Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Hebrew U and Bar Ilan University professors seem to disagree on validity of Tanach?

Please note: The original Title was "Hebrew U and Bar Ilan University disagree on validity of Tanach"

Someone emailed me and expressed the opinion that the title could be interpreted as mocking Bar Ilan University. That was not my intention at all. Also, see **** UPDATE *** at the end of the original post.

I was somewhat confused by an article in the Jerusalem Post today and had to spend some time checking its validity. It seems that indeed the article was accurate. The logo on the left is for the Hebrew University. The one on the right is for Bar Ilan University. Just to explain the background first, here is a section from the website of Bar Ilan Uniniversity which purports to be a Torah Observant university.

About the University
Bar-Ilan University is the second largest university in Israel, with a student population of approximately 31,700 at the main campus in Ramat Gan, and at the four regional colleges operating under its auspices – in the Jordan Valley, in Safed, in the western Galilee and in Ashkelon.

The university regards the sacred principles of Judaism as the manifestation of the Jewish people's uniqueness, in accordance with the principles defined upon its establishment. The university's basic roles include supporting the safeguarding of these principles out of love and with the purpose of training and producing scholars, researchers and men of science knowledgeable in the Torah and imbued with the original Jewish spirit and love of one's brethren.

The university cultivates and combines Jewish identity and tradition with modern technologies and research. Instilling the fundamentals of Jewish heritage through basic Jewish studies, the Jesselson Institute for Advanced Torah Studiesand other activities, while offering high-level academic studies and the development of advanced research within the framework of faculties, departments and research centers, renders the university unique.

The article is about the startling discovery of King Shlomo's defensive wall around the first Beis HaMikdash. At the dig they found indisputable proof of the validity and accuracy of the Tanach's description of King Shlomo's temple.

The head of the archeological team is one Professor Eilat Mazar of the the XXXXXXX university.

The article states:

"Ancient stone fortifications that were recently uncovered outside the walls of Jerusalem's Old City date back some 3,000 years to the time of King Solomon and support the biblical narrative about the era, according to archeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar, who spoke to a group of reporters at the site on Monday".

The article then goes into detail of the remarkable find but towards the end states :

"Nonetheless, other archeologists posit that the biblical narrative reflecting the existence of a powerful monarchy in Jerusalem is largely mythical and that there was no strong government to speak of in that era.

Aren Maeir, an archeology professor at YYYYYYYY university, said he has yet to see evidence that the fortifications are as old as Mazar claims. There are remains from the 10th century in Jerusalem, he said, but proof of a strong, centralized kingdom at that time remains "tenuous."

While some see the biblical account of the kingdoms of David and Solomon as accurate and others reject it entirely, Maeir said the truth was likely somewhere in the middle.

"There's a kernel of historicity in the story of the kingdom of David," he said.

OK, so Professor Eilat Mazar used the Tanach as her guide and has presented very thorough scientific evidence of the accuracy of the Tanach references. Professor Aren Maeir however is of the opinion that the Biblical account of King Shlomo's temple is half mythical.

(Eilat Mazar on the left, Aren Maeir on the right)

Now for a little quiz.

One professor comes from the religious right leaning Bar Ilan University in Tel Aviv. The other from the secular left leaning Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Which one is which?
You guessed it, Eilat is from the Hebrew University and Maeir from Bar Ilan.

Confused? I was too!

**** UPDATE ***

I have just got off the phone with the person who comments on this blog under the name Bouncer. He is travelling at the moment so couldn't post but had some interesting comments to make.

Being a scientist himself he said that whilst doing a scientific analysis of any evidence, one should not let one's personal belief systems interfere with one's work. If it does then your conclusions are worthless. That the Bar Ilan professor professed some scepticism and did not agree with the Hebrew U's professor's conclusions was a actually a healthy position to take and is a credit to his scientific credentials.

His second comment was that being Torah Jews, we should not be looking for scientific confirmation of the validity of Tanach. At the end of the day it's actually of little value.

(I hope I've expressed his opinion accurately. If not, I'll amend it).

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