Friday, May 06, 2011

Overwhelming odds? Odds are 1 in 1,099,511,627,776

In my circle of friends and family and people I've known over the years, whether in daily life or on-line, I've known quite a few adamantly anti-Christian Jewish people. That is, they are people who take seriously all things Jewish and any thing Jewish precisely because it is Jewish, but who are determined to know nothing about Jesus, to the point of not reading the New Testament, or bragging about having thrown gift Bibles in the trash. I've read a few explanations of the fall of Jerusalem written from this mindset, and the one explanation that is completely off the table is that it had anything to do with rejecting Jesus. Any other explanation is given a fair hearing; that one is not open for discussion. This is written from the perspective of pondering ways to respond to these very adamantly anti-Christian Jews that I have known, particularly when some of them (as some of them have done) attack the faith of Christians.

According to the nearest calculator, 2 to the 40th power is 1,099,511,627,776. So the odds are 1 in 1,099,511,627,776 ... that would be the odds of flipping a coin and coming up "tails" 40 times in a row. It would also be the odds of what was reported in the Talmud about the years before the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in the year 70 A.D.:
Our Rabbis taught: During the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple the lot [‘For the Lord’] did not come up in the right hand (Talmud; Yoma 39b)
The Talmud explains the casting of lots on the Day of Atonement. When the lot "For the Lord" came up in the right hand, it was considered a sign from God that the sacrifice of the Day of Atonement had been accepted by God, and that the sins of the people were atoned for by that sacrifice. This sacrifice dated back to the days of Moses, and was instituted as part of the covenant at Sinai.

So according to the Talmud, there's an overwhelming probability that something vital changed in the relations between God and man, and in the usefulness of the ancient covenant sacrificial system, and in the relevance of the Temple in Jerusalem, forty years before the destruction of the Temple. That would place this pivotal change in the year 30 A.D.

Something so vital must have left a record. What record do we have of something pivotal happening in 30 A.D. that affected Judaism as a whole, making the Temple and its sacrifices no longer recognized by God for atonement? The only candidate I'm aware of is Jesus' death and resurrection. If there's another candidate -- something that major in the history of Judaism in the year 30 A.D. -- there should be a record of it. Are there any other candidates? Because the odds that "nothing of significance happened in God's eyes" in 30 A.D. are 1,099,511,627,776 to 1 against.

Just going by the Talmud alone, the odds are overwhelming that Jesus is a deal-changer in God's eyes, making a shift of the relations between God and man that are on the level of a new covenant.

It is good news. The sacrifice, once for all, has been accepted.

10 comments:

Aron said...

Yes. Of course, the odds that this particular story in the Talmud was just made up out of whole cloth are a lot larger than 1 in a trillion.

Harder to deny is the fact that the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD and then never rebuilt. This also requires a major change in the nature of the covenant, either 1) for the worse (as a punishment for sin) and/or 2) for the better (if the Temple was being replaced with some deeper form of intimacy between God and human beings).

I believe that Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity each accept BOTH of (1) and (2) as part of their interpetations of the destruction.

Weekend Fisher said...

LOL You are a cynic, aren't you?

The odds of being struck by lightning may be greater than 1 in a trillion. So while technically you're probably right that the odds of it being invented out of whole cloth are greater than that, there's no particular reason to think it was made up out of whole cloth.

I know there are people who figure various things of religious significance simply must be made up. I'm not one to believe the worst of our predecessors without solid reason.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Aron said...

Not cynicism. Accuracy. (I have plenty of other good reasons to believe that Jesus loves me without this particular statistic.)

I don't mistrust the story because it is "event of relgious significance". I mistrust it because it was written down 150 years after the fact from an oral tradition which had few scruples about passing on fictional stories (midrashim) as though fact. A very different situation from the gospels.

While very interesting, I'm not willing to give the story any more than a 4 out 5 chance of being right, in a generous mood.

In order to convince skeptics with the strong arguments, it is necessary not to be overcredulous regarding weak arguments. I only leave this comment because I have the highest respect for your careful reasoning in the area of historical apologetics, and I wish to see it retain its probabilistic integrity. Prov 17:10

Weekend Fisher said...

That would explain your response. Honestly it never crossed my mind someone might take it from the standpoint of historical apologetics, but I can see (since I've done some work of that type) why you might assume it was meant as that.

Thanks for pointing out that it could be taken that way, so I can make it plain how it was actually meant.

I've added an introductory paragraph to show the perspective from which it's meant.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Mark said...

A Jeweish rabbi/scholar turned Lutheran once told me that also during those 40 years before the destruction of the Temple, the Shekinah (Glory) of the Lord had departed from the Temple, and that this is also in the Jewish tradition itself.

-Anastasia (using Mark's computer)

Weekend Fisher said...

Definitely. I wonder if that played a part in his realizing that Jesus is from God? I'd hope so.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Aron said...

Dear Anne,

Yes, it makes more sense in this context. I agree that the argument is reasonable for someone who already accepts the Talmud. Best wishes.

Aron said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Martin LaBar said...

Now that's an interesting argument, or at least an interesting anecdote. I doubt that it would be persuasive to someone whose mind was made up, though. (As my mind is on some things.)

Weekend Fisher said...

On the people whose minds are made up, the work is done in showing the cognitive dissonance needed to maintain that closed mind. Stats like that can stay at the back of the mind and do their work and maybe, eventually, make people ask: "If our nation (descended through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) is supposed to have the scholars of the religious world, the reasoners of the religious world, the founders and establishers of justice in the religious world -- why is it that I don't actually know anything about Christianity other than hearsay and prejudice? Why is it I've never read Jesus' teachings for myself?"

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF