Bite-Size Bible Breakdowns

2 Kings 24 & 25 – King Zedekiah & the Babylonian Captivity

As with the historicity of the scattering of the northern kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians, the Bible captures another historical fact in 2 Kings 25:8-12[1] —the destruction of the southern kingdom of Judah by the Babylonians roughly 200 years later:

“In the…nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon—Nebuzaradan, the captain of the bodyguard, a servant of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. He burned the house of the Lord, the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem; every great house he burned down. All the army of the Chaldeans who were with the captain of the guard broke down the walls around Jerusalem. Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried into exile the rest of the people who were left in the city and the deserters who had defected to the king of Babylon—all the rest of the population. But the captain of the guard left some of the poorest people of the land to be vinedressers and tillers of the soil.”

This passage covers the destruction of the first temple of Solomon, and the deportation of the urban, educated elite to Babylon, which became a significant turning point in the theological evolution of Judaism. It is in Babylon where the exiles, in order to cling to their faith in a foreign land, crystallize a form of their religion that would become the basis for Second Temple Judaism after their return following their release by Cyrus the Great; a topic discussed in the next post.

Another factor, which occurs in late Second Temple Judaism, is the rise of the messianic belief that a warrior-king (messiah simply means the anointed, as kings were anointed with oils upon coronation) would appear to restore Israel to freedom from its centuries of continuous rule by countless foreign powers (Assyria, Babylon, Persia, the Greeks, and Rome).

The messianic belief that this warrior-king would be of the Davidic line, was a scribal invention of the 2nd century BCE[2] (to be discussed fully in the future post on the Hasmoneans) derives from the preceding passage in 2 Kings 25:6-7[3]:

“Then they captured the king and brought him up to the king of Babylon at Riblah, who passed sentence on him. They slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, then put out the eyes of Zedekiah; they bound him in fetters and took him to Babylon.”

Given the dynastic line was extinguished by the Babylonians as detailed in the above passage, some supernatural intervention would obviously be required to work some genetic magic and reconstitute a king from the DNA of the long-dead line of David.

2 Kings 22 & 23 – King Josiah & the birth of monotheism

Under Josiah, in 622 BCE, we see the culmination of all the previous posts and the political motivations behind these invented stories:

  • The Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
  • Egyptian captivity, Moses, the Exodus, Conquest of Canaan
  • The united kingdom of David & Solomon

I would suggest taking 4 minutes to watch my edit highlighting the key facts from The Bible Unearthed documentary to get familiar with the background; or, if you have 90 minutes, watch the full version.

The Assyrians who destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel had by Josiah’s time faded from the world stage, opening up an opportunity for him to annex the fertile and productive lands of the north.

In order to justify his “ancestral right” to govern these lands, he invented the above stories to demonstrate a shared family history. Along with the above literary creations, his priests also discovered a lost book of Moses: Deuteronomy.

The refugees flooding in from the north brought their own uniquely Israelite traditions, and a way had to be found to combine them with the beliefs of the Judahites. The Documentary Hypothesis illustrates how the northern and southern traditions were merged together, providing explanations for conflicting passages:

  • The dual names for God: El (northern) and Yahweh (southern)
  • The dual altars: Bethel (northern) and Jerusalem (southern)
  • The dual priesthoods: Levite (northern) and Aaronid (southern)

The Documentary Hypothesis (DH) includes four separate sources/traditions: JEDP—Jawhist (southern); Elohist (northern); Deuteronomist (Josiah’s priests); and Priestly (post-Babylonian captivity redactors) the ones who would make the final edits and compile the texts into its current form as the Hebrew Bible.

Josiah’s reformation program led to the JED synthesis and the creation of the patriarchal narratives, the Egyptian sojourn, the conquest of Canaan, and the united kingdom of David and Solomon, as socio-political tools allowing him to capitalize on the power vacuum and seize the rich farming land in the northern territories for himself. However, a newly rising Egypt also wanted to control the region, as it was a strategic link on their trade routes to the Fertile Crescent.

In order to challenge Egypt’s aspirations and rally his people, Josiah’s spin doctors went to work and created the Egyptian narrative: “we beat them before, we can do it again!” Repeating the quote from my post on the Exodus, is Israeli archaeology professor, Israel Finkelstein:

“Embellishing and elaborating the stories contained in the first four books of the Torah, they wove together regional variations of the stories of the patriarchs, placing the adventures of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in a world strangely reminiscent of the seventh century BCE and emphasizing the dominance of Judah over all Israel. They fashioned a great national epic of liberation for all the tribes of Israel, against a great and dominating pharaoh, whose realm was uncannily similar in its geographical details to that of Psammetichus,

But can it be just a coincidence that the geographical and ethnic details of both the patriarchal origin stories and the Exodus liberation story bear the hallmarks of having been composed in seventh century BCE?”

My favourite quote on the highly political nature of the monotheistic reformation program, comes from this clip in The Bible Unearthed from Professor Baruch Halpern, now at the University of Georgia:

“The book of Deuteronomy perpetrates one of the great reformations in history: it imposes a strict philosophical monotheism that banishes all other gods from traditional culture. This was part of a reformationist program in which King Josiah attempted to centralize not only power, but the ability to reach the realm of the divine into his own hands, in Jerusalem, in the temple, the temple, which, sat in the backyard of the Royal Palace.”[1]

The medium used to channel all these ideas was religion, but the message was most definitely socio-political. Ideas which were central to the last 2,500 years of Western civilization.

[1] Bible Unearthed Discoveries of Old versions of the bible)

2 Kings 15 – Scattering of the nation of Israel

With the stories of David and Solomon, starting in the books of Samuel and Kings discussed in a previous post, the Bible begins to diverge from the legendary family “histories” placed in the Bronze Age. The Bible records few actual historical events, as it is mainly accounts of pious fiction created to serve Judah’s propaganda machine, but 2 Kings 15:29[1] is one of those precious few and it deals with the scattering of the northern people of Israel by the Assyrians[2] in the 8th century BCE:

“In the time of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria came and took Ijon, Abel Beth Maakah, Janoah, Kedesh and Hazor. He took Gilead and Galilee, including all the land of Naphtali, and deported the people to Assyria.”

Deportation was a common practice of the Assyrian[3], Babylonian and Persian empires, as a means of subjugating the people by breaking their ties to the land, moving them elsewhere, and bringing other subject peoples to farm the land and grow crops for productive trade within the empire.

“This requirement for group identity was more pressing when an imperial system was engaged in the use of deportation and resettlement as a means of political control over a subject region…the wholesale deportation of communities as a means of administrative control.”[4]

This resettlement of foreigners into the lands of Israel would play a role in the post-Babylonian captivity prohibition against intermarrying with foreigners (Ezra, Nehemiah), to be discussed in a future post.

As pointed out in the preceding series of posts outlining the fictional family narrative which laid the foundation for the Josianic reforms:

“The kingdom of Israel was never particularly Israelite in either ethnic, cultural, or religious connotations. The Israeliteness of the northern kingdom was in many ways a late monarchic Judahite idea.”[5]

Therefore, the idea that the “ten northern tribes” were lost, is also a pious fiction as Judah and Israel had always been separate kingdoms, not the united kingdom of David and Solomon of later Judahite propaganda. I will come back to this in future posts, as it plays a key role in the ministry of Jesus and the reconstituting of the twelve tribes through God’s divine intervention, and the twelve disciples.

While the northern kingdom of Israel had been thoroughly destroyed, the southern kingdom of Judah sued for peace and agreed to become a vassal state of the Assyrians. Judah’s rise as a sophisticated society now begins, and sets the stage for the reforms of King Josiah[6] a century later, after the fall of the Assyrian empire.

[1] Bible Gateway passage: 2 Kings 15:29 – New International Version
[2] Assyrian captivity – Wikipedia
[3] Resettlement policy of the Neo-Assyrian Empire – Wikipedia
[4] Achaemenid Imperial Administration in Syria-Palestine & the Missions of Ezra & Nehemiah (Dissertation (Paperback)): Kenneth G. Hoglund: 9781555404574: Books
[5] The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts: Neil Asher Silberman, Israel Finkelstein: 8601300370415: Books
[6] Josiah – Wikipedia

I & II Chronicles – History re-imagined and Satan’s emergence

While I have been deconstructing the stories of the biblical chronology generally through time by following the order of the books in the Old Testament, at I and II Chronicles we hit a slight detour. In the Christian Old Testament, Chronicles follows Kings; but, in the original Hebrew Canon, Chronicles is last:

Briefly, the reason why Christians changed the order was to make the Old Testament flow into the New as the Hebrew canon had been closed by this point in history and a way needed to be found to justify the new books being written about Jesus. To illustrate, see the wording of the last book of the Christian Old Testament (Malachi), compared to the opening of the ministry of Jesus in the New Testament book of Matthew 3, where John the Baptist is being compared to Elijah:

Malachi Chapter 3 – “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty.”

Chapter 4 – “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”

Matthew – “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, and saying, Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”

Chronicles has a different ending; essentially, a new Temple has been built in Jerusalem and the people return home; the end.

Now, what is interesting about Chronicles is that it re-tells older stories from the existing books of the Hebrew Bible…with a twist:

The tendency to project the full cult of the Second Temple back into earlier history is evident throughout his work….

Much of the Chronicler’s History can be seen to derive from biblical materials, especially from 2 Samuel and 1-2 Kings. While he may have had occasional access to independent historical information, the great bulk of the cases where he departs from the Deuteronomistic History can be explained by his theological and ideological preferences. Chronicles describes history as the author thought it should have been.”[1]

For an example of the re-imagined history ‘as the author thought it should have been,’ let’s examine the emergence of Satan in the biblical literature and a clever change.

2 Samuel 24:1 – And again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.

1 Chronicles 21:1 – And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.

“Why does the author (or authors) of Chronicles change the instigator of the census from God to Satan? The Chronicler is retelling Israel’s history, including a rehash of or the story in 2 Samuel 24, through the lens of his own theology and at a later date; he rewrites the events and updates them. We know the Chronicler is concerned with the rehabilitation of David, whom he presents not as the politically brilliant but flawed king of Samuel and Kings, but as a sort of priestly leader who establishes Jerusalem as the center of worship….

…The Chronicler, then, reflects the growing existential frustration of a monotheistic people who find it difficult to accept a God who is the author of both good and evil. Hence, in the Chronicler’s tale, it is not Yahweh but Satan who orders the census and when Joab…fails to complete it, Yahweh’s subsequent wrath seems justified (1 Chr 21:6-7)…By assigning blame to Satan, the Chronicler…is able to preserve David’s integrity and keep Yahweh’s reputation unblemished.

Finally, we observe the Chronicler’s use of the designation “Satan,” minus the definite article (this is not hassatan, but Satan). For the first time in the canonical Hebrew Bible, “Satan” appears as a proper noun. It is as if Satan is stepping from the shadowy ranks of the heavenly host at the back of the stage…to emerge front and center as a character in his own right. Satan—no longer God’s lackey in Job—stands alone in Chronicles, acting apart from the divine council…The cosmic personality split seems well underway.”[2]

[1] A Short Introduction to the Hebrew Bible: Third Edition: John J. Collins: 9781506445991: Books
[2] The Birth of Satan: Tracing the Devil’s Biblical Roots: Gregory Wray T.J.; Mobley: 9780739469798: Books

2 Samuel to 2 Kings 25 (reigns thru to 1 Kings 11) – David, Solomon and the United Kingdom

The preceding series of posts, starting with the Patriarchs, have dealt with fictional stories from an invented past crafted during the Josianic reforms as part of the great family narrative to validate Josiah’s annexation of the land of the northern kingdom of Israel following the decline and withdrawal of the Assyrian empire. Fictional because they all dealt with Bronze Age Israel, and archaeology has proven that the Israelite identity only emerged during the chaos of the Bronze Age collapse. Now with the stories of David and Solomon, we finally start to get to actual historical events, though still highly fictionalized accounts.

As scholars point out, the reforms of Josiah had three elements: 1) centralization of cult (at the Temple in Jerusalem), 2) the eradication of competition behind a single god (Yahweh, and the birth of monotheism), and 3) uniting the people behind a shared, but invented, family history (combining northern and southern traditions, which is what this and the previous articles have dealt with). The story of David’s great kingdom is further Josianic propaganda, to further his territorial ambitions, as proof that Josiah is ancestrally entitled to rule the prodigal northern Israelites, who supposedly broke away following Solomon’s death.

While archaeologists have found evidence for the House of David, the story of the great united kingdom (Israel in the north, Judah in the South) built by David and Solomon has been shown to be literary myth. Indeed, archaeology has shown that early Iron Age Jerusalem was a barely inhabited tribal village, as noted from part 3 of the video documentary on The Bible Unearthed:

“Iron Age Jerusalem in the 10th century was a small, backwater village; no fortifications or monuments; texts and archaeology do not agree on the nature of the site.”

“David’s Jerusalem was a simple mountain village, covering three to four hectares. We can agree, David did not build a prestigious capitol.”

“In Jerusalem, it’s a small village; nothing monumental, no real evidence for a big capitol. No evidence for a great Solomonic capitol, ruling over a great, rich state. And here at Megiddo, the monumental buildings which had been described as the symbol of Solomonic greatness, in fact, date a bit later, they don’t date to the time of Solomon, they don’t date to the tenth century. So, we are in a situation of a complete negative picture, negative evidence from coast to coast.”

And from the original book, The Bible Unearthed:

“Judah remained relatively empty of permanent population, quite isolated and very marginal up to and past the supposed time of David and Solomon, with no major urban centers and with no pronounced hierarchies of villages and towns.”

Who, then, built the great monuments found in Israel? Obviously, the northern kingdom of Israel did so, under the Omrides. Once the northern kingdom fell to the Assyrians, and Judah sued for peace and agreed to become a vassal state, Judah was left as the sole writer of the history; and, of course, they painted themselves as the good guys and slandered the north mercilessly, as this repetitive tirade from 2 Kings amply shows:

Judah, self-interestedly, took the credit for the great building projects:

“It is clear, therefore, that the whole idea of the archaeology of the united monarchy, of the blueprint city planning of Solomon’s architects, and of the grandeur of the Solomonic palaces, rests on one verse in the Bible—1 Kings 9:15. We must repeat this again: the entire traditional reconstruction of the nature of the united monarchy of Israel—its territorial expansion, its material culture, its relationship with the neighboring countries—depends on the interpretation of a single biblical verse!

“The kingdom of Israel was never particularly Israelite in either ethnic, cultural, or religious connotations. The Israeliteness of the northern kingdom was in many ways a late monarchic Judahite idea.”

Book of JoshuaConquest of Canaan

Starting with the Patriarchs, the past several posts have dealt with how the Jews do not exist as a distinct socio-political entity in the Bronze Age, and therefore, the associated stories cannot be true. If the Patriarchal narratives, the Egyptian Captivity and the Exodus are fictional tales, then it follows the Conquest of Canaan must also be a story with no basis in history. Let’s look at the facts.

  1. There are no Jews before the dawn of the Iron Age
  2. Canaan is an Egyptian province in the Bronze Age
  3. The Egyptians have garrison check-points all through Canaan

And, the most famous event associated with the fictional conquest, is the fall of Jericho. By the 1950s, archaeologists had proven that in the Bible’s stated timeline (mid-to-late Bronze Age), Jericho had already been abandoned and did not have walls.

What else needs to be said, except that these stories are nothing but pious fictions, and not historical realities.

Exodus 14 to Deuteronomy 34 – Wandering in the Desert & The 10 Commandments

At the beginning of the Exodus narrative, comes the crossing of the Red Sea in chapter 14 (which I won’t go into) and pharaoh chasing the fleeing Israelites with his chariots (which I did go into in a previous on Moses), and the beginnings of the wandering in the desert for 40 years.

Ignoring the inconsistency in the biblical story that Canaan was an Egyptian province during the supposed biblical time for the Exodus, we can also ignore the ridiculousness of wandering for forty years in Egyptian-held territory.

At 13:03, Professor Redford: All over the eastern Delta, and in the Sinai, and up in the Negev, and further north, there were permanent Egyptian Garrison’s and garrison points, checkpoints…Certainly, there would have been no chance whatsoever for a group of people that large to move freely through the through the desert and into the Negev, not a chance at all…The story simply doesn’t fit in so many ways.

Narrator: And there’s an even bigger problem, throughout the entire period in which the Bible places the Exodus: Canaan was in fact an Egyptian province, ruled by Egyptian governors. We know this because we have extensive Egyptian records from Canaan, and a wealth of archaeological evidence.

The Bible Unearthed[1]

The Bible makes the claim that it was during the wandering forty years that Jews became monotheistic; a fact which occurred under Josiah’s reforms in the 7th century BCE—Jews having been henotheistic (Thou shalt not have any other gods) up until the Deuteronomistic reformation.

Set within this wandering narrative, is the story where Moses received the Ten Commandments An interesting side note: there are three separate versions of the Ten Commandments, a fact of which most monotheists are ignorant:

Additionally, the Ten Commandments bear similar hallmarks in phrasing/terminology to Assyrian and Hittite vassal treaties, such as the Code of Hammurabi.

[1] Bible Unearthed Discoveries of Old versions of the bible)

Exodus 13 – The Exodus

The story of the Exodus begins in chapter 13, with the pharaoh reluctantly agreeing to free the Israelites from their fictional captivity following the ten plagues.

Building on the point in previous posts detailing how, as Jews don’t yet exist as a distinct culture, the Exodus could not have happened, the biblical references to this event also give two conflicting timelines:

The biblical chronology for the Exodus gives a date of four hundred eighty years before the building of Solomon’s Temple, which would place the Israelites in Egypt around 1450 BCE…Further, the story cites another anachronistic reference to Ramesses II (see also Exodus 1:11) who ruled in the 1200s, which contradicts the reference to the building of Solomon’s Temple and lends more weight to dispute the validity of the entire tale.

Manifest Insanity

As to what the political motivations were to create this narrative:

Embellishing and elaborating the stories contained in the first four books of the Torah, they wove together regional variations of the stories of the patriarchs, placing the adventures of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in a world strangely reminiscent of the seventh century BCE and emphasizing the dominance of Judah over all Israel. They fashioned a great national epic of liberation for all the tribes of Israel, against a great and dominating pharaoh, whose realm was uncannily similar in its geographical details to that of Psammetichus,

But can it be just a coincidence that the geographical and ethnic details of both the patriarchal origin stories and the Exodus liberation story bear the hallmarks of having been composed in seventh century BCE? . . .

The saga of Israel’s Exodus from Egypt is neither historical truth nor literary fiction. It is a powerful expression of memory and hope born in a world in the midst of change. The confrontation between Moses and pharaoh mirrored the momentous confrontation between the young King Josiah and the newly crowned Pharaoh Necho.

The Bible Unearthed

Lending further weight to the discrediting of this tale, is Penn State professor, Donald Redford, in the video documentary of The Bible Unearthed:

There is no indication whatsoever in the records, either archaeological or written, of any major hiatus such as would have been created by the expulsion of upwards of two million people, if we believe the biblical record. That would have made such a hole in the population that would have brought the economy to a standstill, it would certainly have turned up in the record, somewhere. Now, that’s an argument from silence, I understand, but nevertheless, the silence is absolutely watertight; there is no indication, whatsoever.

Exodus 12 – The Passover

The story of the Passover comes from Exodus 12, in which the callous and malevolent Jewish god indiscriminately murders innocent first-born Egyptians; a relevant point often overlooked by zealous Judeo-Christians.

Let’s back up a moment and look at the historical origins of this celebration, before this story was repurposed for this dreadful tale:

This celebration is found only in the Priestly source. Just as P [the priestly source] grounded the Sabbath in the creation story, so it grounds the Passover in the story of the exodus. The Passover was probably originally a rite of spring, practiced by shepherds. In early Israel it was a family festival. . .The celebration was changed by the reform of King Josiah in 621 B.C.E. into a pilgrimage festival, to be celebrated at the central sanctuary (Jerusalem) and was combined with the Festival of Unleavened Bread.

A Short Introduction to the Hebrew Bible, Professor John J. Collins

As noted in the preceding posts, the Jews don’t exist as a distinct people during the Bronze Age; therefore, the Egyptian captivity, Passover, and Exodus are entirely works of pious fiction. A Rabbi openly stated[1] during his 2001 Passover sermon that the historicity of the Exodus was questionable, but that shouldn’t change the meaning of the story: to have hope in times of trouble. Naturally, devout Jews and a handful of Christians lost their minds for him to so brazenly flout—from the pulpit, no less!—millennia of established tradition masquerading as historical fact.

[1] L.A. rabbi creates furor by questioning Exodus story – J

Exodus 2 to 12 – Moses

Continuing the thread of fictional literary characters in the previous posts (Adam & Eve, Noah, Patriarchs, captive Israelites) who couldn’t have existed in the Bronze Age before the emergence of the Jewish culture at the dawn of the Iron Age, the story of Moses (for any devout monotheists reading this post, this fact also thoroughly undermines the tradition of the first five books being written by Moses, sorry; well, not so much) begins in Exodus 2 with his being deposited in a basket in the river and rescued by a daughter of pharaoh.

In what should be a painfully obvious pattern from reading the preceding posts, the writers of the Hebrew Bible, again, borrowed this tale from the Sumerians; in this case, from the birth legend of Sargon of Akkad:

My high priestess mother conceived me, in secret she bore me. She set me in a basket of rushes, with bitumen she sealed my lid. She cast me into the river which rose over me. The river bore me up and carried me to Akki, the drawer of water. Akki, the drawer of water, took me as his son and reared me.

Additionally, Moses would have been an Egyptian name—not a Hebrew one, as it came to be used by Jews from this story—given by his adoptive Egyptian mother, as in Thutmose, Ahmose (ref: chariots), etc. Freud draws on this point in his book, Moses and Monotheism, in which he hypothesized that Moses was the high priest of Aten, in the service of Akenhaten (Thutmose’s younger brother), the first (that scholars know of) to institute a state monotheism. As with the Hyksos reference in the preceding post, Freud hints at an actual historical root which could have been a basis for this later Hebrew tale, in which Moses fled Egypt for Canaan after Akenhaten’s death and the quashing of Atenism, taking monotheism with him.

Genesis 37 to Exodus 1 – The Egyptian Captivity

As noted in the previous post regarding the fictional origins of Israel and the Patriarchs, it logically follows that the Egyptian captivity, the Exodus, and conquest of Canaan, therefore, must also entirely be entirely fictional. Starting in Genesis 37, the story of Joseph being sold to traders by his jealous brothers, and the whole narrative of the descendants of Jacob being enslaved in Egypt in later generations, is nothing but creative license on the part of the author(s).

Further, the Egyptians, nor any other culture, make any written reference to a group of people enslaved in Egypt; neither in the Bronze nor in the early Iron Age. However, there was a Semitic group, known as the Hyksos, who ruled an area in Goshen, in the Nile Delta, that coincides with the biblical geography of the captivity around one of the times given in the Bible[1] circa 1500 BCE. The key word being ruled, not enslaved.

There is a fascinating historical tidbit relating to the Hyksos, as I noted in Manifest Insanity: “The historical records of this era provide another interesting parallel to the Exodus story, such as the Theban king from Upper Egypt using chariots for the first time in combat to expel the foreign invaders controlling Lower Egypt.”

[1] Bible Gateway passage: 1 Kings 6:1-2 – King James Version

Genesis 12 to 36 – The Patriarchs

The patriarchal narrative—the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—of Genesis chapters 12 to 36 is a mythical construct created during the time of Josiah’s reformation program. Considering the Jews do not exist as a people in the Bronze Age and were a civilization that evolved at the dawn of the Iron Age out of the chaos which ensued during the collapse of the Canaanite city states, it would be impossible for these characters to have been the fathers of a nation which did not emerge for another one thousand years.

“We’ve come to a complete archaeological dead end about Abraham. There’s absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Abraham was a historical figure, but he is a prominent character in the book of Genesis; and the book of Genesis as an ancient text is of course of incredible importance for us. What we see in the figure of Abraham is a symbolic representation of the birth of the nation.”

The Bible Unearthed

The Old Testament scholar, Martin Noth, hypothesized that these might very well have been real, but totally unrelated, people from Canaanite ancestral history from which the patriarchal genealogy was built upon and the legends embellished. Noth noted that the stories related to each of the three are centered in very distinct regions (40:14). As Israeli archaeologist, Israel Finkelstein, points out in this documentary (45:25), placing Abraham as the first in the lineage serves Judah’s claim to primacy, given Abraham is based there.

Genesis 7 – Noah’s Ark

Along with story of the Garden of Eden, the flood narrative in Genesis 7 comes from the Epic of Gilgamesh, which is the oldest surviving written epic that is itself based on the even earlier Epic of Atra-Hasis.

Interesting points of similarity are:

  • a deity bent on destroying the world
  • the same deity ordering a man to build an ark with which to save the animals
  • specifying the dimensions of the ark
  • grounding on a mount
  • releasing exactly the same birds, the raven and the dove

Coincidence? No, it fits with the established pattern of biblical authors borrowing and merging tales from ancient Sumer.

There is no archaeological evidence of a global flood, and the math just doesn’t work for the animals in that space; ignoring, of course, how the marsupials managed to get to Australia. This is just an ancient campfire story, swapped by traveling merchants along the trade routes of the Fertile Crescent.

Genesis 2 – Garden of Eden

The second creation story, found in Genesis 2, is also taken from the Sumerians as is Genesis 1; this time from the Epic of Gilgamesh, which is the oldest surviving written epic that is itself based on the even earlier Epic of Atra-Hasis.

This tale about the Garden of Eden is embedded, along with the flood narrative, in Gilgamesh. Interesting points to note are:

  • the serpent is not evil
  • the woman is a goddess
  • it predates the biblical version by over 2,000 years

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: The power of life, because the snake sheds its skin, just as the moon sheds its shadow. The snake in most cultures is positive. Even the most poisonous thing, in India, the cobra, is a sacred animal. And the serpent, Naga, the serpent king, Nagaraga, is the next thing to the Buddha, because the serpent represents the power of life in the field of time to throw off death, and the Buddha represents the power of life in the field of eternity to be eternally alive…

BILL MOYERS: The Christian stories turn it around, because the serpent was the seducer.

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Well, what that amounts to is a refusal to affirm life. Life is evil in this view. Every natural impulse is sinful unless you’ve been baptized or circumcised, in this tradition that we’ve inherited. For heaven’s sakes!

Joseph Campbell & The Power of Myth, Episode 2

For how the story evolved in later Christianity with the serpent becoming associated with Satan, please see my article, The Serpent-Satan Synthesis.

Genesis 1 – 6 Day Creation

The first creation story (yes there is more than one) is in Genesis 1, and is actually taken from the Sumerian creation epic, the Enûma Eliš.

Parallels between Genesis 1 and the Enûma Eliš include not only the specified creation of the same items, but in the same order. Fatal flaw: both make exactly the same astronomical mistake – how was their light before there were stars?

Day 1: Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. (1:3)

Day 4: And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years. (1:14)

Given our pre-literate ancestors were ignorant of the mechanics of electromagnetism and stellar nucleosynthesis, they came up with imaginative myths to explain the world around them. One of the most significant theologians of Protestantism, John Calvin, for whom so many evangelical churches are named (yet, they ignore his teachings in favour of a literal interpretation of Gen 1), described the creation story as baby talk. For how else could our primitive minds absorb the grandeur of the universe, except to create this overly simplistic explanation:

“The Anthropomorphites also, who dreamed of a corporeal God, because mouth, ears, eyes, hands, and feet, are often ascribed to him in Scripture, are easily refuted. For who is so devoid of intellect as not to understand that God, in so speaking, lisps with us as nurses are wont to do with little children? Such modes of expression, therefore, do not so much express what kind of a being God is, as accommodate the knowledge of him to our feebleness. In doing so, he must, of course, stoop far below his proper height.

Calvin’s Full Quote of God’s Baby Talk

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