Rabbi Joseph Reinman has been kind enough to allow us to post selections from his forthcoming book – The Bible Trial. The following is the fifth in a series of excerpts that we will be posting. Stay posted!
Dexter walked slowly toward the jury box, his face grave. He stopped about ten feet away from the jury box and bowed slightly.
“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the jury,” he began. “I have a confession to make. I didn’t want this case. An associate of mine persuaded me to take it, and I agreed against my better judgment. Those of you who’ve heard my name before this case know me as a dyed-in-the-wool liberal.
“As part of the package of being a liberal, I accepted without thinking the teachings of my professors that the Bible was a package of myths concocted much later than when it claims to have been written. I accepted without thinking that the Bible was a collection of tales rather than history.
“I’ll also confess to you – although I’m a little embarrassed to say this – that I had never really read the Bible cover to cover, which I think is a serious omission for anyone that considers himself a well-read person.
“The first thing I did when I took this case was read the Five Books of Moses carefully. I skimmed the technical parts, as I’m sure you also did. I also read the first books of the Prophets. It was an illuminating experience. The more I read, the more I questioned my preconceptions of the Bible. This book did not read like fiction.
“Could it be a deliberate hoax, as you’ve heard some people claim during this trial? I couldn’t swallow that. How was it possible to pull the wool over the eyes of an entire people? How was it possible to feed them a fiction and convince them that this was their own national history? It could only happen if the people at that time were illiterate dimwits, and I found it hard to believe that this was an accurate description of the ancient Israelites. Such a society could not have produced the brilliant writers and editors who supposedly cooked up the Bible.
“So what was going on? How could such a theory be accepted by so many people in academia? Academic fundamentalism provided a partial explanation. Certain ideas had been advanced by nineteenth century German scholars, and although they had been largely discredited over the years, the academic community held on to them with a narrow-minded tenacity.”
Dexter went back to the plaintiff’s table and took a sip of water.
“My friends,” he continued, “when I was reading the Bible I came across a very interesting story. Perhaps you’ve noticed it in your beautiful new Bibles. It is the story of the Tower of Babel early in the Book of Genesis. In Chapter 11, to be exact. The Bible tells of a group of people in Mesopotamia – modern-day Iraq – that wanted to do battle with God, so they built a tall tower … and then what? I was baffled. What were these people thinking? How did they expect to fight God from a tower in Iraq?
“I’m sorry to tell you that I haven’t really figured out what their plan was. But I will tell you that I’ve seen another Tower of Babel. Yes, I’ve seen an enormous Tower of Babel that casts its shadow over the entire world. I’ve seen a Tower of Babel constructed not from bricks and mortar but from ideas and arguments. I’ve seen a Tower of Babel from which a host of people are doing battle with God. This Tower of Babel, my friends, is not in Iraq. It is in Europe and in the United States and in every country of the world that considers itself enlightened.
“Where is this Tower of Babel? It is in the halls of academia. It is in the universities and the colleges. It is in this very courtroom.
“For more than a century, the academic community has waged war against God. They attacked the Bible with every weapon at their disposal. They brought all their academic talents to bear on the problem and created a school of thought that the Bible was written much later than it claimed to have been written; that it was a composite of different documents, a preposterous idea that was enthusiastically embraced; that it was composed for political purposes to promote the interests of one part of the Israelite kingdom over another. They insisted that it was written over six hundred years after the fact and that it had no historical value.
“But as time went on, new archaeological information emerged that indicated a much earlier time of authorship. As I’ve demonstrated for you during the course of this trial, the Bible contains a wealth of information – such as the average price of a slave at the time of the Joseph story – that could not have been known to later writers.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, this trial is not about the separation between church and state. Lavender was not teaching the children in her classroom about religion. Our society permits people to believe whatever they wish to believe about God, even nothing at all. No, Lavender was teaching the children the history of the ancient Near East, which is wonderfully preserved in the Bible. She conveyed to them just the historical information that appears in the Bible. She told them about the different peoples and their lifestyles. She told them about the enslavement of the Israelites in Egypt and their subsequent Exodus. She told them about the War of Conquest and the settlement of the land. She taught them about the realms of King David and King Solomon. And for this she was fired.
“The witnesses for the defense have told you again and again about the accepted view in the halls of academia. They point to the libraries full of books that support their views. They want you to abdicate your own judgment and accept the judgment of the people who constructed the academic Tower of Babel that darkens our world today.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, my advice to you is the exact opposite. You’ve heard from the expert witnesses for the plaintiff and the expert witnesses for the defense. Don’t let anyone make the judgment for you. Make the judgment yourselves. We bring murder cases to juries even though the jurors didn’t spend years studying forensic science or criminal psychology. We bring fraud cases to juries even though the jurors are not certified experts in economics.
“Our system relies on the native intelligence and good common sense of the average American citizen. It is the job of the plaintiff and the defense to make their arguments to you in as clear a fashion as possible and rely on your good sense to make the right decision. I am comfortable with that. You have a full transcript of the testimony. Read it carefully and decide for yourselves if the intellectual house of cards constructed by the academic fundamentalists does anything to disprove the historical accuracy of the Bible or if it is a desperate attempt to shore up a crumbling theory.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, counsel for the defense has paraded witnesses before you, and he has pointed ponderously to the large libraries of books that supposedly prove that the Bible is a fraud. And I have shown you that the whole construct is a flimsy house of cards that can be blown down with one good puff of fresh air.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, do not let the halls of academia demean the stature of the greatest masterpiece in the history of the world. Let them not trivialize its majesty with preposterous assertions of sinister nocturnal snipping and splicing of different documents. Let them not make unfounded accusations of anachronisms based on an extremely limited and incomplete knowledge of the history and customs of the ancient world. Let them not jump to irrational conclusions based on archaeological evidence that has not been properly understood and evaluated.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the eyes of the world are upon you. You can strike a blow for truth. You can bring down this insidious Tower of Babel. Billions of people all over the world believe in the truth of the Bible, as did countless generations before them. The Bible is the sacred and hallowed treasure of all the great monotheistic religions of the Western world. If its authenticity is brought into question, the burden of proof is on its accusers. The question before you is, have they proven that the Bible is not what it claims to be? Remember, the judge ruled that the principle of equipoise applies here. The burden of proof is on the defense. If they do not present evidence that conclusively discredits the Bible, the jury must find for the plaintiff. If you are not convinced that they have done so, if you recognize the flaws and holes in their arguments and are impressed by the evidence in favor of the Bible, bring in a verdict in favor of the plaintiff.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, twenty years ago, President Reagan changed the world when he stood at the Brandenburg Gate by the Berlin Wall and said, ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!’ I stand before you today and say, ‘My friends, tear down this Tower of Babel! If you do so, you will change the world.’
“Thank you, and God bless you.”
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal