It is quite a lengthy piece, and so I will not repost it is full, but you can read the full article by following the link. Though I could respond to each of his points in turn, I am going to restrict myself to just those which touch upon Esnoga.
What is considered the most convincing, damning evidence against the Zohar is the use of a 13th century-Spanish word “esnoga” for synagogue.How would Shim’on ben YoHai use such a word? To me, this very point might be evidence for the integrity of the work: Why on earth would Rav De Leon, writing a work intended to fool the Torah giants of the world, put a contemporary Spanish word and misquotes in Shim’on ben YoHai’s mouth? In short, this is the same faulty assumption that Bible critics use to attack the authenticity of the Humash—lehavdil. They assume such a stupidity on the part of the author; as if the author himself was unaware of the ‘problems’ and contradictions. It doesn’t take great a great linguist to know that “esnoga” is closely derived from “synagoga”, the Greek term from which the English word is derived. Ever since the Hellenist era, nearly all non-Hebrew Torah literature is peppered with Greek and Roman words that crept into the lexicon. Is it so hard to believe that a Spanish-Jewish copyist would prefer to write “esnoga” in place of “synagoga”?This is a common theme in the piece, to turn any strong question against the Zohar's authenticity into "Do you think Rabbi Moshe de Leon was an idiot?!" Yet one could readily explain this error of Rav Moshe de Leon's part without making him into a moron. Was he a great linguist? There is no evidence that he was. (Indeed, the Aramaic in the Zohar is not a correct Aramaic.) And while in modern times, we know about the development of languages -- that languages change over time, in terms of pronunciation, grammar, and lexicon -- this was not necessarily common knowledge at the time. For all he know, contemporary Spanish was the same Spanish that went back thousands of years. It might have well been one of the 70 languages known by Yosef.
Furthermore, it is the Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) word for shul. I've seen contemporary rabbis treat Yiddish as a holy tongue. It is not so farfetched that someone might treat Ladino in the same way, not know the Latin derivation of the word (or that it takes a very different form), and make an assumption that this Jewish word for a Jewish institution has an old and holy origin.
I'll repeat the end of the above quote from Rabbi Bar-Ron:
It doesn’t take great a great linguist to know that “esnoga” is closely derived from “synagoga”, the Greek term from which the English word is derived.Ever since the Hellenist era, nearly all non-Hebrew Torah literature is peppered with Greek and Roman words that crept into the lexicon.Is it so hard to believe that a Spanish-Jewish copyist would prefer to write “esnoga” in place of “synagoga”?This is why it is important to see the Zohar first-hand.
Once we do, we see that the Zohar immediately preceding was talking about Nogah (Venus/brightness) and Esh (fire), and so ends with a derasha and a pun, by noting that a shul is called Es(h) Nogah. So it is NOT simply the use of the word in passing. The word, in its particular form, is darshened. Go ahead. Try to substitute "synagoga" for Esh Noga at the end. Does the derasha work? Where do we get Esh, fire, from? Where do we got Noga from?
Rabbi Bar-Ron is not trying to pull the wool over your eyes. He just did not investigate this with due diligence before responding to all the kofrim out there.
Rabbi Bar-Ron continues:
Oy. This is another instance on relying on someone else's account of a text, rather than seeing it inside. I also have been unable to find this Abravanel -- and would appreciate it if someone could point me to it. But here is another, fuller account of this, at Mystical Paths. It is part of a claim by Rabbi Reuven Elbaz, from July 2006, of impending apocalypse. I've read, and debunked, enough of these claims to know that they commonly misinterpret Rabbinic sources, either out of sheer amaratzus or out of overeager messianic fervor. Without actually seeing this Abarbanel inside and learning it carefully, I would not assume that it is there.
And if it is there, does this mean that it refers to an atom bomb? Why should an atom bomb be described as a flame of black fire? Why would it be suspended in the air for 60 days. Just because some overeager apocalyptic rabbi wants to envision end-of-world scenarios and retroject them to Abarbanel and Zohar does not mean that we have to, if the details do not fit.
Further, is atomta a word in modern Hebrew? In English? This is not the same as "atom bomb". And before associating its etymology to atom, why not see if there is an Aramaic word with which to associate it. For example, אטמתא, meaning a lump of flesh (as in Sanhedrin 59b, where two lumps of flesh descend from heaven), which is derived from אטמא, 'something solid'. Something which hangs for a long period in the heaven might well have substance. Again, we would need to see Abarbanel inside. But just because the unnamed tzaddik who came up with this was an am ha'aretz who did not understand simple peshat in the Abrabanel does not mean that scholars would do the same, and assume that the Abarbanel was written in the Atomic Age.
Finally, the last point which tangentially touches on Zohar:
By "loyal students of RaMBaM," he is referring to himself and those who attend his fine institution. I am of a rationalist bent, and so was RaMBaM, but that does not mean that I have to agree 100% with everything Rambam ever said. Rambam said to "accept truth from whomever speaks it", and that would presumably include Rav Yaakov Emden, even if he accidentally insulted the Rambam in this way.
Further, a true rationalist does not nullify his daas and accept in its entirety everything that someone says. Where I follow Rambam, it is because he is correct, not (only) because he is the Rambam. So too with Rav Yaakov Emden. Rav Yaakov Emden was a kabbalist, not a rationalist. If I accept his critiques on the Zohar, does that mean that I have to agree with him about the authenticity of kabbalah in general? Of course not. And I accept his Esnoga proof not because I am a talmid of Rav Yaakov Emden, but because I think he is correct in this point. He might make other points which are incorrect. (For example, IIRC, he attempts to prove late authorship of the Zohar because it advances a Copernican theory of the universe. But it is far from clear that this is what the Zohar is saying.) Where Rav Yaakov Emden delegitimizes the Moreh Nevuchim, I would need to look through his proofs, and see if I find them convincing. I would also have to look at contrary evidence, and see if I find that convincing.