words, the same evidence. Moreover, we can easily see that identical events with their evidence may lead to various results in various people, in this instance radically different traditions and mnemonic phenomena. This completely reasonable view stands in sharp contradiction to the KF. What follows is that no sound proof, unlimited by time or space, of the authenticity of a remembered historical event (at least according to Halevi) may be based on the nature or the "momentousness" of this event. Such a proof must be piecemeal, inductive, rooted in the Jewish – or analogous – system of collective memory rather than the notorious evidence – the effect made by the original event on the eyewitnesses, radiating out from them in widening circles.[22]

Naturally, we are aware of the fact that the KF – the predicate of Gottlieb and Chait – is structured somewhat differently. It does not claim that any "momentous" event will be appreciated for its full value by distant offspring, that the existence of evidence – whatever its import – will necessarily lead to the recognition of its existence. In other words, the KF does not go so far as to hold the existence of evidence to be a sufficient condition for such recognition. It is content with the lesser assertion that the existence of evidence constitutes a necessary condition. No evidence means no recognition and no faith.

At first glance, therefore, the KF can peacefully coexist with Halevi's thesis, which asserts that such an indisputably "momentous" event as the Tower of Babel survived in people's collective memory or mind for five centuries, after which it dwindled and faded into oblivion. Indeed, the KF does not claim that if we were to approach the Australian aborigines today and tell them the "truth," that 3,700 years ago their ancestors spoke Hebrew, they would necessarily believe us. All that the KF asserts is that a fable claiming that the said ancestors spoke French in the distant past would be certainly rejected by the aborigines (because there is no evidence to prove it!). In short, a people might be able to forget the true course of "momentous" events, but never to "invent" such an event.[23]

Nevertheless, a careful researcher will naturally come up with numerous questions. What does the KF actually set out to prove? How can its authors apply the concept of evidence that may be forgotten or distorted? Where did the KF come from anyway? Is there a connection between Gottlieb's thesis and Halevi's arguments (or - on what grounds does Gottlieb link his reasoning with the Kuzari?) There is no reasonable answer to these questions. In any case, the KF cannot rely on any textual link between itself and (1:49), for this link is unilateral: Gottlieb reproduced Halevi's text, having discarded the idea contained therein.

What is more, even Gottlieb's initial, informal idea, to which we will return later, would have been rejected by Halevi. The "momentousness" of an event, according to the author of the Kuzari, does not guarantee its endurance; moreover, the existence of recollections of the most "momentous" event does not in any way – in spite of Gottlieb's view – prove its truth. Let us recall Halevi's dismissal of "assertions made by the Hindus as to their places and edifices that have stood for untold thousands of years" (1:60). He does not claim that the Hindu legends have no momentous events, as Gottlieb would have put it. On the contrary, there is an abundance of such events, including invented global wars between the forces of good and evil.[24] Halevi's rabbi argues as follows: "My belief would be undermined if this information came from a distinctly defined religion or a book that is commonly agreed to contain no chronological distortions. But it is not the case with India." (1:61) In other words, the Hindus possess no qualitative tradition!

Even though today we would probably question the substance of this statement, there is no denying Halevi's consistency.

Here is another amusing factor. In order for the KF to have any meaning, it is essential that the evidence left by the events be retained in people memory – or perception – in an unambiguous form. If it were mentally "doubled," two different groups of people (two peoples, for simplicity's sake) would explain one and the same event through two different "faiths" – a construct that renders the KF meaningless. However, the demand for lack of ambiguity in recollections is essentially a demand for the identical nature of traditions – which, as we know, are far from identical.

Thus the KF according to Gottlieb and Chait has become, above all, alienated from tradition, certainly from the tradition that goes back to Yehuda Halevi, whose name was usurped by these scholars.

Inductive processes and inductive proofs

Before we temporarily abandon the KF and proceed to examine the KP, we should note that both these constructs are quite formalized today, so that it would make sense to subject them to structural analysis. We should certainly not be baffled by the empirical [25] nature of the two arguments; without in any way lessening the potential of theoretical criticism, it naturally enhances theoretical objections with empirical ones. It should be kept in mind that both the KP and the KF must be observed throughout their field of definition with no visible exceptions. After all, allowing an exception for Genghis Khan's Mongols would almost certainly mean allowing the same exception for Moses' Jews. As part of our analysis, we will also try to answer an additional intriguing question: why did Gottlieb and others need the KF, and why did they disregard the classical KP long-entrenched in Jewish tradition?

Let us start with the KP. Let us reiterate: by definition, the KP must be proven in a manner that is sufficiently general to derive the desired particular – be it Jewish or Mongolian. It is definitely not an argument for the authenticity of collective Jewish memory; it is an argument for the authenticity of collective memory as such. Only by succeeding in this universality can the KP become what it aspires to be: the proof of the immutability of Jewish tradition, as well as, in accordance with the already cited assertion, the sole proof thereof.[26] Without universality, the theory of Judaism's divine origin is left suspended in midair.

For that reason, the KP must be, on the one hand, logically and empirically irreproachable, and on the other hand, informative and illuminating, i.e., it must never be a tautology. The least it may be required to do is reduce the question of the authenticity of transmitted tradition to some essentially simpler question; or, better yet, to nullify it altogether by proving this authenticity. Thus we should emphasize the following: if the KP turns out to be untenable as proof, this, though it may not immediately refute the particular assertion it had set out to prove, will certainly – in view of the special status of the KP – cast a shadow of doubt on its validity.

As we have already pointed out, the main feature of the KP as proof is its inductive nature. Since the step-by-step progress of the KP is not restricted by the number of steps/generations, it essentially attempts to prove its initial assertion by the usual method of mathematical induction. The inductive nature of the KP makes analyzing its structure and evaluating its effectiveness relatively easy. To do this, all that seems to be required is to give precise mathematical expression to its formulations – both the statements to be proven by the KP and the proof itself.

There is, though, something more. In this instance, the inductiveness bears a supposedly dual nature. Not only is the KP in itself inductive as a method, but the reality it analyzes appears at first glance to be inductive as well. Indeed, this is not a case of tradition being transmitted by some abstract, hypothetical generation to another, but by one absolutely real group to another real group. We are in fact removed from Julius Caesar or Josephus Flavius by some two thousand years; we the living are indeed separated from their contemporaries by a hundred generations. If that is the case, can we not conclude, regardless of the KP and bypassing the formalisms altogether, that the figures of the great ruler and the eminent writer reached us by a hundredfold discrete transfer, having been passed through a hundred hands like a baton in a relay race?

Unfortunately, we cannot. Examining the actual process of information transfer in all the universality prescribed for the KP, focusing on common examples and counter-examples rather than limiting ourselves to one specific phenomenon, we will easily realize that our collective memory is capricious in the extreme; moreover, the replenishing process, at least where subject-related information is concerned, is far from linear nor does it proceed in an orderly step-by-step fashion.

At this stage, we will limit ourselves to two examples that, while having no direct relation to either the KP or Jewish tradition, nevertheless vividly demonstrate the non-inductive character of the transfer of historical information.

Example one. According to the Synoptic Gospels, the crucifixion of Christ was accompanied by unusual natural phenomena resembling a solar eclipse (as well as an earthquake, according to Mathew). Since the earliest times, Christian theologians scoured contemporary chronicles for information on "relevant events." Thus, in the 2nd century Tertullian had already referred to an account of an eclipse that occurred on the day in question, allegedly found in the Roman archives. Some 3d century theologians (Julius Africanus, Origen, and Eusebius) even found concrete proof. All of them unanimously point at the work by Phlego, a Greek historian from the first half of the 2nd century, which mentions a solar eclipse and a powerful earthquake that occurred in the approximately "appropriate" year of 32-33 CE. In short, the story of the "Christian eclipse" became canonized, treated for centuries as part of the sacred Christian tradition.

What the Christian apologists seem to have overlooked is one simple fact: according to Christian tradition itself, the Crucifixion took place during the full moon of the Passover. By simple laws of geometry a solar eclipse can never occur during a full moon. The first to notice this inconsistency seems to have been the Byzantine historian Georgius Syncellus, who lived during the 8th-9th centuries. He proposed abolishing the traditional story of the sacred eclipse, thereafter attributing the Gospels' depiction of daytime darkness to a miracle rather than a natural phenomenon. His view gradually took hold among the Christian theologians, replacing the long-revered traditional explanation. As pointed out by modern researcher of early Christianity, Boris Derevensky, this effectively invalidated the theories of the early Church Fathers concerning this issue.

Example two. It is a well-known fact that the mighty eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 CE caused terrible destruction, with lava and ash burying a number of flourishing Roman cities and villages, including Herculaneum and Pompeii. We know not only the exact year but also the exact day of the eruption, along with a great deal of other details. This knowledge stems not from the incredible accuracy of Roman popular tradition but from the coherent description of the event left by the highly developed Roman historiography. Many centuries later this account was corroborated by archaeological finds. It should be noted that the eruption, despite leaving a trail of death and destruction, had no major historical consequences. It certainly did not become a "momentous," prevalent event for the Romans, let alone for the citizens of the whole empire. The world's political map did not change, Rome continued to rule the Mediterranean, the imperial resources were not undermined. This eruption left no imprint in the collective memory, did not given rise to any legends. Yet fairly precise information on this catastrophe has reached us nonetheless.

On the other hand, 1,500 years earlier there occurred what was probably the most dreadful natural disaster in the Mediterranean region (indeed in all of Europe) throughout known history. During the course of an eruption, the volcano situated in the center of the island of Thera (today's Santorini) exploded; the explosion rocked the entire island, sinking most of it into the sea. The explosion also raised an enormous wave whose initial height was 150 meters. This wave dealt a crushing blow along the entire Mediterranean coast, its destructive force felt as far as the area of what is today Tel Aviv. The great Minoan culture flourishing on the island of Crete, a mere 70 kilometers from Thera, was virtually obliterated, and the Cretans' mighty sea-faring empire ceased to exist.

This eruption was noted by the entire populations of Europe, Anterior Asia, and North Africa. It is hard to imagine a more "momentous" event, especially since it left a long-term impact on the economy and politics of many countries, as well as on international relations in its day. The entire Mediterranean coast was covered by a thick layer of volcanic ash. For a long time, sunlight was blocked by the ash particles remaining in the atmosphere; a number of countries underwent considerable climatic changes that adversely affected their agriculture. Moreover, the devastated island of Thera, as if sliced open by a knife, stood as an eternal reminder [27] of the disaster. One would expect that a detailed depiction of these events would have become an inseparable part of the historical tradition of the Mediterranean countries. Alas, this never happened. The tragic fate of Thera was virtually forgotten. It is possible (though far from evident) that Plato's description of Atlantis – the lost continent – has its origins in vague memories of Thera's demise. Yet even if that were so, we know that Plato depicted Atlantis as a huge continent situated far out in the Atlantic Ocean, and not as a small island between Crete and the Cyclades. This can hardly be called a trustworthy tradition. The absence of reliable historiography in the "Greek waters" of the Aegean Sea during that time (c. 1500 BCE) led to the loss of collective memory regarding one of the crucial events in European history. Similarly, the demise of Crete's Minoan culture left no coherent tradition. We do not even know the exact year of the eruption.

This begs the question: how do we know all that we know? What gives us the right to describe all this past with such conviction? Where does this detailed information come from? Our present knowledge concerning this subject is the result of a reconstruction carried out by archaeologists, geologists, physicists, mathematicians, and volcanologists in the 20th century. Scientists excavated Thera and Crete, conducted detailed analysis of the eruption and the explosion, calculated their parameters, the nature of their impact on more or less distant countries, predicted the probable location and the layers containing traces of the cataclysm including the distinctive volcanic ash, and so on.

Today we have a detailed picture of Thera's destruction; this knowledge is not the legacy of collective memory or popular tradition, but rather the result of scientific reconstruction. Historical memory, unlike science, has let us down. This memory – at this stage we will not cite additional examples, of which there are plenty – has shown itself to be so selective and inexact that it would not be farfetched to call it capricious.

Unfortunately, the hypothesis regarding inductive transmission of information suffers from several serious "congenital" defects. It tacitly implies that each generation receives simultaneous information from a single source, with all the people gaining identical knowledge in a synchronized fashion. Moreover, having absorbed this information, they passively store it without digesting, modifying, or diluting anything, until it is time to transmit it further along the chain.

In order to demonstrate this method of transmission, let us examine a provisional yet illustrative model of a certain traditional society. Until the children in that society reach the age of seventeen, they are not allowed to come even close to traditional learning, to protect their minds from confusion. Their education starts at seventeen, and continues for a short span – let us say a year – so that overabundance of detail does not lead to disparity. After that, the young people are pronounced to be the "bearers of memory." Until the age of forty they continue to "bear" their learned material, refreshing it from time to time, but never venturing to comprehend, criticize, or analyze it, so as not to undermine the tradition by divergent interpretations. Upon reaching forty, they – the most reliable of them – are awarded the title of teachers, and for a year impart the tradition to young people who had just turned seventeen; after that, they assume the status of "passive bearers."

This model may be expanded and fleshed out, but it is inherently incompatible with reality! Its main problem is that each real "generation of memory bearers" comes in contact not only with its teachers and students, but also with members of other age groups, even other generations, and at times with other cultures who view things in another, and what is even worse, a different light. Throughout their lives, both teachers and students change their point of view on a variety of issues; finally, time works gradual changes in human mentality, the environment, and even the language in which the tradition was formulated. As a consequence, many of its elements gradually become incomprehensible and open to new interpretations. The tradition breathes and evolves even as it is being formed – let alone being transmitted!

Of even greater importance is the following factor: the very concept of "generation," which naturally has a biological meaning, is totally devoid of an informational meaning, provided, of course, that we disregard the genetic information. The earth is simultaneously inhabited by people of different ages; they cannot be divided into distinctive "generational layers" transmitting information to one another. The age difference between a teacher and a graduate student may be 3-4 years or 30-40 years; thus even in a purely biological sense they may belong to the same generation or to generations that are not even adjacent to each other. What, then, remains from the linear relay race of informational generations? This gets even worse: people of the same age may very well belong to different "educational generations"; altogether, an attempt to shift the concept of generation beyond the biological confines constitutes vulgar biologization which, at least in our case, will inevitably result in absurdity.[28]

Objectively speaking, real long-term transmittal of information is not inductive, discrete, and piecemeal but rather uninterrupted and analogical, resembling not so much a relay race as the gradual accumulation and melting of snow. Transmittal of information unavoidably includes comprehension and interpretation of the material. Another noteworthy point is that not all civilizations were equally concerned with the orderly transmittal of their traditional memory, and not at every stage of their development. This concern was of paramount importance in ancient cultures, but with time (especially following the emergence of the tradition of written criticism) it was replaced by other cultural paradigms.

We must keep in mind that the process of transmitting tradition inevitably leads to periodic crises, to the loss of hermeneutical ground, in other words, to a situation where the quantity of accumulated interpretations is transformed into a painful quality, clashing with reality, losing information and its recurrent arrangement. One of the most characteristic examples of such a transition from one cultural crisis to another is the process whereby Jewish tradition was accumulated and transmitted for the last two millennia; the events of that period are more or less documented and permit subjective analysis. During that time, the bearers of Jewish tradition produced one written edition of it after another, each edition immediately met with incomprehension; to be understood, it required a detailed commentary, which in turn created new difficulties and fresh interpretations. The way from the Mishnah to the Mishnah Brurah [29] is paved with the tombstones of lost elements of tradition. This cultural drama – one of the most vivid illustrations of the failed struggle waged by a tradition for self-preservation (in this case, of the failed battle by Rabbinical Judaism against entropy) in an attempt to escape the unavoidable reinterpretation by diversifying its essence, by a recurrent systematization of the material which turns tradition into a game. By following this path, Judaism constantly loses its ties to ancient interpretations, and it is nothing short of miraculous that some still retain the taste and enthusiasm for these interpretations. In fact, the bearers of this enthusiasm are, for the most part, no longer bearers of tradition; the former have long replaced its original elements with the volumes of later codices; today's admirers of the ancient lore are mainly curiosity-seekers from the academe who are not particularly bound by any codices.

The other, no less instructive example of a dwindling tradition is the evolution of Greek collective memory, which at some point merged with Greek written tradition and was critically revised by the latter. The written tradition, individual by nature, brutally suppressed its own collective precursor, leaving us with no recourse but to count the losses.[30]

It would be interesting to examine more detailed examples of interaction between the ancient written literary-historical tradition and its diachronic interpretations; however, that topic goes far beyond the framework of this paper. Nevertheless, it must be pointed out that these examples (both Jewish and Greek) exhibit all the distinctive features of the "analogical" process, including the interaction between versions, tloss of informational mass, and the inclination to systematize the preserved data.

All of this, strictly speaking, does not necessarily imply that it is absolutely impossible for tradition to be adequately transmitted by someone some time; however, the very supposition that the memory of momentous and exceptional events can be transmitted accurately and adequately anytime, by anyone, and for any length of time, looks puzzling to say the least.

As we can see, the idea of the discrete nature of a long-term process of information transmittal, at least in its general application, has been dismissed, failing to stand up to the most superficial analysis. Now the "inductive" KP proof has found itself in proud inductive solitude. Let us go back to it and try to determine its composition and underpinnings.

As we know, the method of mathematical induction (MMI) operates as follows: Let A(n) be a certain logical (binary) proposition, defined by the set B and representing a function of n, whereby B is a set of numbers in the natural series or its dense (made up of consecutive numbers) sub-set, either finite or infinite, with n being natural numbers, elements of B (in this instance, of course, there is no need to consider cases of unlimited n). We want to prove that A(n) is true for all the n contained in B, with the help of MMI. In order to do this, we must prove two other propositions (or, in other words, to successfully pass two stages of MMI).[31]

The first proposition: A(n) is true for the smallest n in B.

The second proposition: if A(n) is true for a random n (except for the largest one in the set B, provided it is finite) contained in B, it follows that A(n+1) is equally true.

Let us proceed to a formal investigation of our KP problem. Naturally, we start by defining it.

In our instance, B is a set of ordinal numerals of the generations [32] of a large group of people (specifically, the Jewish, Mongolian, or Greek people) living between the occurrence of some major event C (such as the assassination of Julius Caesar, the building of the Great Wall of China, or the Sinai Revelation) and the emergence of generation E, whose concepts concerning the event in question are known to us. Naturally, this set is finite and incorporates a certain number of elements whose values fluctuate between 1 (this number will refer to generation E) and N – the number for the generation alive during the occurrence of the said event. Of course, n signifies the elements of B.

A(n) stands for the following logical (binary) proposition: the concept concerning the event in question (the Wall, Caesar, or Judaism) entertained by a random n generation coincides with that of generation E (the latest of those whose numbers are included in B).

Clearly, what we have to prove is that for all the n included in B, A(n) is true, or, in other words, that A(n) =A(1) for any n. This would simply mean that the concepts of this major event were identical for all the generations of the people in question.

Now let us try to apply MMI to the problem.

The first stage, of course, presents no difficulties. For n that equals 1, proposition A constitutes the trivial equation A(1) = A(1). In regular terms, it is obvious that the concepts of generation E (as of any other generation) concerning anything at all are completely identical to themselves (even if, generally speaking, they are transformed in time).

Alas, the second stage is a different matter altogether. Let us try to examine it in more detail, for its very formulation contains a bitter truth: an inherently non-inductive process of transmitting tradition buries the idea of proving its authenticity inductively. In fact, in the case of the KP, MMI is of no use to us: the initial proposition regarding the authenticity of tradition is replaced, in the second stage of proof, by an equivalent proposition that is no easier to prove.[33]

The proposition of the second stage of MMI states the following: for any n < N, it is true that if A(n) = A(1), then A(n+1) = A(1) as well. This proposition must be proven in essence; formal arguments will not be enough. What exactly does it mean? It means this: if we know that in a certain random generation (whether that of Genghis Khan, Ezra, or Mussolini) the concepts of the event in question coincided with the concepts of generation E, they also coincided in the preceding generation.

How can we prove this proposition? Is it true at all? At the very least, we must admit that its introduction did not make our task any easier. The second stage of induction forces us, first, to provide a definition of "generation" after all, and then to prove anew practically the same thing we had set out to prove at the very start; namely, that the process of transmitting tradition causes it no harm – except on the micro- rather than the macro-level. In other words, no longer do we have to prove that a tradition managed to survive for ten or a hundred mysterious generations, but rather that its transmission was immaculate in each generation (or more precisely, that the leap from one generation to the next, whatever is meant by this term, did not alter the tradition, that it was left wholly intact at the points of contact between generations). This precondition – that the transmitted tradition remain unblemished in each generation – is quite natural in our case. Indeed, if we agree that the "inductive" transfer from one formal generation to the next was accompanied by the tiniest distortion of information, after a sufficiently large number of generations the concepts of the event in question could alter beyond recognition.

Since the KP is not limited to the one example of Jewish tradition, but rather represents a proposition that must be universally valid for a variety of cases, the natural question is: is it true that in all situations which fall within the area of its definition, the contact between generations does not cause even a small distortion of tradition? Does this hold true for at least some of the cases?

Generally speaking, finding even one counter-example, i.e., an instance showing the erosion of collective memory, would render the KP redundant. Unfortunately, such counter-examples are easy to come by. They are plentiful even in the Jewish tradition itself. It openly states that within the lifespan of a single generation, during the 30-day period of mourning for Moses, around 2,000 of his laws were forgotten. The Talmud recounts dozens of instances where elements of tradition were lost, frequently expressing the hope that they will be reclaimed by the Jewish people with the coming of the messenger of Heaven. The Bible mentioned periods when the Jewish people forgot even the main holidays decreed by the Torah, or, even worse, a time when the very Book of the Torah (or at least of Deuteronomy) was lost (and subsequently found by accident in the Jerusalem Temple during the reign of Josiah – an excellent example of a restored tradition). Nor can we avoid mentioning the Jewish people's loss, during the Middle Ages, of huge sections of the Jerusalem Talmud, together with the unique information contained therein, an integral part of the Oral Law.

There is no shortage of similar non-Jewish examples as well. Thus, the entire Zoroastrian community, which has existed continuously for over 2,500 years, with time lost (how, one wonders) knowledge of their entire sacred (old Persian) language along with the ability to read their Holy Scripture – the "Avesta" (European linguists had to decipher it). In a very similar manner, the Russian for many centuries have been unable to remember the origins of the name "Russ" – whether it is the Scandinavian "Ros," which means "oar" or the name of an insignificant rivulet. The ancient Greeks managed to completely forget their original written language – the Minoan linear "B" script – living for centuries as a people with no writing; the Egyptians forgot the hieroglyphic script of their forefathers, the inhabitants of Mesopotamia did the same with cuneiform writing. The Japanese, who came to their islands relativelrecently, a mere ten centuries or so ago, managed to forget where exactly they came from (scientists are still looking for an answer to this question). One could easily supply scores of other fascinating examples simply by referring to the numerous living and dead civilizations whose natures are a mystery both to their own members (if the civilization is at least partially alive) and to researchers (regardless of whether the civilization is dead or alive). Unfortunately collective memory, even if it belongs to an entire people, inevitably springs a leak, constantly losing information related directly to the spirit and flesh of its bearers.

It is time to draw some preliminary conclusions.

To begin with, the KP as an inductive proof has failed to meet expectations; we have gained nothing by using MMI. Elementary analysis first showed us what exactly is required by the main KP thesis (a perfect convergence of generations, but not before the concept of "generation" has been defined) and then revealed the non-viable nature of this requirement; as a result, the KP lost its supposed universality. At the same time it became clear that the inductive model of collective memory is fundamentally incompatible with reality.

Moreover, the KP has failed to prove its worth even as a simple empirical law.[34] At any rate, it is at variance with the numerous known instances of lost memory evidenced by a wide range of peoples. Thus the attempt to prove the veracity of any tradition – including the Jewish one – based on the assumption that uninterrupted transmission of information automatically guarantees its safety must be pronounced a failure.[35] On the other hand, perhaps the modern apologists of Judaism will find some other way of attaining this objective.

The KF as an escape from induction

Permit us to reveal a small secret: the aforementioned arguments which reject the KP as an inductive method of proof are well known to professional apologists of Judaism like Gottlieb.[36] Statements such as "collective memory is infallible" or "tradition is its own guarantee" essentially imply that a way has been found to defeat entropy or even to make a perpetual motion device. Aware of this, these apologists found a means of saying the same thing (actually not quite the same thing, but who is to know?) in a slightly different manner. Basically, the KF was invented as a means of escaping the inductive process, an attempt to prove the authenticity of a certain type of ancient tradition (once again, not relying on substantive arguments, which means tradition in general rather than Jewish tradition alone) by arguing "from the contrary" without looking back at constructivist maximalism, without the frightening step-by-step test.

In all likelihood the creators of the KF would have happily done away with the painful universality of their argument (as would have the creators of the KP), contenting themselves with the authenticity with the Sinai Revelation alone, if not for fear of the following daunting task: standing face to face with the Jewish tradition to prove its permanence with the help of dry solid arguments, having historians, archaeologists, linguists, and anthropologists as their opponents. Substantive dialogue is always more intimidating than a formal one;[37] refusing to engage in the former, they are forced to seek a new abstract proof. We must pay the price of generality for the luxury of abstraction.

Before embarking on a detailed investigation of the KF in light of Gottlieb's definition (which treats it as an empirical generalization), let us backtrack to its original formulation.

Let E be a possible event which, had it really occurred, would have left behind it enormous, easily available evidence of its occurrence. If the evidence does not exist, people will not believe that E occurred.

We have mentioned that this definition produces considerable difficulties for the interpreter. It is not Gottlieb's philological sophistication which creates a problem. On the contrary – it is his simplicity which is rather problematic.

Thus, E is a possible event (to wit, one which might have occurred or might not have occurred) that (had it occurred) would have left "enormous" evidence. Very well. But what kind of evidence is meant here? A trace that exists independent of the human mind, such as a crater made by an exploded bomb, or a memory imprinted in someone's brain? Or, probably, both?

Let us begin with the bomb. If we are told that a one-ton bomb has recently exploded in a neighboring courtyard, we would probably go see the site. If the hypothetical bomb is said to have exploded an hour ago, we should be able to see a fresh crater in the courtyard. Under these circumstances (and emphatically not regardless of them), the crater is definitely convincing evidence. But what if we are told that the bomb exploded a year ago? If so, the crater might have been covered up long since. In such a case, we may have no material evidence and can only speculate about the mental evidence – in other words, the likelihood of a bomb actually exploding a year ago (naturally, we must have been away at the time to miss the event) without our having heard about it from neighbors and family immediately upon our return. If such a scenario is completely unlikely the KF slams shut like a trap and we will, together with Gottlieb, reject the story; if it is quite likely, we can do nothing – there is no evidence.

Let us assume for the moment that everything goes according to Gottlieb: we have talkative neighbors and a sensational event like a bomb, were it to occur, would certainly become a subject of lively gossip. What would happen, then, if we recall one of the neighbors talking some six months ago about lightning that struck an electric pole right in his own yard, leaving the whole block without electricity for a week? Would this constitute evidence or not? Is it likely or not? Credible or not? In other words, what degree of congruity between the event in question and the alleged evidence would Gottlieb consider sufficient for his psychological formalism? It is quite obvious, after all, that Gottlieb's argument is purely psychological.

Here is another scenario. Let us say that the crater is indeed there but it appears old, and there is no way of telling whether it was made a year ago or at the end of World War II. Are we convinced or not?

In Gottlieb's moralistic words, the evidence must be enormous and easily available. However, the Talmud (Tractates Sanhedrin and Shvuot) tells us that in many instances, such evidence is unobtainable. To be more specific: even if the judges themselves saw a knife-wielding man pursuing another and then had found the corpse of the pursued man with that very same knife in his body, this evidence would still be insufficient to find the knife's owner guilty of murder. After all, one could still claim that the victim already had a hole in his body, and all the accused had done was insert his knife into the hole...

In light of this informative story, applicable to practically every conceivable situation, what can ever be considered enormous and easily available evidence? And here we are still talking about material evidence...

Extracting the grain of reason from the KF is far from an easy task. In order to reach that grain, let us go to the heart of the matter – psychology.

To begin with, we can make immediate use of the above-quoted passage from Talmud (Sanhedrin or Shvuot). In ancient law, material evidence – even momentous – played a very minor role in legal proceedings. The ancients' reasoning was simple: material evidence never guarantees the truth of the statement which we are invited to believe. After all, a crater can be easily dug in any courtyard as long as it serves somebody's purpose. Material evidence is excellent when we deal with nature or some other non-antagonistic party, one that can never be suspected of fraud. In the human realm, however, evidence is merely circumstantial, its significance under question. That is why the majority of ancient legal systems treated material evidence with a great deal of suspicion. Though definitely useful in recreata picture of the crime, this type of evidence is far from enough to reach true justice. The Talmud, laying down for all times a healthy, somewhat archaic skeptical approach, recognizes only one type of evidence in serious criminal cases: the direct testimony of two reliable eyewitnesses. Until recently, no one could propose anything substantially better; in European countries, after the abolition of torture, the judges or the jury would sentence a man to death by what amounted to casting dice, legally acting out a game of "Trusts me/Trusts me not." Until the emergence of modern forensics – the theory of fingerprinting, laboratory testing of various microscopic pieces of evidence, fabric analysis, etc. – no one except Sherlock Holmes had anything better to offer. We deliberately ignore the personal confession of the accused, for it is not always easy to ascertain how it was obtained and motivated.

Therefore, in reply to the question of what type of evidence the KF prefers to consider, the answer is mental rather than material. Whether others' memories can be trusted is a difficult question; as for material evidence removed from us by thousands of years, Gottlieb and Chait neither trust it themselves nor advise us to do so, [38] particularly in view of the fact that this evidence is the domain of those same archaeologists and anthropologists whom modern-day apologists of Judaism – along with the theoreticians who pronounced the KP the only proof – prefer to avoid.[39] Gottlieb is not overly interested in their methods of data verification nor with the data itself – neither when it is harmless nor when it appears dangerous. What is even more important, material evidence is simply too base in nature to verify a miracle – a miracle leaves no miraculous traces. In that case, what is it good for?[40]

That is why the KF begins to look for traces of miracle not in recollections of material objects but in people's memories.

The KF – its virtues and flaws

Inventing the KF, Gottlieb and the others were fully aware that (along with fatal flaws) it possesses one major virtue, one huge advantage, above all over the KP. This advantage, which in our times compensates for all the KF's flaws, lies in the fact that it is true to a degree. Therefore it can be, with great caution, demonstrated in action.

Essentially, the KF states that man is by his nature conservative and mistrustful. His psychological makeup is proof thereof. He cannot be sold the improbable story of the "blank page." The only way he will buy this story is if it is supplied corroborating arguments independent of the seller. In other words, he will believe the incredible only if he already knows it to be true.[41]

Such statements contain a certain (even a considerable) measure of truth. To some extent, they are absolutely true. Man is indeed rather conservative and mistrustful. If it were otherwise, he would have become extinct long ago. Nor will he readily swallow an improbable story, at least not one that is glaringly improbable. Moreover, he often makes rational judgments prior to the purchase, bargaining and refusing a large portion of the offered goods. All of us can easily recall more than a few traps escaped.

Alas, it is this very quality of the KF – partial conformance to reality – that is also its greatest flaw. This conformance is very limited, and thus doubly dangerous: excessive particularity is a sure way into a trap. In its psychological reasoning, the KF relies entirely on our common sense (CS). Worse yet, the KF is effective in only those cases when CS succeeds in meeting our needs. When CS fails, the KF is untrue. What is even more distressing, whenever CS breaks down, it deliberately confuses the KF.

Yet the greatest misfortune of all is that in the slippery area of verification of ancient tradition with which the KF is so eagerly concerned, CS is absolutely inapplicable.

The KF-CS duo is extremely useful in our everyday life. CS believes that Earth is flat and this helps us distinguish up from down, catch thrown objects, and generally avoid falling and hurting ourselves. CS assumes that a room which contains nothing but air is empty – a valuable view that enables us to furnish the room to our satisfaction. CS holds that Earth is the center of the universe, with the sun and stars circling around it – this makes it much more easy to find our way on the map, on land and sea.

The KF helps us turn down a crook's offer to sell a kilo of tomatoes for 100 dollars. After all, it only cost two dollars a week ago, and had there been such a steep hike in the price of vegetables, we would certainly know about it! The KF unmasks the overwhelming majority of practical jokes played on April 1. What is more, the KF helps us spot the more brazen lies of a politician running for office: there is just no way he could have become such a public benefactor overnight.

In fact, CS does not try to mislead us at all. It is absolutely indifferent to the actual shape of Earth - be it flat, round, or bagel-like. Its purpose is to help us by presenting things in the most functional and convenient manner. The trouble is, its idea of our convenience is rather rudimentary. It knows all there is to know about keeping your balance on a dark staircase and fails miserably during a geography test.

Similarly, the KF will help us outwit a smalltime crook or a shameless liar – yet anyone hoping to use it outside the domain previously occupied by CS will be disappointed. Shift the borders of improbability even the tiniest bit and CS will swallow it. Likewise, in the course of discussing a more nebulous business deal, the KF's warning signal (beware: a lie) will fail to go off. There are countless means of deceiving it. Unfortunately, Gottlieb's requirement regarding the widespread character of the evidence has little if any effect, and occasionally it is a plain nuisance. The mob is often likely to buy things that its components would refuse individually .

To whet the reader's curiosity, we will mention that the KF suffers from yet another fundamental flaw capable of dismaying even Gottlieb. This, however, will be discussed somewhat later.

How to deceive the KF

Deceiving the KF is a business. And a rather lucrative one, it seems.

We have seen it done on numerous occasions. Sometimes it goes by the name of "three-card monte," at other times it is called contemporary marketing techniques or political tactics. Each of them manipulates the human victim (exactly as the KF would advise, using the most reliable evidence) into believing something that is manifestly untrue. It should be stressed that the KF uses CS as the bait, for it is the latter which provides the evidence. For example, CS urges us to place our bet on one of the three cards because it is sure, absolutely sure, which of them is the queen of hearts. No, it is not a gullible fool: had it not seen the card with its own eyes, it would never have bet on it. And yet the queen will always be elsewhere, for – in spite of CS – it is fully controlled by the dealer, who has no regard for CS. CS is convinced that its eye follows the queen's every move and can spot it any time; however, it does not have the slightest chance of spotting it: the con-artist shifts the cards too quickly for the eye. In fact, card tricks are based in good part on a principle that is staunchly rejected by CS: the hand is quicker that the eye. Then again, this comes as no surprise: tricks are designed especially to deceive CS.

In the same fashion, we are coaxed into buying an item of absolutely no use to us when the item, we ourselves, or our surroundings are shown in a different light. If not for CS, we would never make the purchase. However, when an experienced seller paints us a new picture of the world, which would be glaringly incomplete without the product we are urged to buy, CS gives the nod and the KF concurs. Palmed off in this way are the newest models of vacuum cleaners (without which the air stays full of ghastly dust particles that cause tuberculosis), metal bracelets (recommended by the Academy of Parapsychology) which prevent the loss of bio-energy, water-filters which all but do away with those pesky micro-organisms, and the latest computers which, unlike their predecessors, are capable of displaying colored three-dimensional test (small wonder, when this test was programmed especially for the latest model).

Another principle works even better - deceive CS and you deceive its owner – in cases of mass fraud like politics. Examples are plenty and speak for themselves. The United States is certainly a democratic country and its citizens are completely free to elect their president. Hardly more than one percent of Americans would have chosen today's president, George W. Bush, to be the principal of a local college or the manager of a pasta-making factory over ten other people chosen at random. Similarly, no sane Russian would entrust any responsible task to Boris Yeltsin, a drunk with serious heart problems. Yet both were elected to the highest positions in their countries by tens of millions of people whose CS, in strict accordance with the requirements of the KF, convinced them of the rightness of their choice.

All of these scams are based on simple observation. Human mentality ruled by CS lacks any objectivity. Whenever this mentality wants something (or, in other words, has a disposition towards something) it abandons its natural skepticism and starts to look for pros rather than cons. Making a person want something is fairly uncomplicated. Once that is accomplished, all that the swindler has to do is provide the biased mentality with the required arguments. And that, of course, is a breeze.

Deceiving the KF is essentially child's play. It would be much more challenging to make it self-activate, i.e., to teach the victim to see evidence wherever it is needed, without having to hypnotize his CS each time. A theoretical concept of the total mastery of CS-KF is contained in Orwell's brilliant book 1984; in practice, it has been and is being implemented (albeit less fully) by every totalitarian entity in the world. In Orwell's portrayal, people were brainwashed to such an extent that, when asked how much two plus two is, their CS answers whatever the Party has decided. A more modest educational objective – conditioning the victim to adore the executioner – has been brilliantly and repeatedly achieved by various powers, from the Holy Inquisition to the Soviet KGB.

In light of the vast international experience of struggle against the CS-KF, Gottlieb's proposal to declare this tandem to be the measure of objective truth appears downright laughable. And if we view it as a psychological test whose aim is not so much to seek the truth as to evaluate the degree of human gullibility (the likelihood of belief), then it is totally redundant. The individual can be made to believe almost anything; a human mass the size of a nation will believe anything at all when handled by a professional; Man's having CS is the very factor that will make the swindler's job easier. The more nebulous and remote the phenomenon the victim is expected to believe, the less effort is required of the swindler, and when it is extremely remote and nebulous CS does not view it as deception at all – it is at most a visual illusion!

After our digression into the theory of CS-KF, let us consider the two examples (already mentioned above) offered by Gottlieb and his supporters, meant to demonstrate the effectiveness of their formalism.

Example one: today's Italians will not believe the Pope himself if he tries to sell them a tale of Christ's appearance before the whole nation in Rome in 1900.

We should begin by asking: are contemporary Italians good Catholics (or, in other words, are they sympathetic to the Pope's idea's, do they like the goods being offered)? If the answer is no, then the Pope has no authority over them, and Christ (like Mohammed) is of no more concern to them than to the Japanese, and definitely less than to the Jews. In such a case, this idea requires a different sales pitch, and they will swallow it only inside a thick layer of chocolate, something Gottlieb does not mention.

Matters will take a much more interesting turn if we assume that the Italians are still devout Catholics. In this case the Pope is a figure of authority, and the appearance of Christ (frankly, the Virgin Mary would have been better) is quite an appealing prospect. All that remains is the technicalities – the date and other minor details.[42] That means that the natural boundaries of CS must be fixed or slightly moved. As Gottlieb rightly points out, had Christ made a nationwide appearance in 1970, the Italians would have probably known about it. The same apparently goes for 1950. The year 500, on the other hand, would pass unchallenged by anyone except learned theologians. The only setback in this entire story is the date, which might arouse the "buyer's" suspicion, for the Catholics would view this story itself as quite plausible. But if that is the case, the KF is blown out of water. Indeed, if the same thesis is bought in one set of circumstances and rejected in another, then it is the external environment and not the event's initial parameters that determine the safety of a tradition; but this has been self-evident to us all along.

Now we simply must ask: why is it that the year 1900 is unsuitable for a divine appearance? Is it merely because this was already a time of newspapers and the telegraph, when information was efficiently distributed, stored, and processed? Or because such a sensational event could not be completely forgotten in a mere hundred years? On the other hand, would a contemporary Italian readily recall the name of the head of the country's government in 1900, or what kind of harvest they had that year? Indeed, has he ever read historical novels, does he remember his school lessons? And wasn't there a time when he bought Mussolini's ravings about a new Roman empire? As for the length of human memory, opinions widely differ. Halevi, as we may recall, insisted that five hundred years are not a problem for truly "momentous" events; if that is the case, then a century is indeed too short a span. On the other hand, it took Christianity far less than five hundred years to displace paganism in classical Europe while Islam conquered minds with almost the same lightning speed as it did countries.

We have yet another reason to explain our Catholic-chronological skepticism: the modern European, even if religious, is at least in part a deist, and as such believes the modern time to be quite unsuitable for miracles – unless endorsed by science. Miracles, in his view, have certainly occurred, but in the remote past, like dragons. In 20th century Europe, miracles should be sold in a different way than they were 2,000 years ago – as a UFO landing, a bio-energy emission, or as a spiritual séance rather than as a volcanic eruption – for the sacral technique is constantly evolving. In a similar vein the Jews, after having acquired an advanced literary culture during the Persian era, immediately abolished the institution of prophecy, consigning their own prophets and their technique to the past; along with the literary skills, they acquired new mystical tools.

Therefore we should rephrase the above example by asking: will devout Catholics (we'd better make them 12th-century Germans instead of modern Italians or with all of time and space at our disposal, we will find the buy) believe that six centuries before their birth, on Christmas night 533, on the 500th anniversary of the crucifixion, exactly at midnight, Christ entered people's homes and left a drop of his precious blood on their lintels, thereby dividing the Holy Grail among the Christians of the Holy Roman Empire and instructing them to go on a crusade five hundred years later? And that for the next seventy years, Germany knew neither hunger, nor war, nor the plague? They are quite likely to believe all that. And if this story is sold to the 12th-century Germans in a sensible and sensitive manner, one that takes their distinct local features into account, they will definitely believe it. They wouldn't dare not believe!

Example two belongs to Gottlieb himself: will we believe that five hundred years ago gold used to grow on trees in Romania?

Certainly not. My personal disbelief has nothing to do with the fact that it was in Romania or that it happened five hundred years ago. My upbringing (call it prejudice) makes me reject this story under any circumstances – whatever the evidence, be it direct and firsthand, even if it includes pieces of the gold, even if I am told it by my own grandmother, even if I am forced to write school compositions on the subject. For me, this is a matter of world outlook rather than faith: gold does not grow on trees, that's all there is to it. No amount of evidence will help and the KF has nothing to do with it. In the same manner, I will not believe in telepathy or alien beings, regardless of the probability or even reality of these phenomena. Similarly, I will never vote for the conservative party, even if it is headed by Churchill himself. In order to sell the fable of Romanian gold to me and to others, we must be reeducated rather than persuaded – a possible yet difficult undertaking (see Orwell). However, in the case of people with a slightly different background, there may be another outcome altogether.

In this instance we have a leg to stand on: the history of man's dealings with gold is convoluted and tantalizing. Among other things, it has bequeathed us an excellent example of KF-related credulity. In 16th century Spain (as you can see, less than five hundred years ago) the legend of El Dorado enjoyed immense popularity. Before long it was awarded official government recognition and anyone attempting to question it could be burned at the stake. As we know, the Spanish were busily colonizing South America at the time. For a number of reasons the colonists became fully convinced that only a short distance away, beyond some mountain ranges, not in some remote past but right then, lay the fabulous kingdom of El Dorado where gold was cheaper than stones and was used to pave roads and build houses. The Spaniards were not swayed by Gottlieb-type logic. They did not say to themselves: wait, if El Dorado did exist, gold in the neighboring countries would be cheaper than silver or even iron; in other words, we would know about it. No, they were dead certain that they were this close to discovering El Dorado and striking it rich – forgetting that once they succeeded gold would immediately lose its value. In short, they were in the grip of that same credulity whose possibility is rejected by Gottlieb.

Thus we are shown once again that CS is no match for the desire to believe a totally implausible story. I believe whatever I choose to believe.

The KF and collective memory

We have already mentioned that the KF, even though not identical to the KP, is still kin to the latter. Let us now determine the nature of this kinship.

The nucleus of the KP, its central axiom, is the notion of "unblemished transmission" (i.e. the possibility of storing and transmitting information intact). Naturally, this notion is wrong. To claim that it could be mathematically refuted would probably be somewhat inappropriate, but only because the relationship between mathematics and reality is a complicated issue. However, one could confidently state that any formal model of this notion would be mathematically untenable. Nevertheless, the KP asserts that the loss of information in traditional channels can be avoided and that the Jewish tradition is a good example.

What does the KF have to say on the matter? It states that all instances of collective faith in a "momentous" improbable event trace their source to a real event and are supported by the evidence thereof. In cases of ancient sources of real events, the indisputable evidence would be collective memories. Although the KF does not explicitly claim [43] that these memories are sufficient and precise, it undoubtedly believes that to be the case. After all, if one assumes that at least in some of the cases these memories are gravely distorted, the KF loses its entire value as empirical proof. To accept the possibility of such distortion would be tantamount to admitting that the KF, in some instances at least, is capable of giving rise to a mistaken belief, of letting its "client" down. If that is so, then how can the claim be made that it is valid in the case of the Sinai Revelation?

Another tacit assumption contained in the KF is even more critical: mental evidence not only does not get lost or distorted while being transmitted from one generation to the next, it never loses its mass basis. In other words, the entire progeny of the generation that possessed the evidence possesses it as well. Without this, the KF loses its logical foundation.

Indeed, let us suppose that this assumption is not maintained, leading to a situation where part of the collective has forgotten the tradition and lost the evidence.[44] We will tell them the story, whether the original (forgotten, i.e., true) or a new (freshly invented) one; and they, in keeping with the KF, will reply in both instances: "No, we do not believe you, if this were true we would know about it." To which we will say with a smile: "Alas, my friends, this is the honest truth; your great-grandfathers knew this story, but unfortunately your grandfathers forgot it – so you never knew it." Since, according to our supposition, such a scenario is possible, our poor audience (which, of course, is fully informed; otherwise we will refresh its memory and provide examples) will have nothing to counter with; it will only have to decide whether or not to believe our explanation, to trust their parents or to accept the reference to their great-grandfathers, with both cases containing considerable potential for error. This clearly goes against the KF.

However, as we well know, in many instances tradition does lose its mass basis – either halfway to disappearance (see all the examples of forgotten traditions cited above), or by virtue of its complexity. This equally applies to the Jewish tradition, but that makes no difference in the given case: for the logical underpinnings of the KF to collapse, a single example will suffice.

However, there is more. As we have already seen, inherent in both the KF and KP is the "kinship element" – the assumption that intact long-term transmission of collective memory is possible, that long-surviving mental evidence retains its evidential character. The KF assumption is even broader than the KP assumption, since the latter relates exclusively to the inductive form of transmission; the KF, on the other hand, places no restrictions on the transmission process so long as the initial event is "momentous" and improbable (to be believed or disbelieved, but not rationally substantiated). According to the KF, the means of transmitting traditional memory is totally irrelevant as long as the initial source-event and nature of the belief in question conformed to its requirements. This applies in equal measure to the bushmen who believe that they descended from, say, rhinos, to South American Indians who trace their origins to alligators, and to Australian aborigines, the "offspring" of kangaroos;[45] in the framework of the KF, all of these claims will certainly be proven true. Indeed, without sound evidence these claims are hard to believe.

However, collective memory is such a widespread phenomenon that Gottlieb does not have the slightest monopoly on it. It is the property of every nation, tribe, religious and ethnic group, every collective destined to become a stable entity to one extent or another. The very fact of this universality should have put the Jewish apologists on their guard, for collective memory has an almost exact (through slightly more "narrow") synonym – mythology. It would seem that human society is simply inconceivable without a mythological superstructure; the psychological need for the latter is satisfied solely through displacement, as in interconnected vessels. Possibly it is this superstructure [46] which distinguishes humans from monkeys. To be sure, myths do not necessarily have to be fantasy, i.e., a distortion of reality; what is more, they are utterly true some sense, though not in the sense demanded by Gottlieb. The world abounds with countless myths about the creation of the universe, the origins of Man, his place in the natural and magical realms; about the rituals that sustain the natural cycle, responsible for seasons and good crops; about the interaction between humans and spirits; about initiation and death; and so on. All of these myths have a wellspring, a source, at times even a visible embodiment; their birth stems from Man's inexorable, indomitable need for self-understanding and self-justification, for suppressing his haunting fears, for mediating the opposing ideas and forces that occupy his mind. In other words, the need for myths is deeply rooted in the human psyche.

Thus myths are not random, ungrounded, or accidental; that is why they have so much in common despite their dissimilarity. Nevertheless, they tell widely different stories; though springing from a common mental source, they do not shared common factual basis. The collective mind of countless groups depicts a multitude of different, contradictory pre-histories; according to the KF, most of them must be true.

Yet this is only one aspect of the entire issue. Let us put aside the obvious: thousands of beliefs to which the KF is logically applicable are clearly ungrounded in real events. It would be far more interesting to establish the cases, boundaries, frameworks, and extent to which the KF actually applies. What can we say about it?

Two factors can be of help in groping for the answer. We are already familiar with the first: the close relationship between the KF and CS. Wherever CS is in effective use, the KF has good chances of succeeding. Thus even rather unexpected groups of people prove to be skeptical when confronted with alien myths though continuing to believe their own, even the more implausible ones. For that same reason, Indians and Papuans rejected Christianity and the accompanying idea of a transcendent God without becoming atheists in the process. However, the link between the KF and CS may be of "critical" benefit alone, i.e., it can only help us discard narratives that are incongruous from the point of view of CS. Where will we find an example of the opposite?

The second factor is, let us say, quantitative in nature. In-depth transmission of information is fraught with losses and distortions. This subject has been dealt with in scores of learned books written from the standpoint of mathematics, history, linguistics, and so on.[47] The scope of this article does not enable us to address this issue in depth, yet it should be noted that we must be wary of pinning our hopes on collective memory when it has to store information originating in another world, a different mental reality. The question of the reliability of Jewish tradition itself will be discussed below; in the meantime, let us stress: collective memories that do not have to reach too deeply – from maelstrom to maelstrom, from revolution to revolution, whether material or cultural – may well prove to be reliable.

Having said all that, it is time to address the most intriguing question. To be sure, the KF is capable of invalidating numerous invented narratives. Obviously, many collective narratives – presumably later ones – are quite authentic. However, can we give at least one totally positive example where the KF operates at its full scope? To put it differently, can we find an example of at least one narrative of a "momentous" implausible mass phenomenon, preferably bordering on the miraculous, which occurred say 3,000 years ago; a narrative that has reached us exclusively through the collective memory of a large group of people, an element of today's belief that has been proven true in the common sense of the word? Leaving Jewish history aside for the time being – what about all the rest?

We must frankly admit that, despite considerable efforts, we have not managed to come up with such an example. Nor does Gottlieb cite one. Assuming that there are none, or at least that Gottlieb et al. failed to find any, the natural question is: why did they invent the KF?

The Kuzari arguments and Jewish tradition

Until now we have examined the Kuzari arguments (KA) – the KP and the KF – as formal arguments of a largely general nature, analyzing them as an attempt to prove certain qualities of tradition in human societies (the KP) or certain collective psychological traits of these societies (the KF). Now it is time to recall that they were born on Jewish soil and bear the birthmarks of their time and culture. They were chosen especially to match the colors of Jewish tradition, as shoes are chosen to match the dress. Let us see the results, this time from the Jewish point of view.[48]

To begin with, let us forget about the modernizing process undergone by the KA. This is worthwhile above all because in its ancient, archaic form the KP operated under a much more convenient theorem (and consequently reality) than the one within which it is forced to operate today. In order to have clear idea of this, let us recall the famous quotation from Nahmanides which defines the KP in a condensed fashion, as well as Segal's interpretation of the KP, which is contemporary yet archaic, and therefore quite apt (we have provided both quotations at the start of the article; now we will cite them in somewhat shortened versions for the sake of convenience):

"What is said above... means that when we tell this story to our children, they will surely know that the story is true, without a doubt, as though all the generations saw [the Sinai Revelation]. For we will not testify falsely to our sons, and bequeath them nonsense and useless things. And they will not have the slightest doubt about our testimony which we will testify before them, but they will surely believe that we all have seen, with our own eyes, all that we tell them." (Nahmanides)

"It is absolutely impossible to doubt the [historical veracity] of the Sinai Revelation... Yet who said that this is precisely how it all happened? This was the testimony bequeathed by all the sons of Israel to all of their sons – that they had seen it with their own eyes... How could Moses or anyone else have made up the Torah, which describes the Sinai Revelation and other miracles, if the fathers had not in fact witnessed it firsthand? For then thousands of fathers would have cried out at once: 'Not true! We have never seen anything like that!' - or else thousands of sons would have shouted: 'Not true! Our fathers have never told us about this'." (Segal)

At first glance, Nahmanides' reasoning appears strange and unconvincing, even exceedingly unconvincing. First of all, why would we not testify falsely to our sons?[49] But even so, why should the sons of the present generation (for, as Nahmanides explicitly states, "all the generations saw") necessarily believe that their parents did not confuse anything since Sinai? Finally, it is very puzzling that Nahmanides writes, "that we all have seen with our own eyes..." instead of "as though we all have seen with our own eyes" – as though he were referring to firsthand eyewitnesses rather than their distant offspring. Ultimately one can disagree with Nahmanides, but it is difficult to believe that this sophisticated thinker could utter such peculiar notions. It is more likely that we fail to grasp their true meaning.

Meanwhile, when mature (modern) scholars misunderstand an old text, they should be advised to turn to the naive for help. In the case in hand, this role will be played by Segal, who understands Nahmanides far better than we do. Segal writes: "This was the testimony bequeathed by all the sons of Israel to all of their sons... How could Moses or anyone else have made up the Torah?" He envisions the same image as that painted by Nahmanides in his mind's eye, one that we, educated in a different culture, initially overlooked.

The medieval inventors of the KP proceeded from a totally different model of discourse than the one used by today's apologists of Judaism; accordingly, this made their task much easier. Spec, they believed that staging and repertoire are not on the agenda at all, and that the only issue to be resolved is that of assigning roles.

In other words, Halevi and Nahmanides, like the majority of other medieval thinkers, had no notion that they might be called upon to prove the historical authenticity of the overall picture depicted in the Torah. They considered it a self-evident and indisputable fact that at the time fixed by tradition (presume 1312 BCE, as calculated by present-day Orthodox Jewish theoreticians), all of the characters and performers were on stage while the play was being enacted. Yehuda Halevi, among other things, provided convincing passages dealing with this matter. For example, to prove the accuracy of Jewish chronology from the creation of the world to the Exodus, he quite calmly cites the fact that the Egyptians did not attempt to dispute Moses' account of it. At no time does he find it necessary to prove Moses' existence, his encounter with Pharaoh, or the historical polemic between the two.[50]

In the opinion of Jewish medieval classical thinkers, a historical book – any book, including the Torah – never invents anything unless it is in the author's direct interest. Indeed, why should he deviate from reality when it is simpler to adhere to its actual or perceived course? A different reality would result in a different book. In other words, it is more efficient to write a true story. Nevertheless, in the framework of this concept it has been accepted that reality is embellish in books, partly in order to appear more sophisticated, partly to make the books more readable. Therefore the mighty Egyptian state, the vicious pharaoh, the Jewish people led by Moses, and many other things did exist at the time in question. This, according to the ancients, is not open to question.

In that case, what is the argument about? What, in their opinion, is left to be proven?

There is no doubt, assert the authors of the KP, that at a certain stage a man named Moses (under whatever name he may have had, a leader determined to give the Law to his people) gathered all the Jews and gave them a detailed and extensive doctrine. This is still part of the landscape, of the unquestionable context set by an unbiased book, part of the banal and impersonal narrative outline, the point of departure. The question is, did Moses tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Can we believe him in every detail? This, in the ancients' view, is no longer self-evident and must be proven.

The Kuzari arguments were invented not to prove that Moses existed, but to prove that he spoke the truth.

Before proceeding to the proof itself, we will point out what we consider an important and essential detail. The questioning theoretical [51] approach to enigmatic, basically mythological realities, labeled "myth rationalization" in the relevant literature, the approach that indiscriminately declares all myths to be embellished retellings of real events – this approach emphatically does not originate in Jewish, oriental, or even very ancient sources. This is the classical Hellenistic theory of de-mythologizing, whose core is the recognition of the myth by the public mind as a sound yet blemished history; in the process, the myth is emptied of all that seemed exaggerated to the skeptical intelligence. From the epistemological point of view, the authors of the KP were consistent Hellenists (many centuries after the demise of Hellenism), they waged debated with Hellenists (or with Hellenized Arabs), and it was for them that they invented their astonishing proofs.[52] In pre-Hellenistic times, the myth with its miracles needed to be read rather than simplified and unmasked. In modern times, we are constantly learning to decipher myths. Only in the Hellenistic cultural milieu did myths unfold into linear prosaic narratives. It was this tedious linear environment that gave birth to the KP.

How, then, does the KP prove the truthfulness of Moses? Very simply. Did the leader address the Jews? He did, and no one disputes that fact. Whom exactly did he address? That is obvious: either the adult Jews, themselves eyewitnesses to the Sinai Revelation – assuming it did take place – or the young generation (their children). Let us consider whether he could have sold his audience a falsehood. If he told his story of the Sinai Revelation to the adult Jews, the "fathers," then he certainly had no chance of deceiving them – for they of all people would know whether the Sinai miracle happened (in their presence!) or not. Therefore we should assume – for the sake of precision – that he addressed the children. Could he have deceived the "children"? The answer us no: it is absolutely unthinkable that these youngsters, the first generation after the potential witnesses of the miracle, would have resignedly listened to a falsified account of the great revelation received by their parents a mere thirty or forty years earlier. "How can this be?" – the "children" would have demanded – "If such a wonderful thing had happened, why did our parents tell us nothing about it?" Consequently, they were familiar with Moses' story and found it to contain no major contradictions – which proves our point.

Admittedly, there is more to this. Jewish Hellenist logicians-historians were perfectly aware that this proof was missing a vital link. Moses' followers, as we have just proven, were told the truth, yet where is the guarantee that this truth has reached us undistorted, that what we know today is exactly identical to what they heard? After all, many centuries have gone by, the world and people have changed – could the Torah alone have remained the same?

At different times, the Jews approached this question in different ways. Before the year zero, during the actual Hellenistic period, they would have simply shrugged their shoulders: they did not have the slightest doubt as to the authenticity of their religious convictions, and at the same time felt no need to view them as accurate, exclusive, and unique. At that time God was a living presence who created surprising innovations and with whom the faithful communicated. In other words, most of them served their God rather than tradition.

For modern man, this unusual logic is hard to accept; the ancient Jews, on the other hand, were not bothered by the numerous and apparently equally sacred versions of the Torah text, as well as by the multiple meanings of the halacha and of the oral law in general. Perhaps it is only today that we, the victims-heroes of postmodernism, are gradually beginning to understand these people. They perceived religion as a palpable living doctrine, divinely inspired, ceaselessly generated by reality and affecting it in return; that is why it was capable of containing manifold meanings, like life itself. However, after the Roman massacre, after the destruction of Judea and Jerusalem, having lost all hope for freedom and partially for the approaching eschatological end, they developed a striving for unification, for putting their faith in a formal framework, for a single authoritative tradition expected to somehow replace what had been lost – consequently, the question of its immutability and authenticity was bound to arise. The tradition being formulated at the time, still incomplete and ambiguous, was retroactively declared – in front of the living witnesses of its ambiguity – eternal and absolute, tracing its lineage to Moses. At that time, the issue of finding a logical proof of authenticity had not been raised at all,[53] for it was the question of a political truth rather than a fact of natural philosophy. Similarly, in 1918 the legitimacy of the Bolsheviks' prevailing claim was a political rather than a theoretical question, since the left-wing Social Revolutionary Party was still alive and well, forming a part of Lenin's government; however, after the July purge it turned out that they had never actually existed and that the Bolsheviks had staged the revolution alone.

On the other hand, in the Middle Ages the Jews living in the blessed Moslem Spain, having finally acquirGreek wisdom through Arab translations, were mature enough to formulate this question in theoretical terms. Their enthusiasm is understandable. The question was very much to their liking, for they were confident of being right; even a lazy student is delighted with his exam question as long as he has the right crib sheet in his pocket.

Yehuda Halevi, Maimonides, and Nahmanides felt (emotionally) and were truly convinced (realistically) that stretching behind them was a vast expanse of unbroken and consistent religious history. They were quite justified in this viewpoint, even though the factual foundation they used to erect their concept was largely imaginary. Admittedly, given the times and the circumstances, it would have been difficult, not to say impossible, to expect them to display a critical attitude toward their own teaching. The point is, they had something to rely on – if we forget about dates and time-periods. By that time, the coherent and to some extent documented Jewish religion had been in existence for an immense period of time – about fifteen hundred years;[54] to that depth at least, the waters appeared (and continue to appear to this day) relatively transparent. Even though Jewish scholars of the 11th-13th centuries had many more ancient texts available to them than do their modern counterparts (a countless number of records and books have been lost today still existed at that time) and therefore knew or could have known the difficulty with which the unified tradition was universally introduced,[55] this was already rather ancient history that allowed for free interpretation; by the time the KP was created, the battle for unification had been brilliantly won and the dissidents had been long branded as heretics. The period of "unified authority" was already several centuries old; the Talmudic system worked with wonderful precision. The psychologically justified self-persuaded view of the authors of the KP explained the situation as follows: our people is 2,300 years old, there is a visible depth of 1,500 years of vibrant religious history and vivid evidence of (even deeper) ancient roots; naturally, this is also the age of our unified common tradition, which has been functioning without fail for hundreds of years before our very eyes.

This gave rise to the conviction that Jewish tradition is immutable. And where there is conviction, there rises, like a desert mirage, the inductive proof, though dubious from our standpoint, of the reliability of collective memory. Its archaic formulation is simple: we observe the same rituals, say the same prayers, study the same books as our grandfathers and great-grandfathers; this has gone on for many centuries, as deeply rooted in the visible historical past as we can trace it;[56] thus reliable transmission from one disciple to another, from one generation to the next, is possible. Now, if this is true, our already proven millennia-old past is in itself sufficient testimony to the fact that this was always the case – otherwise we would have long ago ceased to exist.[57] This is the modus operandi of the KA induction, which we will label Hellenistic rather than mathematical: if the Greeks had not come to the East, these arguments would have been unnecessary and indeed impossible.

Thus the dynamic was transformed into the static. The complex, fascinating, in a way unprecedented phenomenon of Jewish culture/awareness/literature/religion, whose undoubtedly dynamic nature and creative mutability had survived for many centuries, was replaced by the eternally given, or rather, the relative stasis of a self-systematized tradition was projected into the past and sanctified. Semi-consciously "forgotten" in the process were the testimonies of the "commonly accepted" Babylonian Talmud, which described the creative, random composition of the Bible (Ezekiel is in, Ben-Sira is out), the "holes" contained in the text of the Pentateuch, the innovations in Halacha, the prophetic authority appropriated by the sages, and so on. In this fashion, the stasis substantiated itself.

However, this scholastic argument can and must be counteracted with the healthy dialectics of a counter-example that would be equally effective against Aristotelian mechanics. We are not obliged to trust myths, be they Greek, Jewish, or Babylonian; what we will do is test them. In this instance, let us consider a simple question: why should a tradition, whatever it may be, whether widespread or not, necessarily reach back in time to the factual context proclaimed by its inventor? Can we not posit a different scenario, one in which the Jewish nation, a group of people who identified themselves as the Jewish nation, first emerged at a considerably later date than the supposed time of the Exodus, regardless of whether it happened in the 6th, 8th, or 11th century BCE?

Let us suppose that in the year 1100 a certain person told his five sons the following story: "I am the last of the Jewish Mohicans. Once we were many, but everyone else has died. Two hundred and twelve years ago, God spoke to my great-great-grandfather Moses and all his ilk and gave them the Torah. He fed us manna, commanded us to keep the Sabbath, to fast on the 10th of Tishre, etc." The children grasped their lesson; subsequently this group was joined by a hundred neighboring families and a thousand slaves; these gave rise to both the Jewish nation and its tradition.

Now, we do not claim for an instant that it actually happened this way. We would even venture to suggest that it all occurred in a different, less formal manner.[58] However, at the moment we are concerned with something else: given this course of events, all of the declared conditions of Jewish tradition have been met (incidentally, they may just as well have been omitted without harming the argument in any way):[59]

A. This tradition was possessed by all Jews through all generations (father in the first generation, five sons in the second, etc.).

B. From the outset, this tradition included claims of mass revelation and of its continuity without these serving as evidence of its authenticity.

At the same time, given the circumstances, at one stage it was the property of a single individual (a Mohammed of sorts), who may have been believed or disbelieved!

This construct contains no contradiction, so it automatically renders meaningless the KP, whose central assertion is that such a construct is impossible, i.e., that mass tradition must necessarily intersect with its inventor.[60] This is an absurd Hellenistic historical approach which found unexpected adherents in the 20th century; we are reminded of the notorious Hellenist colonel who endeavored to prove that for a solid body to be maintained in linear motion a constant force must be applied to it.

The second fundamental flaw in the KA (promised above) is the regrettable fact that they are totally unsuitable for their intended purposes – vindicating the Jewish tradition at the expense of others. The problem is not so much that it is pointless to dress inductive reasoning in the uncouth cloak of common sense. It is much worse: the scholastic methodology of the KA is inherently biased against Jewish tradition. If the KA path is followed in earnest, other dubious systems, above all Christian tradition, will acquire an extremely interesting logical grounding – even if we view it as somewhat shaky.[61] We would not advise the Judaic apologists to enter into an open debate on the subject of the KP-KF with the well-seasoned Christian theologian: the outcome would be rather dismal.

The problem is, medieval scholars compelled us to tacitly accept the central element of their formal construct: to wit, the axiom regarding the common, nation-wide nature of Jewish tradition. In dozens of books and articles we encounter the same decisive argument: no other nation (sometimes - no other religion) has ever asserted the fact of a nationwide revelation. Many interesting facts could be told regarding this uniqueness; essentially, no truly ancient nation could not have envisioned an existence devoid of constant physical contact with deity, without its widespread manifestations (iones were of little concern at the time), which had to be consistent and repeated; in many localities, the deity manifested itself on an yearly, monthly, and even weekly basis, and not only in times immemorial, but during that historical era.

Divine presence was never in short supply in antiquity. Difficulties began to arise only later, on the way to monotheism; moreover, the later the period under discussion, the less frequent the divine manifestations and the instances of personal contact with the deity. Zoroaster encountered Ormazd (also on a mountain) in the course of an event similar to the Jewish one; Jesus still preached to thousands and performed his miracles in front of multitudes. On the other hand, Mohammed settled his accounts with Allah one-on-one, but Genghis Khan never bothered to explain where he found Yasah.

The real problem with the KA lies elsewhere. Certainly the depiction of the Sinai Revelation testifies to its mass character (even though the simple folk actually witnessed not much more than thunder and lightning); yet the subsequent developments of Jewish history, in the most orthodox interpretation, clearly indicate that Jewish tradition was not a widespread phenomenon at all. On the contrary: for centuries, up until Hellenistic times, it was at best the privilege of the powerful, elect, or wise individuals. As we have already mentioned, the Bible explicitly states that the Jews, while living in their own state, would forget everything: the holidays, the commandments, even the Torah itself. We are willing to allow (in full keeping with the view of Jewish Orthodox scholars) that a few individuals kept the tradition even in those difficult times, but in that case this tradition was certainly not widespread and could have easily been distorted or lost – which is exactly what happened – according to Halevi - to the lost traditions of other nations, whereas the Jews lost a large portion of ancient knowledge.

However, even during later times, the era of writing and books, no formal argument could be derived from the formula "all fathers to all sons"; worse yet, this thesis is the least applicable to this present or preceding generation, in fact to the last ten generations.[62] Here, despite universal literacy, we can only talk about a negligible minority. In our generation the Sinai Revelation is believed by barely 20 percent of the Jewish people, at least 60 percent have only a vague idea of it, and the remaining 20 percent heard about this event only through the Christian interpretation. Under these circumstances, how can there be a valid mass tradition that is perpetuated by a fluctuating minority? One can not even claim that religious Jewish communities ostensibly remain impervious to erosion and staunchly preserve the tradition – for in that case, how can one account for the past and present existence of secular Jews? In addition – strictly for the sake of logical accuracy – we must ask what would happen if a group of secular Jews (oblivious to the entire tradition thing and thus non-inductive) wished to return to tradition, and to do it in its own way, as is often the case?

Unfortunately, the axiom regarding a permanent mass tradition does not apply to Jews. In other words, Jews cannot boast of fulfilling the condition that is absolutely indispensable for the operation of the KP-KF – the existence of a sizable group of bearers of tradition that remains stable through all generations. The existing groups of Jews were neither stable nor sizable. On the other hand, this axiom is quite applicable to many other nations – above all, to the great Asian nations (the Chinese, parts of the Indian population, the Japanese). In those places, the concept of mass tradition has not yet failed, [63] then again, we cannot vouch that – in spite of Gottlieb – it will not happen in the future. In any case, to date it is these nations that are the true heroes of the KP. Frankly, we do not find this funny.

In our opinion, this axiom does not apply to Christianity either. The emergence of this religion (or, if you will, this group of people) does not seem to have been a mass, all-embracing phenomenon. However, the Christians could boast another element of our scholastic argument: the undoubted continuity of their tradition and, what is equally important, its "reducibility to the original founder." In other words, the early Christians definitely lived in the time of Christ and could have testified – whether truthfully or nor is another matter – to his deeds. Indeed, the history of the Christian community follows an uninterrupted course; what is more, we are able to trace the practically unbroken development of Christian literature from the Gospels to our time. This factor makes it very tempting to construct a somewhat different version of the KA, one that logically "proves" the authenticity of the Christian doctrine. We are prevented from doing so by two factors: one, the methodology would still be scholastic and faulty, so that some logician would inevitably smash it to pieces; two, it is pity to invest in proving a false thesis which you don't even believe yourself. Still, woe be to Gottlieb if this task is taken up by a devout Christian, even without our prompting; the resulting construct will be – at least in its outward appearance – much more plausible.

The Kuzari apotheosis

We consider it necessary to begin our summary by restoring justice. Not all of the irrational deductions cited above can be attributed to medieval Jewish thinkers, above all to Halevi and Nahmanides. What is more, they bear no responsibility either for the absolute formulation of the KP-KF problem or for the universal apologetic proof erected, like the Tower of Bable, by our contemporaries. In essence, we have already mentioned this important point. Now we will attempt to make it totally clear.

If our classical authors have transgressed in any way, it is mainly in using (like some others) the term "proof" or one of its synonyms (such as "establishing the absolute truth") in their arguments. In their defense [64] one could argue that in discussing proof, they trod upon relatively unfamiliar Hellenistic ground, swampy ground to be drained and properly cultivated only in modern times. At that point in time Aristotelian logic was considered a mighty weapon; it would have been a pity not to use it for apologetic purposes, especially since religious ethics simply demanded the Jewish scholars glorify the name of the Almighty in their own way.

However, this transgression – an ancient one and, if fit to be judged, then by different standards – appears pardonable when compared to the intellectual crime perpetrated by the present-day co-authors of the KP-KF. They invented a construct that paints an offensive picture of Judaism, formal logic, and theology all at once. This argument, a rather dubious one even in its archaic form, now, having been formulated anew, becomes a hackneyed logical provocation intended for simpletons: the clever will laugh, the simple will swallow the bait – that should be enough.

We have already pointed out that the present-day authors of the KA produced their fairly general arguments primarily in order to avoid discussing a complex issue – the correlation between Jewish historical narrative and reality. Thus they have transgressed above all against the obligatory monotheistic character of Jewish apologetics and of Jewish philosophy the way it was molded by Halevi, Maimonides, and Nahmanides for their own times and for the future. Our sorry authors tried to kill two birds with one stone: to prove the desired assertion regarding the authenticity of Jewish tradition by arguing from the general to the particular, as the consequence of the general theorem on the authenticity of various knowledges and traditions, and at the same time, to avoid giving a single example of the way this theorem was implemented in other areas. According to the essence of their idea, such examples must necessarily be found. Incidentally, this is what Gottlieb suggests when stating that he has not managed to find a single instance in whicthe KF is ineffective.[65] However, his left hand takes away what his right hand has given when he points out that no other tradition can boast such a mass source as Judaism. What, then, is the actual state of affairs? If Gottlieb, Chait, Segal, and others were right in the assertion that many of the traditions passed down from father to son were true, the world must be swarming with traditions that compete with Judaism! Short of claiming that this constitutes full-fledged idol worship, we must acknowledge the sweet aroma of pagan omelet wafting in the air. On the other hand, if tradition is true in the case of Judaism alone, then the reasons must certainly be substantive rather than formal! If so, the authors of the KA have given birth to nothing more than a simple sophism that allows them (with a proviso for gullibility) to skirt the core of the issue, to have their cake and eat it too.

The very idea of proving the authenticity of Judaism from general reasoning, without going into depth, smells of heresy.[66] If, moreover, this idea is seasoned with rather clumsy manipulations, then – excluding the combined value of converted simpletons – it is capable of causing nothing but damage to Judaism and Jewish apologetics and this damage may easily prove irreparable. Furthermore, Jewish law clearly treats the so-called 'profanation of God's name' as one of the most terrible transgressions against the faith. It would seem that Gottlieb and his co-authors have committed this crime on numerous occasions – at least each time an educated reader or listener found them guilty of manipulation, error, or fabrication (whichever it happened to be) – and drew the regrettable conclusion that Jewish apologetics (if not the religion itself) was pure fraud.[67]

However, the medieval Jewish classics can be accused of nothing of the kind. We have already quoted the words of Halevi in the Kuzari, from which it unequivocally follows that he had no intention whatsoever of constructing his proof from the general to the particular and that he did not consider Judaism as one of the existing true traditions. On the contrary, he believed that the Jewish tradition had preserved what other nations had lost and that the unique Jewish system of transmitting tradition, though it did not prevent the loss of information, did prevent errors. He would never have agreed with Gottlieb's assertion that the Chinese or the Japanese (not to mention the Hindus) are capable of preserving their sacred tradition for millennia, or, in other words, that there is no smoke without fire, no faith without evidence. As we have already demonstrated, one may argue with Halevi; his confidence in the reliability of Jewish tradition is not binding on the modern researcher (in fact, in discussing such issues as religious history, it is preferable to focus on their essence). However, in the 11th century Halevi's inductive reasoning – which was constructed, as we recall, only in conjunction with other apologetic arguments – was quite valid, especially in view of the level of historical knowledge and the nature of the logical apparatus which existed at the time, and in particular the absolute, axiomatic belief of all educated people in the Bible as an authentic historical account. Regardless of the absolute value of the arguments used by Halevi and Nahmanides they appear authentic, Jewish in content (though Greek in form), instructive (yet not very original) for their time, and worthy of study and even of research. However, what we constantly encounter today are not those arguments but rather an absurd modern expansion of the KP-KF, which is not Jewish, nor Greek, nor authentic, nor even monotheistic.

In conclusion, we would like to add: those who wish to find a deceptively innocuous way of discrediting Judaism need look no further than the present "Kuzari arguments." All they have to do is quote – naturally, on behalf of Yehuda Halevi – one of the canonic, sanctified KP-KF arguments, reminding their interlocutor that this is the "sole ultimate proof of the truth of the Torah" and urging him to subject it to a thorough examination. The result, alas, is known in advance: if the poor soul has read more than three books in his lifetime, he will immediately become an anarchist, a Manichean, or a cannibal – in other words, he will set loose his hitherto carefully hidden tendencies. There is no longer any need to hide: armed with the newly found method, he can easily prove and justify anything at all.

There is one final point to be made. The Kuzari (1:67) states, "There is certainly nothing in the Torah that is inconsistent with facts or logic." The modern KP-KF contains nothing that is consistent with facts or logic. It is a pity that Halevi and Nahmanides, to whom these arguments are attributed, cannot speak out in their own defense; perhaps the true motivation behind this article was our (not initially conscious) desire to do it for them.

[1]Identical to what is commonly known, at first glance, as the Kuzari principle; the reader will soon see why we were forced to introduce an additional term.

[2]We feel compelled to point out in the margins that both in classical antiquity and the Middle Ages such constructs did exist and were actually not uncommon. The famous so-called ontological and psychological proofs of God's existence were designed in exactly the same way as the KP (see below), and in the purely logical sense they belong to the same family. Structurally, both of them are assertions that the very fact of proposing a certain hypothesis or concept guarantees their validity. Unable to make a more informative digression regarding this issue, we will limit ourselves to a brief yet enlightening passage from the Philosophical Dictionary: "The ontological proof of God's existence deduces the objective existence of a supreme entity from its subjective idea: if God had no real existence except as a mere idea, this flaw would be at variance with the concept of God as the most perfect and most real entity... The psychological proof of God's existence derives from the presence of God in the mind (i.e., the experience of God), and states that the mind alone cannot provide sufficient grounds for the idea of God's existence; consequently, the foundation must consist of the external reason of a superhuman nature (i.e., God as an existing entity)." To a logician, there is no difference between these proofs and the KP.

[3]Hence, evidently, the exclusive nature of the KP in Jewish apologetics: there is simply no need for additional arguments.

[4]This begs the question: were not all Frenchmen unfortunate witnesses of World War I? The same as all the Germans, Austrians, Czechs, Hungarians, whose number certainly exceeded by far the number of Jews present at Mount Sinai? The victims of this war alone number in many millions. What Segal probably had in mind was the degree of Frenchmen's involvement in the war, since their majority did not take part in military action and were not on the front lines, whereas according to Jewish tradition, all the Jews were present at Mount Sinai. Be that as it may, one should be more precise in one's assertions.

[5]Since hereafter we will make frequent use of the term "formalism," it should probably be defined in some fashion. In principle, "formalism" essentially has multiple meanings; for us, in full accordance with the encyclopedic dictionary, formalism represents an operator with multiple parameters, a logical construct that allows us to perform a fixed action with different (in fact, different by their very nature) arguments-operands without giving prior thought to the meaning of the latter, ideally a simple predicate or a correlation between predicates; in other words, the direct generalization of the word "formula," familiar to the reader from secondary school. In all honesty, for our purposes the latter definition is quite sufficient.

[6]An identical definition of the KP is provided by Dr. Y. Chait in his article Torah from Sinai. Many others use this definition as well.

[7]One significant point merits attention: in contrast with the preceding and subsequent constructs, yet similar to several others, Gottlieb's formalism manages very well without using the nationwide scale of event E (leaving behind the large-scale "evidence" instead); the same as the fact that his use of the word "people" in no way requires the said group of people to necessarily be a nation. His formalism is essentially broader: though embracing the concept of "nation" it is equally applicable to other stable groups of people; suitable for nationwide revelations, it is also relevant to other "momentous" events. The nature of this generalization is clear: in his search for commonality, Gottlieb correctly pointed out that the said logical constructs, featuring the concept of "people," do not make appropriate use of it; in other words, this concept "does not work" here. As for the potentially nationwide character of event E, it is not a necessary consequence either: the "nationwide" feature is introduced solely as an example of the logically necessary widespread relevance of the tradition-evidence. It was introduced for the sole purpose of countering the following argument (uttered by one who is considering the account of event E): perhaps I belong to those who were not reached by the tradition-evidence while it did reach others (because, for example, E was not a nationwide event; those who had witnessed it passed the evidence on to their descendants while the others did not). If such a situation is plausible, lack of evidence is not sufficient in itself to brand E a fiction. As Gottlieb reasonably points out, for E to be declared a fiction in accordance with formalism, the person being questioned must be assured of two things: first, that E would have certainly given rise to a tradition that would have survived until his time, and second, that he would have to be aware of such a surviving tradition. In formulating his description of the picture, Gottlieb, without losing the commonality, replaced the "nationwide" concept with the more precise merger of "large scale" and "widespread." We will have to return to this question in the future.

[8]An example of an event that leaves behind a tradition, a purely informative piece of evidence.

[9]An example of an event that leaves a piece of physical evidence. The author must point out, in a note specially inserted, that this article was written prior to September 11, 2001.

[10]Sufficiently large to rule out the possibility of its being mentally unstable, excessively specific, inadequately attuned to reality, etc.; among others, a people or a religious sect.

[11]Other available depositories of B, such as books, are in this particular instance mere visual aids rather than original sources.

[12]This is a fairly significant statement that will not be examined too closely, since it draws no visible objections from either the adherents or the opponents of the KP. Take, for example, the Sinai Revelation. Along with the perceptible effects – thunder, lightning, all-encompassing dread, etc. – it was probably accompanied by other features (such as the lengthy, informative conversation between the Almighty and Moses right there on the mountain top). The traditional account of these invisible features cannot be authenticated by means of the KP, since they were not part of a momentous, impressive event; in other words, the popular mass cannot bequeath information that it did not itself receive as a collective. Then again, this is not essential as a rule: once our descendants have been convinced of the truth of the visible part of the Biblical narrative they could then be "sold" the entire bill of goods.

[13]We overlook his glaring distortions of the Kuzari text (e.g.: "Now Rav Yehuda Halevi, who created this argument, applied it most directly to the miracle of the manna." Alas, this is either incomprehension or a blatant manipulation of the text. Halevi cites the miracle of manna in a totally different context (one of "instant creation of religion"; see below), which has no direct bearing on the subject of this article.

[14]See footnote 2.

[15]Naturally he relies on passages from the Bible and the Talmud, but his interpretation is quite liberal. In fact, his interpretation became commonly accepted with time, surviving to this day. Or, what is essentially the same: "The Torah was only given to the Jews, and no one else is bound by it… Anyone who chooses to join us will be rewarded from the same source as we are, even though he will not be our equal in terms of faith. If the requirement to follow the Torah were based on the fact that God created us, then all people – white and black alike – would be obliged to follow it, for they are all His creations. But we Jews are obliged to follow the Torah because God took us out of Egypt and attached his Glory to us by choosing us among all the nations." (1: 26-27) .

[16]See the famous kafah har k'gigit.

[17]It was this passage that for some reason impressed Gottlieb as the best illustration of his formula's validity, even though in Halevi's work it has no relation to the KP.

[18]At least not featured in the dialogue between the rabbi and the Kuzari.

[19]It is tempting to supplement Gottlieb's "discovery" with the following "biological" argument, also successfully used at one time in religious apologetics:

"The Rabbi said: …I could imagine people being able to create living beings from something - bees from beef, mosquitoes from wine - for this is possible as it does not require man's calculations or knowledge, only experience. This is akin to discovering that sexual intercourse leads to offspring, even though man's role here is merely the planting of his seed in the soil that is capable of receiving and germinating it. Yet, when it comes to correlations and quantities essential for creating the human form – those are known to God alone." (3:23)

[20]Apparently, this is the source of Gottlieb's unconscious imitation – "suppose someone told you today that five hundred years ago gold grew on trees throughout Romania."

[21]Halevi's thesis on "common knowledge" is, strangely enough, open to objective analysis (one that focuses on the essential rather than generalities), and, alas, does not pass the test. Indeed, we have masses of Egyptian and Mesopotamian texts dating to Moses' time, or even earlier, which describe the ideas these highly civilized peoples had concerning their origins. The content of these texts has nothing to do with Biblical accounts: they make no mention of Noah, his sons, or the tower of Babel; on the other hand, they have linguistic and ontological myths of their own. Of course, we could easily suppose that the local priests fed the people brazen lies, telling them fables of their own making; yet this is actually impossible, according to Halevi: after all, the things being described were common knowledge at the time…

[22]It should be stressed that what we are discussing at present is not the rightness or wrongness of Gottlieb's KF, but rather its adherence, or essentially orthodox conformity, to Halevi's theory.

[23]In fact, even this may be inferred from the KF only in the case of a completely fabricated event. What would happen, according to the KF, if the event in question is a semi-fabrication? Gottlieb's main thesis – that without evidence there is no faith in "momentous" events – does not necessarily maintain the distinction between a true and a "falsified" event. Indeed, nowhere does the KF claim – not would it dare to claim – that evidence must be completely truthful and accurate. If we were to assume that due to the passage of time or circumstances evidence could be rendered inaccurate or false, then the framework of the KF could very well permit the emergence of a false faith, whereby the people, relying on the existing evidence, believe in a false prophet. All the KF asserts is that a false faith cannot appear in empty space. What if the space is half-empty? Then it probably can. A meager argument, highly deficient from the point of view of Jewish apologetics. Yet the KF makes no other conjectures. Still, a more detailed look at this issue is to follow.

[24]If this is not enough, there is something else: the totally forgotten great Harappian civilization of the late third millennium BCE, one of the major ones of the contemporary world, which was rediscovered in the 20th century.

[25]Gottlieb openly admits the empirical nature of the KF, as well as the fact that it is basically refutable. Nevertheless, he believes it to be reliable and secure – and thus free of logical and empirical misconceptions.

[26]This is the fate of all "powerful" claims: once proven, they become theorems that help pave new ways; refuted (even if in the most general manner), they crumble into dust, no longer able to support even true particular statements.

[27]An exceptionally striking one to this day.

[28]To be sure, nothing can prevent us from formally dividing up any group of people based on one principle or another if this is essential for purposes of research or analysis. However, the introduction of absolutely formal "generations" hardly facilitates the goal of finding substantive grounds for the inductive nature of the transmission of collective memory. Nevertheless, we will continue examining the KP, which clearly applies both the concept of informational generation and the so-called "inductive thesis."

[29]Lit. "Clear Mishnah."

[30]For example, did the Trojan War ever take place? And if it did, who were the warring parties?

[31]We must remind the reader that there is no way of mitigating the requirements of MMI. In other words, by removing one of its two requirements we can easily prove false propositions.

[32]We still do not know what is meant by "generation" in this given case.

[33]Another reminder: MMI was invented several centuries ago for one reason only: for many problems, a hypothetical proposition of the second stage, i.e., a conditional proposition concerning the truth of the theorem for any given n, makes it much easier to prove for n+1. Unfortunately, this does not apply in our case. Therefore, using MMI (or the KP, which is the same) to prove the general proposition concerning the authenticity of all traditions that meet the above conditions does not help us in any way.

[34]It would be an interesting challenge to determine whether there are cases in which it is applicable. We have not managed to find a single example of this.

[35]Another point to make: in formal terms, the existence of a "leak" does not necessarily mean a definite distortion of tradition. Theoretically, an accidental distortion committed by one generation may be remedied by another accidental distortion made by the same or some other generation. However, such a development is impossible in nature, requiring the intervention of supernatural forces. Therefore this supposition, though quite applicable to those instances that allow for the miraculous, must be dismissed in the case initially addressed by the KP. Moreover, the regrettable examples of lost tradition confirm the natural character of collective memory, at least for the majority of peoples.

[36]We must repeat: Gottlieb has no monopoly or exclusive claims on the KF; not only did he not invent it, but this same argument has been worried to death by dozens if not hundreds of apologist authors. At the same time, it was no accident that we chose to examine Gottlieb's text: he has not only dared to provide the KF with a formal structure, but to write an entire book about it. Now it is time for him to pay the price.

[37]We have already cited an example of "substantive debate" when talking about the Egyptian evidence of the Tower of Bable. (See footnote 21.)

[38]To be sure, Gottlieb is far from consistent in his choice of examples. Thus, his example of a volcano erupting in Manhattan and heaps of lava in the center of New York is clearly inappropriate, since it indubitably deals with material evidence. However, his preferences are obvious, especially since they lead him to the one event he is really interested in: the story of the Sinai Revelation.

[39]Or rather, they agree to disagree.

[40]Actually, Gottlieb deserves our sympathy. How can he ever prove that the miracle of the manna is not a fabrication? By producing a jar of the stuff (perhaps one that was hidden away by Moses)? Yet what would that prove? Absolutely nothing. But he does not even have that much. Willy-nilly, he is forced settle for mental evidence.

[41]For the umpteenth time it must be stressed: he may "know" but, even according to the KF, he does not necessarily "know rightly." Perhaps "believes" would have been a better choice.

[42]Not to mention that such claims are contrary to Christian tradition.

[43]Or perhaps simply does not dare to make such a claim.

[44]It is to prevent the appearance of such progeny, who "know not their kin," that the famous argument regarding the nation-wide character of the Sinai Revelation is introduced – so that no one could claim "my ancestors were sleeping in their tent, saw nothing, and thus could not pass down any knowledge to me," or, to rephrase it, "I live on the other side of town."

[45]Naturally the examples are all hypothetical.

[46]As once depicted by Vercors in his wonderful novel "You Shall Know Them."

[47]For instance, scholars have unearthed fascinating things concerning such specific topics as the textual evolution of the Pentateuch.

[48]Our discussion has absolutely nothing to do with the historical evolution of the Jewish tradition; this topic, unfortunately, in not included in the scope of our paper. What we are concerned with is not tradition, but the KA as it applies to tradition. However, genuine historical analysis of Jewish culture renders the very discussion of the KA redundant, since it examines the essence of the problem at hand.

[49]There are numerous instances of this, particularly in totalitarian societies, naturally illustrating mass phenomena.

[50]Curiously, the Torah does not contain the slightest hint of that polemic; nor do we get much help from the oral tradition. However, according to Hellenistic traditional logic (whose framework underlies Halevi's arguments), an encounter between Moses and the pharaoh, provided it did take place, must have included a philosophical and historical discussion. This premise is quite sufficient for Halevi: the encounter took place by definition while its purported nature is self-evident. Yet in the 14th century BCE, this sort of polemic would have been unthinkable; even the terms required for such a polemic did not exist at the time.

[51]Merely theoretical, of course. We would never claim that Nahmanides viewed the Torah as a myth. However, he did conduct a polemic with an imaginary opponent, who was essentially supposed to espouse just such a view. Were it otherwise, the authors of the KA would be expected to at least declare the Torah to be different from other books in that it recounts actual historical events. Yet there was no such declaration; the authors of the KA did not see themselves facing an opponent who questioned the narrative outline of the Torah, since under the doctrine shared by both authors and opponents, myths were held to be a retelling of reality, albeit embellished with details. It is no wonder that, in refuting the antiquity of the Hindu tradition, Halevi cited the fact that the Hindus had few historical books. Had there been books, there would have been a reality as well. Consequently, there must be a focus on details.

[52]They would have been perfectly understood by Plutarch, author of realistic biographies of Theseus and Romulus in which he provided simplified accounts of the myths created around these two figures (while stating, with a sigh of regret, that the ancients had gone too far in some of the descriptions) or by the folklorist Ovid, author of Metamorphoses. Yet the same could not be said of Herodotus, who believed that Athenians, during their revolt, could have taken a beautiful stately woman (hired by the exiled tyrant) for the goddess Athena and opened the gates of the besieged city for her, or of Thucydides, who earnestly counted the ships listed by Homer (which carried the Achaeans to Troy) and the number of soldiers that could have fit on those ships; he was not dismayed by the fact that the number of ships exceeded two thousand, a myth in itself (in Thucydides' time, eight centuries later, during the struggle between Athens and Sparta commonly known as the Peloponnesian War, the World War of the Hellenic era, all of the warring parties taken together did not have even a thousand ships). True, the classical Greeks were no longer consistent in their attitude to myths. Beginning with Hecataeus of Miletus, their works contain enough rationalist skepticism to turn the wine of myth into vinegar. However, it would take several more centuries until the ascension of Romulus (or Ganymede) to heaven became a common fable and the Minotaur was transformed into a warrior wearing a horned helmet.

[53]Even though it could have been reasonably raised; the necessary logical apparatus was available and widely known.

[54]We will not be petty-minded and will extend this to include the Persian era as well.

[55]Maimonides, listing (in Mishna Torah) the stages of Jewish religious history and explaining the grounds for the legal authority of Jewish sages, points out that all of the world's Jewish communities have long accepted the authority of the Babylonian Talmud. He believes this event to be the next link in the chain of transmitted, unified common tradition, although it was in fact its first systematic canonization, and even then not as a guide to everyday life (the relative unification of the halacha took centuries), but as a religious imperative. Nevertheless, Maimonides correctly viewed all the communities that adopted the Babylonian Talmud as sharing a common heritage; wise men from Mesopotamia were revered as sources of knowledge, sailing into Spain and imposing ideological order there; since Maimonides was sincerely unaware that the Talmud was the first unification of the Torah, he admittedly had every reason to suppose that the latter had always been unified.

[56]The validity of this claim is open to question; the fact is that in those pre-Gutenbergian times the depth of solid tradition was negligible; unfortunately, the scope of this article does not allow us to probe this issue.

[57]There is no pressing need to refute this hypothesis, whose entire demonstrative potential is nothing but bare emotion; there is no pleasure (let alone joy) in simply stating this fact. What is more, we are no longer there; we (Halevi, Maimonides, Nahmanides) are not the same heroes who built Samaria, fought against Assyria, and paid tribute to the Babylonians; we are who we are in the present, no longer Halevi, Maimonides, or Nahmanides, not even by ties of blood; yet we are still capable of passing on our tradition without violating natural laws. During the last millennium, the world has shrunk in space, and therefore in time as well.

[58]What is important is that this tradition, like all others, did not have to be reinvented: there was no need. The world is filled with hovering unused traditions; when the moment is right, all one has to do is pick one.

[59]This problem has yet another intriguing aspect. In essence, contemporary Jewish apologetics discusses a similar model – and discredits it by means of the following counterargument: "Had this been the case, history would have certainly retained discernible traces of pertinent information, such as the name and the life story of the 'new Moses'…" Alas, it is precisely on those troubled and remote ages, as if invented by us, that history is silent… In fact, we know absolutely nothing about the people who allegedly taught or simply observed Judaism, say, during the first half of the 12th century BCE. Logically speaking, they either never existed or have been consigned to oblivion. Which, in fact, proves our case.

[60]That means, by the way, that the initial claim of 2300 years of Jewish history (before Halevi) is rather problematic; the 1500 years visibility doesn't provide veracity and no external source can bring reliable evidence about Jewish history in the 13th century BCE; nevertheless, this wishful claim is still a part of our collective concepts.

[61]Is it only to please the authors of the KF-KP that the Jews must renounce their national memory – without any irony the most ancient living memory in the world?

[62]Without which the KP does not exist at all. After all, its inductive argument is based on the premise that the present generation received a common tradition as a self-identified group from a similar group. If, however, there is no group but only a sub-group, the argument loses its validity, for the paths of tradition are no longer straight.

[63]Without it, there would have been no wushu, no caste of the untouchables, no Samurai, no chopsticks, and no kamikaze.

[64]To those who find fault with our irreverence and claim that these great minds need not defend themselves, let alone in front of us, we will reply: they themselves did not think so; what is more, they would definitely not be happy with such a defense. If you come to prove – be ready for refutations. Essentially, this type of defense is used only by those who have no regard for the truth.

[65]As the reader may recall, we encountered the opposite problem: we found numerous instances in which the KF fails and not a single example of its successful operation. However, if such examples were found, it would have been detrimental to the uniqueness of Judaism!

[66]After all, most of the aforementioned traditions that compete with Judaism are in violent conflict with it – in which case, how can supposing them to be true not be heresy?

[67]In the course of writing this letter, we would repeatedly ask ourselves: do Gottlieb and his ilk realize what they are doing; are they sincere, misguided, or deliberately misleading others? We will not emulate their example by committing the sin of excessive generalization, or wondering whether simplicity is always worse than theft, or (in the words of either Napoleon or Talleyrand – the opinions differ) whether a mistake is worse than a crime. Still, the facts speak for themselves: an entire series of their published works contain deliberate and crude disinformation. This suggests, at the very least, that for them the end justifies the means. All that remains is to determine whether they believe in the end.